Sometimes Games Do Evolve For The Better (Guild Wars 2)


In February, I was pretty burned out from World of Tanks (WoT) and decided to take a look at Guild Wars 2 (GW2), which I hadn’t meaningfully played since 2013. Most of my 2014 gaming time was spent on WildStar (WS) and WoT.

Why I stopped playing GW2 back in 2013

The following things collectively made GW2 unattractive to me:

  1. I believed Ascended gear was not aligned with pre-launch expectations from ArenaNet (AN) regarding progression
  2. To make matters worse, the acquisition of Ascended gear was extremely grindy. I despised the random daily quests – they were a tedious waste of 30 minutes of my valuable time – and each gear piece was for a particular stats mix for a particular character (soulbound). The Ascended gear system was a disincentive for me to commit time to alts, and alts are fun
  3. There were aspects of the UI that I found irritating, e.g. how small the boon and buff icons are
  4. The combat mechanics in WS looked much more attractive to me. I love aim-based action combat, because it’s engaging and requires skill

Upon picking up GW2 again in 2015, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a lot of the things I disliked had been meaningfully addressed, and that other quality-of-life improvements had been implemented. It’s worth mentioning the value of the GW2’s B2P monetization system – it cost me nothing aside from disk space to patch up to the current version of GW2 and play again.

Improvement #1: Ascended and Legendary gear changed from soulbound to account bound

Legendary / Ascended gear account bound

Account bound > Soulbound

This was outlined in the March 2014 news article on the GW2 site.

The implications of course are massive. E.g. instead of having to farm Berserker Ascended gear for each of your characters, you could farm 1 set of Berserker jewelry and share them across characters, and to the extent your characters share the same weapons and armor, they can share those too.

Soulbound systems create a context where you have to do the same amount of work for each character, and this makes playing alts less attractive, which in turn I believe makes a game less sticky. Players love their alts.

Also, players who have more characters have more protection from class-specific nerfs and changes to the meta, and they are therefore less likely to leave a game when a particular class is nerfed. So I believe that for high-end endgame gear, having that gear be account bound makes a game more sticky for players.

Improvement #2: Daily laurel quests changed to login quests

This was a brilliant move by AN and synergizes with the previous improvement. You just need to login each day to get your daily credit, and I think AN has realized that if you login you might actually play that day. It certainly worked on me.

I utterly despised the previous system of random and completely unchallenging daily quests to earn laurels. Some gamers have the mentality that you should just have to do your dailies and suck it up, but that’s so not-fun for someone like me and is a perspective of the older gaming crowd (I’m looking at you, hard-working Gen X’ers).

Improvement #3: Dyes and skins changed from soulbound to account bound

Some folks don’t care about cosmetics, but I enjoying dialing in the look of each character. E.g. here is my 80 Guardian, with skins that were unlocked from my Warrior:

80 Guardian with badass-looking gear

My Guardian sporting a classic plate armor look, a la the movie Excalibur

Improvement #4: Megaserver

There’s nothing more depressing than playing in sparsely-populated zones. AN implemented megaserver technology, and the level 80 world zones consistently have the critical mass for events.

Karka Queen zerg

Events such as the Karka Queen draw mass participation

Improvement #5: Structured PVP contributes to progression

This one is self-explanatory. I actually stopped sPvP pretty much cold turkey after the first 6 weeks of launch, because I wasn’t leveling my characters to 80. Oddly, I haven’t gone back, but I think I got burned out by the PVP.

Improvement #6: New level 80 zones are fun

Dry Top and The Silverwastes provide popular farming zones. I like the design of The Silverwastes, which is a PVE version of WvW.

All these improvements aside, after two months of playing GW2, in which I geared my 80 Elementalist with some Celestial Exotic gear, leveled a Guardian to 80, and geared my Guardian with a mix of Exotic and Ascended Berserker gear, I’ve decided to put GW2 back on the shelf. I want a different combat experience than what GW2 offers – that is, issues #3 and #4 listed above are still issues. Beyond that, the game continues to be very pigeon-holed in terms of the meta. For multiple classes, Berserker is still the way to go, and that limits functional choice.

Nonetheless, I may come back to GW2 for the Heart of Thorns (HoT) paid expansion, given that once you pay, it’s free to play.

Beyond GW2, in the MMORPG landscape I’ve heard encouraging things about Camelot Unchained, and I look forward to trying it out.

In the meanwhile, I’ve picked WoT back up again and really enjoying it, and I just paid for early access for Armored Warfare, a game is a mashup of WoT’s tank-based combat and the smaller battles common in MOBAs.

What are you playing these days, and what do you think of the evolution of GW2?

