World of Tanks: Panther 2 Review and “Ace Tanker” Gameplay


In the following video, I review the Panther II (aka Panther 2), the tier 8 German medium tank in the E50M line in World of Tanks.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ good gun depression (8 degrees)
+ good HP pool (1500)
- similar to other tier 8 mediums, has penetration (203) that lags behind tier 8 heavies and TDs
- slow aim time (2.7 sec)
- risk of fire when penetrated through the soft lower front glacis (LFG)

As mentioned in the video, my strategy for the Prokhorovka map aligns with EU Unicum Oneeechan, who wrote a great article on RBS that talked about how to play this map.

This video is part of my series of “Ace Tanker” WoT gameplay videos. The tier 9 E50 is up next.

Let me know your questions and feedback.

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Posted in Medium Tank, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

Guide to the Panther Medium Tank in World of Tanks


In this guide I review the underrated Panther, the tier 7 German medium tank in the E50M line in World of Tanks (WoT).

I decided to grind the E50M line, as I want to play a tier 10 medium tank with good gun handling and functional armor, and these are two of the E-50M’s strengths. In addition, I was swayed by Oneeechan’s advocacy of the E50M line on the WoTLabs forums.

To get to the E50M, you have to play the Panther, which by reputation is a craptastic tank. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Panther is a solid tank, if you respect its capabilities and limitations.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ high silver penetration (198)
+ accurate gun
+ good HP pool (1300)
- very low alpha damage (135)
- risk of fire when penetrated through the soft lower front glacis (LFG)

The thing that really sticks out is the alpha damage; it’s so low that you can’t brawl effectively. Therefore, you want to snipe with this tank, but as a general Unicum philosophy, you don’t want to hang back so far that your gun is inactive in early-game and mid-game.

Upgrade Path

The Panther is a bit unusual in that you can equal the top gun (7.5 cm L/100) with the stock turret. Your priority is getting that gun because you’ll need it when facing tier 8 and 9 tanks.

Here’s my recommended path for researching modules and slotting equipment:

  1. Purchase the following equipment: Enhanced Torsion Bars 5+ t Class (so you can research high-priority modules first), Coated Optics (for vision control), and Gun Rammer (faster reload)
  2. Research the 7.5cm L/100 gun (16,100 XP). If you can afford to do so, use Free XP. The gun makes the tank and you will struggle without it. You should already have the top radio and 2nd engine unlocked from the VK 30.02 M tank
  3. Research the 2nd turret
  4. Research the suspension, and replace the Enhanced Torsion Bars equipment with Enhanced Gun Laying Drive (faster aim)

Crew Skills

Given that this is a medium tank and that you’ll often be sniping, follow the medium philosophy of maxing vision control and fire control:

  • Commander: Sixth Sense > Recon > Camo
  • Gunner: Snap Shot > Camo > Repairs
  • Driver: Smooth Ride > Camo > Repairs
  • Radio Operator: Situational Awareness > Camo > Repairs
  • Loader: Safe Stowage > Preventative Maintenance > Camo

I do not recommend Brothers in Arms (BIA) unless you have a 450% crew (i.e. 3.5 skills). Preventative Maintenance is optional, but if you take PM and slot a premium fire extinguisher, the risk of fire is significantly reduced by the two stacking passive bonuses, and you’ll rarely have to pay for a new fire extinguisher.

Narrated Gameplay

The easiest way to explain how to play the tank is show illustrative footage. Here is a tier 7 battle in which I earned the “Ace Tanker” mastery and Top Gun badges:

Let me know your questions and feedback.

For more info on angling and weak spots, check out my guides:

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

When a Build Choice is Not Really a Choice [#ESO]


One of the blogs I follow is For The Record (FTR), which is run by a gamer named SilentStalker (SS) who covers World of Tanks (WoT) news.

SS recently posted his take on Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). There were a few things that he wrote that stood out to me.

EDIT (2014/05/13): for full disclosure, I haven’t played ESO yet. What I find fascinating and confusing is that in the comments and tweets about this article, some players agree with SS, others claim he’s wrong.

Multiclasses (“Hybrids”) Aren’t Viable

Per SS:

First, multiclasses don’t work. If you want to be a two-handed-sword-wielding holy knight in plate armor who also heals, you will suck at both roles.

It sounds like you have to specialize heavily.

The word “hybrid” carries a negative connotation for some MMORPG players, but I believe hybrids should be viable for some contexts, e.g. solo or small group PVE and PVP. Hybrids add depth to the variety of builds available to the players of a class and flavor to a game. Obviously for hardcore PVE raiding, specialization tends to be the way to go.

