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Friday, July 31, 2015

Fleet Friday - Fighting the Cleveland Class Cruiser

I think I'm getting better.

[gallery type="rectangular" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5701,5702"]

My World of Warships stats continue to slowly rise. I suppose that's to be expected. I'm certainly not a naval prodigy, and the total of new battles fought per week is a steadily declining percentage of total battles fought. And I didn't fight any battles on two days this week due to RL. Nevertheless, I am learning quite a bit as I work my way towards obtaining the Pensacola class cruiser. At this point I have completely upgrade my Cleveland class cruiser, and that includes the four purchased upgrade slots. It cost my around 2,000,000 credits, but it was so worth it in my opinion. Here's what I purchased:

[caption id="attachment_5721" align="aligncenter" width="398"]Main Battery Modification 1 Main Battery Modification 1[/caption]

On several occasions in fights with higher tier battleships I've had my battle cut short with a well places AP round. Magazine detonations are catastrophic. I believe I've mentioned this before. A 20% decrease in their occurrence huge. They still happen, but everything helps. Also, with the loss of a turret you lose a quarter of your damage potential. Both the 20% decrease in the chance of a turret incapacity, and the 20% increase in repair time will keep my Cleveland in top form.

[caption id="attachment_5724" align="aligncenter" width="489"]AA Guns Modification 2 AA Guns Modification 2[/caption]

The Cleveland is an AA machine. It was the first U.S. cruiser designed with air defense in mind. If you are not using your Cleveland to provide AA for your fleet, IMO you are doing it wrong. Don't think you'll miss the action just because you stay in the rear and protect your carrier from the other carrier. How many games have you been in where your carrier captains decide to go after the enemy carrier first? This is especially prevalent in two verses one situations. Put a couple Clevelands around your carrier and their planes will ger a rude surprise. With this upgrade I get a larger AA umbrella, and provides some maneuver space while still protecting my charge.

[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="5723,5722"]

The last two upgrades are related and complimentary. The Cleveland class cruiser has a top end speed of just over 30 knots. It is very important to keep that maximum speed. It gives you a greater range of gears to go through if you would. It's not about running straight and true. It's about giving yourself the largest range of options, and the ability to move at all. An unmoving ship is what caused people to coin the phrase sitting duck in the first place. Keeping my engines running also means I have a better chance of getting where I need to be at the moment I'm needed.

But speed isn't all that it's about. The stock Cleveland tends to wallow. It's slow to turn and this lowers its maneuverability. When it seems the ocean is full of more torpedoes than fish, you need every bit of maneuverability you can get. Near the end of this battle you can see what I mean (video is pre-positioned.)


As you can see in the video, there is a very specific tactic you need to use when dealing with torpedo bombers. You must turn into the attack. If you can't turn into it, turn away, but that risks your steering and your ability to dodge subsequent attacks. Turning into the torpedoes is far better. As you saw with the first drop, I was able to steer between them and avoid any damage. On the second drop, I still ate one, but it was on the bow and at an angle. The damage wasn't that bad, and more importantly I didn't suffer any flooding. Oh, and how do you know when the torpedo planes are about to drop?  Remember that AA upgrade giving me a longer range? The range is longer than most torpedo drops. If you hear your AA guns open up in a steady roar, someone is making a run on you. Take your eyes off the ship you were looking at and turn in the direction your tracers are heading. You don't need to find the torpedo planes to know which direction is toward them. Your odds of surviving the attack in a cruiser are far higher when you have this advanced notice and turn into the torpedoes. It takes a very skilled aircraft carrier commander to get a multi directional drop on you (the best offense against this maneuver IMO,) and when you're putting the pressure on by raining shells on his flight deck you disrupt the hell out of that idea.

And speaking of raining shells, I've read lots of complaints about the Cleveland's main guns. They are a low velocity weapon, and as such lob shells in great arcs. That takes time to land, and it can be tricky getting the proper lead on a ship. Have a look at the video again. There is a reticle on your gun sights. It's indispensable for aiming as you are well aware. When it comes to the Cleveland, increase our lead another 50%. Most ships capable of 30 knots or more will require the entire reticle for a lead and perhaps a bit more. If you are unsure of the correct lead, fire one turret at a time. be patient. Find the correct mark and then fire full volleys. Watch his speed and angle; compensate as needed. Once you get the correct lead, these compensations will be the same as for any other ship.

And don't forget the Cleveland is artillery. Artillery has distinct advantages in certain situations. You can shoot over almost any island on any map except the really big ones. Just because an enemy ship runs behind an island doesn't mean you shouldn't still shoot it. You should, because your shells will clear that island and still hit their mark. That's one reason when I'm faced with Cleveland cruisers on the other side and I'm in range, I'll change speed and direction or at least range when I get behind the island. The opposing Cleveland captain won't be able to compensate because they won't see what I did. But I've not seen a lot of ship captains thinking this way. Most destroyers for example think they're safe when they get behind an islands. I've seen cruisers think they're safe for hugging a shoreline. Lob shells at them and show them the error of their ways. :)

And until next time, battle on!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day 1 by Patrick Rothfuss

[caption id="attachment_5677" align="alignleft" width="113"]The Name of the Wind The Name of the Wind[/caption]

I'm a little behind the times with listening to this book. I frankly missed it when it was published in 2007 - only having recently had it recommended to me by a friend. Fortunately for me, the second book was a long time coming (published 2011) and the third and final book will not be published until next year. I am glad I was ignorant of this story for so long. If I'd read this book in 2007 and then had to wait nine (9!) years to get the conclusion, I'd have become as insane as Master Elodin. So it's all turned out very well.

