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Jan 25

Hello, And Welcome

Battlefield 4 is great!  It is my favorite game, based on hours played at the very least.  I play many other games as well, and like to provide help to my friends, clan mates, and the community.

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Jan 24

GTA Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack: Rip Off! Can You Do Better?

 

 

I have two words for the new Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack: Rip Off!

http://gta.wikia.com/wiki/Criminal_Enterprise_Starter_Pack

For about $40, you supposedly get over GTA$ 10 million of stuff to get you started playing GTA Online.
That sounds like a good idea, and a good value, compared to the classic way to get a head start: Shark Cards. It would be, if it was actually both worth more than just getting a Shark Card — the Whale Shark at $50 for 3.5 million for example — and included enough useful to really get you going in the rough world of GTA Online.

It isn’t.

So should you consider buying this? No. I don’t recommend Shark Cards either, not at full price. But at least they would give you a better start in your life in GTA. There are packages with this pack in addition to Shark Cards, but even those are of dubious value.

It is sad. Sad!

This is really a good idea, because any new player of the game is going to have a huge disadvantage while trying to catch up to established players. Simply handing someone a lot of GTA$ isn’t going to guarantee a good start, because you won’t know what to get first. What a GOOD starter pack should offer is all the essential properties, weapons, and vehicles to actually run businesses and missions to make money fast. It also has to give good value for the price tag.

This Starter Pack fails at both.

If you want to know why this is true, read on. There are two big faults with the entire package. Since it is a good idea, I’m going to make suggestions to make it better. If nothing else, I want to give some simple advice on what you really need to get up to speed in GTA.

Problems In The Package

The biggest catch is that all the things you get are given as FREE items, from the in game stores. There are other free items available in the game. Free is generally a good thing, unless you are paying actual money for the free stuff. Because unlike in real life, where a free car would be just as valuable when sold as any other (after paying off the taxes of course), the purchase price determines the sale or trade-in value of the item.

My guess is that Rockstar did this to avoid “free money” glitches where you get something for free, then sell it for GTA$ later. I could still call it lazy programming, as the free Hermes offered at Christmas was locked and tracked at one purchase per character. It is much more of a problem for the properties, where trade-ins later if you choose to move would be expected, than for cars. If it treats the cars in the package like the free Elegy RH8 you can get, it can be fun to make a whole collection of differently customized cars without worrying about the cost.

At about 50% to 60% trade in value, 10 million GTA$ of free stuff would be worth about 5-6 million. Now, some of the things in the package cannot be sold or traded in. For those, you aren’t losing out on any potential value if you choose to later exchange or upgrade your collection.

Clothes, weapons, and Pegasus vehicles cannot be sold or traded. But cars, properties, and businesses can be. You can sell cars, and you can trade in or relocate your properties. You are likely to do that during your career, simply because you’ve reconsidered your choices, want new scenery, or something new and better comes along to replace it.

The second problem is that a starter kit needs to give you good things you really need. It is OK to have some fluff and luxuries which are cool and colorful, nice to have but not beneficial to your game play. But when the goal is to speed up your path to fortune and fame in the game, you can’t count the VALUE of those things. All that matters is what actually gives you a leg up, an advantage in the game.

So what do you get that is useful?

Weapons. Compact Grenade Launcher, Marksman Rifle, Compact Rifle. You can’t trade these in, so they are beneficial. I’d pick other weapons to give a new player a good start. Nothing they give you is rank locked. I’d recommend the AP Pistol — you can get by with this as your only pistol weapon, and ammo is cheap — and the Sniper Rifle. You need a drive-by weapon to shoot from a vehicle, and something with good range to counter all the other folks out there who already have it.

Still, they aren’t a rip off, just maybe not the best choice and you’ll end up buying other weapons to actually do missions with in the game. You will get weapons for free if you do the introductory missions for GTA online, and I recommend those. You’ll unlock the Micro SMG at rank 5, which you’ll reach fast, which is an essential drive-by attack weapon. I can see not unlocking it by default, given how quickly you’ll get it, but it is truly essential. The AP Pistol is a fully automatic pistol which is excellent for drive-by as well, and uses cheap (and easy to pick up off dead bodies) pistol ammo. You’ll get it too, but it takes longer. There are a lot of weapons unlocked on the right wall in Ammunation, so you will have lots of good options before you rank up.

1561 San Vitas Street Apartment: Really? A low end, 2 car garage place, albeit in a nice neighborhood, isn’t in line with the lifestyle of a crime boss in GTA. Worse, for a little over double its value, you can get a high end apartment, with a 10 car garage and a heist room. Tinsel Towers, Del Perro, Alta Street, all pretty cheap and good locations. You’ll eventually replace this place, and that means its zero trade-in value makes it worthless. It is worth something as a home to begin the game with, but nowhere near its $99K price.

What you’ll need: The cheapest high end apartment is $200K, at Del Perro Heights.

1337 Exceptionalists Way 10 car garage: Not bad, we get something you can use. No trade-in value, but it will be quite a while before you purchase enough properties to make you want to replace this. Assuming you ever do. It is near the LSIA airport, and that is also close to a LS Customs shop, both useful. Garages work as spawn locations, just like apartments, so for working in the game, it is perfectly fine. Still, $112K isn’t a whole lot of value.

Maze Bank West CEO Office: An office is extremely useful to have, so its $1 Million price tag makes it a good deal. The lack of trade in value is a downside, if you choose to upgrade later. Office price – like all properties – is all about the location, and to some degree, access and amenities. Close to the west side highways, with a low altitude helipad for easy air access, this isn’t a bad choice if you want to stick with it.

But you don’t get any of the useful add-ons which are what make a CEO’s life so good. You have to shell out money – a lot of money – to really start living the life of an Executive Criminal. You want a warehouse — cargo or vehicle, I’d recommend a vehicle warehouse if you get only one — in order to actually have a BUSINESS to run from your office.

If you do want to relocate — Maze Bank West is the cheapest office because its size and location makes it sometimes a little harder to operate from — you effectively lose the “free money” value of the place. All in all, I’d still count this as being nearly worth its “price.”

What you will need: Cheapest Vehicle Warehouse is 1.5 million, La Mesa. This isn’t that close to the office, but none of them are really.

We aren’t up to 1.5 million yet in useful things in this package. Let’s look at the next set.

More Properties

Great Chaparral Biker Clubhouse: The cheapest one, again. I like the location myself, so it isn’t a bad thing. Only GTA$ 200K, but being able to form a biker club and use its 10 motorcycle garage is a very good thing.

Senora Desert Counterfeit Cash: If you want to operate in the Senora Desert like Trevor, this isn’t a bad location. For biker businesses, if you are going to operate more than one, it makes sense to pick them all from the same area. The fake cash business is, however, third on the list for profitability. If you are only going to work with ONE biker business, Coke is the best deal. If you are going to get a Coke Lockup later, you need to consider if you are going to have the time and energy to also keep (and pay for) a 3rd-rate business as well. This time, not the cheapest.

About $845K. It has no upgrades, and for a new player, lacking them can really hurt the effectiveness of the business. Figure another 1.6 mil to really get the place rocking like it should. Upgrades roughly double the profits of the Biker MC and Bunker businesses. The lack of a security upgrade can make the frequent raids on the place frustrating. Upgrade cost: $1,609,000.

Again, if you relocate — or just choose not to keep the Cash business running — you get no value from these. So while they can be useful for a new player, they aren’t quite worth their list price. Still, running value is now about 2.5 million in properties. Or two Great White Shark Cards. You do get $1 Million in your bank, so that’s maybe 3.5 million — the value of the $50 Whale Shark card. But with the Shark Card, you’d have the trade in value, plus be able to get things from your favorite list of “stuff to buy first in GTA Online.”

So far, so OK. This is where things go downhill.

Paleto Forest Gunrunning Bunker: The cheapest you can buy, and the start of the big rip off! When you trade this in, it makes it effectively worthless. This is the bunker you’d buy if you want an underground home far away from the crowd, and just wanted to do some quiet weapons research and not bother with the messy gunrunning business. It is simply too far from everything to be a fun, profitable choice to actually use for the gunrunning business.

Because Gunrunning is the most profitable “passive” business, if you decide to run with it, you will quickly find the location too frustrating to use. Most sell missions have a 15 minute time limit, so being an extra five minutes from everywhere can turn a difficult task into an impossible one. With failed missions losing product and profit, it could quickly turn you off from the whole business.

Do you only want to get an MOC and the new weapons and vehicles (and missions), and not actually make money from your bunker? This is the place for you. Otherwise, too bad, so sad, it is worth NOTHING.

I mean, seriously, if you did get this Starter Pack, don’t invest anything in this bunker, just by another location and chalk it up as money wasted.

Note: Gunrunning and Biker businesses are “passive” in the sense that you provide supplies (stolen on missions or paid for with cash), then wait for the product to be ready for sale. You only need to a short time supplying the business (a handful of minutes if you buy supplies), then a sale mission every 5 or so hours of in-game time. For a typical gaming day, you can easily do one of each, collecting your money, then do other things with the rest of your play time.

Let’s talk about the real cost of Bunker operations. While the basic price isn’t too bad, it is all the upgrades and research which will really kill you.

Equipment Upgrade $1,155,000

Staff Upgrade $598,500

Security Upgrade $351,000

$2,104,500 total.

You’ll also need an MOC with the vehicle workshop in order to customize any of the weaponized/military vehicles it offers, and a weapon workshop in order to get any of the upgraded weapons. That’s another 2.5 million, not including any upgrades you stick on it.

Let’s say that you want that fantastic rocket boosted flying motorcycle, the Oppressor. Can be bought from Warstock Cache and Carry for $3,524,500 or for $2,650,000 (trade price). The trade price means completing missions from your MOC, and you need the MOC in order to upgrade the thing, so why not save some money?

So, for about $4.6 million for the MOC and upgrades (so your bunker can make money and do research efficiently), and the price of the Oppressor, you’ll drop some $7.3 million to get a flying motorcycle. But wait, what if you want to ride like a MegaForce and shoot missiles from that flying bike?

That requires you to run research in the bunker. The order of items researched is entirely random. It will cost you roughly $10 million to fast track all the research, or roughly the equivalent in supplies and lost gunrunning weapon sales if you just let the bunker do research. On average, you’ll hit the one item you most want about halfway through — but average isn’t the same as guaranteed, and you might get unlucky and get it last. Even running off the average, that is another $5 million or so.

So to get a fully armed, upgraded, fantastic flying motorcycle, it will set you back over $12 million.

While you’re doing that research, you’ll unlock other things. Having unlocked cool new things, you’ll be tempted to spend money to actually use them.

This is why I say the Bunker is a money sink. It is a great business, but it doesn’t actually pay much better per hour than the best Biker MC business.

If you are established, it doesn’t take that long to get all this stuff in your bunker. I, for reasons mostly of my own doing, was basically broke when the Gunrunning DLC dropped, and had all the upgrades and research done within two months. But I had my CEO Vehicle Warehouse, Cargo Warehouse, and Biker MC Coke business and let me make money and turn the bunker into the a profitable, fun business, with cool new toys including the flying bike.

 

 

Let’s look at the vehicles in the Starter Pack:

First, a quick mention of the joy of custom races and vehicles. Established players will want custom races on, so they can use their fully upgraded, customized rides in any races. Why not, they paid their money and earned them. As a new player, all of the performance upgrades will be locked. The Transmission, Engine, and Turbo upgrades combined give a 40% boost to engine power and acceleration. The others offer a lesser advantage, but it still makes a difference. All things being equal, how much chance do you think you’ll have over an experienced racer who has that much better of a car, even if you own the same model?

So your question should be “What can these vehicles do for me?”

And the answer is, not much besides look nice.

Pro Tip: The best performance unlocks require 44 race wins or Rank 100. It can take a couple of months to rank up, but here’s some short advice on race wins: A short, 4 player one lap race win counts as one win, same as a win in a 30 player, 5 laps around the city race.  2nd place doesn’t count.  Do short races like Criminal Records set at one lap, and you can get the wins well before you rank up.  Us old-school players didn’t have the rank unlock, so we had to get wins to get the cool upgrades.

Dune FAV: The idea of an armed dune buggy is fun. But you can’t arm it unless you do enough research in your bunker. Figure you’ll spend 5-12 million to complete the research if you invest in it. The gunrunning vehicles can be fun, but without the expensive weapon upgrades they aren’t very impressive. Add in 3 million or more for the nice MOC vehicle to let you upgrade them and the upgrades for the bunker, and this simply is a cheap offroad vehicle with no weapons. Not as good as the much cheaper offroad vehicles you get just buy in the game.

Maibatsu Frogger: Ok, so you get a helicopter, but this one isn’t impressive. Not too fast, and no weapons. Did you know that a CEO (and some biker club officers) can call on vehicles from an interaction menu, and if you happen to OWN one of them, you call them for free rather than paying money? It only costs $200 to call any Pegasus vehicle, and you have to go to a pickup location to get it.

The single most useful helicopter in the game right now is the Buzzard. It is on the CEO and Biker Road Captain vehicle menus, with the CEO one being the most useful as it comes with its weapons. Best of all, it will appear near to you wherever you call it, rather than at a few select airfield/helipad locations.

Huntley S: Not a bad luxury SUV. But do you need a luxury SUV when starting out in the game? It is neither the fastest in its class, nor especially fast as a general vehicle. The Baller MK2 (sloped roof) you can steal off the street and insure at a custom shop is about as good, and not bad off road if you need that.

Enus Windsor
Obey Omnis
Banshee
Coquette Classic

These cars are just to look cool in. They aren’t high performers in their classes. The Elegy RH8 is still an excellent racing sports car, and free to Rockstar Social Club members.

Turismo R: The cheapest mid-range supercar, it looks good but isn’t good enough to use in custom races against other players. When the game first came out, this was a fine 2nd place supercar. But that was a long time ago, and it no longer holds any strong position. The cheapest current competitive supercar is the Zentorno.

Pegassi Vortex
Western Zombie Chopper

Neither of these bikes is good for anything but looking cool when you ride them.

All of the cars suffer from one big, big problem: It will cost a small fortune to customize them, and the really useful upgrades are all locked when you start out. You could spend a million or two upgrading and decorating the “FREE” cars you got. With no resale or trade-in value, these are pretty much just a money sink.

Net useful value of the vehicles? Zero. Like clothes, they might look good but don’t do anything to actually help you in the game!

