Thursday, April 24, 2014

War Thunder (Part Three)

Need to Knows
Like I've said, this is one of the few rare games that actually pits the players' skills against skills, and thrashing requires more than just mere reliance upon equipment and levels.

However, there are still a few things that you'll need to know first before you can jump in and play. Else you might be in for quite a headache, just like I've been...

Lions, Eagles and Research Points
There are three kinds of "currencies" that you will need to get acquainted with in War Thunder. The Silver Lions, Golden Eagles and Research Points.
  • Silver Lions War Thunder - Icon Silver Lions
    War Thunder - Buying New PlaneWar Thunder - Conversion Training
    The Silver Lions is the default in-game currency. They are typically used to purchase newly unlocked aircraft and upgrade parts, replenish ammunition supplies, repair damaged planes as well as train a crew on how to operate a particular plane.
    War Thunder - Battle Results
    They can be easily acquired by playing in anything from single missions, dynamic campaigns to custom battles and events.

    (* Do note that the bulk of your daily expenses, using these lions, are usually spent on ammo and repairs. The costs of purchasing aircraft and upgrade parts are one-offs, though they may not necessarily be "cheap". Especially those further down the tech tree.)
  • Golden Eagles War Thunder - Icon Golden Eagles
    War Thunder - Buying Golden EaglesWar Thunder - Exchanging Eagles Into Lions
    The Golden Eagles is your "premium" currency. You will need to buy them using cold hard cash, a.k.a your real life money.

    But contrary to those p2w (pay to win) games out there, War Thunder's Golden Eagles doesn't buy you any sort of "godlike" advantages. Instead, usage of these merely offer you a save in grinding times by allowing you to unlock stuff "faster" than free-to-play gamers. And perhaps maybe access to some rare/vintage planes that doesn't seem to be overpowered in any sense, in my opinion.

    At times, if your running low on lions, you may even convert these golden eagles (into silver lions) so that you can pay for that urgent order to fly again in your favorite plane, rather than having to save up for the repairs or wait for its automatic repair cooldown.
  • Research Points War Thunder - Icon Research Points
    The Research Points is your lifeline into unlocking newer, better planes and upgrade parts. Much like Silver Lions, these are acquired through playing the game. However, you will need to note that the points can only be gained from playing against other players, and not from content like Single Missions and Dynamic Campaigns.

    Why? Well, I'm guessing that its because Single Missions and Dynamic Campaigns doesn't require you to "spend" anything to play. You can die all you want in there without having to pay for any of the destroyed planes or expended ammo.

    These so-called Research Points (RP) are further broken down into two kinds, Modifications RP and Vehicle RP.
    War Thunder - Modifications ResearchWar Thunder - Vehicle Research
    The Modifications RP is meant for unlocking of upgrade parts for your planes. These parts when unlocked, purchased and installed upon your plane, will improve the efficiency of that plane (boost its stats/parameters).

    They are, however, aircraft-specific and so you will have to fly the plane itself out for missions before you can earn the needed Modifications RP for that plane's upgrade parts.

    The Vehicle RP, on the other hand, is less demanding. Regardless of whichever plane your flying, so long as you've designated a plane design to research upon (in the tech tree), then whatever Vehicle RP you've earned will automatically get allocated into that design.

    When sufficient RPs have been placed into it, you would have unlocked the plane and can proceed to flying that plane. After you've bought it of course...
  • Convertible Research Points War Thunder - Icon Convertible Research Points
    Now although these are, technically speaking, still a form of research points, I've decided to single them out solely because they cannot be used by and on their own.
    War Thunder - Accelerated Research
    You will need to spend Golden Eagles as some sort of catalyst to convert these into actual usable research points. Or more specifically, they are used as a form of bonus "Vehicle Research Points" to accelerate the researching of new plane designs.

    (Needless to say, since these are useless to free-to-play gamers, its yet another reason to classify them separately.)

Aviation Tech Tree and Plane Upgrades
The following shows a typical aviation tech tree. British one to be exact.
War Thunder - British Tech Tree
Basically, the way this tech tree works is such that, first of all, all available planes are categorized into "Ranks" of I, II, III, IV, etc. These ranks are, in a sense, some sort of era or timeline positioning for those planes.

Starting from the top, the Rank Is are the older aircraft while as you work your way down the tree, you will eventually get to the more modern ones, the "jets". And the aim of the player, is to advance down the tech tree to "reach" the jets of course.

But in order to get to those, you will have to progressively unlock the "Ranks", one by one...not to mention having to obey those "arrows". For example, to be allowed to research Rank II planes, you will need to unlock at least 6 Rank I planes. To gain access to Rank III planes, you will need to unlock at least 4 Rank II ones and so on and so forth.

