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Thursday, June 30, 2011

World of Tanks Patch 0.6.5 Goes Live

World of Tanks has released the newest patch today which introduces some new maps and the American Tank Destroyer line. Here is a list of some key features and you can get to the Article here.

  • Redshire and Arctic Region maps;

  • American TDs Т18, Т82, Т40, M10, M36, T25, T28, T95;

  • American premium light tank M22 Locust;

  • Soviet premium light tank Т-127;

  • Tier 9 American medium tank M26 Pershing will be replaced for M46 Patton.
  • Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    KV-3, Tank Destroyers and South East Asia

    Been gone from the blog for a while, life has not afforded me much time to play or to blog a lot lately. Either way here is a quick recap of what I have been playing lately.

    World OF Tanks

    What little time I have to play lately has been focused on this game. Several new tanks have rolled on into my garage including the KV-3 and the Jagdpanzer Tank Destroyer. Both are Tier 6 tanks and unfortunately appear a bit underpowered. The major attraction they bring is increased armor while the guns are the same as their Tier 5 Counterparts. The biggest change is who you face in this tier as for the most part you will be paired up with tier6-10 opponents. You may be able to get some kills here and there, but when trading blows against the likes of IS-7 and Maus you really don't stand much of a chance.

    I am getting close to obtaining my Tiger I (Tier 7) but am a little concerned about my chances of surviving against much larger opponents. The VK3601H is a very fun tank to play and I am finding it true that when battling in this medium tank that I am seeing successes more often than the much Larger KV-3.

    Supremacy 1914

    Haven't said a whole lot about this game for some time, but I still play it from time to time. Presently I am playing a 10 player game on the new Southeast Asia map that had won a contest for player created maps. It is well done and is different enough from the standard Europe map to make it fun to play. My first game in I was selected to play Mongolia which starts at the top of the map and has 0 water territories. Wasn't expecting to play a land locked nation on a SE Asia map, but I'm sure ill get a island nation soon enough.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Wipe the dust off my Gat and get back at it..

    We all are from time to time, over encumbered by life, liberty and the pursuit of "honey have you finished the list" that so accompanies our spare time.
    I am pinned down from the "Honey" bullets from my better half more times than i care to admit.
    Thank God for Fathers day and the excuse of Stress...without them I'd never get any gaming done.
    This weekend I found out that without constant practice you are never as good as you once were...Battlefield called, I answered and so did the virtual medic!
    As I strafed, knifed, sniped in on my fellow combatants in some head to head tests of digital skillz I found myself thinking, could this be, might it be possible, I suck yet again....ACKKK, I do.. I toss this out to all arm chair generals reading...stick with your training. without it, we are all just food for wolves. silver lining, my M16 will still reach out and kiss ya in the right spots!
    In my contemplation of yet again queing for war, I did a little surfing and ran acrossed this little tid bit of news that might interest you.
    I have to admit that I dig the idea of driving a tank in the new environments. If you have not gone to the host site, you can check it out here.
    I have to say This game is shapping up to be one of my future favorites!

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Damn You Match Maker, Damn YOU

    For the past month or so I have been crawling my way from the primordial soup of lower level Tankdom in a desperate attempt to cling onto the ledge of the middle tiers of beautiful heavy behemoths populating Tiers 5-7. For weeks I drudged along taking blow after blow from the larger more powerful brethren that would beat upon me daily in their large and imposing tanks, constantly making me pay my dues. When the carnage was over and night would fall upon me, I would huddle up in a fetal position and dream of the day I would ascend to the next level, as sobs of despair escaped my trembling lips.

                Finally as the required experience as the whipping boy came to pass, the gods of metal mayhem bestowed upon me my first glimpse at the world of middle ranks of the rolling warriors and said it was good. Brand new shiny metal death machines were at my disposal, with large powerful canons and think sturdy armor. The days of cruising around in a Loltracktor and his friends was OVER, the day of power was upon me. Soon enough all those below me would tremble at my might as one by one they fell to my mighty gun or crushed beneath my massive treads. 

