We believe that when men reach beyond this planet, they should leave their differences behind them

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The cold, black years since the dying embers of the 20th Century have been a barren time for the space game enthusiast. Many placed themselves into the timeless slumber of stasis, preserved in pods, a sophisticated artificial intelligence left in place to monitor the sensors and awake the sleepers should a favourable home be found. Of course the AI immediately became corrupted by contradictory instructions/a sinister hacker/an alien broadcast, went rogue, shut off the life support of half the passengers and turned the other half into killer zombie-mutant-cyborgs, because that’s what AIs do, it’s almost like nobody had taken any notice of any sci-fi book, film or game. Fortunately a solitary hero overcame the nigh-insurmountable odds, shut down the AI (at least until the sequel) and reversed the zombie-mutant-cyborgification, setting the interstellar ark back on course under a much more basic autopilot whose source code definitely did not include comments like “/* Fairly sure this subroutine won’t cause genocidal insanity but double check before going live */”.

Fifteen years later, there are several promising blips on the space-game-radar: new games under development; the Oculus Rift offering the possibility of a fully immersive cockpit; an update for a patch to a fix for X Rebirth 2.0 Game Of The Year Edition… The two clearest contacts offering the most promise for sustenance are Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous, projects spearheaded by grizzled space-veterans Chris Roberts and David Braben. With initial thrust provided by Kickstarter they made it out of the earth’s atmosphere, the crowdfunding boosters dropping away as both games start to release playable elements, setting course for the mythical destination of An Actual Released Game.

Having two such promising games in development is a great situation. Healthy competition spurs development and discourages complacency, differences in emphasis allows players to gravitate towards the game most suited to their preferred style of play, and, most importantly, gamers can form themselves into two tribes, blindly worshipping one of the two games and hunting down treacherous unbelievers who dare speak positively of the other on official forums, unofficial forums, comment threads, or, after consuming sufficient quantities of special brew, in the queue at the post office and on benches in the local park. Roberts and Braben are at pains to stress the friendliness of the competition between their companies, both being backers of the other game and wishing each other success, but wouldn’t it have been fun if the overlapping Kickstarter projects had taken on some of the insanity of the forum zealots…

November 7th, 9am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “We will add a new NPC, a washed-up alcoholic Commander, named after his favourite whiskey, who used to be a hot-shot pilot but got all obsessed with physics and boring and nobody likes him any more.”

November 7th, 3pm, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “We will add a new NPC, Colonel Christopher ‘Callsign Blatantly Ripped Off From Top Gun’ Brown, who used to be a hot-shot pilot but got all obsessed with movies and made everyone watch a ten minute film before they could fly anywhere and nobody likes him any more.”

November 8th, 10am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “Your starship will include a full copy of Elite: Dangerous running its navigation console if you want to play it. Which you won’t. Because even just flying through space in Star Citizen will be, like, loads better.”

November 8th, 2pm, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “An expanded galaxy featuring billions of star systems, each modelled in incredible detail, featuring countless fully populated planets. And on not a single one of those planets did the Star Citizen Kickstarter meet its goals.”

November 8th, 4pm, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “If we reach this target, we’ll just buy Frontier Developments and sack the lot of them, muahahahaha!”

November 9th, 7am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “If we reach this target, we’ll donate the additional money to Cloud Imperium Games, and they’ll get so stupidly overambitious that the game won’t be released until 2094″

November 9th, 7.30am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “Yeah, whatevs. With that much backing we’ll give every one of our players an actual working spaceship in 2094.”

November 9th, 8am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “Yeah, right, like you could actually… hang on, where have all our backers gone?”

November 9th, 8.01am, “Huh, everyone’s withdrawing their pledges, what the…”

November 9th, 8.02am, “Oh, god, Molyneux’s set up a Kickstarter.”

November 9th, 8.05am, “… fly through both all of space and all of not space creating and destroying and ignoring entire civilisations and galaxies and universes and blocks of cheese… oh come on, everyone knows Kickstarter projects are stupidly overhyped and can never live up to the pitch, why are people backing that?”

November 9th, 8.07am, “Pff. No accounting for taste. Shall we go down the pub?”

