Path of Exile
fans, today is the big day: Grinding Gear Games
is officially unveiling your next expansion, dubbed The Fall of Oriath
It turns out that the place your Exile called home before being banished is not only the main setting of this act but is going through some rough times. Even lowbies like yours truly who vaguely recall their origin story can get behind this act. We're going home, dealing with civil unrest, and welcoming back some lost deities with sharp pointy objects or finger-wiggling destruction. And that's literally just the beginning.
Read on for our preview of the expansion from last week's press event, plus brand-new screenshots and the new trailer!
I am no stranger to covering survival sandboxes for Massively OP. I wrestled with dinosaurs before ARK: Survival Evolved was a thing. I got kidnapped and tried to drown myself in a puddle, spent days building a glorified shack before hackers or server admins could destroy them, and got to better understanding of what it's like to be an Asian gamer thanks to Valve's social experiment. There have been some good memories for sure, but the cancelled games, broken promises, and fact that most of the genre is in an infinite non-launch state are just some of the reasons I've been losing faith in online, multiplayer survival games. I love the idea of PvP allowing for meaningful social gameplay, but in reality, I mostly experience only ganking. But without PvP, I generally get so bored of PvE that I run into the arms of a (J)RPG so I can get drama and permadeath in a finished product, often without kids screaming at me to stop moving and just die.
But here I am again: roped into another shot at the genre. I'm looking at pay-to-play Conan Exiles like a launch title, "early access" be damned!
According to Chesapeake, Virginia, news, a 60-year-old resident was shot and killed by a security guard while playing Pokemon Go last week.
The victim, Jiansheng Chen, who reportedly played the game to bond with his grandchildren, spoke limited English, which may have contributed to what police investigators have characterized as a confrontation. His family owned a home in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. The family attorney says he was likely training at a gym in his Virginian neighborhood.
The community association for the neighborhood says security guard patrols are contracted to be "unarmed," not armed. Police confirmed the case is currently under investigation.
As a reminder, please stay safe when playing the game. Real world death is a thing with this game, and not just in America. Muggings happen, even to streamers. It's especially difficult for some minorities to play. Stay safe, don't enter dangerous areas, and despite design issues, try not to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Your life is more important than the game.
As Asheron's Call 1 & 2 are going offline shortly, I thought I might give it a final send-off with a list of things I learned from the series. Maybe it's cheesy, but I really did grow up in Dereth. Some kids get their life lessons from sports, girl/boy scouts, farm life, church life, alien abduction camp life, and so on, but I learned a lot with the help of the AC series and the people I played with. I'll focus on 10 life lessons learned from the Asheron's Call series, but trust me, it's more than that.
On the left in the screenshot above is a windmill in the town of Cragstone in Asheron's Call. On the right is, well, the same windmill, but in the ruins of Cragstone hundreds of years later in Asheron's Call 2's. The latter game's post apocalyptic setting is quite fitting, all things considered. The sequel was a mechanical departure from the original in many ways, but built on the same lore fans still crave. Not all Asheron's Call fans would come along for the ride, but the sequel did find fans who never touched the original. AC2 also is about to go offline twice, so, well, there's that. But there is a reason a sequel was made, and I'd wager the reason it went offline has more to do with the game's broken past than its innovations.
Join me today as I take a look back through the history and highlights of Asheron's Call 2. (The original game was the subject of a similar piece earlier this week, so don't miss that either.)
Imagine a game where magic was actually rare, complicated, and often underwhelming in terms of time vs. efficiency -- a game where players actually needed to study a language to figure out how to casts spells and magic words were often kept secret.
Imagine a game with little to no fast travel, a game where you need to raise your jump skill in order to get into certain locations, where death meant losing your gear. Imagine a game where you might actually have to ask another player for help, not only retrieving your corpse full of lost items from a physical space, but to kill the monster that'd repeated gained levels as you futilely tried to do it yourself.
Imagine a game where quests start as rumors from barkeeps, scraps of paper found on corpses in the wild, or just something you stumbled on in a random dungeon; a game where lore knowledge was needed just to find a newly released quest; a game where the developers and game masters took control of lore characters and during monthly updates would interact with players to help guide them through the game world's narrative.
Now realize that this game existed, exists. That game is Asheron's Call, not just at launch but for months and even years afterward.
Just in time for your New Year's resolution, we reported on how Pokemon Go was featured in a peer-reviewed study on getting people to move more. But truthfully, Pokemon and Nintendo have built exercise games several times in the past, and Niantic never advertises PoGO as an exercise game. It's an ARG. In fact, the official site never mentions exercise, just exploring. That being said, we don't really think of adventurers or explorers as being slugabeds. So what is PoGO doing with exploration that gets people to exercise, and is it really that effective?