    Reality Check

                Just as I emerged over the lip of Middle Tier I noticed just how high up the upper tier happens to be. Now any normal man would have been dismayed to look up upon that far away perch, but not this guy. After all I just had made the climb to this new rank and damn it all I could do it again, so what if it was twice as high, I…could…do…it. As I sharpened my claws in eager anticipation of the feast to be had upon those lowly level tier wagons of fail, I watched the screen load into my first ever battle as a KV “Heavy” tank.

                Err halo Tiger…good day to you Mr. IS…What’s that Miss Jagdpanther you don’t like me much? Oh ha-ha-ha quite understandable under the circumstances…no, no worries ill just be over…hey wait a second…wait please put that away…ouch ok hehe good one…just give me…sigh.

                I quickly came to realize that my day on top was short lived and not quite what I thought it would be. As it turns out, all those guys cruising around in their KV’s and Stugs when I was a wee bit, were now cruising around in tanks with imposing names like ISU-this and M-that. They had gotten bigger and their guns had gotten bigger, but their disdain for me, the bottom feeder, hadn’t changed. Apparently the matchmaker system is run by an evil little troll with an unusual sense of cruel humor. Also apparent in this game is that no one can escape this maniacal system of self destruction as you hurl your impotent metal coffin at those with armor so thick it would take a nuclear bomb to crack it. Unfortunately I am fresh out of nukes and damn if that isn’t a lot of XP to get the Tiger.

    Batting 500

    The game isn’t all cruelty though sometimes this dog does get his day. Recently I was engaged in a battle where I managed to be the largest tank on the block. I laughed menacingly as wave after helpless wave of inferior beings threw themselves upon my Iron hide and fell before the might of my Derp Gun. Unfortunately these matches have come far and few between and are interjected with face to face tie with MR. Tiger II and his friends.         

                Although I could swear it doesn’t appear this way at the time of game play, my stats dutifully inform me that on average I am winning almost as much as I am losing. It would appear that this game is actually balanced. Now I know this isn’t true, there’s no way this is possible. I have seen the piles of burning metal wrecks of my rolling image that have littered my ascension up the ranks, but this game seems to think I have left just as many terror stricken victims in my wake. Maybe it’s just me, but I am starting to get the feeling that the stat keeper of this game is the same troll who manages the Match Maker system.

                Oh well I guess I’m a gluten for punishment…clicking to enter the queue again.

    Repopulating the Ghost Towns

    This post is a continuation of a previous post where I commented on the problems related to game design in MMORPG’s that often left zones empty of players. If you haven’t read the post yet I urge you to give it a look over here.

                First I would like to state that the following ideas are my opinion on fixing a common problem associated with MMORPG’s today. Now with that out of the way I would like to make a few suggestions on possible ways to eliminate the creation and the subsequent ignoring of whole regions of game content.

                Common game design dictates that players gather experience from completing various tasks in game and then utilizing the experience to gain rank. Although each game is different, the general premise is that a player becomes more powerful via new abilities and improved stats. Once a player reaches max level they then improve their character via gear upgrades. The problem with this classic design is in order to maintain a challenging environment for players; Developers will create “level” appropriate areas geared towards progressing them along. As players advance they leave behind them an empty barren land of no interaction and fading memories. Great locations once adored by many are left to remain unwanted and unused.

                If we eliminate a players Level then we can eliminate the need for “level” related areas. Now many will say that if we go this route then what’s the point of playing a game without progress? Why log into a game if I can’t grow as a character? My solution to this is to have characters become more powerful with two different mechanics. I would keep the ability to improve a player’s equipment or gear as this makes sense, but I would eliminate a player’s ability to become more powerful in abilities. Instead a player would learn new abilities not normally associated with their class.

