Command Bursts

Seems a while since we have seen much from the CCP Devs, but their most recent blog on the suggested changes to Command Links and Fleet boosting is a big one.

https://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/command-bursts/

I assume there are probably some glaring holes somewhere, but the gist of the idea seems really good to me.  I also appreciated the level of detail in the blog.

Quick Change of Fortunes

You get a very different story out of your PVP in World of Warships than what you get out of EVE.

I had two recent battles which took what I thought was good appropriate game play, and tossed me to the bottom rankings for each fight.

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The first was on the Fault Line map in my Tier IV Kuma, a Japanese Light Cruiser I have only recently started to use. (Not to great effect I have to admit.) It was a standard two base domination battle. I spawned to the south west and was glad to see a couple Destroyers near me, relieving me of the requirement to be a forward scout.

There was no in game chat or plans mentioned, so I trailed the two Destroyers as they headed towards the western side of the map – to provide them covering fire. We were joined by a second Light Cruiser, and oddly by a third Destroyer. The heavier ships in our squad all headed towards the east of the map. (Probably annoyed they had no Destroyers in front of them.)

Our little flotilla quickly ran into a couple enemy Destroyers with two Cruisers in support. I did not pay attention to which type of Cruisers – my knowledge in that area is still poor, but I noticed they out ranged me by a couple kilometers.

I dropped shells on the enemy Destroyers as they ducked and weaved in and out of visibility, putting pressure on them as they skirmished with our Destroyers. Carefully avoiding torpedoes and constantly changing direction to avoid the shells falling from the Cruisers, we made the damaged enemy Destroyers fall back with little damage taken by us. We then advanced forward towards the Cruisers, who with a long island at their back had limited maneuvering options.

I was carefully and erratically zigging and zagging as I approached. The enemy fire falling everywhere but on me. Just as I was getting into my main gun range I did a quick look around for situational awareness. I noticed the other light Cruiser was passing me – heading forward in a straight line. I chuckled to myself as I labelled him Rickon Stark; then boom, detonation! I went from near full hits at 22K to 0 Hit points in one enemy salvo. All my considered game play ended with me at the bottom of the battle rankings having had little statistical impact on the game.

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The second battle was on that awkward Solomon Islands map. It was my first outing in the US Tier II Destroyer Sampson, which on paper had no redeeming features and a horrible torpedo range. I was hoping to spawn on either side of the map to give myself some chance to get familiar with the ship, but I found myself in the south side of the map closest to the horrid straights between the main islands. I had no choice but to head in that direction – which meant I was obviously not going to last long.

Thankfully the Solomon’s slow acceleration and low top speed meant that I did not even get close to capture point B before our opponents reached it. I circled outside the straight a couple of times, sending some wild torpedoes in just in the unlikely event someone popped their noses though and into their measly range. Smartly the enemy stayed back, thumbing their noses at me.

I knew there were at least two enemy Destroyers and a Cruiser in the straights. Another Destroyer in my team entered the straights from the opposite side, but immediately ran into withering fire and was dispatched. His torpedoes did however manage to take out one of the opponent’s Destroyers, and had caused the other two ships to move off their stations.

Taking the opportunity with this (mild) disarray, I charged forward. Well, more accurately I sort of chugged slowly across the bottom of the straight. I was met by the second enemy Destroyer who did a parallel run to me, obviously firing off his torpedoes before opening up with his guns. I knew with my straight direction and inability to maneuver with the island immediately on my Port side, that I would be an easy target. Timing it as well as I could I dropped smoke, stopped my engines, and fired two torpedoes at the Destroyer (to help push him away), and two at the Cruiser who was up against one shore. I hoped the enemy’s torpedoes would harmlessly pass in front of me and I could then move forward and make my escape.

