For the best experience use full HD.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Elite: Dangerous Update - "Patience My Ass."

"I'm gonna kill something." Isn't that how that old cartoon went? More than anything I think this saying has ruled my thinking since getting back to so-called civilized space.

Currently CMDR Mabrick is a Merchant trader and a Pathfinder ranked explorer. However, when it comes to combat skills he is still ranked as harmless... correction, mostly harmless now.

Elite - Dangerous Ranks CMDR Mabrick
I decided my combat skills needed a bit of sharpening and have therefore sold my trusty exploration Cobra Mark III for a brand new Core Dynamics Vulture heavy fighter.

The Vulture is an incredible ship. It is quick and nimble as hell. It has one of the highest maneuverability ratings of any ship available. It only has two hard points, but makes up for lack of numbers with the ability to mount large weapons on those hard points. It has good armor and excellent shields. To highlight its capabilities, I recorded the first three kills I scored while flying her. It took less than 10 minutes to obliterate two Vipers and a Cobra Mark III in a High Intensity Conflict Zone.

Before I bought her, I read through a lot of the literature available from other pilots who have or are flying it. Based on their recommendations, I decided to mount two large pulse lasers and upgrade the power plant, the power distributor, and the shields. Other modules are fit for bounty hunting and rare trading if the mood strikes me. Here is the load out flown in the video above.

ED Shipyard - Vulture
The most obvious issue with this load out is the power consumption. In the video you can see I had trouble taking the hull down once I overcame the shields. This was partially because I was using lasers, but mostly because I was running out of power. Power distribution in the Vulture is dynamic when in combat. You will need to reset your distribution appropriately. For example, when my shields go down I stop powering weapons and dumb all extra power into regeneration. It's a derp, but it's also new to me.

The consensus recommendation for fighting this ship is to prioritize your modules so your combat systems get first dibs on power. I am still working on these settings to fit this load out. I have set to a priority of 5 my Frame Shift Drive, Frame Shift Interdictor, Cargo Hatch and Standard Docking Computer. I have set the Frame Shift Wake Scanner and the Kill Warrant scanner to a 3 priority. I have left everything else at a 1 priority.

Another recommendation was to use a large Beam Laser and a Fragmentation Cannon. This has a larger power consumption than the two pulse lasers, but not individually. They each consume slightly less. By using the laser against the shield and then switching to the cannon for the hull you will get a net increase in power. Personally I've enough to worry about remembering without having to switch between weapons so I just put on the Pulse Lasers.

The one thing I was really surprised with is how long the shields last with this beast. If I were to drop the Cargo Rack for a Shield Cell Bank I might never have my shields go down. That would of course but more strain on the power systems, but this ship is all about making compromises in one system to get excellent performance out of another. One of the tests I'm thinking of trying is to add a Shield Cell Bank and reduce my Pulse Lasers to medium size. Shedding 0.64 power consumption from my weapons might actually allow them to do more damage as they will keep up a high intensity barrage longer.

So, is anyone else reading this flying a Vulture, or has flown one? What to you think of it? How do/did you fit it? Let me know in the comments, and until we meet out there - fly careful.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Highlights #6: Devastating Strikes

This week's highlights are a series of devastating strikes delivered against a range of opponents, with some rock tuneage to set the mood. Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fleet Friday: How to Win Ranked Battles

Mabrick's Ranked Battles as of 2015-09-25
Since Ranked Battles went live last week, I have played at least one game each time I've been able to play World of Warships. I have only played them using my Pensacola class cruiser. More on why down below. Of the seven battles I've been in, my team has only lost the first battle. There was a reason for this, which I will discuss below. Overall I am pleased with my performance in Ranked Battles. I have only destroyed five ships and 27 aircraft, but I've been a member of the team and done my part. Mostly that has been providing screening and AA support to our battleships. But enough about me. What I really want to discuss is what works in Ranked Battles and what doesn't.

What Works

First and foremost, fleets need to stay together. At a minimum this means carriers, battleships and cruisers. Destroyers are a special case which I will discuss separately. All ranked battles (almost) always have one carrier and two battleships. I've seen no more than two destroyers on a team, though my statistical sample is fairly low. Typically I have only seen one destroyer per team. That leaves two or three cruisers. Since ranked battles are tier VI and VII ships only, that means the cruisers are the bulk of the ship based AA assets. There is another, but more on that in a moment as well. They must stay close to the battleships if those capital ships are to survive. It is also crucial they place themselves properly. They need to be between the fleet and the enemy a couple of kilometers ahead of the battleships. This keeps them in AA range and also screens for destroyers. Taking out the enemy destroyers that get past the fleet's destroyer(s) is the primary function of these two cruisers. They should keep HE loaded until they are dealt with, though this will be the case in most tier VI and VII cruisers without 203 mm guns.

If there are only two cruisers they need to be the corners of a box around the battleships and carrier. If three cruisers are available, the third should be between and no more than one kilometer behind the battleships. It should be the strongest AA ship. This will maximize its AA potential. It should be ready to race to the side from which the enemy aircraft approach. It is the responsibility of the cruiser commander to make this happen. The battleships are too slow to make it happen and need to concentrate on the opening long-range battle. The only thing the battleship commanders need to do is stay close together, preferably within a kilometer of each other, so the AA umbrella covers them both.