So without further comment, here is the publisher's summary of, and my thoughts on, The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day 1 by Patrick Rothfuss:

My name is Kvothe

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature - the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

The emphasis in the publisher's summary is mine. Normally when I read such lines I attribute them to an overactive and perhaps under employed marketing manager. However, in this case I emphasis the line because it is true.

Now, the first thing many of you epic fantasy aficionados thought was, "this book could not possibly be as epic as The Lord of the Rings," or more appropriately compared, as good as The Fellowship of the Ring. In that you would not be wrong. This story is not that work of epic fantasy. Comparing it to Tolkien does it a great disservice. In some very pleasant ways, The Name of the Wind is better than that book.

To many I've just thrown down a gauntlet. Let's cut to the chase then. I've read The Lord of the Rings trilogy four times in my life. That is not as many times as some of you, but three more times than most. Let's be honest about it. The world J.R.R. Tolkien built is fantastic. The story arc is truly epic as only saving the world from the grips of an unspeakably evil demigod  can be. But the main characters within the story, the Fellowship characters, are mostly two-dimensional and no more real than Middle Earth itself. They tend to be stereotypical by today's standard of writing. Back in the 1950s, when fantasy writing was really just getting started, they were better than most of what was available within the genre. But the genre has advanced, and many of the requirements of literary writing have been adopted by the fantasy genre.

One such requirement is character development. First and foremost, characters must seem as real people. They are all unique; they are all complicated. The dwarf, besides being short, bearded and fearsome with a battle axe, must also have hopes and fears and aspirations more than cleaving orc skulls or hording gold. She must have emotions. She must be governed by those emotions to some degree. Only by mastering her emotions and overcoming her own fears can she accomplish her goals. But there is a price to pay. To kill orcs all day long takes a toll on any real person's psyche. Not showing that conflict within the character is considered substandard writing these days. Remember, even orcs have family. They are people too. You can't just kill them willy-nilly and not have regrets.

Okay, perhaps that last went too far, but you see my point don't you? Patrick Rothfuss gives us not only a protagonist who has the ability to do great things - epic things - but he also has flaws. He has strong emotions. He has great gaping emotional wounds that shape him into the person he is, and a driving need to know, "why me." Is that not the quintessential question we all ask ourselves after suffering great loss? Kvothe's story is his quest to answer that question, and to uncover the horrifying truths his world has chosen to forget.

But asking that question isn't launched into right away. First there is a grieving process that must occur, because that is human nature. The mighty Kvothe is no exception. In this book, we live that process with him. There were times during his story I as so upset for Kvothe I could have cried. There were times I was so angry at the unfairness of it all I cursed his antagonists. And when he overcame, I cheered him. I laughed with him at the funny things, and I was sad for him when adversity struck. When an author can invoke in me the emotions of the protagonist, they have succeeded in the art of writing.

Going back to the previous comparison, J.R.R. Tolkien doesn't come close to this level of character development with Frodo until the third book - if then. But with Frodo, his burden was an external burden. The issue wasn't in his head, it was around his neck. That's not how it works in reality. In reality our burdens are usual imposed upon us by ourselves, and I respect an author who realizes such and creates a protagonist who is not only legendary but also humanly flawed to a point. I've known many very, very smart people who were complete social idiots for example. Being smart doesn't make you worldly-wise. Pretending your Protagonist is not susceptible to this basic fact of the human condition makes him phony. Fortunately Kvothe is not phony.

But that is not the only thing The Name of the Wind has going for it. The world it is set in is pure swords and magic fantasy, but the devil is in the detail. What Kvothe learns in the Medica from Master Arwyl is medically sound. The drugs are not magical, though they can be powerful and deadly if used incorrectly. The book's idea of magic has familiar roots in chemistry and physics.

Take for example Sympathy. Sympathy magic is the first magic students of the Arcanum learn. It is the ability to affect the physical world through mentally binding like objects. The more alike they are the stronger the Sympathy binding. But within that magic is the concept of preservation of energy. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only be moved from place to place, and that is the secret of Sympathy magic. Not only is conservation of energy adhered to in Kvothe's universe, but conservation of momentum and all the other laws of physics.

So it is with the alchemy of the world. I have had enough chemistry in high school and university to know when an author is describing a reagent that can only be hydrofluoric acid, an extremely dangerous and potentially fatal chemical.

I have loved the sequences within the book where Kvothe or others are practicing their magic, but the principles explained by the masters are really nothing more than modern science couched in a different medium. And Patrick Rothfuss does this in a manner that is authentic to the world he's created. It is very clever, and I am enjoying it immensely. It's science in fiction and that really lights my Sympathy Lamp. ;-)

But let's get back to the structure of the trilogy itself. It is both the story of the legendary Kvothe in the present day, a man in hiding with a price on his head, and the story of how Kvothe became that legend. This second is told by Kvothe himself. Patrick Rothfuss manages to pull off a first person narrative within the framework of a third person narration. It takes place in Kvothe's inn, where he is hiding in plain sight from his enemies. But while the present takes place in the inn, most of the story is set in the past as Kvothe tells his true life's story to a man known as The Chronicler. It is the mother of all flashback scenes, and it is pulled off with no small amount of flair by the author.

I could go on, but this should be enough. If you are into very well written epic fantasy I can wholeheartedly recommend The Name of the Wind. And as I've already begun the second book, The Wise Man's Fear, I can say you should prepare to see this through to the end. It only seems to get better. And from what I've seen so far, I can hardly wait for the conclusion next year.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Are the Maps of World of Warships Fair?