EDIT (2015/05/14): I forgot to mention that I also gave SMITE a try in February. Many of you had recommended it to me as a MOBA that I might like, given that it has aim-based mechanics.

SMITE was more engaging than League of Legends (LoL), but I’ve come to realize that the whole meta of selecting heroes and upgrades as counterplay isn’t something that I’m particularly interested in, because in many cases there is a right upgrade path or two and a lot of suboptimal ones, in which case there effectively isn’t a choice to be made. I shelved SMITE after trying it for a couple nights and haven’t been sufficiently interested enough to play it again.

Posted in Game Design, Guild Wars 2, PVE, PVP

Taugrim’s “Road to Unicum” Tank Reviews and Guides for World of Tanks


When I read the official WoT forums, WoT sub-Reddit, and WoTLabs forums, one question comes up more than any other: how do I improve my gameplay?

This is particularly challenging for players who have hit a ceiling in terms of their measurable performance (e.g. win rate, WN8 rating, etc) and are not sure what to do. While players can download replays of highly-skilled players, those replays don’t capture the thinking process of the player behind the tank – you see their actions but don’t necessarily know the how’s or why’s behind them.

In these “Road to Unicum” videos I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%) with silver ammo (i.e. no premium a.k.a. gold ammo) and on my original account (i.e. no re-rolling). I talk through how I’m reading each battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

As of Episode #1, here were my WN8 stats:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 10199 battles

For full disclosure, I am a paying customer of WoT – that is, I do spend money to purchase gold, which is used for the following: premium subscription, training/reskilling crew members, converting tank-specific XP to Free XP so that I don’t have to play tanks stock, and buying permanent camouflage. These things do definitely improve one’s stats. That said, I have at times played without a premium subscription, and in many cases when I use Free XP, I use it to skip low tier tanks and to unlock the first functional gun of a new tank, then I grind out the remaining modules for that tank. Also, sometimes I use silver to pay for camoflague and crew training/reskilling.

See the FAQs for more context about the videos.

Episodes

  1. E50 Review, Flexing to a Collapsing Flank
  2. E50M Review, Covering a Flank Solo
  3. T-34-85 Review, Mid Control in Fisherman’s Bay
  4. T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground
  5. T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle
  6. ELC AMX Review, First-Shot Opportunities
  7. ELC AMX in a Tier 8 Battle Review, Common Mistakes
  8. T-54 vs -G-/PBKAC/BULLS Platoon
  9. T-54 Review, Managing Gun Depression / Flanking Maneuvers
  10. E75 Review, Hull Angling Without Hard Cover
  11. IS Review, Timing Enemy Reloads
  12. IS-3 Review, Flaky Pikenose, Patience in a Tight Spot
  13. IS-3 in Tier 10 Battles
  14. Trolling E100’s in Your T-62A / Object 140

Episode #1: E50 Review, Flexing to a Collapsing Flank

I review the exceptional E-50, the tier 9 German medium tank in the E50M line.

As demonstrated in the video, the E50 has a highly accurate gun, and the solid hull armor can be angled to deflect incoming fire. I discuss the importance of flexing to prevent a flank from collapsing and the arguments against capping too early instead of pressing an advantage.

Episode #2: E50M Review, Covering a Flank Solo

I review the E50M, the beefier of the two tier 10 German medium tanks.

I discuss the weighty responsibility of holding a flank solo, knowing when and where to push, and considerations when flanking the enemy near their base.

Episode #3: T-34-85 Review, Mid Control in Fisherman’s Bay

I review the T-34-85, the underrated tier 6 Russian medium tank that leads up to the T-44.

I discuss tactics for controlling the middle lanes (E/F) of Fisherman’s Bay and how to balance exposure with inflicting damage. The value of mid control can’t be overemphasized – it provides spotting opportunities, many firing lanes, and the ability to flex to either flank when needed, which is particularly important when playing a mobile medium tank.

Episode #4: T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground

I review the T-44, a tier 8 Russian medium tank.

I also discuss the value of high ground – an age-old principle of warfare that holds true in WoT on some maps – with footage of my T44 in a Mines battle.

Holding the high ground provides the following benefits:

  1. you have opportunities to take flanking shots on enemies below you, because they are preoccupied with tanks in front of them
  2. you can cover different sides of the map with minimal repositioning
  3. you control the extent of your tank’s exposure

In addition, I talk about the importance of being active – that is, playing smartly aggressive – as opposed to being passive / campy and letting the battle outcome be determined without you.

Episode #5: T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle

I review the T-44, a tier 8 Russian medium tank.

I discuss how to meaningfully contribute as a bottom-tier medium tank, with footage from a tier 10 Serene Coast battle in my T-44.