Bottom Line Advice

You’re still thinking about getting this, aren’t you? Rockstar is pushing this package, with messages in-game and in advertising elsewhere, hyping the “over $10 Million value” you get. How does it actually work in-game?

Well, you don’t simply get all the things give to you. You get a menu item for the Starter Pack showing its contents, and you can select an item, which takes you to the online store for things normally purchased that way (vehicles and properties). The price will be shown as FREE, and you purchase it normally.

If you are already a little established in the game, and have some properties, trading a better property for a FREE but poorer one might refund you some money, but give you no actual advantage or step up in the game. It is really meant for players who haven’t obtained money and property in the game yet.

Players who are clueless about what to buy in the game. And dropping an extra $40 on this, might be willing to put out another $50 or $100 (99.99) for Shark Cards, in order to get things which are ACTUALLY USEFUL in the game.

Is that you? Rockstar sure is hoping for a lot of new players with extra money to “invest”.

What could make this a better deal?

First, give a trade in/resale value above zero for the items given for free. It can’t be that hard to essentially give you a “voucher” for the items at, say, half cost, so you get the in-game equivalent of about 5 million in purchase value. Which turns into about 3 million or so in trade in or resale (after depreciation, cars for example are worth 60% of purchase price if you sell them). Add in the million bucks cash, and you’d be definitely ahead compared to getting a Shark Card. I don’t expect Rockstar to actually do this, because of problems with glitching free money (which players have done with other things).

Second, give more useful items. A bunker sounds cool, but the cheap Paleto Bay location is frustrating and effectively worthless for serious players. I’d recommend a vehicle warehouse instead. The import/export business is easy to get into — steal hot cars and sell them — and more important, usually fast and furious fun and profitable. It is the single best money-making feature in the game right now. I’d recommend other guns, like the AP Pistol, that you are more likely to use on real missions in the game.

Third, more useful vehicles. Not just difference choices, I’d suggest giving a one time LS Customs “voucher” for each and every customizable vehicle, allowing you to ANY customizations you want, even locked ones, on for free. The all important racing performance upgrade “Turbo” is locked to Rank 100 (or a lot of race wins). If you could start out with “fully upgraded vehicles” for racing and missions, that would be worth paying extra for. You can’t get those unlocks without a lot of play time (about 100 hours, not bad but still a while).

There are vehicles which top most players “must buy” lists. None are included. I suggest:

Stuff You Really Need

Buzzard: Top pick for most useful thing for any CEO, or just anybody.

This is my #1 essential vehicle for a new CEO. Or for that matter, for the first aircraft you get in the game. It has guns and missiles, is fast and agile, seats four so you can carry crew around, and most important, is on the CEO and Biker MC Road Captain vehicle menus. For $5000, you can call up a Buzzard (or some other helicopters) when you are a CEO, and they will appear near your location. But if you OWN one, the cost is zero!

The $1,750,000 cost is a lot, but it is far, far more useful than the Frogger helicopter. A long, long time ago, in a GTA far away, I bought a Swift for my first helicopter, because the Buzzard was rank locked and I had money. The Swift IS faster, but weapons are usually better than speed. Now, there is no reason not to select this vehicle as your top priority for a new CEO.

Duke O’ Death: You really need an armored car for working missions, both in free roam and jobs like contact missions and heists. This is free for “returning players,” so there is a way for some people to already get it free. It is a cool muscle car and fun to drive, and its bulletproof, explosive resistant design makes it (or one of the other armored cars) an essential tool for any criminal. $665K.

Kuruma (Armored): I mention this only because it is an often superior alternative to the Duke, but I’d rather give the Duke as the free car, and give you an incentive to do the Fleeca Heist to unlock the discount on this (plus you make enough quickly to buy one that way). $698,250, or $525,000 (After The Fleeca Job, Online)

Shafter V12 (Armored): This is the fastest (currently) vehicle with armor protection. $325K. The (Armored) version is still classed as the fastest sedan, and it is the fastest land vehicle with armor.

All three of these together is $1,688,500. What the heck, just get all three. Each has its own advantages, why not have them all? I do.

The Duke O’ Death is a muscle car, good acceleration, and tougher against explosives than the Kuruma. It has a firing slit in the front which leaves the driver vulnerable, but if you shoot at an angle you are quite safe. The Kuruma is a sports rally car — it has excellent off road handling — and has a higher top speed than the Duke, making it good for long drives, but less acceleration. It has more bulletproof armor over the windows — the front windshield is nearly impenetrable — but isn’t as tough against explosives. The Shafter V12 (Armored) has the Executive ballistic armored glass, which can take quite a few shots to penetrate, but offers no firing slits and will eventually break. Like the Duke, it is resistant to explosives. Use it when you need to get someplace fast and don’t want to get shot up.

Because the Elegy RH8 is still free and a fine sports car, you don’t really need to include it in any package. But there are some sports cars which you could have.

Shafter V12: This was the fastest Sports Car before the Pariah was added, and remains faster than many supercars and lots of fun to drive. $116K. Also valid in the Sedans class for racing. Best speed for money of any car.

That’s it, really, for what you need for missions. Here are some that I’d consider fun to have as a starting player, and worth getting.

Zentorno: The Vagner is the current top gun racing supercar for regular circuit tracks, but this is less than half price and remains a contender. A bad ass looking car with nice acceleration and sound. Fully customized, you can pull off race wins if you know how to drive, still a top 5 or top 10 best race car choice. $725K.

Pisswasser Dominator: The Dominator is a nice muscle car and you can steal one off the street and claim it. The race car version is even faster, and gives you a solid, fun choice for muscle car races, as well as just driving around. $315K.

BF400: This motorcycle is fast and good for wheelies, and also qualifies for off road racing. The Sanchez and Bati 801 are both very good bikes, but can be stolen and kept. This costs $95K.

Nightshark: This military armored SUV is fairly fast and extremely tough, able to take multiple rocket hits and survive.  It laughs at the weak guided missiles of a Homing Launcher and many armed vehicles.  The Insurgent is a classic alternative, but this is even faster.  It has built in forward facing machine guns, but you can’t use your normal drive-by weapons in it, unlike the Insurgent. $1245K.

When starting out, never ignore the cars which are cheap, as some will do just fine as your personal working or racing vehicles. You can steal cars off the street, and keep them, as long as A) the purchase price is $95K or less and B) they are base game vehicles, not DLC add-ons (because those don’t normally appear in traffic).

 

Fixing the Starter Pack:

Things to add:

The cheapest high end apartment is $200K, at Del Perro Heights.
Cheapest Vehicle Warehouse is 1.5 million, La Mesa. Pro tip: sell only the Top Range value cars at maximum (spend 20K to customize) price.
Buzzard: $1,750,000
All 3 Armored Cars: $1,688,500
Shafter V12:  $116K

Total: $5,255,500.

That’s a lot of extra money you’ll need to get your life set up in GTA Online. Might have to get a big Shark Card in order to manage it. In fact, one of the Megalodon cards would about do it!

Or, we can just swap out stuff in this package and give you what is really useful.

Properties: $1,099,000. Remove the small apartment and the bunker.
Vehicles:
Frogger $1,300,000
Dune FAV $1,130,500

Ok, so far $3,529,500 for obvious things to replace. Got to come up with another $1935K. If we swap the next three most expensive cars out, we easily hit that. Bye bye, Windsor, Omnis, Coquette Classic.

We actually have some flexibility. I don’t mind things having no game utility. Most clothes (other than bulletproof helmets) do nothing for you in the game. Most cars are just for fun, with no in-game benefits.

In practice, since the “free cars” in this package are mostly just for fun, the price is just for the marketing value. Claiming that you’re getting over $GTA 10 million of stuff sounds nice, but not everything is actually worth spending real money on.

At least, not for most people. Cool clothes and cool rides are things you buy when you have extra money earned in the game and nothing pressing which you need. It isn’t what you’d want to spend your REAL money on when you are trying to get a boost to your starting situation.

In the long run, you will make money playing this game. There are some tiers of income levels, depending on your resources and types of activity.

 

First, let’s look at some easy basics.

 

#1: Selling street cars at the custom shop. The top range of common cars you can steal and sell get you $9000-9500, and you can do this every real world 48 minutes. Or about $10K per hour of play. It only takes a couple of minutes to sell a car, so this is something near 300K per hour, a very good deal for the time spent. The less common customized street cars can pay better.

#2: Daily Objectives. Another easy way to make money, gives you $25000 for completing three tasks each day, with a nice 3000 RP reward as well. But if you don’t miss completing them on every day you play, you get bigger bonuses every 7 and 28 consecutive days. The big $500000 bonus is very nice. It usually takes under 20 minutes to do the three activities, so this again is both not bad for the time and not hard to do. If you have trouble finding players for activities, make friends or just ask in your current public session.

Now, let’s look at game play incomes.

A) 60K/hour. Basic typical jobs, like death matches, races, etc., and associate and biker club member incomes. Pays around 60K per hour, $1000 per minute. This varies some, but on average the usual simple things you do in the game which pay money will give you at least this much. Roughly 16 hours per $1 Million.

B) 120K/hour. The good jobs: Contact missions, and most things with double GTA$ awarded by Rockstar. Also, running a Biker MC business along with other activities tends to push you into this range.

Pro tip: Contact missions pay 100%, the maximum, after 15 minutes, but will give you 50% of the payout after 4 minutes. You can do three 4 minute jobs in under 15 minutes and collect 150% of the job pay rate. For a typical about 20K payout job, that’s 30K every 15 minutes.

Roughly 8 hours of play per million.

C) 240K/hour. CEO executive with a fully established business, or three Biker MC or Bunker businesses with no CEO businesses. One vehicle warehouse will let a single, solo player make this money. You can also do so with the Cargo Warehouses, but it takes longer. The Hangar smuggling business makes good money ONLY if you have a full crew working with you. About 4 hours for every million.

D) 350K/hour. CEO executive with two Biker MC or Bunker businesses. Note that even with one — the starting package I’d recommend — you’ll be making somewhere near 300K an hour even without perfect efficiency. About 3 hours of play per million.

E) 500K/hour or more. The real deal. CEO business plus two or three other businesses, including Bunker, operating with a full crew or syndicate. This game can be played lone wolf, but the advantages of having a crew of four or more to run business operations is huge. This is also the potential for good heist crews. Heists are awesome, but the income is very dependent on the quality of the crew, because any one player messing up can fail the job.

Conclusions

To get all the things in this Starter Pack which are useful for a beginning player, it would take you maybe 20-40 hours of play time. The single element which would really let you make money, the vehicle warehouse and office, make up the first half of your “getting started” game play.

You could buy a Shark Card to get a boost to this point, but after that? It isn’t that hard to keep making money once you have both a good CEO business and a couple others.

I’d say that you want to get a shot at catching up to established players, but that just isn’t practical. Players can be making 100-500K per hour of play in this game, and some people have 1000 or 2000 or more hours of play time. Fortunately, there is a huge, huge gap between what you need to run a “normal, successful criminal life” in GTA and what it is possible to acquire over time. It is good that there are so many things to get in the game, because you always have something to look forward to. But it even better than you don’t really NEED all those cool toys in order to have fun and be a success in the game.

Dec 28

Fastest Progression For Star Wars Battlefront 2: Elite Trooper Edition

What Is The Best And Fastest Way To Improve Your Character In Star Wars Battlefront 2?

 

(Quick note:  The math for some of these things is a little fuzzy.  It is hard to determine the average credits per game, or per hour, as it differs between game modes, and to some degree, between players.  The per-game credit award is mostly based on time and your team’s performance, but there are bonuses for being a top 5 player, and for doing well overall.  Ranking up and completing milestones also gives you more credits. There are so many moving parts, between things like this, the rate of duplicate star card drops, and the choice of crates to purchase in game, it makes it hard to do exact calculations.  Still, this is my good first attempt to rough out the costs.  Also, it doesn’t affect the overall points about the fastest ways to improve your characters in the game.)

When you start playing Battlefront 2, you begin, by default, with no Star Cards unlocked, but will quickly get bonus crates to give you items. You only have one Star Card slot open per class, and no cards to put into it. Fortunately, you have the default weapon for your class and three default abilities, and that’s not bad. You aren’t deprived of tools to use in combat, just with some lower effect and fewer options.

Some things will come quickly. The single player story will give you lots of good stuff, worth playing before you jump seriously into multiplayer. You get daily login crates with resources and sometimes free Star Cards. The Arcade mode gives you credits for playing (up to 1500 per day at this time). There are milestones which give you more upgrades, and some of those are quick and easy to reach.

Beyond that, it will take a while to get more things. EA has turned off the option to purchase Crystals, which in turn can be used to purchase loot crates in game to get more unlocks. Crystals are effectively an alternative currency for the in game credits earned by playing the game. It is debateable, as with many in game microtransaction systems, whether the cost in real money is worth the value gained in terms of play time in game. You can get 400 or so credits per game, or a bit over 2000 credits per hour of play, not counting milestones.

Crystals were between 100 to 120 per US $1, depending on how many you bought at once, with a crate cost of 120 per Starfighter Crate, 200 for Trooper and 100 per Hero Crate.  Note also, if you are an Origin/EA Access member, you get discounts on these, which can improve the rate of return.

The Elite Trooper Edition, however, retains the whole “pay to win” advantage of giving you a lot of extra starting upgrades at a cost in real money. It is about $20 US more than the Standard Edition. I bought it both because I love Star Wars and because I expected to take advantage of the early access to the game. Unfortunately, illness and work limited my play time, but the unlocked items really did make a difference to my game play when I got into it.

OK, just how good is the elite trooper edition?

One elite card for each trooper class (480 crafting parts each to upgrade from tier 3, or 720 total to craft from 1st through 4th tier!)
One elite card for Yoda, for pre-order players only.
Two for Rey
Two for Kylo Ren
One for Kylo Ren’s ship
One for Rey’s Millenium Falcon ship

11 total elite cards, which are otherwise unavailable until rank 20 and card level 25. And even then, they are very expensive.

The 200 kill weapon unlock for each trooper class, with a mod unlock. Note this is currently a double-edged sword thing, as you do not get any reward — or do you? — when you complete the milestone to unlock these in game. Even so, it greatly improves your early choices.

Actually, I think the fault is that the original, basic weapon has no mod upgrades which limits their long term performance. Unless they are buffed, they will fall into the “waste of space” category.

