Posted in February 2013

How To Murder Time 2.12

This week we return with another look at what we’ve been doing. We even mention a boardgame this week! We really should play more of those…

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Thoughts on Squad Leading

Planetside 2 continues to entertain, and like most of these MMOs for me these days, seems to shine as a venue for good friends to have quite casual social hijinks of an average evening. Some of us are better than others at the whole shooty shooty thing, but there’s a good general atmosphere on Mumble in the Fire Rounds Rapid outfit of which I seem to have become somewhat in charge of.

We’re there to have fun, of course, but there is an actual game going on too, and I’m slowly learning what is involved in leading a squad in PS2. One of the great and unique selling points of PS2 over, say Borderlands, Halo or Battlefield 19-whatever is the sheer scale of the fighting. These are really large maps, with a LOT of participants, dozens at any given base and likely thousands overall. Making some kind of sense of it all is very much part of squad leading.

This can be tricky, but there are various tools available to help, I’m finding.

100 Certs will unlock Command Chat, giving you access to the [Leader] chat channel if you are currently leading a squad. This is somewhat helpful. Often leaders of outfits will take this seriously and give updates of where they’re going, what they’re doing and that can help give the squad leader some idea of the distribution of friendly forces. This also unlocks use of the yellow [Orders] broadcasts, which other friendly troops can see, and sometimes even obey!

More certs (200) can unlock map-placeable reinforcement request icons for attack and defend. This also creates several new spawn locations for all on the death screen to use, which can help direct the flow of battle on an empire-wide basis somewhat, but again, it’s still down to individual troops if they want to respond – it’s not an RTS! I can’t do that yet, but it does look handy.

My own main concern is typically finding a satisfying fight for the troops in my squad. I look for several things when picking out a next objective.



A good fight is one where the numbers are broadly equal. Several times I’ve withdrawn our squad when it looks like we’re about to get a massive mauling from a 40+ organised assault from a big-name enemy outfit. There is a time and a place for a heroic Rorke’s Drift style last stand, and that place is usually in the movies. In the ‘reality’ of PS2, assuming a generally equal level of average individual skill, 40 vs 10 will go about as well as you’d expect. It’s not actual losses that worry me – this is a sci-fi future battle based on nanotech immortality afterall. I worry more about morale. Being on the receiving end of repeated steamrollering to the point where it looks like they are just toying with you can sometimes be necessary (to delay, to hold out if you know reinforcements are nearby, etc) but isn’t a huge amount of fun if that’s all that happens to you for two hours.

The opposite is often true as well. It can be useful and revitalising ‘downtime’ to do 10-man paradrops on empty and undefended bases, certainly, and the bigger picture of continental conquest does require this kind of tidy-up fairly often, (to create territorial buffers, to improve resource gain chains, to gain cert points for the squad’s long-term development, etc), but taken to extremes, this misses the point of the game and can make for a boring two hours for all concerned.

Finding the sweet spot can be tricky and does rely on luck as much as judgement. A base where there are about ten or so defenders makes for a great fight for us, and is generally satisfying for all concerned, win or lose.

The best pointer I’ve found so far for this is the Map Screen side bar details. The sectors flash based on all sorts of obscure criteria, but the line of text above the pie-chart is a more useful guide; ‘No Enemies Detected’, ‘Enemy Squad(s) Detected’, ‘Enemy Platoon(s) Detected’. A squad is 2-12 players and a platoon is 8-48 players, depending on how full or spread out those players are. Not precise, but a useful ballpark. As a typically full single squad, we need to be looking for single enemy squad warnings. Oddly, I have no idea at all how many friendly troops are present – the map gives me more information about the enemies than allies, which seems an odd way to run an army!

The absolute best way of judging this stuff however, is scouts. Having one member of the squad grab a fast vehicle or drop-pod and actually go there to take a look. Whenever the winds of war scatter any of us across the spawn map, I’ll always try to get some on the ground intel where I can. Doesn’t need to be an Infiltrator, although that can help, they just need to be there.