As a bottom-tier tank, I have to respect the advantages of higher-tier opponents, who have more HP, stronger armor, higher alpha damage, better DPM, and superior vision control.

That said, even with a low penetration gun, by carefully watching the minimap and being opportunistic, I was able to make a solid contribution.

Additional Comments

  1. props to the STB-1 driver (ahmechanic2) who played very well throughout the battle
  2. at 4:23, the JPE100 driver (andrewb610) made the right call to flex east and delay their tanks on that side, which bought time for us to crush their forces north and west
  3. I nearly got wrecked at the 7:30 mark while typing a thank you to the STB-1. I have a tendency to be chatty during matches, and sometimes it screws me up. LOL

Feedback from [BULBA] CrackerBInebriated:

One thing I did see as a mistake was how you didn’t even attempt to engage the conqueror after he killed your IS3 at the cap. I know it has a quick reload, but you had a good side shot and time to escape after he had fired and needed to reload

I didn’t address that in the video but in real-time I realized I had made a mistake.

The mistake is that when I started pulling back, I stayed too close to the rocks on my left – as a result I a created a bigger gun depression challenge in terms of getting my gun down on the target. You can see that I start wiggling just to the right of the rock a bit, but realized I was taking too much time and lost the opportunity.

Episode #6: ELC AMX Review, First-Shot Opportunities

I review the wildly popular ELC AMX, the tier 5 French light tank, with a replay of a tier 6 Widepark battle.

I discuss how to play to the strengths of the ELC AMX – vision control, mobility, and the TD-quality gun – while managing its weaknesses – in particular the crappy gun handling. They key when driving the ELC AMX is creating first-shot opportunities, i.e. situations in which you spot the enemy and have sufficient time to aim before they spot you.

The ELC AMX was the first light tank above tier 2 that I played after 8000 battles. Up to that point, I’d primarily played heavies and mediums. After witnessing countless ELC AMX light tank drivers suicide or fail to meaningfully contribute, I decided to give the tank a go.

My conclusion is that the ELC AMX is the most consistently incorrectly played tank in all of WoT :)

Episode #7: ELC AMX in a Tier 8 Battle Review, Common Mistakes

I take a second look at the popular ELC AMX with a replay of a tier 8 Prokhorovka battle.

All too often, ELC drivers die early and cripple their team’s spotting capability. I discuss and make two common mistakes:

  1. risking exposure to take a shot with the glacial-aiming gun
  2. taking a poor approach line to spot enemy tanks

I have to manage with less than 30 HP for most of the battle as a result of the first mistake!

Episode #8: T-54 vs -G-/PBKAC/BULLS Platoon

I review the highly-regarded T-54 with a replay of a tier 10 Mines battle.

The top-tier enemy platoon consists of elite players from -G-, PBKAC, and BULLS, so I discuss countering such dangerous opponents by anticipating where they’re going and beating them to the punch with area denial, then burning down their pubbies.

I also demonstrate how to leverage the terrain on hill to safely fire on target(s) while minimizing exposure to snipers in their base.

Episode #9: T-54 Review, Managing Gun Depression / Flanking Maneuvers

I take a second look at the T-54, with a replay of a tier 9 Sand River battle.

Key Points

1. for the T-54, you don’t need to unlock the suspension to mount all upgraded modules and all 3 equipment pieces.

Therefore, the upgrade path I recommend is 2nd turret → top gun → 2nd engine → suspension.

2. in a map that has a lot of hills / ridgelines such as Sand River, you need to carefully manage the T-54’s poor gun depression.

The T-54 thrives in flatland and does better aiming up at targets. You want to avoid situations where you have to crest a hill to fire on a target that is already pre-aiming at you.

3. you can distract enemy tanks by flanking them, which creates opportunities for your allies to safely fire on those enemies as they rotate their turret / hull to face you.

The T-54 is far and away the best flanking tank I’ve played.

Episode #10: E75 Review, Hull Angling Without Hard Cover

I review the E75 with a replay of a tier 9 Murovanka battle.

In the previous 9 episodes, we focused on medium and light tank gameplay. Today, I discuss the responsibility of playing a beefy top-tier heavy, in terms of acting as a meat shield and playing aggressively, especially when your team is behind.

The E-75 has a fantastic armor layout that enables you to bounce a lot of incoming shots with proper angling. I demonstrate the optimal angle for the hull of the E-75 to protect the vulnerable Lower Front Glacis (LFG) while not over-exposing the thick 120mm side hull armor, especially when in the open ground where there is no hard cover. In the replay, I bounce all but 2 non-arty shots, and both times my tank was penetrated it was due to poor hull angling on my part.

Episode #11: IS Review, Timing Enemy Reloads

I review the IS with a replay of a tier 7 Mountain Pass battle.

