Friday, March 30, 2012

Fortuitious Friday. Fuck Y'all. You Don't Know Evil.

As the Friday blog-war is about to heat up I've decided to wade in. The recent story of the Goons in Eve who goaded the guy wanting to commit suicide (or whatever, I didn't read it all myself) has led Tobold to define evil while taking a shot at Syncaine at the same time. Fair play. Their blog-tiffs are fun to read and while I think Tobold's opinions are a bit...well....mainstream, I do agree that Syncaine can be an ass sometimes. I also agree that the Goon-guy responsible for these posts is an even bigger ass.

"Evil" is a very evocative word that means different things to different people but I'd just like to say that if you think a blogger like Syncaine is actually evil, please do read this very true story of mine:

I once played chess with a guy who had cut the head off of a women and stuffed it into a duffel bag which he placed in the trunk of his car. He was stopped by police driving around with it and subsequently arrested for her murder and sexual assault. Now that, you fucking idiots, is evil. Get a grip.

Oh, and Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let's Make Fun of Others: Part One Million

Simply because people make me laugh...and not in the good way. Check these ads out I've copied from a local Buy/Sell web site:

"I have 2 very friendly,energetic labs, caught up in shots, I recently was told i need to get rid of them by end of mth, but we are leaving for a wk in April and I want someone trusting,loving,caring to take my dogs for the wk we are gone..."

So let me get this straight. You are told you have to get rid of the dogs at the end of March and, just by coincidence, you'd like someone to take them for the first week of April? Interesting concept. Chances they return for the dogs imo? Zero. Note the little guy on the inside of the house who they don't, apparently, need you to look after while they are 'away'.

"the one pic is MOM
[puppies]... will be great with kids mom is awsome very gentle..we have ONLY 2 MALES LEFT "

Yes, of course she is gentle, just please ignore the GIANT FUCKING CHAIN that keeps her from killing people. Good grief. I either over-analyze everything or people are really dumb. Maybe both. I'll analyze it later.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gank Wants You!

Are you bored with my various ramblings? Can't stand yet another post about why World Of Tanks isn't meeting my various needs? Could care less about Crusader Kings II, or the Saturday Tune, or (gasp) Fortuitious Friday?

Then sign up for the Salem beta! Use this link below, and if I get three referrals I'm in and then you get something new to read. Get in!

In case you've forgotten, or are unaware, this is a new Sandbox MMO from Paradox with perma death.... and bobble head avatars. What could be better? We can run a contest- guess how many times Gank gets killed...permanently! Go on, do it. You don't even have to play, just click it.....CLICK IT NOW! Don't make me resort to using various sundry email addresses to get in damn you!

And Thank go to a new blog I've discovered (who may be my virtual twin as my quick peruse of his site shows posts on Sandbox MMO's guessed it.....World Of Tanks) for pointing this offer out.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday's Tune: Bungle in the Jungle

The non-electronic music madness continues! For whatever reason I've been listening to this one a lot over the last week or so and thus, by proxy, so too must you. Jethro Tull's Bungle in the Jungle. I'm not responsible for the video so feel free to minimize it and just listen to the tune. The archaeologist in me, however, can't help but wonder if there are some ruins hiding in all that jungle in the video....old habits die hard I guess!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fortuitious Friday: The Meaning of Life

No, I don't actually know the meaning of life, and even if I did I wouldn't likely share it with you anyway. Whatever meaning we attribute to our time on this planet is our own and it varies from person to person. Where you are in your understanding of this 'meaning' can change with time...and age. The search for 'meaning' may, in the end, be a pointless endeavour anyway and one that wastes time that could be better spent simply living it (or playing games). Who wants to hear someone elses take on what that meaning is, or worse yet, how we should be spending our precious time?

I recently passed on my blog-link to a friend and though, knowing him as  I do, there is a 99.99% chance he won't bother to read it (lazy fecker) it's a little weird for me. I haven't seen him since I left Ireland. Friendships are formed at specific times in our lives and when you are apart from said friends the memories of them are frozen in time. And vice-versa of course. Am I the same person I was 4-years ago? Of course I'm not, and neither is he. Who we are at our core is unchanged, however, and that's what long-lasting friendships are based on. If I had a dollar for every person I've met and spent time with over the years I'd have a nice pile of cash. If I was given a dollar for every person from that pile I wanted to keep in touch with that pile would shrink to barely enough to buy me a pint (they cost around $7 here btw).