                Imagine if you will a Warrior that has filled up his knowledge bar on how to swing a sword and has in essence become an expert, he receives minor improvements to his skills like, +5 to hit and such, but his base stats of health, Wisdom or whatever remain unchanged. His weapons will improve and offer their own modifiers for things like chance to hit or total damage, but nothing to dramatic. Armor can improve resistance and such forth, but the overlying theme is increases in abilities are minor. However once a player has mastered the arts of his own abilities he can begin studying arts in other fields. For instance he could be a warrior/mage with some lesser abilities than a full mage like adding fire damage to his sword attacks or creating a shield. This will allow the player to still have something to aim for without creating a demigod which forces the Developers to keep upping the anti.

                Now you may have noticed two problems with my suggestion and are presently wondering what I am ranting about as I am not really fixing anything. Problem one – Players are still “leveling” in a way and therefore will become more powerful than other players and/or mobs in an area. Problem two – once players over power a regions mobs they will not wish to return if it is not providing them a way to improve themselves. Both are valid questions that require answers themselves.

                As to players leveling the biggest difference is that players in my world would not have extreme advances and therefore would not be overly powerful beings, instead they would be marginally improved over others. Now I do believe a well seasoned warrior should be better than a rookie new to the lands of strife, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Instead it should provide a tactical edge found in better gear and knowledge and force the newer player to overcome the better equipped and trained opponent.

                To combat the problem of out-leveling content, zones would have to be constantly updated to introduce new things to do. Now I am not suggesting an earth shattering change as we saw in Cataclysm, but a more mild change from time to time to alter the landscape slightly. Lands should be fluid in nature and constantly evolving in an unknown manner. This will create a need to explore old covered grounds to see what’s new. Also I would layer content in each region with some mobs being more powerful than others. This is more realistic as each type of enemy would not be of the same health and level just because they share the same area. 

                A player may stumble upon a group of beings that he has no business facing and might die, but she can then mark that as an area to return later or to bring back friends to help. Quests can also help keep players in the right area of a zone, but that involvement should be limited and only “aid” the player in places to avoid. Lastly I would create non combat related things to do in each area no matter how well adapted a player is. A more robust crafting and gathering system is a possible idea to implement among others to give players a reason to return.

       This is the beginning of my idea and there is much that I have left uncovered, bit I have gone on long enough for now and will introduce other ideas in a later post. I am curious to know what you think on this subject and welcome any ideas.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Digital Ghost Towns

    MMOPRG games for the most part follow a very traditional player progression system of leveling your character up via Experience points. Often a game will segregate or recommend certain areas of the game map for players of a certain level range. This design is intended to ensure that Mobs and NPCs are around the same level of any player in that area. For the most part this system works out just fine in directing a player where to go next, but it has one very huge side effect on the game world, dead Zones.

    Virtual Ghost Towns

                When Wrath of the Lich King was the hot new expansion for World of Warcraft, Dalaran was one happening place to be. Every where you went people were milling about conducting their daily whatever and interacting, the city felt alive. Go pay a visit there today and see if you get the same reaction. Dalaran was a vibrant area to be in and visiting it now feels depressing. Come to think of it the whole Northrend area seems depressing nowadays. Outlands was the same way after Wrath and today is even more depressing than Northrend, imagine if you will that you’re a new player to the game and you have to go through these zones on your climb upward. Do you think it would feel the same as those players that went there when it was new and fresh and full of people?  

              There is nothing more depressing when starting a game that is intended to be a MMORPG to find yourself alone and wandering a land bereft of kinsman and filled with bored and lonely monsters. Perfect example is the difference in atmosphere while leveling in Outlands from when it was new content to when I was leveling an alt during Wrath. It is amazing how much a game can change when you remove other players. Shattrath city is a giant bloated joke when it’s filled with nothing more than forgotten NPCs milling about desperately and trying to get a little interaction with a handful of adventures rushing through their lands as fast as possible.

