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Thinking On Tank Crew Skills April 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Tanks.
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15 comments

My time with World of Tanks can be divided into two eras.

There was beta, launch, and immediately after, during which I played a lot but then tapered off, with my last surge coming when I bought the Type 59.  And then there is Patch 8.0 and beyond.  Patch 8.0 was the great physics update which revitalized the game for me, fixing some of my key annoyances, and got me to come back and play.

Of course, a lot had changed between these two eras besides the physics.  Tank trees, tanks, countries, and skills had all be shaken up in that time.  I have taken on things by turns, and now I am looking at skills.

For those who do not play the game, you tank has a crew that actually translates your inputs into actions.  So you may aim and click the button to shoot the cannon on your tank, but the skills of your gunner play heavily into the accuracy of that shot.  And you increase the skills of your crew by playing.  They gain experience over time.

In the first era there was but one skill.  Each crew member had a function, like gunner, loader, or driver, and a skill level associated with that.  At 100% you were done training and that was that.

At some point when I had faded from the game, Wargaming.net added in secondary skills.  So now, after your crew hits 100% in their primary skill, they can learn additional skills to help them at their job.

I handled this the way I often handle these sorts of skill changes.  I picked some likely looking candidates and moved on to play.  After a while and a bit of reflection, I came up with a pattern, a standard set of skills I assign my crews.

First off, the secondary skills are actually divided into skills and perks.  Skills come into effect immediately and get more effective as you learn the skill.  Perks, which tend to be better, do nothing while you learn them, only providing benefit when you get them to 100%.  That can take a while, as the game wiki points out.

A Graph! How much exp per skill!

A Graph! How much exp per skill!

I never know how long I am going to play a given tank.  So my first decision was skills only, avoid perks.  And for quite a while I was in no danger of getting to 100% on skills or perks, so it seemed like a wise course.  I settled down to the following as a general template:

  • Commander – Mentor (+10% primary skills for crew)
  • Gunner – Snap Shot if vehicle has a turret, Armorer if not
  • Driver – Controlled Impact (because I love when people die ramming me)
  • Radio Operator – Situational Awareness
  • Loaders – Repair, Fire Fighting, or Camouflage

So my KV-3 crew follows that pattern. (Which you can verify if you know what the tiny icons mean.)

KV-3 Crew

KV-3 Crew

After a while, I started getting to crews that had a skill trained up to 100% and needed to start on a second skill.  But I had chosen all of what I perceived as the “good” skills the first time around.  And since the climb to 100% for the second skill is, as the chart above indicates, about double the effort, I didn’t want some useless perks idling there for all that time.

So I looked into retraining.

You can reset you skills and perks for a price.  For 200 gold, which seems like a lot (and which is probably the point), you can simply swap them out with no penalty.  For credits you can swap them, but lose 10% of your skill points.  I have chosen both options at this point, but the skill point loss isn’t so bad if you wait for a bit getting into your second skill.  I am happy so long as I don’t have to do that last 5% over again to get the first one to 100%.

With a reset, I could inject perks into the first position and then put the same skills I had been training before into the second slot.  Being mildly obsessed with crew skills, I went with Band of Brothers for the first slot across the whole crew.  This perk boost crew skills beyond 100%, but only if everybody in the crew has it.

So I have a couple of crews that look like my T-150 crew now:

T-150 crew with Band of Brothers

T-150 crew with Band of Brothers

So you can see that with Brothers in Arms across the whole crew, plus the commander training Mentor again, plus ventilation added to the tank, my gunner is running at 121% skill level.  And he has Snap Shot well under way, though it you look at that curve above, 74% is about the half way point to being done.  A long ways to go yet.

I was generally satisfied by this, with the view that better crew skills was the optimum choice.

However, when I finally got my Type 59 crew up to their first skill at 100%, I began to wonder if a 5% skill boost was worth tying up the whole first slot.  So I decided to experiment with them.  The Type 59 was the crew where I first picked skills and perks, and did so at random, not yet understanding the whole “skill  vs. perk” thing.  So they had some perks mixed in that I never bothered to retrain.  So I decided to stick with them.

