For the best experience use full HD.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Never Forget

Cold War Training
Matthew Damian Cashin
Christopher Douglas Kurkowski
Wayne Martin Locklin
Charles Patrick Moses
Willie James Childs

Desert Storm
Tommie William Bates
Frank Melvin Kennedy

John Michael McHugh

These are the men I knew well. There are others I knew not as well, but knew nonetheless.

I will not forget.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Highlight 40: What a Game. What a Game.

This is without a doubt the BEST Tirpitz game I have ever had. Destroyers, cruisers and battleships all challenged the mighty Tirpitz on the Hot Spot map and all were found wanting. I used all weapon systems winning this match. Enjoy!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fleet Friday: Patch 0.5.6 Maps

Patch 0.5.6 for World of Warships has landed and it's brought a bevy of enhancements and new maps. The first and by far most notable enhancement is to the mini map. The developers have added configurable range circles for ship detection and weapons systems. You access the settings for them once in the match using the ubiquitous gears icon at the top right corner of the mini map.
Now that picture isn't very helpful with the details, but it shows you precisely where the gears icon is located. What you are seeing there is a pop-up and only shows what you currently do and do not have selected. In order to make changes you have to click once. Then you'll get the edit dialog. Here it is all blown up for easy reading.
In the first column, the check boxes are self explanatory. The next column shows your various ranges. It is also your legend. The colors of the text and the type of line shown underneath them match what you'll see on the mini map. With all five selected, the mini map can become quite cluttered.

One thing I have not tested, because frankly I just thought of it, is if the numbers on the range circles are there because I am using the alternate battle interface. They don't really bother me, but other's have complained that they can hide ship icons and deprive you of valuable information as to what type of ship it is. That does happen. I've notice it. It wasn't that big a deal at the time, but I can see where it might be at a critical juncture. Time will tell. For now I'm inclined to leave them as they are useful for more than just gauging range to the enemy. I use them as part of my overall situation awareness of the two fleets. It's a very fast way of determining how far away various ships are, both yours and theirs, at a glance. I use that information to plan attacks and avoid radar, which cruiser captains are becoming very adapt at using.

I personally do not find the last known ship positions all that useful. They make a busy map even more busy, and without a time stamp you have no idea how old that information is. A destroyer spotted early in the game can be on the opposite corner by mid match. Thinking they may still be in the original position actually does you a disservice by giving a false sense of security. I prefer to hone my situation awareness, and like a chess game, keep all the possible moves and counter moves continually playing in my head. YMMV.

Moving on from the settings, I want to talk about the map itself. This map is the new Okinawa map. I really like it. This is the only match I've played so far, and I ended up playing hide and seek in and around capture point A. I was able to make a real nuisance of myself, and though I was eventually sank because radar, I managed to land 6 torpedo hits including a devastating strike first blood on the enemy Tashkent. That game may be coming your way as a Sunday highlight eventually. If I had to name an existing map the Okinawa map felt like, I'd have to say Land of Fire.
The other map I have played of the three new maps introduced in patch 0.5.6 is Neighbors. This entire map seems to be a hide and sneak smorgasbord for destroyers. I thoroughly enjoyed the game I played on it, which will also likely become a highlight. The island in B is basically a torpedo block. It's low enough that any ship can shoot over it. The islands at A and C are tall and hard to shoot over. And in C, a single enemy Benson was able to hold the cap for five minutes while being detected by putting the central island between his ship and our cruisers. Then a Colorado moved in to try and hold it. My advice is don't ever do that. *grin* Other than those observations, I can't say much more about the map yet. It didn't appear to lend itself to circular map edge tactics where the BBs for to the edge and stay there. The edges weren't all that safe, as other ships could use islands for cover as the snug into range. For that alone I like this map. If I had to pick an existing map it most felt like, I'd have to say Fault Line.

Lastly, I'd like to know if it was my Nvidia driver update yesterday or the new patch that resulted in this SNAFU.
I had just switched from torpedoes to HE, and the interface just went completely blank. Various keys still worked, and occasionally they would cause the interface to flicker back onto the screen briefly, for like a frame or two, but then it'd go mostly blank again. I eventually got the alternate battle interface info on ships to show again, like name, health and range, but not permanently or helpfully. This was after 12 patch 0.5.6 games without issue, and 8 of those were after I installed the latest Nvidia driver. Opinions? Comments? Mehs?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sunday Highlight 39: Sometimes You Just Have to Sink Them All

I took capture point C in my Farragut class destroyer at the beginning of this domination match on the Fault Line map, but the opposing team pushed hard and took it from us. They continued to defend their hard earned capture point with tenacity. This happened with all three capture points. Because we couldn't earn more points than the other team, we just had to sink them all to win.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fleet Friday: Patch 0.5.6

My plan for today was to show you a bit of what's coming in patch 0.5.6 for World of Warships. Yes, they have another patch coming and it is playable on the test server all weekend. It looks to have some good content. Ships are getting visual overhauls. New maps are coming. There will be balancing (U.S. battleships getting buffed!) 