I see it from time to time while I'm playing World of Warships. Okay, I see it almost every gaming session. Someone complains about how unbalanced the game is. Those statements are more than a little whiny considering this is an open beta game, not the final release. To my way of thinking, you fight the ship you have, not the ship you want. It's that simple. In real naval battle you don't get a choice. If you feel otherwise perhaps you should find a different game.

But there are other things to wonder about than ship balance. Even though I feel any ship, if handled properly, can be a winner, I have wondered is the maps are inherently equal. I discussed the concept of angle in my last post, and how important it is. As part of that, I was wondering if the maps themselves might give on starting position an advantage over the other.

From that musing, I also began to wonder what fleet strategies work on which maps. It would be impossible to get this information from the tactical view from the deck of your ship. What we need is a fleet map. And that is precisely what the mini-map is. There is also the question of whether some maps show up more frequently than others. There's probably a lot of anecdotal evidence on that score, and perhaps even some official developer comments on it. But I like empirical evidence. So I've compiled some.

I have recorded most of my game play sessions. From those recordings, I have isolated the mini-map for every PvP victory into a 270 by 270 pixel animated GIF. Before creating the GIF I sped up the playback speed 500 percent. A battle that took 15 real minutes can now be seen played out in three. Fleet movements become obvious.

Here is what I've discovered so far about the maps of World of Warships. Some of them I've not played often as they are for higher tiered ships. I'll start our with general statistics, and then a gallery of animated GIFs for each map.

Map Statistics

For the sake of generalization, I have combined the starting locations into two positions: right/top and left/bottom. There are always two sides and you will be on one of them. Right is of course east, top is north, left is west and bottom is south. It doesn't matter which is pared with which so long as I am consistent. To that end I have decided on the following orientations for the various maps.

  • Big Race is an east/west map.

  • Fault Line is a north/south map.

  • Islands is an east/west map.

  • New Dawn is an east/west map.

  • North is a north/south map.

  • Two Brothers is a north/south map.

I have had one victory on the map named Hotspot, which has four starting positions: NW, NE, SW, and SE. It is not included in my graph. As for the other maps, here is how the victories parceled according to starting position.

Victories by Map Starting Position

From what I see in the data above, not that it's statistically valid, is that New Dawn is exceedingly well-balanced. After 14 battles our victories are evenly split between the two starting positions. The map I've battled on most is Fault Line. With 18 victories, it does appear the north starting position has a slight edge over south. The other map which concerns me, though it has a very small statistical sample (tongue in cheek as they are all small statistical samples,) is Islands. When we started on the east, my team was victorious four times more often than when we started in the west. Of course, with such a relatively small representative sample for each map, I am not going to say outright that any map is unbalanced. I am only giving you what I have so far. However, there is one more tool we can look at: the mini-map GIFs. By analyzing those it might be possible to discern if one starting position is more advantageous than another. We will certainly be able to see the winning strategy.

Here is an example of what I have created. I've only recorded one battle on this map so it is well suited as an example.

Hot Spot

[caption id="attachment_5583" align="aligncenter" width="270"]Hotspot Northwest Victory - Cleveland 3 Hotspot Northwest Victory - Cleveland 3[/caption]

If you'd like to see the other 54 guaranteed-to-crash-your-browser-session animated mini-map GIF images, just click one of these links:

I'm not kidding about the crashing your browser session. Word Press can't seem to handle that many GIFs on a page. I've had a hard time getting it to handle just the one above. I have separated the GIFs into individual pages by map. That will hopefully mitigate some of the issues. You may want to right-click and open them in a new Window.

And that's what I have on World of Warships maps. There is only one thing that bugs me about the GIFs, other than the browser crashing. It seems that on the last game update they reduced the size of the mini-map. They start filling the entire GIF area, but post update they don't (see above.) :| For display reasons I kept them the same size. I hope you find them useful. Battle on!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Accuracy, Angles and the Art of the Juke

It took me nine days to earn enough experience to research the tier VI Cleveland class cruiser. I fought 55 battles in my trusty Omaha class cruiser. My ship survived only 17 battles, but we were victorious in 32 of them. I sank 37 enemy ships and downed 65 of their aircraft. I had really good showings, and really bad showings. It was not easy in the beginning. But once it was fully upgraded, I became quite fond of the Omaha class cruiser. It is quick. It is nimble. It can rain steel on target with the best of them. It's a ship I plan to keep for a while.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="5526,5527"]

My time in the Omaha class cruiser saw an uptick in my performance measurements. My victories per battle percentage crept up from 45.45% to 49.23%, and my kill/death ratio improved and entire tenth of a point. Overall I am not victorious more often than not, but in the Omaha I was.

And the Omaha is the only reason for those increases. I also earned my way into the Wyoming class battleship earlier in the week. When I had a particularly bad showing in the Omaha, I went back to port and fought a round in the Wyoming class. It did me no favors. I've fought 12 battles in the Wyoming class and had victories in only three of them - a whopping 25% victory statistic. I have however survived half the battles I've fought in, so it did help with that overall statistic.

In the Cleveland class cruiser we've been victorious in half of my battles; I've fought four. I have survived none of them. I've only sank two ships. Targeting has been the main issue. In the Omaha I had a 28% main battery hit ration. In the Cleveland that's dropped to 20%. Only one in five shells have landed.

[gallery type="rectangular" columns="2" size="large" ids="5530,5531"]

I've thought about it, and I think the issue are the turrets. The Omaha has two turrets of two guns fore and aft. The other six main guns are individual hull mount guns. Not all of them can come to bear on a target even in the best of circumstances, but it is a lot easier to walk shells into your target if your lead is wrong when you fire continuously, which I tend to do at closer ranges.