Type 59 crew

Type 59 crew

For the commander, I chose Sixth Sense, which I am beginning to really depend upon.  I play the Type 59 either on the flanks, looking for a good shoot, or as a passive scout, parked in the middle of what would otherwise be a giant gap in our lines as the rest of the team tries press up either flank.  3 seconds after I have been spotted, a little light bulb shows up on screen, and I know it is time to trot.  Now, in that 3 second gap, the bad guys can, and often do, take a shot at me.  But not always, and it at least keeps arty from raining down on me.

The for a second skill, I chose Mentor, which is my standard.

My gunner has Deadeye, which is supposed to increase critical damage.  The boost is only 3%, so I am wondering if I ought to retrain and take Designated Target instead, which keeps targets in your scope visible for an extra two seconds than they otherwise would.  That can be the difference between getting off a good shot or not.

My driver camo, which certainly doesn’t hurt when playing passive scout, and Controlled Impact because, as I said, I like to punish those who ram.

My loader/radio operator has Situational Awareness and Repair because… why not?

And this seems to have worked out well enough and again undermines my initial faith in Brothers in Arms as a worthwhile use of a skill/perk slot.  Is that 5% worth it or not?  It apparently also boosts mentoring a bit, but as you can see above, by all of 1%.

I have two vehicles coming up where I am going to have to decide how to move forward.  The KV-3, whose crew I showed above, and the Jagpanther, which I suspect I will be driving a lot in April, since it is the Tank of the Month and gets a 30% boost to credits.

For the Jagpanther, I am going to go with something akin to the Type 59 crew.  Sixth Sense for the commander and Designated Target for the gunner being my gut priority.

And with the KV-3, which tends to be a giant shot magnet, I am tending towards Eagle Eye, Deadeye, Preventative Maintenance, Safe Stowage, and whatever repair and fire fighting skills I can squeeze in, just to enhance survivability.  Six Sense seems like a waste as pretty much everybody seems to see me when I move around.

What do you think?  How do you fill up the skill/perk slots on your crews?  What seems to really help and what is a waste of a slot?

Winnowing Down My Soviet Heavies February 19, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Tanks.
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8 comments

One of the problems with World of Tanks is that, after a while, you can start to end up with a big pile of tanks in your garage.

And there are only so many tanks you can effectively play.

You get your daily bonus experience for your first win, you have crews you want to train up, you have tanks that are not yet fully equipped, and you want to get to that “next” tank at some point.

And so I found myself rather stretched when it came to Soviet heavy tanks once I acquired the KV-3.

I had a KV-1, a KV-2, a T-150, a KV-3, and a Churchill III all competing for my attention, in addition to the French experiment and my on again/off again affair with the German TDs. (Inching closer to that Jagpanther.)  Plus, keeping a tank means tying up valuable resources.  Extra equipment costs credits, and not all of it can be swapped without cost.  And garage slots cost money as well.  So I decided to trim one tank from the garage.

But which one?

The KV-3 is my newest acquisition and a stepping stone to my tier IX aspirations that were part of my 2013 goals.

I couldn’t drop that.

Looking less like the T-150 now

KV-3 on everybody’s favorite map

The Churchill III is a premium tank and has an experience bonus (1.3x) that makes it a good place to get a little extra training for my Soviet heavy tank crews.  So it was staying.

Churchill III

Churchill III

The KV-1 is just a fun tank to play.  In many ways it is the king of tier V.  And being down in that bracket means I can platoon with the rest of our clan more easily and still play a heavy.

I have you now BDR!

KV-1 gets the drop on a BDR

Which left the KV-2 and the T-150.  One of them would have to go.  And I was initially in favor of keeping the KV-2 for the same reasons I got it in the first place; it is just different from the other Soviet heavies I have.