Key Points

  1. due to the long 2.87 sec aim time and 10.38 sec reload time (with 100% crew and equipment), it’s critical to keep track of enemy reload timers, so that when brawling you have time to aim sufficiently while minimizing risk
  2. the side armor of 90mm is very thick for the tier, so you can angle your hull to increase the effective armor of your front hull without compromising your side armor
  3. you don’t need to unlock the suspension to mount all upgraded modules and all 3 equipment pieces.

Therefore, the upgrade path I recommend is 2nd turret → top gun → 2nd engine → suspension.

Episode #12: IS-3 Review, Flaky Pikenose, Patience in a Tight Spot

I review the IS-3 with a replay of a tier 9 Highway battle.

Key Points

  1. the pikenose from an intermediate distance provides about 170mm of armor, which is around or under the penetration of many tier 7 and 8 guns. Therefore, while the pikenose can bounce incoming shells, it’s not particularly reliable, and you’re better off leveraging hard cover as much as possible
  2. due to the weakness of the pikenose in close quarters and the incredibly soft turret roof, be aware that the IS-3 is easy-to-penetrate when face-hugging or in point-blank exchanges
  3. while the LFG is a notable weakspot for the IS-8 and especially the IS-7, it is not for the IS-3
  4. patience in a tight situation is key. When I was surrounded on 3 sides, I stalled to buy time for our light tanks to flank the tanks in city and bail me out
  5. I rushed the kill shot on the 7/1. I should have waited a quarter-second for his side hull to be exposed, given that he wasn’t aiming at me
  6. the T37 driver (1134eastlaw) provided a great example of the power of a light tank in endgame situations

Feedback From Viewers

Many commenters disagree with me re: sidescraping. They feel that sidescraping on the IS-3 makes sense.

I can see doing that to bait shots into the side armor, so you can then expose your near-side pikenose safely while taking a free shot.

Errata

  • 4:18 – what I meant here is that the IS-3 (not IS- and many tier 8 heavy tanks have very functional penetration values (e.g. 225+). There are exceptions of course, e.g. the T32 with 198

Episode #13: IS-3 in Tier 10 Battles

I discuss how to meaningfully contribute when you’re in tier 10 battles in a tier 8 IS-3 heavy tank, with footage from two Serene Coast battles.

Comments / Errata

  1. the silver penetration for the IS-3 is 225 not 226
  2. the rear of the E100 turret is ~160mm effective armor, regardless whether you hit the hatch or not

Episode #14: Trolling E100’s in Your T-62A / Object 140

I demonstrate how to troll big, tall, and slow turreted tanks in a Russian medium tank in World of Tanks (WoT), with footage of my T-62A facing E-100’s.

This works not only in the T62A but also tanks with a low profile and solid turret, such as the Object 140 and T-54.The key thing is to time your approach based on either when your target just fired or is facing the other direction, and to use the target as a shield to protect you from other enemy tanks while you whittle the target away.

Trololo!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “Unicum” mean?

Unicum is a term coined by the WoT community to denote players who are rated in the top 1% in terms of measurable performance (i.e. stats).

The most widely-used and credible rating system is known as WN8. No rating system is perfect, but WN8 addressed many of the flaws from earlier rating systems and leverages the data that is publicly available through the WoT API and privately through community stat sites (e.g. VBAddict and Noobmeter).

What is the purpose of the “Road to Unicum” videos?

When I read the official WoT forums, WoT sub-Reddit, and WoTLabs forums, one question comes up more than any other: how do I improve my gameplay?

This is particularly challenging for players who have hit a ceiling in terms of their measurable performance (e.g. win rate, WN8 rating, etc) and are not sure what to do. While players can download replays of highly-skilled players, those replays don’t capture the thinking process of the player behind the tank – you see their actions but don’t necessarily know the why’s behind them.

Therefore, in this video series I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating with silver ammo only. I talk through how I’m reading the battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

For full disclosure, I spend money on the game, and that most definitely helps with stats. I believe that it’s possible to reach Unicum as a F2P player and with silver ammo, but the process would be extremely tedious and suck the fun out of the game for me.

Who is the intended audience?

Basically anyone who does not already have a purple WN8 Recent (2450+) and who is looking for guidance / tips for improving their gameplay.

Players who already have a purple Recent WN8 already know what I know.

Your account is not Unicum yet, so why are you publishing these videos?

The title implies the journey to get there, not already being there.

That said, if I continue playing at the level I’ve been playing the past several thousand battles, I should reach account Unicum (2450 WN8) prior to 14k battles on my original WoT account.

I’ve been averaging a Super Unicum WN8 (~2900) for over 3000 battles, all with silver ammo only.