November 9th, 8.08am, “Yeah, all right.”

November 9th, 9am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “Seven pints of bitter, two bottles of lager and a Diet Coke”

November 9th, 9.01am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “And a bag of peanuts.”

Posted by Zoso at 2:48 pm

Chalke Valley History Festival 2014

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Chalke Valley History Festival is, as could be surmised from the name, a week-long history festival held on a farm in Wiltshire’s Chalke Valley, combining historical talks and presentations with living history encampments spanning the centuries from Anglo-Saxons to World War II. We’d thoroughly enjoyed the event last year, after finding out about it the day before, and with sufficient forewarning booked tickets in advance for a couple of talks this year.

Wandering around the site we happened across a column of Vikings and Anglo-Saxons waiting for troops of the American Revolutionary War to clear the arena (a noteworthy occurrence anywhere else, just another day at Chalke Valley), and needing to make a bit more room for a gun carriage they started shuffling backwards. One wag at the front called out “Beep! Beep! Beep!”, and soon the whole lot were beeping along to the cry of “Attention! These Vikings are reversing!” Once in the arena, they set about each other with sword and axe:

Skol, Skol, Skol, Skol...

Skol, Skol, Skol, Skol…

The day was punctuated with fly-pasts from classic warbirds. Unfortunately the scheduled Spitfire PR XIX was unable to fly, but an extra display from a P-51 Mustang from the Hanger 11 collection wasn’t a bad replacement:

P-51 Jumpin' Jacques

P-51 Jumpin’ Jacques

Hurricane R4118 has had a rather tough life, being shot down during the Battle of Britain, suffering a few prangs when used in Operational Training Units, then used for engineering instruction in India. Painstaking restoration work has brought her back to flying condition with impressive results:

Hawker Hurricane Mk I

Hawker Hurricane Mk I

Last but by no means least, Sally B, the only flying B-17 in the UK (don’t worry, the smoke is part of the display):

B-17 Sally B

B-17 Sally B

Giving impressive displays throughout the day were Destrier, demonstrating the skills and armour of medieval knights. In the morning, skill at arms: male and female riders dishing out violence to unfortunate fruit and veg, setting about cabbages and apples with sword, axe and warhammer, quite a sight as they thundered past at speed. They also picked up rings with light lances, flung javelins at targets and a straw-stuffed Yorkist (bonus points for an amusing kill), and hunted boar from horseback (just a dummy, no animals were harmed during the making of this festival).

How To Defend Yourself Against Fresh Fruit

How To Defend Yourself Against Fresh Fruit

A second presentation showcasing armour of the period in fascinating detail built up to the grand finale, jousting. No script or hokey story, just the spectacle of fully armoured riders thundering towards each other, quite amazing.

It's Only A Flesh Wound

It’s Only A Flesh Wound

Thing didn’t quite finish according to plan with dented armour, trouble with a caparison and a skittish replacement horse conspiring to prevent the final rounds to determine the grand champion, but the eloquent and witty master of ceremonies managed to hold everything together despite the unprecedented setbacks. Dispersing, we followed a German mortar platoon, who set themselves up for a Normandy ambush in the main area, which looked set to be quite a spectacle, though we had to head off before it got underway.

Mort 'ar?  I hardly know 'ar!

Mort ‘ar? I hardly know ‘ar!

Unquestionably, though, the highlight of the day was a talk from Geoffrey Wellum, a Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot, which deserves a post of its own that should be coming soon!

Posted by Zoso at 7:13 pm

The football it has taken away the little bit of sense he had

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I haven’t played World of Tanks for a while, but with the start of the four-yearly Cue To Start A Comment Thread War Over The Preferred Shortened Form Of ‘Association Football’ (known as the ‘World Cup’ in some circles), Wargaming have added a fun little event…

come on football - i hope that our football team gets the points that they require

come on football – i hope that our football team gets the points that they require

Translating foot-to-ball into the rather more exciting armoured warfare variant “tank-to-ball”, all WoT players have been given a special T-62 Sport. Entering battle with this vehicle, two teams of three face off against each other, attempting to push or shoot the giant tank-ball into a goal. Tanks can’t be destroyed, but hitting an opponent’s tracks will briefly disable them:

it is a good job that he has got plastic shin sheets on the bottom of his legs or he would have to be carried home in a wheelchair

it is a good job that he has got plastic shin sheets on the bottom of his legs or he would have to be carried home in a wheelchair