A cunning plan with what I had available to me – except I had not taken into account the other Destroyer Captain’s horrendous aim. I knew from the angle of the torpedoes as they approached that he had fired them right at the start of his turn, before I had popped smoke or stopped. If he had aimed correctly they would have sailed safely past in front of me, but instead all 4 of his close spread Torpedoes hit me midships as I came to a stop. That left me sunk – and because my Torpedoes did not hit anything, again statistically insignificant and at the bottom of the battle’s rankings. If I had of just sailed on I would likely have escaped the straights. I had taken on lessons learnt in previous games, and ended up too smart for my own good.

I’m not sure that makes for interesting reading, but the outcome of the battles stuck with me with a cut and thrust you just don’t tend to get in EVE PVP. You make more decisions in World of Warships, especially around your maneuvering and position behind cover, and the battles feel like they have – on the smaller scale, much more drama to them. EVE PVP can be agricultural in comparison, particularly given how often it is one sided.

Of course, unless I re-read my blog later, I will soon forget these battles as their story is replaced by different versions of the same, day after day. EVE PVP however – particularly at the infrequent rate I partake, seems to leave an impression that can last years. I assume it must be a mix of the risk involved, the relative rarity of it, and the commonly long preparation required before hand.  It is not just pressing a battle button and waiting a minute for a fight to start.

The Shakes

I’ve mentioned before that I struggle both mentally and physically with the stress of PVP in EVE – through anxiety and essential tremors.

I have had mild to moderate shakes in World of Warships in some battles, and become befuddled in some close quartered stressful encounters, but for the most part my reactions are nothing like in EVE.

There are lots of obvious reasons. The cost of losing a battle in both time and game assets is relatively minimal in World of Warships. It is easy and quick to line up for a battle, where you repeat the same basic scenarios over and over allowing a level of comfortable familiarity. The map, zoomed out views and basic 2D nature of the environment (aside height of islands) makes it much easier to maintain situational awareness. Your encounters are relatively balanced. You generally have time to think about what you are doing, and even in flimsy ships get an extra chance or two to adjust your tactics before you die. Interestingly I think the basic keyboard controls also makes it a much easier game to PVP in – where as in EVE I can find it difficult when under stress to navigate menu trees and click on small line entries on the overview.

It is not however some utopic PVP game for the shake challenged.

For me I can be entirely self-aware of my anxiety over something, be consciously relaxed, prepared, breathing well, eating well, sleeping well, yet – despite how I am feeling mentally, still get slammed by the physical anxiety reaction. I tend to need balanced and repeated exposure to such things to build up an overall comfort level.

I have found it very hard in EVE to achieve that – it is difficult to access PVP in a consistent and timely manner. In World of Warships however it is actually easy to access PVP that way. Instead I find I hit the other side of the exposure spectrum.

I carry around a certain capacity to cope with a situation. With that careful exposure I mentioned before I can increase that capacity over time. Conversely, if don’t get that exposure or fall out of the habit of it, that capacity dwindles. What I have found with World of Warships is that the repeated exposure can at times use up my coping capacity. I can find myself hit with sudden mild dread at starting yet another battle, or end up shaking more the longer I play in a session.

Oh Who Cares

As of writing this I’ve now ran 25 PVP battles in World of Warships. (Maybe the NPC Destroyers made life too dangerous in PVE?) After an initial run of being on the winning teams I’ve quickly fallen into the average 50/50-win loss ratio. The dangling hook has gone, seemingly around the time when I purchased a month of premium time on my account. (Or maybe more accurately when I hit the level that allowed me to start fitting ship upgrades.)

You can keep track of my sad exploits here:

https://asia.warships.today/player/2013811949/SeaHermit

I’ve stuck to Light Cruisers and Destroyers, so have seen my role as scouting out the opponents and moving around the capture points. I have a tendency to die early during the reconnaissance stages, as I push myself to be more aggressive than my nature would normally dictate. When two destroyers suddenly see each other at 6km, closing at a combined 70+ knots, things get messy quickly. If I get past that initial stage however I’ll often end up in the top 2 or 3 of the team, making worthwhile contributions. Several times I’ve been able to hero a win solo.