Friendships and change are fresh on my mind then, as I've also recently re-kindled and old friendship from (what seems like) a lifetime ago. It's a strange phenomena as it's forced me to look at who I was, who I am, and how I've changed since then. With my impending birthday, and the 7-week countdown to the birth of New Mouth To Feed I may be waxing overly philosophical lately. Somewhere along the way I've come to believe that everythingg happens for a reason, but can't get rid of that little niggle in the back of my mind that reasons that particular belief (which is just short of being 'religious' in my opinion) is simply a way of making sense of the past. It may not have any actual reality outside my own mind.

In any case it is Friday and today, mostly, my mind wanders to pints and games: both of which are only a few hours away! Global warming continues to be my new friend as all the snow (and flooding) is gone and we can once again venture outside without fear of freezing to death. It's been a slack-assed winter, tbh, and I have no valid complaints to make about the weather. I remember much colder March's for sure, and the fact that I can bar-b-que and drink beer while rolling around my lawn with the dogs is absolutely fantastic.

Enjoy your weekend everyone and Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

World Of Tanks: $10 Million Per Month and Still With The Hand Out

In a recent article the head of has said that the income for World of Tanks is in the 'low-end double digit millions' per month. Coming on the heals of an in-game income nerf it feels a lot like a kick in the teeth. Now that the numbers are published on which tanks are getting affected (and by how much) I think we can see why they are being implemented. The income changes are obviously geared toward getting players to pay even sooner by making the popular mid-tiers even less profitable (with in game currency).

To say that I'm not happy would be really, really understating it- and I'm a paying customer so all you posters on the forums telling the 'free players' to wake up, nothing's for free, and to pay for the product can get bent. doesn't have to convince me to pay to play because I already am. The credit nerfs hit the majority of tanks that I like to pay play which include: KV-13, E8, E2, Panther II, Object 704, and my yet to get Chaffee, T-44 and Pershing.

The forums are on fire in the EU and I can't help but note the official US thread on the Economy Preview is locked. Hmmm..okay. Fuck you too, I guess.

There are a couple real problems that are going to arise from this latest, cash-inspired move. In that interview stated they have one of the highest player pay rates of any free game with 40% of players paying. Combined with the actual money (10 million minimum) rolling in, it makes me wonder what the hell they are after. This game offers nothing but lobby battles which means the players themselves are the content. There are no mobs to grind, no quests to complete (thank god). Less players is the death knell to a game like this. A paying player doesn't know, or care, if the guy next to him or before him, is paying or free. As long as he's there it's all good fun. If the latest moves drives away free players who can't 'afford' to play the game then you risk the paying customers also leaving.

That said, the other problem is that they are also pissing off paying customers like myself. Forum threads are always full of 'I quit' posts, but the reality is that some of them are actually quitting. Paying customers are leaving. That's not good for anyone.

The game balance is going to shift dramatically as well. The lower tier tanks are getting a massive boost so they will be heavily populated. I was thinking, perhaps, that if there were more people playing tier 1-4 and 9-10 then maybe the matchmaker would balance out....somehow.....with tier 5-6's being at the top more rather than fodder for the 7-8's. Maybe, maybe not, but as we've been saying for a year now, the best way to balance the matchmaker is to...well, balance the mathmaker through, oh, I don't progamming? Just an idea. Crazy I know, but.....

The income nerf, made worse by also increasing repair costs at the same time, on medium tanks and tank destroyers will also shift the game balance. The motivation to play these tanks, which can be a lot of work compared to the Heavies, takes a beating. Playing a tank destroyer can be soul crushing as you are so dependent on your team due to your (generall) lack of mobility and diversity. Medium tanks require a degree of skill that, at the least, is different from heavies. I find my brain often hurting after a run on my mediums whereas with my IS4 heavy tank, well, let's just say there is a technique to using it, but it's generally a bit easier on the brain.

More light tanks (income increased on many light tanks tiers 1-5 except the one I really wanted, of course) and more heavies means what exaclty? I don't know. Faster games? Easier games? Time will tell.