Being a somewhat defensive sort of person psychologically, I’ll generally favour sectors nearer the home warpgate than further away. I personally view the shooting as a means to an end, and that end is the conquering of the island map, in all its multicoloured hexagonal glory. By trying to keep solid buffer zones between the home gate and enemy, we generate supplies for planes and tanks faster, but also keep overall morale up. Anyone glancing at the map and seeing big tendrils of enemy colours bothering the warpgate might start to think we’re losing! On the other hand, seeing healthy solid swathes of colour in ‘our bit’ of a map frees troops up to focus on pushing forward, safe in knowledge that, due to the bizarre game of Blockbusters that territorial claim turns into, their own efforts aren’t for nothing.

The Blockbusters game annoys me a fair bit, it has to be said. You can read about how the Lattice from Planetside One worked here, but all too often in recent weeks, a satisfying and hard-fought major base fight has been rendered useless because one bloke on a Flash stood next to a control point for a minute, quarter of a mile away and cut the base sector off from our own territories. You can still finish the base capture and gain certs from it and the fighting, but a bold enough slice across the hex grid can significantly starve your forces of vehicles, maxes and grenades, if it is allowed to remain for very long.

I personally don’t like that, but its part of the game, giving soloists and small squads something pivotal to achieve. So when it comes to picking a next sector, I’ll generally not pursue cut-off pushes, instead opting for a recall back warpgate and a push toward the offending obstruction. If we’re quick enough, we can restore connection and the advanced push might be able to continue as before.



Moving to a new location and getting set up takes time, and a squad of ten can only move so fast, redeploying, getting vehicles, travelling, securing satellite outposts, and so on. The more people under your command, the longer this kind of thing takes, something not well understood by many of the more vocal Command folks, who expect instant results NAO!

The more entrenched the position, the more relevant this becomes, as seen by everyone’s favourite game of conkers, The Crown on Indar, which is fast becoming its own meme. One does indeed, not simply walk into The Crown. Read more about the unique properties of this outpost here and here, but suffice to say, an assault or defence of the Crown is a serious undertaking which will likely take most of a session’s play. And that’s fine, if that’s what everyone wants to do.

Different sorts of nights out are available in PS2, but being able to judge the mood of a squad is key here. Sometimes, folks will want to really dig into something, like The Crown, and sometimes folks will want to be moving about rapidly, making progress, getting things done. It all comes down to inertia. As a squad leader, it’s important to be able to get a sense of the satisfaction the squad is getting from the task at hand, because it’ll be up to you to do something about frustrations or boredom, usually by issuing new orders for a new target. Mind you, if folks are enjoying a battle, it is not necessarily a bad thing to let a fight you suspect won’t win in the end, continue for fun anyway.



One way to keep things interesting is to try new things often. Tank columns, Galaxy paradrops, Liberator and ESF squadrons. Individual troops will gravitate to the roles they enjoy, further reinforced by cert spending on class-based specialisations, so micromanagement is a bad idea unless your Outfit is one of these ultra-hardcore ‘duty before fun’ types of setup. For the squad leader, basic gameplay will be about putting to best use the roles that your squad put at your disposal, but breaking up the drudgery with the occasional ‘Everyone grab a Scythe!’ for a mad five minutes can be refreshing and hilarious!


I don’t pretend to be an expert in squad leading, and am still learning the job as I go, but already I’m starting to see some basics on which to build.

Edit: Some very useful explanations of what everything in the Squad Leader Certifications section actually does can be found here!


How To Murder Time 2.11

This week we return with another look at how we’ve spent our week, and includes the worlds least useful quick rundown of what’s wrong with a long list of iPhone games. We really should have continued that career in games journalism…

Is this a new record for the number of games we’ve covered?

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Reviewlets: Saron HRB & G40-F Ranger

Two ground vehicle weapons today. These are a funny thing to review well, especially in the multi-crew vehicles, since you, the paying customer, will rarely be using them yourselves. The person who spawns the vehicle is also the person who gets to fit all the modules and weapons on it, including the big ticket unlockable turrets. This basically ends up with you putting down cash in a game for the better enjoyment of other people, which is an odd state of affairs.

Naturally, this will appeal to regular squad-folk more than determined soloists, although perhaps those with an eye on bigger empire-wide picture may see the benefits in acts of cash-shop altruism which give random gunners the tools to perform better. Very hit and miss, literally! I’m lucky enough to have a fairly large squad of regulars for our nights out in there and this opens options for effective coordination in the multi-crew vehicles, which we use a lot; Sunderer, Galaxy, Magrider and Liberator.