The interaction with other players is different than in EVE.

There is very little coordination or chat at the level I am operating in. So little that I don’t habitually watch for it. I have only had a single match where someone gave me authoritative requests that made sense and that I followed. On occasion a team will all move as if everyone knows what they are doing, and will usually win by a large margin. Mostly however the teams are a bit haphazard, with a wide range of skills, aggressiveness and levels of common sense. It is not unusual for a game to be decided by 2 or 3 players just falling quietly into a supportive group and working well together while the rest stumble around on their own. I expect that will change in higher tiers.

It is a surprisingly solo type of game so far – where you certainly work as a team, but on your own (better or worse) terms.

I have noticed disparaging remarks in chat thrown my way, although relatively few. It is the sort of thing that might have embarrassed and rattled me, but I have actually found I really don’t care. I’ve never noticed someone calling me out for the many stupid things I have done – instead it will be because I ignored their demands or they didn’t like the position I was in. If I spawn outside capture point C, I’m not going to cross the map because some random battleship Captain outside of capture point A yells. As for my positioning, there is always a reason I am where I am on the map. I might be capturing, I might be keeping opponents detected, I might be following advice I saw on YouTube. Often I will just be repositioning to try and get out from under heavy fire. I’ve won a couple of games by heading in the opposite direction of everyone else and capturing an undefended base.

I am sure I am making lots of less than ideal decisions. I haven’t played the game for a week yet. Mostly however nothing is said. For what little abuse I have noticed, I am finding in World of Warships – as in life, that the louder and more obnoxious a person is, the less they seem to know what they are talking about anyway.

I wonder if the game attracts an older group of players – as the battles tend to be slower paced and somewhat more tactical in nature? If you make a hash of your attack you can sit around for 30 seconds or more before you can fire again. Surely that wouldn’t please a younger age group?  I am not surprised a type of EVE player enjoys the game.

I noticed the other day you can rate other players in a match – it seemed simplistic, just a couple of positive or negative choices such as was helpful or abusive. I wonder if that impacts the battle match maker system? It is not like EVE where you can send an EVE Mail or follow the same person around abusing them. I expect there are probably forums and webpages where people try to shame other Warship players, but since the matches are random it is not like you will regularly be running into the same people. Having just said that – looking at this site it suggests the population of the server I have to use – Asia, tends to be relatively low:

http://warshipstats.com/

Maybe I will be crossing paths with the same people over and over.

I know it might sound corny, but the main reason I have been less bothered by other people’s reactions is because I know I am doing my best. I take note of my ships statistics, what are the ranges of my weapon systems and detection. I try to follow the role of my ship, but adjust my tactics as well as I can to suit the other ships around me. I try to fit in with what other team members are doing, I focus my fire, and I am mindful of tunnel vision so am always keeping an eye on the objective. In the 50 odd matches I’ve played in total, I don’t recall ever hitting another team member with torpedoes or gun fire, and have only once given the mildest of grazes when I hit someone for a few points of damage. If that is not good enough for another player, then tell someone who cares. There is a level of liberation and freedom in that mindset.

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The Tier III Wakatake Destroyer – a ship on paper that should be less fun than the Tier II Umikaze – but isn’t.

PVE Match Making

I ran 27 PVE battles in World of Warships – half to get used to the game, then one each time I started to use a new hull to get a feel for it before I went up against other players.

I expect that is probably more than the average person does.  It relates to the “not embarrassing myself too much” goal I mentioned the other day.

That uncomfortable need to prepare myself has now waned, and I don’t expect I will run a PVE battle again.

The PVE Battles themselves tend to be relatively easy. The main core of NPCs would generally run through the middle while a couple small groups would move down either flank. Most players rushed in concentrating on the core group, resulting in a close quarters blood bath with some friendly fire, but ultimately overwhelm it with superior numbers.  The flanking ships would then move in and be more easily dispatched. The games were then over.