152mm KV-2

152mm KV-2

Meanwhile, the T-150 seems to be a bridge of sameness between the KV-1 and the KV-3.  A stock T-150 looks exactly like a KV-1, while a stock KV-3 looks just like an upgraded T-150.  Why keep the one in the middle?

The only thing that kept me from dropping it right away was that I had trained up its crew so that they had their first skill (band of brothers) and were well into their second skill.  I was going to just re-certify them on the KV-3, but the new tank has an additional crew slot, and unless the whole crew has band of brothers, it does nothing.

But I stripped the T-150 of its equipment and left it sitting in the garage unplayed for a week or so.  But I also skipped playing the KV-2 for that week as well, so I began to consider selling them both.

And then I read an article about how to play the T-150.

I was particularly struck by the teaser line for the article.

You know how every tank description says not to lead, but instead back up another tank? This is the tank they back up.

That seemed to be the heavy tank role I was looking to play. So I decided to dive in and try it.

Unfortunately, purchasing the KV-3 and strained my credit balance a bit.  To really do this I needed to get some credits to equip the T-150.  And so I sold off the KV-2 and all of its equipment, moving the crew into the barracks.  That game me enough credits to add on the large caliber gun rammer and class 3 ventilation, improving my reload time and crew performance.  I did not have quite enough left for the large spall liner, but it is on the shopping list.

Then I went out and tried to apply what I had read.  And it mostly worked.

In random public matches it can be a challenge to get anybody to coordinate with you.  Still, when I end up at the top of the heap, saying “I am going up route X, follow me if you want to hide behind my bulk!” in chat before a match gets some cooperation going.  And what works for the T-150 seems to apply to the KV-3 as well.

The biggest change for me is getting used to seeing my tracks as a renewable shield rather than a vulnerable spot to be protected.  It still sucks when arty rains down on you though.  Gotta get that spall liner… and a fire extinguisher.

And when I am low on the list, I just find a higher tier heavy to hide behind and try and get in my licks that way.

Meanwhile, I have put the KV-2 crew into the Churchill III for now, training them up slowly (and swapping out the extra loader now and again to keep them caught up) as the potential crew for the KV-4.  Once I get there.

La Lutte Continue!

Heavy Tanks and Big Guns February 11, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Tanks.
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9 comments

It was a good weekend for tanks.

The match maker smiled upon me and my win/loss ratio tilted in favor of wins.

This was enhanced by a couple of matches where the generic loud-mouth on chat who died first and spent the rest of the time telling us how we were going to lose because we didn’t follow/support/obey them, ended up having to watch us win by using the very tactics they said would guarantee a loss.

That never gets old.

On the progress front, Potshot and I were able to carry on with our French heavy tank spree.

Potshot and I stalking...

Potshot and I stalking…

Despite some comedy moments, the fully upgraded BDR G1B is turning out to be a formidable tank.

I bet the KV-1 can't do this!

I bet the KV-1 can’t do this!

As Potshot noted, the 90mm gun makes a big difference.  It does a lot of damage and will plow through most armor on which it can draw a bead.  This has lead to some really good matches.

Not bad for a defeat

Not bad for a defeat

Part of it is people do not seem to expect much from the BDR.  The “egg” is dismissed as an easy target.  People get greedy trying to get a cheap kill.

I have had any number of opposing tanks sit in the open shooting at me, thinking they’ll do me in without injury once I come out of cover.  I had one M4 driver rail at me for being a “wallet warrior” since I was clearly using premium ammo.  I caught him broadside, where he was sitting and waiting for me, which knocked him down under 20% health and set him on fire.  The fire, in turn, finished him off… something I always enjoy.  However, no premium ammo was involved.  That stuff is expensive and I am an avowed cheapskate.

And part of my cheapness this past weekend came from having dropped a lot of credits on a new vehicle.  I am now officially in tier VII, having finally made it to the KV-3.

It looks like my T-150...

It looks like my T-150…

I literally missed the KV-3 being half price by one day.  As I was getting close, I checked the price and it was ~700K credits.  And then when I got that last bit of experience and trained for it, the price had jumped to ~1.4 million credits.