The Cleveland has 12 guns, but they are in four turrets. This means they can all come to bear on the target in most circumstances, but they fire in groups of three. If you miss, all three typically miss. Aiming well becomes much more of a requirement in fighting the Cleveland than in previous cruiser classes. This makes it more like fighting a battleship than previous cruisers were, and it's a change to which I'll have to adjust. I've been sloppy in my aiming until now, making up for imprecision with volume of fire. That has not stood me well in the battleships and it will not do well with the Cleveland. That is my first lesson of this cruiser class.

I've learned a few other general fighting rules over the last week as well. The first is angles, angles, angles. In the days of the square-rigged man-o-war, delivering broadsides was the only game in town. Running broadside to another cruiser, or heaven forbid a battleship, will get you detonated with more modern ships. For those that might not know, that's a shell penetration of your ship's magazine - where all the ammunition is stored. A magazine detonation is what sank HMS Hood in 1941. Here's what a magazine explosion looks like for real.


Devastating is an understatement. Don't run broadside to your opponent.

The next piece of advice I've taken to heart is juking. If you look up the definition of that word, it'll say to zig-zag. This is not precisely what you need to do. Not only do you zig-zag, you also need to speed up and slow down. You need to do it randomly, or at least not with any predictable pattern. And you need to be able to do it while firing at your opponent all the while. On a real ship, you have individual sailors to carry out your orders and do this for you. In World of Warships, you're on your own, but at least the controls are a lot less complicated. ;-) And while you get the hang of it, just don't run in a straight line for too long, especially when you're zoomed in on another ship while firing at it. It's easy to forget to maneuver in the heat of battle. And while you're at it, get closer unless your opponent is in a group. You never want to be alone out there unless he is too. It's moments like that when you should charge - but don't forget to juke! Never forget there is a destroyer behind every island and they all want you to run straight so they can hit you with a narrow spread of torpedoes. :o

And speaking of islands, on Sunday I'll have a post on the maps of Worlds of Warships discussing where you should fight, and where you should not, so swing by again in the afternoon to have a look at what I've learned about those maps.

Until then, what I need to practice is accuracy, angles and juking. With accuracy you can hit the enemy first and unnerve him. Keeping a proper angle minimizes the risk to you. There is nothing quite so disheartening as constantly missing your foe, so make that happen to your opponent. And lastly, don't make yourself an easy target. There will be plenty of times that enemy battleship will get in a good shot, and you'll explode like HMS Barnum. Just don't make it easy for them. Battle on!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heading Back to Civilization

Before I left HD 167971 I consulted the galactic map for a distance check. I was over 2000 light years from Sol. I was so far out nothing humans had ever broadcast on any medium could have reached me. Even if I had an old-fashioned radio, there was simply nothing to receive. Just interstellar background noise. It was a disquieting moment.

I'd traveled for weeks to get to HD 167971 and never once felt lonely. In the back of my mind I just knew there were people around; a stray signal I could listen in on. I could never be truly alone because there are so many people in the universe. I was wrong. Compared to the stars in just our one galaxy, humanity is rare. It's easy to forget when you are inundated with people all the time. Easy to forget until there is nothing to remind you the rest of humanity even exists.

I've decided to head back to colonized space.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I need a people fix. The galaxy is beautiful, but it's nothing compared to human companionship. But don't get me wrong, I'm still going to take my time and survey as many systems as I can along the way. I need cash the same as anyone. And just knowing I'm heading back has eased the disquiet a lot.

I am now about 200 light years closer to Sol than I was. I've surveyed four systems of note and added them to my star system catalog.

The first notable system was BLEAE THUA NV-N B20-3. The only planet of any value is a lovely ringed gas giant. That's not what got my attention. The main M class star is orbited by three companions forming a trinary of their own around which the gas giant orbits along with some icy worlds. Two brown dwarfs orbit a cool class L star closely. They arrangement was beautiful.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5481,5482"]

The next star system I surveyed, BLEAE THUA DP-I C9-23, was also a multi star system, but this one has two class M stars in close binary orbit of each other. It was really, really bright when I dropped out of hyperspace between the two of them. You can see how close they are in my survey video. Fortunately they are not so close as to overheat my system. My ship normally runs at about 26% heat capacity so it takes a bit to cook her. Besides the close binary M class stars there was a L class star only a few thousand light seconds away. Both the binary pair and the L class companion had four high metal content planets each (eight total) with one of those four a terraforming candidate (two total.)

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5491,5490,5492,5489,5488,5486,5487,5484,5485"]

That system however is probably not the most profitable system. Though it had one planet and star less, I think it will be out done by BLEAE THUA TQ-W B15-7, which has not only two terraforming candidates but the second is a terrestrial type water world with carbon based life!

[gallery columns="2" size="medium" type="columns" ids="5495,5494,5500,5499,5498,5497,5496"]

But as profitable as those last two systems are, I think my favorite of the four was the last system I surveyed. BLEAE THUA YY-S D3-0 is a brilliant white A type star with seven planets. The inner three are high metal content worlds with the third having a strikingly lovely Io type moon that intensely contrasts the black of its master. But the real gems of this system are gas giants, which looked like none I've ever seen before. The first is a class III gas giant so blue with white clouds you'd swear it was a giant water world if you didn't have a surface scanner. The second is a class IV gas giant the color of a hunters moon back on Earth. The third gas giant is another class III with high white clouds over a rust colored troposphere. And lastly comes a ringed class II gas giant the color of milk with the lines of cocoa powder just starting to be stirred into it.

