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Friday, June 27, 2014

From War Thunder to Hard Core flight sim: how?

So, like me you've been playing War Thunder for a year. You started in arcade mode, using a mouse, then you went historical, and finally full real/simulator.

You're ready for a new challenge, but the hard core flight simulation choice is daunting, the learning curve looks too steep, and most of the players on those forums are total SNOBS.

Well, a few months ago I took the plunge! I bought three different 'hard core' flight sims, and have been trying them all out. Now I feel ready to make a recommendation, not based on all the different features of the game (they all have their good and bad points) but on how well they fill the role of 'transition game' from War Thunder player to hard core simmer. and how FRIENDLY the players are in their communities, who you can turn to for information and newbie type help.

But here is a funny fact: they're all Russian!


Just forget this game, right away. Blot it out of your mind. You look at the website and you think - cool! Jet fighters! P51 Mustangs! Helicopters! This game has it all! And man, it looks beautiful...

Then you install it (I chose the basic free DCS World module, which has an Su25 jet you can fly, plus the P51 Mustang which cost about 25 quid or 40 bucks) and the suckiness starts.

Yes, it has easy and hard modes, but the easy flight mode is still way too hard for someone coming from a flight game like War Thunder. I simply could not takeoff, even in the tutorial mission - just to give you a taste of how hard core this sim is, the first tutorial mission is all about just how to start the engine! It takes about a hundred steps. Then the next 'mission' is just about how to taxi out to takeoff! Third mission you actually get to take off. I think you are getting the picture.

Then there is the fact that even in 'simple' flight mode, the flight model is so tricky that I find it impossible to dogfight in the Mustang without sending it into a spin.  I got a ton of advice on how to set up my joystick, how to tweak the in game settings, you name it - but I pull back on the joystick and the darn thing goes into a death spin almost every time. Then I realised - IT ISN'T ME! Hundreds of players have this problem. See a typical post here:

DCS fanbois will argue until blue in the face that DCS has it right, and every other sim in the world (where the Mustang is actually flyable) has it wrong. I don't care actually, all I care about is whether I can fly the darn thing, and I can't. So, if this is hard core, then it is too hard core for me!

The community is so so. As with a lot of games, there are semi-religious fanbois who abuse anyone who seems to even ask a question which might be critical (which I learned asking about why the DCS Mustang spins so badly) and DCS seems to have more than its fair share of those. But there is also a large number of people who genuinely want to help you, and a lot of videos and tutorials they can refer you to, which really helped me at least to take off and land the thing!

Also on the plus side, it does have a lot of different HUD modes and help cues for new pilots, showing where targets are, and putting a lot of things on screen if you want them, such as airspeed and target locations. It also has a cue to help with deflection shooting, which works really well.

And, it costs you NOTHING to try it. The free game comes with an Su-25 jet with missions and campaigns to fly. The Su-25 is actually a lot of fun, kind of a Russian tractor version of the A-10, and I found it a lot easier to fly in simple mode than the Mustang. But coming from War Thunder I wanted a good WWII flight sim game (learning a hard core sim, as well as moving from propeller planes to jets was a big jump) and the DCS Mustang just made me feel too inferior.

Left in the Cold: IL2 Battle of Stalingrad

There is an apparently legendary flight sim series from about ten years ago called IL2 which most War Thunder players have never heard of. This is the latest installment in that game series. Like the old War Thunder beta, it is still in beta release, but you can already buy and play it and it is actually quite easy to play.

Unlike DCS Mustang, it comes with several planes already so there is a lot more to learn, and they are each very detailed, but that is a good thing. Because instead of starting in something as tricky as the Mustang, you can start in a flying tank called the IL2.

This machine is freaking awesome! Almost indestructable, flies fast, hits hard and doesn't punish inexperienced pilots.

Battle of Stalingrad has a simple flight mode, which actually is SIMPLE. You can set all sorts of options to make the flight model more or less challenging, you can set up the HUD to show a lot, or a little (or nothing), in the way of cues and the cues themselves are much better implemented than in DCS because it is clear that this game actually WANTS new pilots to start playing it.

The community of people around it is a bit like DCS, a lot of rabbid fanbois, but also a lot of people willing to answer and help with my many dumb questions.

So I have spent a lot of time flying the IL2 (and lately, trying to fly one of the German fighters, the Bf109G) and gradually getting more and more confident as I increase the reality options.

So why would I not recommend this game, right out of the box, to someone considering moving from War Thunder to a hard core sim?


Yes, you heard me. You can try DCS World Su-25 for free, or with the Mustang for 20 QUID or 40 bucks. The next sim, which I WILL recommend, can be bought for about 5 quid (yes 5) or ten (yes, 10) bucks. But the pre-release beta version of Battle of Stalingrad will cost you fifty quid and this is just too much - both for a beta product, but also in the context of just trying a hard core game to see if you like it or not. There is currently no free-to-try option.

Unless you love throwing money at a game you may never play, stay away.

