Hero Units: Durable M10 Tank Destroyer

December 1, 2010
Low-level Hero Units

Hero Units are a very mixed bag.

I’ll be starting a few initiatives here to cover the differences between COHO and the original game, expansions and all. First up are Hero Units, starting with the ones I’ve found most useful. Later this week, there will be a broad concept article on how Hero Units alter the game — the thesis will be that Heroes are NOT always preferable to non-persistent regular units, rather they are situational.

What’s more, Hero Units are a very mixed bag. Some Hero Units are tremendously useful, while others suffer significant disadvantages that make their vanilla counterpart a much better choice (the Skilled M8 comes to mind). Relic has adopted a semi-standardized prefix system for low-level Hero Units, which have a green border on their unit icons. A Skilled Tank Destroyer gets the same bonuses as a Skilled Sherman, but the bonuses for “Skilled” armor are slightly different than for “Skilled” infantry. These changes are context-sensitive, e.g. it makes sense for “Skilled” tanks to benefit from 10% faster speed and acceleration but “Skilled” infantry get 25% less received suppression instead at the same level.

For now, let’s talk about the Durable Tank Destroyer, a mid-level Hero Unit and one of a few that can be purchased from the COHO Store (2,7500 supply or 100 COHO cash). Here’s the official Rifles Ready! straight-to-the-chase summary card for the Durable Tank Destroyer.

Finally, the Americans get cheap, fast AT armor with reasonable staying power

Just what the doctor ordered.

This is a unit that is undeniably superior to the vanilla M10 in every respect once fully leveled, suffering no disadvantages (e.g., Skilled Riflemen can’t pick up weapons). You can’t say the same for the Durable Sherman, which gets the exact same bonuses as the Durable Tank Destroyer but winds up being far less useful. The M10 was a highly situational unit in COH because of its paper-thin armor, tendency to “blank-fire” (a bug where it would animate and the cannon sound effect would go off, but no round was fired) and overall inability to survive long enough to gain the veterancy it desperately needed. The Durable version of the M10 solves all these problems, particularly for Armor Commanders.

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On Balance: 2.600 brings balance to the Force

June 12, 2009

relic_logo2As promised, I’ve given some thought to Relic’s patch 2.600 after a few games and some perusing of GR.org‘s balance forums. Overall, this is finally a return to form for Relic. Almost all of the balance changes reflect issues that were raised by the community based on high-level games and, in the case of bugs, repeatable evidence. The feedback on GR.org has mainly been positive, albeit with some sarcasm (see certificate I reposted from one GR.org forumer below). To me, the big issues in 2.502 were the Pak bug, the T17 being silly, Schimmwagen’s Scorch ability being absurd and the Infantry Halftrack’s wholly unnecessary suppression boost. All of these were fixed in 2.600.

This alone merits this certificate, which conveys pretty exactly my general feeling to Relic:

Competence is good.

Competence is good.

That being said, here’s a more detailed breakdown of my reflections. As usual, I’ve listed only the most significant changes (in my opinion). Please visit www.gamereplays.org for a full list of patch notes.

Patch 2.600
Bug Fixes

  • Cool-downs are now working properly for all weapons.

Always a good thing. I’m not 100% on which exact weapons weren’t cooling down properly, but I’d say the T17’s bizarre rate of fire is a good example.

  • HMGs in buildings will now switch targets as intended; there is a 3.5 second delay before the hmg will fire at another target.

In my experience this is somewhat similar to how MGs worked before, they would suppress one squad, then target a second new squad and suppress it as well. However, this behavior was limited to squads within the same cone o fire, now this applies to squads moving to flank from another direction. The 3.5 second forces you to be tighter but I’m agnostic on whether this was needed. At least it works.

  • Fixed an issue where Pak38s could stack their first-strike modifiers.

An outrageous, game-breaking bug that should never have happened. It better be fixed.

  • Raised Panzerschreck squads preference to target Light Vehicles while garrisoned in buildings.

Makes sense in theory. I never noticed shrecks not targeting light vehicles; in any case you could tell the garrisoned squad what to target before 2.600 anyway.

Gameplay

  • Improved the reliability and effectiveness of the American’s Strafing Run.

It feels pretty much the same to me, to be honest. I haven’t seen any incident where the P-47 would fully strike a squad but do no damage. Some amount of damage and suppression has always been inflicted in 2.600. But I’ve only had occasion to Strafe a few times so far. Need more time to wait and see.

  • The T17 armored car’s damage output has been reduced.