[gallery type="columns" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5502,5508,5507,5506,5505,5504,5503"]

And when I get back to civilization, and after I take a long needed shower, I'm going to look up a few old friends and fly with some people for a while. But there's a lot of systems between here and there that need surveyed. It may be awhile. Fly careful.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fighting the Omaha Class Cruiser

I have been playing World of Warships for two weeks. According to Raptr I have 35 hours invested into playing. It's actually a few hours more as I've played during my lunch hour a few days and I don't run Raptr on the laptop. I have now fought more PvP battles than PvE battles. Here's a quick snapshot of how I'm progressing.

[gallery type="rectangular" columns="2" ids="5450,5451"]

I purchased a 30 day premium account because grind. It gives a marked improvement in experience points gained during battles. It doesn't make me a better player though. ;-) What does make me a better player is practice. And practice I have, and I like to think it's paying off.

I've not sank a teammate since that first ill-fated torpedo salvo when I first got into the Phoenix class cruiser. I have actually become quite good at not causing damage to my teammates during the course of a battle. That leads me to believe my situational awareness is increasing. Either that or I check the mini map three times before I fire.

[caption id="attachment_5459" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Taking Out Another Omaha with Torpedos Taking Out Another Omaha with Torpedos[/caption]

One thing I've learned about torpedoes is they are complimentary weapons on a cruiser. Your main weapons are your main batteries just as they are in any capital ship. If the enemy gets too close, torpedoes are a good way to discourage them from getting closer. But don't try to be a destroyer. Even in the Omaha, which I got into midweek, and doing 32 knots, you aren't fast enough to close to launch range without getting your nuts blown off. Trust me on that. I think the United States Navy finally figured this out after the Omaha class, which was about the last cruiser class to have torpedoes as armament. After that the deck space was given over to anti-aircraft (AA) guns. A sensible change in the age of naval aviation.

The best tactic I've discovered for the Omaha's torpedoes is what I call 'island stalking.' There are several maps with many small islands. They lend my cruiser cover as I get within torpedo range. Be advised, they also lend destroyers cover, and they are much better at it than you can be. Wait until the team has dealt with the enemy destroyers before you decide to be one yourself.

[caption id="attachment_5458" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Wyoming BB Captain Requesting Omaha AA Wyoming BB Captain Requesting Omaha AA[/caption]

The Omaha really comes into its own when you get the 1944 (last) hull refit. You lose two rear facing main guns as well as half your torpedo salvo capability, but you gain a literal boatload of AA guns. At that point you become a real asset to your older battleships who have no AA capability and are big fat juicy torpedo plane targets. If you stick with them they'll appreciate it (see above) and you might even be able to drive off those pesky (and very dangerous) destroyers intent on getting a few of their fish delivered. If you position yourself ahead and to the enemy side of your battleship line, you can even use your torpedoes against those destroyers. But understand, you're not going to hit them. They are too fast and nimble for that and they will easily avoid your torpedoes unless the captain has no situational awareness. What you are going to do is influence where they go. You'll force them to turn and that'll slow them, giving you a chance to hit them hard. Also, channel them away from your capital ships. Cut off their best torpedo approaches. Push them towards your other escort ships where they can be dealt with. Or, if you've no other support ships nearby, at least get them to run broadside to you so you have a greater opportunity to hit them with your mains.

[gallery columns="1" size="large" type="rectangular" ids="5464,5465"]

The last thing I find the Omaha excels at is getting to where the action is. It gives me the opportunity to fight as Napoleon ordered: march to the sound of the cannon. If I am on the right side of the map, and the enemy fleet went to the left, I can get across to them in relatively short order. I can at least get into main armament range, which is 12.7 kilometers in the fully refit Omaha class; without taking into account any commander bonus. You can effectively stay out of range of older cruisers like the St. Louis while delivering long-range and accurate artillery fire. You can pull this on a stock Omaha too. ;) I look forward to future cruisers where the AA capability as well as range increases. The Cleveland class cruiser starts with a 13.3 kilometer range. :)

But cruisers are not the only ships I have been fighting. I'd been thinking about opening another line of ships, and encouragement from Corelin, whom I divisioned with one night, got me to pull the trigger. I had already earned enough experience on the St. Louis class cruiser to open the United States battleship tree. I've fought several battles with the South Carolina class battleship and am looking forward to getting into the Wyoming class. The South Carolina class is slow and short ranged with no AA capability of which to speak. The Wyoming is a touch faster, has a substantially increased range and a fully refit Wyoming class battleship as much better AA. The only thing I need to watch out for is running out of credits. I'm still a ways away from the Cleveland class cruiser but the purchase price is nearly three million!

For all its short comings though, the South Carolina has given my one of my best moments to date. In one of my battles last night, I was the last ship alive and being chased by an Arkansas Beta class battleship. It was odd, but this Arkansas Beta was on my tail as if she meant to ram me. I got 21 main gun rounds into her before the game ended (not with my death I might add.) Nearly half of those were delivered as full eight gun broadsides at less than three kilometers - practically point-blank range. Here's what that looked like.

[caption id="attachment_5456" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]Arkansas Beta at Point Blank Range Arkansas Beta at Point Blank Range[/caption]

Arkansas Beta at Point Blank Range

I have no idea why the captain never fired the main guns of that beast at me. I suppose he was just enjoying the chase too much.  Regardless, I'm happy to have survived even if not victorious. Even in defeat I could battle on!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I Was That Guy

On Sunday I finally earned enough experience to get into the tier IV Phoenix class cruiser. It's not the shell slinging monster the St. Louis class cruiser is, but it came armed with torpedos! I'd seen lots of hurt put on ships by torpedos and I was eager to try them but not without a good deal of trepidation. When I said I'd seen a lot of hurt put on ships by torpedos, notice I did not say which side they were on. I've seen lots of friendly fire with torpedos as well.

