Monday, December 31, 2012

The New Chinese Light Tanks: Egg-Fu-Wow!

A first look at the upcoming Tier VII Chinese light tank, the WZ131. The video includes gameplay (three games) and commentary. Let my sultry, sexy voice (or so I think) tell you why this little tank is going to be something to fear. After a few more games, some good, and some bad, I stand by my official first thoughts: Holy Shit!  Unlike the new mediums and heavies which are just copies of tanks I already have these little lights may find themselves a space in my garage.

This tanks's stock gun, btw, is an auto-loader with a 5-round drum.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

(Super) Thoughts on the (Super) Pershing and the Chinese Invasion (World of Tanks 8.3 Test)

With some of my fellow tankers out for some Christmas deals the Super Pershing may be in your sights. Despite already buying my Christmas treat, the SU-122 Tier VII Tank Destroyer, I still have 8000+ gold I'm looking at spending. As if sensing my need to know the newest test server (8.3) has been released. I was sorely tempted, in real life, to buy the T34 US Heavy but (thankfully) I as able to play it on the test server and realize it wasn't for me. Whew. That's 10,000 gold saved....or at least not spent. (For those unaware gold is about 4 cents per so that tank is around $40...on sale).

The Super Pershing is on for a mere 6120 gold, or $27 so I have taken a good look at it. I've watched other reviews on You Tube, and put my top crew in (100% with two nearly full sets of perks and skills) and went to town. The result? It's everything people say it is. It can certainly take a good shot from tanks well above it's tier and it's gun does indeed suck. It's essentially the same gun that is on the Type 59 but you don't have the mobility to move around and hit targets from the weak sides or rear.

Let's get something straight. This tank is a heavy. It's slow and ..well, slow, and designed to hold choke points. All well and good, you say, and that sounds like fun, doesn't it? Yes, it does, and it can be BUT. The but here, which people may not even be considering, is that there is a new line of tank coming. And they are fast. Very fast, and very maneuverable and they carry massive cannons. Guess what happens to you, sitting there in your fancy Super Pershing holding the choke point? You guessed it- just like the Germans in France- they go around. And then kill you very, very fast.

Unlike a heavy tank, or say a slow Tank Destroyer which will face the same flanking problem, you don't have a gun scary enough to make people think twice. You have no alpha to back them off. They just roar in, shrug off the one shot you'll get, and then blast you to death as you try to turn to face them. It's really quite bad and it's put me off buying this tank. Now it doesn't happen all the time and the test server is much faster than the NA live server (the play-style is much different) and you can still make good money (as you'll see below in the screenshots) but ultimately I think I would end up frustrated with playing this tank. In my Type 59, and even in the new SU-122 you can traverse to face these new light suckers and have a chance.

As for the new lights, well, all I can say is Holy Shit. I'm going to be reviewing the Tier 7 and 8 ones on You Tube soon but they can really, really move. In my first battle I lost my engine and was still able to chase down fleeing enemies. I won't be looking at the higher tier tanks because I simply don't play the higher tiers enough to care about them. I also won't be looking at the lower tier heavies because I have already done that. They haven't been changed and I stand by my statement that they are copies of tanks I already have in my garage and so I won't be wasting my time to grind them.

In any case here are some screenshots from my Super Pershing Battles compared to my T34 battles in case you are wondering about it's earning potential- which is good. I'll try to get a few battles with it on the test server for you to see as well with TRY being the operative world. The last screenshot is from my first game with the new Tier VII Chinese light.

Ummm, can you say that's ridiculous for a first game in any tank?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: The Thursday Edition

Scrooges of the world rejoice, it's all over!

Christmas is at an end and though I have been told under no certain circumstances that the tree must stay up until January 6th the season is at an end. I know this because my garbage was picked up this morning and unless Santa is moonlighting it suggests everyone is back at work. Suckers.

I'm still roaming about in my pajamas most days and scheduling my life around the nap time of New Mouth To Feed who is now actually eating stuff other than her mother. This rearing babies thing certainly has its ups and downs and plenty of unexpected consequences. For one, I no longer hate Christmas which comes as a big surprise to me. To be fair I knew I couldn't pull my Grinch routine anymore but the feelings I had toward the holiday season have changed. Those of you with dysfunctional, or annoying families, will likely relate: I used to dread Christmas. I once worked 8 Christmas' in a row just to avoid having to deal with it all. For many people the Holiday's aren't very happy.

Having a baby can, and did for me, change all that. Oh I'm not dancing around in a Santa outfit or anything, but it's nice now because this little group of three is my family. No drunken rows, no family fights- it's what we choose it to be: quiet, loving, and tasteful (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ham). Next year we may do a Chicken instead of a Turkey because that's the kind of free-wheeling rebels we are.

For many, however, Christmas remains a stressful time of year when feelings of loneliness and depression are intensified by financial worries, alcohol, all the faux-cheer going on around them. It's both heart-warming and sad that this is the only time of year many of us bother to think of those less fortunate. I urge you to remember, in case you've forgotten like I almost did this year, your favorite charities because once a year is certainly better than not at all (we give to the Galway county SPCA in Ireland for those looking for a good animal charity). If I can buy world of tanks gold I can donate to a worthy cause and so can you.

I also want to take the time to say thank you to those who do work on Christmas day. Members of armed forces, police, hospitals, prisons, an other essential services world-wide spend this special day away from family and loved ones. Sometimes it's just for the money (over-time baby) but most times it's for the love of what they do and because, quite simply, it has to be done. I'm certainly glad I was able to hang out with New Mouth To Feed and She Who Will Be Named Later this year so if you were as lucky as I, spare a thought for those who were not.

Happy Holidays Everyone! Take care of yourselves and if this season is a source of stress, and not joy, know you are not alone and this too will pass.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

World of Tanks: Gift Shop Gouging

You may or may not have noticed that I'm back into World of Tanks. It is painfully obvious (see all the posts below and my new You Tube channel) and I am having a rather good time too. I am not, however, blind, and though there are some good deals to be had this holiday season (discounted tanks and the like) the gift shop is not the place to look for good value. It never has been and it amazes me that they still get away with this.

I usually buy my gold in 6500 batches for 29.95. That works out to roughly .46 cent per gold. I was looking at the holiday specials, and for some reason considering buying another premium tank (I may have an addiction.....) despite having plenty I hardly play already. Specifically I was looking at the SU-122 Tier VII Russian Tank destroyer. I've heard good things about it and I'm a sucker for punishment (I have a love hate relationship with Russian TD's).

The upcoming gift shop offer of this tank, 3000 gold, a garage slot, and some useless consumables is NOT good value for money at $43.59 (Canadian dollars). Not counting the consumables which are merely window dressing (I never use them so don't consider them in a package deal) it works out to .54 cent per gold (8025 total gold because the Su-122 is going to be discounted to 4725 gold during the sale and a garage slot is 300). Like all the other 'deals' in the gift shop it is overpriced and you get the best deal by buying gold and spending it in game.

Don't be fooled! These specials should be just that, special. I have no problem with them making money but I do have a problem when they try to trick people into thinking this is a better deal. Do the math..... oh god, my math teacher was right. I do need math after all.