In the meantime what is a paying player to do? A lot of the tanks I like to play, for fun, are getting nerfed. A lot of the tanks I was 'grinding' to or interested in playing are getting nerfed. Premium tanks that I've already bought (Ram II, Mini-Maus, Tetrarch, T-127) are getting a boost while the other premium tanks I own (T59, B2) are self sustaining. The lower tier tanks that I like (SU-26, KV, T50, Hummel) are all getting a boost in income. That means, quite simply, that I can stop paying and not worry about credits any more- as long as I give up on the top-tier tanks, and right now, that sounds fine. Even as a monthly premium customer I find the top-tier grind for experience and credits frustrating and now it's going to get worse?

I can only assume this is going to be followed by some new pay-to-play options. Super premium, or making individual tanks premium (on a monthly basis), or something like that. Each patch is taking this game in a new direction and that direction seems to be the already sizeable bank account of the developer. As the only tank game in town they are pushing their luck and banking on the fact their new game will be out soon. It's the old 'bait and switch' where they rely on the new game drawing attention away from the old. And both will make them millions.

For next month, though, they will be short my $10 as I drop to free to play. Well played Wargaming. Well played.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World of Tanks 7.2. Spotting Gets An Overhaul

Despite my criticisms of the incoming credit nerfs, the 7.2 update is not all bad. I didn't get a chance to play a lot, and didn't test the new US heavies (which is what everyone is very excited about) but I did explore the new spotting system and I think it's absolutely great.

One of the tanks I've wanted to try out is the Chaffee, a tier V US light tank which is, for the most part, a scout. Each of the designated scout tanks has a slightly different role and ability and up to this point I've only driven the Russian T-50 series. They are fast and maneuverable. The Chaffee is a different type of tank and has a unique look. You'll either love it or hate it... but I digress.

The reason I don't have a Chaffee yet is that I absolutely hated the tank that came before it, the M5 Stuart. I managed to max it out and accumulate 15k in experience toward the Chaffee (you need 55K to unlock) before I gave up. I have 100k free experience to use, but wasn't sure I would like the Chaffee. Reading forum posts about the tank doesn't really let you know what it will be like. That's the great thing about the test server- you can try before you buy!

I do like the Chaffee, but that's not what this post is about. The new spotting system isn't so much a new system as just a new interface associated with it. In 7.2 when you spot someone the game lets you know (voice and text). Similarly when an enemy you have spotted is damaged or killed you are also informed. What a simple thing, yet it has a massive impact on your game-play. For starters it's just more fun. When you are 'bush scouting' (which is simply sitting very still in a bush spotting the enemy) there isn't a lot of fun to be had. You're not shooting as your invisibility is what makes you valuable in this role. If you find a good spot you may be sitting there, absolutly still, for the entire match. Sound boring? Well, yes, it was. You always knew you were helping, but now you know exactly how.

It's so much fun now, to sit quietly invisible in a bush with the enemy mere meters away, and see that you are indeed lighting them up for artillery (or back-line snipers). It gives you an idea of how well you are doing and how much experience and credits you might get from the match. I enjoyed it so much that I'm going to re-buy the M5 and finish unlocking the Chaffee. I played the M5 again on the test server and I can say that the increase in credit income is very noticeable (they are boosting tier 1-4 income remember). This, combined with the new spotting interface, makes playing these tanks more enjoyable. I mean, imagine if you were never told, in game, when you hit an enemy and had to wait until it was over to see if you actually did anything worthwhile. That's what scouting has been like up until now. I'm happy its about to change.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Crusader Kings II. It's My Island II

In 1066 Duke Murchaid of Munster, of House Ua Briain ruled over a modest demesne. He was unmarried with one adult son (immaculate conception we can only assume) and had three vassals and 16 various courtiers hustling about his court. Two Irish counties were his to command, and a Ducal Claim on the county of Desmond meant there was room for immediate expansion if the necessary armies could be raised.

Oh, Ah, Oh, Eh, We're a Happy Family!

I have some big ambitions, me, and it's best not to waste any time! My overall goal, for this game in any case, is to unite the various counties of Ireland and create the Kingdom of Ireland with me as its head. I also want to change my succession laws to allow my female offspring to inherit land and titles, so one day a Queen may sit on the throne. Further to that I plan to import some 'colour' in the way of exotic spouses because, as we know, the Irish can't tan and too many pasty people running about ruins my mood!

Snog, Marry, Avoid?