If you get 60 crafting parts per crate @ 4000 each, well, this is a huge amount of advancement. 6480 crafting parts equivalence, or some 108 (432,000! credits) trooper crates.

Well, that many crates will give you some cards as well, but even if you need half of it to succeed…

Let’s look at just the epic tiers 11*480 – 5280 crafting parts, about 88 trooper crates worth, or 352,000 credits!

Of course, in all those crates you’d expect to get a bunch of Star Cards for many other classes, so it isn’t like it is all spent just on the ones given in the Elite Trooper edition. But the distribution is going to be strongly 1st tier cards, with many duplicates. You also won’t have the rank unlocked to get the upgrades either, so you’ll still need a lot of play time in order to take advantage of all those credits, while the Elite Trooper gets them without needing to rank up.

It really isn’t easy to figure out the exact value, but it is clear that it is something extreme. Nothing anyone will be able to match simply by playing for any short time. It is over 100 hours of game play time, and possibly much more. If the Crystal store purchase was still in place, you couldn’t come close to matching the Elite Trooper even if you spend $100 US real money. The change requiring you to rank up to unlock higher tier star cards, and requiring you to craft the top tier cards rather than getting random drops, really makes any cash purchases a poor value. You’ll still need to play a long time to take advantage of anything you got, and it wouldn’t be much of a short cut to the top tier upgrades.

Best Advancement Strategies

Let’s talk about advancement. A classic choice in any system where you have multiple levels or paths of advancement is “wide or deep?” Do you get as many low level, cheaper upgrades as possible, or do you try to go as far up the path on a few things in order to get the higher level advances earlier? An old, classic example is from Civilization (I). If you went for Railroad — an important industrial advance which greatly improves your military and economy — and skipped all things which didn’t lead to it, you could gain an amazing advantage in both military power and technological advancement over the enemies which looked at things like Horseback Riding and Knights as important early military powerhouses. Who cares about knights in armor if you can face them with rifles and possibly tanks?

You can’t quite do that in Battlefront 2, because the upgrade levels are gated by both character level, and the class card level. While your character rank is simple enough to understand — earn points to advance, card level is a little bit more complicated. Not much, it is just the sum of all the levels (from one to four) of all the Star Cards you have unlocked. The complication isn’t the levels themselves, but the costs to advance. It works like this:

1st tier – 40 crafting parts, open from start.
2nd tier – 80 crafting parts to upgrade (120 cumulative), gated by card level 5 and rank 10. Adds +1 card level for the upgrade, but costs double the first.
3rd tier – 120 crafting parts to upgrade (240 cumulative), again gated by card level 10 and rank 15. Adds +1 card level, but costs TRIPLE the first.
4th tier – 480 crafting parts to upgrade (720 cumulative). Highest gated level (card level 25 and rank 20). Again, +1 card level for the upgrade, but a whopping TWELVE times the cost.
Enforcer, Aerial, Armor and Speeder have fewer star cards and get a reduced card level for unlocks – 3, 6, and 10.

If this were all there was to it, the process would be straightforward. You need card level 5 to have two star card slots, and level 10 to have three. If you buy them all with crafting parts, you are best off going wide — purchase all the 1st tier upgrades you can until you reach card level 10. Then, upgrade the ones which you like best — the top three you plan to use most — and have them equipped. 400 crafting parts for level 10, then you can perhaps afford to splurge on 2nd tier and higher upgrades to make your combat life easier.

But it isn’t that simple. You also get star cards for your classes from crates. These are random, so you can’t control what you get, but if you get several popped for a class, it can make sense to craft more for it to get to the higher card level quicker, rather than going for other classes. You also will get some which duplicate cars you already own. As a result, crafting a large number of low level cards which increase your odds of getting duplicates, rather than new unlocks which speed your advancement.

The duplicates pay poorly, relative to their crafting parts cost. A 1st tier duplicate, the most common, is 200 credits (5% of a trooper crate cost). 2nd tier is 400 (you have to have a 2nd tier or higher card to get that), and they drop rarely. 3rd tier is 800 credits. You still will not get enough to pay for the crafting part equivalent from new crate purchases, but at 20% of a trooper craft cost, you’ll at least get closer to it.

Eventually, you will have all the card types unlocked for certain classes. Troopers have 17 star card types, so going wide on them will take a while, but you can be assured of getting new non-duplicate cards from crates for a while. The special troops have 5, and land vehicles only have 6 star cards, so getting to card level 10 is going to require upgrades. Likewise for starfighters, there are far fewer types of upgrades. Heroes tend to have 9 upgrades, and there are a lot of them, as well as hero ships.

I’d recommend concentrating on crafting upgrades to your trooper and starfighter classes first, to get them to card level 10. They are used more often than the special an or heroes. You’ll probably have your own preferences by the time you get them to that point, but I’d recommend working on the special troops — there are only two types at the moment — ahead of the land vehicles and heroes, because they are used on more maps and modes. For heroes, there are so many that I think it is best to pick a few and work their advancements, and wait for the lucky star cards to drop for the rest. I dislike doing that as it pushes you to use only a few heroes, rather than choosing all of them for variety, but that really only kicks in as a big factor when you have a high enough card level for the upgrades to really make a difference.

The key card levels to reach are 5, to unlock a 2nd Star Card sot, and 10, to unlock the 3rd slot.  You need these in order to maximize your use of your unlocked Star Cards.  It doesn’t matter if you have one 4th tier and three 1st tier cards unlocked, that is still only card level 7 and you can only equip two of them.

That’s where the elite trooper edition upgrades (and the preorder bonus if you got it) really come into play. By making Rey and Kylo Ren upgraded with two 4th tier epic level star cards from the start, they are both more powerful than your other hero choices, and thus the most effective to use and, relative to the other players who don’t have this powerup, overpowered. While they only start with card level 8 from two epic cards, you only need to craft (or get dropped) two more card levels to reach level 10, and have a full set of three star cards, with two being the maximum power upgrades. You’d expect to be very high rank and card level (about rank 25 and card level 30 or more) to earn this combination in game — and perhaps a 100 hours playtime in, just to get one hero to this point.

But you start with two of them, plus Yoda (with preorder), and upgrades for your four trooper classes. One epic card isn’t quite as high up a reach — rank 20 and card level 20-25), but it is still a long, long way above any other starting player.

In the long run, everyone will reach the level where they have their choice of three epic (or at least 3rd tier) cards for each major class, so things can balance themselves out. But new players will always have an inherent imbalance with experienced ones. Fortunately, most of the upgrades really aren’t all that powerful. They only add a few percent to most abilities, and don’t make it all that hard for a player without them to beat one with them, with a bit of shooting and flying/driving skill. All of the basic abilities for each class and unit are available from the start, the starting weapons are decent, and the alternative weapons and gadgets for the trooper classes aren’t truly superior to the basic choices, just different. Mostly. If there are imbalances, it is possible to tweak the values of the items and upgrades for balance.

Upgrading past card level 10: This part will really take a while. The purchased loot crates drop the equivalent of less than one upgrade each in crafting parts (enough for 1st tier unlock but not quite enough for anything above that), so earning the crafting parts will take quite some time. The daily loot crate usually gives 15 crafting parts, which is better than nothing and quite enough to make logging in every day a good idea. You can get credits from Arcade play, but not crafting parts, and not enough per day to earn even one loot crate to unlock more. The advancement process is a real grind at this time, with no other way to get more upgrades than just playing a lot (and scoring well, though the bonuses aren’t that huge).

For the trooper classes — and perhaps some others — one thing to always look at is unlocking new abilities, rather than just improving existing ones. All four trooper classes have alternative gadget/weapon star cards which replace the standard abilities. You will want to unlock all of those, in order to use them when tactically helpful as well as to advance the milestones for using them. Others are improved versions of the original, and in all cases they are superior to using the standard one, so if you have the star card and are using that item, you should equip it. On top of that, though, are traits which add new abilities to your trooper, like the Specialist’s Stealth ability. With 8 traits and 9 equipment upgrades, troopers have the most star cards to collect, and the most variety in play style and combinations.

One 4th tier card unlock is roughly the equivalent of 12 trooper crates, or 48,000 credits. Or 100 games, depending on your scoring and play time. With four trooper classes, three starfighters, two special units, land vehicles, and heroes, the quest to get even a basic set to this game level is going to take you a long, long time. Now, perhaps DICE and EA intended for the top tier to be very hard to obtain, and expected players to make do for the most part with 3rd tier upgrades. The cost to reach third tier is much less — about a third — and the boosts from random 1st and 2nd tier card drops have a bigger impact. 12000 or so credits to get one 3rd tier card is still a lot, but you can hit it in a week or so.

Starfighter and Hero crates cost much less than the trooper crates, and once you are going for crafting parts, either will give you more for your credits than the Trooper crates.   All three crates give you cards for other classes randomly, as well as for the types named, but they also give some crafting parts.  As you rank up, and get more duplicates, it is crafting parts and credits, not new cards, which are going to matter most.  There are many more heroes to unlock than any other category, so the Hero crates may remain viable as a good tool for random advancement for a long time.

The only saving grace right now is milestones. These play achievements give you bonus credits and crafting parts, as well as direct upgrades and extra crates. It is hard to determine just where they fit into the mix, as the milestone crates can give you duplicates, rather than new unlocks, if you’ve either crafted them or got the item from a random drop. As I noted earlier, the 200 credits for a 1st tier duplicate isn’t that much of a reward, compared to the 40 crafting parts that the same star card would have saved you as a new unlock. Playing the campaign first can boost your resources for multiplayer, and playing the Arcade can give you both credits and milestone awards.

In the not so long run, I hope that DICE adds more milestones — even if they are renamed achievements or something like that — to give players more direct reward for play actions by class. It is also necessary to avoid the greatly increased grind for upper tier unlocks, which will rapidly fail to appeal to many players. The positive side of all this is that most of the upgrades aren’t overpowering, and this is even less so when facing players who have a few things unlocked. Even if you have many classes and heroes with high tier cards, your opponent can come close to matching you in at least one class without that much play time.

Again, especially for the heroes and vehicles, the upgrades don’t make quite as much difference against most targets because you are already more powerful than the ground troopers. But I do worry that the eventual power of high rank characters will make it harder for new players to get into a game and do well. Still, that isn’t a unique issue for this game. The random crate drop cards really are most useful only for lower rank characters who don’t have anything unlocked yet. As I’ve ranked up, I end up getting far more duplicates, especially for the common trooper and starfighter classes, and am essentially dependent on getting crafting parts for the slow, slow process of maximizing my star card tier levels.

The grind is strong in this one.

Is this a bad thing?  One thing many players love is the constant progression in a game, acquiring new abilities and items.  I don’t know how long it will take to get everything in the game right now through game play, but I don’t think anyone is going to get there anytime soon. I think that even adding more game play based awards will not radically change the rate for purchased, crafting part upgrades.  But it could make the sense of accomplishment more focused and enjoyable, rather than working hard to get random item drops, most of which will be of decreasing effective value as your progress in the game.

Dec 14

Star Wars Battlefront II Progression Is Doomed By The Dark Side

Star Wars Battlefront II is doomed to fall. While EA has taken action to freeze an immediate fall to the Dark Side of loot crates and pay to win, the current game progression system is too random, and at the upper levels far too slow and grind-based, to remain enjoyable for players. Its saving grace is the quality of the actual game play itself.

Star Wars Battlefront II is a great game. Amazing sounds and visuals, giving us the experience of being in a Star Wars movie when we play. The game play this time around is excellent as well, with good game modes, especially the spectacular Fighter Squadron game mode, which could be sold as a standalone game. Lots of maps, and no more paid expansions. All added content will be entirely free. EA and DICE listened to its customers, and delivered almost exactly what they wanted.

I’m sure you all know by now where they missed the mark. Loot boxes! Now, Battlefield 1 and Battlefield 4 both used Battlepacks, a sort of loot box, but those are mostly cosmetic items or XP boosts, and all functional items from them can be readily earned by game play. Cosmetic items don’t affect game play, and many players love to get them. Those are present in Battlefront II. I don’t think that cosmetic item loot boxes would be a problem for this game, as they work in many others.

The problem isn’t those items. It is all the game play affecting items present, and how the main way to advance your character’s abilities is not from game achievements, but from earning credits — in game currency — which is exchanged for loot boxes which will randomly drop upgrade items. You get a second currency — crafting parts — which can be used to “craft” unlocks, which are also obtained from the loot boxes. You can’t unlock Star Cards, to upgrade abilities or unlock new gadget items for your soldiers, almost any other way right now. There are a handful of Star Cards which can be unlocked from game play milestones (achievements), but they are very few, and only get you the first tier of the upgrade. There are four tiers of upgrades. EA has taken the top tier out of the loot crates, so you must earn crafting parts, and the required rank, in order to get the highest upgrades in game. But crafting parts themselves are mostly obtained through random drops in loot crates!

The price tag for crafting is oddly high. For those who haven’t reached that point yet, while it only costs 40 parts to craft a tier one Star card, and 80 for tier two upgrade, 120 for tier three upgrade — double and triple the tier one base cost — the top purple tier costs 480 crafting parts. That is four times the upgrade cost of tier three, and twice the total cost to get a card from nothing to tier three. You need a high rank (25) in order to even craft the top tier cards. They no longer can drop from crates, so the only way to unlock them is with crafting parts. A trooper crate delivers around 60 parts, at a cost of 4000 credits (along with three other items). So it will take about 8 expensive crates (you can use the other crate types, might get lucky on parts) to do the final upgrade. And again, there is no other way in the game currently to get the highest tier other than collecting parts!

There are dozens of Star Cards, so just how much time would it take to actually max out your character? Even just getting the four trooper classes ranked up is going to cost millions of credits — with 4000 per hour of play being a decent amount at the moment. There are daily crates and possible timed community challenges, and of course your milestone awards until you complete all of them. I’m already suffering from the problem of crates dropping mostly duplicates for trooper classes, though the many other characters, especially heroes and vehicles, leave lots of slots for useful random benefits. Trooper classes (and the main starfighters in Starfighter Assault) are what you will spend the most time playing, and ranking those up is simply going to become very slow and grind-based.