The Green Fields of England: Cliffs of Dover

Finally, I get to the game which I actually recommend! Sorry about the delay dear travellers...

This game is freaking brilliant!

If you search for reviews online, you might get scared away, because apparently it was a total disaster when it first game out a couple of years ago. But that is GOOD for you, because it means the game is very cheap now!

Cliffs of Dover, or CLOD as fans call it (are they being funny? probably!) has been completely modded/fixed by a company called Team Fusion and it now plays beautifully, and looks even better. It is the closest thing to the graphics excellence you are used to from  War Thunder, of all three of these sims. Battle of Stalingrad aircraft are nice, but the landscape is just a mass of snowy boring nothingness. CLOD has the lovely French and British summer landscapes done perfectly (I live there, so I consider myself an expert!) and you can also get Mediterranean, Desert, Winter and Autumn landcapes and missions.

The 'simple' flight mode really is simple, so if you don't want to worry about engine management, flaps, trim tabs etc etc you don't have to. But as soon as you are ready to go hard core, you have a lot of options you can customise entirely to your own level of difficulty. It gave me exactly what I needed in the way of fine tuning the realism.

The online community is super friendly - especially the Team Fusion people. They will even offer to meet up with you online, and one of them met with me on TeamSpeak, and talked me through how to fly the Spitfire from start to landing and then took me on a combat mission as well. Unlike War Thunder where sometimes it is hard to find a SB battle with more than a handful of human players, the Cliffs of Dover servers have nearly a hundred players each, online, and ready to fight!

And the kicker? I bought it for ten quid (20 bucks). And I have seen it on sale for half that!

There are a lot of flyable aircraft (you have access to them all, not like in War Thunder) and you don't have to keep earning points to fly them, maintain and repair them. It is a real joy to crash your Spitfire, and restart in a fresh sparkling new one, without any penalty! So far I have stuck to the beautiful Spitfire, but there are bombers, twin engine fighters, German, Italian, and British (no American).

So this is the one for me. I still spend most of my time in War Thunder, because I have my favourite kites in my hangar now and a lot of time and pride invested, plus it is the best game for a quick blast of dogfighting. But I am spending more and more time in Cliffs of Dover.

And I recommend you do, too!

The best air combat advice online!

This fantastic free resource bills itself as 'a real pilot's guide to online air combat' and it is FANTASTIC!

Check out the table of contents below, and download HERE:

Introduction 4
Preface 5

Part I: Environment
1. The world 7
2. The players 10
3. Fear of death 15
4. Internet and mechanical effects18

Part II: Flight and Combat Basics
5. The platform 20
6. Energy 30
7. Lift vector, Gravity loads and other terms of combat 41
8. BFM 45
9. Pursuit modes 52
10. Situational Awareness 54
11. On guns and gunnery 61

Part III: Advanced Combat Manoeuvres
12. Separation and timing 70
13. ACM 75
13.1 Split-S 76
13.2 Immelman 77
13.3 Cuban-8 77
13.4 Chandelle 78
13.5 Rope-A-Dope 79
13.6 Defensive spiral 82
13.7 Hammerhead 83
13.8 Scissors 84
13.9 Lead Turn 89
13.10 High yo-yo 90
13.11 Low yo-yo 92
13.12 The Sliceback 93
13.13 Lag displacement roll 94

Part IV: You are the enemy
14. Psychology 96
15. Aggression 102
16. Thinking ahead 106
17. Common Situations 110
17.1 The Merge 110
17.2 The Bounce 113
17.3 Six o’clock high! 115
17.4 The extending bandit 116
17.5 The low quarter lag 117
17.6 The vulture 117
17.7 Getting stuck 117
17.8 Common errors 120

Part V: Never alone!
18. Formation tactics 123
18.1 The Fighting Element: 126
18.2 Fighting doctrines 129
18.3 Bracket attack 132
18.4 Trail attack 136
18.5 Cross Split 137
18.6 Sandwich 139
18.7 Half Split 141
18.8 Thach Weave 142
18.9 Engagement and Disengagement 144
19. Missions 149
19.1 Fighter sweep 151
19.2 Combat air patrol 152
19.3 Barrier combat patrol 155
19.4 Close air support 156
19.5 Armed Reconnaissance 157
19.6 Bomber intercept 157
19.7 Bomber escort 158
19.8 Ground attack 162

Part VI: Community 166
20 Squadron life 167
20.1 Training 168
20.2 Communications 170
In closing 173
Select bibliography 174

Thursday, June 26, 2014

E3 2014 marks the revival of flight games

By Charlie Hall on Jun 09, 2014 at 12:00p

Before the rise of the first person shooter the flight simulation genre made up a healthy part of the gaming ecosystem, enjoying a popularity that lasted decades.
But in many ways the era of the flight sim ended in January 2009 when Microsoft announced the closure of the Aces Studio. After 29 years the people behind the Microsoft Flight Simulator series were out of work.
For the last five years flight sims have struggled to remain relevant, spiraling off into niche titles like the X-Plane and the DCS series that, while they push the limits of modern computing power, strain the patience of most gamers.
That’s about the change.
The flight sim genre is coming back in a big way. This year’s E3 marks an inflection point where developers, publishers and hardware manufacturers are coming together to create new kinds of flight sim experiences. It’s a confluence that will push flight sims to the forefront of gaming for the next several years.