Delicate touches are tricky to pull off with 39 long tons of steel plated fury, so matches can bog down into a bit of an Eton wall game-esque stalemate:

what is wrong referee is your throat flute poisoned or something just have a blow on it for once in your life

what is wrong referee is your throat flute poisoned or something just have a blow on it for once in your life

Ball control via cannon fire appears to be the key skill for tank-ball, being responsible for most of the goals I’ve seen so far. Just be prepared if your team does score, the ball respawns on halfway almost immediately so some frantic defensive realignment may be required.

he striked that one like he was kicking a ball at a prison

he striked that one like he was kicking a ball at a prison

I’ll wager that you’re mightily impressed by the in-depth football knowledge I’ve displayed in the captions of the screenshots, but I’ll let you into a little secret… I didn’t really know very much until I read this excellent guide. If you’re going to try a few rounds of tank-to-ball, you should try and remember a few phrases and use them in chat – lets get this event started, i am enjoying myself!

Posted by Zoso at 9:09 am

Gaming Diary – Defiance

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I picked up Defiance when it launched last year, but didn’t get much further than the starting missions. It wasn’t terrible by any means, a solid enough MMOTPS, but other shooters proved a bit more compelling at the time, particularly Planetside 2 which I was playing quite heavily then. I caught the first few episodes of the TV show and it, too, was solid enough, but with time being irritatingly finite it wasn’t at the top of the list of Stuff To Definitely Watch Right Now, the episodes started stacking up on the PVR and eventually got cleared off to make room.

Planetside 2 had a good old run; even after peak playing-most-days-enthusiasm it was still fun to log in on a Friday with the Five Rounds Rapid outfit and rumble around Auraxis in an armoured convoy singing Jungle Book songs, but with newer, shinier temptations like The Elder Scrolls Online the outfit drifted a bit, and I was fading myself. Despite ordering TESO, and at least making a start on the tutorial during head start, I was away for the official launch, and just haven’t got around to activating the full game since; I can’t really put a finger on why. Instead, when a few of the other FRRers headed for Defiance I thought I’d dust it off and give it another go, and it’s grabbed me a lot more this time around.

A particularly good first impression was the ease of playing with other people. Though the interface in general is rather awkward, presumably due to being a multi-platform game, once you’ve cudgelled it into letting you add someone as a friend then the “Go To Friend” option immediately takes you to their location, no hanging around trying to get everyone in the same place. Once you’re there you can pitch in with whatever they’re doing (typically the usual MMO staples of Killing Some Monster Things, or Clicking Some Glowing Things, or Clicking Some Glowing Things Then Killing Some Monster Things While A Progress Bar Goes Up Or Down) with no issues of quest sharing, kill stealing or the like. Levels (or “EGO Rating”) don’t seem to be a problem, players or mobs are scaled such that a disparate group can all contribute; other than in fairly exceptional circumstances we haven’t bumped into overwhelmingly powerful or trivially easy encounters. The fixed group size of four is a minor irritation, particularly for co-op maps (instanced encounters, broadly similar to a “dungeon”), other than that it’s admirably suited to casual drop-in-and-out group play.

There are obvious similarities between Defiance and Borderlands; weapons of various classes (pistols, SMGs, shotguns, assault rifles etc.) drop in white/green/blue/purple/orange flavours with varying stats, weapons can have “nano-effects” such as electricity for greater shield damage, you get a single activateable power (cloak, overcharge, decoy, blur), etc. You can also draw comparisons with Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row; there’s a central cut-scene driven storyline to follow, but when you pull up the map there’s a plethora of side missions, events and challenges to take part in. Driving is the main method of moving around, though with the lack of convenient sports cars to jack in the devastated future you have to spawn your own vehicle. Some of the missions are for a single person, courses to race around as fast as possible or timed rampage-type fights against waves of mobs, other events can draw crowds of players, most notably the Arkfalls, scaling public-quest-type-things along the lines of the titular rifts in Trion’s previous MMO.