The carrier needs to stay behind and between the battleships no further than a kilometer. It should position itself directly behind the third cruiser if available. It should keep at least one squadron of fighters patrolling over the fleet at all times. This is actually the primary protection against the enemy torpedo bombers. The carrier commander must do everything possible to keep the carrier and both battleships afloat. I believe this is more important even than sinking enemy ships. Without the two battleships, victory will be very difficult. The fleet needs that firepower. The carrier needs to stay with the battleships unless it begins taking fire. Then if can either back off or, better yet, the battleships can prioritize the ship(s) firing at the carrier for destruction.

The battleships need to work together. They need to fire on the same target at the same time. Stick to that target until it is sunk, then move onto the next target. Ignore destroyers. Your destroyer and cruiser commanders will deal with them. If they don't, you will likely lose anyway so at least do your job, which is bringing massive damage onto the enemy fleet.

Destroyer captains, don't be a lone wolf. You have two competing primary tasks. You need to take the capture point first, or at least contest it, and you need to kill the enemy destroyer(s.) As they will be moving into the cap circle too, these goals are not opposed, merely competing. Fortunately you can do both simultaneously in most instances. You must not go after capital ships until the enemy fleet is stripped of its destroyers - period. Also, try not to get much further than seven kilometers in front of your fleet. You are the battleships' forward observer. If you can spot ships and stay hidden while capping or contesting cap, that is the best thing you can do for the fleet in the first few minutes. Like the cruisers, your job is not to sink enemy ships. It is to enable the battleships to sink enemy ships. If you are spotted, by staying within seven kilometers you will get supporting fire from your cruisers. Pop smoke but stay in the cloud so they can continue firing at whatever ship spotted you. If that other ship is an enemy destroyer, feel free to join in. If it is a cruiser, stay hidden and stay alive. And I hope this isn't news to you, but keep moving.

Lastly, take at least one of the capture points no matter what. If you do not, you will lose the game every time. My Ranked Battle last night was a prime example.

An Example of How to Win

This was an odd Ranked Battle as each side had three battleships. It's the first time I'd seen that happen, but I guess it is possible. Here were the teams.

Ranked Battle 150924_193106 Teams
The enemy fleet and my fleet both went for the same capture point. Their fleet attempted to use islands outside the capture point to shield themselves and refused to move into the middle. Our destroyer, Nagato and I pushed directly into capture point A. Our destroyer, with my cruiser supporting, took out their destroyer. Our Nagato engaged their battleships. Seeing our "charge," the rest of our team followed - including our carrier who proceeded to move to take capture point B. Yes, the carrier took the capture point B - because team play. Here is the mini-map at that point.

Ranked Battle 150924_193106 Map A
Within seconds the Cleveland took out our destroyer. I engaged the Cleveland, but one of their Nagato landed a citadel on my Pensacola and we all know how that goes. Now, you are probably thinking we were at a disadvantage because we were down a destroyer and a cruiser to their destroyer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our Nagato then turned INTO the enemy fleet with our Fuso right behind him, now with the Atlanta now screening between the battleships and the enemy fleet, who was still playing the losing range game. He proceeded to sink the Nagato who sank me. He then engaged their Atlanta who finally decided to close for an attack. Our Atlanta joined her fire with the Nagato, and they sank the enemy Atlanta in short order, but not before it launched a devastating strike torpedo salvo against the Nagato. Here's where the battle stood at that point.

Ranked Battle 150924_193106 Map B
Yes, the Nagato took out three ships in is seemingly suicidal charge, but more importantly he drove the enemy even further from both capture points! The enemy fleet, not wishing to engage at close range, turned away from them. Just look at the mini-map. They took themselves out of the race. At this point my team was ahead 258 to 190 and the match was already decided. We didn't lose the capture points the rest of the match, even though by the end of it we were down to just a carrier and the Fuso, while they had a carrier, a Nagato and a New Mexico. Here's the final map.

Ranked Battle 150924_193106 Final Map
Their effort was far too little too late. Their battleships could never have taken both capture points before we got to the 800 points needed for victory.

What Doesn't Work

As this post is already pushing 1500 words, I'll bulletize this list without explanation. I think the above example is plenty illustrative.
  • Being a lone wolf
  • Not staying within support range
  • Carrier hunting (until the end game, if there is time)
  • Being timid
  • Playing the "range game"
  • Not taking capture points even if you get pummeled for it
Now, does this mean there aren't situations where some of those might be necessary? No, it does not. Battles, even virtual ones, are a dynamic event. No two are ever the same, so you can't claim one tactic/strategy will always work while certain others will always fail. But I'll tell you what, in the one Ranked Battle my team lost, the very first I played, we split our fleet, did not stay in supporting distance, and failed to take two of the three capture points. By the end of the game we held none. That game was more like a typical Random Battle free-for-all than a Ranked Battle, and it was an important lesson to me. So, what are the important lessons you've learned in Ranked Battles? Leave a comment and let us all know. Share a good or a bad experience. Together we can all get better. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Year Zero

In the mood for something humorous yet addresses something that's angered world citizens for over a decade? Have I got the book for you. Year Zero, by Rob Reid, is an irreverent jab at the monolithic music industry... and Microsoft Windows.