World of Warplanes

One title that loomed large over last year’s E3 was World of Warplanes.’s booth featured dozens of PCs running the game and giant screens attracted crowds as people passing by watched the action in real time, a display that generated a lot of buzz for the game.
Over the next year has taken its massive player count from World of Tanks and used it to establish a healthy community for Warplanes. This year and the next will be all about Warplanes’ expansion, and the current generation of consoles are a likely target. has already shown an interest in console gamers with World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, and news of a console port of Warplanes can’t be too far away.

War Thunder

Stepping into the ring this year is Gaijin Entertainment, who just last week launched its flight simulator, War Thunder on the PlayStation 4. The free-to-play title is a nearly direct port of the PC version, which has been in beta for the last several years. It even goes so far as to feature cross play, pitting PC players and console players against each other on even footing.
One thing that makes War Thunder unique is that players duke it out in the air and on the land, with tanks, on the same maps. The game also offers three difficulty levels ranging from arcade action to full realism, which limits the player’s view to the cockpit and makes increasing demands on the virtual pilot to actually know how to fly a plane.
Gaijin’s investment in Sony’s technology is strong. The game even features head tracking, allowing players to look around their aircraft by utilizing the Playstation Camera. Expect it to show prominently during Sony’s press conference.

Elite: Dangerous

Frontier Developments is expected to have a big presence on the floor of E3 this year with its space combat simulation Elite: Dangerous. In stark contrast to the free-to-play titles mentioned above, Frontier is selling Elite right now as an early access game for a premium price of $150.

Eve: Valkyrie

Finally, CCP will have its space combat simulation Eve: Valkyrie playable as well. The game began as a demo, built internally to utilize the Oculus Rift virtual reality kit laying around the office. But it’s grown into something much, much bigger this year. The team recently added actress Katee Sackhoff’s voiceover talent to the game, placing her in a prominent role in the game’s fiction. Polygon will likewise have hands on time with Valkyrie this year to see how the game’s development is progressing.

Star Citizen

Two high profile flight simulators will not be shown at this year’s E3. The first, Chris Robert’s Star Citizen, has raised more than $43 million on crowd funding, proving that there is an audience willing to pay for premium content like exclusive ships. The dogfighting module has just been released last week and, after a few bugs, seems to be seeing heavy use by early access players.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad

Also not present at this year’s conference is IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad. Announced in December 2012 and being published by 1C, developer 777 Studios is already well known for hard core flight sims like Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War and Wings of Prey: WWII Air Combat. The game is already open to alpha testers and has a stated release date of September of 2014.

World of Warships E3 trailer!

Good advice for online flyers...

I think of this one, as I try to make the transition from War Thunder Arcade to full realism/SB mode. I am really struggling with the restriction of only being able to see the world from within the cockpit, and without all the HUD cues - even with the help of TrackIR.

But there are plenty of misconceptions about full real battles and you do need to learn a few things to get the most out of this mode, when you are ready to go Big League. Here are the main reasons people hold back, and what to do about them, from cmasupra!

Reason #1: I don't want to spend the money on TrackIR for headtracking.
Then don't. I did but you don't need to. Some pilots use their mouse to look around, others use the hat switch on the top of their joystick (if they have a joystick), and some others use free headtracking options, such as FreeTrack and FaceTrackNoIR. I personally used FaceTrackNoIR when I first started playing SB. It requires a webcam and nothing else. It's not great, but it is definitely more than adequate if you want free headtracking.

Reason #2: I don't want to spend the money on a joystick.
Then don't. My first month in SB was spent using the Mouse Joystick controls, and I was still able to shoot people down just fine. If you don't know what Mouse Joystick is, watch the video below. If you don't want to fly SB with Mouse Joystick controls, there are cheap joysticks out there. I personally use a $30 USD Logitech Extreme 3D Pro.

Reason #3: I don't want to deal with manual engine controls.
I have flown SB for many months now and have never touched engine controls. I don't even have keys set up for the engine controls. The game handles it all for you unless you specifically want manual engine control for some reason.

Reason #4: SB is too difficult to learn. The jump from RB to SB is much bigger than the jump from AB to RB.
I fully agree that SB is difficult to learn, but it's very rewarding. Watch the video below for a tutorial on how to takeoff and land. Don't forget, all of us who fly SB are also more than willing to help a new guy out. The more, the merrier!

Reason #5: I'm not interested in uber-simulation.
War Thunder's SB is not as close to an uber-sim as you might think, thanks to the automatic engine control that the game uses. There are really only 2 things you need to think about that are not related to combat: 1) Throttle, and 2) Flaps. You already think about both of those in RB, so they're nothing new.