With that in mind, I grabbed a few of the vehicle turrets on my recent Station Cash binge:


Saron HRB (Magrider Secondary Weapon) 1000C or 700SC

This beast is a very high powered armour-piercing laser cannon mounted on the top of the hover tank, for use by the seat 2 gunner. As a flat trajectory laser bolt, it functions like a very high-powered artillery-sized sniper gun, capable of astonishing accuracy at very long ranges. Hugely more potent than the default stock twin machine gun, it does have drawbacks. It has a clip of one, meaning frequent reload downtime, and only around 25 shots in storage (without mods), meaning that your driver will need to keep a firm awareness of where the nearest ammo tower or Sunderer is for rearming, and as gunner, you’ll need to keep the driver updates on how many shots you have left – they can’t see your ammo supply. Your driver will also need to know when to keep steady and level too, you only get one shot at a time, so a stable platform is essential – use voice comms to arrange that where possible.

It is gleefully capable of one-hitting infantry at almost any range at which they are visible, but this is probably not the most efficient way of using it, and it packs a huge punch in tank-on-tank duels, taking a stock Lightning in three hits*, although as with any other gun load-out, neglecting the relevant chassis armour modules will still get you killed easily enough. Good at turret clearance, but then so is most stuff! The upper arc limit means it’s not the best at anti-air, but if you do catch distant hovering aircraft napping, it will mess those up quite badly too!

Out of all the options on offer, this gun most replicates the feel of the old Planetside One Magrider – this one feels a little heavier to use, but offers the same long-range bolt of energy death that always impressed me with the original Vanu MBT. Old school, best school!

Useful Addons: As many Zoom Optics as you can afford – it really is that precise. Extra Ammo and Reload Time Reduction are both relevant and useful for this gun too.

8/10: This gun really unlocks the full potential of the Magrider, a tried and tested vehicle-mounted railgun from the dawn of Planetside.

(Non-Vanu Options are tricky here; the other two empires appear to get most of their punch from the Primary Weapon. I guess the nearest equivalents for the Secondary Weapon are the Enforcer ML85 (NC) or the E540 Halberd (Common Pool), similar damage and ammo profiles, but those seem more rocket-launcher based, so lose on precision.)


G40-F Ranger (Sunderer Primary/Secondary Weapon) 1000C or 700SC

Out of all the things you can put on top of a Sunderer, I find this one to be the most useful. The G40-F is an anti-air proximity burst flak cannon, similar in function to the Phalanx Wall Turret, Burster Max arm or Skyguard, offering a significant defence from roving Mosquitoes, Reavers and Scythes, and can drive off Liberators too if you get an early spot on them. Manned by alert occupants in seats 2 and/or 3, it can put out a satisfying large amount of proximity air-burst flak at considerable range, and even take out Air Cavalry that doesn’t immediately hit the afterburners and get away. Given the precious nature of the Sunderer as a mobile spawn point and its wide recognition as a high threat to a base assault or defence, being able to drive off potential rocket spammers from on high is well worth the points.

With two of these on, you sacrifice potency against infantry and tanks – the gun does very little damage against either, and you’ll be forced to improvise by having your own lazy heavy lads leap out and deal with those on foot if you want to survive. The guns remain useful when parked/deployed, keeping enemy air from farming your newly spawned comrades to some extent, and I’ve even had some success with these turrets in a dedicated ‘anti-air Sunderer’ configuration; with enough armour plating, turn speed and smoke launchers, it makes a surprisingly viable alternative to a Skyguard Lightning. Against enemy heavy tanks, I’m not sure anything you can put on the top of the Sunderer will help a lot – dodge and weave!

You can of course mix and match, using one of these and one of the other Sunderer guns, but lose AA power doing so and will have to be content at merely driving planes away, rather than killing them in most cases.

While the main PS 1 ‘Skyguard’ buggy didn’t make it to 2, instead becoming an turret option for the Lightning, using G-40s on the Sunderer actually seems closer to the older vehicle, with a dedicated driver staying on the move while a rear gunner focuses exclusively on the air targets.