Taugrim's WoT Stats

Beyond WoT, I have a long history of publishing guides for various online games that have meaningfully helped players improve their gameplay. Sharing knowledge and providing guidance are things I love to do.

Why don’t you use gold ammo (“premium ammo”)?

I don’t use gold ammo because it’s very problematic for tank balance.

No judgement on players who use it, it is a built-in game mechanic and is a powerful tool.

For the purpose of these educational videos, I think it’s more illustrative and helpful to viewers to show how to perform well with silver ammo, as opposed to firing a lot of gold.

How do we know you really don’t use gold ammo?

I can’t offer you exhaustive proof – that would require my collecting and posting over 10k screenshots or replay files, and frankly no one would go through them all anyway.

That said, I can offer meaningful proof – I have posted hundreds of screenshots (400+ and counting) for battles in which I earned Ace Tanker or 1st class badges, and you can see from the ammo re-supply costs that I’m firing silver ammo only.

Aside from that, you’ll have to take my word for it, and the fact that no one will ever be able to post a replay of my firing gold ammo at them.

Do you have any beginner’s guides that cover core game mechanics?

Yes, I have written guides on the following essentials concepts for WoT:

  1. Guide on Hull Angling: proper angling increases your tank’s effective hull armor, which can cause incoming shells to ricochet or bounce – i.e. angling increases the probability that a shell fails to penetrate armor
  2. Guide on Weak Spots: weak spots are specific areas of a tank that can be penetrated more easily than other areas where the armor is thicker and/or sloped

Why don’t you use mods?

I’ve never used any mods in WoT, for multiple reasons:

  1. The stock UI is pretty functional, relative to other games
  2. Some mods give information (such as XVM player stats) which I think would be depressing or distracting to see. I react to game flow based on what my eyes tell me. I do keep a mental note of good players and good clans (e.g. the top 10 listed on WoTLabs)
  3. It’s a hassle when mods break, especially due to game patches, and I don’t want to become overly dependent on them
  4. It’s not completely clear to me what mods are legal and what are not. If I’m ever accused of hacking or using cheating mods, it’s much easier to simply respond that I’ve never used any mods
  5. Some people in my cross-gaming guild kept insisting that mods were essential, same with gold ammo, and I often buck the trend to prove a point. Mods can definitely help, but I believe they’re aren’t needed to play at a Unicum level
  6. Some (formal) formats don’t allow mods. I’ll probably never do tournaments and stuff, but you never know…

That said, there was one mod in particular I believed which would be helpful, and that was the minimap mod with tank names and last-spotted locations, but as of 9.5 those things are now built-in to the game :)

I do use mods in other games, e.g. WoW, WildStar. For the reasons above, I don’t in WoT.

How do you choose your replays?

I chose replays based on the tank lines I’m working on, poll votes from viewers, and comments from viewers.

Let me clearly state that I don’t just upload any random or normal replay.

I intentionally choose replays where there is educational value, in terms of good illustrative gameplay and mistakes that I make. For the most part, the replays are of battles in which there is meaningful challenge, since there isn’t much to learn from a faceroll victory unless you are the one enabling it to happen.

Can you post replays where you are the bottom tier?

Yes, I’ve been doing posting bottom-tier replays since the 5th episode and will continue to do so.

Here are the episodes where I’m bottom tier:

  • Episode 5: T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle
  • Episode 8: ELC AMX in a Tier 8 Battle
  • Episode 13: IS-3 in Tier 10 Battles

Why don’t you have a purple (60%) Win Rate?

My recent (last 1k battles) WR is typically around 56-59%.

WR is easily padded via platooning with skilled players, since WR is a reflection of team performance. WN8 is more of a reflection of individual performance.

I’ve probably solopub’d (solo-queued) ~90% of my battles. Even when I was in a clan (WANTD/WNTED), I still solopub’d 80+% of the time. It’s not that I don’t like platooning with people – I do – but some nights I hop around various tanks or play tiers other people don’t want or people are playing pref MM.

Unicum WR is 60-64%, Super Uni is 65+%. Those are very difficult WRs to sustain mostly solopubbing, especially with silver ammo only.

I have no doubt that if I platooned regularly with equally-skilled players, my Recent WR would be over 60%.

What crew skills and equipment do you recommend for a given tank?

Watch the first 15 seconds of the video in the garage – that will typically have the recommended and most recent setup that I’m running with for that tank.

Do you make videos of arty gameplay?

No, for two reasons:

  • I enjoy driving tanks as well as operating a gun. Arty is more about the latter than the former. This is not to say it wouldn’t be fun – for me the timing of shell travel over distances would be interesting – but the gameplay wouldn’t be as engaging to me as other tank classes
  • Arty tends to make battles much more campy since players are uncomfortable moving out of arty-safe positions

Do you make videos of tournaments or Clan Wars?