With shells, if a friendly steams in front of you they take a little damage and curse your name, but unless they are already severely damaged they will be able to continue the fight. Recompense is made at the end of the game where you give up some of your money and give it to them for the mistake.

However, with torpedos you can sink even a fully healthy ship with one salvo. The damage potential is immense even if the range isn't. My Phoenix class cruiser torpedos do 11,733 points of damage EACH. Here, have a look yourself. I can fire three at a time. That's enough damage to sink most cruisers in one salvo even if they aren't already damaged.

And that's precisely what I did the first time I fired my torpedos.

[gallery type="rectangular" size="medium" ids="5425,5426,5427"]

And if you look very closely at that cruiser, you'll see it has a green marker above it. It was my own fleet mate. And though it is true he made a 180 degree turn and sailed right into their path, I still should not have fired when a fleet mate was in front of me. It's too risky. And to make matters worse, I didn't understand the technical limitations of my torpedoes and was woefully out of range. So it turned out I was that guy and all I could do was apologize and promise to get better.

And you know what? I did get better. I haven't torpedoed a teammate again. I am very cautious about when and where I fire my torpedoes. I've learned how to fire them on the run and not get hit myself. If you watch a few of my highlights on either Twitch or YouTube you can see that for yourself. I will not fail you again hartlen196817.

That's not to say I haven't had battles that frankly sucked. Like everyone else, I've had some really good battles (which I highlight,) and some really bad battles as well. In PvP you sometimes run into teams who obviously have some division synergy or perhaps just very experienced players who all do the right thing. When that happens, they can quickly turn a flank and roll you hard. It happens to the best.

What's important is how you handle it. This is not what you do.

[caption id="attachment_5428" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]WOWS Troll WOWS Troll[/caption]

Javlin007 was an ass (as well as a bad speller.) I told him so. He proceeded to ask me what I had done. I told him I'd played a game with some class. No, I hadn't sank any of the enemy. Me and another cruiser tried holding the left side by ourselves while trying to give our carrier time to escape and had our nuts handed to us. But that didn't bother me. I know I was trying to do the right thing. And besides, I was having fun doing it. Even after the troll opened his big fat mouth, metaphorically speaking, I still was having fun. That's the whole point, and if you aren't having fun even when you lose, the problem isn't the game, or your team. It's you. You need to take a good hard look inside, or go find something else to do.

Here is my promise to those I meet on the field of virtual battle:

  1. I will treat you with respect and never denigrate you for your performance.

  2. I will 'gg' (good game for those who don't know) my opponents, even if they are not like-minded.

  3. I will compliment you on good play, even if it is at my expense.

This is what it means to be a good player. It's not about whether you win or lose. It's about how you play the game. That is the true test of your character. And if you can't compliment, say nothing at all. But you should compliment. We all like to be recognized once in a while, and it's the honorable thing to do. And to prove my credo is not just so much smoke, I present this evidence.

[gallery type="columns" size="medium" ids="5429,5430"]

I did not see Budw3iser emerge from behind the island while following the cruiser I was intent on sinking. In one well-aimed salvo he ended my threat to the cruiser ahead of him. It was a perfect shot which took me from half hull to no hull. Well played sir; battle on.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Great, Just What I Need: Another Addiction.

I am going to blame this on Kirith Kodachi. It's all his fault. He started blogging about World of Warships during closed beta and it really intrigued me - far more than World of Tanks or World of Warplanes. Those last two are a been there, done that for real issue with me. However, I've always been fascinated by naval combat. So I downloaded it last Sunday.

Fourteen hours plus of game play later I can't stop playing it. I love that if I have a quick 30 minutes I can start it up and fight a couple of battles. The plus part after the fourteen hours is because I can fire it up on my personal laptop during my work lunch break and get in three or four battles. I don't Raptr track that time, but it happened three times last week. It's quick. It's easy. It's fun!

Of course, that doesn't really say whether I'm any good at it. I'd like to think so. I'm nearly ready to move to a Tier IV Phoenix cruiser, and my St. Louis class cruiser is fully upgraded and deals more damage than a South Carolina class battleship. All I have to judge by at the moment are my stats, which are available on the World of Warships web site. I've played four PvP matches and my team lost in each one. My performance was possibly adequate. I've fought 55 Co-Op battles, and like some of my stats though I'm sure they're not l33t.

Mabrick Stats 12July2015 Mabrick Stats 12July2015

This game had even gotten me interested in live streaming on Twitch again. I'd pretty much given up on that because Elite: Dangerous doesn't really lend itself to live streaming as there is so much time spent just flying from planet to planet. I was also having no luck getting Open Broadcaster Software to work with my system since one particular Nvidia driver update late last year. But I really wanted to broadcast World of Warships, so I bought a 3-month license to XSplit Gamecaster and decided to give it a try. WOW! What a difference. It's way too damn easy to use. I mean, computers are supposed to be hard right? Well, XSplit isn't. Since putting it on my system a few days ago I've been dialing it in. I've managed to produce seven highlights in three sessions, and I've been uploading them to YouTube under a new playlist.


Five of the videos are 720p. The last two are 420p because it was late, I'd been at a family reunion all day and I just couldn't be bothered. Later today I'm going to try some 1080p broadcasting to see how bad the lag is. I'd love to stream 1080p at 60 f/sec... but Comcast. They're awful, but literally the only game in town - dammit. I could get a higher bandwidth connection, but only if I sign up for their stupid T.V. and/or phone service. I am so not going there. They can stick it. But hey, that's not what this post is about!