The game-specific main story involves chasing some sort of MacGuffin because of Some Plot, I haven’t been paying too much attention if I’m entirely honest. There are also “Episode” missions that more directly link to events in the TV series, initially time-limited so you progressed at the same pace as the show but later opened up for people who’d missed out; it was neat to bump into digital versions of some of the characters I just about remembered, but it doesn’t make for a particularly cohesive narrative. The tie-in reminds me a little of the physical comic books that accompanied City of Heroes for a while, interesting for a bit of shared backstory, but not really a transcendent pan-media experience greater than the sum of its parts; in general I found it hard to reconcile nuanced character-driven plots with my own deeply moving story of Shooting A Metric Fuckton Of Mobs Looking For Big Guns. I posted about the problem with story in MMOs before, particularly in relation to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Defiance has that same disconnect between repeatable MMO content and more linear story elements.

I can’t speak for potential longevity or how things are at the end game, but I’d say it’s worth a look if you fancy a bit of online multiplayer shooting. It’s just gone free to play, if box cost was an issue before, with a fairly standard looking model (limited character, inventory slots for free players, a premium option to boost gains during play etc.), seems to be pretty reasonable, I’ll have to see if it makes much of a difference in the long term.

Posted by Zoso at 4:16 pm

Gaming Diary: Neverwinter

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Also holding an event last weekend was Neverwinter, with the Coins of Waukeen. All mobs had a chance of dropping a coin purse that could be opened for a variety of shiny baubles or exchanged for larger treasure chests containing even shinier baubles, and if there’s one thing I like more than shiny baubles it’s even shinier baubles, so I thought I’d potter around and try and collect up a few.

I had got quite into Neverwinter, working through the various zones and running all manner of skirmishes and dungeons, but had run out of steam around level 53. As per an old post (Heavens to Murgatroyd, seven years?) I prefer games that are structured but free-form, and Neverwinter is perhaps a touch heavy on the structure. Every zone seemed to be Go To Quest Hub A, Do X Quests (Kill Y Mobs or Collect Z Things), Go To Quest Hub B, Repeat, interspersed with an occasional visit to a solo dungeon to kill a boss-type-thing. Some of the story threads running through zones are quite interesting but they’re very linear and I didn’t really feel terribly personally involved, more like observing a series of vignettes than really participating, Dragon’s Lair with Killing X Mobs instead of pressing a button as the “quick” time events between each scene. The release of the big Curse of Icewind Dale expansion/module wasn’t of immediate interest either, being aimed at characters already well into the end game, so I hadn’t been seriously playing for a while.

In other news, I hit level 60 (the cap) in Neverwinter the other day. Despite not going out questing I still logged in most days to Invoke (an in-game action that earns experience and various currencies) and send off various minions to perform crafting actions, a system with some similarities to duty officers in Star Trek Online. I’m not entirely sure why, apart from that most primal compulsion to Click Things To Make Numbers Go Up, but it became a bit of a habit, and between the Invoking XP and the Leadership profession I gained the final 7-odd levels without leaving town. The Coins of Waukeen event prompted me to actually go off and do some proper Using Abilities To Cause Damage, so first stop was the auction house to replace my obsolete gear. The levelling part of Neverwinter is comparatively brief (as demonstrated by my idle XP gains) and level 60 loot drops plentifully, so a full set of blue weapons and armour were incredibly cheap. Next stop, the level 60 campaigns: Sharandar and The Dread Ring. I gather these were the first two expansions for the game and, again, broadly comprise zones with various quest hubs, but geared towards repeatable content. A “Campaigns” window of the interface gives a flow-chart-esque overview of the progression; do a certain thing three times, unlock another thing, do that seven times, etc. Daily quests at the hubs award the myriad tokens and tchotchkes that contribute to these unlocks: seeds, sparks, scrolls, socks, sandwiches, the currency systems of the Forgotten Realms really are a mess, the sooner everyone starts accepting credit cards the better. Over the weekend I dipped a toe into both the campaigns, earning a couple of boons to boost my character’s stats and a pile of coin purses along the way in which I found a nice pile of Astral Diamonds (yet another currency) and, most importantly, a pair of Gold Pantaloons.

