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Monday, October 20, 2014

What, you can't play Battle of Stalingrad with a mouse?!



Forgot to mention this in my review, and it is causing some angst among flight game fans so I thought I would make it really clear:

You can't use a mouse with Battle of Stalingrad. You need at least a joystick to play 'normal mode' and if you want to be able to survive online you will probably also need a set of rudder pedals, or at least learn how to use the Z/X keys on your keyboard to fly with the rudder, because without it your opponent will outturn you with ease and your arse will be grarse.


So be warned - and buyer beware...don't spend the money on this game unless you have the right kit.




Friday, October 17, 2014

Lets get airborne grunts!

War Thunder: ground up.

The great promise of War Thunder has always been that its fire-spitting aircraft and bomb-gobbing tanks would eventually join together in glorious phlegm-filled shooting matches. It’s been months since Ground Forces introduced tracked armour to the game - but it’s taken until this week’s update for tanks and planes to trade fire.

Update 1.43’s arcade mode allows players to use aircraft to support ground forces.

All players start the battle grounded, in tanks - but once they’ve destroyed two enemy machines, they’ll earn the right to whizz about in an attacker aircraft.

If they then blow up three tanks from the air, they’ll unlock the right to a heavy bomber - best used to “smash enemy armoured units with their bomb payload”.

Air-to-ground combat becomes an imperative during triggered ‘mini-events’. These are temporary shared objectives - to cause a huge amount of damage to particular enemy ground forces within a strict period of time. Tank players will call down these mini-events, and flying allies will cover their “devastating raids”. Opponents will do their best to intercept.

This last bit’s important for would-be pilots: tanks don’t pop out of existence while you’re dogfighting - so Gaijin encourage players to find an appropriate hidey-hole for the duration of their flight.

And don't blow up your own tank, OK boys and girls?

- pcgamesn.com

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Battle of Stalingrad developers ask fans to manipulate Metacritic

In one of the dummest moves ever seen in gaming, the makers of Battle Stalingrad asked their fans to go to Metacritic and write positive reviews to lift the score for their sim. They threatened that if this did not happen, the game would close by Christmas!

The post was deleted almost immediately, but not before it caused a furore.

You can see it here:

http://m.imgur.com/BfMs7kQ

There can be no doubt that plenty of media companies wish they could manipulate Metacritic, and that some even try. But very few actually post about it on a public forum! What are they putting in the vodka in Russia? The should try drinking single malt instead.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

IL2 Battle of Stalingrad for WT/WOW Fans: the full review



(For, by and to War Thunder/World of Warplane fans)

BOOMchuggalugga! Here we come...
Based on: BOS pre-release beta version (October 2014, 90% complete)

In a few short weeks time WT players who visit any sort of gaming website or forum are likely to see an advertising blitz for ‘IL2 Sturmovik, Battle of Stalingrad’.


As a War Thunder/Ground Forces or World of WarPlanes/Tanks/Ships player, this title wants to win your time and money, so what is it?

I’ll tell you this, and I won’t tell you any more:

IL2 Sturmovik Battle of Stalingrad (BoS) in 10 words or less

It’s a PC flight game being released November 2014.

OK, I'll tell you more: BoS in 100 words or less

It’s set in WW2, 1942, in Russia, with planes from Germany flying against planes from Russia. You can buy a version with 8 planes for 50 bucks/Euros, or with ten planes for 90 bucks/Euros. You can play in either ‘normal’ or expert mode. Normal mode is like War Thunder Arcade mode, and Expert mode is like Realistic mode, just even more realistic.

The Stalingrad map is flat, white, and snowy, with flat, white snowy bits, and icy rivers. And snow. Great for framerates on older PCs, a bit boring after you have flown over it a few times.
I love War Thunder/World of Warplanes, so why would I buy this?

If you have a gaming PC, mouse and a joystick (needs programmable joystick), you have 50+ bucks burning a hole in your pocket, and are looking for a more ‘realistic’ flight game than WT/WOW, this could be worth a look.

OK I read this far, give me a walkthrough

Right, you either download the standalone installer first, or buy it via Steam, and then there is a 3GB download. That installs and you get a start screen, in Russian. Don’t panic, you can change the language to English (only two language choices so far).