The best deals to be had? Well, that's up to you but I personally think that the Super Pershing, which will be on for 6128 gold ($24) may be the best value for money. I've never played one but in all the forum posts and videos I've seen it seems to make the same money as the heavy Tier VIII tanks which cost a lot more. I am very, very tempted but in the end the Type 59 makes me good money and is a fun medium tank to drive. I'm not sure I want two mediums so I will probably go with the SU-122 which will work out to $18.90.

The Ram II will be half off and will work out to roughly $3.50. I've played over 380 battles in mine and I think it's a fun little tank. I'll be posting a You Tube video review with game-play (four games total) for anyone who may be thinking of buying it. It will be up in......400 minutes. Hmmmm...maybe go have a coffee and them come back. Or a pint. Or two. Meh, make it a session and it'll be up when you stumble in.

What are your favorite premiums to drive and were they worth the money?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's Not Me, It's You.

I've always wanted to be honest during one, or two, of my 'bad breakups' over the years and just say:

"You know what, I'm fine, but there's something seriously wrong with you. This is over."

That never happened, of course, but now, at least, I get to say that the recent video troubles are definitely not me. It's You Tube:

Videos are shortenedWe're aware of a problem where large AVI files are being shortened. For example, if you have a 30 minute video, it may be shortened to a 5 minute video. As we investigate, please try uploading your video in a different format.

Whew! I wish they had posted that last week. It would have saved me many hours of re-loading, editing, and fretting. My latest video is again cut short but I am getting the last 5 mins re-formatted and uploaded now. Once again I apologize for the split video but on the plus side I do think the curse of the Object 704 may have been all in my head- at least judging by how these two turn out. The last one is especially interesting as, for some reason, three tanks go right by me without bothering to shoot me once they get behind me. Sometimes you're helped out by a kindly dose of enemy stupidity. It's a great example of how 'rushing arty' is, in the long term, a failing tactic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Object 704

For those who wanted it, this is the end of the battle that was cut off in my first Two Battle Tuesday. The new Two Battle Tuesday (with the Object 704 again) is now loading and it certainly is a couple of really good battles......... which is not something I get to say often about this tank but maybe that's the nature of the curse- because I made such a big deal of how bad I do with it, it decides to play amazingly for me :)

I'll have that one up in 300 minutes according to You Tube but for now, here is the quite dramatic conclusion to that last video. I felt a bit like Bond escaping from the laser of death table thingy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

World of Tanks: The Pay To Win Experiment. Episode II

Episode II has been up since Friday but I haven't been promoting it much. Firstly I was out of town but due to crazy family, I have returned earlier than expected. Secondly in this video I promote my new series, Two Battle Tuesday but due to some You Tube technical difficulties (it really is their fault, honest) I had to take it down which messed up my plans to get people interested in the new series.

So in the 'that's too bad' column, my mother is still crazy, but in the 'that's good news column' I can re-do the Object 704 battles tonight and get them up for tomorrow. Unless the curse of the Object 704 strikes again or some kindly doctor commits my mother and I get have to drive her to the asylum.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

All These Tanks That I Now Own

My newest World of Tanks You Tube series is Two Battle Tuesdays. Viewers will select one tank from my garage and I will play two battles without editing or shopping for the 'most epic battle' to upload. I think this will be a more entertaining format that me simply selecting whatever tanks I like, or just uploading my best battles. Epic 10-kill games get more hits but I'd rather have more regular viewers who are engaged in what I'm doing.

As I am new to You Tube I will see how this goes and make changes as necessary. I will also be branching out from WoT very soon as I do play other games (believe it or not). WoT is familiar and fun, so it has been my entry to the world of video recording and editing.

Here are the tanks currently in my garage. Post your requests in the latest Two Battle Tuesday video comments. I will take the first, only, or most requested tank in the comment section. Since I have few viewers at the moment I will randomly select tanks if none are requested. See, ignoring me won't stop me so you may as well subscribe!

Gank's Garage: Updated March 01, 2013

Light Tanks

MKVIII Tetrarch (II Premium)
PZPKPFW 38H735 (F) 'Mini Maus' (II Premium)
M22 Locust (III Premium)
T127 (III Premium)
M24 Chaffee (V)
T71 (VII)

Heavy Tanks

PZKPFW B2 740 (F) (Premium)
KV-1 (V)
Tiger P (VII)
T29 (VII)
IS-8 (IX)
IS-4  (X)

Tank Destroyers                               

FCM36PaK40 (Tier III Premium)
Hetzer (IV)
M8A1 (IV)
Hellcat (VI)
Dicker Max (VI Premium)
SU-122-44 (VII Premium)
Jagdtiger 8.8 (VIII Premium)
Object 704 (IX)

Medium Tanks

T-25 (Tier V Premium)
M7 (V)
Ram II (V Premium)
M4 (V)
M4A3E8 'Easy 8' (VI)
VK3601 (H) (VI)
VK3002DB (VII)
Panther II (VIII)
M26 Pershing (VIII)
T-44 (VIII)
Type 59 (Premium VIII)   


SU-26 (III)
AMX 105AM (IV)
GW Panther (VI)
SU-14 (VI)

Why You No Play Something Else WoT-Boy?

Tank-centric is the theme here currently and I do apologize to my regular readers who may not give a whit about tanks- or You Tube for that matter. WoT has been a fairly easy You Tube transition for me so I've run with it over the last couple weeks. Rest assured I am going to be branching out to  other games (X-Com is next) but I likely will still be focusing on the video for the time being. As you can see,  however, that isn't stopping me from blogging now, nor in the future. Remember I'm returning to work soon so I'll have to blog....otherwise I'll have to work! That's not entirely true as I do work quite hard, but being the solitary (unsociable) guy I am I do have my lunch break to while my office....with no one to talk to...sniff.....

Ha! Here you were feeling sorry for me but in fact, that's the way I like it. Jokes on you, suckas, but please ignore the fact I just called you 'suckas' and do keep reading my blog. And for God sake, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I'll even take token subscriptions from people who will never watch my videos all in the name of inflating my ego. I plan on having a 100-subscriber special where I give a prize to myself for getting 100 subscribers. The 1,000 subscriber special will blow you away (not really, just more stuff for me). Heck, think of what it might be! I did, after all, after getting 10 subscribers order a GTX 660 video card so by that token I should be buying myself a new car when I hit 1,000.

So, ya, this update is to say I haven't abandoned other games. I still have Chivalry: Medieval Warfare to learn properly (I'm going to go archery only at first for the lolz of shooting people in the face), and I haven't touched Hitman Absolution since it was released (it mocks me from my Steam library like so many others). From what I've seen and heard so far I think I may be massively disappointed. I do want to get a Gnomoria tutorial out as well as my initial post remains one of my most visited posts. It's something that will lend well to the 'ole Tube. I do want to get some Torchlight II play time in as well but with time being so limited I don't know if I'll make it back.

Remember then that I'm not only about World of Tanks (which I technically quit a few months ago but never mind that) and do your best to ignore the next post (later today) which will be about....World of Tanks. Huzzah! Unless you like World of Tanks and then don't ignore it as your life may depend on what I have to say........ or maybe it won't but it'll for sure feature me and gameplay with my cursed Object 704.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How To Blow Yourself Up. A World of Tanks Story.

