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TERA apologizes for the last producer’s letter, content gulfs

Yesterday’s letter to the TERA community went over like something of a lead balloon. Sure, the game had its best year ever, but players are going to be waiting for an extended time for any further update. Senior Producer Matthew Denomme took to the forums yesterday to mollify players with an apology and an explanation for the lengthy wait between major updates.

In short, the process of communication between En Masse Entertainment and Bluehole Studios means that the American localization team gets a variety of options about what to release next as content, but all of the release candidates would have major impacts on endgame items. Bluehole, in the middle of reorganization to improve its communication and deployment of updates for the American players, was unable to provide anything to serve as an interim build. The community as a whole seems to be responding positively to the humility and frankness of the letter; one could use this entire incident as a case study in improving community relations after mistakes are made, really.

Source: Official Forums; thanks to Vunak for the tip!

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SWTOR is plotting new companions and solo arena fights

There’s a lot of stuff coming to Star Wars: The Old Republic in 2016. Not all of it was ready to be discussed during yesterday’s livestream; the archived version is just below, and within the first few minutes viewers are told that the team isn’t ready to talk about new group content being added to the game for players who have seen all of the old content and want something totally new. But players who want new crafting, new storytelling, new companions, and new challenges? Oh, you’re getting exactly what you like.

Chapter X of Knights of the Fallen Empire will bring with it new companions to recruit (including Blizz recruitment) along with an increase to the crafting skill cap up to 550. That means new materials, crafting mission revamps, and new crafting recipes with new appearances. A lengthy forum post detailing the changes is due before the end of the month. The team is also planning on unveiling the new Eternal Championships, a set of challenging solo arena fights, with the launch of Chapter XI. There’s also a new warzone coming on Odessen with a release date sometime in the next six months. You can check out all of the details in the archived stream just below.

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ESPN officially launches an e-sports division, picks up e-sports journalists

When Activision-Blizzard acquired Major League Gaming earlier this month, CEO Bobby Kotick revealed his plans to create a kind of “ESPN of e-sports.” It turns out that ESPN has had its own eye on the world of competitive gaming all along, having previously tested the waters with several featured articles, web-streams, and even some live TV coverage. Viewing figures were obviously promising, as today ESPN ramped up its competitive gaming coverage with the launch of a brand new e-sports sub-site.

The new site features general articles on e-sports in addition to dedicated sections for League of Legends, Dota 2, and Hearthstone. The writers involved in the site include ESPN’s own Mina Kimes, who made waves online back in June with an in-depth feature on League of Legends pro Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. The site has also picked up notable e-sports journalist Rod Breslau and his colleague Tyler Erzberger from theScore e-sports publication, and articles from Leaguepedia’s Adel Chouadria and Chinese LoL scene expert Emily Rand have also surfaced.

With top e-sports tournaments routinely filling out stadiums, giving millions of dollars in prize money away, and attracting higher viewership than some offline sports, there’s no doubt that competitive gaming is on a sharp upward trend right now. It’s hoped that ESPN’s official adoption of dedicated e-sports coverage will lead to wider acceptance of competitive gaming as sport and more professional reporting standards.

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Star Trek Online holds a recovery event for the rest of January

The galaxy of Star Trek Online has just finished dealing with a destructive war against a race of almost incalculable age and power. There’s a lot of rebuilding to be done at this point. So the game is holding a rebuilding event for the remainder of January, starting right now and running until January 28th. But that rebuilding effort isn’t just a matter of bonus rewards for players; it’s entirely based on how much effort players contribute.

For the first week, players will be tasked with completing fleet projects and earning Fleet Credits. Based on how successful that effort is, players will subsequently unlock a bonus mark event for everyone the following week which could be a 25% bonus, a 50% bonus, or even a 75% bonus. So contribute this week and get something better next week. That seems like the sort of rebuilding process everyone can get behind.

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ECO’s third alpha balances skill points and ecosystems

The second major update to ECO‘s alpha testing has arrived, and it brings along the game’s skill point system. It’s an early version of the system and far more limited than it will be in time, but for now it’s straightforward enough – players earn skill points over time, then spend those points on various skills. There will be full skill trees in the future, but for now it’s just individual skills.

Speaking of trees, the game’s other major update for this alpha batch is a balancing of the ecosystem, ensuring that animals are no longer completely dead before the end of the second day. (Even mostly dead would be an improvement.) There are also crafted signs that can be used to leave messages and the option to invert your mouse’s Y-axis for freely looking about. There’s quite a way to go for the game yet, but the updates and additions should make it that much more interesting to wander through.

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FFXIV’s Yoshida remarks on the death of voice actress Sian Blake

Final Fantasy XIV Producer and Director Naoki Yoshida officially commented on the murder of actress Sian Blake, who voiced Yugiri Mistwalker in the game.

“Yesterday, I received unfortunate news from the agency of British voice talent Sian Blake confirming the passing of Sian and her two children,” Yoshida said. “Sian was a gifted actress, her masterful portrayal of Yugiri leaving a lasting impression amongst our fans. I had hoped she would be with us for many more performances to come. I am deeply saddened by this tragedy and offer to Sian and her children my sincerest prayers.”