When you start the game you get this menu screen, which shows you whatever aircraft you last flew in, inside a hangar.


IL2 BoS menu screen, from the back.



OK OK, here is what she was looking at.
 Get airborne quickly without real people trying to kill you

You have several game options. The first is Quick Mission. Here you can choose one of three maps, two small and one the full Stalingrad area map. As a War Thunder player the first thing you will notice about these maps is this is Stalingrad, in winter. Expect flat landscape, snow, ice, and snow, and more ice. A few trees, scattered hovels, and a burned out (low-res) city. So far there is only one landscape, and this is it. But it isn’t as boring as it looks. Try landing on that snow, or even better, on the ice of the River Volga! See what happens ;)

This is the QMB interface. You can choose two flights on each side, of 4 planes each (or random numbers). The QMB lets you choose a few options, generates the mission (which you can fly from takeoff, or start in the air ready to go) and throws you into the action.





Choose your quick mission: 1-1, or up to 8 vs 8.
Choose your mods and options (but only if you have unlocked them in the campaign first)
Wait. Four planes? Like, a total of eight per side? Not much action to be had there, you might think. You might be right. More on this when we get to the single player campaign.

The good part is that all the planes you have bought, are available to you to fly – fighters, twin engined ground attack, bombers. No tech tree, no grinding, no ‘premium planes’ once you have paid for your download.



All of the planes have authentic flight models, very sophisticated flight models, that you can fly either on Normal (arcade) or Expert (Full Real) settings and full real really is full real. You will be much busier in the cockpit of a BoS plane than in Full Real in WT, because all controls are modelled, even down the last knob and switch.

Dumb it down, switch it up

A good thing about the interface is that you can start in Arcade (normal) mode, and then switch off a lot of the GUI interface stuff to make it more realistic for yourself: you can independently switch off map icons, plane indicators, aim helpers, target locators, in game messages about the condition of your plane (‘tailplane rods broken!’), or external views, and switch on things like complex engine management (startup sequence, radiator and temp management, prop pitch and RPM) when you are ready.

The QMB is a good way to get to know each of the aircraft without someone on your tail ruining your day while you are still trying to work out which way is up.

Now get airborne and kill some human pilots

This leads us to multiplayer. Here, the game is a very different to War Thunder. In War Thunder there is a whole support system behind your plane that you have to look after – keeping up with repairs, upgrades and crew skills keeps you almost as busy sometimes as the actual flying, or in the worst cases, keeps your favourite machine grounded. And of course there is the tech tree to climb up, or buy into, before you get the right plane at the level you like.

In BoS multiplayer you are free to fly any machine, out of the box. There is no maintenance, and if you get damaged or killed, you just restart and fly a fresh new machine again next time. Some WT players are going to LOVE that. I do! But others may miss that element of the game.

Unfortunately, there are really only limited online options right now – no free for all, or historic modes, and only one type of map (flat/snowy!). On the official servers, you can either take off from the ground in the thick of the action, or take off in the air, away from the action. I think it should be the other way around, to avoid vulching, but there you go. The action is all player vs player, so it feels like an endless LIVE/DIE/REPEAT of PVP encounters. I did have some success starting in a big bomber, the He111 Heinkel, and on chat I got a few fighters to accompany me as I tried to break through and wipe out the enemy base. We got to the base, I dropped my bombs (missed darnit), and got shot down by flak (flying too low) while my escorts were bored because no one came up to attack us, so they soon went down low to swat or be swatted.

Pick a side, pick a plane, mod it up. Start in the air, or on the ground for missions with full takeoff and landing. Basic PVP gameplay, but you play this game for the realism, not the variety. This is about dogfighting in REAL Full Real, if you are man enough.
On some of the unofficial servers there have been properly created coop missions like this, and historical missions with proper ground attack targets, escorts etc, but the best of these servers was recently shut down by the devs in a spat over some design decisions, so the full potential of multiplayer in BoS is yet to be seen.

Most servers at the moment however have only 20 or so players on each side. If you like skies full of targets, you may be disappointed – in one mission on a server on the large map, there were only 20 players and I could not find them before the mission timer ran out!  You won't see much ground action either, just a gun emplacement or stationary vehicle here or there.