Reason #6: I don't want to play "Spot the Dot".
In all likelihood, you already play "Spot the Dot" in RB. It's exactly the same in SB! To help with spotting enemies, there are even special graphic settings you can use that can be found in this thread. Various people posted various settings that worked well for them, so browse through the thread and try out some settings for yourself and see how much they help. I also made a video about the settings I personally use, which can be found here. Lastly, remember that spotting an enemy doesn't get you the kill; out-flying them and shooting them does.

Reason #7: The rewards aren't high enough.
I fully agree. Help us get higher rewards for SB! Kindly (not rudely) ask Gaijin for bigger SB rewards and we shall all receive.

Reason #8: Not all the countries are available at the same time.
That is true, but it's because of the relatively low playerbase currently. I recommend just flying SB anyway. The more players Gaijin sees flying SB, the more likely they are to make all countries available. If you really don't want to fly any of the available countries, then just keep checking which countries are available every few days. The countries do rotate, so they're all available at some point or another.

Reason #9: I don't want to spend 30 minutes waiting for a game.
Most of the time it takes less than 5 minutes to get a game. Sometimes it does take longer, even over 10 minutes, but not very often. Be sure to set your server to Any Available!

Reason #10: I don't want to deal with all the friendly fire from people not knowing who is friendly because there are no icons.
There actually isn't much friendly fire that happens in SB. This is because a blue icon (with the playername or just a dot for AIs) will appear over a friendly plane when you get within 800m of them, well before you're within shooting range.

- cmasupra

Monday, June 9, 2014

DCS WWII project collapses, lead developer exited

Eagle Dynamics announced this week it had terminated its partnership with RRG Studios' Ilya Shevchenko, and was assuming sole rights to the DCS WWII project in development.

Some RRG staff have been hired into Eagle Dynamic/DCS to continue their work, ED said.

This blog has frequently documented the warning signs that all was not well at DCS WWII:

We have listed them here just in case we are accused of 2020 hindsight. It became patently obvious the project was going nowhere when Shevchenko posted 'update' after 'update' of screenshots of MSWord files, mixed with only the occasional in-game shot from a game that was supposed to be in alpha state; told the world he had spent a month working on flight manuals (clearly the priority a lead developer should be focused on); refused to engage with his Kickstarter backers by discussing any work in progress with them (perhaps because this could have exposed him to legal concerns) and then went totally dark in April, issuing no further updates.

We raised early concerns given the track record of the devs. These were the people who gave us the self-confessed disaster that was IL2 Cliffs of Dover. Before that, was Project Galba, the Korean war sim that never saw light of day.

It beggared belief that a publishing house like ED/DCS would then agree to collaborate with this team, on a new sim - DCS WWII - and risk their brand value by doing so. They have now taken the consequences of that decision and cut their ties with RRG Studios, assumed control of the project again, and are trying to save their reputation.

The ED/DCS plan is to roll out their WWII warbirds now module style, as they do with all their DCS World releases, and finally some time in 2015 to release the Western Europe map for DCS World and a standalone DCS WWII game for those who have not been buying the modules.

If they do so, they will need to dramatically change their pricing policy. Currently DCS modules retail for about 50 USD each at full price. Buying the six aircraft planned for DCS WWII, and the new map, at that price would mean you are paying 400 USD for DCS WWII!

Compare this to Battle of Stalingrad, where 100 USD early access fee gets you the map, and every month or so the devs add a new aircraft, weapons and features as part of that fee.

Wait for the full game release.

If you buy a module like the DCS P-51, you get a nice aircraft simulation, but no game. You can set up dogfights against the in game AI FW190, but that is it. When the new WWII warbirds are added you will have a few more opponents to go up against.

But flying WWII warbirds over a modern Europe battlefield, quickly feels stupid.

You might as well get the same aircraft in MS FSX, with A2A Accusim, where at least you can adjust the scenery to feel a little more 1940s France and Germany.

Releasing the DCS WWII aircraft as modules, before you have a map to fly them over, is a dumb way to sell an alpha

What ED is planning to do, by releasing the aircraft as modules, is the equivalent of giving players early alpha access to the game. Or, are they just cashing in on the DCS WWII assets, selling them off, before they walk away from the title altogether? I hope not. I hope they are just trying generate a cash flow by releasing the aircraft individually, and then finally the Western Europe theatre and stand alone product.

Compare this to Battle of Stalingrad, which released the map and a couple of aircraft first, and then went about adding more aircraft. BoS has generated thousands of buyers this way - I confidently predict ED will be much less successful by doing it the other way around because ED is not giving the player a GAME in which to fly their new aircraft!

ED you have your development priorities all wrong!

I know a sim project is not a linear thing, it has multiple tracks, but focus is the key of any large project.

ED should focus on getting the Normandy map completed, and some sort of game mechanics (eg a quick mission builder, online servers etc) in place using the P51D and FW190D.

Once that is done, sell alpha access and start generating cash flow.

THEN start releasing the other aircraft as modules.