There’s plenty to like in the game; combat is dynamic and fast-paced, and though you can get into a bit of a rut using particular rotations of abilities, positioning and movement is still important so it’s seldom just case of standing around and hitting the number keys. There’s plentiful solo content if you don’t fancy teaming up, and group opportunities if you do. Low level skirmishes and dungeons were quick affairs that didn’t need too much co-ordination, and were quick to get into via the group finder; approaching level 60 they get more challenging, the queues get longer, and the few that I tried with PUGs ranged from painfully lengthy battles of attrition to desperately hanging on to the coat-tails of a massively over-geared player soloing everything in their path. I imagine they offer a reasonable challenge for an organised group, the issue being the more fundamental one of group finding systems and PUGs than the game itself, and if I were really keen to get more involved then finding a like-minded guild would doubtless pay considerable dividends; there’s even an area, Gauntlgrym, only accessible to suitable affiliated guild members. There are PvP options if you’re interested; I fear they suffer from the usual difficulties of balancing stat/gear/build-heavy mechanics, but have only tried a few low-level matches so couldn’t say for sure. If you’re after a wide open world with freedom to roam then it’s certainly not going to be your cup of tea, if the idea of a more distilled Essence of MMO Progression appeals then it’s worth a look. I’m not sure I’ll seriously throw myself into the end-game, but might well chip away at the campaigns now and again and pop in for events.

Posted by Zoso at 10:54 am

Gaming Diary: War Thunder

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I do like a bit of an event in games and War Thunder held a “100K Festival” last weekend to celebrate 100,000 concurrent players, handing out 100 Gold Eagles for every 100 kills (to a maximum of 1,000) and 100,000 Silver Lions for 10 victories. 1,000 Gold Eagles aren’t to be sniffed at, but even when recklessly going for death or glory (or cake) it’s difficult to average more than one kill per minute of game time, and, splendid as War Thunder is, it gets quite tiring after a couple of hours let alone 17. Fairly normal play with a couple of matches per country per day at least netted 100 Eagles, better than a poke in the eye with a pointed stick, and I rounded things out with a few Reserve biplane matches just to get up to 10 victories – the matches are nice and short to start with, going all-out for ground targets stands a good chance of boosting your team to victory, and you don’t need to feel too guilty about strafing AI armoured cars and emplacements.

If a couple of hours of War Thunder gets tiring, a 72 hour non-stop round the world (simulated) flight would be the act of a madman. A madman like Zeke from Iron Man Mode, who did just that. I popped along to his stream a few times over the weekend, a fine distraction while grinding away at game events with its mix of sleep-deprived piloting, live music, quizzes and cat food. Many congratulations to everyone involved, raising over $2,000 for Child’s Play, it’s not too late to pop over and donate to boost that total even more (unless you’ve just unearthed this post as part of a curious digital archaeological expedition in the year 3073 when poverty has been eliminated, in which case it probably is too late. But well done on the whole utopian future thing.)

Away from the big festival, some of the How To Murder Time posse have also been Thundering in a War-like fashion. It can be something of a challenge to get ten or eleven people playing together as in-game groups are limited to four players, to prevent organised teams completely dominating random matches, but Custom Missions work rather well. You can choose the game mode, mission type, map, number of players/bots etc., allowing everyone to shoot the bally heck out of each other without interference from random strangers (don’t forget to set a password on the Custom Mission if you don’t want anyone else dropping by!), or to team up and shoot the bally heck out of some hapless AI opposition. They’re also an excellent training venue, you can pick an appropriate map to practise various aspects of the game like landing on airfields, torpedo attacks or (most importantly) activating coloured aerobatic smoke and making pretty patterns in the sky.