Now here comes the catch – there is a series of weapon/armour/bombload mods and ‘unlocks’ that you will want to use in multiplayer, including cool skins for your death ride. BUT to get them you have to play through the Single Player game first. They can’t be unlocked in multiplayer.
You can only use the weapons, mods, and skins online, that you have unlocked in single player mode.
Ara cod?! (As we say in my parts, or WTF as you probably say in yours). Yes, you heard right, to get the pimped up ride with the big cannon and armour plate in Multiplayer, you have to unlock it in Single Player. Now the bizarre part is that you do get awarded points in multiplayer for successful missions where you make a kill or two and land your machine. But those points do not count.

Thassok, I love Call of Duty style single player campaigns!

Bad luck, nothing like that here.

This is the part of the game that has provoked the most angst among people who bought into the beta access. Single player in BoS, when you come from the multiplayer world of WT, is MIND NUMBINGLY I’D-RATHER-KISS-MY-GRAN-ON-THE-MOUTH BORING.

For a full description see my earlier post, HERE

After playing about ten missions, I will tell you why it is so boring.

Ten reasons the BoS campaign sux

- It sux, but you are forced to play it to unlock weapons for multiplayer

- It is just the Quick Mission Builder with different lines drawn on the map in the briefings

- There isn’t enough action, most of the time you do not see any enemy planes on the way to, or from the target

- Even when you do see the enemy, there are not many of them, and the campaign does not even use all types, so you just see the same aircraft over and over

- It takes about 20 boring missions to unlock all the mods for a plane

- There are ten planes in all so

- That means 200 boring missions to unlock all the weapons for all the planes

- You also have to win XP to unlock the different airfields on each side, but

- All the airfields look the same

- There is no plot, just a series of chapters with random missions and few medals to win


So, you don’t like the campaign?

It’s desperate. Actually, I wouldn’t really care about it, except these game developers called 1C/777 appear to have learned their gameplay politics from Stalin: “We have a clever five year plan, we are going to make you play single player for five years before you are allowed to play multiplayer with mods, even if that is why you bought the game.”

Or is that really the whole story?

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next man (who looks more like a woman in disguise dont yers think?). So here is my theory.

BoS went the premium box route in beta to scrape up a lot of quick cash, charging IL2 Sturmovik enthusiasts up to 90 bucks to play the beta. But that is not their audience, or why would they do this stupid system with single player unlocks for multiplayer use? Why would they make a game with so many War Thunder elements, which the IL2 Sturmovik fans think are unnecessary at best, unserious at worst.

Ask me, the answer to any question involving male behaviour is always binary: either MONEY or SEX.

Since I don’t think the devs are launching BoS to get laid more (though it might be a side benefit if they get rich) the answer therefore is MONEY. So how does this strange design decision make them more money?

Here's how. As soon as sales of the premium boxed version peak, they are going to release a free to play version (see post about that HERE) though they are currently making out they are not saying they 'currently have no plans for a free version'. They are fibbing.

You’ll get a free to play version with two planes and the ability to win the others via XP.

But you, dear gamer, are going to say ‘Screw that campaign shite, I’ll just buy some IL2Roubles™ and trade my roubles for the Peshka with the 20 mm ShVAK cannons, seatback armour, and snow camouflage skin with skull and crossbones emblem.' And then, when you get bored of that, you are going to want a new machine, the bigger bombs that go BOOM, and racing stripes on the wings, so you’ll buy those, and … starting to sound familiar? You’ll feel like you are back in WT before you know it, except these airplanes are hard core and much more of a challenge to fly Full Real.

OK should I buy it or what?

Not yet. If there is a free demo when it launches – try that.

If not, wait for the free to play version. It will come with two planes (the Lagg3 and Bf109F4). If it is like the other title from these guys, Rise of Flight, these might come with some of the weapon mods and skins unlocked, but mostly not, so you’ll have to earn the XP or buy them.

I can’t wait man! I am tired of WT high tier Realistic mode in my dented Typhoon. I need to either repair my Typhoon (again) or buy a new game.

OK friend, you have two options.

Burn 50 bucks now, and SUCK GRANDMA’s FACE playing the BoS single player game to unlock the weapons you need to play multiplayer in your new death machines.