In order to change my laws to allow females to inherit I need to have the cultural trait 'Basque'. As the game lasts 400 years, nothing happens immediately and planning for the future is essential. By sending your children off to be educated, they acquire the traits of their mentors- including cultural ones. In order to have a Basque ruler one day, I need to import some Basque blood. Not wanting to settle for some common pot-scrubber, or courtier, I arranged to marry a Basque Princess. Marrying "up" socially provides a bit of a prestige bonus, and the skills of your partner count toward your own total and make your ruler more efficient so choosing wisely is key. In game characters can choose ambitions and the first one available is 'get married'. Easy enough then! With that done a few more options pop up, including the one to kill my new wife. For some reason the game is big on domestic violence and I've found, at times, that is my only option for an official ambition.

After getting married, checking out my vassals, building up my infrastructure, appointing councillors, hosting a grand hunt and few other intrigue events it's time to get busy uniting my island. I use my Ducal claim on my neighbor as an excuse to attack (keep in mind I am using the cheat code to allow an unlimited supply of gold in this game). A randy band of Saxon mercenaries are only too happy to pillage the countryside on my behalf. Ahh, it's good to have gold.

I ensure my line is secure by marrying my heir to a Hungarian Princess and ensure all the other members of my house are busy making babies. There is a lot to do and hours can be spent just learning who's who and what their ambitions are (in fact this entire post represents about 20 hours of game play). My battle goes well (several thousand mercenaries assures it will) and I continue to expand by pressing various claims on my neighbors and taking all the titles that I can. The game throws a lot of random events at you and how you react will affect what happens, sometimes many years down the line.

Sleep with my nephew's wife? You bet!
I like that the character portraits change as you age, and in this case, get the Pox.

In 1081 I enact one of my long term plans by sending my Grandson to my wife to be 'educated'. This will make him Basque and allow for the change in inheritance laws in the future. I've also changed my laws to Primogeniture so my heir will inherit all my titles upon my death. And speaking of death.....

Ahh, it was a good life.
In 1082 Duke Murchad is dead, and my heir, Duke Brian II takes over the reigns of my 10 vassals and various counties. It takes some time to sort out the court and make some unhappy vassals happy. I marry off my half-sister (Duke Murchad's daughter) to the King of France which means I get the prestige of having one of my family as the Queen Consort of France. The king himself doesn't come off too badly either considering she's 16 and he's 33! The side-effect of this new alliance is that he calls on me to help in his holy war which goes so well that once it's over I decide to take over as much of Portugal as I can. By 1088 I can claim the title of Duke of Portugal!

Just what every Irish ruler wants- someplace sunny to vacation.

By claiming titles you get claims on any provinces that are, de jure, a part of it. All the counties in Ireland, for example, are de jure, a part of the Kingdom of Ireland. It allows for expansion and I use it to further my ambitions. You have to be cautious, however, because you are only allowed so many holdings and titles before you vassals get angry and begin to plot against you. In 1091 I have enough provinces under my control to create the Kingdom of Ireland, and a King is born!

The Kingdom of Ireland. Note I'm already expanding east.

In 1094 I succumb to Typhoid Fever while in Spain and my heir takes over.
I spend the next several years pressing my claims in Portugal and expanding into Scotland and Wales. By inviting claimants on those counties and empires, and then pressing those claims in war, you can expand as they become your vassals. You can also strip them of their titles, or assassinate them and appoint who you like. You have to be careful how much power you give a family member with a claim on your throne however, because if they get ambitious it can lead to trouble. In 1104 I finally change my succession laws to allow females to inherit on the same grounds as men. This makes finding spouses very difficult as you have to marry them in matrilineally. Otherwise the new husband will have claim on the wife's holdings and all offspring will be of his house/culture. If often means you will marry your female heirs to commoners as higher borns refuse to give up their own claims to become your consort.

My goals of marrying an exotic fulfilled. My little brown babies will one day rule Ireland!

In 1108 I fall ill and die leaving my female heir to become Queen Gueneroda I of Ireland. Long live the Queen! Or not as we'll see next time.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

They Pull Me Back In. World of Tanks 7.2 Economics.

I feel like I'm in the Godfather III (but without the director's daughter in the staring role to ruin the whole fucking thing with her lame performance all the way through, and with a crappy death scene at the end. I cheered when she died to be honest). Every-time I try to get out.....they pull me back in!