EA has suspended the purchase of Crystals, the last in game currency, with real money, which is in turn used to purchase loot crates in the game. So for now, the problem of “pay to win” is also on hold. As long as the loot crates upgrade the power of your character in combat, being able to buy them with real money is going to be a “pay to win” situation. Shortcuts, paying to skip the grind to unlock basic items and weapons, have been present in Battlefield games for a while, but don’t really push the power up all that much. You can quickly unlock the key useful things by game play, so the shortcut merely saves time for those who have more money than time to play. Because you know exactly what you’ll get for your money, there is no random item gambling aspect.

So let’s look at the biggest problems with the random loot crate method of character progression.

First, a small but easy thing to fix. You get some special class based upgrades in special loot crates earned through milestones — actual play objectives. If you happen to have obtained the star card earned via this milestone from a random loot crate, you get a small credit refund from the duplicate. Given that milestones are a one time only, often fairly difficult challenge, this deprives the player of the value they should get from working on a hard achievement.

How can we fix that? Those special crates should give more than the random drop item duplicate payout. If not the full crafting part value for the Star Card or weapon upgrade which is scrapped, but a higher credit payout with some crafting parts to make the achievement payoff worthwhile. 200 credits for a duplicate item, when a Trooper Crate for 4000 credits drops four items (1000 credits each), simply isn’t good value.

I worry that the late game duplicate drops are going to become more and more worthless, as you will much more rarely get actually useful upgrades from the crates. We have to wait and see just how that balances out, but the duplicate value might simply be too low for many items. A second issue, and more troubling, is that once you have all the star cards unlocked — or at least those for your commonly played trooper and other classes — actual advancement will become much harder, and more random. Getting enough crafting parts to upgrade is a matter of the luck of the drop, and duplicate cards give you a poor payout in credits.

Now, if the loot crates had many more cosmetic items to unlock and drop, we might not have a problem with running out of valuable items to get, and thus less of a problem with the random drops and credit losses. But more important than that, the whole idea of making character ability advancement random, rather than under player control, is the real problem. Fortunately, that one has a relatively simple fix.

Make all Star Card unlocks achieveable by milestone style achievements. We have this with the weapon unlocks, which can not be unlocked via loot crates. You have to complete the milestones in order to get them. Well, almost — the Elite Trooper version lets you pay extra money to get some weapons unlocked early. But even there, it isn’t random, but a straight “shortcut” with money.

We have rank requirements in order to get Star Cards now, and I think those can be kept along with the new unlock requirements. It could be combined with crafting parts in a hybrid system. If the milestone achievement is 50% complete, you could unlock it with 50% of the crafting parts you’d otherwise need. The mission tasks can be set appropriate to the level of item you are unlocking, so this doesn’t need to be easy. We might even combine it with the random drop star cards, so that if you have made significant progress towards a new star card, you could get some credits along with the new star card, rather than getting nothing at all for your hard work.

This would make all the upgrades tied to the class you are playing, so you are not stuck getting random drops for something you aren’t actually playing. Now, it is fine and fair to use crafting parts to upgrade any item from any class. You can still get some upgrades from random drops, but wouldn’t be dependent on them for your advancement.

The locked heroes also could be unlocked via achievements. This isn’t quite as important if we aren’t so dependent on credits for both class advancement and unlocking new heroes, but I think it makes sense and provides a nice game play tie in to encourage players to work with all the heroes. I’d suggest using a progression system which requires using two heroes, related to the one you wish to unlock, to get your new heroes. As with the Star Card unlocks, perhaps you could get a discount on the cost for completing part of the challenge. We can actually get a sort of progression to our hero unlocks as well, by making you use some of the newly unlocked heroes in order to unlock later ones. So perhaps you’d need Emperor Palpatine and Kylo Ren in order to unlock Darth Vader, and Princess Leia and Rey to get Luke Skywalker – the current top two most expensive heroes. Iden Versio’s challenge might be the easiest – I’d consider giving it simply for finishing the campaign, or at least counting that as a huge boost for it. While Palpatine, Chewbacca, and Leia’s would be midrange in difficulty. All of these using heroes you start with, for example, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian to get Chewbacca.

The big complication, of course, is that the balance of progression will be changed by implementing something like this. But on the other hand, there will be much less need for random drops to upgrade characters, and less impact of higher value random drops — which could be made even rarer when players can earn them via other means.

The logical solution is to find more cosmetic items to put into the game. There is always room to add trophy items which don’t affect game play, and not all of them need to have full 3D art and models used within the actual game. Kill card and character “achievement all” items which are decorative and fit the theme can be easily added, and offer a way for players to show off their good fortune (and play time and achievements).

I fear that if game play based progression isn’t put into the game, the character advancement system will bog down into an exercise in random number drop frustration. Getting duplicate cosmetic items is annoying, but doesn’t affect game play. Failing to get any advantage at all after spending credits on a crate, that’s frustrating. When we reach the point where many players hit the “not yet pay to win” wall in advancement, the backlash is going to kill interest in the game. Progression systems aren’t the only thing this game has going for it, but it is something which gives players a reason to come back and keep playing a game.

I worry some that the highest tier star cards may make for some overpowered combinations. But that can be fixed with balance patches. The inability to control how your rank up your character, and the potentially immense time to reach the highest tier of upgrades, makes the long term character advancement seem pointless. The idea that many or most players would shell out cash for extra crates in order to gain a chance at ranking up wouldn’t work long if the payoff for that investment was most often useless duplicates. It was a bad idea to begin with to put character advancement into a random drop based purchasable item — rather than a fixed, predictable cost short cut package. But if you pay real money and get nothing of value, than is even worse.

A lot of games do use purchases for in game resources, but avoiding both player frustration at the process, and the pain of “pay to win” systems where spending money gives you an advantage over other players, requires keeping the benefits of cash spending more cosmetic than functional.

GTA Online has done extremely well, providing new free content, which requires players to either actively play the game frequently to earn in game money, or to shell out real money to “short cut” there way to new upgrades and unlocks. Of course, in GTA you buy property and equipment, not character rank and ability, and the vast majority of the content is pretty much just cosmetics.

Star Wars is filled with interesting sources of artwork and lore, which could be tapped to make a huge supply of cool cosmetic collectibles if that is what EA wants to try to sell. Players do seem to like collecting rare in-game collectible achievements and items, even if they have no game play benefit. For example, the Dog Tags used in the Battlefield series, just something to show off when you get a kill, and to fill a place in your character screen’s collections.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to come back to the basic idea of game play, task based achievements for character progression. There is a reason that many games, including the 2015 Battlefront and the Battlefield series, use it. I’m also sure that DICE can work out how to apply this to the current Battlefront II in a way that gives players “a new hope” for the life and enjoyment of this game. Star Wars fans deserve to have a game which is as close to perfect as possible, and not one which foolishly tries to exploit its player base to make money.

Sep 13

How Much Can You Really Making Smuggling In GTA Online?

How Much Can You Really Making Smuggling In GTA Online?

 

So you’re thinking about expanding into the Air Freight business, and want to know just how profitable this can be. We have reports that the return on investment for this business is terrible, not worth doing. And on the opposite site, huge paydays when full hangar sales are made. The big questions: How much do you actually make per hour (or minute)? And what can you do to maximize this profit?

Rockstar did a bit of mix and match with this DLC. You have sourcing missions much like biker MC supply stealing combined with vehicle sourcing, and selling something like special cargo — with bonuses for large sales and cooldown times making it hard to get a full hangar fast.

 

The math of smuggling. Or how Less is More:

The sourcing method makes this a bad solo business, which is unlike any other business in the game. If you have to do it, you want to optimize your choices to make the best income, and the method might not be obvious. Second, Rockstar has put in enough complications on both sourcing and selling that Less Is More — sell a cargo for a lower bonus but less cooldown time — can be literally true. It is almost like they are trying to trick you into running your business inefficiently. Nothing in the in-game laptop information really prepares you to figure this out, so I’m going to try to break this down with a bit of math and analysis.

The basic payout of the Air Freight business is not very high. Each crate you get is only worth $10000. The sourcing steal missions take about 10 minutes each — some can be faster than others. So 10k in 10 minutes is only 1000 per minute. Or 60k per hour.

This is a pitiful rate of return for a hands-on business. On the positive side, it costs nothing but time to run the steal missions. In this, it it like the vehicle warehouse.

Unlike the special cargo warehouse, the number of crates you source is based on the number of players in your organization, up to a maximum of four. This makes it like the steal supplies operations for MC and Bunker businesses. And in many ways, the missions do resemble those of the gunrunning operations.

Unlike the supply stealing, where you can just pay cash to get supplies right away, the number of crates you can steal is directly based on the number of players you have in your organization.  To explicitly state:  the payout from this business is directly based on the number of players you have when sourcing product.  Four players make four times as much per minute as one player.  However, when you divide this up among the four, the smuggling income ends up exactly the same as for the solo player.

Rockstar didn’t make the rate of return on this business easy to figure out. There are three tiers of products to source. Each gets bonuses from different quantities. The top tier needs 25 for a 35% bonus, and a full hangar of 50 for the 70% bonus. The 2nd tier needs only 10 for a 12% bonus, and gets an additional 12% for each additional 10 crates, with a maximum of 60% at 50. The lowest tier gets a 5% bonus for every 5 crates, with a maximum of 50% bonus.

To further complicate things, there is a cooldown between sourcing runs of the same product. And that cooldown is longer for the higher tier products, and also longer if you get more than one crate per sourcing run with more players. As long as you alternate products, you can avoid the cooldown. But when you are trying to get a full 50 of one product, that is no longer possible, so you have to find something to do while you wait — or effectively reduce your rate of earnings because of your idle time waiting.

In practice, I think the only way to get solid numbers on the actual earning potential of this business is to track the time spent and the earnings per player for each product, and each method of mixing them on the way to a full 50 when you do that. Given that it can take eight or more hours to fill a hangar solo, and two or more even with a solid group, this kind of analysis will require dedicated players with a lot of time on their hands, and the willingness to carefully track the details.

Instead, I’m going to do some basic analysis of the business. I hope it helps those who are struggling to get the most from this business, especially those who are daring to run it solo, or without a large crew.

 

Running Some Numbers

Let’s run some simple numbers. We’ll use easy round numbers to try to keep the math easier to understand. We’ll give an average source mission a time of 10 minutes, and round off the combined source and sale missions to 10 minutes per crate as well. Yes, the sale missions do add to the time, but this keeps the numbers easy.

A single crate source of 10 minutes gives you a sale of 10K, or 1000 per minute, as I mentioned earlier. For a solo player, this business is no money maker.

The best bonus is 70%, which would bring you to 17K per crate, or 1700 per minute. That is ignoring the cooldown time, which will be a factor.

A partnership can source 2 crates in 10 minutes, for 20K. That isn’t bad, 2000 per minute, but only one gets that money. They could completely eliminate the cooldown time by changing roles, sourcing 2 crates for the 2nd player in another 10 minutes. This gives each 20k, in 20 minutes. The same 1000 per minute, each, that the solo player gets. Each partner also gets 10 minutes of CEO bodyguard or MC member pay, which isn’t very much, but it does add up. Call it 5000 per 10 minutes — you might beat that when your salaries get boosted, but retiring usually resets the salaries, so it evens out. 25K in 20 minutes brings us up to 1250 per minute. The maximum bonus will net you around 40K in 20 minutes, or 2000 per minute.

A syndicate of four players can pull in 4 crates in 10 minutes for 40K. That is a pretty nice 4k per minute for the boss. The same rotation system as the partnership gives each that 40K, plus 30 minutes of bodyguard money — rough estimate 55K for 40 minutes for each. A bit better than the partnership deal, but still only 1375K each.

The maximum bonus will push this to 68K for the crates each, plus the same 15K for the bodyguard time, for a net 83K in 40 minutes, or just over 2K per minute each.

As a sustainable business for a crew working together to make the most money for all members, this isn’t very impressive. The CEO businesses are far more, and even VIP work and contact missions are solidly competitive with this.

So how can you make decent money doing this business? Well, if you always remain a boss and never work for anyone else, and can always get enough associates to keep the business going (it takes a full 4 people, either CEO or MC, but I recommend CEO because the CEO vehicles are very helpful and associate pay is better for time on steals), to get the crates in the least amount of time) — you can keep all the big money for yourself. This can happen for the special cargo warehouse work too, but that business at least does have potential for solo or partnership work. If you get 68K in 10 minutes (4 crates with 70% bonus), that is a very impressive 6.8K per minute, or over 400K per hour!

But wait! We are mitigating the cooldown time entirely by changing command, a method which works well for other businesses, especially the vehicle warehouse. If you don’t change roles, that means you have to cope with the lost time from cooldown when you are going for 50 crates. This problem also applies to the solo player. If you are going to try this solo, the methods to manage the cooldown here can help you too.

If you are trying to completely fill the hangar with one product as fast as you can, that cooldown time is going to be a big problem. Let’s run some solo numbers.

Top tier — 70% bonus — products have a 4 minute cooldown. Add four minutes to the 10 minute per crate time, that gives you 14 minutes for a crate which will sell for 17K. That’s 1214 per minute.

2nd tier gives a 60% bonus but has a 3 minute cooldown. 16K in 13 minutes is 1230 per minute.
The lowest tier gives a 50% bonus with a 2 minute cooldown, or 15K in 12 minutes. That’s 1250 per minute.

If these average times hold true, paradoxically, the lesser tier cargo actually gives you more money per minute, because you aren’t sitting around idly waiting to do another steal run. This is solidly true for a solo player, but less so for a sole CEO with four people gathering crates. Even so, the extra two or three minutes of cooldown per cycle makes the three tiers pretty close in terms of how much you’ll make per minute, if you only source one type of product.

Well, wait some more! If you go for two top tier products alternating, you have no cooldown and each one will be at a 35% bonus. Or 1350 per minute solo (5400 for sole CEO)! In this situation, you will literally make more money per minute by selling your product at a lesser bonus price. It is as though Rockstar is trying to trick you into making less income by going for the bigger payoff without realizing just how much longer it takes. When you have more players steal cargo, the cooldown timer is increased (one minute per additional crate), which will still leave the sell at 25 for 35% plan a better deal than going for the maximum bonus in much more time.

A sole CEO actually sources 28 products in 7 steal missions, for a sale of 378K in 70 minutes, or 5400 per minute. This is the highest payout you can get without taking any time out for cooldowns.

 

Since this applies to both the solo player and the sole CEO boss, are there better methods to work around the cooldown?

