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Sunday, August 26, 2012

War Thunder: first impressions

I have signed up for the open beta version of 'War Thunder' which is accompanied by a Non Disclosure Agreement supposedly preventing me from talking about the features of the game, or posting any screenshots or videos.

So I won't.


Instead I will tell you what the game reminds me of, and you can draw your own conclusions.

The Secret World: 'Closed Betas' and MMOs

The concept of using a 'closed beta' in which literally hundreds of thousands are 'invited' to beta test, and also invited to pay for the privelege, is nothing new. The MMO Secret World (TSW) was a good example. Invite the gamers in, let them play with limited content for free, and get them to pay small amounts to open the 'beta' content up so they can get a sneak preview.

But maybe not the greatest business model to follow (are you listening, Gaijin?) because although TSW  over 1.3 million beta-testers, only 200 thousand copies were eventually sold, there have been staff layoffs and the next major content update has been delayed.

'Closed beta testing' in MMOs is apparently here to stay though. Why launch straight to market when you can get thousands of punters to pay to play a game that still has last minute bugs to iron out? In the meanwhile you can get valuable information about what players like and don't, what they are willing to pay for, or not, and then when you go Gold, you can crank up the price and start raking in the cash...

Or, not.

Wings of Prey

This should come as no surprise, because it is the same devs.

What I liked about Wings of Prey: lush graphics, no drop in FPS no matter how many aircraft or explosions or special effects were on the screen, beautiful maps. Sound of engines, guns and flak is great.

What I didn't like about Wings of Prey: the game is made to be played in arcade mode, using a HUD, or in external 'over the shoulder' shooting mode with aiming assist. It has a 'realism' mode but the cockpits are not historically accurate, nor clickable, and the flight models are very basic. It feels like the flight models for fighters are more or less just variations on the same (except for the P51 which spins uncontrollably) and the bombers are ridiculously over modelled, such that you can dogfight in a Stuka. I also didn't like the damage effects, which are pure arcade, or the damage model, where the slightest hit causes wings and tails to fall off or aircraft to explode.

Crimson Skies

This is an older title, but one of the first to get online dogfighting right, make it easy to join and play, and with good frame rates, and limited cheating.

What I liked about Crimson skies was that it was pure fun. No real attempt to be too purist about the flight sim genre, just get in a plane and shoot shit down or blow shit up! There were campaigns, of the 'go here, do that, in the right order, and if you don't get it right, do it again until you do' variety. You could upgrade your aircraft by scoring points in the campaign, and buying new aircraft.

What I didn't like was that it was pure fun. Which meant it had a limited life, and attracted only those to the servers who were interested in a quick time, not a good time. Kind of like fast food for plane junkies. And it had essentially only two flight models (overpowered and underpowered) and two weapons packages (pea shooters or MOFO laser cannons).

Finally, World of Tanks

I spent nearly 300USD on this game before I was done. I learned very quickly that the 'free to play' concept for starter players was useless, and that if I wanted to move up through the tiers, and get the better tanks, and gold ammo, I would just have to buy them. So I did. I ended climbing up the Russian Heavy Tanks tech tree, and found my ultimate killing machine, the IS-4. Faster, agile and heavier than an armoured fortress, I was nearly invincible. I teamed up with other like minded, nearly invincible buddies. Then I realised, it was no fun being nearly invincible, because I had done all there was to do in World of Tanks, and so had most other players. The number of players on servers steadily dropped away, and I lost interest. My bank balance has thanked me ever since.

So there you have it. Absolutely nothing in this article about War Thunder. But if you have read this far, then as far as I am concerned, you know everything you need to know about War Thunder!

Update: apparently someone isn't concerned about the non disclosure agreement. See another preview here:

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