I forgot this was even possible and didn't realize I had done it until I saw the end-game stats and noted that I killed an allied vehicle. That ally? Player name: Gank. Lol? It happens at the end of the first battle in the video.

Game-play and commentary featuring the Tier VII German medium VK3002DB, the US Tier VI Easy 8, and the US Tier VIII medium Pershing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

World of Tanks: The Pay 2 Win Experiment. Two tanks, loads of cash. Can I buy myself some wins?

For some time I've been wavering in my enjoyment of World of Tanks. At times, despite my inner protestations, I find I need a focus in my gaming. This blog certainly helps, and more recently I've been dipping my toe into the choppy You-Tube waters. I had an idea, some time ago, to use up my remaining World of Tanks gold on premium ammo to see it it really made a difference. When I totalled my small hoard  however, I realized I could only afford to do that for a few games which wouldn't really provide anything statistically interesting.

And then came update 8.1. Gold ammo was offered for in-game silver and of that I had a hoard that would make a fair-sized dragon happy. With 10 million credits saved up and no real desire to spend it on anything I decided to go ahead with my idea. There hasn't been a lot of serious talk about the Pay To Win aspect of World of Tanks. Syncaine offered up his opinion in the comment section of Tobold's blog once, or maybe had a post of his own (I can't remember), and there are a few threads on the official forum but not much comes up with the 'ole Google search "World of Tanks Pay to Win".

What I am trying to answer, simply, is can you pay to win buy using premium ammo? Winning is defined by actual wins of course, but as a stat-monkey I will also look at overall performance including kills, damage, and the oft-controversial efficiency rating which is available from the WoT Dossier Tool (not an official World of Tanks tool). I have selected two tanks for this:

1. The Type 59 Chinese Medium.

This Tier VII premium tank is a good earner. It is not overpowered and quite frankly I'm sick of that topic but regardless of that I am experienced with it. With 515 battles my stats with this tank are pretty set. I have a 50% win rate and 508 kills which, I think, makes me a bit above average with it, but nothing spectacular. Most importantly is the long track record of battles which will make a great base-line for my performance without premium ammo.

As a premium tank the Type 59 will also help offset the cost of the ammo (4000 per shell) for this little en devour.

2. The Tiger P German Tier VII Heavy

I think this is a good support tank and my stats show I'm an average player. I have at least 100 battles which is a pretty decent track record and I can say I am, at least, comfortable with it's play-style. Will premium ammo help me get more wins?

For the record I've never believed, over all, that a single player can make that much of a difference in your average random battle. If you get a sucky team you're pretty much done for. I don't think the use of premium ammo will actually translate to wins and I don't think World of Tanks is Pay To Win. It has a very good pay model which encourages you to Pay For Convenience (with premium accounts and premium tanks) but none of those things are power items. Premium ammo is a power item (as are the premium consumables) but in the end I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make. We will certainly see soon enough, however! Now I don't think my little experiment will be the end all of this debate., of course, know the answer as they have all the stats but they aren't likely going to let us know are they? Well, actually they will in a way. If they can the option to buy premium ammo for silver we know it likely is causing an imbalance.

If you're watching the video's thanks for tuning in, and do check back here for my updates on how things are going. If there is enough interest eventually I may expand the experiment to other tanks chosen by you guys n gals- so long as the 'gold' rounds continue to sold for silver and I can continue to afford them :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

The AT-15A. Britian's New Ugly Duckling

Well someone had to say it. This tank is uuuuuuuuuuugly, but at 8,000 gold, or 32 real-life dollars, is it worth it? I discuss the pros and cons of this armored beast over two battles and ultimately decide that no, it isn't worth the price. That may have more to do with my play-style than the tank itself but you can at least use this guide to help decide if you want to fork over your (probable) hard earned cash to own it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: Get in the Fort

I came across this on a T-shirt site and it made me smile:

Today, as we know, is the day I leave the house to get booze. Now that kind of makes me sound like a shut-in, or an alcoholic, or perhaps even an alcoholic shut-in, but rest assured I do leave the house on other occasions. Stnylan's comment on my last post made me, once again, thankful for Canada and it's generous parental leave policy. Since She Who Will Be Named Later is taking leave without pay for two years to attend to New Mouth To Feed, I was able to sign on for the nearly 9 months of parental leave that the mother usually takes. My employer, in exchange for the continued use of my very unique talents (no really, there are only a few hundred of us in the world) is also contributing funds to the cause. This means, essentially, we don't have to worry about money in that my wages stay the same. Yes, I know, and yes, I'm thankful for being so lucky.

So today I am writing this in the middle of pretty damned good pillow fort (if I do say so myself as I made it) whose primary purpose is to prevent New Mouth To Feed from rolling all over the place since she has now mastered that skill. I found this out last week when I was on the laptop, much as I am now, and she simply rolled over to me and started kicking me in the back as if to say 'Hey, I'm here, now what'.

They say that kids change your life and I think that those without kids misinterpret that as something negative. While it can be bloody hard (for the love of God why won't she nap in the day) and it is a change I think it's more of a shift as opposed to a change. My life is, of course, very different, but it feels to me that she's always been here, and in a way, she has (genetics anyone). She is, luckily for her, the spitting image of myself so that definitely helps with the familiarity aspect of it all. I wasn't looking forward to being a parent (I did wait until 42 after all) and I don't define myself by it, but having her is easily the best thing I have ever done. And now I have to go and play peek-a-boo with New Mouth to Feed who has once again rolled over and is kicking me in the back.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

World of Tanks 8.2 T71 Gameplay

Wow...forgot to post this here the other day! US Tier VII light tank in action. Overall, I kind of like this tank. Oh, and they noted the price was too high and have lowered it on par with other tier VII tanks.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy Nerds Will Do Just About Anything

You know when you search Google for:

New motherboard has power but won't boot up

And then, five hours later you search YouTube for:

How to fix a bent pin on a CPU

You know things are very wrong in the world of do-it-yourself computer upgrades. Needless to say I'm now awaiting a new CPU to be shipped because no one in this 'city' of 150,000 carries CPU's. I did come across possibly the best YouTube comment ever on a video about how to fix bent pins on a CPU:

"Linus, if there's any time you need your dick sucked or someone killed for you or something, I'm your man, because you just saved my CPU.
I used a mechanical pencil like you said and it worked perfectly. There was one pin that was just ever so slightly askew, and I managed to fix it, and now it boots up. Thank you SO much!"

Happy nerds will, indeed, do just about anything to get their computer repaired. No gaming, or videos from me until next week then :( Looks like I'll have to take care of a dozen or so tasks I've successfully been avoiding including reading (gasp), getting some fresh air (it really does exist I've just found out) and spending time with She Who Will Be Named Later and New Mouth To Feed. I'm also going to attempt to liquidate my 1905's and up comic collection on ebay to pay for said computer upgrades. Getting rid of old comics isn't easy but I do have some pretty good ones that might fetch a few hundred quid and the rest might find themselves in the recycling bin. A shame, yes, but better than rotting in my basement for another 30 years. X-Men Giant Sized #1 anyone?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WoT 8.2. So Long China, We Hardly Knew You

They never had a chance. World of Tanks has announced that they will not be releasing the Chinese tech tree which was the focus of the upcoming 8.2 patch. They state that they have analyzed the stats and want to do some re-balancing prior to launching them. I think it's a good move not for balance sake, but for the fact these tanks were, for the most part, pointless. Most were copies of tank already in my garage so I couldn't see the point in them. Others, the Tier VIII lights for instance, could negatively impact some of the existing roles of the Tier VI lights already in-game.