Ouch.

I had the credits… and I can always make more driving the Type 59… but the KV-3 is the most expensive tank I have purchased so far.  And once I got it out in matches… well… it played a lot like my T-150.

The profile is very close

No, really, it looks like a T-150

Well, a lot like the fully upgraded version of the T-150 at least.  (The base T-150 played like the KV-1.)

And well it might.  Since I was low on credits, I moved all the accessory equipment… camo net, binocular telescope, large gun rammer… over from the T-150.  I stole the 107mm gun from my KV-2.  That is the same gun I have on the T-150.  All of which left those other two vehicles less than useful and makes me wonder whether I should hang on to them or not.

The T-150 plays better in general, but the KV-2 can be, as I said, comedy gold with the 152mm gun.  Though, to be honest, I haven’t played the KV-2 at all since I got the T-150, and with the T-150 I was primarily focused on getting to the KV-3.  And now I am focused on upgrading the KV-3, so I suspect that one or both of those tanks should probably be sold off, if only to save me the gold price of another garage slot.

The argument for keeping at least one of those two is that with 5 person crews, I couldn’t just transfer either group en masse to the KV-3.  The T-150 crew already has the first skill/perk, band of brothers, which needs everybody in the crew to have it for it to be in effect.

Meanwhile, the heavier armor of the KV-3 seems to suit my “village idiot” play style.  I managed to get the upgraded suspension and the heavier turret, making me even more heavily armored.

Looking less like the T-150 now

Looking less like the T-150 now

So when I wander out into the open and get myself killed, I now seem to survive long enough to take a few opponents with me.

Sailing the river Styx in good company

Sailing the river Styx in good company

In the picture above, my wreck sits amongst my victims.  I was sitting in the open, killing a TD when I noticed the Panther-M10 sitting behind me, shooting into my backside.  I slowly brought the turret around and killed him in two shots.  While that was going on, a Black Prince rammed me and then sat there shooting into my flank until I turned and killed him.  I was immobile at that point, so turned and got off a hit on another foe before artillery finally did me in.

That’s a tough tank.

Now I have to work on getting to the bigger guns and the better engines.  We shall see if the match maker remains kind to me and whether or not this tank really fits me.  I am a bit apprehensive, if only because the next tank in the Soviet heavy KV tree is the KV-4, which has some mixed press.  Heavy armor and an accurate top gun are good, but we’re definitely sailing deep into “slow and as big as a house” territory with this big boy.

Of course, the BDR G1B has mixed press as well, and I find it to be fun, so we shall see.

Lag, Losses, and Mods January 14, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Tanks.
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14 comments

It has sort of becomes a regular item here, the post-weekend World of Tanks summery.  I am a creature of habit.

Of course, it helps if there is something new to write about.  And last week, that seemed to be in question.

I have played shooters in the past and have rarely been anything beyond mediocre on my best days, which means I depend on my team mates for wins.  I am best in support of somebody who knows what they are doing.  So I have had to get used to the random matches where the quality of your team mates can vary greatly.  Sometimes you get a good group and they come together, and sometimes you get… something else.

Last week I was doing poorly in that regard.  One evening I had a 19 loss run.  So went my semi-even win/loss record.  And while that was the low point, wins seemed to be pretty rare for me until the weekend, when I did make up some ground.

A loss streak like that does cast a light on some of the regular characters in the game.

There is the guy who needs to broadcast to all that his noob team sucked.  Just so we all know it wasn’t his fault, though he usually has time to broadcast because he’s already been knocked out.

There is the scout who rushes ahead, spots the whole enemy force just leaving their laager, dies, and then rages about how the arty, which wasn’t even in range, failed.  I think he is related to the guy who runs off on his own, dies, then rages that nobody supported him.

There is the “one true objective” guy with his mantra, “take the hill and win the match.”  I’ve been on teams that have taken the hill and still lost, especially during Himmelsdorf encounter battles.  This actually comes in two flavors, the guy who says it before the match, and the guy who says what we should have done after it is clear we’re losing.