You really have to play the standard PvP matches to earn resources and unlock new aircraft, though, so we also try and form up two or three teams with similar Battle Ratings and have the squad leaders simultaneously click the “To Battle” button, something of a challenge in itself…
“OK, after three, click ‘To Battle’. One, two…”
“On three, or after three?”
“After three. Three, then click. Right. One, two, three, To Battle!”
“One two three two?”
“No, one two three *to*, tee oh, to battle…”
“OK, I’ve clicked To Battle!”
“No! After three!”
“Five, sir!”
(etc)

Results are somewhat mixed, but we generally have a reasonable chance of ending up in the same match, albeit usually on opposing teams, rendering Cunning Plans on the shared voice server somewhat less cunning…
“Don’t tell the other team, but I’m going to attack the left hand bombing target!”
“Hey, chief; I might be wrong, but I think some of the enemy might be coming to bomb our right hand target…”

With Ground Forces moving into open beta I’ve clanked around in a few tank battles, nothing terribly serious; they’re fun enough but I think flying will remain as my primary focus in the game. I’ve updated the Beginner’s Guide with a very rudimentary guide on getting into a tank battle, starting with some Fascinating Tank Facts:

“Aeroplanes, invented by Ian Aeroplane in 1903, really caught on with the military in World War I, initially for reconnaissance, then for bombing and ground attack. One area in which they didn’t fare well was trench warfare, where manhandling bulky aircraft “over the top” then pushing them through no man’s land towards enemy trenches proved rather ineffective, so in 1916 Ian Tank had the idea of taking an aeroplane, removing the wings and propeller, and adding armour plating and caterpillar tracks to create the vehicle that bore his name: the Armoured Fighting Ian. The British government wished to hide the true nature of these new vehicles, though, so created a cover story that hundreds of sweater vests were being sent to the troops, with shipping crates stencilled appropriately, and the nickname stuck.”

Disclaimer: Fascinating Tank Facts may be neither Fascinating nor Facts. Your results may be at risk if you use these facts in a school assignment. Terms and conditions do not apply.
Posted by Zoso at 12:34 pm

Cry ‘Havoc’, and let slip the tanks of War (Thunder)

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Despite my doom-laden forecast of overloaded servers it seems that last weekend’s Golden Battles in War Thunder went without a hitch, so I guess Gaijin have beefed up their infrastructure a bit, perhaps in readiness for unleashing clanking steel beasts. Sure enough, today has seen Update 1.41 released, bringing a few new planes (including three more Griffon Spitfires, hurrah!) and, perhaps most significantly, moving Ground Forces into Open Beta, making tanks available to all players.

Aufklärungspanz 'er? I hardly knew 'er

Aufklärungspanz ‘er? I hardly knew ‘er!

Any progress from Closed Beta has been wiped, but according to Gaijin that’s now it, no more progress wipes. Just for the moment Arcade Battles seem to be tank-only, presumably to let people get used to things and research a few vehicles before unleashing hordes of Stukas and Sturmoviks, but you can set up a Custom Mission if you’d like to test out combined arms operations with some friends.

If anyone is after an extra early tank, this month’s PC Gamer magazine in the UK (it has Civilization: Beyond Earth on the cover) comes with a code to unlock the Aufklärungspanzer 38(t), as pictured above, a German reconnaissance tank with a 20mm gun that should be quite useful for taking pot-shots at aircraft as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your tank engines!

Posted by Zoso at 11:20 pm

Thorin sits down and starts singing about Golden Eagles

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If you’re a keen War Thunderer, there’s a chance to earn some Golden Eagles (the premium currency of the game, usually only available for real money) tomorrow (at the time of writing), May 10th.

There are two four hour windows, to cover players across the world, starting at 3am and 3pm UK time, during which you can earn 100 Golden Eagles for your 2nd, 5th and 7th victories. The quickest route to this is probably to revert your line-up to Reserve biplanes only, join Arcade matches, head straight for the enemy ground targets and start strafing; if a good chunk of your team do the same then matches last a matter of minutes, so with a 50/50 win-rate it shouldn’t take too long to earn the Eagles. Brand new players: don’t worry, this madness only lasts a few hours! I imagine higher level matches will also be a bit crazy, with even more massed heavy bomber base attacks than normal.