The English localization team extended its condolences as well. Players have held vigils for Blake in the game over the past week, while the murder suspect, her boyfriend, awaits extradition from Ghana back to England.

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The Crew’s first big post-Wild Run patch arrives this month

Two months into its Wild Run expansion, racing MMO The Crew is plotting another big patch.

Ubisoft says that January 25th will introduce a new Speed Trap challenge, in which players will zip across the map passing radar points in the hopes of achieving the highest score. Expect a new photo mode for snapping in-game screenies and a new “Summit” monthly reward bonus for a chance at snagging an exclusive car. “Chances of winning this vehicle depend on your performances during the last week of the month,” explains the studio.

The patch is also due to improve Monster Truck gameplay, Drift mission scoring, and handling for a number of vehicles.

Source: Ubisoft

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League of Legends releases free EDM album

Believe it or not, League of Legends is a source for really incredible music (as we’ve noted this week), and just last year Riot Games released the first volume of its soundtrack to players for free. So what’s on tap for 2016? How about an entire album of EDM tracks for its 2016 ranked season that can be downloaded right now for free.

The “Riot Records” dev team said that it wasn’t too difficult to settle on this genre considering the nature of the game: “Electronic music felt like the natural choice, both because of its popularity in the League community and because of the number of EDM artists with close ties to games and gaming culture.”

Riot is pulling in a number of artists to work on the project while giving them a lot of latitude as to what falls under the EDM umbrella. The team hopes that the album will give more energy to the ranked season and be something players would listen to outside of the game.

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The undead rise in Albion Online’s January update

It must be exhausting being dead in a fantasy world. No sooner do you kick the bucket then you are recruited to fight as part of the unholy zombie army of the damned. Rest in peace? More like rest in pieces if you’re lucky.

The undead are the central focus of Albion Online’s big January update, which will be called Brutus. The upcoming patch will bring two new types of death-themed dungeons, full of ghouls, skeletons, and scary big bosses.

Brutus also has plans to make quality of life adjustments to the game, such as improving the PC interface, spell targeting indicators, and a “repair all” button. Try to contain your unbridled glee.

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ARK: Survival Evolved announces mod contest, shows off the poop-eating dung beetle

Surviving is never the only challenge in ARK: Survival Evolved; the devs keep things interesting with various competitions and contests. And the newest contest — with a prize pool of $60,000 — is directed at modders. For two months, from January 14th through March 15th, interested international participants can submit their workshop items in one of the three contest categories: mods, maps, and total conversions. Studio Wildcard will then select between five and 10 in each category, and then the public will vote between March 18th and April 1st. Full details and instructions for submitting are found in the official contest rules.

Whether or not you are looking forward to participating in the contest, you can look forward to two more dinos on their way to the ARK. Devs spotlighted the upcoming dung beetle and the dimetrodon; the former turns poop into fuel and fertilizer, while the latter shelters players from both the heat and cold. Get a look at both creatures in the video below.

Oh, and craftable beer kegs are also coming to the game in the v232 update, so even if you survive the rampaging dinos during the day, you can come home and get wasted at night.

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Istaria gets better hardware, will be upgrading to Unreal

Dragons are known to be secretive about their plans, but one has escaped from the realm of Istaria: The MMO will be getting a graphics engine update this year.

“An exciting goal, that many will be interested in, is the upgrade of the graphics engine to use Unreal,” the team posted last month. “That’s an epic project, but a number of important pieces are in place to make that happen.”

Istaria is also kicking off 2016 with a “facility refresh” of brand-new hardware for better game performance and easier development. “There’s nothing like starting 2016 with new 12 core processors, lots of RAM, and some shiny new switches,” the team gushed.

Source: Facility upgrade, developer’s desk. Sincere thanks to loyal tipster Johnny!

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Heavy Gear Assault’s development may be in trouble

Remember Heavy Gear Assault? Maybe not, but it was announced last year as a satisfyingly stomp-happy arena-based PvP game. It’s in early access now, and the last word from the studio was that another round of investment had successfully gone through in November. However, according to anonymous sources the entire development team hasn’t been paid since July, and more or less the entirety of the team has moved on due to the lengthy period of management silence and non-payment. Two sources have stated that the treatment of both players and employees is untenable:

There needs to be accountability. The workers at Stompybot/Mektek are in the dark and haven’t been paid in over 6 months. Many have had to uproot their lives drastically and in a panic because payment was never received. We were told several times that the money was coming and to hold on, only to get no future updates and no money. We have lost hope for the company and our corporate team but we never, ever wished the players to be punished for this sad situation and the lack of accountability from the company.

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Eternal Crusade preps for Steam early access launch

Eternal Crusade is preparing for Steam early access, says Behaviour Interactive Senior Producer Nathan Richardsson.

“We are now preparing to fully move over to the Early Access program on Steam, where you can easily get into our Closed Alpha with all the payment options they offer and the ease of use of the Steam platform. We’ll be communicating more about our Early Access launch in the coming weeks and our servers will of course remain open.”

Richardsson says sales of packages under the current Founders program will come to an end on January 25th when retail prices take effect. “We will strive to offer similar early adopter and influencer programs for our other platforms (Mac, Consoles etc) as we want other platforms to have that opportunity as well,” he explains.

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