And the one I always appreciate, the dead guy who is watching now you play and telling you that you suck.  This guy can pop up whether you are winning or losing.  I had a guy kibitzing like this the other night.  I was in a position where I was taking long range flanking shots at three of the other team that couldn’t move forward.  A guy starts telling me that I suck, Churchill III is in accurate, I need to push on, blah blah blah.  And, as he said this I made 20+ hits, killed two, and seriously damaged a third bad guy, none of whom could spot me.  To me, this seemed like the perfect use of my time.  Yeah, I didn’t hit with every shot, but the Churchill III’s 6 pounder can make that up with sheer volume of fire.   But this guy continued to rage at me as I did that, then pushed to the cap.  We won, by the way.

I still think the game is fun, and these sorts don’t pop up as often as they might I suppose.  Occasionally there is one very angry guy typing away furiously.  But mostly people play and win or lose without ire.

Still, I wouldn’t join a random team VoIP channel in public matches, if there was one.

And, despite my miserable mid-week record, I did managed to earn enough experience to get into the T-150.  Training from the KV-2, where it was 13K experience, also lit it up on the KV-1, which is now an elite tank for me.  So I got to start off with another new Soviet heavy.

A Fresh T-150

A Fresh T-150

I even had enough experience to get out of the initial gun, a miserable 76mm door knocker, and into the long barreled 85mm, which can do some damage against the opposition.  And I needed it.

Part of my loss streak… or at least my streak of destroyed tanks… was because the T-150 seems to get matched up with a lot of higher tier tanks.  I was frequently at the bottom of the list in a match with mostly tier VIII tanks.

I also seemed to draw assault maps a lot.  After I drew six in a row, always on the attacking side… which is generally the losing side… I turned off assault in the options.

I don’t mind assault really.  They can lead to some very fun matches.  But it is a type of battle that really takes a team, something you do not often get in random public games.  Given my choice, I would do encounter maps all night long.  I like how those maps force both teams into a fight over a single objective.  And, at least everybody knows where to go.

Still, persistence got me the track and turret upgrade so eventually I could mount the 107mm gun on the T-150.

107mm Armed T-150

107mm Armed T-150

The barrel is still long, but it doesn’t look quite as silly as it did on the KV-2.

I also camo’d it up, moved the equipment from the KV-2 over (camo net, binocular periscope) and even bought some consumables.  Somebody linked to the consumables page on the wiki with the terse message “speed governor” in a comment on a completely unrelated post, but I still got the message.

I was a little hesitant to try it, as it comes with a dire warning about engine damage.  But it was cheap, you don’t have to buy a new one every battle, and I was aching for some sort of speed boost.  So I went with it and Lend Lease oil.

T-150Consumables

And, as far as I can tell, it has never caused me harm.  I was afraid my engine would spontaneously combust and leave me a smoking wreck 10 yards from my start point.  But it seems more benign than that. I put one on the Churchill III as well, which lets it keep up with the other heavies.  Sort of.  I am still debating the Lend Lease oil.  That one is 5K credits ever match.  That isn’t enough to put me in the red even after a losing battle, but that does add up over time.

Now that the T-150 is up and going, my time with the KV-2 is diminishing.  But it did get a good send off.  The final battle with it was on everybody’s favorite map, Dragon Ridge, where we have chased a German heavy into a gully.  He was heavily damaged, but was too low to hit.  I pulled close and waited for him to fire.  He missed and I roared forward off the edge of the gully and onto him, crushing him for the kill.  I might have to go back and Fraps that with the battle replay.  I thought it was hilarious.

This weekend I also started tinkering with mods for the game.  Gaff had been talking about an artillery sighting mod that he had tried.  But it was a reticule he linked me that I ended up using.

Dream Target

Dream Target

It conveys all the data you need in a nice package.  I grabbed that one and another one that more accurately displays the direction from which you are being hit so you can match bearings and fire on a reciprocal heading.  That doesn’t work often, but I have managed to flush out a couple of hidden targets by just blazing away in the right direction… usually into the lone pile of cover.