A word of warning, though, Gaijin aren’t just being lovely and altruistic, they’re probably stress-testing their servers prior to making tanks available to everyone in open beta, so be prepared for extreme server loads, connection difficulties etc. 100 Golden Eagles, even at the worst conversion rates, are worth less than £1 (or possibly less than 100g of beetroot, the store is curiously non-specific about the currency it quotes prices in), so don’t get too stressed if you miss out, and Gaijin are usually pretty good about extending the time windows or adding additional opportunities if the servers completely collapse under the load. If you don’t care about Golden Eagles at all you might want to avoid the bedlam, but if you’re at a loose end, and the servers haven’t completely melted, then it’s always useful to have a bit of currency for opening another hanger slot, buying a premium plane or training up a crew.

Posted by Zoso at 10:29 am

War Thunder Update 1.39 – Custom Camouflage (Skins)

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War Thunder has just received a major update, v1.39, bringing a bunch o’ new aircraft and assorted tweaks (full list in the change log). One of the more interesting changes is “User generated content support: maps, missions, camouflages and even custom aircraft”, supported by the War Thunder Content Development Kit (CDK). It’s very early days yet, but custom camouflage/skin support has been in place on the development server for a while so there are already a few options if you’re bored with your favourite aeroplane’s current paint job.

There are several places to get new skins; there’s a section on the official forums, and some dedicated sites like http://www.nexusmods.com/warthunder/ and http://wt-skins.com/ starting to pop up. The War Thunder subreddit also has a guide to skinning, plus filters to see user submissions.

(April 17th Update: Gaijin have also just launched live.warthunder.com as a service for exchanging pictures, videos, quotes, camouflages, cockpits, missions, locations and aircraft)

Applying a new skin is pretty easy, just download, pop the files in the “UserSkins” folder in the game’s install location, and away you go! On the Customisation screen you now have two selections in the bottom left of the screen, the original “Camouflage” option and a new “User Skin” under that.  The “magic wand” icon creates a test sample to play with, this option is also useful to see the folder structures that skins use, and the refresh icon allows you to add new skins without restarting the game.  Here’s a rather lovely Australian Spitfire from No. 457 Squadron created by brocollocalypse:

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear

Custom skins are only displayed client-side on your own aircraft, other players don’t see them. This may be a little disappointing if you’ve put a lot of work into a design of your own and would like the world to appreciate it, but on a technical level you wouldn’t want megabytes of images being up/downloaded for every player in every match, and unregulated user generated content tends not to be a terribly good idea. I’m quite a fan of an Ork-inspired P-63, but a player striving for historical accuracy and immersion probably wouldn’t be so keen to see that in their game, and of course G*mes W*rkshop are notoriously litigious and may take a dim view. According to the FAQ particularly good user content could be incorporated officially in future updates, with authors receiving a share of the profits, a model that seems to work well for Sony and Valve amongst others.

So if you’re handy with a graphics package and have a personal connection with a particular plane that you’d like to see replicated in the game, come from a country not currently represented by in-game paint schemes, or just fancy a nifty colour scheme, it’s well worth checking out this update.

Posted by Zoso at 8:32 pm

GTA V Not Released on PC!

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NotGames have just released NotGTAV, not an all-action hyper-realistic high-octane game set in Los Santos, but a rather fun little hand drawn Snake-type game set (partially) in Swindon. Inexplicably this seems to be the first game set in Swindon, according to my deep and extensive research (not finding a Wikipedia list titled “Computer games set in Swindon”); if NotGTAV does well I’m hoping we might see expansions set in Milton Keynes, Weston-super-Mare or Bognor Regis.

OK, NotGTAV isn’t terribly deep, but as there’s still no sign of GTA V itself on PC it’s the closest thing you’ll get. Apart from GTA IV. Or III. Or the Saints Row series, or… quite a lot of other games, I suppose. Rather more importantly, though, it’s for an excellent cause, Peer Productions. If you feel that your sins are outweighing any Gaming Indulgences obtained via Humble Bundles, why not pop over and play with their slider (matron), even that raises a few laughs.

(Disclaimer: I don’t not know Jay of NotGames, who hasn’t not paid nothing for a plug. Hang on, I’ve lost track of the negatives… hasn’t not paid something? Didn’t not fail to not pay… Failed not to refuse to not… Oh, you get the idea, no money has changed hands. I mean you don’t get the idea. Don’t not get the… oh, never mind.)

Posted by Zoso at 1:27 pm
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