The 25/50 method can reduce the cooldown time loss by half. You alternate two top tier products until one gets to 25 or more for the 35% bonus. You then sell that one, and source the other (which will go over 25 on the next steal mission) until it gets to 50. You still have cooldowns — for the solo player, 24 times 4 minutes for 48, along with 25 sourcing missions of 10 minutes (250 minutes), for a total time of around 800 minutes for a full hangar. Total sale base of 1187500, for about 1484 per minute.

The sole CEO gets about the same sale amount — four crates at a time may give you 28 rather than 50 for the 35% product sale — and will bring you down to six or seven cooldowns of about 7 minutes each — call it around 45 minutes. The sourcing times are 7 plus 6 plus 7 at four crates each, or 200 minutes, for a total time of about 245 minutes. 1228000 base sale price. Call this around 5000 per minute for the CEO.

Trying to source just one product alone would be 13 sourcing missions (130 minutes), with about 72 minutes of cooldowns, for a total of 200 minutes. The cooldown time is a killer, taking you down to about 4200 per minute.

Now, you can do something like VIP work or some other business during the cooldown times. If you are working solo or with reliable crew, this isn’t a bad option. It is the one way to let your associates make better money than just their salaries. It will bump up the total time needed to fill your hangar up, but it can keep the crew happier.

Still, there is another option. Remember the two lower tier products? They get bonuses at 10 and 5 crates. You can start out with the 25/50 split, but after you sell the 1st top tier product, you start alternating with a 2nd tier on your way to 50. For a solo player, this will be 10 sourcing runs, giving you 35 top tier and 10 2nd tier products. For a sole CEO, at 4 crates per run you’ll get to 36 top tier and 12 2nd tier (assuming no crates were lost when sourcing). You get a 12% bonus when you well the 2nd tier products, for either 120K solo or 144k for 12.

The solo player can then alternate with the lowest tier product, until they have 40 top tier and 5 3rd tier. Sell the 5 with a 5% bonus, and you can repeat this again for 45 and 5. You’ll only have four cooldown periods of 4 minutes to contend with.

The sole CEO gets more crates at a time, so could try this to get 40 top tier and 8 3rd tier, but you’re trading one 8 crate sale run for two cooldown periods. It might be worthwhile profitwise or not. It definitely could help keep the tempo up on your associate’s operations, by minimizing the cooldown periods.

 

Trying to optimize your business earnings with the air freight business is much more complex than any of the other businesses in GTA online so far. For a solo player, this only matters if you actually want to run these missions to make money rather than for the trade price unlocks or just for fun. This business is not very solo player friendly.
Even a partnership or four player syndicate working equally on this business isn’t going to get great money from it. They do get to completely eliminate the cooldown problems, but they payout just isn’t very high for an active business. The CEO businesses will be much more profitable.

Only the sole CEO who can always have handy associates who work for relatively low wages can actually make something we might call good money from smuggling. If they do about a dozen VIP work runs instead of doing cooldowns, that will help those poor wage slaves out, but the entire operating cycle is bumped up a couple of hours per full hangar.

Sustaining this sort of business profitably doesn’t seem easy. And if you have the sort of crew where everyone wants their turn as boss, this business simply isn’t going to make great money.

What about double GTA$ payouts? This can push the solo player up into the 180K/hour range, which still isn’t impressive compared to other CEO businesses. The 4 player syndicate might get up to 240K/hour if the CEO associate pay is also doubled, but otherwise is maybe 225K/hour. Which is OK, and on the order of a solo vehicle warehouse run, but not nearly as good as the best CEO operations (or even some heist crews).

No, only the sole CEO really gets to exploit this business. Doubling the payouts could bring well over 500K per hour. At that pay point, this becomes a truly amazing business. At least, until your stock of cheap labor runs out.

Strangely, this is sort of like running heists with an 85% or 100% cut for one player — especially the host player. In the case of heists, the income ratio is made clear and obvious. Players can choose to split the income unevenly in order to let one friend make more money fast.

But the Hangar isn’t a cheap business, and a player able to buy and operate one isn’t likely to be the poor one in the crew, needing more funds fast. Rockstar has stuck with a CEO business model where associates are not paid well for the work they do, and this business is the worst one yet for that. The Hangar have-nots would be better off doing other work to make money fast than working as associates for this business. You can, as with the special cargo crates business, incorporate VIP work to help even out the income, which is OK.

But it doesn’t seem like the sort of business which can run indefinitely, as you need a constant turnover of new employees in order to make big bucks. Or at least, moderately large bucks. I fear that participation will rapidly fall off, and for solo players and working partnerships and crew syndicates, the other businesses will remain alive and well while this one dies down. Then again, crates 1.0 (special cargo) isn’t nearly as popular as it once was, in part because of the long grinding time to get the big payoff. Also because it is all or nothing, so you must make a perfect delivery to get anything. If Rockstar were to change that in a patch, it might make the warehouse crates business a little more attractive. Even so, special cargo is profitable solo, while the smuggling business just is not.

So, some bottom line advice.

Whatever you do, don’t just wait out the cooldown time if you want to make money. Going for 50 crates of one type, even the highest tier, is literally making less per minute than the lower selling bonus. You are better off to only do half a hanger, 25-28 of the top tier products, and get a lesser bonus but have no waiting time. Of course, if you use that waiting time to do other work, that takes care of this profit issue, but you’ll take longer to get your money from the hangar business.

LSIA seems like a better location if you are going to run this as a business, especially if you are going to use the cooldown times for other operations from your office or just in Los Santos. Fort Zancudo is better placed for flying missions to anywhere on the map, but has little near it if you are going to do anything other than smuggling runs. LSIA is also probably easier for inexperienced pilots to operate from, as it is a wide open field with few obstacles to trip up planes and cause losses. Plus of course the hangars are much cheaper there, if you are interested more in profits than the coolness factor of being able to use the military base as a hangout. Still, Fort Zancudo has lots of Lazer jets just sitting around if you need extra firepower on a mission.

Plot complication! Many players have reported getting mystery cash when selling 50 crate hangars. There is no explanation so far for where this money comes from. It looks to be up to a 50% bonus. The on screen income indicated matches the info given on the in game website/laptop and here – 850K for a top tier product, plus high demand bonus. If this is an intended bonus, not a bug (has anyone reported it on PC?), it would make going for the big sales worthwhile.

One more thing: the number of sale vehicles depends on the number of crates being sold — much like the bunker business. 10 crates or less is usually one vehicle, and easily done solo. 11-25 is usually two, and should be fine with a partner. 26-50 is usually three, and you should have enough pilots handy if you want to actually get paid. If you are a solo or partnership player, you’ll need to recruit or have available additional players whenever you do larger sale runs. If a solo player wants to do quick, easy sale runs, then going for the 2nd and 3rd tier products and selling at 10 crates isn’t a bad plan. If all you are going for is the steal mission bonuses, this is a viable choice to get some money back from this without spending a lot of time and effort.

Yet one more strange thing: The in game laptop shows a sale amount of 1000000 added when you sell 50 crates. That is 20000 per crate. This doesn’t match what you actually get paid, nor is it the 10000 per crate base amount. It also doesn’t show any bonus % income at all, even when you sell with a bonus.

 

I hope this bit of analysis is of help to some of you. Rockstar didn’t make the workings of this business simple and easy to understand.

 

Quick Rules For Getting The Most Money

  • Never wait idly during the cooldown.  You don’t make money waiting around.
  • Alternate product types rather than waiting time if you have nothing better to do with your time.   You’ll make more money from a lower bonus than you would if you waited until you maxed the sale.
  • Four players in  an organization make the most money for the time.
  • Alternating CEO/MC boss spot can let you ignore the cooldown time, and this gives everyone the most money each.
  • If you play solo, you can’t make good money smuggling,
  • A “sole CEO” player who can get three or more associates for support will make the most money for themselves.  If you want to help your hangar-owning friend to get rich fastest (and don’t care about money yourself), this is the best way to smuggle.
  • Three words:  100% cut Heists.  I mean, if you really want to help one friend get rich quick, it still beats smuggling.

 

Five Best Ways To Run This Business

Always have four players in the organization.

  1. Sole CEO Fastest Smuggler:  Alternate two top tier products, sell at 25-28 crates.  You’ll steal 13 times, sell one set of 25-28, steal the other (which was at 24 or so), and sell it.  14 steals plus two sells gives you the most fast money this business can deliver.  Base sale price is 756000, should take you about 3 hours including sale missions.  Base income is about 252K per hour for the CEO.  Associates might get 40K per hour.
  2. Sole CEO Best Boss Smuggler:  You start out alternating as above, but once you sell the first product, you only steal the 2nd until you get a full 50 of it.  In between each steal run which has a cooldown period now, you run VIP work (or you can do anything else which makes money).  You’ll steal 13 times, sell once at 28 ($378K), then do steal followed by VIP mission six times.  Then, one last steal, followed by the big sale of 50 crates for 850K base.  Total of 1228K base for smuggling, and six VIP work for about 144K, total 1372K.  Takes about 5 hours, but your associates also get the VIP money on top of their bodyguard salaries.  Base income is about 274K per hour for the CEO.  This assumes 10 minutes per steal and per VIP job, 20 per sale.  Associates might get 70K per hour.
  3. Sole CEO Amazing Boss Smuggler.  Only source one type of product.  Do VIP work after each steal mission. 12 steal missions plus 12 VIP missions, then one final steal and then the big sale.  CEO gets the nice 850K smuggling money plus 288K VIP average, total of 1138K.  But your associates get the 288K as well, on top of their bodyguard salaries.  About 4.5 hours for 252K per hour for the CEO.  About 100K per hour for the associates.
  4. Tag Team Syndicate Of Four Hanger Bosses.  Again, you only source one type of product, but you alternate boss roles rather than do VIP work.  Thirteen steal missions plus one sale run each, about 2.5 hours per player for a smuggling income of 850K, but of course a total work time for all of 10 hours.  You get a huge payday during your turn as boss — about 340K per hour — but then get 7.5 hours of associate salary.  About 1150K each, or around 115K per hour per player.  This is the best payout PER PLAYER you can get from this business.
  5. Tag Team Sole CEO.  Rotating roles after each sale gives the best money due to no cooldown and high bonus, but has a huge time commitment.  Use one of the first three methods, but take turns being the boss.  Going with the Fastest Smuggler path, you’ll get 756K smuggling each plus 9 hours of associate pay, or around 1116K for 12 hours.  About 93K per hour each.

 

I’d be more enthusiastic for this business if the pay amounts were doubled (not counting any double GTA$ events). While this would make the sole CEO pay very high, this isn’t fundamentally any more extreme than running a heist with a 100% cut. The idea of having four friends band together and have their four custom planes take off on missions, in the manner shown in the trailer, is very cool. Too bad that it just doesn’t pay well enough to be worth doing in practice.

Nov 19

Battlefield 1 Is Finally Here!

Battlefield 1 is finally here, for those who have EA/Origin Access. Some people were lucky enough to start playing even earlier on October 12, because they checked for the download and got it going.

I wasn’t so lucky. It still showed as “coming soon” on the morning of the 13th. Restarting Origin fixed that, but I didn’t have time to do that before I left for work. When I got home, I was looking at a 6-7 hour download, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to play until the next day. So finally, October 14, I got to play for less than an hour.

It was glorious. The game started windowed on my PC, and I quickly switched it to full screen and set up my usual quick key bindings and options. Not everything, just the basics for how I run it (didn’t do mouse settings yet). Started up the campaign, which looked and felt great, a nice war story. Then I played one conquest match on Suez Desert, the same map as the Beta.

The atmosphere of the game is much, much better than the Beta. The sounds, music, and the appearance of the game is so much nicer, more immersive, than the already most excellent play during the Beta. I picked a medal — the one for taking out vehicles — and went to work as an Assault class. Jumped in a plane a few times, rode the train to destruction, and shot a lot of people. Did a nice mid-distance tap fire kill with the basic MP18. Long range snipers are still very powerful on this map, but good use of cover as usual can help.

A very nice first game, but sadly, no more time to play because I needed sleep in order to work. I love my job, most of the time, but it gets in the way of gaming. On the bright side, I have money to buy games to play, if only I have the time to play them. I have BF1 already preordered, and according to Origin the preload is complete — the First Trial seems to be the same install load as the full game, just restricted in features. My Battlepacks worked — got a skin for a gun, will have to see the other stuff later. I didn’t find my Deluxe Edition content yet, but that might be locked until the full release on October 18 (Early Enlister). (Note: all the stuff is available and unlocked, just have to find where it is in the customization menus).

The price for the First Trial access is more than made up for in the savings on the full game, and it gives me some time yet to play this first weekend that the game is available. I expect that I will cancel my Origin Access for now. It is not a bad deal for the games unlocked by it, but I don’t expect to have time to play them.

Time vs Money

There are many new games coming out or even released now, but even though I have money to buy them, I don’t have enough free time to enjoy them all. Battlefield is one of my favorites, and I’ve put in a fair amount of time playing it in the last two weeks. The basic kit unlocks are pretty easy to earn — only need class rank 3 for them — but there is a special unlock at rank 10. That rank also gives you extras for the vehicle classes, earned using them. That part is quite nice, as I’m not really disadvantaged compared to players with more time to play. The rank 10 items are good, but by no means overpowered.

Operations is a great game mode, with a very nice historical timeline tie in. You need to have enough free time to enjoy it, as it can take a couple hours to complete. It plays like a mix of conquest and rush, across three maps, and is delightfully intense.

A quick note, I’ll want to check into it more: the song that plays at the start sounds like Kate Smith’s “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” from 1931. That makes it anachronistic, unless of course the scene is a dream flashback sequence from after the war. It is a delightful song, and sets the mood and scene so well, I wouldn’t care about that, it is a great song. Note 2: Margot Bingham is the singer, according to the soundtrack credits. In any case, the campaign is immersive and fun, which is excellent.

So what else have I been up to?

While waiting for the BF1 Trial to download, i played Star Wars Battlefront. Got a nice game in with me as MVP, always fun. Some people were disappointed with Battlefront, but I like it. For a Star Wars fan, there is much to like. People who missed out on the Alpha, Beta, and didn’t check any reviews don’t have a good excuse for not realizing that it isn’t, and was never intended to be, Battlefield Star Wars, but instead, a more classic arena action shooter set in the Star Wars universe. In this, it actually does share more with its predecessor Star Wars Battlefront II than with the Battfield series, especially from BF4 on. Battlefield 1 (and now Battlefield 4) may share some style elements in the menus and HUD, but the game play is very different.