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. And boy, do they have news.

The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on humanity’s music ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), when American pop songs first reached alien ears. This addiction has driven a vast intergalactic society to commit the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang. The resulting fines and penalties have bankrupted the whole universe. We humans suddenly own everything—and the aliens are not amused.

Nick Carter has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly, and he’s an unlikely galaxy-hopping hero: He’s scared of heights. He’s also about to be fired. And he happens to have the same name as a Backstreet Boy. But he does know a thing or two about copyright law. And he’s packing a couple of other pencil-pushing superpowers that could come in handy.

Soon he’s on the run from a sinister parrot and a highly combustible vacuum cleaner. With Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick now has forty-eight hours to save humanity, while hopefully wowing the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

So first off, let me tell you about the style of this book. This book would fit perfectly on a shelf with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (THG) by Douglas Adams, Agent to the Stars and Redshirts by John Scalzi, Ready Player One and Armada by Ernest Cline, and a hilarious 1987 Star Trek TOS book I cherish to this day titled How Much for Just the Planet by John M. Ford. Like most of the titles above, it takes an average guy and thrusts him into a truly bizarre yet serious situation. The outcome is hilarious, and a great deal of fun to read/listen to.

The premise is easily a creative match to each of those titles, even THG. You'll read lots of reviews on Goodreads from people denigrating Year Zero for the publisher's audacity in comparing it to THG. These people hold Douglas Adams on a pedestal so high they feel no one could ever surpass his genius. Codswallop. If you think Douglas Adams is some genius who can't be matched, your acting on a cult like attraction to a dead man rather than a critical view of his works. THG was a very good book, but it was not literary. It was merely funny and well crafted. I just wish people would stop reviewing books by comparing them to their cherished idols, and instead review books based on their own merits. The merits of Year Zero's premise stands on it's own and is as creative well wrought as Douglas Adam's premise in THG. Get over it. >:(

But a clever idea brought to life with humor and parody doesn't make a good book. It needs more than that, so let me tell you about the characters. Though I can't say they aren't stereotypes, for they most assuredly are, the book demands they be so. Absurd situations require absurd characters, and they don't get much more absurd than Carly, Frampton and even Judy. Are they brilliant, deep characters full of wisdom and humility? No, they are shallow, two-dimensional, self-centered characters who are just trying not to be blown up or die of spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage when a Justin Bieber song comes on the radio. In other words, they are just like everyone else. They are everyday people who will remain true to who they are. That's good, but don't expect any of them to be Gandhi. :|

One thing I do appreciate about the characters in this book is the equanimity displayed when portraying them. I think this book can actually pass the Bechdel Test. This is something THG cannot do. All the female characters in THG exist because of some personal relationship with the male characters - or they're a servant. Neither Carly nor Judy, or even Manda for that matter, require a male character to give them a reason to exist. Though it is true the protagonist likes Manda and wants a more meaningful relationship with her, her character stands on its own. It was quite refreshing to hear female characters given equal stage with the male characters and owning their own flaws and merits. It was very nice to read a science fiction that actually had three (3!) independent female main characters in it. :)

I also appreciated the ending. I didn't see it coming until very near the end, though the author began foreshadowing it early in the story. I love a book that keeps me guessing. Well done sir.

If I have to give a con for this book, I'd be forced to point out the author doesn't know what the heck he's talking about when it comes to PC operating systems. Having plenty of personal experience with Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux, I can tell you they all suffer from IUS - ignorant user syndrome. Don't blame the machine, blame the monkey driving it. That's where the fault lies way more than 90% of the time. >:D

There was one loose end in this book the author forgot to tie up, and it's bugging the crap out of me. Did Nick ever get a species specific wet-ware update to correct his foot problem? :?

In summary, this is a fun book that can help you pass a few lighthearted hours with a smile on your face. It isn't literary, it's more like reductio ad absurdum in a science fiction wrapper. It has a serious social comment, but it doesn't succumb to negativity, and instead handles it with humor, sarcasm and parody. In that, it does very well. Give it a read and have some fun!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sunday Highlight #6: Busting Battleships

This Sunday, I return to highlights from my battles in World of Warships. This week the game went into release, and Ranked Battles began, but my highlights are not from those battles. These highlights are from several Random Battles in my Omaha class cruiser. Specifically, going up against the biggest guns in the game. It is risky business, and you never get away unscathed, but it is glorious!

Also, I'll just leave these pictures here to make you envious. Oh yeah, it's incredible! :D

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fleet Friday: Ranked Battles et al

Yesterday World of Warships left closed beta and launched into general release. There were no updates to ship capabilities. The game was not drastically updated. Only two things of note were different.

First, there was one premium ship release, the Tirpitz.

It's a nice ship. I don't think it's worth $64.99 in it's base offering. Still, I wouldn't turn it down if someone gave it to me. It has excellent armor and good 15" guns. It also comes with torpedoes that have a 6 kilometer range. Don't try to brawl with a Tirpitz, but otherwise the torpedoes are useless on a ship with a 16.4 kilometer detection range.