Going the traditional ED/DCS World 'module' route, releasing WWII warbirds into a modern battlefield and expecting to generate sales, is an idea doomed to fail.

Friday, May 23, 2014

War Thunder Ground Forces vs World of Tanks

A not so complimentary player perspective
by Silentstalker

Okay… where to begin. As you can imagine, I received literally dozens of e-mails over last couple of months, inviting me to try War Thunder (not only Ground Forces, just War Thunder in general). I resisted for quite some time, but about a month ago, I was like… well, I should try it after all – and I got to try it today.

Trying it is one thing, writing about it another matter. I really wasn’t sure, whether to do it or not. I still am not, but what the hell, right? Anyway, my reluctance obviously comes from my position. This is a World of Tanks blog. If I bash War Thunder, I’ll get the “OMG SS WARGAMING STOOGE!” reactions – as I did before. If I praise it, I will get “OMG SS HATES WARGAMING FFS WT SUX!” – also happened before.

But I’m gonna write it nonetheless. I will try to express my feelings and compare these games regardless of my alleged affiliation. If it’s good, I’m gonna praise it. If not… well… the bashing will at least be honest.

And yes, I am completely aware that this is the closed beta stage, there is no need to remind me of that.


I approached War Thunder as a complete newbie, who turns the game on for the first time. I did not read any manuals or anything about it on the web, apart from the “standard” stuff on War Thunder page. I did not read any guides, because I believe that a good and successful game has to be intuitive and easy to grasp (I am sure you already see where this is going and why I mentioned this specifically – if not, well… you’ll find out).

Installing War Thunder

Installation was very easy and user friendly. The game is not a “hog”, it has 8 gigs or so, not bad. There was however a mess, when I (based on some March WT post) installed something called “nightly client” or something like that – should have been specifically a closed beta client for tanks, but apparently this was cancelled earlier, the tank testing was moved to regular client and so I had to install the entire game twice. This has left me… annoyed. Another annoyance (this time caused by myself) was that I logged with wrong account (not the CBT one) and spend an entire afternoon figuring out why the fuck can’t I access tanks, when I realized I registered another e-mail for the CBT. Thanks for everyone who tried to help me by the way (especially Ronineter) and sorry for this, mea maxima culpa.

Anyway back to point one – when I ran the launcher, it detected the graphic settings for me and it was apparently very optimistic, setting everything on “high”. Not sure whether that means “high settings” or “you better be high before you try it”, but what the hell… I can lower them anytime, right? Turned out I had to lower them, but not by much.

So, anyway, logged in successfully. Here, I would like to note that the War Thunder soundtrack is GREAT, I love the theme – and the strings that came after that, it’s a really known composition, can’t remember how it’s called. Anyway, excellent, excellent background music, very well fitting.

That account on the screenie is the non-CBT account, so after messing around a bit with the interface, I finally tried two or three battles with rplanes. Here, I would like to state two things:

- War Thunder planes are, hands down, better than World of Warplanes, in practically everything, when it comes to battle. Perfectly responsive controls, intuitive plane handling. And NO LAGS – imagine that!
- what runs with 25-30 FPS on low-medium details in WoWp, runs at 60 FPS on high details in War Thunder. The difference is simply stunning and I must say that unlike the horrible WoWp experience, I actually enjoyed the planes. I don’t like planes in general, so I won’t be playing it, but yea, this is some pretty good stuff. At least when it comes to battle.

At this point, I was actually really pleasantly surprised and very hopeful for the GF.

Ground Forces

Anyway, after the unfortunate episode with the account, I managed to log on to the correct one and started to look around, looking for… tanks. No big shiny “TEST TANKS HERE” button anywhere, yea, well – back to the forums then. Luckily, some guys on FTR FB pages were again very helpful, suggesting that I should test via the “Events” button. Okay, simple enough, right?

No, not really. At this point, it gets really blurry tbh – I opened the tank research window and started randomly clicking everywhere, because I couldn’t see any available tanks for the battles.

This was the time I started to be annoyed again. I literally have no idea, how the research works in this game – the way I guess it, you “focus” on “researching” something, you get some research points AKA XP after the battle? No idea. And this is not good, this stuff is supposed to be comprehensive. In this, World of Tanks is clearly superior (I assume this goes for the warplane version as well), I have a feeling here that the main point of the research system in War Thunder is “we have to make it different from WoT at all costs”. Anyway, as I said, I have no clue about this (and no, no need to explain, quite honestly at this point I don’t care much – by the way, is it my impression only, or is the reasearch very, very slow?) – I clicked something and the tank appeared on the bar below, along with some other planes.

This is by the way something I don’t get either – I won a plane battle earlier and a window popped up, saying that I recieved a personal plane of some fighter ace. Does that mean I got a new plane skin? Or a new premium plane? Decals? I have no idea.