As I explore in my newest video, the T71 is a pretty good little scout with a 6-round drum loader and doesn't bleed the credits of a tank like the Chaffee. These poor Tier VI 'dedicated' scouts. What will happen to them if higher tiered, better performing, and cheaper-to-run tanks are released? 'Dustbin' springs immediately to mind.

I've said it so many times I'm beginning to bore of it, but new tanks DOES NOT equal new content. If want to increase the longevity of World Of Tanks they really need to start thinking about how to freshen up the game without just adding new things to grind for. At some point, we can imagine, that every known, planned, and dreamed tank will have been considered and possibly put into the game. What will keep us interested, playing, and paying then? Hopefully their business plan extends beyond the hope everyone will just switch to World of Warplanes and forget about the fact World of Tanks is getting a bit dry.

Monday, November 26, 2012

WoT Test Server Gameplay

New video up, but you all knew that as you're subscribed ;)
Featuring Tier VIII Chinese heavy and medium game-play.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

World of Tanks 8.1 Tech Trees

Well I've promised, threatened, stamped my feet, and just about cried trying to get this done, but I finally have my new YouTube en devour underway. The World of Tanks 8.2 public test server release made me change my plans slightly but none-the-less it's begun and my new channel is called Gank Goes Gaming and once I get things sorted out I'll be featuring play from WoT, X-Com, and others!

This video looks at the upcoming Chinese, and US tech trees as well as the new British premium vehicles. Game-play footage is next.

First one to subscribe gets a free bucket of snow (pick up only).


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Walking Dead: Cheap as Chips

$12 on Steam (for the next 40 hours) for a game I will likely say is my Game of the Year. Why are you still here?

Operation Copy Thade

I'm wondering if you can 'work hard at gaming'? I suppose you can if you are, say a game developer, but if you are an average punter, like myself, can all the gaming and game-related projects you do be considered work? Maybe.

I've been quite busy lately behind the scenes. I did a brief You Tube video on World of Tanks and though I said it would likely be my one and only, I've got the bug. With my toe firmly in You Tube waters, I want more, more damnit! Like Thade, then, I'm launching a You Tube effort with a couple projects in mind. One of them is, like Thade, X-Com related and is almost ready. Yes, it does appear that I am copying Thade but keep in mind he has a big hammer and hammers are cool. And that's not a subconscious reference to his male bits either. Honest.

I am also reminded by my You Tube let's play inbox that The Walking Dead, Episode 5 is out so I will likely put everything on hold tonight to play that. I am soooo excited, and I can't actually believe I said that about a game. That should tell you all you need to know about the quality of it, and why you should buy it. In fact I'm disgusted that you haven't alt-tabbed this to go buy it.

So stay tuned for some vids coming sooon. I am, of course, posting here about all of this so never fear I won't desert you. Unless I get famous and then you're out of luck because I'll quickly forget all of you and live large in the limelight until I crash and burn, attend a 12-step program, and come back begging for forgiveness. Huzzah!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Hard Drive Makes Me Feel Old

"You can trim it down to a Gig."

That's a quote from some random forum I ran across while I was researching video recording software. The discussion was about Fraps and the huge files it makes. The poster said not to worry because you can render the files down to a gig or so. No big deal.

It made me feel very, very old all of a sudden. My first computer was an Macintosh Plus with two, yes two floppy drives which made it extremely fast...for it's time. I remember having a discussion on a BBS (Bulletin Board System) about adding a hard-drive to my system. I remember the poster saying that I would become 'addicted to the speed' of these new-fangled 'hard drives' but the cost was a bit prohibitive at the time. The size of the drive in question? 20 megs. Yes, that's megs, not gigs, or tetra-gigs, or whatever is the largest at the moment. Incidentally the use of a BBS also dates me quite well, doesn't it. What, you bellow, there was a time without the internet? How dare you!

I also remember when I used to go to actual computer stores to buy things whereas now I just e-shop at Newegg (though I have to say Best Buy is pretty good at competing with their prices). There was a couple at a Future Shop looking at a computer, and the salesman (working on commission) was telling them that the hard-drive, which was 100 megs or so, would never be filled up. I'm sure at the time it was true, but now that seems like a joke. I recorded 5 or so minutes of X-Com footage with Fraps and had a 3.6 gig file. How times change.

I had that old computer, with it's black and white screen, all through university. I was a gamer at heart, though, so my Apple days couldn't last. I eventually moved on to 'proper' PC's and haven't looked back since though there are times when I'm poised above my computer, hammer in hand, raging at the latest bull-shit error caused by Vista (which I'm convinced is the modern re-incarnation of Satan) when I long for those simpler days. Then again, no, not really. Modern gaming and computing is absolutely brilliant and the things we can do are amazing. The internet and all it's wonders (and dangers) has changed our lives forever though we tend to take it for granted.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: Bring on the Booze

Well here I am with a precious few minutes (around 60) to myself as She Who Will Be Named Later has taken New Mouth to Feed out to the Nerdery (what some may refer to as a library) and what am I doing? Drinking a cheeky 11 am beer? Nope. Dancing naked throughout the house? Nope. Tormenting the dogs by eating their own food right in front of them? Yep, er I mean Nope. I'm writing this. I know, I know, you are eternally grateful. There's no need to thank me, really, but in the off chance you do I can post my pay-pal account information.

So it's Friday, again. It certainly is a hard-wired habit to be excited for Friday. I've been off work for nearly five months now and I still mentally mark Friday. I still tend to go to the liquor store on a Friday even though every day, technically, is Friday for me. For those outside of Canada, and especially Saskatchewan (thus living in a civilized part of the world) the sale of alcohol is regulated by the Provincial Government here and the 'liquor stores' are actually called 'Liquor Stores'. That is short, of course, for the catchily-named 'Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Liquor Store'. They are giant, warehouse-style stores filled with, well, booze.

The dodgy store I usually head to.

The ambiance is overwhelming isn't it?

They aren't the only place you can buy booze, but they are the only place you can buy spirits. There are a few 'independents' but they are, by law, forced to buy their own booze from, you guessed it, SLGA, and can NOT carry anything that is in stock in the liquor store. Confused? Yea, me too. I've been going to these liquor stores all my life and I still feel a bit dirty walking into one, like I'm doing something I shouldn't be. There are 'off-sale' stores which mainly stock beer as well but if you want anything nice, or don't want to pay an extraordinary surcharge you have to go to the liquor store.

In case you missed it, this is a LIQUOR STORE. Please form an orderly line to purchase your Government approved liquor.