Not yet.

Both require that I play in organized groups at specific times. I’d need to find a clan to participate in CW, and as of May 2015 I’m currently clanless.

My videos to-date are strictly public battles (aka randoms), since public battles are where most players spend the vast majority of their time.

There are some amazing web sites, mobile/tablet apps, and desktop applications that enable you visualize the armor of tanks with 3D models, and you can use these to understand their weak apots. Here are the ones I recommend.

tanks.gg

This relatively new site allows you to view the 3D models of every tank in a web browser.

You can mouse over various parts of the tank to see the penetration values. You can also rotate the turret, so that you can determine side and rear turret values.

The site provides both live and test 3D models.

Tank Inspector

This is an application you install on your Windows computer, and similar to tanks.gg, it provides 3D models of every tank.

One notable feature is that you can specify the shell type (AP/APCR/HEAT/HE/HESH) and caliber of the gun firing on the tank, as shell normalization varies by shell type, and this enables you to see the effective armor values.

Aside from sending me stuff through WoT itself (e.g. gifts of gold, premium tanks, etc), here are other options:

  • Donate via PayPal
    Donate via PayPal
  • Shop on Amazon through one of these links: CA | DE | FR | UK | US
    Any purchase you make supports me and won’t impact what you pay

Before you gift me a premium tank (and thanks, that’s very generous of you!), please let me know your intention, because I may decline. E.g. I declined a TOG II gift because I couldn’t stomach the snail-like mobility. That said, there are plenty of premium tanks that would be interesting to try, so let me know and we’ll discuss.

Posted in Guide, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

Guide to the ELC AMX in World of Tanks


In this guide, I review the wildly popular ELC AMX, the tier 5 French light tank in World of Tanks (WoT), with replays of a tier 6 Widepark battle and a tier 8 Prokhorovka battle.

The ELC AMX was the first light tank above tier 2 that I played after 8000 battles. Up to that point, I’d primarily played heavies and mediums. After witnessing countless ELC AMX light tank drivers suicide or fail to meaningfully contribute, I decided to give the tank a go.

My conclusion is that the ELC AMX is the most consistently incorrectly played tank in all of WoT :)

Playstyle

Contrary to most light tanks, the ELC AMX thrives when played as a hybrid TD/scout, as opposed to an active scout or a pure passive scout.

The key to success in the ELC AMX is to play to its strengths – vision control, mobility, and the TD-quality gun – while managing its weaknesses – in particular its poor gun handling, extreme fragility, and low view range of 360 meters.

It’s critical to leverage these strengths to create first-shot opportunities, i.e. situations in which you spot the enemy and have sufficient time to aim before they spot you.

Here is the first replay, where these concepts are demonstrated:

The ELC AMX gets scout matchmaking, so even though it is a tier 5 tank it sees tier 6-8 battles.

In tier 8 battles, you face tanks that can 1-shot your tank, so you have to play more carefully as compared to tier 6 battles.

All too often, ELC drivers die early and cripple their team’s spotting capability. I discuss and make two common mistakes in the second replay:

  1. risking exposure to take a shot with the glacial-aiming gun
  2. taking a poor approach line to spot enemy tanks

Crew and Equipment Setup

The recommended crew skills, in order of priority:

  • For the Commander: Sixth Sense, Camouflage, Snap Shot, Brothers in Arms
  • For the Driver: Camouflage, Smooth Ride, Off-Road Driving, Brothers in Arms

Basically the crew skills are selected to maximize vision control and gun handling.

If you have more than 4 skills on each crew member, you disgust me. /envy

The recommended equipment modules:

  • Binoculars: these complement the tank’s ability to camo-snipe
  • Gun Rammer: to reduce the slow reload
  • Gun Laying Drive: to reduce the glacial aim time

Let me know your questions / feedback.

These videos are part of my “Road to Unicum” series in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 0.1%). I talk through how I’m reading the battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

Cheers,
Taugrim

Taugrim's WoT Stats

Posted in Guide, Light Tank, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

Review: Red vs Brown Cherry MX Switches, Red vs Blue O-Rings


About 6 months ago, I bought my first mechanical keyboard, the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Red switches. As I wrote in my review, the keyboard worked great for gaming.

A short while later, I read an article that strongly recommended Brown switches for gaming. I wondered whether I’d made the wrong decision in choosing Red over Brown, given that I hadn’t tried either prior to purchasing the keyboard.

Given that I care about my gaming performance, I decided to conduct hands-on testing of Red and Brown Cherry MX switches to better understand the experience of using them and determine which worked better for me. I also wanted to test the switches with and without Red and Blue O-rings.