Unfortunately I have to go out of town this weekend and couldn't even play a single match on the test server last night after the patch went live on it. However, other's have already been there and done that. iChase and friends had a live stream from the test server yesterday afternoon, and I substitute his stream for my lack of time. It's long, but it's fun to watch. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Highlight 38: Kiev Thwarts Last Minute Push

Passive play almost lost this one for us in World of Warships on the Two Brothers map, as the enemy was far more aggressive than most of my team. Fortunately me and a couple other teammates were aggressive enough to preserve the victory. The Kiev can be a tenacious adversary. It just takes a willingness to put your ship in danger.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fleet Friday: Where to Aim Your Guns

One of the most difficult aspects of World of Warships to master is simply hitting your opponents. That sounds like such a derp thing to say, but it's true. In a game like World of Tanks, shell flight times are really short. In the vast majority of cases, all you have to do it place your cross hair on the enemy tank, pull the trigger and you hit them pretty much exactly where you aimed providing random dispersion doesn't go against you. Anyone who's played World of Warships knows that is not the case when engaging ships that are kilometers away. You have to lead a moving ship by the correct amount of distance to have any chance of hitting it. That's hard, and it only gets harder as you progress to higher tier ships that have longer ranges and move at faster speeds. But you don't have to guess where to aim. If you set up your game client correctly, it will tell you all you need to know in order to hit the ship you are focused on. Of course it's not as straight forward as that, but neither is it impossible to learn. In fact, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature.

The first thing you need to do is turn on the Alternative Battle Interface Mode (ABI from now on) in your game client. You'll find the selection box in Settings on the Controls tab at the bottom center left. It warns that this may have an adverse impact on your system performance, so if you have a lower end system that already struggles to run World of Warships you should leave it off. There is another way to get the information you need. Just press the ALT at any time to temporarily display the ABI while the key is held down.

The ABI adds dynamic information to your graphical interface. The first thing you'll likely notice is are all the ships get displays above them indicating their ship type, player name and current hit points as a horizontal bar graph with numbers superimposed in the format total HP/current HP. Here is what it looks like in game.

But the display over the ship is not the most important part of the ABI. That is shown right at center of the reticule to the bottom left of the aim point. That number is the flight time of your shells to the currently selected target, in this case a New Mexico class battleship. That flight time when used with the static reticule you've always seen allows you to calculate the firing lead to that New Mexico. Here's how.

The reticule is designed so that each tick mark represents how far a ship moving 20 knots will travel in one second. To calculate your lead, you multiply the flight time of your shells by the ratio of the target speed divided by 20. In the case of this New Mexico it is essentially 1 to 1, so you simply lead the bow of the battleship by the same number of tick marks as seconds of flight time. In this case, that would be eight and a half (8.5) tick marks.

As I said before, it is not as simple as that. Most ships do not travel at 20 knots. Players can change their ship speed to throw this off (and do so often at higher tiers.) And the reticule is calibrated for battleship lengths. Destroyers are a lot shorter and need to be led a bit more because of that fact.  And I haven't even mentioned citadel placements. Fortunately iChase has done an excellent video explaining much of this. I encourage you to watch it. He not only explains all this, but provides in client examples!

Since I watched this several weeks ago, I have been trying to follow the formula - literally. It is not easy. You still need to take a great many things into account like ship angling. Not every ship presents you with a perfect broadside, especially at higher tiers. And then there is just knowing how fast any particular ship can go. There are 97 non-premium ship types in World of Warships, and that count is not getting any lower. It's ridiculous to expect anyone to remember the top speeds of all those ships. But hey, you don't have to!

