David Lydon

World of Tanks: it’s not the length of the barrel

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In the summer of 2007 I played my last game of online StarCraft. The people I was subletting from had a copy on their bookshelf, and one night I gave in to nostalgia. After tinkering around in a few skirmishes, I decided to dip my toes into unranked non-ladder online play. How bad could it be?

It turned out it could be pretty bad, because I was pretty bad. In the nine years since Starcraft had launched the general level of play had advanced while my skills had atrophied. I died to my opponent’s first push. I then joined a random 4v4 game on Big Game Hunters, a game mode and map specifically designed for people who don’t want to deal with all the fuddy-duddy details of being good at Starcraft. Within 90 seconds, two of my allies cursed me out and quit. The third helpfully stuck around for another 30 seconds to yell at me for having a non-optimized build.

After the jump, sink or swim Continue reading →

World of Tanks: missing the mark

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One of the biggest changes in World of Tank’s recent 8.6 update is the distribution of shells within the aiming reticle. While this may seem fairly esoteric, having your bullets go where you aim them is critical in a game based on shooting guns. Tradeoffs must be made between accuracy, damage, and rate of fire. For example, in the picture up there, a clever player landed his shots above the Super Pershing’s thickly armored gun mantlet and onto the thinner armor at the top of the turret. In World of Tanks, a gun’s accuracy limits the size of the fully zoomed-in reticle, and its aim time dictates how quickly the reticle shrinks down around your target. Roughly 5% of your shells will hit the edge of the reticle.

Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been told.

After the jump: lost in translation Continue reading →

World of Tanks: the China syndrome

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Yesterday’s 8.6 patch contained good news for anyone who has been thinking about trying World of Tanks for the first time. While the game’s starting field of World War I era tankettes have not changed, the crews inside those tanks now start with a 100% training level instead of the previous 50% training level. On Monday, the gap between a new player in a stock tankette and a veteran in a kitted out tankette was immense. Today, that gap is merely large. Progress!

If the idea of having to care about a crew’s training level sounds dangerously abstract, World of Tanks isn’t for you. But if caring about levels sounds dangerously abstract, you’re probably not cut out for modern online gaming. The insertion of experience point systems into action games has reached a point where I expect Id’s upcoming Doom sequel will require hours of leveling guns and perks.

After the jump: gaming versus garaging Continue reading →

World of Tanks: in from the HEAT

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High Explosive Anti-Tank shell 53-BP-540 left us at 1:00 am PDT today. It was 26 months old. It is survived by Armor Piercing shell 53-G-530 and High Explosive shell 53-OF-530. Condolences should be sent to the Soviet KV-2 Heavy Tank.

Today’s 8.6 update to World of Tanks represents the most ambitious re-imagining of Wargaming.net’s popular “freemium” game since its 2011 launch. Even major changes like the physics patch or the removal of “pay to win” components of the game pale in comparison. This update hopes to resolve some of the legacy problems that have been around for so long they had begun to feel like features.

Over the next few days I’ll examine the patch and the current state of World of Tanks. But balance changes often have a feeling of “two steps forward, one step back” and the 8.6 update is no exception. Buried in the massive list of patch notes was the change that signaled the death of one of my favorite tanks:

Added shell MPB mod. 1915/28.
Removed shell 53-BP-540

After the jump: requiem for a derp Continue reading →

World of Tanks: the dark side of realism

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That large chunk of Detroit steel above you is a M103. It was designed in the 1950s to destroy Soviet armor in a general European war that thankfully never happened. Prior to playing World of Tanks, I had never heard of the M103. Then, when I first heard of it in the upcoming patch notes, I didn’t like it. Now I love it.

After the jump: How I learned to love the M103. Continue reading →

World of Tanks: it’s the economy, stupid!

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In 1986, Kesmai released Air Warrior, one of the first online flight simulators. For an hourly fee, players could use their 2800 baud modem to dial into the DARPAnet, or whatever, and fight in an online battle arena. Given the technology in play, I can only imagine that it must have been a gigantic train wreck. But it must have been a train wreck with potential, since Kesmai kept improving on the game; releasing sequels, getting it onto mainstream services like America Online, and eventually switching from an hourly fee to a flat monthly fee. By the time I encountered Air Warrior it was a sophisticated product, allowing 256 players to choose from over 40 planes (plus a few ground vehicles) and do battle. For the time, it was groundbreaking. Even today, few games are willing to shove 256 players onto a map.

While Air Warrior’s technology may have been ahead of its time, the Air Warrior business model was anything but: Pay a flat fee, play with planes. There were no experience points, no awards or badges no micro transactions, and no artificial gating. Every plane was available to every player. How the hell were you supposed to monetize that? Kesmai didn’t seem to have a great answer; they were eventually bought out by EA, who did a good job keeping the Kesmai monthly service running up until the point when they didn’t.

Today, Air Warrior is but a memory. Wargaming.net, however, seems intent to fill the gap in our souls with the upcoming World of Warplanes. Not being in the beta, I can’t tell you much about the game, but I’m pretty sure the first time I log in I will not have 40 planes immediately available to choose from. If I want them, I’m going to have to buy them.

After the jump: Becoming a “BargainJaeger” Continue reading →

World of Tanks: adapt or die

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If you’re a veteran player who has not played for a while, World of Tanks offers its own new set of challenges. Prior to the introduction of the new physics patch, you may have routinely scraped the edges of bridges, lakes, or ravines while maneuvering. It was never a problem, since invisible walls kept your tank on track, leaving your hands free to use the (terrible) chat interface, or whatever.

Today, if you stop paying attention by a lake you’ll end up drowning in it.

After the jump, change kills. Continue reading →

World of Tanks: let’s get this show on the road!

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World of Tanks is a strange hybrid. Part online arena shooter, part sim, and part MMORPG, there are few games that seek to occupy the niche it has carved out. This makes the game compelling, delivering an experience that is not available anywhere else. However, the very factors that separate the game from the rest of modern gaming also serve to confuse and alienate new players. It’s easy to jump into a game, maneuver, and shoot. WASD moves your tank, the mouse moves your turret, and left-click fires. Basic stuff.

But just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, your tank mysteriously explodes. Uh-oh! How did that happen?

After the jump: why you are dead Continue reading →

World of Tanks: war is (still) hell

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A lot has changed on the virtual battlefields of World of Tanks in the 18 months since Dave Markell’s excellent series of articles. The matchmaker has been improved. Many new tanks have been added, including French and British tanks and tier X medium tanks and tank destroyers. The roster of available maps has grown significantly. Two new game modes have been added. The graphics have been improved through the use of a new renderer. And a new physics engine has radically changed the gameplay on certain maps.

But to those who are quick to dismiss freemium games, the biggest change is still to come: In the upcoming Version 8.1 update to World of Tanks (currently available on the public test server) premium “gold” ammunition (purchasable only with real-life money) will also become purchasable through the in-game “silver” currency. With a stroke, Wargaming.net has eliminated your excuse for refusing to try the game!

After the jump, your new excuses for not trying the game! Continue reading →