I've been on a bit of a WoT hiatus and hadn't planned on commenting on the game for a while. I was going to try a few things on the test server (the Maus, for example) but the debacle where they copied thousands of unused accounts over instead of our mains has left me with not much to do. Combined with the 4-hour ques (due to the popularity of the US heavy changes) it means I haven't looked at a lot of the test server stuff. They copied my EU account, instead of my NA account (both on the same email) so I am stuck with an empty garage (but I did by the new US Heavy Premium). The surprise addition of an economic overhaul caught me off guard as well. Though not as surprising as when they nerfed the arty income (with no warning at all) it has got me thinking.

My immediate reaction, given that my favorite tanks in the game are Tier VI- VIII medium tanks (which are slated for an income nerf) is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuckkkkkkkkkk youuuuuuuuuuu That would make for a pretty poor blog post, however, so I started to think, really think (with ALL the power of my brain) about what was going on and remove myself from the fact my favorite tanks are getting affected.

I am going to look at the facts that are available. Unfortunately we are not privy to some of the business-related reasons for game-changes and have to look at what they give us. Which isn't much. A bit of crap about improving the early tier advancement and affordability of lower tier tanks. They also threw us a 5% bone in the way of an upper tier income boost. I will withhold my 'lol' for now. Wait, not I won't. LOL.

In any case the facts are this:

  1. When you provide a reward or compensation people will usually try to achieve it.
  2. When you take away incentive or reward people won't work as hard at it.
  3. When reduced the income for artillery may players, including myself, stopped playing higher tier artillery. I know I see far less than I used to.
Give the above, then, I can only assume that realized that if they reduce the income from tier VI-VIII medium tanks people will play them less. I know that my VK300DB, which isn't a great tank (a poor, poor gun for a tier VII medium) has very little going for it. I can break even (with a premium account) or make a few (10k) credits, but nothing major. If it starts to lose money, or barely break even? I'm not playing it. It's not that exciting.

I tracked my Panther II for 50+ matches and found that I earned, with premium, an average of 5k a battle (that's averages over all battles including losses). You can tell me LTP all you want an brag about how much you can make with upper tier mediums, but I'm pretty damn good with that tank. I have a 1700+ efficiency rating with it which, if you believe the stats, puts me in the top 5% of all players who use it. It's not that great an earner imo but I find it fun. Similarly the additional 5-10% income on my E50? Won't change my mind about playing it at all. In fact, since there will likely be even more heavy tanks in-game I doubt I'll bother. With premium my average loss (with a loss) is 20k. A good win sees me break even and a great game nets me 20k or so.

These stats are a bit old, but you get the idea. Available here fyi.

You could argue then that the credit nerf on the lower tiers won't make much of a difference then either. All I can say to this is then why would they bother? They aren't doing this to get their kicks, are they? There must be a reason, an intention, a desired outcome to this or they wouldn't do it. I'm struggling to understand what that is. The game, as it stands, sees the top tiers just out of reach of the average free player. They want you to pay some cash to access the top content and that's okay. Perfectly understandable. Most of us, premium players included, play tier V and VI tanks to earn credits, or to support the upper tier tanks. Why do they want them to earn less? Why do they want less people playing these tanks? What is the imbalance they are trying to sort out?

It hasn't escaped my notice that most of the nerfs are against medium tanks as well. The tier V KV heavy tank, for instance, is getting a boost in income. Fucking hell. I only just bought a KV, but its a monster. I make 15-30K a game with it and when I'm the top tank? It's a noob slaughter. Now we want more of them? How is this going to help the new players? It seems as though they are trying to reduce the numbers of medium tanks and for the life of my I can't figure out why. Don't even get me started on the TD income nerf as well. They claim it will 'balance out' as they lower the price and experience needed to get them but so what? After 100 games or so most tanks are elite (with premium) and then it's down to either the money they bring in, or the fun they provide as to whether someone keeps playing them. I don't see hordes of TD's laying waste to everything in their path so what's the problem?