Next, if we go into the specifics of let's say getting the "Spitfire Mk V", then we will not only need to have unlocked 6 Rank I and 4 Rank II planes (in order to get to Rank III), we will also need to "follow the arrows" and unlock, namely, the "Gladiator Mk II", the "Spitfire Mk I" and the "Spitfire Mk II".

Clear so far? Good...

Moving on, this next screenshot (below) shows you the plane upgrades available for the Gladiator Mk II.
War Thunder - Gladiator Mk II Plane Upgrades
Just like the aviation tech tree, you will need to work your way down this one as well. However, this will be unique for each and every plane that you've unlocked. The upgrade parts that you get for one plane, isn't transferable onto another, although they might be the exact same thing your researching.
War Thunder - Gladiator Mk II Stock VersionWar Thunder - Fury Mk I Maxed Out
Anyway, the way these work is such that you will initially get the stock version of the plane first.

After having flown the plane for a sufficient amount of time, to earn enough modifications RP to unlock all the upgrades and install them, you will then get the maxed out version of the plane to fly (like the Fury Mk I shown).

And that's that. Short and simple. No fancy customizations or tweaking of the parts to get the "perfect" build of your own plane. Everyone's getting the same thing in the end. Which is a pity in my opinion, but can't be helped I guess...

Crew and Crew Skills
War Thunder - Crew
Now for this part, you can literally think of your crew as the "number of lives" that you have for any particular PVP match.

In short, the whole process is kindda like this...

You join in a PVP match, fly as "Crew 1", crash and burn the plane, then fly as "Crew 2", die again, respawn in "Crew 3", repeat until you've run out of crews. And once you do, you are no longer able to continue in that match and will be forced out into the lobby to await for the results, once the match ends. (Mind you though, you are still able to join and continue playing in other matches as per normal, while waiting.)

War Thunder - Crew 1 Pilot StatsWar Thunder - Crew 1 Gunner Stats
War Thunder - Crew 1 Ground Service StatsWar Thunder - Crew 1 Qualifications
Each crew then consists of its own pilot for the aircraft, gunners to man the turrets (if there's any on the aircraft) and a team of maintenance personnel for the plane.

The crews are immortal and you don't lose them permanently when you die. They've even have their own RPG-like "stats" (crew skills) for you to improve, wherein every PVP sortie that you've used them in, will allow you to earn some sort of experience points which can then be allocated into those crew skills.

However, the way these work is such that the skills only kicks in when your flying as "that" crew. Crew 1's skills only works when your flying as Crew 1, Crew 2's skills will work when your flying as Crew 2 and Crew 3's will only function when your flying as Crew 3.

Confused? Let me give you a run-through of the crew skills and then you'll get a clearer picture.
  • Pilot
    Keen Vision -Affects the maximum distance at which the pilot can detect an enemy. Only works in the direction where the pilot is looking. Possibly useful only in "Simulator" mode, where markers do not function and enemy detection is based on where your looking. The sighting distance should possibly be longer than that of Awareness, at a similar level.
    Awareness -Affects the maximum range at which the pilot can detect enemies around the aircraft. The higher the skill, the earlier the markers for enemies become visible.
    G-Tolerance -Affects the pilot's resilience to g-forces (how sharp a turn you can perform, at high speeds, before the pilot blacks out).
    Stamina -Affects the pilot's resistance to fatigue. The longer the time spent flying, the worse your pilot's performance becomes (like control and accuracy). Usually useless in "Arcade" mode where the game sessions are relatively short and quick to end.
    Vitality -Kind of like the "invisible" HP of your pilot. The higher this stat, the more damage your pilot can sustain before getting "knocked out" (barring critical damage to plane integrity and crashing of course).
  • Gunners
    Experienced Gunners -Gunners are used to man the turrets onboard an aircraft (if there's any). If the number of experienced gunners is less than the number of turrets on the assigned plane, then all your other gunner skills will take a hit/penalty, although they will all still be operative.
    Fire Accuracy -Affects how well the gunners can aim and hit enemy planes.
    Fire Precision -Affects the spread of the bullets fired by the gunners.
    G-Tolerance -Affects the gunners' resilience to g-forces (how sharp a turn you can perform, at high speeds, before the gunners black out).
    Stamina -Affects the gunners' resistance to fatigue. The longer the time spent flying, the worse your gunners' performance becomes (like control and accuracy). Usually useless in "Arcade" mode where the game sessions are relatively short and quick to end.
    Vitality -Kind of like the "invisible" HP of your gunners. The higher this stat, the more damage your gunners can sustain before getting "knocked out" and can no longer man the turrets.
  • Ground Service
    Repair Speed -Affects the rate at which an aircraft is fixed and ready to fly again. Applies to both when on the airfield (within a match) as well as the automatic repair cooldown (while waiting in the lobby).
    Repair Rank -Affects the rank of the planes that your ground service crew can repair. If this repair rank is less than the assigned plane's rank, then all your other ground service skills will take a hit/penalty much like that of the gunners'.
    Reload Speed -Affects the rate at which your weapons reload. This is a very useful skill for all modes, be it Arcade, Realistic and/or Simulator.
    Weapon Maintenance -Affects how fast your fired weapons overheat (jams the weapon) and also the spread of your bombs and rockets.
  • Qualifications
    At the primitive (basic) level, qualifications determine the kinds of planes that your crew is "licensed" to fly. However, there is also an option available to help you increase the crew's expertise in operating specific planes, so much so that when they get assigned to those planes, they will get some temporary boost to their existing crew skills. So long as they're flying those planes, that is.