Generally the NPC AI was easily beat – I think mainly as it operated with less self preservation than a player would.  I will say that I found the NPC Destroyers at my level of experience / tier to be more dangerous than player controlled Destroyers. While scouting the flanks I found they would appear at full speed 6km away, zigging and zagging to minimise the damage you could throw against them. Mere seconds later they would release an accurate close range torpedo spread against you, followed up by a second, also accurate spread. It didn’t seem to matter how you twisted and turned, or what acrobatics you managed to perform, you’d find yourself the first casualty of the game, sinking with little opportunity to fire off your own ordinance.

I know it sounds very arbitrary, but I wonder if a PVE match making system might be an interesting addition to the new player experience in EVE? Start people out in pre-fit loan ships if required – but get them exposed to the idea of flying in a fleet and working together.

Hooks

I’m now an expert in World of Warships.

I’ve played 25 battles (9 ending in my sinking), with a positive destruction ratio (I sink half as much as my enemies do) and a high team victory rates.  I have millions in credit – which seems to be thrown at you each time you level up, and I had no problem quickly and easily researching the first few ship tiers and their modules.

But of course I am not an expert – and never will be. I just don’t play games that way. No – what Wargaming (the publishers of World of Warships / Tanks / Warplanes) seems to be doing is manipulating my experiences to hook me into the game.

Some steps are obvious – giving you enough cash that you can thoughtlessly buy all the initial upgrades and initial ships as you research them. It ensures the game doesn’t start out feeling like a big grind, even on a non-premium account. From reading other articles, I also expect the game’s match making system might help make you feel like a winner in the very early stages of playing. I know that will change dramatically moving forward.

What does EVE do to hook you in? I’ve played the game for almost 10 years now – and even if I roll up a new Alt I won’t ever have a truly new player experience again. I know new players get more ship hulls and ISK at the start now. I get the gist there is an effort to get people to accede inevitable loss from the start – sort of making you accept feeling like a loser instead of a winner.

The initial fitting options and path in World of Warships is limited, simple, and easy to follow.  There is a learning curve, but it doesn’t feel particularly daunting.  EVE’s initial fitting options is just so much richer, although constrained by the need for knowledge, skill training and ISK. I wouldn’t want to lose that, but it might be useful for early tutorials to step players through the options more.

One random example. Get a new player to fly a frigate with no propulsion module, then an Afterburner, then a Microwarp Drive, to compare the results. Next give them the challenge of getting their frigate to fly above a certain speed. Maybe make it a multiple level mission – start out with a speed they can meet with a MWD, then a higher speed they need upgrade modules for, then a higher speed again they might need to rig for and have certain skills trained.

I also like some of the tool tips in World of Warships.  You can see the impact of an upgraded module or hull just by hovering over them.

It might be my natural level of cynicism, but I know most of the more popular games I’ve played in recent years have very obvious hooks. They entertain you, let you feel like you are progressing, let you win more than lose, show you interesting upgrades, entice you to spend money, and once they have you hooked – they switch to keeping you playing and paying for as long as possible.  It will be interesting to see what CCP do with their new player experience moving forward.

Second Step

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I took my second step in World Of Warships – my first all player battle.  I felt somewhat conspicuous towards the end as the numbers dwindled – assuming people were more than likely spectating on my ship.  (I’m not sure what happens if you quit a battle early – do you get your rewards?  Do you have to wait around for the end as I have been to get them?)  Some reasonable tactical decisions, unusually straight shooting and plenty of luck saw me come out as the last man standing.

That battle was rather exciting – although not with the same PVP shakes I tend to get in EVE.  I think that comes down to feeling like you have more situational awareness and more time to think.  It also doesn’t really cost you anything of note.  I know my underlying goal at this point is just not embarrassing myself.  I don’t say that flippantly, I mean it.  It is the source of much of my anxiety.

I’ll probably talk about the game for a bit – but reflecting on it in comparison to EVE and what I might, or might not learn from it.