Rockstar has done some amazing things with GTA V Online. I got my GTA$ 500,000 bonus from daily objectives, just as I got the chance to play Battlefield 1Trial. Playing daily is a good way to both have fun and collect money (resources) in any online game like GTA. But my time is limited, so for now, I’m taking a break and focusing on Battlefield 1.

I’m waiting on Civilization VI, a sure buy for me, for the same reason. I could have preordered it anyway, but if I did, I’m sure I’d find some time to play it. No guarantees, though, because many other good games have new stuff out and I haven’t put much time into them either. Elite Dangerous — a tough but exciting space flight combat simulator — has loads of new content, but it is hard to get good at using it without more time to play. That’s true of lots of games. Titanfall 2 is another example. Sure, i liked the original and it looks much improved, but BF1 is my current obsession, so when will I play it?

I collected the Babylon 5 remastered collection online. This series from the 1990s was groundbreaking for its use of CGI graphics in a TV show at the time, but my DVD set doesn’t show the details as nicely as they could be for the HD era. More important than its Emmy winning effects (for makeup, not the CGI), though, is the great storyline. A five season serial story arc, memorable characters, and some great science fiction story writing make it worth watching again and again. 123 episodes, including the short-lived spinoff Crusade, plus several movies, gives me a lot to watch.

Real Life Gets In The Way Of Gaming

I intended to finish this as soon as BF1 was released. I did get some time to actually play the game, and the tradeoff there is not enough time to write about it. Add in being busy at work and other real life activity, and i find it hard to give up any of my limited game playing time to do anything other than just play the game.

On the positive side, the first BF1 patch came out, and it is pretty much all good improvements to the game. That does nothing to change my obsession with playing it when I can, of course.

Oct 11

Battlefield 1 Preorder Or Not To Preorder

BF1 is coming very soon as of this writing (October 11, 2016). It releases on October 21 for general release, but there are two ways to play it earlier. First, you can get the Deluxe or Ultimate editions, and play on October 18. Or you can get EA or Origin Access (XBOX1 and PC only, sorry), and start playing October 13 for a limited trial.

I have preordered the game three times now. Not three copies, just placed the order for the game three times. First, I tried a discount code to see if it applied to a preorder for the base game. It did not, but I left my preorder in place because I knew I was going to get it. Then, when the Premium and Ultimate packages were revealed, I cancelled my Deluxe Edition order and upgraded it to Ultimate. Last, signed on for Origin Access, and used the 10% discount on the preorder for the Ultimate Edition. This required cancelling my previous order, but the discount more than paid for the cost of Origin Access. At least, as long as I cancel it soon.

Should I cancel Origin Access? I own many of the games in the Vault already, and am unlikely to have time or interest to play many of the others. But the cost, $60 per year, isn’t bad for the whole game collection, and you get the premium/ultimate versions of the games included. In my case, I think that I won’t have time for the other games for quite a while with BF1 to play. I can always renew it whenever I want, and $5 isn’t bad to try out and play a bunch of games for a month.

To preorder or not to preorder, that is the question. For me and BF1, the answer is preorder. I loved the alpha and beta, love Battlefield in general, and don’t want to wait to get my hands on the full game. I figure that if you are going to play the game in the first month, the 60-plus hours of play is well worth any potential savings from waiting for a sale. A Black Friday sale is by no means guaranteed, though it is common in the gaming industry. You may have to wait for Christmas to get the game cheaper.

Other games aren’t a sure day one buy for me. I can wait a few months for those, and for a sale. Only you know if BF1, or any game, is something you absolutely must have right away. Despite the issues with BF4, I have hundreds of hours of great play in the game. I also get to be a battle-scarred veteran of the early, bug-infested day one release as a preorder player. Despite the flaws and problems, the experience of being part of a game working its way back to greatness was memorable and exciting. I feel DICE and EA have redeemed themselves with more recent games, and have no doubt that BF1 is going to work and play well.

Sep 17

Gaming News: September 2016

There is a time to game, and a time to write about gaming.  I love doing both, but don’t always have the time.

 

The new content for GTA V Online keeps us busy.  The need for in-game money to get the new toys makes doing daily play, for the daily activity bonuses, very useful.  Especially as many can be done with low key play, no harder than just cruising around  Los Santos for fun.  Seriously, there is loads of new content, and the VIP expansion with offices and operations gives the game extended life for player crews.

 

There are always new bargains to get in the game, every week something new.  Rockstar has definitely done well to keep players happy with the game, even after three years.

 

BF1 Beta was purely awesome.  Shame it had to end so soon, and that I didn’t get nearly as much playtime as I’d like.  Fortunately, the full game releases October 21 (earlier for for Deluxe/Ultimate preorders and EA Access).

 

One very short and one short-term announcement, though the latter will still be relevant after.

BF4 expansions are free for all this weekend, until September 19.  It is possible this offer will repeat in the future, who knows with EA, but if you never sprang for Premium on sale before, free is better.

Star Wars Battlefront Death Star DLC is coming for Season Pass owners on September 20, 2016.  The trailer gives me chills.  Even better, as a Star Wars fan, it is all game play in multiplayer, and you can actually play out the attack on the Death Star in epic glory.  Luke vs Darth Vader in starfighters, Chewbacca blasting his way around the Death Star, and that final trench run.  Can’t wait for this.

If you don’t have Season Pass, you can get it October 4.  But my recommendation for this game — and BF1 and similar EA games — is to always buy the full package rather than separate DLCs.  Battlefront is a game for Star Wars fans, and it has a solid following there.  I know a lot of Battlefield players were disappointed with it, but it was never promised or advertised to be Battlefield:  Star Wars, and it definitely isn’t that.  The 2006 Battlefront II had more Battlefield elements to it, but even it wasn’t really like a Battlefield game.  Its third person combat and leader and hero characters made it into its own game.

Speaking of SW Battlefront II, it remains available and cheap on PC.  It would be a very good game for remastering for PS4 and XB1, because the game play remains strong in single player and it has a nice story.  Sadly, I don’t think this will happen, as the new movies and their developers are interested in showcasing the original trilogy and stuff from the new movies.

The last SW Battlefront DLC is likely to be from the new Rogue One Star Wars movie, which should fit into the game well.

It is a little frustrating to have to wait for DLC content for this game.  People who start playing it after the last DLC is out and get the complete edition will have missed out on a year or more of game play, but will find themselves playing a Star Wars game loaded with content (40+ maps is way more than most shooter games ever have) and tons of movie references and experiences to enjoy.

Jul 16

Battlefield 1: Weapons Performance In The Closed Alpha

One great thing about the Battlefield 1 closed alpha is the amount of time we have had to test out the weapons and vehicles. This has given DICE a lot of feedback on how they work and how well they are balanced. Even so, I am going to get into the performance of these weapons here. Just remember that this is from the alpha, and is subject to change even by the time of the open beta, let alone retail release. There will also be more weapons in the full game, and I’ve discussed what may appear.

Bullet velocity is one of the very big changes from Battlefield 4. Guns now use their real world muzzle velocity, with drag slowing the bullet down as it travels, just as in the real world. In previous games, average velocity was used for the entire travel time, which made the bullet slower than reality at close ranges but faster at very long ranges. This is more realistic, and thus more intuitive for players familiar with real world weapons and physics. It also makes close range combat easier, especially for the longer ranged weapons, because the high velocity means less need to lead targets to compensate for travel time and bullet drop. Conversely, long range fire now requires adjusting for the change in velocity, but that is both something players will get used to and also will feel more realistic and challenging.

Weapons also come with variations now, which changes how customization will be done. So rather than getting a weapon and then modifying it with loads of attachments, the weapon comes with a preset of attachments. There will be additional customization, but you won’t need to worry about tuning the basic weapon performance by putting on required attachments to do so, or messing it up by mixing add ons which don’t play well together. Each of the primary weapons in the alpha come with two variations, and in some cases they are more like two different models (design changes) of the same base weapon, rather than merely changing out some attachments. The weapons of the time did not come with mix and match add ons and rails to put accessories on, unlike modern weapons, and many things from Battlefield 4 simply were not possible at all.

Thanks to some nice folks at symthic.com, we have some hard stats on the weapons in the game.

Let’s go over the weapons by kit.

First, a general description note. The alpha uses short two letter codes for weapon variants and doesn’t explain what they are. The full game will have better explanations (there is a short blurb when you unlock the weapons now, but players will want to know more).

General ones shared across many weapons:

 
TR — Trench variation. This is intended for hip fire and close range combat, so have iron sights and generally handle better when moving.

MA — Magnified Scope. A higher power scope (about 6x or so), used for long range combat.

SH — Short range scope, a moderate (about 4x) magnification optic, intended for medium range combat.

AR — Accuracy, precision iron sights and better aimed accuracy, usually at the expense of hip fire.

LI — Light Infantry?  Accurate fire at moderate range and nicer (but not high power) optics/sights.
Assault:

MP18: Accuracy AR and Trench TR versions. With a 550 rounds per minute (RPM) fire rate and 32 round drum magazine for its 9mm ammunition, it was the first practical submachinegun used in combat. Very effective in the role of close combat, as in the trenches. Takes 5 hits to kill without a headshot at close range (under 15 meters), drops to 8 hits at longer ranges (38 m). SMGs in Battlefield 1 are not very accurate at range in full automatic fire, but careful tap fire (to get single shots) can help tame that, as the first shot can be more precise. The AR version has a nice sight and is better for these longer range shots, the TR version for close range and hip fire. Its 420 meter per second (m/s) muzzle velocity makes landing long range shots on moving targets difficult.

Automatico M1918: TR Trench and LI Light Infantry? versions. 900 RPM with a 25 round top (bar sticking up) magazine makes this beastly powerful in close combat, but harder to use in long range engagements. Takes 5 hits to kill in close range (under 4-5 meters), but the damge drops off fast and it will take 9 hits to kill at over 38 meters. Its inaccuracy will make landing those shots harder, and 380 m/s muzzled velocity, makes this weapon even more focused on close range combat than the MP18. Frankly, its magazine blocking the sight view makes using hip fire and only engaging in close combat a good choice for this weapon, in either version.

Model 10-A: Shotgun, HE Heavy and HU Hunter versions. The HE version uses slug rounds and is intended for more precise shooting, while the hunter version uses pellets (the usual style for a shotgun). With 6 rounds of ammo, and the ability to kill with one hit at close range (10 meters for the HE version, hard to measure yet for the hunter but it feels similar), it can dominate very close range fights, but requires careful aim. The hunter quickly loses effectiveness at range due to pellet spread. The heavy slug takes 3 hits to kill at over 60 meters, and the slow bullet velocity (380m/s, 333m/s for pellets) will make getting hits at that range difficult. Still, the HE version is the Assault kit’s best choice for long range shooting.  In practice in the alpha, I still found it hard to get good hits at longer range despite its theoretical lethality.

Medic:

Cei Rigotti: AR Accuracy at range and FA Full Auto? versions. This is a select fire (semiauto and full automatic) rifle with a 299 RPM fire rate, and a 10 round magazine. This was the first automatic rifle developed for military use and was designed well before the war in 1900, but was never adopted by any military. Takes three hits to kill at 25 meters or less, drops to four to kill at around 35 meters. The small magazine and moderate fire rate makes automatic fire of limited use, but it is available if you want it. Its relatively light ammunition gives it a decent muzzle velocity of 660m/s. A good weapon for moderate range combat.

M1907 SL: TR Trench and AU automatic versions. The TR version is an iron sight single fire weapon, the AU has select fire and offers a 299 RPM fire rate in game. The French version used 20 round magazines (as in the game), which gives this weapon an edge in sustained close combat compared to the other semiauto rifles. 3 hits to kill from 10 to about 15 meters, drops to 5 to kill at around 30 meters. Combined with its moderate velocity of 570 m/s (due to its .351 ammo), it is best used from moderate ranges, but makes up for it with good hipfire accuracy, especially the TR version.

Mondragon: AR Accuracy with bipod, MA ranged with a magnified scope version. This is a semiauto weapon developed by Mexico, and uses the more powerful Mauser rifle ammunition. Its 257 RPM fire isn’t much different from the 299 of the other two weapons in practice. Three hits to kill at any range, and with 800m/s muzzle velocity, this is a fine weapon in either variant for longer range battles.

Support:

Lewis Gun: SU Suppression and AR Accuracy versions. A full auto LMG with its distinctive round pan magazine on top, with an impressive 47 rounds in it. Note that the SU version shows a 97 round magazine, which is true, but the barrel overheats in sustained fire anyway, so you will have to take breaks in fire. Definitely the gun to use if you want to hold a position and offer a steady hail of gunfire at the enemy. Its 480 RPM fire rate and 740m/s muzzle velocity makes it a solid killer in medium rangers. 5 bullets to kill up close (20 meters), dropping to seven at range (35 meters).

M1909 Benet-Mercie: LI Light Infantry? And GU General? versions — a more mobile, easier to shoot version and one meant for bipod use. Select fire with 31 rounds in the side loading strip fed magazine. Fires at 450 RPM, and takes 5 hits to kill, dropping to 6 at around 23 meters. With its 820m/s muzzle velocity, this makes it the ideal choice for longer range engagements.

Madsen MG: TR Trench and LI Light Infantry? versions. A select fire LMG with a 540 RPM fire rate, and a top loading magazine with 30 rounds, it is lighter and handier than the other two LMGs in the alpha. Does not have a bipod, but is much better for both hip fire and moving fire, making it a solid choice for a mobile support shooter. Takes 5 hits to kill up close (up to around 20 meters), drops to 6 beyond that, its 800m/s muzzle velocity and fire rate lets it still hold up at moderate ranges. Definitely the best choice for close combat in either version.

Scout:

Russian 1895: TR Trench and MA Magnified Scope (long range) versions. The Trench variant uses .30-40 US Army (Krag) ammunition, while the MA version uses the Russian Mosin round. Both are magazine fed lever action (not bolt) rifles, with a 5 round magazine, but the TR version can fire faster and in practical game terms, is essentially an entirely different model weapon.

The Russian 1895 Trench version gets 580m/s muzzle velocity, and will take two hits to kill — one with a headshot — at moderately close ranges (around 8-23 meters), dropping to three hits to kill at longer ranges. Fills a unique role for the aggressive Scout, with high damage and precision up close.