I was streaming Wednesday night and had a visitor. I know, I was shocked too. He asked if World of Warships was pay to win. No, it isn't. The premium ships are perhaps slightly better than their same tier counterparts, but not enough to make up for bad game play. Purchasing a premium ship is like going straight into a fully upgraded standard ship. And from what I've seen, some people are worse off for it. You need to learn how to fight a ship in order to win, and by taking a shortcut straight into a premium ship some people skip over the learning process. They'd have been better off sticking with the program and becoming a better player.

Second, Ranked Battles became an option. Previously we had only had Co-op Battles (PvE) and Random Battles (PvP.) With Ranked Battles, PvP gets a twist. The fleets are capped at seven ships each, restricted to tier VI and tier VII. Only one carrier and two battleships are allowed per fleet. From what I saw, The fleets are well matched, and destroyers did not outnumber cruisers in any of the three Ranked Battles in which I participated. All games are domination style. In that there is a difference between Random Battles domination mode and Ranked Battle domination mode. The capture points are closer together as shown in this annotated screen capture.

This is significant. Almost all ships involved can range the next capture point from the previous. It means you can capture an end point while laying down suppression fire on the center. It makes Cap Point B even more dangerous. It also means battleships can hit just about anyone from anywhere within the capture point areas. Since the fleet sizes are smaller, the battles don't last as long - less than 15 minutes. For a taste of what they're like, and the rewards you get for moving up the ranks, you can watch my second and third ranked battles on my YouTube channel.

Overall, I am doing okay playing world of warships. As before, here are my current statistics pages.

My Victories/Battles result is stubbornly staying in the upper forty percentile. This even though my Kill/Death Ratio has increased to 1.26 denoting I am sinking 1.26 ships for every time I am sunk. This is an increase of 0.15 over the last time I posted my stats, so I am at least surviving more battles. But that doesn't necessarily mean I am getting better. I could run away to a corner and get similar results.

My hit ratio, a measure of my accuracy, went down 1 percent. But this could be due to other things as well, like taking blind shots. This isn't a bad thing to do in the proper circumstances. I nailed an undetected Farragut with a devastating strike last night with a blind shot. He'd been detected a couple of times and I took an educated guess on where he was heading. It paid off.

I am doing more damage per battle, increasing that measure by 1,398 points dealt from my last report. But I am also going up in tier and gun diameter. They inherently do more damage. There is only one caveat to that dismissal. Six inch guns are rapid firing and to more fire damage from high explosive use, so the fact my average is increasing seems to indicate I'm doing better. When held up next to my increased Kill/Death Ration, perhaps I am getting better.

Perhaps the best indicator of that is my Average Experience per Battle. It has increased from a mediocre 899 to a less mediocre 1108 - an increase of 23.2 percent. That also translates into a higher Warships Destroyed average, which is the raw calculation of ships sank win, lose or draw. Those are good statistics to see increase.

In the end, I have concluded I am getting marginally better. I suppose that's all one can hope for. I didn't make it easier on myself by electing the U.S. cruiser and battleship trees first. I could have boosted my scores if I'd started with Japanese destroyers for example. With their low detection range and long torpedo ranges, I think anyone who plays World of Warships can deny they do better than most ship classes. It is why they are so popular. One of these days I need to do a little research and see if those players do indeed have better numbers, or if my perception is misguided. The poor Farragut captain I took out with a single shell last night would likely think the latter. But then again, he's not playing a Japanese destroyer. What do you think? Do Japanese destroyers have an easier time with increasing their statistics? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading my blog!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Earlier this year I listened to and wrote a review about Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. In that review, I had many, many words of praise for what will no doubt become a gaming geek bible. So when Armada released this summer, I knew I had to have it. If it was half as fun as Ready Player One, I knew I'd be in for a treat. Here's the publishers summary for Armada by Ernest Cline.
"Zack Lightman is a dreamer. He fills his days with wishful thoughts of life on other planets and spends hours playing videogames, neither of which have helped him make friends or find a girlfriend. His refuge from the daily disappointments of life is Armada - an online space-fighter simulator based on defending Earth from an alien invasion. It's when he's playing that he feels closest to his father, a champion gamer who died when Zack was a baby.
He rises up the ranks until there's only one other player who can challenge his worldwide supremacy. As he closes in on his ultimate enemy, the game suspiciously shuts down, leading Zack to investigate the many urban legends and myths that surround Armada. What he finds will take him beyond his wildest dreams.
The game was just the beginning...."
So what did I think? I think the book was completely enjoyable and a fun read. I think it was very well written. Ernest Cline knows how to use the English language. I think it is worth purchasing, but perhaps not as a hardback. I think the issues I have with the book are because it is most assuredly a young adult (YA) novel, and because of that it stuck to a simple plot arc.

Firstly, there was not one single surprise for me in this entire book. The plot was linear and predictable. That isn't saying it wasn't fun. It was hella lot of fun! But it wasn't Area X by any stretch of the imagination. It connected the dots very well to ensure I didn't get lost. I can understand this. In the YA genre, your target audience are those of the same gender as your protagonist and about four years younger. Zack Lightman is 18 years old. You can do the math. To ensure the story wasn't confusing, it was anything but. Don't expect any twists in this plot, but by all means enjoy it for the adventure it is.

