Thursday 2 June 2011

The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older

One of the joys of gaming is the scope, from immersing yourself deeply in a virtual world or taking centre stage in an epic story to blowing stuff up and giggling. With generally smaller chunks of available time recently I’ve been erring towards the latter rather than the former, as MMOGs do tend to need a good hour or three to get anywhere, especially if coordinating with others. Just firing up Age of Conan, the launcher seemed to spend an interminable time on some internal check before it even gave the option of a “Start” button to load the game. It’s one of those relative things, almost certainly seconds rather than minutes (I never thought to get a stopwatch on it), hardly an issue like reaching level three of Operation Wolf on the Amstrad CPC464 when the joy of beating that git boss in the jungle was tempered by the knowledge you had to press “Play” and wait another few minutes for the next level to load, die in 30 seconds and have to rewind for level one again, but when you want to get on and play something then the fewer barriers the better. The prosecution presents Borderlands, m’lud, which decides you need to sit through three or four short videos of company logos with no way of skipping them until you either make an arcane tweak in some .ini file to disable them, or smash your PC with a massive hammer screaming “I THINK YOU’LL FIND *THIS* IS THE WAY IT’S MEANT TO BE PLAYED”. I like to think of it as recognition of time as a commodity that seemed endless as a child but becomes more precious with each passing year, but maybe it’s just a symptom of the ever-declining attention span of the human race as we desperately paw at flashing screens for constant stimulation, ideally involving cats and pianos

For rapid action I’ve tended to opt for a quick mission or two in Just Cause 2, or more often a few battles in World of Tanks. Both start up and get you into some action with minimal faff; with about three clicks from the desktop World of Tanks will get you into a fight; an inconsequential fight in the grand scheme of things, unless you’re engaging in the clan warfare system that involves controlling territory (I’m not, sounds a bit like hard work really), but immediately absorbing. If anything I wouldn’t mind it taking ever so slightly longer over the matchmaking; the current system seems a touch broad, especially in the latter tiers. It’s probably selective memory, like the other queue at the supermarket always moving quicker, but I seem to end up on the bottom of a three or four tier spread of tanks more often than the top. Sometimes you also end up with a tank you just don’t get on with; I thought I’d work towards the Panther, being such an iconic tank and all, and recently bought a VK3001(P) German tier VI medium tank to find it starts out with a distinctly underwhelming gun that barely damages stuff in its own tier, let alone tier VIII Super Beasts of Doom. Course I can’t upgrade it straight away, better guns need a new turret that costs a stack of experience, which will no doubt need the tracks to be upgraded as well… That said I have killed one Tiger I with it, but only because it was hiding behind a giant rock with two of our team on the other side; as it started edging one way around to confront my comrade I nipped around the other and shot it at point blank range in the weak rear armour for about 10% damage, while the other friendly tank reversed to keep out of the way of the main gun, causing the Tiger to advance further while I kept behind it getting another shot or two off; he then started turning his turret (fortunately quite slowly) so I reversed out of the way and the other friendly tank advanced to get a couple of shots as we coordinated tactics like the military wing of the Chuckle Brothers; “to me, to you”…

Teams as a whole tend to balance out though, like Tobold and Warsyde I’m finding the overall results are ending up near 50/50. I suspect you could boost your chances by playing with friends in a platoons, though not massively as platoons are limited to three members in 15-a-side battles. I’ve managed to team up a few times rather splendidly with fellow bloggers & commenters, though the chat system is a bit low-key, starting a new minimised window at the bottom of the screen that I’ve completely missed several times when jumping straight from battle to battle. Still, I’ve found the general players in random matches pretty decent on the whole, only once in hundreds of battles have team-mates really got on my wick when I managed a dazzling flanking manoeuvre, took out a couple of SPGs in the base before being finished off by a tank destroyer, and the two heavy tanks who could’ve swept in and easily destroyed the last couple of enemy units were bickering in chat about who’d got in whose way and alt-tabbing to post on the forums about the heinous slight. Course there’s always a few people who get frustrated and helpfully let everyone know their death was entirely the fault of their LOL NOOB IDIOT TEAM, often directing their wrath at those most foul cowards the “campers” (more irregular verbs: I painstakingly select an optimal tactical position for a masterful ambush, you hang around at the back and snipe, he is a camping lamer). They probably intend it as a mortal insult, but being a child of the 80s I can’t help but associate “campers” with Ruth Madoc and a chime bar and have to suppress the urge to reply “ho-de-ho!”

I’d still like to get over to Evendim in LotRO, and shift a load of structures around to set up a large shipyard in PotBS, and possibly even log in to Star Trek Online that I couldn’t help but pick up in the recent Steam sale, but first just a couple more matches on the long road to getting an 88mm gun on that VK3001(P)…

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