Have I ever mentioned I used to play EVE Online? Have I ever mentioned that game's other name? They call it Spreadsheets in Space. But you know what, that's not a bad thing. Since I have used multiple monitors on my system for well over a decade, I quickly got used to having the current action on one screen and all my "spreadsheets" (really the readouts and displays of the game) on the other screen. This is a habit I keep to this day. I play the game on one monitor, and have handy information displayed on the other. And what could be more handy in World of Warships than a spreadsheet listing those 97 ships, their top speed, and a pre-calculated lead multiplier? The correct answer is nothing. So, as my gift to you, I give you the result in image format. I hope you find it useful!
This is a work in progress and I will keep it updated as new ships are added to the game or game dynamics change. All ship speeds are taken directly out of the Tech Tree in game and include no modifiers like the Sierra Mike signal. However, I will not pretend I am infallible and have not gotten something mixed up. If you see something, please let me know and I'll update the chart after verifying the correction. I plan on adding premium ships to this list in the near future. I just need to verify their top speeds as I do not own all of them. I have included the Tirpitz as it was easy to do so and the German tree looked so bare with just cruisers. It will eventually move to it's own table with the rest of the premiums. The real trick will be keeping it readable at a glance. Anyway, take care and let me know in the comments if this was valuable to you. Also, please feel free to share it around. I only ask you keep the credit line at the bottom as it is. Thank you and have fun!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sunday Highlight #36: Farragut Unleashed

On the new Trident map in a domination match, it's my job to capture the center point if I can, and to contest it if I cannot. The enemy has the same idea and they come to the fight packing more guns. However, I have an advantage no one expects from a U.S. destroyer, and I use it to full effect in this incredible game. I hope you enjoy it and pick up a couple good ideas for your own game play!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fleet Friday: The USS Texas

The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day. 
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away. 
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn -- 
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
Til Gabriel blows his horn.
Well, truth be told you can get away from the USS Texas if you happen to be anything other than a U.S. battleship. It only has a top speed of 20.5 knots. But that's hardly anything different than her sister ship the New York which does a half knot better. The speed of the ship is it's biggest detractor. If you are in a base defense match it's not so bad as you can just defend the base. However, in a domination match it's an issue.

Making it an even bigger issue is the 15.6 kilometer range of the Texas. You can purchase this premium ship with the Artillery Plotting Room Modification 1 that boosts your range to more than 18 kilometers, but the dispersion out that far makes it less of a benefit than most imagine. IMO your better off with the 15.6 kilometer range and holding your fire until you're there. The detection range is just less than the firing range so it is possible to get close enough to cruisers and bigger ships.

And when you are close enough the guns of the Texas are devastating to anyone foolish enough to present a broadside, or just be within range if they are in a light cruiser. The Texas is a real alchemist and turns tin cans into Swiss cheese routinely. Interestingly enough, the dispersion of Texas is 14 meters worse than New York, but you couldn't prove it by me. I find the guns when fired at less than 15 kilometers to be quite satisfyingly accurate with armor piercing shells delivering 300 more damage than her New York counterpart.

And due to a slightly different arrangement of superstructure and auxiliary equipment at the center of the ship, the number three turret has a much better firing arc than the New York. This allows the Texas to bring all guns to bear on a forward facing course of approximately 45 degrees. That is much better than the practically broadside course required in the New York.

Another big difference about the Texas than any other battleship at tier V is the antiaircraft rating. The base AA rating of the Texas is 52, more than triple the rating of the stock New York and easily 50% better than the upgraded New York. The Texas comes with two and half times the number if 40 mm Bofors, and that makes a huge difference in AA capability. If you elect to go with the AA Guns Modification 2 module instead of the Plotting Room, and take both Firing Training skills for your Captain, you can get your AA rating up to 72. That's 11 points better than my Pensacola! It's six points better than my Tirpitz with the same captain build but without the AA module. So yeah, the Texas can wreck entire squadrons of the low tier carriers it'll face. But don't think it'll save you from a well executed torpedo attack. You'll get most of those planes on their way out and the Texas doesn't have torpedo bulges.

Here's a just over 13 minute video of my second game in the Texas so you can see for yourself how it plays. Unfortuantely there were no aircraft carriers in this match.

And now for the really important stat. How much? The base package for the Texas in World of Warships is $25.99. That's less than half the price I paid for the Tirpitz. Well, I guess not everything is bigger in Texas. I was very pleased with the pricing as you can tell. I grabbed one up the second I could. I don't regret one cent of what I spent. Now, can we get the Lone Star Flag to fly from her as well?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty #1) by Ken Liu

In this first novel by Ken Liu, we get a taste of life in early China and a bit of insight into what it means to be Chinese. I'll expound on that statement after the publisher's summary.
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.
Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Though this is a work of fiction set on an archipelago named Dara, make no mistake this book is Chinese history from the death of Qin Shi Huang, the fall of the Qin Dynasty, the subsequent revolts, and the foundation of the Han Dynasty. Though it is a fictionalized account, Ken Liu effectively conveys the culture of the period from the use of corvee laborers to build great projects to the harsh punishments meted out by the Empire for simply being late to the construction site for any reason. If you desire a look into the foundation of Chinese thought and philosophy, this book can do that in spades.