Lockboxes have become a hot topic over the last couple of years. Last month, both our writers and readers crowned SWTOR worst business model of the year in part over its lockbox shenanigans. And several business model and lockbox-related articles made it into our list of most-commented-on articles of the year, including the Daily Grind on lockboxes and gambling.
So where do we draw the line between gambling and hobby gaming? Why are lockboxes acceptable? Are they really something MMO developers should continue to use in order to monetize their games?
I've done some research and even gotten some expert legal opinions about this based on American law (and some international), and I can't say I'm entirely happy about my results.
Say what you will about following tradition, but when I first heard more Pokemon would be added to Pokemon GO, the first thing I thought was, "Please, please don't add new 'mon based on generations!" Maybe you have fond memories of evolving the Magmar my generation loved into the abominations it became, or maybe you thought the elemental monkeys weren't lame. That's fine. We were all dumb kids who loved weird things. I won't judge you (too harshly, anyway).
But honestly, from a development perspective, and keeping in mind the Pokemon Company's theme of adding something new that targets first generation fans, I feel like Niantic missed some big opportunities by focusing on the old Generation 2 Pokemon when the new Pokemon Sun and Moon games are so ripe for potential expansion content.
You'd think recent news about Asheron's Call 1 and AC2 would be easy to swallow. After all, we'd already been warned that Turbine was becoming a mobile company. We lived through the end of AC1 updates and a desire to give players the chance to host their own servers. Heck, AC2 had died and resurrected. We've been living on borrowed time, but anything seemed possible. Despite the fact that Turbine's games were squeaking by (when not getting cancelled), I thought that fan power would lead the company to see what it'd done right (innovating MMOs) and where it had failed (straying from monthly updates and GM lead content).
Clearly I was wrong.
A new research study conducted by University of Minnesota researchers Justin Munafo, Meg Diedrick, and Thomas A. Stoffregen says that head-mounted virtual reality is unintentionally sexist toward female users. At least, the paper, titled "The virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift induces motion sickness and is sexist in its effects," says "unintentionally"; the title and abstract alone don't quite make that clear. Having procured a copy of the actual paper (unfortunately paywalled), we decided to explore the researchers' assertion and break it down to understand just what's at play here because my gut reaction was to be suspicious, likely the same as you.
See, I've been to a lot of VR demos, and I rarely saw people get sick from demos outside of the rare indie. In fact, I actually just had my sister try VR for about 20 minutes, and like me, she used to get sick from that stupid Kirby's Air-Ride game -- we both suffer from motion sickness. That made me wonder whether the results were more about VR's first-person perspective, as I know more women than men who have their motion sickness triggered by the perspective, in which case, it's not VR but the POV.
But now that I've read the paper, I have eaten my proverbial hat.
The Starbucks leak is at least partially true: Niantic has confirmed that Pokemon Go has teamed up with the coffee company. Starting at 2 p.m. EST today, 7800 participating locations will become PokeStops and/or gyms, so you can get your coffee and screw around on your phone in a totally new way. One Reddit user has noted that the promised promotional drink is super sweet, but we've yet to hear anything about new Pokemon and their relationship with Starbucks. We have, however, heard some more news.
Sprint is also getting in on the Niantic team ups. Like Starbucks, participating Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Radio Shack shops are also PokeStops and gyms. While there was no mention of promotional drinks for these businesses, they are offering charging stations at least.
As some players have already noticed, the new update allows for some small quality of life improvements, from seeing the type of Pokemon you're fighting in gyms to sending multiple Pokemon to the professor for candy.
Starbucks Pokemon trainers (or friends of trainers) have apparently leaked images today that purport to reveal an upcoming promotional event for Niantic's Pokemon Go. While most of the document describes the game, how to make a Pokemon Go inspired frappuccino, how to handle the event, and what the game actually is, a few of the images contain much more revealing text.
While it's easy to get distracted by the drink and game descriptions, the very first line reads, "The world of Pokemon GO is about to expand with new Pokemon and a new Starbucks beverage!" and the note that the promotion begins with the new PoGo update on Thursday, December 8th (emphasis ours). Of course, this might all be subject to change if Niantic or Starbucks feel the leak threatens business, so we'll file this under rumor for now, but the pile of evidence is only growing in the meantime.
We also don't yet know whether the new Pokemon are Generation 1 legendaries (white and purple for Mewtwo?) or are related to the Generation 2 data previously mined. We'll just have to wait a couple of days to find out, and then? Frappuccinos for everyone!