Changing it up at the lowest levels so new players can afford more tanks and progress faster is good, but lets face it, moving through to tier V doesn't take much more than a week or so as it it. Then they hit tier V, or VI with reduced incomes and....... yup, right back to where we started. Now they will grind tier IV to support tier VII and VIII. They are also increasing the income from lower tier arty. I must, once again, lol. Isn't this just going to create the obvious problem of a heck of a lot of artillery in lower tier matches? Fine by me.... I'll warm up my SU-26, sell my Hummel for a Grille and start the slaughter. Welcome to WoT, now some really experienced guys are gonna face-roll you! Having fun yet?

I really don't understand what they are doing and nothing is, of course, finalized yet. It does appear to me that they are tryingng to increase the number of heavy tanks. My IS4 currently makes me more money than my E50. I would go so far as to say I have no problems (with premium) running my IS4 and I have more fun. A medium tank in the upper tiers is hard work, trust me. If you make it harder to afford these tanks the only logical result is that their numbers will go down. I'm not even talking about free players here- and by that I mean that the company would obviously like to come up with a way to get you to want to pay to play. Premium account holders, like myself, are saying over, and over, that we are either breaking even, or just getting ahead. Now we need to drop down to tier IV to grind credits? Is that really what they want?

I tried to come up with a positive scenario, based on game-play, not company income, that the changes might have and I've come up short. I'm hoping to get on the test server later tonight to look at some of the other things going on but without my garage, free experience, and credits, there isn't much I can do. I'd love to hear what you think about the changes so comment away!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Lesson To Be Learned....Likely

In preparation for my Crusader Kings II game diary I was messing about, getting some screen shots, and back-tracking what I had done. I got so into the game I forgot that I'd likely be posting about it and forgot to get any screen shots from the first, oh, 100-years or so! While doing that, I got so into the game that I forgot, again, what the hell I was there for and simply started 'trying stuff' to see 'what would happen'. That's the addictive sand-box element I really like.

Now, in the name of honesty, I will tell you that I was cheating. Yes, cheating. If I see a cheat code for a game I just can't help myself. Unlimited money? Yes please! I stumbled upon the cheat codes looking for hints and decided to use them. I want to push the game to its limits to see what's possible. I wanted to take over Ireland and a few other territories (Wales for example) and all that costs cash. Lots of cash. I console myself by saying in the next game I won't use the codes...maybe. In any case I won't reveal the codes to you in case, like me, you feel compelled to use them and would rather not. Everything I'm doing within the game is possible, given enough time, but with the unlimited cash I can get it done quicker. It's like Crusader Kings II on crack. What could go wrong?

Well, unfortunately I have an answer for that. It's a slippery slope this cheat-code business and I had the idea of changing my inheritance laws so my granddaughter (born of my Heir and an African Princess I married him to) could one day rule Ireland. The private joke of having a half-African, brown, Irish Queen aside (Ah sure, she's a Blackene, so), I wanted to (as I've said) push the boundaries of the game. In order to get that done, though, I'd have to not only change the laws, but kill off her older brother. Assassination doesn't ensure success and if you're caught trying to kill your grandson there are some political ramifications, or so I was lead to believe by the text-box. Simple solution then.... use the cheat.

The catch was I needed the character I.D. from the save file so I cracked it open with Notebook. After that I reloaded, intent on killing my grandson (only for the sake of my lovely granddaughter of course) to find that I had not only corrupted the save file, but the entire save directory. I couldn't load anything without crashing the game. Re-install? Didn't work. I had to delete the whole directory, lose all my saved games, and start anew.

Many of you will be saying to yourselves that I got what I deserved. Cheaters never win and all that. Maybe you're right. I have re-started the game and am (this time) taking screenies and notes for my game diary so all in all things probably worked out for the best. I realized that late into the game it was going to be difficult to change my inheritance laws and there is a much-simpler (non-cheating) way of doing it in-game which just takes a bit of planning. I suppose there's a lesson to be learned here about taking short-cuts, and cheating in general but I just can't seem to put my finger on it....... In the meantime, of course, I have to hurry along so the only way forward, that I can see, is to use the cheat code to get some quick cash. What could go wrong?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Crusader Kings II....It's Not a Tank, Honest

I've finally managed to pull head out of my cupola to dive into one of the numerous games cluttering my hard drive and I'm certainly glad I did. Crusader Kings II is one of the first games in a long time that pulled me in fast and hard (hmmm...that sounds a bit dirty). It's been awhile since I've played long, long into the night. I was so tired that I took my eye off of what was happening and at about 2:00 AM, ran out of money, which resulted in my entire invasion of Normandy coming to disastrous end due to the desertion of my mercenary armies. Not to mention, at the time, that poxy Dublin was revolting. Fecking Dubs for you! Thank God for the save option. And cheat codes. But I digress.