Worth noting; if you want two of these on a Sunderer, you will need to buy each separately. I’d have preferred to see one single unlock applied to both, so it loses some admiration there.

Useful Mods: Ammo Capacity and Ammo Magazine Sizes – each gun has its own ammo supply, but your gunners will get through a lot of the stuff rather quickly. Zoom is less important despite its long effective range, as the shells have proximity burst. Extra reload speed is always nice in any gun.

7/10: Very useful for the stated purpose, but they will leave you vulnerable to infantry and tanks. Also, I don’t like having to buy the same thing twice!

(Non-Vanu need not worry; the Sunderer is Common Pool, and so is this gun, so everyone gets access to it.)


In general, the multi-crew vehicles tend to come with all-purpose, not-that-great-at-anything heavy machine guns on the gunner spots by default, but a few certs or SC in the right place can open up some very interesting options for medium and large squad use. The trouble is, you yourself might not get to play with them that often.

I’d like to see post-spawn modification of vehicles, perhaps giving jump-in random gunners the option of automatically replacing existing turrets with ones they’ve unlocked themselves. Nanites can do anything, you see!

As ever, do share your own thoughts and experiences with the cashshop gunnery below!

* Our Lightning Expert was somewhat startled by this impromptu testing session, but did get to then test his Automatic Nanite Repair System, which seems very good itself, so everyone gained something from the experience. For Science!


Reviewlets: Solstice SF & Eidolon

So here we are in an F2P Age, more or less; a state of affairs which generates mixed feelings among many. I always liked the idea in principle, but with provisos. Opportunities for idiocy and avarice certainly do exist more now than under the one-monthly-fits-all age, and it’s very much up to us to evaluate all new cash shop offers carefully, with an eye to what is right for us. I always thought that this would be our new role as MMO bloggers; to highlight and scorn the stupid, but also to assess and praise the good ideas too, in the form of mini-reviews of the new and more granular level of consumerism we now have in front of us. The dedicated LOTRO blog and podcast Casual Stroll To Mordor illustrates what I mean, with regular reviews of specific items and deals, along with recommendations (or otherwise) from folks who know a bit about what they’re talking about.

I’ve found those helpful in the past and would love to see more of this sort of thing across the whole genre; expert players giving detailed scrutiny to specifics, rather than the same old tired ‘All F2P is Bad/Good’ rhetoric.

I’ve found myself to be enjoying PlanetSide 2 a great deal in recent months, which is a game that asks for nothing at all up front, instead relying on Station Cash purchases of said specifics, along with an optional Premium sub package, to pay for it all. I put down some Station Cash mostly because they didn’t require me to, and I felt they deserved it. With it, I got some gun unlocks, which I’ll tell you about here! For context, I am mostly a Vanu Sovereignty Engineer.


Solstice SF (Infantry Carbine; Engineer or Light Assault) 500 Certs or 700SC

The first thing I unlocked, this is a slightly slower firing version of the default Engineer gun, suitable for close to medium range targets. The strength of the gun is the huge number of different gadgets you can attach to it; one-shot grenade, smoke grenade and shotgun blasts, sights, rails, suppressors, etc. These secondary fire modes restock from the standard Engineer ammo packs, hugely increasing potency in defensive situations, giving the beleaguered defending Engineer infinite grenades at no Inf. Resource cost. These extra add-ons do not unlock with the gun, but need further Cert-only unlocks at about 100 each, so some investment is required to get the most out of the basic gun. Once that is done, I can see no real reason why you’d want a Solstice over the Solstice SF.

It reminds me a great deal of the PS1 ‘Punisher’ Medium Assault rifle – not the best thing for a straight firefight, but incredibly versatile, particularly when coupled with the Engineer’s infinite ammunition deployable packs. As a Light Assault weapon it seems less useful, because in that case the one-shot under-slung gubbins really are one shot, and there are probably better options for jetpackers to get the job done; better shooting guns, SMGs, C4, etc. I see the Pulsar C mentioned by VS LA folks as an alternative.

