Thursday, 23 June 2011

Less WoT, moar WoW (and some L4D2)

I spent ages grinding XP for a nice shiny new KV tank. It took the best part of a week, scooting around in my T-28 boat tank, until FINALLY I had both enough XP to research the KV, and enough credits to actually buy one. Hooray!

Then I started to play with it. Good grief it’s slow, taking about half an ice age to turn 180°, and getting overtaken by SPGs. Plus, since it’s the stock KV and is a Tier 5 Heavy tank, I often get matched up against Tier 8 and 9 tanks against which the best I can do is fire puny 75mm HE shells and hope I don’t attract any attention, which is unlikely because even if the enemy tanks don’t spot me, the artillery certainly do. I imagine them rubbing their hands with glee as their aiming reticules slowly gather around my turret.

Now the KV is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth I will meet equally well armed, and probably better armed tanks. It will be a long grind.

In the meantime, I also managed to get myself an A-20, which is like the opposite of a KV: it appears to have armour made of cardboard, and a gun that might as well not even be there. Despite these flaws, it does have one thing going for it: it’s really really fast. Like, 72 km/h fast. This is greatly entertaining, zooming about on the battlefield being eyes for the tanks and artillery that have guns that can do more than ping uselessly off the enemy. It’s fun enough that I decided to go for a second light tank, the Leopard (from the German tech tree). It’s slightly slower than the A-20, but it turns more like a Tron lightcycle. Excellent for confounding one’s foes.

And then… and then I stopped playing. I think the prospect of the gigantic grind required to make the KV competitive is putting me off.

Left for dead tank

Just as I was trying to come up with an alternative to shooting tanks, I get an invite to a game of Left 4 Dead 2. Golly gosh that game is exciting! I am distinctly average at it (actually more towards the ‘crap’ end of the scale), but it’s the kind of game you can still have fun in despite that. It’s also completely lacking in grind: you start, you get good weapons, and you shoot zombies. Lots and lots and lots of zombies (including one called a Tank!).

I discovered I rather like the auto shotgun, even though the combat shotgun is ostensibly better (it definitely has a better sound, and looks more badass). Swinging a fire axe about is also tremendously fun.


Just as I am starting to enjoy L4D2, I’m also reading people discussing Minecraft, and now I want to play that again! Man, so many games. I played Minecraft a while back, when it was v1.3, but not since. Now I am feeling the urge to dig and build in 1m³ blocks.

Overall effect

AND! I bought Mass Effect, after reading a blog post on FemSheps and then remembering that the game sounded interesting. It was only £10 on Steam, too, which was nice. I haven’t actually played it yet, though, because by the time it had downloaded it was about 1 in the morning.

Wow, seriously

Yes, srsly, I am playing WoW a bit more now too, still on Zoe’s account. I daren’t install the game on my own PC. Still, what limited time I play, I’m back to shamaning it up. The shaman originally had an Elemental spec, and a Restoration offspec that neither of us ever used. Then I read an blog post by someone talking about Enhancement and wanted to try it out, so we dumped the Resto spec and changed it to Enh, and hoo, it’s fun! Fists of flame!

So anyway, I then wrote/adapted/ripped off a Resto Shaman Guide and since I’d done a fair bit of Restoring in WotLK, I got curious, and 57 gold later the shaman re-acquired a Resto spec to replace the Elemental. I’m such a goblin.

I’ve not tried it in actual real instances yet, as I did the spec and associated paraphernalia (glyphs, UI setup, gear) on my lunch break. I’m gonna dive in tonight though, and since the shaman just hit 80 I’ll be trying to fill green bars in Cataclysm instances, of which I have somewhat limited experience. Fun times ahead. Still, at least shaman healing is fairly unchanged from Lich King, so at least I won’t be totally clueless as when I tried to heal Zul’Aman on Zoe’s Discipline-spec priest. That wasn’t fun.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Week of WoT

I’ve been playing World of Tanks for a week now, more or less. It’s really good! It reminds me in some ways of the tank bits of Wargasm, only with a WW2 flavour rather than modern/sci-fi.

Not really knowing what I was doing, I went initially for a Soviet MS-1 tank, because, well, it was Russian. I then progressed on to the T-26, T-46 up to my current T-28, which is a stupid-looking tank. It looks like a cross between a boat and a tank, seriously. Also, I’m not sure what this monster is but it’s definitely not the same thing I’m talking about. It does look somewhat impractical.

Grind My Gears

Once I acquired my lovely T-28, I encountered the grind, whereupon progress through the tiers slows dramatically due to the much larger experience point requirements: going from Tier III to Tier IV means saving up around 3,500 XP; from Tier IV to Tier V it’s more like 13,000. Given that even if you do exceptionally well in a battle and have a premium account you can earn at best about 1,000 XP, and that more realistically you will lost around half your battles, thus earning something more in the region of 100 XP, you can see how long it can take to make that climb to the next tier. Even the radio in one of them costs 5,600 XP to research!

It was at this point that I discovered there is no penalty for leaving a battle once your tank has been destroyed. Thus enlightened, I strove to populate my garage with a variety of other vehicles to join the grind, resulting in an almost non-stop succession of tankshoots. Doing this in similar tanks would quite likely make the grind seem even more interminable than with just the one, akin to repeatedly being thrown into a meatgrinder, so to spice things up a little I have chosen a more diverse range:

  • SU-26 SPG (USSR): a lovely little artillery gun with an 360° rotating turret, making it easy to stay hidden. Apparently has 5 crew members, though I’m not sure where they’re all supposed to go.

