Monday 21 January 2013

Thunder, Thunder, War Thunder, Ho!

It’s been a quiet start to the gaming year; a bit of Borderlands 2 DLC, the odd World of Tanks battle, an ongoing bid for world domination in Civ 5, but nothing much new for me apart from SongPop, a sort of Facebook version of Name That Tune (only with less Lionel Blair). A piece on Rock Paper Shotgun’s always splendid Flare Path caught my eye, though, about War Thunder.

It’s a sort of Massively Arena-ish Drop-in Flight Sim Type Thing (that well known MADFSTT genre), rather like World of Tanks but with planes; indeed it used to be called World of Planes but changed name about a year ago. I’m not sure how I missed it, it’s right up my proverbial street, and really rather fun; I don’t think the new name helps, War Thunder is very generic, a bit “pick two vaguely military words out of a hat” without the meme-worthy silliness of Warface. Like an anti-tank shell off well sloped armour it’s the sort of name that glances off my brain without penetrating, so even though it’s been mentioned on various blogs, sites and forums it had been flying under my radar, as it were (an easier task in one of the biplane starter aircraft). Apparently one reason for the name change is that they’re broadening the focus to eventually include ground and sea combat, so it’ll be an interesting head-to-head battle with’s World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships triumvirate.

War Thunder is from Gaijin Entertainment who have some flight sim pedigree with games like Wings of Prey, which has given them a bit of a head start in terms of available aircraft; you can choose to fly for the Soviet, German, US, Japanese and (most importantly) British air forces, so I’ve been pottering about in Gladiators and Hurricanes grabbing my eggs and fours and getting the bacon delivered. There are plenty of types of aircraft available, and maps generally have overall objectives such as ground targets to destroy or objectives to capture; if shot down you can switch to another plane from your hanger, so I’ve also been doing a bit of level bombing from a Blenheim, and developed quite a nice line in torpedo attacks from the Swordfish and Beaufort where shipping targets are available. There are a few game types, including some historical options with realistic controls and accurate combatants, but I’ve been sticking to the arcade mode while getting used to things.

All in all, well worth a look. You can even customise your aircraft with decals; don’t blame me, though, I was just picking from the options they give…

The Fighting Cock

Sausage squad up the blue end!

Thursday 3 January 2013

Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely

Captain’s log: a nice hunk of larch. It’s funny, you see, because “log” means both “a thick piece of tree trunk or branch, especially one cut for burning on a fire” and also “a full written record of a journey, a period of time, or an event”, so scientifically that was *hilarious*. Oh please yourselves. Following a series of exciting adventures, Starfleet have appointed me to the rank of Admiral and given me command of a new ship, one that doesn’t have big, tempting red buttons labelled “Abandon Ship” and “Self Destruct” on the arms of the captain’s chair. Due to budget cutbacks it is equipped with the most basic weapons, shields and engines from the Spacetesco Value range, but high command seem pretty relaxed about captains performing their own upgrades, so while my application to “Pimp My Spaceship” is being considered I have tasked my senior officers to review the spacedock market and make some recommendations to improve the performance of USS Hope Springs Eternal

“Good morning, men. And women. And aliens from tri-gendered species. And robots, and holograms and… whatever you are, in the corner”
“That’s a potted plant, sir”
“Very good, carry on… potting. Now, as you’re all well aware, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. Except where it does, a bit, sort of, or there’s some sort of bartering involving credits, or energy or… oh, look, it’s all vague enough that Cryptic can get away with a bunch of different currencies and an auction house and stuff. So, as a new crew, let’s go around the table, introduce ourselves, outline what upgrades you’d like to purchase from the market, and we’ll run the budget past Stevens of accounts. You in the red shirt first.”
“Thank you captain. I’m Alexei Vladimir Ilyich Dynamo Kiev Five Year Plan John Paul George Ringo Antonov, Chief Tactical Officer, nuclear wessel etc. I propose replacing the aft photon torpedo launcher with a quantum mine dispenser, upgrading the for’d launcher, and replacing the phaser arrays with plasma cannons fore, and plasma turrets aft. Total cost would be approximately 100,000 energy credits for a moderate upgrade. We can also equip the away team with new weapons and armour for 75,000 credits.”
“Excellent, next”
“Jings crivens, sir, I’m Angus McScotsman, Chief Engineering Officer, och aye the noo. I recommend fitting improved combat impulse engines for greater speed and manoeuvrability, and reconfiguring engineering consoles for maximum weapon power. There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose. Estimated cost, 70,000 energy credits.”
“Very good; you in the blue with the pointy ears”
“Well, sir, there is a theme I have on that scheme you have; a flight on the wings of a young girls dreams that flew too far away. Basically we get some shields for 50,000 credits. And some china for me to hold.”
“Thank you, Science Officer Decker. Now, you in the rather… extravagant uniform, what department are you again?”
“Petty Officer Llewelyn-Bowen, sir, Chief of Interior D├ęcor. Now, as it’s the holiday season, I’m thinking ornaments, I’m thinking Vulcan incense, sleigh bells, Bolian candles, Targ fur earmuffs will look simply *fabulous*, we can kit out the whole bridge for a mere 750,000 energy credits.”
“Three quarters of a million credits?”
“Oh yes. If you think about it, the whole game situation of players putting a premium on cosmetic appearance and digital pseudo-rarity from limited time events and such fits in quite well with a post-economic society, if you sort of squint a bit. Tell you what, there’s a lovely jacket for sale. Brown, thigh length, very in this season, a snip at 300,000 credits.”
“So, I can either dramatically increase the effectiveness of both this starship and her away team, or get a jacket?”

Captain’s log, stardate: about a week later. Forced to retreat from confrontation with Klingon patrol, shields unable to withstand concentrated fire and weaponry insufficient to cause significant damage. Beamed down to planet to try and negotiate ceasefire, away team overpowered and captured. On the plus side, Counsellor Ilium said I looked very dashing in the new jacket.