Anyway, back to GF. As I said, I started clicking stuff and finally managed to join an “arcade” event mode. Starting with Germans, my “tier 1″ tank is Panzer II Ausf.F – meh, okay, can’t start with a Tiger, can we? Anyway, arcade battle, pressing battle, some briefing screen, I am supposed to uhhhhh conquer something? No idea. I am here to shoot stuff. I noted that the maps are actually “historical”, sort of – that’s kinda nice, I like the idea.

Sooo… map loading. It looks bigger than WoT and loads for half that time. Nice!

Oh. Same details as in planes. 10 FPS. Yea, okay, down to the ground. After setting everything on medium/low (included client restart), I managed to get it working at 40 FPS. And the game doesn’t look THAT bad either!

In fact, the game actually looks very pretty. On the same computer and same FPS, it looks prettier than World of Tanks. Nice! Rubbing my hands together with joy, I pressed the W key.

And that’s when everything got totally f*d up.

I don’t even know where to start to describe how bad this game actually is. Let’s start with the tank driving experience. If you have that “feel” about how tanks in WoT move – well, GF is nothing like that. Basically the tank is a race car on a wet asphalt strip. It goes easily into drift, it sways to the side and so on. I am quite sure the tanks don’t “stick to the ground” as much as in WoT, but they sure as hell don’t drift around like this either. And that’s not all. Crashing into objects damages you, which might be realistic, but it’s annoying as HELL. Oh, look, a tree? Let’s bring it down, I wanna see some action! Oh. Yea. Uhm. Okay, who needs engine anyway…

The movement just feels… I don’t know. More “action”, but less “steel behemoth” – maybe that’s just the fast Panzer II, but it’s quite different from World of Tanks, as I mentioned. What I noticed is that for some reason, water acts like a glue – you rush into a very shallow water stream at full speed, only to be immediately slowed down by it for no apparent reason. Odd.

And then there’s the physics. Think realistic “turning on your side” and such stuff is a good idea? Check this out:

…..and that’s how I spent three minutes trying to get out, until someone killed me. As far as I can tell, there is no “unstuck” button or anything – if you get stuck somewhere, you’re dead. Think this is fun? Wait till you see the ramming. Basically, I tried to ram a Panzer III at full speed. In real life, the impact would be devastating for both vehicles. But in War Thunder?

shot 2014.04.30 21.45.19
What happened here is that the Panzer II, instead of ramming the Panzer III, “climbed” its side (!), made a somersault (!!) and ended on its roof, completely helpless. Needless to say, Panzer III just laughed and (apparently undamaged) killed me. Very realistic.

Tank Combat

Anyway, the movement and physics, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed within the closed beta stage. The combat mechanics, that’s something else. Right off the bat, Ground Forces feel like “World of Tanks hardcore mode” – you know, the mode players sometimes request (less and less lately, thanks god).

- no silhouettes
- no hitpoints
- oneshots
- large maps

And couple of other “neat” features, like slow turret turning. As a result, the game is a lot more “realistic” and lot less “fun” than WoT. The combat… well, let me start by showing you this:

Yes, this is something you won’t see in World of Tanks. It looks actually beautiful, just being able to ride off like that. From one end of this (“tropical”) map to another, it took me like, I don’t know, three minutes? Doesn’t sound much, but in game terms, it’s a LOT – I am actually not sure how big the map really is, but definitely feels bigger than anything in World of Tanks. So imagine the joy, when you traverse this map, spend several minutes getting there and then in a space of one second, you get oneshotted by an enemy that you had no idea was there. And that’s arcade mode, I can very well imagine “simulator” mode being for masochists only.

As I mentioned, noone has any hitpoints, tanks can oneshot each other like in real life and there are no silhouettes. This leads to the obvious tactic: total and utter campfest. You go hulldown behind a rock with turrets sticking outand wait for someone to appear. The problem is, the other side does the same damn thing and the battles just feel really static in some cases.

Another “awesome” thing is the utter impotence of the 20mm autocannon of the Panzer II. I have no idea, whether it’s bugged, but in GF, it CANNOT PENETRATE THE SIDES of an early Panzer III at 100 meters. No shit. To top it all, the penetrations are really random (once I withstood two 37mm shells without any damage, while normally you get oneshotted easily). If you think WoT is random, wait till you see GF. It’s a RNG fest to the max.

The main issue with the battles (apart from them being static at points) is that they are chaotic. It’s hard to orient, you don’t have nearly as much info on the battle as you do in World of Tanks, it’s much more “hardcore”, but that’s not a good thing in my opinion – you can’t see shit over various foliage either (which there is plenty of everywhere). And of course, then there is the “planes and tanks on one map” part, where you get blasted apart by a plane you had no idea was there (that must also be fun).

And the sounds. They are just weird. Engine sound is okay I guess, but when I drive forward, there is this weird “burping” sound, as if the sound of the game was lagging. Is it a bug? Shifting gears? I don’t know, but it sounds very, very annoying.

Oh yes and the spotting system – how does it work? Like, you can see only stuff your commander really sees? How far? Several times, I basically just ran into enemy tanks hidden behind some boulder without having a clue they are there, that also kinda supports camping.