The characters in this book were not complicated either. Again, this is a YA thing. All in all they were well written characters, and I cared about them. Bad things happen in this book and at times I wished they hadn't. But there's not a lot of depth to any of them, even the protagonist. I hate to say it, but the bully was probably the most complicated character in the whole book and you have to wait until the end for that pay off.

The one thing that comes out very strongly in this book is the social commentary. It is very apropos to the current social-political climate in the Unites States these days. It wasn't subtly played out either. But again, I think that is the YA genre manifesting itself appropriately.

If you have a teenager, it would not be a bad thing for them to read this book. It touches on several issues that seem to plaque teenagers no matter the generation. In that regard Ernest Cline is very well in touch with the audience for this book. I feel he nails it in many of these areas. I won't say what they are because spoilers.

One thing I was impressed with was Wil Wheaton's reading of it. This is one of his best voice acting jobs to date in my opinion. He just keeps getting better year after year. It was a real pleasure listening to him reading this story. If you are a Wil Wheaton fan, it is worthwhile to get the audio book just for his performance.

In summary, this was a very enjoyable action packed story worth reading. However, it isn't Ready Player One. It does suffer a bit from The Empire Strikes Back syndrome. And it is YA, which is not a bad thing, but something one should consider. All that said, if you want just a really fun read that will pass a few hours pleasurably, this is a good choice.

Lastly, it is my sincerest hope that Ernest Cline will try his hand at an older protagonist soon. I would love to see what he can do with a forty-year old main character. He almost got there in Armada, but I'll not say how and why because spoilers. The character in question left me wanting more 40-year-old writing from Mr. Cline. Hopefully I won't have to wait long.

Oh, and the Raid the Arcade mix is AWESOME. Look it up on Spotify or Google Music. ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Highlights #5: Sol System

I'm going to throw a change-up on you today. There will be more World of Warships highlights next Sunday, but I wanted to share something I've been meaning to do ever since I got clearance from the Federation. I finally made it to Sol system - the cradle of humanity. No matter our political differences, Sol is where our fore-bearers all originated. It is one small G type star lost among 400 billion others. But it is in our blood. It's part of our subconscious. It is home. In the 34th century, it is both achingly familiar and awe-inspiringly new.

No trip would be complete without a video to show friends and neighbors. Don't worry, it isn't long, and it's set to some great tunes. Watch it full screen for the best experience. Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fleet Friday: F All for Balance

I've had a completely uninspiring week of World of Warships. It was so uninspiring I spent a few hours in Elite: Dangerous finishing the exploration journey I was on before World of Warships went into open beta. I am finding my slog through the middle tiers of the U.S. cruiser line somewhat disheartening.

Be warned, there may be bitching ahead!

Let's start with the Pensacola. It's a great anti-aircraft (AA) platform, especially if you go for the upgrades AA Gun Modification 1, which gives your AA guns a 20% survival bonus, and AA Guns Modification 2, which increases your AA range by 20%. A commander with Basic and Advanced Firing Training only makes it better with a further 10% increase in AA efficiency and another 20% improvement in AA range. In one of my games this weekend I shot down 20 airplanes attacking our fleet's aircraft carrier. It was an Independence class carrier so had decent AA of its own as well as fighters. It shot down 37 attacking aircraft. Combined we took out almost seven flights in a match with one carrier per side. Our carrier was not hit by a single bomb or torpedo. The enemy planes never had time to drop them. You don't have to sink the enemy carrier to render it useless.

The issue I have with the Pensacola is its main guns. Yes, they are 8" guns making the Pensacola nominally a heavy cruiser. But they fire once every 15 seconds doing 2800 HE and 4600 AP damage in a fully upgraded ship. Compare this to the Cleveland class cruiser that has twice the firing rate and does 2200/3200 damage. In one minute the Pensacola, if it hits will all shells, can do a maximum of 112,000/192,000 damage. The Cleveland class can do 211,200/307,200. Why would I want a Pensacola in a surface engagement? That's what has me frustrated. It's a heavy cruiser but it loses every time to a Cleveland unless you have impeccable aim and hit a citadel at least once. And while you're trying to carefully aim and do that, the Cleveland is raining HE on you and burning you down to the waterline. It's a race you can't really win.

I've noticed one advantage to the 8" guns on the Pensacola. They can penetrate the armor on at least a New Mexico class battleship and get a citadel hit. I've done it. But to paraphrase General Ackbar, you won't last long against those enemy battleships. Her shells will go trough your armor like it wasn't even there. And they have a repair capability. You don't. Oh, and battleships just love to shoot all the cruisers first, even when our battleships are also close at hand. It gives them an easy kill before our destroyers/carriers sink their lumbering aft with torpedoes.

The other thing a Pensacola class cruiser can do is take four torpedo hits meant for your fleet carrier and survive. Not that it is a lot of fun making that sacrifice. But when you look at it analytically, that carrier has far more damage potential than you do. Too bad Wargaming doesn't give experience for being such a team player.