This past weekend was also double crew experience, so I played a bit more than I might have otherwise, attempting to get one Soviet heavy crew to 100% on the first secondary skills.

That last few percent...

That last few percent…

Even at double crew experience, with accelerated crew experience selected, and playing the Churchill III with its experience bonus, that last 10% is quite a hill.  My commander hit 98% eventually.  But it will be a couple dozen more battles before he caps I bet.

I also found out that World of Tanks is an excellent way to tell if my daughter is using her Nook Color to surf the web rather than read as she promised she would.  For reasons I cannot explain, when ever she hits this Warrior Cats forum she frequents, the lag indicator in the game goes red and my ping spikes to 999ms.

Somebody is surfing...

Somebody is surfing…

I cannot prove that her Nook web surfing activity is causing the issue, but the correlation between that and my seeing this issue is extremely high.  So web surfing on the Nook is officially banned when it is time for me to battle.  She can still read on it… which is what she was generally supposed to be doing in the first place… but web is verboten while daddy tanks.

(Also, you can see in that screen shot that a mod I added… I do not remember which… puts the time up next to the Lag indicator, which is nice as the game rather aggressively takes over the LCD display on my Logitech G15 keyboard where I generally leave the time display up.)

And, finally, I did find this article on playing the Soviet T-28 tank pretty amusing in light of my own experiences with the beast.  The only thing worse than dying in a T-28 is dying to a T-28 I guess.

Anyway, the next goal after the T-150 is the KV-3, which will put me in tier VII, and which isn’t really that far away.  I could be there by next weekend, given some effort over the week… and a few less losses.

Three Way Split on the KV-1 Tree December 24, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, World of Tanks.
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8 comments

I have been playing and enjoying the KV-1 Soviet heavy tank.  After the effort of getting there, is nice to be able to take a punch. I have gotten a few of the requisite “Steel Wall” awards for taking many hits in a battle.  In one engagement I took 42 hits from a set of light and medium tanks as I rolled up a flank.

Happy Holiday KV-1

Happy Holiday KV-1

So I settled in to enjoy the KV-1 and its heavy armor and decent gun, knowing that training for its successor was going to be a while.

Time moves on, and I have played a chunk of World of Tanks and have found myself suddenly in possession of enough experience to start in on the next tank in the Russian heavy tree.  The thing is, from the KV-1 there are three choices.

The Three Faces of KV

The Three Faces of KV

The three choices are the KV-1S, the KV-2, and the T-150.

On the surface, the choice is easy.  I go with the KV-1S, which a lot of people choose, get gun upgrades and continue on to the mighty IS line of heavy tanks.  I lose some armor protection, but it seems to be the popular choices, which generally means the best one, or at least the safest one.

The KV-2 primary appeal is the giant 152mm “derp” gun which can one-shot so many lesser vehicles.  To bring that gun to bear though, you have to deal with a vehicle that is huge, slow, awkward, and almost comic to look at.

The KV-2

The KV-2

It looks like the sort of thing that a young boy would produce if asked to draw a tank with a big gun.

And then there is the T-150, which seems to to primarily offer a more interesting gun, the 107mm ZiS-6, along with a more powerful engine which, presumably, also mean a little more speed on the battlefield.

The KV-2 seems to be the least attractive option.  Aside from comic appeal, there is much to say against it, not the least of which is that as a step on the tree it is essentially a dead end.  You go from it to the T-150, so it can be safely skipped.

The KV-1S, as I said, seems to be the popular choice.  While it has less armor that the KV-1, it has the big gun and leads to the very heavy Russian tanks.  It also can be uses as a stepping stone to the T-44, T54, T-62 series of main battle tanks.

But the T-150 has that interesting gun, and it leads to its own line of heavy tanks, derivatives and improvements on the KV line, all slightly less well armored but interesting none the less.

So which one should I choose?  That is the Christmas question.