Versus World of Tanks

Despite all the issues named above, I am sure WT:GF will find its audience – very limited amount of audience I assume, because this game is NOT intuitive and it is NOT easy. It’s more “realistic” than WoT, but then again, you have to ask yourself, what is realistic on controlling a virtual tank with four buttons and a mouse? The entire advertising of “realism” in connection with War Thunder GF is an odd thing anyway. The game was allegedly claiming that the vehicles in it would be historical and all that, but the Panzer II for example is a total unhistorical mess and that’s only one blatant case. Tiger II with 105mm also never existed other than on the paper and so on and so forth.

It is my impression that currently, Ground Forces are what World of Tanks “hardcore mode” would be and I am deeply thankful Wargaming scrapped that idea. Oneshots are not fun. Having no clue what is going on is not fun. Having no clue what your shells will do is not fun. On the side note, I really, really hope Wargaming changes their mind about implementing the tanks turning over on their roof, for newbie players, it will be a total disaster, it looks weird and it gives you grief.
But… maybe some of you enjoy this sort of gameplay. I don’t, but I do understand at least some do. I do think, as I mentioned before, that the Ground Forces will draw only very limited amount of people and I also think it is not a good game, simply because it is not fun. That’s what games should be, fun, right? Sure, Wargaming has its own screwups and you know I will be the first person to admit that and write about it, but the entire concept of WoT is very good.
Here, the concept itself is flawed and that is IMHO the game’s biggest weakness. Bugs can be fixed (as I am sure they will), but the concept weakness, that’s something else. Gaijin will have a very hard time competing with World of Tanks. All those, who think Ground Forces will be much better than WoT, or even a “WoT killer” – no, they won’t. Ever. If you like realism, you can and probably will try it when it goes out, but if you are waiting for open beta only because “OMG WARGAYMING SUX I HAET SERB!!!1111″, I do believe that you will be disappointed, even if you never admit that.

WT hits a player high

On May the 16th, over 100 000 concurrent players were playing War Thunder.

Sometimes the devs quote player numbers in the millions, which is clearly an overclaim - certainly they may have that many downloads, or registrations, but not active players.

This number seems closer to the truth and still shows a very healthy community - bigger than for any other online flight game?