It was silly before. Good job listening and watching the replays, Relic.

  • Penetration of the T17 armored car has been reduced.

Unnecessary in my opinion. It still misses light vehicles more often than the M8, and against armored units like Ostwinds and Wirblewinds, a penetration nerf was unnecessary.

  • The Panzer Elite’s Schwimmwagen Scorched Earth ability has been replaced with an “Incendiary Trap” ability.

Thanks be to God. As demonstrated in the most recent Battle Report, this is nigh-unstoppable. Malivos just got lazy and CharlesDarwin got focused.

  • Infantry sections with Bren upgrades can now use ‘Button Enemy Vehicle’ when garrisoned inside a building.

I’m all in favor of consistency.

  • Panzer Elite Infantry Halftrack suppression lowered.

This was the result of a bug, in my understanding. Not sure why it was placed under “Gameplay” issues by Relic. But it’s a good change.


Volume I: The final tracks

June 11, 2009
Rifle NOT ready.

Rifle NOT ready.

As promised, here are the last three tracks from the first volume of our COH audio strategy series, Mind of a Master. This concludes our special D-Day celebration, but fear not sports fans: World War II goes on year-round at Rifles Ready!

That being said, I apologize for the slow updates of late. Suffice it to say June is a really, really tough month at work with a lot of things happening at the same time — all of which I’m personally responsible for.

I am also aware that many of the topics in this last batch of tracks were addressed in the recently released patch 2.600 — my reaction on that in a later post. But there’s also a lot of other insight from Surprise so I think you’ll still get plenty out of these.

Expect that post, plus an interesting balance article from Surprise, in the coming days. There’s also a new Battle Report in the works featuring a really good up-and-coming player whose replays have gotten a lot of attention on GR.org.

Track 8: Controversial balance issues – The Strafing Run

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/08-controversial-balance-issues-the-new-strafing-run.mp3″

Track 9: Controversial balance issues – Supertanks and British armor

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/09-controversial-balance-issues-supertanks-british-armor-and-axis-at-bugs.mp3″

Track 10: Controversial balance issues – MGs firing at multiple targets, Panzer Elite and end credits

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/10-controversial-balance-issues-mgs-in-buildings-schimmwagens-and-end-credits.mp3″

A special gift for a special three days in June…

June 5, 2009
A time for heroes...

A time for heroes...

Folks, it’s that time of year again. Today is June 5, 2009. Tomorrow will be June 6, the 65-year anniversary of D-Day. The day 150,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy to end tyranny, free a continent and spawn a thousand film and video game adaptions of a climactic battle. It’s a special day to anyone who loves Company of Heroes or World War II games in general.

You'll like this.

You'll like this.

To commemorate this occasion, I have decided with Surprise‘s support to make ALL 10 tracks of our COH audio strategy series, Mind of a Master: Volume I, available on Rifles Ready! — free of charge.

Starting today and ending Sunday (D-Day +1), I will be posting several tracks daily for you to listen to.

The tracks will be playable via the native WordPress streaming audio applet (see below). Amazon.com is taking FOREVER to approve this MP3 album for download, and it’s a special time of year, so the hell with it. Please enjoy!

Tracks 1 and 2: Introduction to Surprise and his biography/A high-level overview of the state of COH

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/coh-mom-i_preview.mp3″

Track 3: Detailed Tales of Valor unit analysis

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/03-detailed-tov-unit-analysis.mp3″

Track 4: Psychology and mind games in COH

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/04-psychology-and-mind-games-in-coh.mp3″

COH audio strategy series: Mind of a Master, Volume I

April 26, 2009
Got questions? Get answers from a master.

Got questions? Get answers from a master.

With the release of COH: Tales of Valor and the latest 2.501/2.502 patches, we’re looking at the biggest changes to the game since more than a year ago. To help you step up your game, I’m pleased to announce a fantastic new concept, the COH audio strategy series, Mind of a Master. This will be a multi-volume series of podcast-style audios, primarily featuring Steven “Surprise” Uray. Calling on all of my professional skills as a reporter, I interview Surprise on tape, covering a huge amount of material, split into about a dozen or so tracks.