    - Keen Vision +30
    - Awareness +30
    - Fire Accuracy +30
    - Fire Precision +30
    Ground Service:
    - Repair Speed +30
    - Reload Speed +30
    - Keen Vision +20
    - Awareness +20
    - Fire Accuracy +20
    - Fire Precision +20
    Ground Service:
    - Repair Speed +20
    - Reload Speed +20
    This Ace bonus is an "addition" to those given by Expert qualification. Namely, a total sum of 50 each if you've got both qualifications. However, getting this Ace qualification would require Golden Eagles.

Previous: War Thunder (Part Two)Next: War Thunder (Part Four)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

War Thunder (Part Two)

In terms of gameplay, I should say that the guys over at Gaijin didn't quite do anything too out of the ordinary I guess. The available options or features are pretty much the run-of-the-mill types that you've come to expect from a game of this genre.
War Thunder - Game Menu
There's the "Tutorials", which teaches you how to play the game, like how to fly the plane, how to aim and shoot, how to bomb or drop torpedoes and how to take off and land (from airfields and carriers).
War Thunder - Single MissionsWar Thunder - Dynamic Campaigns
A mode that offers short missions with simple/singular goals or objectives. May or may not be tied in with historical events. Can be played together with friends.A mode that offers long/time-consuming, "multi-tiered" missions. An "alternate history" form of gameplay where the player partakes in historic WWII battles and their actions affect the progress of the campaign.
There's the "Single Missions" and "Dynamic Campaigns".
War Thunder - Custom BattlesWar Thunder - Custom Battles Map Selection
There's "Custom Battles" where the player can define their own "playing fields", like choose the map type, battle mode, difficulty level and various other settings.
War Thunder - Event Ruhr. Guardian AngelWar Thunder - Event Winter Biathlon
And then there's finally the "Tournaments" and "Events"...and something else called the "World War" (which has yet to be implemented).

Progression within the game is just like that of any other lobby-based kind of game. You play or grind the game for some form of currency and then use it to upgrade yourself or buy access to better equipment/gear. Or in this case, planes...
War Thunder - Choosing CountryWar Thunder - British Tech Tree
Essentially, there are five countries for you to play as and each of them have their own unique line of planes or "tech tree", to the point where the planes all exhibit their own distinct characteristics, handling and behavior as well as set of armaments.

Don't worry, your not country-locked, so you can play whichever you want, as and when you want it. You may even tech them all up if you so wish to. In fact, your strongly encouraged to do so as most of the single missions and dynamic campaigns would require you to unlock at least "certain" planes before allowing you to partake in them.
War Thunder - Hurricane Mk I Stock StatsWar Thunder - Hurricane Mk I Upgrades
Though you may not alter or change their specs, by and large, they can still be tweaked or modified slightly, via upgrades, to improve their performance in comparison with the stock ones that you get.

However, do be warned that these so-called upgrades are available and open to each and every player who flies that particular plane. So long as its the same plane, and that the players have all flown them for a sufficient amount of time (so as to acquire all upgrades), they will be flying them on a leveled playing field and everything's down to the pilot's individual aim and/or skills.

(More so if their flying different planes...which will then require them to know the quirks and fancies, advantages and disadvantages, of their own planes as well as their opponent's.)

Difficulty Mode
Perhaps the most interesting part that caught my attention in War Thunder would be this function known as "Difficulty Mode" or "Game Type".
War Thunder - Game Type
As far as I know, there are altogether three different modes, Arcade, Realistic and Simulator. Their difference, I believe, is down to how "real" the kind of combat you would get from the fight.
War Thunder - Game Type ArcadeWar Thunder - Game Type Realistic
Arcade is the most simplistic kind. In this mode, players battle with almost no regards to real-life physics.

They can fire their weapons without a care for ammo conservation. Emptied guns automatically refills itself after some time. Jammed weapons can magically fix themselves whilst even flying in mid air. Diving down from high altitudes, at extreme speeds, doesn't rip off your wings. Taking non-critical wing damage to your plane doesn't affect your flying performance one tiny bit. You name it.
War Thunder - Wing Damaged
In realistic battles, the terms work slightly differently and much closer to real conditions.