You an always tell the type of neighborhood by the liquor store. In the one which is closest to me, when you walk in the first thing you see are the Malt liquors (Colt 45) and cheap, large cans of beer (Bud Light, Coors Light). In the other one that I frequent the first thing that you see when walking in is a locked display case of very, very fine Scotch Whiskeys of which the most expensive is $3,600. The closest store to me (yes, let's say it, the shabby one) is always more interesting because it straddles three different neighborhoods and it's always interesting watching the different people mingle together. From the ex-con with the tear-drop tattoo busking out front, to the well-dressed fellow jumping out of the Mercedes they all share a common interest: getting drunk on Friday.

I will give them this- there is a lot of variety and some giant-sized bottles of booze. For those in the UK, yes, that is a 1750ml  jug of Gin on the end. Get in! 
I do wish I lived in a place that didn't have prohibition-era like 'official' attitudes toward drink. Here in Saskatchewan we are pretty well known for our love of booze which makes this all the more hilarious. Having friends over usually means a table filled with bottles of various sorts as the unwritten rule is you always bring something, and no matter how much is left you leave it behind. I miss Ireland and the UK where alcohol is just a part of life and you can get it anywhere. I even miss the U.S. for that, although driving to the county line when you were stuck in a dry county (yes, they still exist) was always a pain. Nothing like a 40-minute drive (to another county) for booze to make you feel like you may have a bit of a problem.

Right so, that leaves me with a bit of time on my own, so I'm going to strip down, grab a beer and ride the dogs around the sitting room for some lols. Then I'm off to the Liquor Store with my ration book to get my Government Approved Alcohol and my loaf of stale bread.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unity of Command: Lacking Unity

There's nothing I like more than giving independent, turn-based, tactical games good reviews. Turn based games are pretty rare nowadays though high-profile games like X-Com are here to remind us this genre is not dead. World War II has inspired a lot of turn-based strategy games and I've managed to play a good many of them over the years with my favorites being from the Close Combat series. I don't have a set of ideals going into any given game other than I want it to both challenge and entertain me. Unity of Command came close but ultimately fails to hold my attention for the long term.

It is a good-looking game and it really does fall into the 'easy to pick up, hard to master category'. There is a hidden depth to this game that warrants some serious attention to the rather long PDF rule book that is included in the digital download. I use to carefully read rule-books while waiting for games to load (please insert disk #4 to continue) but not anymore. I just play other games while new ones are downloading or (gasp) go do something else entirely (like boring parent or work-related stuff).

^^ All of that is my fancy way of saying I can't be arsed reading the Unity of Command rule book- though I'm sure it's good.

I did enjoy Unity of Command until I started the campaign- of which there is only two: Axis or Allies on the Russian front. The entire game is set on the Russian front which is fine by me- it's one of the conflicts of WWII I'm really interested in. The game is full of scenarios but I'm not really a single-battle kind of guy. I like campaigns because they are more challenging and give me something to work toward (usually repelling the invading Hun).

The campaign is a series of scenarios which are all strung together. You are given so many turns to complete the scenario with extra prestige awarded for getting it done faster. Prestige is used later to reinforce units. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it? I mean I know this is a game and we have to somehow simulate the pressing necessity of battle, supply, fog-of-war, command-structure, etc and games often use turns to do so. The problem is that in Unity of Command while they say it's 'best' to get it done earlier, what they mean is you have to or else you can't progress in the campaign.

Which annoys the hell out of me. If you want it done in 4 turns then bloody well say so. Don't say I have 8 turns and then punish me later. Here's what happened:

I played the first three scenarios of the Allies campaign. I completed the first three within the 'stated' amount of turns (obviously or otherwise I would have lost the scenario and the campaign would have halted) but not the 'optimal' amount of turns. Without warning, or explanation the campaign ended. Now, I suppose I would have seen this coming had I read the rules, but I refer you to the above non-rule reading bit of the post.

So I started again. This time I hammered the first, and third scenario. Full points for getting done by the 'optimal' turn. The second scenario was just a bit over the optimal but withing the stated. Guess what? Campaign over. Deep breath.........there you go....exhale......rage...subsiding, calm....returning.....

Oh who am I kidding. Calm rarely returns. This really annoyed me. Two of three scenarios perfect but still the campaign is halted. Excuse me whilst I swear. That is fucking dumb. If the campaign relies on me finishing by the optimal bloody turn then say so for pete sake. It is, for me, a game-breaker. I don't mind being punished for my poor tactical choices in a game (less resources next turn, fewer troops for the next battle, etc) but I dislike the campaign just ending and especially dislike it ending when I've won every scenario.

If you like quick battles this game may be for you, but if I wanted single, hex-based engagements with a tactical element I'd just play good-old fashioned chess. Well, okay, that's likely not very fair as this game offers good graphics, a smart AI, and is very reasonably priced (I got if for $15 on Steam but now it's $20). There is nothing wrong with Unity of Command but it doesn't offer me the long-lasting, engrossing campaign(s) I expect from a WWII strategy game. A more in-depth review can be found on Rock Paper Shotgun. Bottom line? Well worth $15 but for me, $20 would be a push.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WoT Mis-Matches

I have said that often in WoT you are either winning by a lot, or losing terribly and I think it is one of the most frustrating things about the game. Why, for instance, do you get 'more' experience and credits if your team wins? I understand it for Team Company Battles because, well, you're a team, but why for randoms? If reward was based solely on performance I would be much happier and wouldn't focus so much on my win-loss ratio, that's for sure. Come on, we've all had this happen: you're the last one left alive, have 2+ kills (often the only kills for your team), loads of bad-guys spotted, and in the end you get less credits/experience than you do when you play like shit and your team carries you. I'd rather just be rewarded for my own performance and not punished for the stupidity of others, but that's just me.

This game, posted over at stnylan's musings is the absolute worse team I have ever seen. Yikes.

Taken from Stnylan's Musings.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

X-Com: Classic Challenge Revisited or I Fought The Bugs and The Bugs Won

After my previous victory, Thade had to go and burst my egotistical bubble by pointing out that starting on Easy means you get better resources so even though I fought my battles on Classic, it kind of took away from my accomplishment of winning the game 'on Classic'. The last X-Com patch promised to take care of some bugs, including the SHIV bug which would either load an unarmed SHIV, or none at all. This was a particularly annoying one as those little buggers are pretty handy in later missions on harder levels.

I was very, very excited which only made my disappointment very, very noticeable when said patch didn't affect saved games, or take care of the SHIV blocking the doorway bug. What's a game addict to do? Why, complain about it in a post and then start a new game, of course. I have, for the record, found out how the bug works, exactly:

If you park the shiv by the door and then open it with one of your troops, the SHIV will forever block the door even if you move it back and away. You must send your troops through first or you're screwed. If you are playing Ironman, well, you're just screwed, like I was. It doesn't seem to mater if the SHIV is destroyed or not.

The latest patch has not, then, fixed all the bugs or made the game fully playable on Ironman as far as I'm concerned. I did try, really I did, but on my second mission a terrain bug which made me select the wrong end-point on my soldiers move saw him without any cover and quickly killed. The thing about me is, I hate to lose, especially if it's to bugs and not AI cleverness. I'm happy to play on Classic level but I could not abide losing a game I put hours into to a bug later in the game. I would rage like you wouldn't believe and I can't handle that kind of stress at the moment. I want to relax and stomp some AI noobs, not stress out and thus, I need to be able to re-load.