Spend 20 bucks (or 10 when it is on sale, which it frequently is) buying and playing Cliffs of Dover, which is what I prefer to do. And HERE is why I recommend that.

Monday, October 6, 2014

World of Warships gameplay stream

(Ahoy there mateys...sorry, couldn't help it.)

The narrators should have done this in pirate voices, is all I'm sayin'.



WoWP vs WT: faceoff

(BBQ ribs, vs Cajun Chicken? Or more to it than that?)

Epic Dogfight: Our World of Warplanes Vs. War Thunder Comparison Review

by Spunkify | on January 3, 2014 | MMOBOMB.com




There’s a battle going on in the virtual skies, and it ain’t pretty. One one side, you have the juggernaut known as Wargaming and its B-52 of a title, World of Warplanes. It’s opponent is the smaller, nimbler Gaijin Entertainment and War Thunder. One will rule the skies while the other goes down in flames!

OK, that’s a little overly dramatic. It’s entirely possible that WoWP and WT can co-exist in the free-to-play gaming space, each game with its own fanatical player base. I’ve played a fair bit of both, and while the preference of the MMOBomb staff isn’t hard to discern, if you’ve been paying attention, I think both games have their good and bad points. Let’s break them down, shall we?

Controls

Much has been made of the control issues with World of Warplanes, through its beta and continuing into launch, especially when compared with War Thunder. While I prefer WT’s scheme, I will admit it feels a little more “arcade-y” and less realistic. I won’t claim to be a flight sim expert, but that seems a little out of place for a game modeled on real aircraft and not on, say, X-wings and TIE Fighters.

Still, I can’t deny that my dogfights, whether 1v1 or involving multiple planes, have been more enjoyable in WT, largely due to the greater range of movement. Some planes in WoWP handle like absolute bricks – again, realistic but generally unenjoyable – which is fine for bombers but not for anything expected to aim at and actually shoot opponents. The introduction of G-forces in WT puts a soft cap on just how crazy you can get with your planes, letting the player be the judge of how much to maneuver, and not the game engine.

And is there anything cooler than having your engine shot out and still managing to pull off a perfect landing? Every time I do that in War Thunder, I breathe an exhilarating sigh of relief. I wish something like that existed in World of Warplanes.

Gameplay

Controls aside, how does it play? Here’s a spot where War Thunder is the winner, hands down. Being able to pilot five planes into action overcomes the biggest weakness of World of Warplanes, that being spending more time in a loading screen/pre-match than in the actual game, thanks to an early exit.

It also makes grinding out matches far less tedious, because you’ll have a number of different planes to trot out, rather than feeling like you’ve been flying that… same… single… damn… plane… forever.

Since you won’t likely win by destroying all your opponents in WT, you’ll actually need to concentrate on ground targets and other objectives, a mostly ignored facet of WoWP battles, which are typically just 15-on-15 deathmatches. Toss in scenarios and the promise of full integration with ground forces, and it’s hard to see anything WoWP does better here than WT.




Feedback

This is the general category I use to describe how good a game is at letting you know what you’re doing. All games are simulations – you don’t actually fly a plane or swing a sword or shoot a gun – so how the game lets you know what you’re doing by clicking buttons – and, importantly, if you’re doing it right – is important.

This is one category where World of Warplanes trumps War Thunder. I can sometimes light up an opponent in WT for several seconds and only get one “hit” notification. Am I hitting him? Am I missing? Is he close to being downed?

WoWP doesn’t leave that to the imagination. You’ll see the HP of your foe and get a flash every time you deal damage, so you always know exactly how you’re doing. The same applies to damage to your own plane. On some level, I can see how that takes away from the immersion and might make the WoWP experience seem a little more artificial, but I prefer having clearer indicators of my performance.

Interface

Even if you prefer a more “natural” combat experience, once you’re out of your plane, you want all the data you can to determine how you’ve done and how you can improve your plane. Again, WT suffers from a clunky menu system, uneven localization, and, as mentioned before, often little idea about your plane’s capabilities.

