Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tank-O-Ram(a)!

It seems that every time I get a few spare moments (hours) to do some gaming I find myself loading up World of Tanks. It is what I had always hoped Warhammer pvp would be: fast-paced and balanced. I refuse to give up the hope that one day there will be a game with open-world pvp (or rvr) where the fights are balanced and fun but for now I must move on! That’s not to say I am opposed to instanced pvp- far from it. My fondest pvp-memories are from Guild Wars (all instanced pvp) and now I am loving the instanced battles in World of Tanks.

I have been trying various types of tanks- there are light, medium, heavy, tank-destroyers, and artillery- in an effort to find something that appeals. So far they all sort of appeal and luckily the game mechanics allows for fast play, and it is not only acceptable, but advisable to have more than one ‘tank tree’ on the go. When you are knocked out of a battle, you can exit to your garage, select a new tank, and join a new battle immediately. When the battle you were previously in ends, your tank is returned, and you are credited with experience and credits. There is almost no waiting in this game which is a huge plus. You can, of course, stay in your old battle and see what happens either in your wrecked tank, or through the eyes of your surviving teammates. Right clicking swaps team mate. Also a neat feature.

I am not alone in liking this one. World of Tanks has set a Guinness Book of World Records for the most people on a single server (at one time) when the Russian server had Ninety-one thousand, three hundred and eleven tank commanders logged in. Yes, that’s 91,311, and yes, that’s pretty damn amazing. The US servers are seeing an increase in traffic as well with an average of 5,000 online at prime time participating in over 100 battles. This is up slightly from the 4,000 or so I reported in an earlier post.

I have avoided the forums thus far in an attempt to simply have fun and potentially learn the game for myself. I realize I will eventually break and do some reading and that may be fairly soon. I am going to need to join a Tank Clan (guild) and, quite frankly, I am getting my metal-plated ass kicked. My record is absolutely abysmal.

If I was a boxer I'd be what's known as a Journeyman.
 
I started out in the light tanks (as most do) and artillery. I found that in the lower tiers the light tanks will rush the rear and usually blow the artillery to pieces. Great fun as a light tank, not so much as an artillery driver. Obviously in a preformed group (companies) or clan-battle there would be someone guarding the vulnerable back-line artillery but not so in the random (pug) battles.

Since this is, technically, an open-beta (though little to no patches are being done and the game is stable and polished) they are giving us 250 gold per day to spend. Yes, I know what they are doing: just like a drug dealer the first taste is free, and then you gotsta pay! Getting used to having gold which buys top ammo, elite tanks, and can be used to access more experience and credits (which are earned in game) will likely ensure those of us who are crazy about the game will be paying customers when it goes “FTP” live. 

I can see that if you want to progress to the higher tiers, participate in clan battles, or be competitive in the later game, you will need to spend some cash. As stated previously I have no problem doing so, and would happily subscribe if it were an option- which would likely save me money in the long run, but I’m sure the developers have thought all of that through!

I have used my ill-gotten gold to try out two elite tanks: the medium Ram II (American) and the heavy Churchill (Russian). The Churchill is a great, lumbering beast that barely chugs along at 20 mph and I can’t help but get the feeling I am merely a (slowly) moving target for the enemy. It has a fairly weak gun and I have been one-shotted by the heavy Russian KV class. I can’t maneuver, I can’t armor-tank, and I can’t dps, so what’s the point of it? Oh, I can answer that! To take 1500 gold from me and give other players someone to laugh at (or so it seems).

The Ram I didn’t like and sold off, but looking back at my stats I realize I was doing pretty good with it. Once I finally realized it was a medium, and not a heavy tank, things started to improve. I couldn’t figure out why I was getting blown up so easy when I went toe-to-toe with the big boys. Know thy role! This isn’t RIFT, after all, where I can load in a new Tank Soul and alter my capabilities. My next purchase (today with the new installment of gold) will be a Russian medium with a massive gun.

My beloved Ram. I miss you more than words can say. I'm so sorry I said you were 'heavy'...please come back.
 
I have mostly settled into the Tank Destroyers for the time being and am working my through the technology tree to the higher tiers. They are the hardest to detect, and they excel at hiding. I have always liked the ‘ranged sniper role’ so it suits me fine. They are, basically, massive guns wrapped in thin armour and put on tracks. I tuck into a bush and wait for a hapless victim to wander into my long-range sites...and mayhem ensues.

Come to daddy.
  
I am now moving into Tier IV with my tank destroyers and this is resulting in the ass kicking I mentioned above. I guess it’s a lot like any game in that there are certain thresholds where you will be ‘Top Dog’ and then you’ll get put in with some bigger boys and spend some time getting face-melted. I did well with my elite Tier II light tank but am really suffering with the light tanks in Tier III. I can also see how being a part of a team with tactics and (voice) communication will make all the difference and will be an absolute necessity in the higher tiers and clan battles.

My best performances came early.....like sex! Now it's all over so fast.

I hate to use the word ‘grind’ because it conjures up images of something that is unpleasant, and the tank battles are not that. I do notice, however, that the amount of experience and credits now needed to progress is getting pretty steep resulting in a slow-down at, or near, the midway point. The mid-level hump is not new to MMO’s and so long as I’m not bored I have no problem with it. At least there’s no questing, unless you consider ‘kill everyone you see on this map’ a quest. I just wish, in the end,  I could win a bit more than I lose, but that’s down to the learning curve, and the lack of pre-made team-mates.

Which brings me to the dreaded prospect of once again re-joining the ‘competitive’ and/or social world of MMO’s by purchasing a headset/mic. If you have been reading my blog you will know I usually avoid social situations (virtual or otherwise). In a land far, far away (Ireland) when I was playing Guild Wars I was fully kitted with headset and mic. I retired from Guild Wars for a variety of reasons (what do you mean 14-hours a day is too much?) and got rid of the mic. So far I have resisted re-joining the mic club and have avoided guilds which require voice-comms. I have made due with listening-in which is entirely unsuitable for any competitive-based pvp.

I’m not sure why I dread it. I’m not actually shy to talk- though I never said a lot outside of what was required for the game. Maybe it’s because I always felt a bit silly shutting out the world around me and yelling into a mic. It’s different when you’re by yourself, I think, but when there are family members about it seems a bit, well, antisocial really (even for me). When I do have the house to myself I like to hear what’s going on around me and usually listen to music while playing. As a dog owner I also have to be alert for the odd scuffle between them, the infrequent barking at the innocent neighbors (who may be trying to break into the house for all the dogs know), and the new puppy (dumb as a bag of hammers) who likes to chew....well, everything really.

How do other people resolve these real-life pressures and problems? Maybe I should just invest in a stand-alone mic instead of a headset.....hmmmm..time to do a little research. Suggestions welcome. 

In the meantime, if you enjoy pvp, war-games, or tanks, try World of Tanks- you won't be disappointed and its free to play.

Come on, give it a go! We can have a glass of wine in my new Tank Destroyer while watching the sun set.

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