In the meantime I'll happily watch Thade and his battle against the Enemy Unknown in Classic Ironman.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: You Never Forget Your First

...snowfall that is. Well, actually you do if you live in Canada because there are just so damned many of them. Today is technically the second snow fall of the season, but with 30 cm already fallen and temperatures of -20 C it's here to stay. Sigh. Why did I move back here again?

Winter sucks.

The dogs are undaunted and it's business as usual.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Farewell KV-13, You've Been a Steady Comrade.

As far back as I can remember I've wanted to be a gangster....... No, wait, that's the beginning of Goodfellas. Let me try this again.

As far back as I can remember I've had the Russian Tier VII medium tank, the KV-13, in my garage. I used a lot of free experience to skip to it very early on, and played a ton of matches in it. I was using it to unlock the T-44, my original goal, and earned enough free experience with the KV-13 to do that and then some. I loved the KV-13. It was a hidden gem that most people overlooked. It is tucked away in the middle of the soviet tech tree and isn't required to unlock anything. You could skip it and not be affected in your march up the medium or heavy tech tree.

But it was a gem. It accelerated well, and was fast as hell- originally it went 60kph forward and 21kph in reverse- and it was armored to the teeth (around 105 max frontal with 80-100 or so on the sides and rear). It was extremely versatile and I don't think there was a single match I was thrown into where I couldn't find some role to fill with it: scout, medium, heavy, brawler, sniper.... it seemed to do it all. Notice the past tense.

Two significant 'nerfs' have affected the KV-13's overall performance and my enjoyment of it. First was the HE 'nerf' waaaay back when (6.something I think) which normalized HE damage and basically ruined all the tanks that relied on derp for maximum entertainment (like the Hetzer with the 105). Even with the buffs to HE later it was never the same. Lately the matchmaker tweak which sees you never face anyone two tiers higher than your tank set in motion the final nail in the KV-13's coffin. In the name of balance they took 10kph off the top speed along with some of the armor, traverse, and acceleration. The KV-13 always had a poor gun so without those other assets it has fallen into the realm of 'mediocre'. I've only played a handful of games since the MM re-balance but it's enough to know the glory days are behind this faithful companion.

The latest patch (8.1) has introduced 'gold' rounds for the cost of in-game silver. I have 11 million credits saved up and don't play the game much anymore so I decided to load 'gold' HE rounds into the KV-13's derp gun and give it one more fun-run before retirement.  As luck would have it I managed to go out with a bit of a bang, taking another blogger with me just before I succumbed to overwhelming odds. I have to be honest (well, no I don't, but I will on this occasion) and say I really, really wanted to kill him. In fact I was shooting over a T-59 medium tank that was in front of me to get him, but in fairness I've seen his record and combined with the tank he was driving, it made him the bigger threat... yea, that's the reason, not petty bragging rights on the internet :)

So I have not sold the KV-13 and put the top-notch crew into my T-44. I have also decided to use this occasion to make my first (and likely last) World of Tanks You Tube video, with commentary, showing the battle. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Reply to The Noisy Rogue, Sans Whimsy.

A reply is certainly in order to the Noisy Rogue who posted about a few of us who decided to stop blogging for various reasons. As you all know I am easily trolled, and the gross inaccuracies and, let's face it, outright lies did indeed get my attention. First, and I did actually laugh out loud at this one, was the obvious typo which, for a veteran blogger like himself, is just silly:

"... I thought that this was sad, because although he is a very silly man with dubious eating habits, I enjoy his whimsical blogging style... "

You see? That's just ridiculous. It's spelled 'd-r-i-n-k-i-n-g' not 'e-a-t-i-n-g', although come to think of it- hey, wait... whimsical? Really? I always thought of myself as a hardcore, journalist-like blogger of epic proportions and was getting very irate, quite frankly, that not a single gaming site has yet asked me to write for them. Hmmm, maybe he's right and whimsical is the way to go. I can see myself buying an I-pad and blogging whilst frolicking through a meadow full of blooming buttercups all the while twirling in my favorite frock. Wheeeeeeeee! It could be my new thing, unless it was actually my old thing and in that case it will just be more of the same. Huzzah!

Well, Adam was right after all. I did wake up and realize that my blogging wouldn't stop- whimsical or otherwise. I love to rant and She Who Will Be Named Later hates to listen to said rants. Oh, sure, she humors me but it's with the familiar nodding and 'uh-huh's' that I myself perfected on whatever she talks about on a daily basis. New Mouth To Feed is awfully considerate and will let me rant away for various lengths of time about a wide range of topics but in the end she usually just spouts back some unintelligible nonsense, chews my nose, and then poops her pants. That is, I have to admit, a lot more interesting than some of the blogs I come across and miles ahead of the average intelligence of a You Tube 'conversation' but yet, somehow I crave something more....meaningful. For better or worse this blog is it.

I was surprised to see there were a few others hurling their nappies and quitting the blogging game as well. I haven't read Kleps in a while (he went on a long WoW spree for a bit and I tuned out) but I did like his style an awful lot. Sometimes a break is in order but again (and it pains me to say this) Adam is right: leave your blogs up, morons, and if it's up, then don't fucking mark it private so no one can find out why the hell you stopped. Just saying.

So thanks to Adam who, despite his gross misrepresentation of the truth, gave me a much-needed kick up the virtual back-side and a heaping of encouragement. Keep blogging, morons, all we have is each other. Oh, and I realize now that the title of this post should have read:

A Reply To The Noisy Rogue: Now Mit Whimsy!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

World of Tanks: 8.Something.Something.Something. Now With Tea and Crumpets!

I feel sorry for the British. Poor bastards have been on the front line of every major world war since the dawn of time, slugging it our for freedom and the right to drink good tea and warm ale (technically room temperature which is around 18 C in Britain, but I digress).

So the world says, 'Oh hey, lets stop Hitler shall we?' and the British went: 'Okay, right-o, we'll send the lads over.' America's response? 'Pffffff, fuck you, we're far away and making too much money from all of this.' The French? 'Non, we ave surrendered already, merci, and have sent our Jews, er weapons away.'

So for years the Brits take a pounding. Their homes are bombed, their men (and women) killed at the front, and their food supply was in such shortage that they instituted a rationing system that would destroy their taste for anything good, forever. And how does repay them? By waiting almost two years to roll out some British tanks. Good god. I'd make a comment about the Russians being ungrateful but since Canada has an education system that teaches actual world Geography (and the fact I can read) I know that are not Russian, making the claims of 'Russian bias' even funnier to me. But still- what the hell? The French before the British? In any case I think there's a special code to celebrate which will give you some Marmite rations and a vomit bag, but I could be wrong.

So yea, the British are here and while I don't want to be ungrateful for all they've done for us (railway networks, roads, and tea, anyone?) I could care less. I have, at this point, said all I can say about the game of World of Tanks. I've gone from 'Whale' to 'Free-loader', now only logging in occasionally to play some of my favorites from time to time. I'm so lazy I've deselected the assault and encounter modes so I don't have to think. I just want tank to go boom.