World of Warplanes, on the other hand, simplifies matters by presenting you with four stats for each plane – speed, maneuverability, firepower, and HP – which you can use to easily gauge your plane’s capabilities. The interface for upgrades also seem cleaner and easier to navigate, but I’ll admit that might just be to my familiarity with World of Tanks‘ system.




WoWP’s system might be considered too simplistic for some, but I think there’s enough complexity in other elements of both games that you don’t need to obfuscate simple math, especially for a free-to-play game that could potentially appeal to millions.

Finally, though I haven’t progressed exceptionally far in either game, it seems to me that WT is far more generous with its rewards and prices for new planes and upgrades for free players. There is still some grinding involved for raising your level, but the currency flows at a very high rate.

On the one hand, World of Warplanes is generally easier to understand and has much better polish and market penetration. On the other hand, War Thunder is easier to pick up and play and, in my opinion, is just more gosh-darn fun. I wish we could merge the in-game aspects of WT with the out-of-game aspects of WoWP.

War Thunder’s recent revision to its aircraft tiers is a good step in the right direction, but Gaijin Entertainment’s got a lot of ground to make up before it can truly compete with the big boys at Wargaming. Conversely, Wargaming could stand to learn a thing or two from its competitors, especially with the Ground Forces expansion for War Thunder coming soon. Wargaming is still king of this space, but Gaijin is going to steadily take pieces out of that market share throughout 2014.

By Jason Winter

Fantastic live action trailer

Probably the best game trailer ever produced?



What do you think?

BoS Free version does exist!

(Or at least, official discussion about it.)

When I was checking the stats on the blog this week (thanks by the way to the 380 people who visited daily this week!) I was interested to see a lot of hits from this URL

http://forum.il2sturmovik.com/topic/11147-free-version/

Clicking on the link shows it is part of the IL2 Sturmovik devs closed forum,  so I can't see the content.

What are they talking about in there? Lets hope they are discussing the release date for the free version! More likely it is project supremo Jason Williams telling his people to take a chill pill and focus on shipping some of the Premium Edition units first so they can pay everyone for Christmas ...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Battle of Stalingrad Free 2 Play WT style?

(One day...not soon.)

A small hope rose in my hairy Irish chest when I read that the flight game IL2 Sturmovik, Battle of Stalingrad (BoS) is 'probably' going to launch a free version with a tech tree, weapon mods and awards you can unlock via gameplay, and an easy (arcade) mode designed to attract new players.

Now, where did I put that BoS log on password? It has been three months since I last looked at BoS and decided it was too expensive, at either 50 or 90 dollars for standard or premium editions, to recommend to War Thunder players.

That type of money buys 10,000 Golden Eagles for War Thunder, ie a ton of fun.

So I went back and reinstalled BoS (yes, had to do a full re-install, the game is still in beta) to see what had changed.

With PR staffers like this, it has to be great right?!

Leading you through the thought process that followed:

"Ok, there is a new campaign mode. Training missions, OK boring but quickly overwith. Cool, I already have all the planes unlocked. Wait...I already have all the planes unlocked?"

"Oh, so, it's just the weapon mods that are locked. I'd prefer to have to earn the aircraft, but OK, I guess I paid for them all. Play a few missions. (pretty boring, dumb AI bots, prefer to play against other humans any day)..unlock a couple of weapon mods. Is that it? That's the whole idea?"

"Ok, let's try multiplayer, see what Experience Points system does in multiplayer...uh, what? No changes to multiplayer, no points system, no tech tree, no weapons mods, just PvP."

That was a sneak peak inside my head for the couple of hours I spent in the BoS pre-release version. This version is now pretty much complete, after some bug testing and GUI tweaks it will go Gold.

What about this Free Version then?

The 777 project lead, Jason Williams, says there is 'NO plan to release a free version'. Funny that - his people said otherwise in a recent video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guA-Cm9jDRs

Here they stated very, very clearly that the game will be released in a version with two planes, where you have to unlock the other planes with experience points earned in the game. Though they didn't say it specifically this sounds identical to their other titles, like Rise of Flight, which is free to play with two planes. Williams has now gone radio silent.

So I am betting Jason Williams is probably speaking sneaky speak: 'We have no plans' does not mean 'We will not', instead it means 'We have talked about it, can do it any time we like, will probably do it soon, but now, right now, no we have no concrete plan to do it. Probably. Because if we told you that we did, you wouldn't shell out 90 bucks for our Premium edition would you?'