I have a bad habit of writing a quick review of a game, and then either abandoning it (Cities XL I promise I'll be back), or getting so anxious to play it that I neglect to post (LA Noire). I am sure that if you are interested in a proper review you can, like me, Google 'Crusader Kings II review' and find some good ones. There are a couple You Tube videos up as well which run through some game-play. I will do a brief review but I wanted to try something a bit different, so I'm going to attempt a gaming diary for this one kind of like what I did with Wurm Online. I feel that following along on my adventures may give you an idea of what the game can offer better than a nuts and bolts review of the basics.

My preferred way of commuting to work.

Now for the nuts and bolts review of the basics! Crusader Kings II is a Paradox Game and I'm already a fan of their work. I played a lot of Hearts of Iron II, and certainly attempted the third installment but found it overwhelmingly difficult during a period of shrinking free-time. They are also doing one of the only upcoming MMO's that I'm actually interested in playing, Salem (a perma-death sandbox focused on crafting). I don't like all their stuff, but their focus on the often-overlooked aspects of strategy gaming has always interested me.

Crusader Kings II is, essentially, a grand soap opera played out before you and influenced by your actions. It is more of a simulation than a strategy game and the focus is on relationships, family, diplomacy, alliances, and covert empire building. There isn't much here for the war-game enthusiast but I assume that if you wanted grand war strategy you'd head over to the Total War Series. In Crusader Kings II if you have the most men, you win, simple as that. Getting those men is quite difficult, however, and all down to the relationships that you build with your vassals. That is, of course, assuming you're not a vassal yourself.

I am a fan of the virtual sandbox and this game appeals because of the endless choices offered and available. You can start, for instance, as a king, or a courtier. If you fancy working your way up and building an empire, as I did, you can start out as a lowly Duke, or some-such, and see what happens. I began my play as a minor Irish Duke with my self-declared ambition to take over the whole bloody island (it's my island).

It isn't easy because wars need a valid reason to be launched (the game won't let you declare war on just anyone no matter how much you think that Limerick City should be razed to the ground), and then the man-power to persevere can be hard to get. Money is tight and armies are raised through vassals or mercenary hire (which is expensive). Upgrading your localities also costs a lot of cash so economies and military technology can take a while to build.

What's really important, and is the focus of the game, are the people around you. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, vassals, courtiers, Kings, Dukes, Barons..... you name it and it exists. You can even appoint someone as your Court Jester to humiliate them if you like. You need to worry about succession and the happiness of those around you. Intrigue is rife as plots are hatched, uncovered, and foiled. Assassinations, political slander, executions, wars, Crusades, invasions..... every event can have an impact on you and those around you. My poxy second wife was plotting to have my first born son (from my first wife) murdered so my son with her could inherit when I died. I gave her every chance in the world to change but eventually I had to have her jailed and then, sadly, executed. On the plus side I got a new wife: Huzzah!

Crusader Kings II is a rich world filled with interesting people and that's a great thing to be able to say about a virtual world. The characters within it all have their own agenda and the AI seems to be very good at handling all of this in a believable manner. That son, from my second wife, eventually became obsessed (like his mom) with killing my rightful heir and he too had to be imprisoned. He died there (of natural causes) which actually made me, as a player sad. I had initially preferred him to my heir because he had better stats in diplomacy, learning, and administration and so I was, for a time, turning a blind eye to my wife's machinations in the hope she would succeed (sorry son). The plotting-son eventually got the trait 'obsessed' and 'insane' which made him less desirable as an heir. That is the reason I stepped in and stopped their plotting.

Look at me, I'm the King!

Oh, and did I mention that I married my eldest daughter to a Prince and now she's the Queen Consort of France?

Having your children succeed is one of the options available. Unfortunately for her, her husband has the trait 'homosexual' and is later known as 'the fat'. None of that, however, will stop my grandson from becoming King of France!

There is so much to do in this game that I am glad that the economy and strategic-warfare elements are pushed to the background. I have access to plenty of the economic/strategy/war games. I'm ready for something different. The game is scored upon completion and all games end on 1466 (that's 400 years of game play). Much like at the end of the Civilization games, you get a score and a little report card to say how you did.