I read a couple of WoT-focused blogs (they do discuss other things, however so check them out) who keep me up-to-date on what's going on (specials and what not) so I barely read the WoT site anymore. It's all the same thing, over, and over, really, but I will say it is still the only FPS-like game I seem to enjoy. I was a supporter of the Chivalry Kickstarter and have yet to invest any real time into the game. It looks great but I don't have the mental energy at the moment to learn a new skill set. I played about for a bit (read, got killed lots while running around like an idiot) but nothing serious. I am happy to see there is a no-respawn feature/server however, and hope someday to master the game enough to give that a go...... yea, likely not gonna happen, but a guy can dream can't he?

So, as She Who Will Be Named Later, has just kindly pointed out, the rumors of my demise, or the 'doom and gloom the blogs ending attitude' I discussed previously had not come to pass. What have I been up to, then, gaming-wise which I'll likey be talking about in future posts?

1. Unity of Command- a turn-based WWII offering from two guys from Croatia.
2. Mark of the Ninja- Canadian company does good!
3. Prison Architect- yes, still, despite my complaining.
4. Torchlight II- finished the game (again) but this time with an Embermage and some mods.
5. Surfing You Tube- great time sink.
6. Kerbal Space Program- lots of fun and loads of potential in this alpha.
7. Television- thanks to the power of the internet  I am catching up on some good, and bad, t.v. and movies. Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, Nurse Jackie, Copper...and that's just yesterday ;)
8. Raising a human being. From scratch. No really, it's true. Oh, and she is remorseless, sleep-resistant, fuss-machine, not a baby. Also true.

Saturday has traditionally been music day here at the blog, so I'm posting a video by the Young Dubliners doing their version of "Belle of Belfast City (aka I'll tell me ma)" which I only first heard during the latest episode of Boardwalk Empire (Kelly MacDonald's character sings a few lines of it so see, T.V. is good for something). There are literally tons of versions of this Irish folk (?) song out there but this is one of the best....even if they change the lyrics to make it Dubin-centric but since they are from Dublin I suppose we can forgive them. That, and after seeing Belfast city (yikes) I can easily say Dublin is, by far, the prettier of the two.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So It's Halloween. Whoopie.

For me Halloween is the night where I hide indoors terrified of the neighborhood children and their plaintive mews for candy. Why North American's send their children out to beg for sugar and razors is beyond me. Does everyone have that good of a dental plan or, worse yet, a tolerance for toddlers mainlining sugar? Why not send them begging for useful, household items like detergent, or proper food even? Haloween, or All-Saints Day was a proper holiday in Ireland (no work and everything) and the practice of 'trick or treating' was only just catching on when I was there. Needless to say we had very few costumed kids at the door...or maybe we did but how could I tell from the dark confines of the pub?

I've done what any proper, Halloween hating man should do- I've closed the curtains, turned off all the lights and this year I've actually hung a 'sleeping baby, do not disturb' sign on the door. It's also the night where we have to put our bins out so I have a feeling the children may get their trick, if not their treat in eventually. I do realize this is one of the last years I can do this, now that I have a wee pumpkin head of my own but I'm going to put it off as long as possible, and then complain bitterly when I have to participate (only to She, of course, and not New Mouth To Feed as I'm not that much of an ass). Come to think of it, I am low on butter and a few other essentials... maybe I'll chuck her into a costume and head out to do the weekly shop.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: Where's My Towel?

My Great-Grandfather used to box. He fought under the nom-de-plume of "Tiger Smith" but not the Tiger Smith that comes up when you Google it. Having only fought 6 professional matches, and all of them local (ie in the middle of no-where) he never achieved, shall we say, any fame as a boxer. He did it during the depression for some much needed cash, and added it to his long list of odd-jobs that he, and many like him, did to survive those terrible years. I still remember his boxing gloves as they were a favorite feature during the family's Sunday lunch with my father, uncle, and Great-Grandfather all letting me have a go at them.

Visiting with my Great-grandparents on their farm featured regularly in my life even after the family as a whole imploded and the Sunday lunch tradition ceased. My Great-Gradfather's passion for boxing (among other things) infected me, and it remains one of the only sports I truly enjoy and make an effort to watch. The title of the post, then, is a reference to the practice of a corner throwing a towel into the ring when they feel their boxer is in danger and a win is unlikely. Unfortunately that rarely happens these days as the professional side of the sport, as a whole, has gone quite down-hill and too many lads get beaten for too long in the name of entertainment or money...but of course I digress.

I've been thinking about throwing in the towel here at the 'ole blog. Although I am a bit pressed for time these days (even though I'm home full-time with New Mouth To Feed) it isn't about the time, really. I simply wonder what it is I still have to say about games that's worth posting. I've never pretended to be any kind of actual review-based blog, as plenty of professionals do that much better than I ever could. Of late a few of my regular reads have vanished (32nd Law), taken a bit of break (Don't Mention Ze War, quit due to real life issues (Cool Story Sis), or mysteriously disappeared (Melmoth from Kiasa). Blogging is a funny business in that it's not a business at all, and the joy of it is what keeps us going. It's what makes blogs so great, in my opinion, but when that joy is gone, or life interferes, then the blog will (necessarily) suffer.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Walking Dead Part IV

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Spoiler Alert!

Right, you've been warned.

Holy shit, I can't believe I've been bit! What a great ending and a heck of a way to set up the last episode. I was genuinely surprised at the end and I can't wait for the final episode.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

X-Com: Bugs Aside, Mission Accomplished. The Earth is Now Safe

Despite the bugs, design flaws, and my constant complaining I have been playing X-Com steady since it's release and I am happy to say the Earth is safe. You no longer have to worry, nor play the game yourself as I have killed the alien scum and saved mankind.

"Flawed Gem". Total Biscuit (of You Tube fame) described X-Com this way and I agree. It is so good yet at the same time absolutely terrible. Whole portions of the game don't work (S.H.I.V.'s currently) and bugs have forced me to re-start  but yet the tactical game-play is simply brilliant. I would like the try the game once again on Classic Ironman but not until they fix the bugs. Until then I am done. This game was my fourth, but in fact was only my second. I abandoned my first game just after the tutorial and started fresh. The second game was a quick loss in Classic Ironman. Game three was Normal Ironman but I had to abandon that after a bug in the first assigned mission. I started this game in Easy to get caught up, and then switched to Normal difficulty after the first Alien Base mission.

Oddly enough the "Gankalicious" character I made (initially a Heavy) went on to not only survive the whoe game, but be 'the one'. I found Normal mode to be quite easy, really, and re-loaded due to deaths only twice. Without further adieu, here they are:

A late entry to the team who arrived as a reward for a mission.

Ewan turned out to be one of my best guys in the end. Who knew actors were so good with weapons?

The man, the myth, the legend: Gank

Vladimir Putin was my go to killing machine..... further comment.

Former Beatles singer Paul McCartney was also very good with the shotgun.
Max Shmelling was my heavyweight Sniper.

It says Easy, and it was, but I played mostly in Normal mode.

I didn't even need all of my base slots in the end.

Final death toll was very low. I didn't lose anyone in the last 20+ missions. Next time I play Classic mode.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

X-Com Enemy Unknown: An Introduction

Why introduction you may ask? Well, because there a lot of in-depth reviews already and I'm a bit pressed for time these days, so this is just a brief over-view for those not familiar with X-Com- mostly for Bronte who asked :)

Okay, so here we go.