Volume I, which you can sample in streaming format below, covers the following:

  • A top-ranked player’s impressions of patch 2.501/2.502 and how it compares overall to 2.301, including faction-by-faction and army vs. army changes
  • A high-level take on the new ToV units, including detailed descriptions of each new unit and whether it’s underpowered, overpowered or just right
  • Deep discussion about COH psychology and how Surprise uses his opponents’ emotions against them, including a section on mind games and how they apply to RTS matches
  • Surprise’s American play style — which took him to #1 on the 1v1 ladder — carefully explained, featuring detailed, step-by-step explanations on his tech order and how he counters specific Axis strategies and units
  • Surprise’s opinion on controversial balance issues, such as whether the Blitzkrieg doctrine is underpowered and whether the perennial complaint about “free” super tanks is now dead

You will always get the first two tracks for free, to give you an idea of what’s in the entire volume. In Volume I, you’ll get the introduction to Mind of a Master and a bio on Surprise, plus his rundown on what ToV brings to the game and how army matchups have changed.

https://riflesready.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/coh-mom-i_preview.mp3″

For everything else, it’s $0.99 for any single track downloadable in MP3 format from Amazon.com, or a more economical $6.99 for the entire volume, downloadable as one album. Look for Volume I to be available sometime next week on Amazon — there’ll be an announcement here.

Meanwhile — let me know what you think! I realize charging a fee may seem to go against the community-minded Rifles Ready! spirit, but let’s face it. At $0.99 a track or $7 for the whole volume, it’s not going to break anybody’s bank and it’s going to give us a great incentive to produce high quality stuff. If you can’t give up the money for a footlong Subway sub, then don’t — just listen to the preview tracks. Think of buying the whole volume as a way to give back to us and get a fantastic extra out of it: a chance to get inside the mind of current COH masters! Later volumes will feature other top players in addition to Surprise.


In-depth: 2.501, Tales of Valor and the future

April 13, 2009
Will the trinity expand?

Will the trinity expand?

With the release of the latest COH expansion and the winds of change blowing, I decided it was time to play weatherman and speculate on where our game and community are headed. Here’s my take as a former top-ranked player.

Larger community
Back in the stone age of the vCOH beta, it was rare to see more than 300 people online. I never remember seeing more than 3,000 online throughout all of regular vCOH. With the release of Opposing Fronts, the average number of players almost doubled. I was stunned to see 5,000 or 6,000 people online at peak hours. I was even more surprised to see peak numbers continue more than a year after the release of OF.

Yesterday, a new all-time high was reached: more than 10,400.  While it’s true that single-player users are forced to login to Relic Online,  they only account for about 30% to 40% of users online at any given time. This still leaves yesterday’s 10,400 figure well above previous OF highs. Despite the cries from the prophets of doom on GR.org, the game does not appear to be dying at all, but is growing larger.

What does this mean? It means COH may have the numbers to support multiple community sites, more pro-level players, and larger, more frequent tournaments due to a larger advertising base for sponsors. Think PC hardware, software, gaming companies and even soft drinks and snacks targeted at the coveted 18-34 young male gamer demographic.

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Thoughts on patch 2.400 and beyond

March 26, 2009

reliclogoWell sports fans, it’s finally here. The complete changelog for patch 2.400, the final patch for COH: Opposing Fronts that will mark the end of the incredibly long balance beta and the reign of patch 2.301 for the retail game. It’s taken Relic nearly a year to get here, and let me tell you — 2.301 is tapped out. Being an American fanboy, I’m sick in particular of always fighting the Panzer Elite with one hand tied behind my back. This is a long-awaited moment for us all.

I’ve read through all the 2.400 changes and I’ll offer my opinion in the full post, but here’s an amusing sampling of the comments that burst forth on GR.org as soon as the changelog was posted:

  • “They nerfed OF factions by a great deal and buffed vCoH factions… Bull.”
  • “You’re right, the former should have been patched out completely. Thanks Relic for finally fixing the terrible piece of shit you dumped on us a year ago.”
  • “Yey. Time to play PE with a clear conscience!”
  • “def med bunker spam is going to be the standard for wehr now.”
  • “spam bitches! watch my 20 medics recover for me my ARMY of the DEAD muahaha.”

The retail game will get 2.400 very soon, presumably timed to coincide with the April 8 release of COH: Tales of Valor. I hope you all have preordered; I know I have. It smells like a pretty weak expansion, but the new multiplayer game modes should offer some less stressful cooperative play (2v2s and up can get really stressful given how competitive and nasty people get about ranked games).

Patch 2.400 has a huge list of changes, far too long for me to comment on each one. Instead I’ve taken the complete list and pared it down to the ones I think are most significant (more after the break). You can read the full changelog and less (or more) intelligent commentary by going to GR.org.

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