The MA version gets the damage model of all the bolt action sniper rifles in this game. The damage at both close and very long ranges is the same, and will take two hits to kill (or one with a headshot at any range). But in the middle of the weapon range, the damage rises to a one hit kill for body hits as well. The MA version has its sweet spot between 40m and 100m, making 80 meters its ideal range to shoot for. At 820m/s and with a nice powerful scope, it is a great choice for longer range shooters.

Gewehr 98: SH Short Range and MA Magnified Scope version. Both have optics, with the SH model a less powerful scope. 5 round magazine. Its sweet range is between 60m and 120m, with 100 meters the ideal shooting range. Its 880m/s muzzle velocity makes it the best choice for all long range shooting, both within its ideal range and beyond. The MA scopes all face scope glint in sunlight, while the shorter range SH version does not.

SMLE MKIII: SH Short Range Scope and CA Close Assault? versions. The SH version has a moderate power scope, the CA version has marksman iron sights. Its best range is between 20m and 75m, with a good target range of around 57 meters. That makes this Lee-Enfield rifle the best choice for a more aggressive, closer range engagement. Its 10 round magazine also helps it out, able to keep shooting more in close quarters, and a 740m/s muzzle velocity is still fairly good for long range when needed.
Pistols:

M1911: A good short range sidearm, with 250m/s muzzle velocity and requiring 3 hits to kill at close range (about 10 meters), dropping to 7 at around 30 meters. 8 round magazine will make getting a kill at longer ranges very hard, but that was always going to be true with a pistol. Best up close backup weapon.

P08: A moderate range sidearm, with its 350m/s velocity and 9 round magazine. While it takes 4 hits to kill at up to around 15 meters, and 7 at around 30 just like the M1911, its higher velocity and ammo capacity makes it superior at longer ranges, better than the 1911 beyond 10 meters.

C96 Carbine: This is the primary weapon for the pilot and tanker kits in the Alpha, but despite its name it is still just a long barrel C96 pistol with an attached stock. Has a 20 round magazine and decent long range accuracy (no stats, sorry). Not as good at close range killing as the M1911, I would use that pistol like a primary for this kit for now up close, and use the C96 only for longer range shots.

Weapon Performance:

Battlefield 1 has changed not just the bullet ballistics by adding drag, it has also changed the weapon handling and damage models. The ideal range for sniper rifles makes them a poor choice in close engagements, but lets them stand off with greater effectiveness than in BF4 or BF3. Automatic fire weapons in general are less accurate than the more modern firearms of BF4. But on top of that, the pattern of that instability makes a big difference in how you should manage that.

The SMGs have decent single shot accuracy, and that is how you should fire them for precise longer range shots. If you are going to fire them full auto, the modern tap-burst fire where you use 3 to 6 round blasts — trying for the kill with the least amount of ammunition used — will suffer from the weapon’s inherent instability, and miss more than you might think. Sustained fire for 6-12 rounds will give more accurate fire. On top of that, for both hipfire rather than aimed fire is, as is the case for BF4 PDWs, a better option in closed combat, as they don’t gain enough accuracy from aimed fire to make that worthwile.

LMGs actually have negative bullet spread, so the longer you sustain fire, the more the weapon “steadies down” and can be controlled to hit accurately. On top of that, the BF1 bipods work very well to enhance accuracy with all weapons which have them, and you should always try to use them with LMGs – even for very short shots. Short bursts will be widely inaccurate, but the Madsen MG can make up for that with its fire rate in hip fire up close.

Semiauto rifles may have a full auto mode, but you are best off taking careful aimed shots and letting the recoil settle between them at longer ranges if you want accuracy. Up close, the 1907 SL TR version has potential in hip fire, but otherwise, they are not the best option for close engagements. Still, you can drop anyone in three hits up close with them, so practice your rapid fire trigger finger techniques.

Sniper rifles have a new feel to them, with the highly lethal short range zone from BF4 moved to a more generally useful, for sniping, moderately long range. Higher bullet velocity and decent accuracy make all good choices for precision fire. The one hit to kill with a headshot at any range is retained, so in many ways, they will feel most familiar to BF4 players.
The exact values of all these weapons are of course subject to change. Most are taken from the real world weapons, and in that way, this makes Battlefield 1 the most realistic (in terms of weapon physics) game in the series. Elements like the automatic fire accuracy and how to manage it are open to debate, but I can’t say it is unfair to portray these first of their kind in the world weapons as being much less reliable and effective than their modern counterparts.

Jul 01

Battlefield 1: Vehicles Of The Great War

Vehicles Of Battlefield 1

What we have so far:

Light Vehicles:

Armored Cars:

Rolls Royce Armored Car — a widely use light armored vehicle in WW1. One Vickers machine gun in a turret mount, could do 45 mph (72 km/h), which wasn’t all that slow.

Motorcycles:

Motorcycle (with Sidecar for passenger).  Likely a Harley-Davidson or Indian, both of which were widely used by American forces in the war.

 

Tanks:

Heavy Tank:  A7V German Heavy Tank (note that in the war, Germany captured many British tanks, and repainted them, and actually had more of those than their own A7)

Landship Medium Tank:  British Mark IV/V tank – medium tank with asymmetrical gun turrets. The model shown in the game so far is the Mark V, with two side mount cannons, and a front mount driver-seat controlled machine gun.

Renault FT-17 Light Tank (French, but used by other allies, UK and USA). Largest class of tanks, more built than all others combined.

Tanks were completely new vehicle types in WW1, and there simply were not that many different models built.  Each nation naturally tended to use its own designs.  In the game,  however, unless we are going to see tanks only on one side of the battle (which was the case for much of the war), we have to bend history and let both sides have models in each class.

 

Airplanes:

 

German
Scout: Fokker Dr.1 Triplane

Attack: Halberstadt CL.II 2-seat fighter

Bomber: Gotha G.V biplane bomber (could be G.IV, more of those were built, but the in-game model and text say G.V.)

Note that in the Alpha/Livestream, these planes are used by both sides.  The trailers show other airplanes, however, and unlike with tanks, each faction had its own models of planes in use.  In fact, the field of aviation saw an amazing amount of innovation during this period.

The early war saw lighter monoplanes in wide use, and pusher (propellers facing the back) biplanes were also widely used.  It was during this era that armed air combat really game into being, and the “Fokker Scourge” started when the Eindecker Fokker E.III monoplanes were equipped with synchronized machine guns, able to fire through the propellers and thus make air combat a matter of aiming the plane at the target.

 

The next era was the dominance of the new, improved biplanes, where both sides fielded more powerful aircraft and all sides had synchronized machine guns.  The Triplane era was brief, and only two models actually saw serious use –  the Sopwith Triplane, fielded first in 1916, and the Fokker Dr.1, introduced late in 1917.   It lasted only about a year before improvements in engines and designs made better biplanes available, like the Sopwith Camel and the Fokker D.VII.

Only 320 Fokker Dr.1 were built, and 147 Sopwith Triplanes.  Compare this with 5490 Sopwith Camels and 3300 Fokker D.VII, the successors to these, or 1770 Sopwith Pup (Scout) and 1866 Albatros D.III, their predecessors. The triplanes were a short term solution to the problems of insufficient engine power and lack of understanding of aerodynamics.  Too fragile and hard to maintain compared to biplanes, even at the height of their popularity there just weren’t enough of them to make them see wide use.

Will we see aircraft from more than one era in the game?  We miss out on some of the interesting models if we don’t do that.  But will players care about such things, or only want models they can easily recognize in their role?

You can’t emulate Snoopy vs the Red Baron if you don’t have a place for the Sopwith Camel to go up against the Fokker Dr.1.  But how would you go about assigning the aircraft by era to the maps?  Have the aircraft set fixed for each map, to fit the situation?  Or allow the aircraft era to vary, either randomly or by a server/game option?
Other armored cars:
Minerva Armored Car — Belgium, top gun emplacement in back, slower than the Rolls at 25 mph
IAG1 Crossley (or Chevrolet) Armored Car, has domed turret with two machine guns. Its dual wheels in the back could have made it handle better, but it wasn’t a 4 wheel drive.  Didn’t actually see service until after the war.  Its armored turret and door design were intended to go against lightly armed infantry, but it was useless in mud.

Autocar Armored Car — a partially enclosed car with one mounted gun.

Ehrhardt E-V/4:  German armored truck, with a high top turret and more ground clearance than others of the war.  Speed about 35 mph.

All of the armored cars started out as regular automobile chassis with armored components attached to them.

 

Other tanks of WW 1
Medium Mark A Whippet — British Medium tank, tracked with a turret, no heavy gun originally (but that is true of many others as well, not all the Mark series tanks had big cannons).  Faster than the Mark series tanks, not as heavily armed or armored.
Schneider CA1 — early French tank, one larger cannon on right side only (similar with the Mark IV), and two machine guns. In size, I’d guess this to fit the medium tank role.
Saint-Chamond Tank — a heavy tank, one large forward-mounted non-turret cannon, 4 machine guns on sides.  Could also be implemented as French medium tank with two side machine guns.

Tanks were new, and there wasn’t a lot of actual variety. The British Mark series had a lot of models, all fairly similar in appearance, the classic landships.  The late war saw development of larger Mark series, but none saw service which offer much difference compared to the Mark V.

Air Power in WW1: 

There were roughly four eras of aircraft design in WW1, and though I think that the early era has some nice looking planes, I doubt we will see them in Battlefield 1.  For one thing, the early models were not balanced against each other at all, and the German aircraft dominated, requiring greater numbers from their opponents in order to even the odds.  But also, the earlier aircraft didn’t perform nearly as well as the later models, and might be harder for players to effectively use in game.

Bombers are sort of a special case.  They were mid-war to late war innovations themselves, and though there were improvements, I think that one per faction for the entire war will suffice.

British:

Bomber:  Handley Page Type O/400 for 3 seat bomber
Mid

Scout: Sopwith Pup (official name: Sopwith Scout (Scout), single seat counterpart to the 1-1/2 Strutter

Attack: Sopwith Type 9400 1-1/2 Strutter — earlier two seat fighter, first British plane to have synchronized machine gun (so pilot could shoot forward through propellers).

Late

Scout: Sopwith Triplane.  A Canadian UK unit got a special reputation using these, and was known as the Black Flight from their distinctive black paint jobs.

Bristol F.2B – 2 Seat Fighter

End War

Sopwith Camel (shown in trailer video)

Attack: Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 — two seat fighter/scout

Scout: Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 — a competitor to the Sopwith Camel, same role, scout-attack

The S.E.5 was a popular alternative to the Sopwith Camel, and might be used by allied pilots
German

Bomber:

Bomber: Gotha G.V biplane bomber (could be G.IV)

 

Mid-War

Scout: Albatros D.III — this plane preceded the Triplane as the lead attack fighter, while the Fokker D.VII was the later war version.  The plane the Red Baron used the most, despite the going out in the Triplane.

Attack: Albatros C.III

Late-War

Fokker Dr.1 Triplane
Halberstadt CL.II 2-seat fighter

End-War

Scout: Fokker D.VII – biplane fighter, counterpart of Sopwith Camel

Halberstadt CL.IV — improved version of CL.II

or

Hannover CL.III – 2 seat, ground attack

Notes: The Sopwith Triplane was introduced as the first combat triplane, and used by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) rather than the Royal Air Corps, and it took some time for Germany to respond with its competitor. By that time, the British were well on their way to the development of the superior Sopwith Camel. The German counterpart to that is the Fokker D.VII biplane, which was the premier single seat attack fighter at the end of the war.

Do we get both the Triplane era and its successors? That could be interesting, but it leaves open a lot of questions about how many sorts of aircraft we will see.

French/American

The Americans entered the war in its later stages, but some enlisted with French or other forces in order to fight in the war before that time.  The Lafayette Escadrille is especially noteworthy

Bomber:

Caudron C.23 – good candidate for the bomber role, a large late war twin engine 3 seat craft.  Earlier bombers were two seat aircraft.

Mid

Scout: Nieuport 17 – early single seat fighter, first one with synchronized gun.  Nieuport biplanes were technically  sesquiplane designs, with the lower wing not as wide as the upper.

Attack: SPAD S.XI

Late

Scout:  Nieuport 27

Attack: Salmson 2 – 2-seat

End

Scout:  SPAD.XIII.  Very popular with US pilots.

Attack: Breguet 14

 

The US forces used French and British aircraft. Despite the Wright Brothers success in inventing airplanes, the USA did not keep up with the wartime development and had none of its own to speak of in WW 1. Russia and Italy also used French fighters.  Thus, there were no American models of combat aircraft deployed during WW 1.

Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire used mostly German aircraft designs.
They did of course use their own markings on most, though it wasn’t uncommon to see German crosses on them along with their new paint.
Scout: Phönix D.I — single seat biplane fighter, only one produced specifically for Austria-Hungary. Also known as Hansa-Brandenburg D.I, it is comparable to the early war Albatros D.I, but remained in service with upgrades until the end of the war for Austria.

Italy used mostly French designs

Ansaldo A.1 Balilla – only Italian single seat biplane to see much service in war. They otherwise used mostly French aircraft.  This plane was comparable to the Sopwith Camel, but with a narrower streamlined engine cowling and one of the fastest planes of the war.

Russia

Bomber:

Voisin III.  A French design used early in the war, two engine pusher design with two crew (which means only one machine gun, if we stick to its historical configuration).

Russia’s own innovation was the Sikorsky Ilya Murmomets (S-22/S-23) 4 engine biplane bomber, the first heavy strategic bomber in the world.  But with a crew of five (but only two gunners plus a pilot with combat roles, and an enclosed protected cockpit, it is in a different class from the Gotha G.V and similar bombers.

Fighter:

Sikorsky S-16.  Only a small number of these were built.  Otherwise, used mostly French designs.

Airships:

Zeppelin:  L 30 on the kill feed. (LZ 62, 62nd Zeppelin built,  first of the same super-Zeppelin class as L 32). , used for bombing operations over the UK. About 196 meters long.
Note : No other nation made anything quite like the Zeppelins. The British made a handful of airships, but the Zeppelin companies turned out over one hundred.

Blimps and balloons were made in much larger numbers, but they were harder to steer, more fragile, and less useful as military attack vehicles. As reconnaissance craft, though, they were excellent. So far, we can’t actually shoot any of them, but perhaps that will come later.

Other Aircraft:

Ground attack planes and the first heavy bombers also saw some use.

Heavy Bombers:

There are none of these shown so far in the game, but they played an important role in the war, and also stood out as remarkable innovations for larger aircraft.