SS said holy knights who heal are not viable, and that’s a shame as I’ve played some incredibly fun holy knight builds in other games, e.g.:

  1. Prot Pally in WoW PVP: Back at the start of WoW Cataclysm, the vast majority of the Paladin community claimed that Prot (Protection) PVP was dead. My projection on the mechanics was that Prot would still be viable, if not as strong as it was in WotLK. My Prot PVP spec was 75% DPS (with some solid burst) and 50% Healing relative to specialist classes. It was neither a pure DPS nor a pure healer, but it could heal meaningfully when needed to bridge my team mates to the next incoming heal and other emergency cooldowns. I played with other relatively inexperienced (but skilled) partners and we got to 2k in the 2v2 and 3v3 brackets playing hybrids
  2. M*A*S*H Cleric in RIFT PVP: this was a steady DPS build (no meaningful burst whatsoever) that was tanky, output solid sustained AOE healing, had good mobility, and possessed some CC. What was funny about the M*A*S*H build was that the Cleric community was convinced that melee healing wasn’t viable, but I found they hadn’t explored the mechanics enough :)

If SS is right, there is no opportunity to come up with non-specialized builds. Which brings us to the next point…

Melee Mages and Berserker Warriors Aren’t Viable Either

Per SS:

Oh, almost forgot. You have to pick also “reasonable” configurations. For example, warrior in clothes (light armor, leathers are medium armor) and a 2 hander won’t work. Light armor as a whole adds bonuses to magic regeneration, more mana etc., so you can theoretically have a plate armor mage, but he will run out of mana very, very fast.

I recall hearing last year that plate mages would be viable. However if the armor types have built-in biases for specific classes or builds, what the developer is effectively delivering is a choice that is not really a choice. You can choose to gimp yourself, or you can choose a build that synergizes with the gear options.

There are many ways that a game can balance plate armor for mages, e.g. off the top of my head:

  • Plate armor limits the range of magic abilities
  • Plate armor limits the usage of magic movement abilities, such as blink
  • Etc

Same goes for a warrior wearing in light armor, e.g. a Braavosi swordmaster from Game of Thrones. The warrior could sacrifice damage mitigation / avoidance, but gain faster attacks and gap-closing abilities. Water Dance FTW.

I have not played ESO, and based on your collective feedback to me I do not intend to. So maybe SS got the points above wrong – but if he was right, yikes.

My hope for future games, e.g. Camelot Unchained (CU), is that the developers get it right. I think choice of armor for each class would allow for much more diversity and customization by the player – the tradeoffs just need to be thought through. Some upcoming titles, such as ArcheAge, do support such choice:

With the mixing and matching of classes, you can also mix and match equipment. There’s nothing stopping a mage from wearing plate armor, or a warrior tank from wearing cloth! There are different stats for cloth, leather, and plate armor – and each armor type has different set bonuses – so pick the armor that best suits your play style.

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Posted in Camelot Unchained, Elder Scrolls Online, Game Design, PVE, PVP, RIFT, Sage / Sorcerer, World of Warcraft

How Ready are You for WildStar?


We’re less than a month away from the most anticipated MMORPG launch since Guild Wars 2.

WildStar!

As I wrote earlier this year, WildStar game developer Carbine has thoughtfully diverged from traditional combat mechanics. They’ve been savvy about taking the community through the walk of their design thinking in a series of Dev Speak videos on YouTube.

WildStar is now in Open Beta, so anyone can download the game and play. People have been asking me on social media about my Beta experience. The answer is that it’s been intentionally short.

There are multiple reasons:

  1. I’ve been really busy IRL. My priorities are work, spending time with my wife, kickboxing, gaming, and when I have time, blogging about gaming
  2. I’ve been disappointed with the majority of MMORPGs I’ve played since 2008. This is not a new theme for me nor for many of you. I have spent hundreds of hours playing games in Beta; the list includes: Warhammer Online (WAR), Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), and Guild Wars 2 (GW2). All of these games came up short in the eyes of the community and what I was looking for personally after they launched. I’m careful to not get my expectations up too high nor to over-invest in Beta. If a game doesn’t grip me within the first hour (e.g. Age of Wushu, Elder Scrolls Online) or lack sufficient polish (e.g. WildStar back in February Beta), I wait til it launches. Or I skip it entirely, as I did with Neverwinter, Final Fantasy XIV, and based on your feedback ESO. I don’t want to play a game because it’s new. I want to play a game because it’s good
  3. I’ve finally found one MMO that has skill-based combat: World of Tanks (WoT). WoT is not an MMORPG, and I do miss having character(s) to build up and relate to. That being said, WoT is the highest skill PVP I’ve ever experienced: positioning matters, spotting matters, aiming matters, flanking matters, awareness matters, terrain matters, etc, and there is no way to heal your HP. I’m not into pure FPS games because I find them to lack realism and they’re heavily twitch-based, whereas WoT is a nice mix of twitch and tactics. This isn’t to say WoT is perfect – I think the game has balance issues and gold ammo trivializes dealing damage – but I’ve found it challenging and enjoyable, and I’m working my way towards account-level Unicum (top 1% of players)
  4. The gaming community has greatly evolved in terms of the content it produces. I’ve been writing gaming guides since 2005 and making narrated videos since 2008. When I started publishing my narrated videos in 2008, it was something that very few people were doing. Most PVP videos back then were instagib videos with music, not narrated commentary like my videos. Thankfully, there are many thousands of gamers who are cranking out videos and guides about upcoming games, so there is no lack of content on games