Useful Add-ons: Under-barrel Grenade Launcher, Under-barrel Shotgun, Soft-Point Ammo

8/10: Indispensible for career Engineers, opening up extra tactical options. A decent straight shooter for indoor or near-ish work too. Not the best at anything, but good enough at almost everything and a distinct upgrade and replacement for the starter gun. (At 500 Certs, this is a reasonable medium-term goal for saving up in-game too, for free.)

(If you are not Vanu, the NC ‘Gauss Compact S’ and the TR ‘TRAC-5 S’ offer similar stats and functionality)


Eidolon (Infantry Battle Rifle: Engineer or Heavy Assault) 1000 Certs or 700SC

At the other end of the range, the Eidolon is about the closest you can get to sniping without being an Infiltrator. Extremely precise at very long ranges, the thing handles very much like the default Infiltrator Rifle, only without the ridiculous wobbling. Equipped with a 6x Scope (Not included, but a must and only 30 Certs), the thing holds steady as a rock when aimed, even while standing. No holding shift to take a breath needed! The down side is a much lower per shot damage. This can still work well; two or three headshots can still kill, and at distances few expect an Engineer to be able to do anything about. Failing that, merely harrying the enemy with repeated body hits can cause panic, pressure and even kills. A generous 20 shot clip and surprisingly high refire rate make sniping a viable play style for Engineers using this gun, but do watch out for proper counter-snipering Infiltrators with experience and one-hit-kill real Sniper Rifles – you are unlikely to win a sniper duel with this gun.

Indoors and at close ranges, this thing will get you killed. The precision and semi-automatic nature of the gun means that when surprised in a portacabin, your opponent is far more likely to win a spray-and-pray circle-strafe DPS frenzy, although calm and well-aimed tap-firing can still work here sometimes. Switch to a different loadout if you can, or whip out the pistol and knife. This doesn’t make it bad, per se, just highly specialised. The gun seems useful for Heavy Assault chaps too, offering high accuracy at distance for the initial approach on a base assault, but again, the specialised nature of the gun means a swap to a Shotgun or Light Machine Gun is probably a good idea before heading inside. Heavies tend to have a lot else going on at the time anyway.

This one reminds me a bit of the Heavy Scout Rifle from PS1; missing the sheer power of the proper Bolt Driver, but with several ‘goes’ per clip. Sniping ‘lite’, but good for harassment.

Useful Add-ons: 6x Scope, Compensator

7/10: Useful extra flexibility for an Engineer, with a much simpler learning curve than cloaker rifles, but career snipers should be looking at proper Infiltrator guns. Not terribly useful up close, or if you just don’t like sniping.

(Non-Vanu should look for the NC ‘Warden’ or the TR ‘AMR-66’ for a similar gun.)

(Note: There seems to be a current bug which makes the Eidolon not show up in the ‘Depot’ Cash Shop lists. To find and unlock it, go via the Engineer’s Certifications listing instead – there should be an unlock button there.)


Don’t just take my word for any of this! PS2 lets you test these weapons yourself, before buying, which is a very welcome innovation indeed.

To do this, find the item in the Certs listing, press the ‘Unlock’ button and in the resulting popup preview window, instead of buying it, find the blue ‘Trial’ button near the bottom. This will let you use the item for an hour or so, after which that specific trial is locked for a month, after which you can try it again. I recommend this before any purchase, just to get a feel for how it works before parting with the readies.

I also got a load of vehicle guns too. More on those to come!

Incidentally, I can only try so much stuff out, so if folks with experience in other class or vehicle gear want to chip in their own reviews in comments below or their own blogs, I’m happy to repost and link as necessary!


How To Murder Time 2.10

This week (well, technically last week because Jon was too busy to post it) we have been looking at the following massive list of games and things and stuff:

  • Star Trek Online
  • Proteus
  • Cases for the X-Wing miniature game
  • Planetside 2
  • Final Fantasy XIIIIXIII-2
  • Android phone games

Despite the list being so small we still managed to talk for an hour. It’s like we’ve trained ourselves to do it now without thinking.

How To Murder Time 2.09

This week Tim has been playing Planetside 2, Enslaved: Journey to the West and Tropico 3, while Jon has been far busier and played Farcry 3, Catcha Catcha, Temple Run 2, The Cave, Anno 2070, Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Farming Simulator 2013.

Please release more big games please,  that’s far too many iPhone and job simulation games.