Players need to refill their ammunition, unjam their weapons and refuel at an airstrip or carrier. Wings can get ripped off if you aren't careful with your speeds, pilots can get blackouts if you do too tight a turn and damaged wings could cause all sorts of malfunctions and hindrance. (Like how my plane keeps rotating anticlockwise and I had to compensate for it in order to fly straight.)

As for simulator mode, if I'm not wrong, players get thrown into a full realism kind of gameplay. No markers will be shown on the HUD to keep track of your targets, there won't be any third person view to fly your plane in and everything that is found in realistic mode will be inherited as well.

Its "virtually" as close as you can get to flying a real plane. And according to what I've heard, players who flew in this mode highly recommended the use of a joystick.

But be warned. Compared to arcade mode, realistic and simulator modes are much more time-consuming to play. Furthermore, because of that, the population of people who actually play these modes is quite small and thus the average time taken to get into a match might be correspondingly longer as well.

Previous: War Thunder (Part One)Next: War Thunder (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

War Thunder (Part One)

War Thunder
Having just finished covering Onigiri Online, this next game that I'm planning to introduce, War Thunder, can be said to be of an entirely different genre. It is apparently some sort of MMO military flight sim that is bent on offering to gamers, a realistic feel of how aviation combat goes during the World War II era.

However, before I move on to the actual details, I would have to say that I was most unimpressed by the way they've chosen to distribute the game client. In fact, the downloading process was a complete hell for me, to say the least.

Now as we all know, there's plenty of ISPs out there that throttles torrent downloads. Mine included. So given the situation, I can't seem to get why this game company of War Thunder would then purposely choose to incorporate a torrent engine into its client launcher...let alone making it as its primary method of distributing the game client and patches. Does that make any sense? It sure as hell doesn't (to me).

But before you go off shooting that that isn't true and the game client does allow for "http" downloads, please allow me to further point out another fact.
War Thunder - Download SpeedWar Thunder - Download Speed 1
If you take a good look at the two screenshots provided above, you ought to note that the downloading speed actually comprises of two parts, the http portion and the p2p (peer-to-peer) or torrent portion.

And since, in my case, that my ISP actually throttles torrent downloads, you can say that I have shitty torrent download speeds (of about 20+ kbps if I don't limit the upload). So the only way for me to be able to download this huge game client of about 7 gigs within a reasonable amount of time, is to rely upon the http download speed, which is at best 100+ kbps. (Yea its sucky I know, but I ain't got no other choice.)

Anyway, nothing wrong so far right? Well, here's the part where it gets worse...

Just minutes into the download, some "mojo" happens and the launcher apparently goes into some kind of "bandwidth saving protocol". And whenever that happens, the launcher will immediately dump all of my existing http download speed (which is my lifeline), leaving only the p2p portion running.

The only way for me to get back or "revive" the http portion is if I close the game launcher and restart it. But even then, depending on its "mood", it will sometimes dump it again within mere minutes or it may do so after an hour or two...maybe more if its "feeling" angelic.

Now don't ask me what's the reason behind all this mess that I'm observing, cause I've got no freaking idea myself. What I can see is only the end result, which is that it causes me to sit in front of the PC, watching the launcher like a hawk and having to restart it whenever that happens.

And to give you a rough idea of the magnitude of the problem, even a simple patching of about 60 mb required me to open and close the launcher about 20 times. What should have taken 10 minutes to download ends up needing 20 to 30 minutes of my time. So you can imagine the pain and suffering I've gone through, just to download the entire 7 gig game client, right?

Oh by the way, if you think that's it? Think again...

Aside from this, there is in fact another flaw with the game launcher that you ought to know about. And that is that whenever you leave the launcher up and running, the "torrent engine" that's built into it will start to open up sooooo many "connections" that it clogs up your entire bandwidth, effectively disabling your ability to surf on the internet or do anything else that's related to that.

The only way for you to resolve this is to "limit" the number of "connections" that the launcher opens.

However, the option for you to do so isn't found in the settings of the game launcher unfortunately. Instead, you will have to do it manually by accessing a file named "warthunder.yup.resume" in your WarThunder game folder. But I will have to remind you that this file only gets created if you close the launcher while it was in the midst of a download or a patch I believe...and that it will be deleted whenever the patch or download finishes. So you might have to keep on doing this whenever there's a huge patch.

Anyway, to limit the number of connections, just use "Notepad" to open the previously mentioned file, "Ctrl+F" and look for something like "max_connectionsi16777215e11". After finding it, change the "16777215" within that line into something like "50" or "100", but do not touch the characters before (max_connectionsi) or after it (e11). This will limit the maximum number of connections to 50 or 100 depending on what you've set it as. And as a further note, you can also do the same to the "max_uploadsi16777215e15", that is found right beside it, to limit the number of upload connections that you have.

Next: War Thunder (Part Two)