But all that isn't the start of my whine. My whine starts with the match maker. At this stage of the open beta, it seems there are lots of Tier V and lower players, and lots of Tier VIII and higher players. Since the Pensacola is a tier VII ship, guess the group with whom you get to play? Did you know a Tier VIII or IX battleship can shoot HE at a Pensacola and sink it with near misses at 18 kilometers? No, I'm not really exaggerating.

I'd like to think the U.S. cruiser line will get better with the New Orléans class, but the damage potential is only 108,360/178,020 because of the loss of a gun. However, six of them fire forward so it is better than a charging Omaha. The Baltimore class only has nine guns as well, and only gets you back to a damage potential commiserate to the Pensacola, but at least it has better armor. It's the Tier X Des Moines that really sings songs of destruction. With its auto-loading 8" guns, its damage potential is a staggering 252,000/450,000! I've only seen one in a match, and thankfully I did not have to go up against it.

I find that I am starting to play as many matches in my Omaha class cruiser as my Pensacola. I kept it as it has torpedoes, and I am finding it more fun to play. I don't like getting brutalized game after game in the Pensacola, and the old Omaha can dish out a potential 146,300/206,150 even taking into account that no more than seven of its guns can be brought to target at any given angle. It makes me want to just use it to go through the rest of the U.S. cruiser line until I can sail a Des Moines. Is that wrong?

So, there's my bitch. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the Pensacola, and the top half of the U.S. cruiser line in general? What am I missing? Are lower tier U.S. cruisers just overpowered and in need of a nerf? Does the Pensacola, et al, have any redeeming values beyond their AA capabilities? Let me know in the comments - and thanks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Spoils of Exploration

I have returned to civilization! And what's more, I got to Darboux Terminal in the Kokondii star system on September 7, 3301 intact and with all the survey data from my journey to HD 167971 uncorrupted. You'll remember that was the star system with two black holes and a neutron star, which I reached and recorded some weeks back.

I can now tell you now the system netted me 216,281 credits for returning my complete survey data, with level 3 surface scans of all bodies, to Universal Cartographics. Here is the first page of the payout screen showing what the two black holes and the neutron star fetched.

You can also see on the left side of the display my starting balance before selling any of my data. I'll come back to that at the end with the finally summary. Before I give that information though, I want to list the systems that ended up paying me over a quarter of my total payout. One of them even paid more than HD 167971! This system didn't have a raw payout more than the multiple star system with two black holes and a neutron star which is HD 167971, but because I was the first to discover it the 50% bonus I received made it more valuable to me.

The most valuable system to me was actually PRU EUQ KZ-A B55-2! After my bonus it got me 258,329 credits by itself (172,223 base value.) I also have the satisfaction of all those lovely worlds having my name forever listed as their discoverer. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it,) the video record of that system is still sitting in my computer system unprocessed. I really pushed hard to get the data home, and covered over half the distance from HD 167971 in a single day. I didn't have time to do anything other than fly my Cobra Mark III and make coffee. I promise to upload it soon. [EDIT 9/9/15 8:30 PM PDT: Data processed. System PRU EUQ KZ-A B55-2 available in Video Catalog and linked above.]

The next five most profitable systems I sold were:

  1. COL 359 Sector HL-X D1-79 worth 210,001 base credits, but I was not the first to discover it.
  2. COL 359 Sector JN-J D9-62 worth 173,522 credits after bonus (118,819 base.)
  3. COL 359 Sector D11-97 worth 170,607 credits after bonus (113,743 base.)
  4. BLEAE THUA TQ-W B15-7 worth 145,307 credits with bonus (130,817 base.)
  5. BLEAE THUA DP-I C9-23 worth 133,135 credits with bonus (106,675 base.)
All totaled, those seven systems accounted for 1,307,182 credits of my haul. That isn't even a third of my total earnings, but I brought data back on over 100 systems, so these system values are well above the average system. I've linked my video record of each of these systems so you can see for yourself what a high value system us like. It might help you seek them out.

My final credit balance once I'd sold all my data was 10,271,198 credits. Looking back at the starting balance, I made a total of 4,776,184 credits. It was enough to raise me to the rank of Pathfinder within the Pilots Federation. Yes, it was a very satisfying, and rewarding, run.

Of the three skills the Pilots Federation recognizes, exploration is now my highest. My lowest is combat. Combat is not conducive to trading rare commodities as I was doing before, and while exploring the galaxy you just don't run into anyone to fight. However, now that I am back in colonized space and have more than two credit chits to rub together, I am going to work on those combat skills. I've decided I need to take up bounty hunting. Who knows, I might even join a faction. I've not decided on that yet. Politics leaves me feeling so greasy. So, expect some combat tales if not outright war stories in the future. Until then, fly careful.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Highlights #4: Five Fails

Would I be so crass as to highlight the moments when other people do dumb things? No, I like to think I have more class than that. Besides, we all need to laugh at ourselves from time to time. It keeps the soul honest. So this Sunday I give you a five clip video of me doing the dumbest things. They are in order:
  1. Don't sail out in front of the entire fleet so all the enemy battleships have only you to shoot.
  2. Don't stop broadside to an enemy ship you know is coming around the island.
  3. Don't run into the open on a map where most opponents are two tiers higher than you.
  4. Don't sit waiting in ambush because you're only waiting to be ambushed.
  5. Keep your eyes open for the torpedo bombers - always.