Therefore, I tested the following products:

The Keyboards

I went to a local store to pickup a CM Storm keyboard with Brown switches. They didn’t carry the older QuickFire Rapid model. They did stock the newer QuickFire Stealth model, which is largely the same keyboard with minor cosmetic differences, so I purchased a Stealth keyboard with Brown switches.

As you can see from the following picture, the structural design of the two keyboards is very similar.

CM Storm keyboards

QuickFire Rapid with Red switches (top), QuickFire Stealth with Brown switches (bottom)

Comparing the Switches

The following animated visuals (created by lethalsquirrel on geekhack, aka dacasman on YouTube) describe how the switches operate:

Cherry MX Red Switch AnimationCherry MX Brown Switch Animation

Some gamers rave about the tactile bumps in the Brown switches. Theoretically, tactile bumps sound like a great idea, since they provide feedback when a key is pressed.

However, I believe there’s a fundamental design flaw in the Cherry MX switches: there is too much total travel distance in the switch relative to the actuation point, which is where the keystroke is registered. The switch registers the keystroke partway into the keypress, and the remaining keypress travel is functionally pointless since nothing happens aside from bottoming out. According to Cherry Corp., their MX switches register a keystroke at 2mm, then bottom out after another 2mm, but it feels like the switch registers earlier than the halfway point in the keypress.

Cherry MX Brown Actuation Bump

Actuation point shown for a Cherry MX switch. Note that the tactile bump is placed before the actuation point. This image is of the Stealth keyboard with Brown switches, but AFAIK the actuation point is the same across switch colors.

There is a critical implication here, because the tactile bump for a Brown switch is placed before the actuation point, which means the bump happens even before you’ve pressed the key halfway. Moreover, it takes a low amount of force to push past the tactile bump and the bump is very subtle. I spent several days trying to lighten and shorten my keypressing to adjust to the tactile bump of Brown switches, but even after practicing, I consistently pressed keys well past the tactile bump.

If the tactile bump were more noticeable and if the actuation point and the tactile bump were further into the keypress, I think Brown switches would work much better.

One complaint I’ve read about Red switches is that they activate too easily, given that they have no bump and low actuation force, and this leads to false keystrokes. After testing both Brown switches and Red switches extensively, by playing the same games and typing the same copy over and over, for me this was not an issue.

My conclusion: the tactile bump in the Brown switches didn’t provide meaningful value, due to its early placement in the keypress and how subtle the bump is.

I prefer Red switches over Brown as they provide a much more fluid feel.

Comparing the O-Rings

WASD Keyboards was kind enough to send me two sets of O-rings to test with.

WASD Keyboards O-Rings

In a nutshell, the Blue O-rings are thicker than the Red ones (0.4mm vs 0.2mm).

O-rings offer several practical benefits:

  1. They reduce noise significantly
  2. They provide cushion when you bottom-out
  3. They reduce travel distance (more on this below)

It was trivial installing the O-rings. Each O-ring has a natural tendency to roll one way or the other, so you want to keep that in mind when rolling an O-ring onto a key.

O-Ring Installation

The following photo gives you an idea of the relative travel distance of switches with Red and Blue O-rings:

Side-by-side: Red O-ring, Blue O-ring, No O-ring

Keys fully depressed, with and without O-rings. That is, the image shows keys pressed until they bottom out.

If you look at the right-most panel, you can see that the travel distance with a Blue O-ring is slightly shorter than a Red O-ring, which is what we’d expect given that Red O-rings reduce travel by 0.2mm and Blue O-rings reduce travel by 0.4mm.

So which O-ring color is better?

Some gamers say that the Blue O-rings ruin the feel of the keypress, especially for Brown switches. I disagree. As I mentioned earlier, the actuation point for Cherry MX switches is halfway into the keypress – regardless of switch color – so you have lots of meaningless travel until the key bottoms out. By installing an O-ring, you reduce that wasteful travel distance. In the case of Brown switches, the tactile bump occurs before the actuation point and therefore well ahead of bottoming out even with Blue O-rings.

My conclusion: Cherry MX switches work meaningfully better with O-rings, and Blue O-rings provide more cushion and reduce more wasteful travel as compared to Red O-rings.

Final Thoughts

I kept the keyboard with Red switches (CM Storm QuickFire Rapid keyboard) and Blue O-rings (manufactured by WASD Keyboards). Almost half a year has passed, and this setup has worked extremely well for gaming and typing. My fingers don’t get fatigued, the noise level is acceptable, and the keys feel very responsive.

It was definitely worthwhile to do the hands-on testing, because if I had simply listened to what others had written, I’d have made the wrong selection of colors for both the Cherry MX switches and the O-rings.