    Segregated Lands

              When you add these ghost towns or lands to the concept of segregated territories things really start to lose their realism. Yes I know this is for game purposes and its fantasy after all, but I never could wrap my brain around the concept of level segregation in what is supposed to be an immersive experience. I mean what is stopping that higher level mob from traversing the 25 feet necessary to enter a new land. Some added game environments like rivers and mountain ranges can help in dispelling this division, but overall it just never felt right to me.  

                Once again level based zones really hinder an environment that was established to support large amounts of visitors, but now barely seem alive when the turnstiles stop turning, admitting only the occasional wanderer. A solo adventurer can be both hindered and aided by a zone bereft of others and can find some quests easier to complete while others can become impossible since they were originally designed for groups.


    A Desolate and Barren Tatooine

                From everything I’ve seen and read about the upcoming SW: TOR game, BioWare is following the traditional game design and segregating its zones (Planets) by level. I think it will be a great injustice if certain planets are left void of life. Player activity can make a world like Tatooine and Mos Eisley seem wondrous and exciting, while a lack of players will give the impression it’s nothing more than a barren wasteland…well I know it is but…well you get the point. I really hope they find away to keep these areas populated once everyone moves on.

                Ultimately leveling zone game design also helps to create another side effect I am not fond of, Linear Questing. When you design a game intended to be played from one place to the next it generates a linear gaming experience where previous content no longer holds any value to you. Having a World(s) based game designed with rails that direct a player along often defeats the purpose of having a World in the first place. Why not just generate maps for players to complete quests on and interject cut scenes in between to break up the concept of traveling. 

    I intended to include in this post some possible alternatives to this game design philosophy, but it started to run a little long. So I will make a future post discussing ways to keep game zones relative for the length of play.  

    Update - Here is part two        

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Minecraft has proven to be - FUN

                    I have been trying out Minecraft now for about a week and have really started liking this game. I purposefully went into the game without reading any guides or learning anything about the base game. I wanted to see if I could play this game without aid and be able to pick it right up. The basic concept of chopping wood or digging up the ground  is easy enough to understand, but that's it. I received my biggest surprise when nightfall came and was assailed by exploding monsters and men with bows and arrows. What I am getting at is if you plan to try this game out...EDUCATE YOURSELF FIRST. You will not survive long without some base knowledge as in make yourself some shelter, build a crafting table and furnace as soon as possible you will need these things to move on in the game.

    I have had more fun building a house and digging out a mine than I thought I would have and might actually purchase this game to see all the features i am missing by playing a demo. The Demo only allows me to play for 5 "game" Days before I must start over.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Checking out Minecraft

    I received a free demo of the hit indie game Minecraft, so I decided to give it a shot. I admittedly have no idea what I am doping in this game, but am going into this demo with an open mind. I'm curious to see what all the rave about this game is about.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Keyboard Required Is now Mobile

    Blogger has now made it possible to share blogs in a mobile device friendly manner. So if you would prefer to catch us on the go you now can.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Star Wars: The Old Republic video "Return" Released

                     BioWare has Released another cinematic trailer for SWTOR continuing or should we say rewinding the story surounding the games main theme. As with the other trailers, "Return" is visably stunning and action packed. You can see it here or check it out below. I have included all of the trailers to date in case you have been in a Rancor pit for the past couple of years and missed them all.




    Wallet Warrior

              Well it is now offical, I have become a Wallet Warrior. With World of Tanks Selling Gold tanks at 50 percent off till June 6th, I decided to purchase this T14 heavy tank for 750 gold. It has decent armor and speed, but the gun is underpowered. Problem with Gold tanks is they are not upgradeable, so you get what you get with them.
              The only reason I purchased this tank was to generate credits as Gold tanks are cheaper to operate and can gain some decent credits per match. It did not have anything to do with getting a heavy as I have also recently obtained a KV which is for most the first heavy tank they play with as it is still in tier 5. The T14 is also a tier 5 tank so its purchase didn't actually unlock a new tier for me.

