this is intended to give you the basics of progression in war thunder.
XP - you gather XP by playing matches (some of us MWO guys cannot stop calling them drops). this advances your player level, and your player level is an indication of how experienced you are with war thunder in general. nothing more.
research points - you earn research points by playing matches. everything in the game is required to be researched before you can buy it with silver lions. new vehicles, modifications to vehicles, etc. you apply research points by selecting the vehicle and modification to the vehicle you are playing BEFORE the match. you do not get to save them up and figure out what you want to do later. you earn both new vehicle research points and modification research points during a match.
new vehicle research - you have to select the new vehicle you are going to research before you play a match. this is done by opening the research panel and double clicking on the vehicle you want the to-be-earned research points to apply to. you must research AND purchase 6 vehicles in the current tier before you can select a vehicle in the next tier up for your research points to apply to; you must also research the vehicle(s) in the 'line' leading up to the vehicle you wish to research. if you do not select a vehicle for your research points to apply to the game will select one for you, probably not the one you want!
vehicle modification research - the same thing applies to modifications for the vehicle you are going to use in the match. you must select the modification you want your to-be-earned research points to apply to before the match, else the game will select a modification for you. again it will probably not be the one you want.
silver lions - this is the in-game cash you earn by playing matches. everything in the game costs silver lions. new vehicles, modifications to vehicles, vehicle repairs between matches, ammo, etc. after a match the match summary window will appear and tell you how many research points you earned and what they apply to. if you earned more than needed for that modification, it will ask you for the next modification to apply the research points to. the same applies for new vehicles. once that selection is completed it will ask you if you want to buy the modifications and tell you how many silver lions that modification will cost. I suggest you always buy the modifications, they all make your vehicle better. I suggest leaving the vehicle purchase for between matches and using the research panel to do this.
new vehicle purchases - to purchase a new vehicle open the research panel and click on the vehicle you wish to purchase. it must be fully researched. once you order it, you will be asked to crew it. you can cancel this if you do not wish to crew it, otherwise select a crew to put into this vehicle. if you already have a vehicle for this crew, you will have to pay silver lions to retrain the crew to the new vehicle. any previous qualifications will be invalid for the new vehicle, you will have to redo those crew qualifications (see below). if you are buying a vehicle to just complete the 6 to move to a new tier, you do not need to put a crew into it.
ammo upgrades - a special note about ammo upgrades. just because you researched and purchased new ammo does not mean it is automatically used. between matches you need to go into the vehicle modifications and check the ammo type you want to use and maintain stock of. ALSO, in a match, BEFORE you click 'to battle', there are ammo sliders to the left of the map that is displayed that need to be set. you must select the ammo you want to carry in your vehicle. for now I suggest carrying perhaps a few rounds of HE and the rest should be the best armor piercing ammo you have available. if you float over the ammo type it will give you a description of the ammo and the amount of steel it will penetrate at various ranges. this will allow you compare the ammo types you have available and give you the information necessary to select the best round.
crew experience point - these are earned by playing matches. you can apply crew experience in the crew area which is accessed through the vehicle icon at the bottom of the screen between matches. note that the different crew positions are indicated across the top of the crew window, and some of the experience types are specific to the crew member. the more experience levels you want your crew to have the more of the crew experience points it will cost. i.e. for levels 1 through 4 of vitality it will cost one experience point per level, to advance to level 5 it will cost 3 experience points (this is an example, it may or may not be correct for vitality in all instances). you should apply experience points to all of your crew members. crew experience is important in that attaining certain crew levels will allow you to go to special training courses via the qualification tab. your crew level is displayed immediately underneath the crew experience points you have available in the crew window. to attend crew qualification courses for tier 1 vehicles your crew level needs to be at 100; this goes up the higher the tier of the vehicle. these give your crew overall ratings such as basic, expert, ace, etc. and allow them to perform better overall. these courses cost silver lions and not crew experience points.
golden eagles and convertible research points - golden eagles are the in game cash you obtain with your real money. if you are out of silver lions you can use these to buy vehicles and modifications once you have completed the research. you can also use golden eagles to buy things like color schemes and decals for your vehicles. if you are going to play in realistic or simulator mode, camoflauge can make a difference although I THINK I have been fine without. you can also use golden eagles to convert your convertible research points into usable research points instead of spending time and earning things in game. you can use money and bypass the 'grind' (to me it does not really seem to be a grind, things generally go fast enough). the available convertible research points are displayed at the top of your screen next to your golden eagles and silver lions. it takes golden eagles to convert them to usable research points (I am not sure of the conversion rate). you will earn some small amount of golden eagles through game play; you earn some for completing the tutorials.
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