Besides illustrating some of the foundation stones of Chinese culture, the book also does a good job of showing how the Chinese relate to their pantheon of gods. The gods of Dara are handled just like the other characters in this book. They have their strengths and flaws. They have wants and desires. Their interactions with the mortal characters are absolutely in line with what I understand of the Chinese view of such things. They mettle, but all people are free to choose. The gods can influence, but not dictate. People always have free will. The story also illustrates how very little can be considered good or evil on it's own. There is a context to all actions that must be taken into account. A person's actions can be both good and evil. The entire story elucidates Chinese philosophy in that regard.

Inasmuch as this book is a primer on what makes China tick, it succeeds in this endeavor quite well. Where the book does not succeed as well is in the action category. This book will not get your heart racing with adrenaline. It is more contemplative than action oriented. There is plenty of fighting on both large and small scales. But the story is told from the third person omniscient point of view which does not lend itself well to creating suspense. There were times in the story when I thought, "but if he does that then so and so will follow through on his threats to do such and such won't he?" But that was about as close as I got to suspense, as soon afterward there was a new chapter explaining that so and so did in fact, or did not for reasons, do as threatened. It was all delivered as a historian would, with detachment from afar; the emotions of those involved made subservient to the events recounted.

If the story had been told from a more personal point of view, I probably could have cared more for the characters involved in the epic conflicts. For example, there is a movie named Little Big Soldier starring Jackie Chan. It takes place in the Warring States period preceding the Qin Dynasty. I kept thinking about the two characters in that movie while I listened to The Grace of Kings and contrasting them to Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu. In the end, I concluded I cared more about the two characters in the movie than the two main characters in The Grace of Kings. Then I had to figure out why. My conclusion is the movie characters were more personal to me. I could relate to them on a human level. Though I liked Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu (initially,) it was obvious to me they were representative of ideologies present in Chinese culture. In short they were stereotypes. They illustrated two competing philosophies on rulership and thus never became persons in my mind. That was the issue with all of the characters in the book. They were just a bit too far removed from real life because they obviously illustrated Chinese tropes. They were like characters in a fable, making the book about the message and not about the messengers.

That said, let me address one of the biggest complaints lodged against this book by many of its female reviewers: the role of women in the book. This is a book about China 2000 years ago more than anything else. If your condemnation of the book is because it does not conform to your ideals of how modern women should be treated, then you miss the point of the book entirely. Not every story HAS to pass the Bechdel Test, especially if that story unfolds in a place and time where such modern concepts did not exist. Should such a book attempt to portray women in a modern light, it would be seen as a lie and unfaithful to the characters and events portrayed within its pages. It would be like bringing out a stag and forcing everyone to call it a horse. Let me use a more mainstream example. The Lord of the Rings fails the Bechdel Test and no one says it is a horrible work of fiction because of it. Quite the contrary in fact. So do us all a favor and review the work on its merits; not on how you think it should have been written. The Grace of Kings is true to the time and place it takes place. Review it in that light, not your personal political torch.

Now I have to decide if I would recommend this book. To be honest, this book is not for everyone. It takes half the book to set up the main plot arc. The book is 21 and half hours long on audio. There are so many characters, and so much going on, the story labors under the load at times. It can be hard to understanding just who is on what side. The second half of the book was much smoother in that regard, and I enjoyed it more for that reason. I believe this book would have been better as two separate books. The first should have concentrated on the fall of Emperor Mapidéré, and the second should have dealt with the resulting conflict between the resultant states. The destruction of Pan would have been a great place to make that break. As the book was published, it went for epic and got just a little muddled because of it. Still, the book is a worthy read. It contains elegant metaphors, auspicious allegory and some very lovely poetry - all of it deliciously Chinese. If you crave an alternative to western epic fantasy I recommend this book. If you want a wonderfully complex story of trust and betrayal, I recommend this book. If you wish to understand the grace of kings, this book nails it. So yes, I would recommend this book. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Highlight #35: The Fighting Farragut Never Gives Up

This battle was up for grabs until the very end. Man was I happy when the point total reached 1000. It came not a second too soon, and I was surprised to still be afloat. But when the results screen came up, there was an even bigger surprise waiting for me!