My advice for WT players thinking of BoS

So I would say for now, if you have a lazy 50-90 Euro/bucks, spend it on Golden Eagles for premium planes, extra crew, and accelerated training.

And wait for the free version of BoS before you try it. Trust me, there will be a free version sooner or later. I will close this blog if there is not!

T
he standard/premium BoS games at 50 and 90 dollars aren't worth the money, in my opinion, if you are looking for decent gameplay - there simply isn't any at all in the online 'game' in BoS, only the offline campaign game, and not much there either unless you like shooting down brain dead bots.

BoS isn't War Thunder, and it isn't IL2: so what the heck is it?

Where I come from we have a saying "There are only two types of people, the Irish, and those who wish they were." You could say the same of flight games: there is War Thunder, and those games who wish they were.

BoS is one of those wannabees, but in trying to land halfway between flight simulation and true flight game, they have landed in no mans land.

But maybe they'll make some changes before they release their free version that will be game changers, so stay tuned!

Can World of Warships succeed where World of Planes failed?


(That's a maybe...)

World of Warships is quietly brilliant


World of Warships preview
On the first day of creation, Wargaming separated the heaven and the earth. The earth, they named World of Tanks, and unleashed small steel bungalows to shoot at each-other. They named it World of Tanks, and saw that it was good. 
The heaven, they named World of Warplanes, which was like World of Tanks, but with metal buzzards. But it wasn’t quite as good as World of Tanks, and it didn’t leave beta for like a bazillion years and suddenly everyone’s making tank games and good grief, Wargaming got rich enough to hire a troop of skydivers to create their logo in the sky, because fuck it, when you’ve got this much money what else is left? 
And then they created the seas, and on them, they floated ten storey steel ducks, and let them shoot at eachother. 
And at GamesCom, I saw that it was also, very good. 
Why? 
Because boats are cool. Boats mirror what made World of Tanks good, and World of Warplanes less good: they are slow and hulking, with surprising tactical depth (GEDDIT, HA HA) and they don’t require to reactions of a ferret to direct or shoot. 
World of Warships
In Warships, you can control the biggest and smallest ships of the Japanese navy in, relatively large - 32 players or thereabouts, battles across the ocean. Winning requires planning, communication, and judgement - along with a good aim and no small amount of spatial awareness. 
The ships control in two ways: you can direct them using the WASD keys where the A and D control the forward and backward movement, and the W and D directions. Or, you can zoom out to a tactical map and plan a route, like a proper captain. With your course plotted, you then aim your cannons - except they’re slow, suffer from perceptible lag, and in most cases, don’t completely cover the full extent of your craft. And lastly, you fire: but shells take a good while to hit from anything other than point black range. 
It works. The controls are simple and welcoming, but allow for interesting tactics. This isn’t a sim, and it isn’t an arcade game. It’s something in-between - a pastiche, I guess, but a loving one. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing with boats in a videogame - certainly more fun than Total War’s pondering naval engagements, definitely more approachable than sims like Silent Hunter, far-far deeper than the Pirates games. 
You can sense just how carefully designed this game is in what Wargaming allow you to control, or, more accurately, what they don’t. Players direct torpedoes manually - and they’re given a zone of probability as to where they will strike. Playing as a torpedo boat is just as fun as playing as a big destroyer or even aircraft carrier: you’re effectively playing as a shark, trying to use the cover of small islands to get into position before loosing off a barrage and slinking away.
But then, playing as an aircraft carrier, or other boat with aerial escort, you have no real control over your friendly aircraft - save ordering them to target certain craft - they’ll do damage and protect you, but that’s all left to AI. 
It’s fine, because I soon discovered the most dangerous foe in World of Warships is rarely the other players. Instead, it’s tunnel vision: becoming so attached to lobbing shells at your enemies that you don’t notice the tiny islets dotted about the playfield. 
Which leads to a truly embarrassing death. Bouncing off a little peninsula, hitting full reverse, and desperately trying to play it cool as shell after shell lands on my deck. Game over.
I turn to the developer leading the demonstration. 
“Can I have another go?”