Time sinks come in many forms: binge watching TV, the book you can’t put down, one more pint at the pub. For gamers, time disappears when engrossed in getting points and rewards for doing well in battle. Once in a long while, players can engage in such egocentric endeavours while helping out in an important charitable cause. Such was the case with World of Warships in the weekend of October 13th-October 15th, 2017. Altruism, self-gratification and long hours meshed to become an all-absorbing event for me.
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Beginning October 2nd, World of Warships began allowing access to Team Rubicon. By buying two bundles of things like signals, commander experience and credits, players were actually donating that money to the victims of the four hurricanes that hit the Caribbean and the southern part of the US coast. When it started, only Hurricane Harvey had hit but the bad times kept on coming with Irma, Jose and Maria. How could I not contribute? Joining Team Rubicon allowed access to the mission “The Lifesaver” where players could get a Rubicon flag if they accumulated 10,000 base experience points in October.
Concurrently, World of Warships celebrated the US Navy’s birthday (berth-day they can get cute) from October 13th to October 15th. The navy missions came in two parts. The first was to win a battle with a US ship of Tier III or higher in a Coop or Random battle no problem. The second mission, US II, was much harder, requiring inflicting a million damage points with US ships of Tier IV or higher over two and a half days. I considered this impossible but attempting this would push me toward achieving the “Lifesaver” mission as well as picking up my daily three containers of rewards (I usually choose signals) so I set my jaw in the best Bull Halsey fashion and went in locked and loaded.
The Longest Weekend
Two decisions must be made before starting such a long haul: which type of battles to play and which kind of ships to use. Coop battles are a quicker way to rack up points as some of the enemies are bots. Bots can be tough but not as tough as the crafty human opponents in random battles so coop battles it was. Choosing a ship type requires consideration of one’s goals. Carriers don’t gather points all that quickly and I needed a million in two days. Skilled destroyer captains can get many points with torpedoes but I’m no skilled destroyer captain and US destroyers are not the best in the bag until the very high tiers. Therefore, I had to opt to join the “black shoe” navy and use cruisers and battleships.
Even here, choices had to be weighed. Cruisers are fast, nimble, have a high rate of fire and good turret traverse speed but have light armor, fairly small caliber guns and no damage repair functions, only damage control. Battleships are slow, clumsy with irritatingly slow reload times but their batteries pack a major punch while their heavy armor and repair abilities keep them in a battle longer than stricken cruisers. I used several of both types as I may want to bail out of a battle where I sink early and don’t want to hang around to the end. I have two good mid-tier cruisers, USS Cleveland and USS Indianapolis along with three handy mid-level battleships, USS New York, USS Texas and USS New Mexico. I could also use the Premium ship USS Arizona but I’ve never had luck with that ill-fated vessel.
The corsair in me made me start with cruisers. I set my starting speed at three-quarters, giving me around 18 knots and the ability to turn quickly and speed up or slow down to confuse the enemy. Unless I was heading straight for a rock, I let my allies decide on their course before deciding whether to join them or take on an area alone. I also launched my spotter aircraft as soon as battle started to get a chance at a long range hit. Staying with my friends proved safer but I had to share the damage points. I also had to avoid collisions and friendly fire. The spotter plane allowed ne a few early hits and the Indianapolis actually sank a destroyer at range early one time. However, staying with the pack reduced my score so I started capturing areas with only a destroyer or a cruiser in company. Yes, charging about at full speed, swerving to avoid presenting a good target was great fun and using Indianapolis’ alert AA gunners function shooed off carrier planes. I was able to pummel several ships before some sneaky destroyer torpedoed me or an enemy battleship got my range. Switching between Indianapolis and Cleveland, I sank my share of ships in the first five hours, not to mention capturing and defending areas, scoring hits by first leading the target to make it turn and then aiming aft to inflict incapacitating citadel hits. I had already got a reward for finishing the US I mission.
I felt proud until I noticed the progress bars on the “Lifesaver” and US II missions. I had hardly progressed at all. I already had a third of “Lifesaver” accomplished due to earlier play but US II barely registered. Playing more cruiser battles didn’t change matters much in US II. I then understood that cruiser guns weren’t providing the amount of damage points I needed. Going to bed at 1 AM on Saturday morning, I was in a quandary.
Saturday’s dawn brought the answer to me: I needed battleships to gain points. All my battleships were laid down long before World War II so, even with updates, they could barely make 20 knots. Nonetheless, their armor and fire power could earn more points than cruisers. I would start at one-half power, launch spotter and see how things shaped up. I preferred to engage at long range, tilting my ship at a thirty degree angle to the enemy’s line of fire so as to bring all of my guns to bear and to create “armor bounce”. Of course, such situations didn’t occur all the time. Some occasions had me in narrow waters taking a foe on head long like two bulls spouting black and orange ahead of themselves. Each would sheer away, letting secondary batteries hammer away while showing blackened superstructure and internal flames. My aft batteries dispatched several of those ships. On another occasion, the Texas fell victim to target fixation and ran aground. Ordinarily, my vessel would be doomed as a sitting duck but, situated as it was in the middle of a narrow strait, it was a stable gun platform. I was able to damage or sink ships as they passed by on either side without accounting for my own speed.
As fun as battleships were, I became tired of their slow speed and reload time, having missed some great shots due to empty tubes. Late Saturday afternoon, I noticed that I was one battle away from finishing the “Lifesaver” mission. I saw a chance for irony and sent out the Indianapolis. That ship now proudly flies the Rubicon flag, reminding us not only of the hurricanes’ victims but also the hundreds of her sailors who died because of a stupid protocol.
After that, I saw that I was two-thirds through the US II mission. With my battleships -particularly New Mexico, I fought battle after battle until midnight Saturday. I renewed the slog Sunday and, around 3 PM, I accomplished what I had thought impossible, finishing the US II mission.
I usually don’t devote so many hours to one game. After all, I had just written a piece decrying such odd behaviour. However, seeing the humanitarian purpose of Team Rubicon and being a member of the United States Naval Institute created an irresistible urge to help people and respect a force I’m partial to. I especially am proud of the humanitarian part of the project. For decades, I’ve promoted the educational side of wargaming; now I see yet another possibility to raise our hobby above the accusations of nerdish warmongering. Humble Bundle gives part of its sales to charity and the Ablegamers Foundation introduces people with disabilities to the joys and benefits of gaming. World of Warships has shown the same humanity. The entire gaming industry should take note and aid the world around them.