My next posts will detail my first adventure in Crusader Kings II. I hope that by reading along you'll get an idea what the game can offer and convince you to try it. If not, come along for the ride anway. There will be plenty of intrigue.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saturday's Tune: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

I was never a huge fan of 80's pop and I contend that nothing good came out of the 80's from a cultural point of view. Hair styles were awful, clothing was horrible, drugs were bad, aids would kill you if you even thought about sex (or so we believed). My list of grievances against the 80's is long indeed. You couldn't, of course, avoid hearing Whitney Houston on the radio. I always find it terribly tragic when someone, regardless of their talent, finds life so intolerable that they self-destruct. Last weeks news of her death saw her songs played a lot more on the radio, and my local, community radio station played a cover of I Wanna Dance With Somebody by David Byrne who himself, was an 80's icon with The Talking Heads (Psycho Killer, Burning Down The House, etc).

Today's tune, then, continues the series (being more than one qualifies it for a series as far as I'm concerned) of non-electronic music on Saturday's Tune (on Sunday). A really great video to watch as well. Well done to the poster.

I really like David Byrne's comment that I found on his Wiki Page:

Here was another piece in the Times today about yet another 20 percent drop in CD sales. (Are they running the same news piece every 4 months?) Jeez guys, the writing's on the wall. How long do the record execs think they'll have those offices and nice parking spaces? (Well, more than half of all record A&R and other execs are gone already, so there should be plenty of parking space). They, the big 4 or 5, should give the catalogs back to the artists or their heirs as a gesture before they close the office doors, as they sure don't know how to sell music anymore. (I have Talking Heads stuff on the shelf that I can't get Warner to release.) The "industry" had a nice 50-year ride, but it's time to move on. Luckily, music remains more or less unaffected — there is a lot of great music out there. A new model will emerge that includes rather than sues its own customers, that realizes that music is not a product in the sense of being a thing — it's closer to fashion, in that for music fans it tells them and their friends who they are, what they feel passionately about and to some extent what makes life fun and interesting. It's about a sense of community — a song ties a whole invisible disparate community together. It's not about selling the (often) shattered plastic case CDs used to come in.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: The Money's All Gone

A few days ago I was discussing my current funk, and as we all know one good way to beat a funk is to spend your way out of it! The 100 Euro I secreted away to my paypal account is now (mostly) gone. I bought another gold package for World of Tanks to the tune of $50. I'm not even sure how I'm going to use it as I've decided to let my premium account go for awhile (again) but it's there if I 'need' it. Most likely it will be used to convert some free experience and buy a premium tank, or two, that I am interested in (once they go on sale).

As for the other half? Well I decided to spend that on a birthday present for myself (coming in March) and ordered in a couple of orchids. I haven't talked much about that 'other' obsession of mine (there are so many in fairness), mostly because this is a gaming blog. I am an orchid enthusiast (nutter) and once a year or so I try to make a purchase from Ecuagenera, a wonderful place in Ecuador that does a lot for the conservation of the plants, and the decoration of my house!

Not the actual one I've ordered, but the same species. I've spared you the hundreds of photos of my own orchids.....

If you're looking for a reliable orchid exporter I can't recommend them enough. I have used them for over 6 years both in Ireland and Canada and never, ever had a problem. If you look on their site at their upcoming shows you can see when they will be coming to your area, or country. If you can't make it to the show (and I never have) they will post the orchids within your country, when they attend. I make my payments through paypal and the plants always arrive in top-condition. That said I always wait until spring/summer to order them to Canada due to the extreme cold weather here.

And so it's Friday, again. I'd complain about a tough week down at The Docks, but in fairness it's been a bit of a breeze. We are off at lunch, like a pack of monkeys (thought I'd throw in a useless simile there, like some kind of hack writer increasing his word count for extra cash), to celebrate, er commiserate the leaving of one of the mindless automatons from Sector 55. I love leaving do's mostly because the person is leaving, but also because I get to leave early on a Friday and pour a few pints down my oft-parched throat. I always leave immediately after the third because the overwhelming temptation to tell everyone what I really think of them always takes hold mid-way through the fourth.

Happy Friday Everyone!