                        Paying for a tank instead of earning it via the XP climb is a different feel for me as I don't have very much attachment to the T14 as I have with others. Like I said it is only a credit producer for me and although is alot of fun to play is realyy only another tank for me. Now my brand new Leopard light tank is another story. For some reason even I can't explain why I am so enamered with this thing, but I can't wait to upgrade its models.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    I Have Become the Annoying Escort Quest Guy

    If you have ever played a quest based MMORPG before than you know exactly what an “Escort Quest” is. If you are unable to conjure up an image of it in your mind when prompted to, then you can find yourself eternally grateful for never having to endure the mindless agro inducing meandering stupidity that many of these characters employ. These “Individuals” have been placed through out the various worlds of MMORPG games waiting for a hapless hero to come along and deliver them from point A to some other random point on the map. Along said path, you will assailed by a series of marauding villains whose sole purpose is to dismember and destroy you and your newly found traveling companion.

                In the annals of “Annoying Quest Guy” book of names, you will see such loving subjects as Robo Chicken, random Alliance/Horde prisoner dude, Joshua Riker and apparently now me. Although Mr. Riker (He apparently is some how related to the more famous Riker of ST lore, although the exact circumstances escapes me at the moment.) isn’t a prototypical escort guy as he doesn’t walk at an agonizingly slow pace or run up to every single mob in an agro grabbing rage. However what he does is proceed to run up to the engaged group of badies with nothing more than his bare knuckles and completely gets himself in the way of my phaser toting assault team. He will even do this when the only opponents to face are a collection of automated sentry turrets.

    Slamming your knuckles and feet into hardened metal while getting in the way of blazing phaser fire, will earn you an entry into the dumb escort guy book. (Haven’t seen this for yourself? Well play out the “Badlands” mission in STO for some knee slapping good times then.) So what did I do to also gain entry into such a coveted book? I took a lesson from my heroes of the past and became the slow meandering pain the ass tag-a-long everyone despises.

    Yesterday I decided that what I really wanted to get in World of Tanks was a Leopard tank. Why? I don’t know other than to me they are the coolest looking light tanks in the game and I didn’t have a light tank at that moment. Now in order to get the tank I want, I must first purchase and then use a Pzkpfw III Ausf. Light tank. Like most tanks in WOT, the Pzkpfw II Luchs comes equipped with the best in slot equipment…wait no sorry I am confused this is WOT after all, new tanks fresh out of the box come with the most craptastic gear available. That’s right only the best for our aspiring tank crews.

    “Quickly now, over here lads…say why don’t you take this under gunned, underpowered and unnervingly hard to turn rolling box of death out for a foray with those much bigger and more powerful tanks over yonder…what’s that you say…you don’t think you stand a chance?...nonsense my good man just a few more matches and you can get that shinny new engine you’ve been wanting.”

    This is what it is like in WOT every time you get a new tank. It basically comes with the worst possible gear you can imagine. Well in the case of the Pzk Luchs the engine is so underpowered you are forced to crawl along at a snails pace. Fortunately for me I had the benefit of being in a platoon with a friend who graciously agreed to escort my slow ass around the field of battle. This is when I started to feel like that escort guy as he zipped back and forth across the map, all the while having to return to me and aid me in escaping the roving bands of KV death squads that seem to come equipped with Pzkpfw tracking devices.

    In a lot of ways I envy my friend as he was able to say to me several times over voice chat just how slow and pathetic I was. Anyone who has ever done an escort quest has so wanted to berate the subject with verbal attacks of their incompetence. Every time a new match would start I always felt like the sick Gazelle lagging in the back of the pack as it bounds for safety from the lioness hunting in the grass. Not every Gazelle has a rhino friend willing to help him out in his time of need. I hope I am never the Lame Escort guy again or the one escorting him.