But I'm like anyone else, and don't want to end my Sunday highlight on such a negative and self-deprecating note. So here is my best battleship performance to date, recorded last night. It's fought on the Solomon Islands map, which is brutal. It was not going our way and we were losing badly. I decide someone had to do something crazy, so I drove my New Mexico right up the middle slot; damn the torpedoes. It was glorious. Enjoy!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fleet Friday: My New New Mexico

Yesterday I finally had enough experience and cash to research, purchase and fully upgrade a New Mexico class battleship. The New Mexico is a nice upgrade to the New York class battleship, featuring better armor and four more guns. In her fully researched and upgrades configuration, she was a work horse of the U.S. Navy in World War II.

The actual USS New Mexico, BB-40, served all over the Pacific theater. She took part in retaking the only U.S. soil occupied by Japan (two islands in the Aleutian chain of Alaska,) and participated in the island hopping campaign that took the war to Japan. For the first year of the war she served as flagship for various admirals, but eventually got into the action toward the end of the Solomons campaign. She didn't suffer her first casualties until 1944 at Kwajalein, where she lost the pilot of her Kingfisher scout plane when it was shot down over the lagoon. She served with distinction through the end of the war, taking damage and suffering casualties from Kamikaze on several occasions. She was in Tokyo harbor for the surrender. She was decommissioned on July 19, 1946. Click the image above for her full history at the USS New Mexico Association website.

To date I have fought seven battles in my new New Mexico. Here are the statistics. And don't let the warships destroyed number fool you. There were a lot of ships I weakened considerably before someone else took them out.

What can I say about tactics with the New Mexico after seven battles? Well, those seven battles were on the new Strait map (twice,) Ocean, Hot Spot, and Fault Line (thrice.) My first observation is the reload time on the New Mexico is superior to the New York. Also, with the appropriate upgrades the traversal time of the turrets is considerably less. They traverse fast enough to stay on target though a anything but a hard turn. You can actually maneuver and fire in this ship, keeping your armor angled while your guns reload. This was problematic in me with the New York. I spent far too much time with my citadels exposed waiting for turrets to align. In the New Mexico you should work those angles for all they're worth.

The range on the New Mexico is good. It's very good when the spotter plane is aloft. However, dispersion at that range makes hitting anything smaller than a battleship difficult. I find the spotter plane is most useful in determining which way the enemy ships are heading. Sometimes it's difficult to know from the mini-map and tall islands block direct observation, but the top down view the spotter plane gives makes it easy. Islands are not an issue and you can see ships that would normally be beyond your spotting range. Often being in the right position at the right time is half the battle.

You can take more damage too. Don't be afraid too (but don't be dumb about it either.) In my second battle on the Strait map, I was in a close fight with a Fuso, as in our secondaries were firing too close. I had him crossed, and he had far fewer HP than I. And naturally that's when the remaining carrier pilot decided I was busy enough that a few torpedoes wouldn't be noticed. They were but that's not the point. I had an island to my left so I only had one direction I would turn. The carrier pilot knew that and dropped appropriately. It wasn't a bad drop, nicely crosshatched. I avoided all but one torpedo in the first drop, but that put me mostly broadside to the second. I took three torpedoes from that drop as I didn't slow. They did not sink me because they only did 35,000 damage. Unfortunately my Fuso was scragged by one of my team mates before I could fully re-engage him and get the kill myself. Still, I survived a close brawl and four torpedo hits. This ship can take some damage. But don't get too cocky. It can be burned down to the waterline by a cruiser flotilla, or dive bombers even, like any other battleship.

And lastly, I'd like to point out that no battleship was ever designed to operate on its own; not even the Bismarck. Most defeats I've seen are because people thing warships are tanks and can be fought like tanks. They are NOT TANKS. If you decide to solo, unless you are in a destroyer you are failing. Ships are best when they are together, and nothing can stand in the way of a determined push of battleships, surrounded by cruisers, with destroyers scouting in the vanguard. That's a winning team practically every time. Stick with your fleet when you sail the New Mexico. You will do better for it.

That said, when World of Warships leaves open beta on September 17th (hooray!,) and ranked battles start, I am so looking forward to getting into them. It is my hope that those who participate will already understand warships are not tanks, and it takes more than running willy-nilly across the ocean trying to sink things by yourself. Trust me, you don't get that many more points for sinking a ship. You get the points for damaging the ship, especially if it is higher tier than you and you can manage penetrations, fires and most importantly citadel hits.

If you've sailed the New Mexico in World of Warships, let me know what you think of it in the comments. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Wise Man's Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle Day 2 by Patrick Rothfuss

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”

This review is going to seem a bit negative, but believe me it isn't. The second book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, The Wise Man's Fear, is nearly everything the first book is (which I reviewed here) - nearly, but not quite. The issue is me though, not the writing. I have become jaded at this point. There are two primary reasons for this.