Why should you care about X-Com Enemy Unknown?

X-Com UFO Defense (the original) was released in 1994 by Microprose and has since deservedly become a cult-classic. The game-play was challenging and tense, and it was one of the best turn-based, tactical, squad-based, strategy games I have ever played (wow that's a mouthful). Technically I played the sequel Terror From The Deep (1995) which, I'm told, was harder than the original. In the run up to the newest addition to the X-Com franchise, Enemy Unknown, there was a lot of hand-wrangling and speculation about how it would treat the legend that has become X-Com. Re-making a classic is never easy and can go horribly wrong (Jagged Alliance I'm looking at you) but the biggest problem is always going to be the fans. Some people remember things so fondly that no re-make will ever come close. That's the great thing about memory- we tend to forget all the bad stuff after a few years.

In any case the developers this time around assured the populace that they too loved the original and that they were going to capture the feel of it and make us proud. 2k Games, Firaxis and Sid Meier all teamed up on this one so hope was running high. What was that feel, you ask? The original was good because it was tense, it was hard, and it was cool (aliens were invading earth for pete sake!). You started with a bunch of noobs, knew nothing about the aliens, and were out-gunned, and out-numbered at all times. The turn-based tactical part of the game saw you commanding a squad of 8 men and women who you could re-name  (which was really novel at the time). You would, then, have a squad of people named after yourself and friends and it worked remarkably well in that it made you really care about them. You would assign individuals different weapons (heavy guns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, etc) and watch as they gained in experience and skill through play (better hit points, aim, load capacity, etc). You would wail in agony after a 90-minute mission when your favorite guy got ambushed and killed and as there was no mid-mission saving allowed you were basically screwed.

The greatest part about the original X-Com, and why it became a cult-classic is because it got people talking. How did your favorite squad get wiped out? How far did your name-sake make it? What was your longest mission- hunting for that last stupid alien hiding in the far corner of the map? The game inspired our imagination and had us sharing our stories long before the internet (yes, there was such a time) and forums made it easy to do so.

That's all fine and dandy, you may be saying, but what about the new X-Com? 

The new X-Com involves both a turn based, tactical game and a strategic overview game. In the tactical game you control 4-6 squad members who you can customize (names, looks, nick-names, etc) but who earn there roles in combat (they will be randomly assigned one of the roles Heavy, Support, Sniper, or Assault after a few missions). As far as I can tell these are random assignments and not based on anything they do on the battlefield.

The tactical portion of the game is top-down, and cover-based in that you move the cursor around and the various levels of cover are shown by shields. It is hard and you will need to follow basic squad-level tactics in order to succeed. If you aren't in cover, and if you aren't providing supporting fields of fire you will die. In fact you will still die even if you are. It is challenging and the AI is pretty good. They will seek shelter, and they will try to flank. In the beginning they out-gun you, and you will always be outnumbered. There is no such thing as being too cautious. You have to think and go slow or you will get wiped.

The strategic part of the game remains essentially unchanged from the original. You have to find out who the aliens are, what they want, and how to beat them. You do this by bringing back alien corpses, weapons, ships, and live beings to research on. As you go, you develop your technology so eventually you are a bit more evenly matched. In the beginning your crappy armor and shotguns do little against their plasma-based weapons.

You are the commander of X-Com, a kind of united nations for alien-busting and you are answerable to the nations of the world. You have to keep them happy to keep your funding up and you do this by responding to alien attacks, building sattelites to monitor the country's space, and running missions for 'the council'. There is also a bit of base-building in that you have to upgrade your research/engineering/hangar facilities and construct alien containment chambers, sattelite arrays, and the like but it so minimal that to call it 'strategic' is a bit of a joke.

Does it live up to the original? 

Yes.....and no.

It isn't a clone of the original and that's good. The original was slow-paced and could be exceedingly frustrating and the graphics, of course, are a bit outdated. The new X-Com is pretty, and has been streamlined and optimized so it could be released for consoles as well as the PC. I've discussed this prior, and in fact I said they 'dumbed it down' and I stand by that. I am, however, an obsessive nut for micro-management in games so the streamlining annoys the crap out of me whereas others may not mind so much.

Ultimately you have to ask does the new X-Com deliver as a stand-alone game while allowing those of us with warm, fuzzy memories of the original to feel good? The answer is yes. The tactical portoin of Enemy Unknown is challenging, tense, and it is one of the best turn-based, tactical, squad-based, strategy games I have ever played (sound familiar?) despite it's multitude of bugs, and flaws. The strategic portion of the game is anything but with it only serving to offer up more tactical battles. With today's technology and such a great development team I am very dissapointed that this part of the game was left to suffer.

The Good:

  • Tense, atmospheric tactical squad-based gameplay that punishes you for your mistakes.
  • Good graphics, sound, and effects with a fully destructible environment.
  • Engrossing 'just one more' game-play (to be expected from anything with Sid Meier).
  • One of the few truly turn-based games available today.
  • Some skill advancement choices for your troops.
  • Classic and above difficulty and/or Ironman mode makes things quite challenging and adds a lot of tension and excitement which I usually get in Player-vs-Player games.

The Bad:

  • Suffers from a multitude of bugs which is a joke for a AAA title (73 officially recorded here).
  • Strategic portion of the game is virtually non-existant and leaves the player mostly a spectator to what is happening.
  • So much more customization and player choice could easily have been included.
  • Troops 'skill trees' are lack-luster and offer little choices (two choices per 'level').
  • The panic system can see you 'lose countries' (a critical part of the strategic game) without giving you the chance to alter the outcome.
  • Suffers from 'stupid syndrome' in the amount of things that make no sense.

The Verdict:

Addicting as hell, and worth a play if you are a fan of X-Com or tactical turn based squad combat games. If you like strategic elements, or 'the big picture' more than tactical combat stay away and avoid disappointment.

Hopes for the Future:

An expansion which adds some real depth as the game doesn't have much re-playability at the moment and after a 100 or so tactical battles it may start to bore.

Friday, October 12, 2012

X-Com Enemy Unknown: Game Breaking Bug

This may be the first for a few reasons. One, I never post about games on Friday: it's usually my 'day off' where I whitter on about some aspect of my personal life. Two, this is the first time I have encountered a bug in a AAA title which is literally a game breaker.

On the Alien Assault mission in X-Com Enemy Unknown I sent a S.H.I.V. through the door into the last room. It got blown up on a hex adjacent to the door and somehow blocked it. My troops can't get through and even though I've killed the 'boss' alien there are a couple left who won't come into view of the door and let me shoot them. No problem, right, just re-load? Nope, playing Ironman so no re-loading possible.

Note the doorway appears open, but is not.

Thanks, Firaxis. Nice work on a game-breaking bug in a AAA title.

Oh, and in the spirit of Fortuitous Friday I will let you know I may be off the air for a bit. New Mouth to Feed is teething hard (very cranky) and today is also the second portion of her immunization shots which did not go very well the last time.

Happy Friday everyone!

2012-12-13 EDIT: More on the nature of this bug, and a work-around (unless you're in Ironman) here: