Last week I had the pleasure of travelling to Cairns in Queensland Australia to witness the unveiling of the AC1 Sentinel. It’s one of only 7 remaining AC1 Sentinels that were made in Australia in the world. You can read about my time at the event in my blog post right here.
While there I was given the opportunity to chat with Nicholas Moran, the director of Militaria relations and resident Military historian for World Of Tanks in America. Moran is also currently in the Nevada Army National Guard as a cavalry officer with the rank of Major.
The following is a transcript of my interview with Nicholas on the day.
Bryan: Hi Nicholas, it’s a pleasure to be with you today! Could you maybe tell me a bit about yourself and what you do for Wargaming?
Nicholas: I’m the director of Militaria relations for Wargaming America, which basically means I know more about tanks than any normal person should. I interface with museums, reenactors, wargamers. I do research, I go to the archives and do whatever digging I can for stats to put into the game. I write history articles and I do YouTube videos which are basically tours of tanks and a couple of other things as well.
Bryan: I also saw that you have a blog called “The Chieftains Hatch” what is that all about for those who may not know?
Nicholas: That’s all about history, it’s nothing to do with the game, it is pure tank history and it’s for people who want to learn more about the tanks and for people who want to learn more about the tanks that they are playing with and that’s what The Chieftains Hatch does and there is also a video series is called “Inside The Chieftains Hatch”.
Bryan: Do you think Wargaming has been helpful to push the actual history of the tanks?
Nicholas: Absolutely, there is no two ways about it. I say this not as wearing my Wargaming hat but as historian and tank enthusiast. I’ve been giving tours of tank museums where I started back in 2001, back then there was a lot of ignorance about tanks. There was what people saw in the movies and a few people going on Wikipedia, but that was it. After World Of Tanks came out and with the million or so players we have, a lot of people started to know the basics about tanks and started identifying tanks, or that America had a heavy tank program.
What we think is important about this isn’t so much that we are the ones doing the teaching, but we are developing the germ of interest that a player can then go on his own and do the research that he wants to do, now we will provide him what we can, hence my blog or videos or whatever. But as long as it starts the interest and it gets them to come to museums like this one, then we think we’ve done good.
Bryan: With the Australian tank, when you are putting that in the game, how do you know how it would work compared to other tanks in the game?
Nicholas: Well, to a point we do and a point we don’t. We can make a certain estimate compared to real life. In real life this tank was obsolete the day it came off the production line, which was unfortunate, not very much fun, but realistic. The trick for us is trying to balance the tank so it as least somewhat fun. What happens in the game is that it’s a tier 4 tank and if meets other tier 4 tanks it’s very competent. If it goes up against a higher tier tank like a tier 6, it’s going to be outclassed and you’re going to have to be very careful about how you use it. Which is pretty much how it would happen. If this thing was sent to North Africa like it was originally intended to do it would be going up against Mark IV specials and tigers and it would be completely outclassed, kind of like the Italians at that point, going up against Shermans, they can still do it, but have to be very careful about how they do it.
Bryan: Does this tank have a specialisation, is it speed or armour etc?
Nicholas: In game terms, no it doesn’t really. I’ve maybe only played maybe 20 or 30 games in it, it seems to be a general purpose tank, it’s very flexible, it’s fast enough that it can get from A to B and it can turn and traverse, it’s fast enough that it can react to certain surprises, but it doesn’t have a special niche that it does. It’s not a long range sniper, it’s not a great all in close brawler, it is a jack of all trades, master of none. I think it rewards aggressive play though.
Bryan: Do you think the real life tank was an all rounder type of tank?
Nicholas: Not by the standards of the era in which it was built. The big problem it has is with the 2 pounder gun, which has no anti infantry capability worth to note. It doesn’t have a high explosive round, in World Of Tanks we don’t care because there is no infantry, there is no anti tank gun. There is only armour piercing and that’s the only thing this gun can do. So it would have been limited as a cruiser tank much like the real British tanks were which did see service and they had to wait until the Americans came along with 75 before they actually had a proper tank gun and that’s why Sentinel never entered service because the Americans started producing M3’s with 75 guns which have better anti-armour, they were just so much better than the others and there was no point keeping the Sentinel tank in production.
Bryan: With the AC1 Sentinel in real life what was it that made it so obsolete when it came out?
Nicholas: Well the main problem was the gun, the 2 pounder. So can you not just stick a bigger gun into it? They certainly tried, the AC4 which is just a few tanks back there, looks similar but with a much much bigger gun. But the problem with that is that it’s a huge gun and it’s going to make the inside of the tank almost impossible to work with. It would hit harder when it hit, but the problem was that you had a crew going though hell trying to make it happen.
Bryan: So mainly it was that Australia could not build the tanks quick enough to keep up with the technology?
Nicholas: Since Australia had not built a tank before they did not know how to build a tank. So they spent a lot of time just learning how to build a tank and that delayed them a fair bit. The other problems were for example logistics, so not only do you have to build a tank you have to get it to where it’s going and then you have to supply it. So by 1943 the Australians are now fighting in the Pacific Islands and they’ve come back from North America and they’re fighting against the Japanese with the Americans. If this thing saw service with the Japanese they would have to build spare parts in Sydney, ship them over and then get them to the Australian units. But if the Australians are using American equipment like they actually did, all they would have to do is just walk across the island and say “Hey Yanks! Can we take a transmission case for your M3 medium?” The Americans have thousands of these things, they would say “Yeah sure sign the paperwork, we’ll figure out the payment later”. No logistical problems.
Bryan: In the time period when they were fighting the Japanese or the other countries, did they have the knowledge of what the other countries tanks can do before they went?
Nicholas: They didn’t care. You were going to design the best tank you could regardless of what the opposition had. If your tank was stupidly better, then so much the better. It would have turned out in actuality, had this tank gone up against Japanese tanks it would have done well because Japaneses tanks to put it diplomatically, were crap, at least in terms of protection and nothing else. But you still had the problem that tank verses tank was actually still a very very small part of warfare, what is important is what it does against everything else on the battlefield including infantry and again, a 2 pounder gun has very limited capability against infantry compared to other things, the 37 and 75. Still better than nothing, but is it really worth the hassle bringing this compared to what the opportunity cost is for everything else that goes along with it? Reasonably enough the Australian war department said it’s not worth it and they shut the project down. I mean it’s a bit of shame in terms of national pride, but national pride doesn’t win a war.
Bryan: Did this initiative lead to Australia producing more tanks after that? Is Australia still producing tanks at the moment?
Nicholas: No. It was a one off, after that Australia never produced another tank. You could make the argument that the technological developments that Australia had to make in order to build this tank, they would have had a fall on effect in civilian industry after the war, so to that extent there was a development.
Bryan: So in the time period what was the rush to develop this tank then?
Nicholas: Well because nobody else could give them any.
Bryan: Oh so no one would sell one?
Nicholas: The British were a tad occupied building new tanks of their own because they just lost a whole lot in France and they also had that fight going on in North Africa that they had to feed and the Americans hadn’t gotten off the ground yet because of course we were a little bit late to the fight and by the time we started building M3’s which were the first real proper tank we could export, this was actually just about to come off the production line. So the theory was that if Australia wanted a tank and they needed a tank to support the industry if nothing else, they would have to build one themselves, it was a hedge and it was just in case no one else could come up with a tank before then and it turned out the hedge wasn’t necessary.
Bryan: That makes a lot of sense actually.
Bryan: So what was it that made you interested in this area of tank history?
Nicholas: A misspent youth I think, it’s me growing up as a 12 year old, I started making models, I think it was where it really started.
Bryan: What do you think a younger you would think of this game if you had it back then?
Nicholas: That’s actually a good question. A younger me today, let’s say if I was born in 1995, I would probably be over the moon! A younger me back in 1985 if this game came out would not result in the me of today, I don’t know if it would be a better me or a worse me. But it wasn’t as if I had a lack of things to hold my interest, again I made models. I would wager that the amount of people growing up in 1980 that made models is substantially higher than the amount of kids making models today because they play computer games. But when you are making a model you learn a lot more about a tank than you do playing a computer game because you are looking at the actual 3d representation in your hands and as you’re putting it together you’re thinking “what function does it actually do? They built it for something, why is it here?” Building the physical model gives you more of an understanding of a tank than simply playing a game with tanks in it.
Bryan: What is actually your favourite tank in the game?
Nicholas: I’m going to go with the M103, which is controversial, it’s one of those things that people seem to love or hate and more people hate it than love it. But it has meshed with my play style and I’ve got a great win rate with it, I like the flexibility, I like the speed, the agility of it and it can react to things very quickly and it hits hard enough that I am viable everywhere.
Bryan: Thank you for your time today Nicholas and I’m glad you could come and visit us here in Cairns at the museum to chat about World Of Tanks and The AC1 Sentinel.
Nicholas: It’s nice being able to work at this museum again, this is a top quality museum and I’ve seen the vehicles they are bringing in and the Sentinel is going to be in great company.
Bryan: Thanks Nicholas.
Crawl is a film which comes directed by Alexendre Aja who some may know as the director of The Hills Have Eyes (2006). The film stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper.
Crawl is a film about a young woman named Haley (Kaya Scodelario) who attempts to save her father (Barry Pepper) who is trapped in his house during a category 5 hurricane. Tremendous damage has occurred to the home and the surrounding area during the storm, with the streets slowly flooding But that’s not the only danger to be wary of, the flood waters have paved the way for dozens of alligators to come into town and they’re ready to feast on anyone still around. Will poor Haley and her father survive though?
Going into this film. I was actually quite excited. I do enjoy these action films where there’s some creature out there and it’s preying on whatever character the film is about. This film is a little similar to The Meg, but it most reminded me of Anacondas (2004). All of these films and Crawl included wouldn’t be ones I’d say were legendary films, but gosh, I definitely have fun watching them!
Crawl as a story is about survival. There are themes all throughout it related to man vs nature and also the idea of the apex predator is scattered all throughout it. Both characters in the film are constantly challenged and struggle to survive in the a town getting torn apart by the storm.
The main reason most people would go to see Crawl at the cinema would be for the action and that’s the same reason I wanted to go along and see this one. I wanted to see what the alligators could do and I wanted to see some people get eaten up. Did I get that? I certainly did! Did I need much more out of this? Probably not.
As for Crawl being scary. I’m not too sure, I find it all quite fun. But there are people who this would probably frighten a little. Much of the film is cgi and for what it is and for the type of movie this is I think it was just the right quality. They didn’t try to go too big like in The Meg where the cgi seemed to struggle in certain areas. Although the limitations of the cgi are visible in Crawl, it’s not too bad in the end.
The acting in Crawl isn’t too bad. Kaya Scodelario is who you’ll be watching for basically the entire film and she delivers a pleasant performance. Some may recognise this actress from her appearance in The Maze Runner (2014) where she played Teresa. Hopefully there is more to come from her in future films.
The tone of the film, while at times can be a little intense with all the danger out there did actually feel a little light. Alexandre Aja seemed to keep the tone not too serious and embraced the silliness of it all in certain areas to keep it light and fun. But it was also tense and scary when it needed to be.
Overall I had a good time with Crawl at the cinema last week. This isn’t a film that is going to blow anyone away with how good it is, but it’s something to see for a bit of fun over the weekend. You get to watch two characters try to survive a massive hurricane and not get eaten by alligators. Crawl was 1 hour and 27 minutes of fun!
Sea Of Solitude Review
Sea Of Solitude is a game which was developed by Jo-Mei Games and was published by Electronic Arts. It is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC via Origin. It is a single player third person adventure game. The game has the player control a character named Kay who explores an abandoned and flooded city.
This was a game which caught my eye only very recently when I first heard about its release. After watching the trailer, I thought the art style, strong colours and animations looked very interesting. Also as a person who went mad one day and subscribed to EA’s Origin Premiere late last year so that I could play some games I had missed out on over the years, I was pleased to see something new added to the store that wasn’t a typical Electronic Arts style major franchise game. Knowing I could get this one for free was enough to give it a go. But if you’re not part of that program to get it for free, I’d say that the $26.95 asking price for this digital title is certainly worth it.
The game isn’t too long, most hardened gamers will probably be able to finish this one in a single session, which I actually managed to do yesterday morning. I didn’t time myself, but I’d say to expect about 3 or so hours out of it, a bit more if you look around for collectables.
On the surface, Sea Of Solitude is about a young girl named Kay, who is searching through a city, which is for some reason flooded. You start the game all alone on a tiny boat, way out at sea on the water. You make your way to the city, where you find a monster clad in darkness is blocking your path. Through exploration and activating certain things, Kay brings light to an otherwise dark city.
Underneath the main plot though, is a game with strong messages and themes related to loneliness and relationships. Kay as a character is someone who has become lonely, isolated and quite depressed after issues with her family and her boyfriend. The game sends the player on a journey to free Kay and other characters from suffering from the effects of loneliness and related themes. What I didn’t expect this weekend, was to play a game which seemed to have the objective of tackling these mental health issues in this way and I never expected to play something this weekend from the gaming genre with such deep meaning to it.
In many ways, Sea Of Solitude reminded me of my experience with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which was also a game that focused on mental health issues and is still a game I hold in very high regard. Both of these games were experiences that I could not put down once I started playing as I just had to find out what was going to happen with my character. Games tackling these mental health themes and the issues involved are quite rare in this medium, so when an experience like this does come along, it’s very unique and interesting. The difference between Sea Of Solitude and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is that Sea of Solitude is a little lighter in tone and not the intense gruelling experience that Senua’s was. This makes a player’s time with Sea Of Solitude one that is peaceful to experience.
The art style in Sea Of Solitude is something I enjoyed looking at. The animations are very rounded, colours stand out on the screen and the use of blacks in contrast with visibly bright blues, whites and orange was what I loved the most. The music and also the voice acting, was soft and did fit in well with the tone of the game’s themes and art style. All together, visuals and audios seemed to be just right.
The gameplay in Sea Of Solitude is something I’d say is probably a little simple. It’s essentially a platforming game where you will jump, swim, drive a boat and shoot flares onto enemies. There aren’t any button combinations to learn or any level up systems. The game is accessible to people of most ages and even to people new to gaming could easily pick this one up and get through it.
Overall coming out of playing Sea Of Solitude, I was filled with positivity and happiness. The story is quite heavy when playing through it, but very warm in the end. The art style and animations are nice to see and the sound and voice acting was just right. I do like to see that the games industry can use the medium to tackle such heavy topics and release games like this which show how well this medium can tell a story and provide its audience with something of great meaning. I’m happy to recommend Sea Of Solitude for your gaming collection.
Stuber is a film which comes directed by Michael Dowse and stars Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani and Betty Gilpin. The film is an action comedy adventure about an Uber driver and a policeman who go on a wild ride together.
Going in to see Stuber I didn’t really know where to set my expectations. Knowing only that the film was a comedy, meant I went in for the lols and didn’t expect all that much from the story. But coming out of the film, I’m sorry to say, but it’s not really that great.
The film starts off okay and the opening scene features both Vic (Dave Bautista) and Sara (Karen Gillan) engaged in a dangerous shootout with some bad guys. Both are seriously injured and Vic loses his eyesight, which means he gets some urgent surgery. His eyes need time go recover, but as soon he’s able to walk he calls for an Uber and continues on with his police business, which is catching the bad guys who got away in the opening scene. This is where Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) comes in and the journey between this awkward duo begins.
I wish I could say that it was all good once the Uber ride began but it wasn’t. The film is only really mildly funny. Dave Bautista who I do really like in action films really isn’t great at comedy. Kumail Nanjiani basically was just screaming and yelling the whole time and talking about his Uber rating and reviews. I admit I did find some of the bad reviews he got from his previous customers in the film funny when they were shown, but that’s about it. Some of the jokes were also drawn out way too long. Dave Bautista’s character being blind was kind of funny in the first minute when you saw him trying to walk around without being able to see. But it’s only funny once and they did this joke over and over again almost all the way until the end!
In addition to this, for quite a bit of the film, I wondered if this was some sort of product placement or advertisement for Uber. There were so many mentions of Uber, Uber reviews and the difference between Uber products and services. What are we paying to watch here? Who cares about Uber!?
In the end I would suggest avoiding Stuber at the cinema this week and choosing literally any other film currently showing. After leaving this I instantly thought that Stuber needs to be on my list of worst movies of 2019 which I created just after seeing this and that says a lot because I was not compelled to make one after seeing X:Men Dark Phoenix.
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