In the 59 total battles I've been in so far I've had some memorable moments. Here is one I still chuckle over. I was in a point-blank engagement with an enemy battleship (one of those worthless Kawachi BBs Kirith mentioned I think) and this happened.

Aircraft Carrier Down.00_05_44_28.Still001 Aircraft Carrier Down.00_05_44_28.Still001

That was incredibly cool to see as I was slugging it out with the other ship. I actually think the torpedo bomber was one of ours. I hope his torpedo was the one that blew the enemy battleship to smithereens. That pilot deserves a Silver Star.

As I mentioned, I'm just about ready to move to the Phoenix class cruiser. I agree with Kirith. It's going to be a bit of a shock to move too it from the St. Louis class. But better things await on the other side and I too am looking forward to the Omaha class. I am saving all my Free Experience to get past the Phoenix class quickly. It's slower going now, but hey, I'm captaining a St. Louis class!

For this week, I've been playing the free version of the game. They have a premium account, but I'm not so certain it's worth it. Perhaps someone can give me some advice on that. For now I know I could progress much more swiftly if I joined PvP battles. I just don't want to be that noob guy if you know what I mean. I want to stick to bots until I know I won't spam the torpedoes as was done in one of my four PvP missions. Anyway, if you read this Kirith, add me to your list in World of Warships. I'll escort your carrier any day, but you may need to give me some time to become competent. Until then, Battle On!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Dark Between the Stars: The Saga of Shadows, Book One by Kevin J. Anderson

[caption id="attachment_5400" align="alignleft" width="100"]The Dark Between the Stars The Dark Between the Stars[/caption]

This is the last book on the Hugo Awards Nominee list for this year. I will cast my ballot in the next few days. This book is also one of the Sad Puppy nominations. It is what they feel is an award-winning science fiction/fantasy novel. I'll address my feelings on that in conclusion. But first, here is the publisher's summary of the book.

Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.

Galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against each other. Heroes rise and enemies make their last stands in the climax of an epic tale seven years in the making.

This is book one of a new trilogy set in The Universe of the Saga of Seven Suns. This new trilogy is The Saga of Shadows. It is a long book; over 22 hours long as an audio production.

The book has a cast of dozens. There is no single protagonist, though there is a singular antagonist. There were so many characters introduced in the first third of the book, it made it difficult to track who everyone was, and what they were doing. As the story proceeded and the individual character plot arcs converged, diverged, and then re-converged, this confusing panoply of characters sorted itself out eventually, and it was easier to track the various character plot arcs and how the arcs related to one another. This is not a problem of the book so much as a problem of the listener. My advise is to just go with it, and the author will make it clear as the story progresses. The book does have a satisfactory conclusion, one that did surprise me in a book that was remarkably absent surprises, though it is far from the end of the story. There are definitely two more books to go.

The main plot arc, within which all the character arcs play themselves out (or at least conclude for the time being,) is immense. It is trilogy spanning, as any epic fantasy would be. Though this story takes place in space and involves spaceships, it is fantasy - classic space opera. I don't say that just because the ships can travel faster than light. It's also because there is no scientific basis for most of the alien races, both good and bad, which inhabit the human explored section of the local spiral arm. I will give Kevin Anderson one nod, he has a very vivid imagination when it comes to creating aliens. Coming up with convincing aliens who are not just humans in makeup like some STTOS episode is difficult. Kevin Anderson pulls it off, though none of his aliens are completely new and unique. They are, however, portrayed in new ways which was entertaining. I won't say more because spoilers.

One of the litmus tests I apply to fiction is the real person test. Do the characters strike me as real people? Do they have depth and complications, or are they caricatures and stereotypes? With the dozens of characters in this book, I'd like to say one of them is a fully rounded person with complicated thought processes and motivations. However, that is not the case. The characters are as two-dimensional as The Brady Bunch.  I don't normally resort to other reviews, but Publishers Weekly stated it best, "the multitudinous characters offer more variety than depth." That does not mean I didn't get attached to these characters. There are a couple I absolutely love and a few I despise. However, it would be better if the traits I both love and despise could be wrapped up in one fully rounded person. One character does come very close to this goal - Tom Rom.

In the end, this book, though entertaining, is totally formulaic. The author thought of a giant, galaxy encompassing plot arc, came up with a cast of Jan Brady clones, and then wrote individual plot arcs for each of them, bringing them closer together and further away as each of their individual novelettes played out. The chapters are uniformly short and each chapter dwells on the actions of a single character. You could literally pull all the chapters labeled Tom Rom out of the story, rebind them and sell them as their own book. You probably wouldn't even have to include much background on the characters with which that smaller book's protagonist interacts.

Another recurring construct in this book is that with all these characters, they are always paired off male and female. It's like everyone is a couple. It's a Leave it to Beaver world where Ward and June meet, fall in love and walk into the sunset (or fire storm) hand in hand. This masquerades in some instances as a professional relationship, but it's always male and female. Perhaps this is how wholesome books are written, but it's not how the real world works no matter how much you may wish otherwise. However, there were two minor female characters that were not paired off by the end of the book. They were warriors and it was a student-teacher relationship, like Sensei and acolyte. I suppose you could count the human Rememberer and his apprentice as one of those relationships as well. Totally professional; nothing to see here. Move along. Completely boring.