Russia’s Sikorsky Ilya Murmomets (S-22/S-23) 4 engine biplane bomber with an enclosed cockpit, could have a crew of 5 or so.  Significant as the first long range 4 engine aircraft of the war, and used to good effect in what was otherwise a losing war for Russia.
German Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI Riesenflugzeug – “giant aircraft” saw a fair bit of service, open cockpit but again a large crew. It had a successor, the Zeppelin-Staaken R.XIV, with a large enclosed cockpit, but saw very limited use at the end of the war.
British Handley Page V/1500 – another 4 engine bomber, was deployed but didn’t see action during WW 1.

Italian Caproni Ca.3 – 3 engine bomber. Italy

Note that all heavy bombers were used largely for night air raids, rather than daytime attacks, just as Zeppelins were. They had guns, but were not maneuverable enough to really dogfight. Russia used them to good effect.

In game use, they could perhaps be comparable to the Airships, a special unit reinforcing the battle.  It would take two or three of these “giant” airplanes to be equal to one Zeppelin.

Night bombers — two seat attack planes with heavier loads — also saw service, but I’d think that these four engine giants would be more interesting for game play. Would they fit for all maps and missions? Probably not, but they were still a major factor in the war, along with airships, creating the whole category of strategic bombing.
Germany pioneered the ground attack plane, with a metal fuselage.  Will we see them in Battlefield 1?  Not all maps would fit their role, a tougher two seat attack craft intended to hit ground targets rather than fight in the air.
Junkers J.I crew of two, notable for being equipped with a radio for its observer/gunner. First of the type.
AEG J.I crew of two, notable for giving the pilot fixed machine guns pointing down, for strafing action, while the rear gunner took care of air threats.
Albatros J.I — a competing craft, used near the end of the war, similar design and role.

Jun 28

Battlefield 1: The Weapons From The Dawn Of All-Out War

What weapons will we get in Battlefield 1?

 

We have a bunch of information about the weapons and vehicles of Battlefield 1, but there are still pieces missing. We know that each kit will have seven or so class weapons available at release, with three shown in play so far. The customization screens show 16 weapon slots, with 6 filled, allowing for an additional three to five weapons, depending on the number of variants of each (some will have three, so five is unlikely). The variations can have different characteristics other than just simple handling (like fire rate or damage), so while they are technically the same weapon model, they can actually play like different weapons.

There are eight sidearms, and we’ve seen four of them, two in use in the livestream. For vehicles, the aircraft were all German models, but the trailers and other info show that more models will be in use, serving similar roles. Tanks and armored cars, on the other hand, suffer from the problem of not having that many variants developed and used during the war, so we are stuck with all factions sharing models.

In all cases, the weapons and vehicles were real and almost all saw some actual service in the war, even if it may have only been in the final days.

So what weapons could be still to come in the full game? Let’s look at what has been revealed so far.

http://battlefield.wikia.com/wiki/Battlefield_1

Weapons of Battlefield 1
Submachine Guns
Automatico M1918 · MP18
Shotguns
M1897 · M1912 · Model 10-A
Light Machine Guns
Lewis Gun · Madsen MG · MG 08 · M1909 Benét–Mercié · MG15 n.A.
Sniper rifles
Gewehr 98 · M1903 Springfield · Russian 1895 · SMLE MKIII
Semi-automatic rifles
C96 Carbine · Cei-Rigotti · M1907 SL · Mondragon
Sidearms
M1911 · C96 · P08 Pistol · Webley Mk VI
Other
T-M1918
Battle Pick Up
Kleinflammenwerfer (flamethrower)

One thing to keep in mind about World War 1 is that before the war, all the nations involved traded with each other, and it was common to use weapons built by makers in nations which were now your enemy. This is especially noticeable in the LMG and Sidearm categories. Once the war started, each nation had to equip its troops with weapons it could get within its alliance, and this is most strongly noticed with the most widely issued weapons, the standard bolt action rifles.

Pilot/Tanker Mechanic
Mauser C96 Carbine (semi-auto pistol) . Could use attached stock to act like a short carbine, the C96 itself is a 7.63mm Mauser caliber with a 10 round clip magazine (though 9mm versions were also made for export).

What others might we see?  It is hard to say, I find references to carrying semi-auto rifles as with the Medic kit, but not much on anything as specialized as the C96 Carbine Pistol.

Medic
M1907 SL semi-auto or slow auto, Winchester, a few thousand used by France
Mondragon M1908 — developed by Mexico, Manufactured by SIG, many sold to Germany and used by air crew
Cei-Rigotti — a very early automatic rifle, semi and full auto at possibly 900 rpm (but will overheat before that, but then, so will most automatic rifles).
Prototypes only. Used same ammo as bolt action Carcano M1891. Why include this one? It has a strong claim to being the first automatic rifle, and despite not seeing deployment, that gives it an important place in history.

Note that the relatively small magazine size of all the semi-auto weapons makes full auto fire very limited anyway — you only get a couple of seconds of fire. The fire rate is so slow compared to either SMG or LMG that you aren’t going to win that either, and you have to cope with recoil, so it really is only meant to be used up close.

Assault

MP18 SMG
MP1918 Automatico SMG
M10-A Shotgun Remington (shorter barrel version for war), 6 round magazine.
M1897 Winchester shotgun, external hammer, pump action. Note that the pump could trigger the gun, so you could fire as fast as you could slide it, making it feel more like a semi-auto in hip fire. We’ll have to see how that mechanism plays out. A good example of this sort of use is Ash’s fight at the end of Army Of Darkness, just repeatedly firing the shotgun by using the pump. (Edit:  Ash used a lever action Winchester and a double barrel shotgun, though we did see pump action models in the store.  Still gets the feel of how you use it). 5 round magazine.
M1912 Winchester pump action shotgun, 6 round magazine.  Military followup to the M1897.

Support
M1909 Benet-Mercie LMG (side magazine) Hotchkiss Gun (light machinegun, not the heavy one used on vehicles)
Madsen LMG Danish gun sold widely before the war, used by all sides.  A bit handier than most of the era.
Lewis Gun LMG.  Pan magazine on top gives it a lot of ammo for sustained fire.
Bergmann MG 15nA machine gun – 500 RPM, German counterpart to the Lewis gun, top drum magazine

MG 08 – the lMG 08/15 – a lighter — but still heavy — version of the MG 08, a German machine gun used on aircraft, which had to used aircooling rather than the water cooled mounted machine guns.

Scout
1895 Russian (Winchester) single/lever action (one has no scope by default), in Russian 7.62mm.  Uses a box magazine rather than the tube loading of most lever action rifles.
Lee Enfield SMLE MKIII
Springfield 1903 sniper (trivia note: the US M1903A4 sniper version wasn’t made until WWII, in 1943, the standard issue rifles didn’t have scopes, but could have them added).
Mauser Gewehr 98  with scope (Sniper model)

Sidearms
Colt 1911 Pistol semi-auto ,45
Luger P08 Pistol semi-auto 7.65mm (the 9mm was developed later), 8 round magazine
Webley Revolver MK VI (1915), .455 Webley 6 shot revolver

C96 Mauser semi-auto pistol, 7.63mm Mauser.  Pistol version of the air crew carbine.

Other
Lifebuoy M2 Flamethrower – Note: Found a reference to this, but as it was a British development of the German model and didn’t see service in the war, I don’t know that it will appear.
Rocket Gun, aka Vickers Q.F Mk II – a compact 40mm (1.59 in) caliber artillery piece.  Despite its nickname, it is a shell firing small cannon, not a rocket weapon.
Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr — a bolt action 13mm antitank rifle, the first and only one used in WW1.

So what classic weapons are missing?  What can we expect to see in the game?

Let’s address the standard issue bolt actions first. But first, a general comment on bolt action fire rates. A good shooter can do about 30 rpm on these, with the straight pull bolt models a bit faster to operate. Lever action rifles were no longer favored, though the Russian 1895 Winchester was used, in part because they were harder to operate prone, even though the fire rate could be higher.

Scout Snipers:

Lee Enfield MKIII (sans scope) British standard rifle
Mauser Gewehr 98 — Germany standard issue
Springfield M1903 – American standard issue iron sight bolt action rifle

Mosin-Nagant (called Mosin by most of its users), bolt action rifle widely used, Russia, Austria-Hungary
Carcano M1891 – Italian standard bolt action rifle
Berthier Fusil Mle 1907/15 – French standard bolt action rifle
Mannlicher M1895 Austria-Hungary standard issue bolt action rifle. Used straight pull bolt, unlike most of this era

The above four fill out the likely candidates for bolt action Scout weapons, as it gives each major faction (if we include the Russians) their own standard issue weapon.  The Russian 1895 Winchester was not the standard issue Russian rifle, but was still widely used and is different from all the bolt action weapons.
Ross Rifle MKIII — Canadian bolt action rifle, notable for straight pull bolt and high accuracy. Retained as sniper rifle in service after WW1.
Arisaka Type 38 rifle — Japanese bolt action rifle, 6.5mm, used by Russia, among others

If any Japanese forces are shown, they would use the Arisaka as well.  The Ross Rifle is noted for being especially accurate as a sniper weapon, and may be present simply for that reason.

 

These next two are variants of weapons already present, and could be represented by differences in appearance rather than being distinct weapons.

Mauser Model 1893 – Turkish Mauser.  The predecessor of the 98, used by the Ottoman Empire, which also used the 98 when they could get them. In most elements very much the same, its sight markings were in Arabic.  They didn’t manufacture their own rifles.

M1917 Enfield — US version of the British rifle — they used different ammo, but worked very much the same. Note that most US and British soldiers used one or the other of these.  Correction/.clarification:  This is a version of the 1914 .30-06 Enfield rifle, not the SMLE, and was built as an alternative to the Springfield 1903, sharing ammunition.  It also has the same 5 round magazine size.  In regards to this, a different skin/variant of the Springfield, due to similar performance.

Classic Sidearms:
British Bull Dog revolver — .44 Webley caliber, a big fat tough-looking 5 round revolver
Colt Model 1908 Pocket Hammerless – .38 caliber US, 7 round magazine (the 1903 .32 caliber version has 8 rounds)
Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer — another .38 ACP 7 round pistol
Colt New Service – .45 caliber US Army revolver, 6 shot
Enfield revolver – .476 caliber 6 round British Army revolver
M1917 revolver – Smith & Wesson 6 round .45 caliber revolver, had a reloader
Webley Self-Loading Pistol – .455 caliber semiauto pistol, 7 round clip, British pilot and cavalry pistol
Webley–Fosbery Automatic Revolver – a .455 caliber semi-auto revolver (similar in concept to BF4’s Unica 6), holding 6 shots. A variant with 8 shots using .38 caliber was also made. Has a very nice look to it, plus holds a unique place in gun history. Never standard issue because of its size and weight, used by British.
Nagant M1895 – 7.62mm 7 shot revolver, has a unique look, widely used, but developed for Russia
Steyr M1912 – 9mm semiauto pistol with 8 round clip, Austria-Hungarian standard army
Beretta M1915 – 9mm semi-auto pistol, 7 round magazine, Italian standard
FN Model 1903 – 9mm Browning semiauto w 7 round box magazine
Modèle 1892 revolver – 8mm 6 round revolver, French officer sidearm. Accurate but lower in power than similar military weapons of the era

Despite the long list, and more which could be added, it comes down to a couple models of each class and caliber — heavy and lighter revolvers, and roughly 3 size ranges of semi-auto pistols, a total of perhaps five which are different in more than just looks and feel.  Guessing which four will be present in the game at the start isn’t easy.

My choices would be the Colt 1908, Webley-Fosbery, Nagant, and Beretta.  It gives use a good selection of types, with interesting looking models.
Others

Medic Semiauto Rifles:

RSC M1917 Fusil Automatique Modèle 1917 closest thing to standard issue semiauto in the war, French, uses 8MM Lebel cartridge.
Fedorov Avtomat M1916 semi-auto/auto rifle. Used the 6.5mm Arisaka cartridge, 350 RPM, Russian.
Mauser M1916 — semiauto with a 25 round magazine, its cost and fragility limited its use to air service by Germany, and it was later replaced by the more reliable Mondragon.

Farquhar-Hill rifle –  semiauto/auto .303 British rifle saw limited use by aviators, but never fielded on the ground. 700 RPM, making it despite its size closer to an SMG or LMG in role, and later developed as an LMG.  20 round drum magazine.  An interesting detail with this weapon is that when you switch magazines, you must press the trigger once to close the bolt and ready it for firing.

Semiautomatic rifles were a recent development, and though all factions tried to field standard issue versions, they were not quite ready for general distribution.

With three weapons already revealed, there is room for another four easily, and not a lot of other likely candidates for this role.

Assault SMG and Shotguns:
Chauchat-Ribeyrolles 1918 submachine gun, a compact development of the RSC M1917, 8mm .  Also called the 1918 carbine, even though it was short and fully automatic.
Thompson Submachine Gun. The 1918 models were only prototypes and never saw service in the war they were designed for. .45, about 600 RPM (later models shot faster and held more ammo)

Submachineguns were a new development, with the very first ones used in this war.

Browning Auto-5 — semi-auto shotgun. Also produced as Remington M11.

Note: Only the USA issued shotguns as standard military weapons.  Any soldier could potentially have obtained one, and common hunting weapons were used during the war by all factions at times.

With five weapons revealed so far, and three having two variants each (three shotguns), will we get all these?  There weren’t a lot of submachineguns in use yet, so I’d expect to see both of the above models.  The semiauto shotgun is another example of innovation during this period.  If each gets two variants, we could see all of these in the game.

Support LMGs:

Chauchat M1915/1918 LMG, USA and French use. Low rate of fire of 250 rpm, but heavy ammo still overheats, 8mm

M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle — LMG, USA, used as a replacement for the M1909 late in the war, .30/7.62mm with 20 round magazine.  Intended as a general purpose automatic rifle, it  was still heavier and served as an LMG instead.

With the five LMGs already listed, this brings us up to seven.  As one of the ways to fill 16 slots is five with two variants and two with three, they may well show up in the game.

 

A Wide But Not Unlimited Selection

In listing weapons which we can expect to see in the game, we run into the problem that despite many innovations, the choices for weapons were not as wide as in modern wars.  Many cool choices remain, however, and the variant configurations will give use more than enough options to equip our soldiers in the game.

 

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