I am looking forward to WildStar. As with RIFT, I’ll be going into launch basically knowing very little about the game.

I leveled 3 classes to about 6-7 in WildStar (in order): Medic, Warrior, and Stalker. Right now I’m leaning towards Warrior or Stalker, as both classes are MDPS, and in PVP this means I’ll have the opportunity to circle-strafe keyboard turners and in PVE I’ll be able to tank, which has always been the PVE role I enjoy most.

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Posted in Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, PVE, PVP, RIFT, SWTOR, Warhammer Online, WildStar, World of Tanks

Per-Player Revenue (ARPU) for MMOs


Yesterday SuperData Research posted the monthly ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) for 10 major MMO free-to-play (F2P) titles.

ARPU for 10 Major MMO Titles, per SuperData Research

It’s a fascinating article. What jumps out to me is that the ARPU’s are significantly less than a monthly subscription of $15 – the closest was World of Tanks (WoT) at 30% of that amount.

My guildee Sujitsu tweeted a hilarious set of conclusions based on the above table:

As CrossleyColor tweeted, Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is technically not a pure F2P game, given that it’s buy-to-play (B2P). The $3.88 figure for GW2 is probably based on post-purchase spending, because the $60 purchase price would jack up the monthly ARPU.

One of the big questions raised in the article is whether it’s best to go for quantity of players versus ARPU. Of course, in an ideal situation, the answer is both. To date, World of Warcraft (WoW) is really the only title that has had both a high active player base (7+ MM) and high ARPU ($100+ annually). Although I believe that the WoW phenomenon is not reproducible for a new MMO, by Blizzard or anyone else, as the market has evolved and shifted dramatically over the past decade.

League of Legends (LoL) has been enormously successful at scaling its player base, so even though Riot Games is #10 in the list, they’re generating significant revenue and the industry consensus is that they are killing it in terms of profitable growth. It is interesting that the $1.32 in monthly revenue per active player must be sufficient to more than cover all the costs of doing business: game development, marketing, production environment hosting and bandwidth, etc. As TriumphSP tweeted, this article didn’t provide those costs.

GW2 is in the top 3, and I credit ArenaNet for devising a monetization scheme that does not punish players who opt not to pay, after the initial purchase price. Both paying and non-paying customers have a positive experience in GW2.

I’m not at all surprised to see WoT top the list – Wargaming has done a very savvy job of designing game mechanics that incent players to fork over real money:

  • Easing the grind for new tanks
  • Developing crews that are highly skilled
  • Acquiring a monthly subscription for 50% higher income and experience
  • Sadly, being able to pay for bullets that are superior at armor-piercing, and while these can be paid for with in-game credits, the extent to which you can accumulate in-game credits tends to be correlated with how much real money you spend

Any F2P developer designing their monetization schemes should take a long look at what Wargaming has done, because many of the above concepts could be modified and applied to non-shooter games.

The WoT community often strongly defends WoT as a high skill-cap game – which I agree with – and that it is not Pay-to-Win (P2W), but the reality is paying real money does provide advantage relative to non-paying players.

I will confess that I’m what the gaming and casino industries classify as a “whale” – I’m in the low single-digit percentage of customers who accounts for 90+% of the revenue. I’ve been averaging over $30 per month playing WoT. As a full-time working stiff, spending the money is worth it to me to ease the grind. After the initial purchase $60 purchase price for GW2, I averaged over $10 per month, mostly to buy gems to sell for in-game currency to pay for gear-related improvements.

How much do you spent on a monthly basis on your F2P MMOs?

EDIT (2014/04/12): fixed mistakes, per Brian Green’s comment.

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Posted in Business Analysis, Guild Wars 2, League of Legends, World of Tanks
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