The first reason is the The Name of the Wind is absolutely incredible. It is one of the finest works of epic fantasy I've ever read. Because of that, this book suffers from The Empire Strikes Back phenomenon. When the first of a series is an epic success, the next in the series is held up to that light and found wanting, no matter how well written, necessary and revealing it is. Thus it is with The Wise Man's Fear. There is not a single paragraph in this book that is not needed to understand Kvothe the Bloodless. It reveals the making of the man and the reasons for his convictions and actions. It is a thrilling romp allowing us to see the adolescent Kvothe grow into the young man he became. And by romp I mean all sorts. After all, this is the period of his life where Kvothe becomes a man. Without this 42 hour and 55 minute (!!) behemoth of a tale, I doubt very seriously anything in the third book, tentatively titled Doors of Stone, will make any sense. Just as The Return of the Jedi would make little sense if not for all the reveals contained within The Empire Strikes Back.

The second reason I am jaded is the book is so bloody long. Don't get me wrong, it's extremely good, but after about the third time something incredible happens to Kvothe the Bloodless you start feeling like you've been there and done that. I am not saying that makes The Wise Man's Fear a worse book than The Name of the Wind. I am saying it starts to become a bit predictable and the events tie directly into the afore mentioned The Empire Strikes Back phenomenon. I can now understand why publishers are loath to publish a novel much longer than 450 words. It can become exhausting anticipating the story's climax as you read, and read, and read (or listen as in my case.) It is mostly a subconscious desire for closure that drive this, but this sort of delayed gratification can become quite annoying. I believe this book could have easily been a trilogy of its own, with suitable emotional roller coasters and climaxes. Why Patrick Rothfuss didn't do this, or his publisher insist on it, is beyond me. I would have paid full price for this book split into thirds, and there is precedent for that being done. Standing in evidence is The Psalms of Isaac by Ken Scholes.

Had The Wise Man's Fear been broken into three separate novels, Patrick Rothfuss could have brought to them the same emotional impact The Name of the Wind has. Each story could have crescendoed in its own right, rather than being overtaken by the next incredible exploit. It's not the story I object to in The Wise Man's Fear. It is the story telling. Stories have a shape Kvothe would say, and this story has the shape of an overstuffed gunny sack. I do not blame the writer for this, for all parts of the story are superb. But like a talented actor needs a director to rein them in and channel them at times, writers need agents, editors and publishers to do the same thing. Someone should have convinced Patrick Rothfuss to have made this book a story of three parts. I feel that is his aim for Kvothe's entire tale, but it could be a story of three parts being told three times.

Now that I've said all that seemingly negative stuff, you absolutely need to read this trilogy if you fancy yourself a connoisseur of epic fantasy. Don't be like me and miss it for years and years until a business acquaintance recommends it. I am not kidding when I say it is the best epic fantasy I've personally read. I know others have had their issues with it, mostly in regards to the Bechdel test. But time and again I have heard the agent/editor mantra, "write what you know." If Patrick Rothfuss does that, how is he (emphasis mine) a "bad" writer or person for not including insightful story telling about a gender he is not? That said, are there feminine stereotypes in The Kingkiller Chronicles? Oh yeah, you betcha. Do they work in the self-told story about the exploits and experiences of a single man in accordance with his personality and his situation? In other words, are they true to the story? Oh yeah, you betcha. And there are plenty of male stereotypes in the book which are also true to the story. If you don't like that, it's your prerogative to skip this trilogy. No one will blame you. This book is about a male hero, told by said hero. It is mostly told first-person. You can't expect it to go on a lark to ensure there are two women in the story who talk to each other about something other than a man. Those conversations would be outside the experience of the man telling the story. I'm not saying the Bechdel test is not important. I'm saying you test for PH with he appropriate litmus.

But back to length. I do like the length of this book for one unrelated reason. It allowed me to attain something I never thought I would. I got the Mount Everest badge from What’s that you ask? (Yes, I’m leading you into this and hijacking my own review.) Audible, my source for pleasure “reading,” has joined the badge craze. Yes, it’s silly, but I can’t help but feel a small sense of accomplishment when I get a new badge. The Mount Everest badge is awarded for completing any title that is longer than 30 hours. To the right you can see the badges I’ve earned to date.

They are,

  • 7-Day Stretch – Complete at least 5 books in a single week (not sure when or how.)
  • The Closer – Listened to at least 5 complete books start-to-finish.
  • Mount Everest – see above.
  • Night Owl – Listen to a book for at least 8 hours at night.
  • Weekend Warrior – Listen for at least 24 hours total on a weekend.
  • Marathoner – Listen for at least 8 hours straight.
  • High Noon – Listen for at least 3 hours during lunchtime.
  • Daily Dipper – Listen to books for at least 7 days straight!

I’m oddly proud of some of those. I’ve seven more I can earn. I’m not exactly sure what I need to do to attain them. The criteria are set as riddles, like, “The Stack – If books you compile, then after a while, unto you The Stack we shall render.” That’s sort of geeky cool to me, but I have no idea what it means. I have to buy more books?

And lastly, just to let you know, I started listening to Armada by Earnest Cline right after I finished The Wise Man’s Fear. It’s narrated by Wil Wheaton. It’s a more normal length story at about 12 hours. I’m two hours in. I’ll let you know how it goes in a few weeks.

I hope you found this review of The Wise Man’s Fear interesting. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Cheers!