  • Hetzer tank destroyer (German): possibly the most ridiculous distinctive-looking tank in the game. Godawful slow until you get the good engine for it.

  • M5 Stuart (USA): speedy little monster, although not terribly good on the acceleration front, and apparently not that good compared to the Soviet scout tanks like the A-20. Still, fun to drive. I fitted mine with the 75mm derp gun, to surprise and delight my foes.

Bar the M5, all of my tanks are interim until I can get enough XP to buy better ones. In the meantime, they all provide some fun battles, so while the grind is long, it is rarely dull.

The M5 is one I might actually consider replacing, thinking about it: sure it’s great zooming about at 56km/h but it takes so long to get there, and it’s hardly nimble. I look upon those little zippy German tanks (PzIII? Pz38NA? Some of the names for the German tanks are confusing to the outsider) and feel envy.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Say, that looks like…

Blog redesign time again.

This one, unlike previous efforts, actually had some effort and thought put into it: it’s based on my Soda application, although with different fonts – Blogger has a nice built-in serif one, and I thought Gill Sans goes better with it than the Lucida Grande I use on Soda. I hope it looks nice on Windows :S

If you clicked that link to Soda earlier, you’ll notice it’s this post, only in Soda. One of the reasons I made the application was to enable easier (for me, at least) writing of blog posts, as I find with the plain HTML editor it’s a bit too hard to visualise the final result (and switching between Preview and back gets tiresome; moreover, the preview isn’t even that accurate). The WYSIWYG editor is fine for visualisation, but I just don’t like the way formatting etc. is applied – as I mentioned a while ago, I don’t like the character-centric approach. Using most web-based WYSIWYG editors can often feel like a struggle, too, especially when trying to modify links or images.

I’ve also added a popup image thing I made. Here is a test image:

lounging cat (click it to enlarge)

Edit made after the one below: clearly this popup business won't work if you're reading this in a feed reader. It's really good on the site though! In case you were wondering.

Edit: that fake italic in the font provided by Blogger was annoying me, so I reverted to Palatino for the body text. And, since Gill Sans doesn't really go as well with that, I changed the headings to use Lucida Grande (or Lucida Sans Unicode) instead.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Tanks and the world

I’ve been playing WoW quite a bit lately. A short time ago I got a DK to 85, and while he’s ostensibly main-spec tank, I haven’t actually tanked anything in a random in any of the Cataclysm dungeons. So, dual-wield Frost second spec it is.

I also levelled up a druid, in a cat-based Feral spec, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit. The character was originally only supposed to be a bank character (hence the name ‘Morcasha’), but then Zoe and I wanted an enchanter, and so we needed to get Morcasha to a higher level. And I just kept going, because it was fun, and because I read a post on Gevlon’s blog about skinning crocolisks in Tol Barad or something for easy money.

Bear Necessity

As I was traipsing around Twilight Highlands in the last few bars of being level 84, helping out the dwarves with their wedding (best questline ever, btw, and also Keely Dunwald is kinda cute), I decided to see what it was like being a bear. This was not entirely out of the blue: I’d done a random a few days earlier wherein the tank abandoned us at the last boss, and one of the DPS asked me to tank. I was like “lol no” (paraphrasing here), because I had no idea what I was doing in bear form. So anyway, turns out it’s not really that hard! Certainly less buttons to push than cat form, although since my UI was set up specifically for cat, it didn’t work so well for bear.

So I bought dual spec and made the second spec pure bear. And lo! I am almost indestructible when taking on normal mobs! In cat form, when levelling, taking on more than 2 mobs at once is a risky thing, as you are rather squishy and your heals barely do anything (healing for ~4K out of 75K at level 84). In bear, though, with a proper bear spec: bring it on! Obviously it’s news to nobody that a tank-specced character can survive better, but it’s surprising just how much difference a few (really a few – maybe 5 or so) talent points in different places can make; going into bear form in a spec optimised for cat DPS doesn’t really help much: sure you can get aggro better, and are slightly tougher, but you’re missing the uncritability, damage-reduction and Pulverize talents that are pretty much the point of being a bear tank.

World of Tank

Now that I have this lovely bear spec, what could I do with it? I mean, it’s not like I tank much on my DK, despite being much more familiar with tanking that class because of my experience in Lich King. Then again, it might be precisely because of that familiarity that I’m reluctant to try it: I want to try new things. Bear tanking is something I’ve never done, and I’m curious to see how it plays.

Perhaps once I get more familiar with the Cataclysm instances I will try tanking them on my DK, too. He’s certainly better-geared than the druid, and like I said, I pretty much know how to play the class already (I even levelled him in tank spec). Honestly, though, I’m not sure. Before I stopped playing WoW last year, I had a warrior tank that I really enjoyed playing, much more thank a DK. I think it was something to do with the mobility, and the variety of abilities at my disposal, and from what I’ve read and in my limited time with the spec experienced, bear is quite similar.

Speaking of tanks…

If you’ve been reading Tobold’s blog lately, you’ll notice he’s been posting a lot about World Of Tanks, a free-to-play team-based tank warfare game. I don’t know much about it beyond what I’ve read on Tobold’s blog (and the occasional Rock, Paper, Shotgun article), but it does sound interesting. I imagine it as a sort of slower-paced Counter-Strike, although that may turn out to be laughably far from the truth. No matter, it’s definitely something I’m going to look into, perhaps to the extent that I forget about WoW for another four months. I shall report back here if/when I have anything interesting to say about the game.