Monday, April 28, 2014

More on WT GF Beta

Hands On: War Thunder Ground Forces Closed Beta

By Christopher Livingston Rock Paper Scissors, on April 24th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.
Are we all going to the same war? We could have carpooled.
So, here’s a quick refresher: World of Tanks had tanks and War Thunder had planes, and then World of Warplanes had planes so now War Thunder Ground Forces, currently in closed beta, has both tanks and planes fighting in the same world. I feel like these free-to-play World War II MMOs are in an arms race, and soon they’ll be adding submarines and blimps and, I dunno, flying saucers. Anyway, if you’re wondering if Gaijin Entertainment is as good with tanks as they are with planes, I just spent a couple days rolling around in the Ground Forces beta to find out. Let’s tank a look, he said, vowing it would be his only tank pun.
Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.
The best way I can sum up Ground Forces is: it’s War Thunder, but now there are tanks. There’s really no adjustment period, everything still works the same, the tanks don’t feel shoehorned in, or out of place. It’s still the same game, except, you know… tanks. There are few different types of missions, but as in the plane portion of the game, they all basically boil down to two sides squabbling over control points. War Thunder’s three familiar game modes are also present: arcade battles with plentiful respawning and extra-helpful UI targeting elements, realistic battles (formerly historical battles) with scaled-back UI and limited lives, and simulator battles, with no third person view and no on-screen markers.
Damn commuter traffic.
Currently, only two of War Thunder’s five countries are tank-enabled, Germany and the U.S.S.R, each with a light starter tank and several different branches of progressively sturdier vehicles to earn. The level of detail is on par with the planes, which is to say, the tanks look very nice.
The controls are straightforward, and the arcade matches tend toward the action-packed side, with tanks speeding all over the map, firing constantly, and of course, lots and lots of ramming. In realistic mode, matches tend to be a bit more restrained and tactical, with players concealing their tanks behind boulders and hillsides, poking their snouts out just enough to spot the enemy and send a few shells their way.
Part tank. Part truck. All man. Er. No man.
These realistic matches are generally better and feel like a dangerous game of hide and seek, rewarding the more patient players and punishing those who try to conduct a tank derby. There are a few destructible elements on the maps, like stone walls, though I hope in the future there will be more objects to blow up, especially when someone is trying to use them for cover.
Think I'll wait behind this rock until... 1945.
As with War Thunder’s plane combat, taking damage doesn’t simply mean a health bar gets chipped away. A lot can happen when your tank is hit, depending on where it’s hit, and by what. Occasionally a single shell will completely destroy your tank or kill your crew, but other times your tracks will be damaged, or your suspension or transmission will get fried, or you might simply catch on fire. Some damage is fixable (at the expense of movement, leaving you quite vulnerable for long, nerve-wracking seconds), and sometimes a member of your crew, like the gunner or driver, is knocked unconscious, slowing your firing rate and reloading speed until they recover.
Henderson, what's the smell? Are you smoking back there?
There are only a couple of maps in the rotation, which actually works well for a beta that only operates for a few hours a day. After a handful of matches it becomes easy to memorize the best positions, the bottlenecks, and the trouble spots, and to learn where the enemy tanks will rush from and where they’ll take cover. Flying planes in these missions didn’t feel much different from normal War Thunder business: ground fire is ground fire, and it’s hard to tell if you’re being shot at from an A.I. anti-aircraft gun or a human player.
Shooting down a player-flown plane with your tank, though? That is a crazy amount of fun. You can unlock a few vehicles that specialize in anti-aircraft fire, like the GAZ-MM (a truck with an anti-aircraft cannon on the back) and I suggest you do it as soon as possible. That’s mostly what I spent my time doing, because shooting down planes from a tank is even more fun than shooting down planes from a plane.
I want my gear in top shape when it gets blown to hell.
Of course, propping up all this tank-on-plane-on-tank combat is War Thunder’s elaborate network of experience points (apparently now called research points, or RP), Silver Lions (the in-game currency, earned while you play) and Golden Eagles (bought with real money and traded for in-game currency), and all the menus, sub-menus, upgrades, progress bars, and sliders that come with it.
Keep in mind that using RP to unlock a new tank doesn’t mean you have a new tank. You still need to buy it (with Silver Lions), and naturally, buying it doesn’t mean you can drive it. You need to hire a new crew (with Lions) or train an existing crew (Lions again) on how to operate your new tank. If you’re out of Lions and just can’t wait to earn more by playing, that’s when you punch in your credit card number and buy some Golden Eagles.
Nobody laugh at my rusty butt!
Another thing to keep in mind: your tank, while new to you, is by no means a shining, polished piece of state-of-the-art technology. It’s rusty and dingy and and while it’ll get you around the battlefield, it needs improvement in all respects, like mobility (suspension, brakes, engine), protection (fire suppression, camo, armor), and of course, firepower. Don’t forget your crew, either, the same crew you just plunked down a couple thousand Lions for. The driver, loader, gunners, and commander can (and should) be upgraded so they’ll drive better, load faster, repair quicker, and spot enemies more easily. Naturally, just about all of this slider-sliding and upgrade-ifying can be sped up with an infusion of actual currency.
What, no slider for joie de vivre?
Not that spending a few bucks on the game is a bad thing. When I played the plane-only version some months ago, I spent about $15 buying Eagles, and I have no regrets. War Thunder is a lot of fun, and from what I’ve seen in the beta, Ground Forces will make it more so. I wouldn’t push anyone to spend real money on a pricey premium tank pack just to get into the closed beta, but when the beta opens up, I would absolutely recommend spending a few hours, and maybe even a few dollars, getting your tracks dirty.
Screw the control point. Imma shoot me some planes.

War Thunder Ground Forces Interview

Interview on Game Reactor with devs

Game Reactor caught up with global community manager Keith Donachie to discuss War Thunder and the upcoming expansion Ground Forces that adds tanks to the game. After tanks the plan is to add ships to the maps creating a complete World War scenario.

"The beauty is we're integrating tanks and aerial combat in the same battle. The ultimate aim of the game is to get all three services, all three mobilisation forces - sea, air and ground into the same battle and you're looking forward towards things like World War mode that's on the horizon. So that's coming as well. We don't know how that's going to pan out at the moment. We don't know what it's going to consist of, but the opportunity generally is driven by the playerbase. The development team have got a picture in mind of what they want to get out of the game. They'll of course head for that, cause they think it's right, but at the same time they have to listen to their playerbase."

Donachie kept coming back to the importance of the numbers and currently the game is limited to 16 on 16."At the moment we're talking about 16 vs 16 players in one battle. That's going to change as we go along. Cause we're going to need more players in the battle to be able to bring in the airforce section. We can't have 2 tanks and 14 planes. It's not going to work to well. But then we've got a matchmaker to balance these things out."
Ground Forces is launching fully at any time (early access in progress now) on PC, but PS4 players will have to wait a little longer. Donachie explained why this is and how things need to progress for Gaijin to be able to make War Thunder fully cross-platform.

"We're kind of at the mercy of Sony with this one unfortunately. They have a system where they don't release patches like we do on the PC version. We average a patch a week, whether it's a small or a large one. And there's usually a large patch every month or every two months. And Sony can't keep up with that, because they have to check all their files to make sure they come across. What we want, what we're aiming for is a cross-platform system. Cross-platform will allow PlayStation players, who are using the exact same software we are using on PC, it will allow them to play with PC players and vice versa. At the moment we can't do that until we can synchronise the game between the two. We've got to have the same version working on both. But because we're lagging behind on the PS4, because the release rate of the patches we just can't combine them at the moment. So Ground Forces probably looking towards quarter 3, quarter 4 before we see them on the PlayStation 4."