From the reviews and forums I’ve read, the CM Storm QuickFire keyboard is the best-value mechanical Cherry MX keyboard on the market, especially with a price point of under $100 USD. I highly recommend it based on my experience.

If you’ve tested different switch colors and different O-ring colors, I’d love to hear your take on them.

UPDATE (2015/01/04): based on this thread in the MechanicalKeyboards sub-Reddit, it looks like I’m not alone in the opinion that Brown switches are overrated.

Posted in Product Review

Two-Thirds of the Top-Rated Players in WildStar 2v2 Arena are Inactive


I’ve been wondering how accurately the WildStar PVP Leaderboards reflect the current meta and player activity, so I compared the 2v2 Arena Leaderboards from September 25th and October 10th.

You can find my analysis in the following spreadsheet document:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EwC3bmWEUWjK78hBZET5svynTnNrpGwkPDY9SIWgVIw/edit?usp=sharing

There is a summary tab with calculations and two tabs for the Leaderboards. I sorted the Leaderboards by name – you can easily move between the tabs to see the changes for each player.

Here are my conclusions:

  1. The highest number of active classes who gained rating or joined the top 250 on October 10th were Warriors (16) and Medics (13), followed by Espers (9), Spellslingers (8), Stalkers (5), and Engineers (3)
  2. A whopping 65% of the 250 top-rated players in 2v2 are inactive. Meaning they have either stopped playing WildStar or they are still playing but not participating in 2v2 anymore

Point #1 should be no surprise to anyone, given the recent changes to PVP stats to decrease damage and increase healing. Warrior/Medic was always a good comp, but with the current meta they faceroll most other comps. The Medic is durable, can kite effectively, and can heal even when out of Focus (i.e. they are un-OOMable), and the Warrior has high passive mitigation, strong burst, and is difficult to sustainably peel/CC. The longer TTK has made life harder for Stalkers, although in my experience the top-end Stalkers in a dual DPS comp are still very dangerous, if they spec to strip shields and coordinate their burst. I’ve never been able to understand why Engineers aren’t played more in 2v2 – in particular heal-soak Engi/Medic is a strong comp.

What is alarming about point #2 is that even with cross-server queues for BG and Arena, the PVP queue times outside of prime time are very high – as Lewis B discussed in his recent article The WildStar Ghost Town – and during prime time PBGs still take 5+ minutes to pop. As a comparison, with World of Tanks (WoT), the queue pops for Random Battles in under a minute any time day or night.

I love WildStar’s action combat system – it’s the most skill-based and engaging of any MMORPG that I’ve played. That said, the dwindling population has a direct impact on me: I have to worry about queue times and the likelihood that the queues will get longer.

On top of that, I’m very burned out by the RNG runes system, where the rune colors are randomized. In most games, when you get a purple drop in PVE or PVP, you rejoice. In WildStar, you hold your breath and pray for decent runes. To date I’ve purchased approximately 55 pieces of 1800 PVP gear, and it’s been a very frustrating and unrewarding experience. Players have said “wait until you can re-roll runes in Drop 3″ but that doesn’t solve my problem now, and I face other 1800-geared players who got their PVP gear prior to the RNG system being introduced for PVP gear. After my 4th purchase of an 1800 weapon resulted in another non-upgrade from the 1800 weapon I’m using, I finally gave up and unsubbed from WildStar last weekend.

This is a tough time for WildStar. The community is hoping/praying that Drop 3 will turn the game around. Since WAR and AoC in 2008, I have yet to see a game that hemorrhaged subs in the first 3 months make a meaningful recovery. Some folks point to SWTOR, which transitioned to F2P, but that game has not only an epic combat feel but one of the most valuable IPs of any genre.

Over the past week I’ve been playing ArcheAge (AA) and shaking off rust in WoT. I doubt I will stick with AA as the leveling process is bland and there are no BGs to enjoy, practice, test specs, and gain leveling experience. I really appreciate AA’s flexible build system, and on paper I found a class that suits me well: Abolisher, which combines Battlerage/Defense/Auramancy for a durable MDPS build that has CC and can counter CC. That said, my Abolisher is only level 15 and the road to 50 is many hours of tedium. Folks have told me AA’s endgame sandbox PVP is worth it, but I’ve never played a game that I disliked while leveling and loved at endgame. If the game can’t pull me in during the leveling process, the shoe doesn’t fit.

WoT has thankfully reminded what a (mostly) skill-based game with a very active population looks like, and I’m continuing to try to play at a Super Unicum (2900+ WN8 rating) level without gold ammo. It’s a fun goal :)

Posted in ArcheAge, Esper, Game Design, PVP, Warrior, WildStar, World of Tanks
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