In the end, I have to ask myself why this book is on the Hugo Award ballot. It is an entertaining book, but it's definitely a three out of five stars. As a work of writing it is not spectacular in the least. Besides the character issues, descriptions are adequate but not inspiring. The story is engaging but it's not original. The aliens are interesting, but again not original. I've seen many of the aliens in The Monster Manual. But this book is on the Hugo Award ballot, and now I have to decide if it deserves a vote. I'll come to that decision soon enough, but I can tell you now it certainly isn't one of my top three candidates. Frankly, The Martian was a much, much better book and it didn't make the ballot. And yes, I blame the Sad Puppy voters for that injustice, but I'll get over it. Perhaps Andy Weir will pick up some well deserved awards next year after the movie releases. But right now, I have a ballot to think about.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

GSE2 - You Sneak Up on Them

I have arrived. As I suspected, I was not the first surveyor to visit this system. Mankind has known of its existence for over a millennium so everyone knows to go to it. However, at over 1000 light years distance, between the Orion Spur and the Sagittarius arm, it isn't the easiest star system to get to. If your ship doesn't have a 20 light year jump range it will be a long trip indeed. Even with a 24 light year jump range it's taken me six weeks to get here. I've spent the last week surveying it.

So now you want to know what system I chose as my intermediate target, and who am I to keep the information from you? Here is the video catalog entry I made of it. 1


I picked HD 167971, also known as HIP 89681, because it has three things I've never seen let alone surveyed. It has a Class O5-8V type giant blue star as its main plasma monster. It also has a neutron star and two black holes: one orbiting the blue giant and the other in a binary relationship with the neutron star. As you can see in the video, there are also five other normal stars of type M and L in the system orbiting HD 167971 A and HD 167971 B - the first black hole. About half of these stellar bodies and remnants have planets, and I did flybys of every one of them. This is a special system so gets special treatment.

[caption id="attachment_5362" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]HD 167971 A - O Type Blue Giant HD 167971 A - O Type Blue Giant[/caption]

HD 167971 A is a humongous main sequence star. It weighs in at more than 30 solar masses. An average surface temperature over 48,000 kelvin and a peak surface temperature of 52,000 kelvin give this plasma monster a beautiful blue color. The color is most evident when viewed from a distance though as optical overload very close in tends to white wash photo receptors.

[caption id="attachment_5363" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]HD 167971 B - Black Hole HD 167971 B - Black Hole[/caption]

HD 167971 B is the first black hole. It orbits close to HD 167871 A at about 100 light seconds. So here's the thing about black holes. You have to sneak up on them. These are standard singularities, very small and very cold, not the gargantuan Sagittarius A super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. They do gravitationally lens the star field behind them, but the human eye is too insensitive to detect the lensing in anything but the densest star fields. And for the surface scanner to activate, you must be within five light seconds of the singularity. But don't be too concerned. As these are cold bodies you can get quite close. And as they are stellar mass black holes, they are very small and your ship will drop you out of super cruise before you cross the event horizon.

[caption id="attachment_5364" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]HD 167971 C - Black Hole HD 167971 C - Black Hole[/caption]

The second black hole is HD 167971 C which is a bit over 235,000 light seconds from HD 167971 AB, depending from where you start. As with HD 167971 B, it is small and cold with intense gravitational lensing but otherwise not all that scary.

[caption id="attachment_5365" align="aligncenter" width="1920"]HD 167971 D - Neutron Star HD 167971 D - Neutron Star[/caption]

This is not the case with a neutron star. If I had to pick one stellar-mass body I was most afraid of, it would be the neutron star. HD 167971 D is only the size of a mountain, but it exerts the gravitational pull of a massive main sequence star - a star like HD 167971 A. Though most of the stellar mass will be blown off in the nova that creates a neutron star, the resulting mountain sized mass of neutron plasma will be several solar masses. This particular neutron star is just under 2.5 solar masses. But that isn't what is so dangerous about neutron stars. They are hot, extremely hot; way beyond what you'd encounter in a main sequence star. HD 167971 D is 100 times hotter than the blue giant HD 167971 A. Your ship may be able to withstand the gravity of this beast at close range, but it's be a molten globe of metal before you could enjoy the view. Nevertheless, this is all proportional. It is only the size of a mountain. You will still need to get within five light-seconds to scan it, and I got to within 0.21 light-seconds before I got a proximity warning and my hull began to heat up. At 0.17 light-seconds my hull temperature was at 60% of maximum and my warning indicators has begun to flash in alarm. I still couldn't see anything but a point of light at that distance. I turned aside and made my flyby at just under a half light-second because I'm a long way from any space garage, and there is only so much damage my Automated Field-Maintenance unit can handle. The neutron plasma monster was still only a dot no bigger than the background stars.

The remainder of this star system consisted of four more Class M type stars, a Class L type star, six Metal-rich worlds, three high metal content worlds, two gas giants (a Class III and a Class IV,) and eight moons. I have calculated a minimum value for this system at 86,200 credits. The maximum value could be as high as 120,000 credits. You can see all of this system in the 20 minute video catalog entry above, or you can peruse the still images I have pulled out below for your viewing pleasure. And as always, fly careful.

[gallery type="rectangular" columns="2" size="medium" ids="5382,5380,5379,5378,5377,5381,5376,5374,5375,5373,5372,5369,5370,5368,5371,5367,5384,5385,5383"]

  1. I actually visited this system last week with all the others I reported on, but have been on a working vacation since. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ingress Progress


Intel report for #Ingress Portal Clyde Holliday State Park.

Just a short one as I'm currently on a working vacation in 100+ degree weather. I did in fact start playing Ingress. I'm still grinding for level, but where I'm currently at I can own portals for days. Very cool but I know it won't last. I leave for my regular haunts tomorrow. The competition there is intense and ownership changes hourly. Totally awesome!