If you’ve been struggling to play Elder Scrolls Online
on Steam this weekend, you’re not alone. Apparently the Steam logins have been crapping out across the board for ESO
players for the last couple of weekends, leading to some gigantic threads on both Steam
(1200+ comments on that angry Steam thread
!) as people couldn’t log into the game for the majority of yesterday.
The repetitive issues on Steam have led players to review-bomb the game on the platform, driving its recent reviews down to “mixed” (overall, it’s “mostly positive,” which is pretty high for an MMORPG these days).
The amusing thing is that it’s the nicest review bombing I’ve ever seen, with most of the negative reviews telling people the game is still worth buying – just to not buy it on Steam until the problems are resolved.
As RPS reported this week, Valve has taken the relatively unusual step of making your Dota 2 and CSGO report cards semi-public – that is, players can see reports made against their accounts, and the rationales given, even if Valve took no action on them. The author was bemused to find that he’d been reported for “intentional feeding” when in fact, he just sucked that match. Hey, it happens.
But I wonder whether the reports are useful to actual toxic players who’ve been actioned to teach them where they went wrong; it’s certainly an idea League of Legends clung to for years. MOP reader TomTurtle recently suggested something similar in terms of forum moderation too. “I’d like to see how viable it’d be to have moderators give an infractor a chance to edit their post to be constructive in an attempt to have them learn why their initial language was against the rules” in the service of “informing players why they were infracted in the first place,” he wrote to us.
Even if we agree that moderators’ and gamemasters’ jobs should include not just protecting the community from toxicity but actually attempting to – as Raph Koster puts it in his new book – “reform bad apples,” I wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble, never mind the expense. Does knowing what they did wrong actually help toxic players become less toxic? Or does it just cause them to double down to save face? Is the industry just wasting time and money trying to reform players who aren’t just poorly socialized or clueless but willfully destructive?
You might not want to look too closely at the latest patch for SMITE
. Why? Well, it brings in the new Medusa’s Deathmatch map, and that probably means it’ll turn you to stone. Or
it means that you’ll be fighting two enemy teams at the same time
, forcing you to adjust your strategy to avoid giving ground to either side while still remaining competitive. If you already feel you know how to handle one other team, you might change your tune when you’ve got twice the enemies and twice the challenge.
The patch has also brought along several new skins and a variety of bug fixes, as patches tend to do. Of course, it’s also brought some issues along with it, which are already helpfully available in a thread on the official site; this includes some after-match placement errors, which are good to know about ahead of time. So jump on in and take on your enemies, possibly while watching everything through a mirror. (It’s a Medusa thing, you see.)
Elder Scrolls Online
is obviously a huge draw for MMORPG players, but it’s far from an exciting title for the vast majority of gamers attending E3, so I was surprised to see Game Director Matt Firor
on the stage at all during the Bethesda
presentation. It’s not to say that ESO
isn’t a great game; it’s just been around awhile, and the hypetrain is hardly running at full speed right now.
During his presentation, Firor mentioned a lot of things worth considering. He had a very short time to not only tell existing fans what was happening in the game this year, but he also had to remind people of how great ESO is right now. Of course, he was hoping to get new players interested in the game. He knew that ESO wasn’t always well-received, but he had to show how far the game has come. Here’s how he did it.
If you want to go somewhere to escape Steam’s spreading influence, you might be tempted to head to China, where the country has officially operated free of Valve’s platform to date (although it was accessible more or less unofficially anyway). That won’t be the case for long, however, as Perfect World Entertainment announced that it is working with Valve to bring Steam to the country some time in the future.
Valve and PWE partnered up back in 2012 to bring a few titles, such as Dota 2 and CS:GO, to the country, but obviously this is a much, much bigger deal. PGamesN notes that the two companies currently are figuring out an initial line-up of games for this version of Steam, which raises the spectre of moderation, limited selection, and government censorship.
This is particularly pertinent in light of the recent decision by Valve not to moderate its selection of games unless studios submitted titles that were illegal or designed to troll certain groups.
When Radical Heights launched, I was inspired to put together a whole Perfect Ten about why trend-chasing doesn’t work for online games. Obviously, my chief focus was on games that wind up being developed at a rushed pace to cash in on trends and then run face-first into problems with chasing momentary trends, which… you know, you can just read the article; it’s linked right there. But it also prompted a follow-up question by longtime reader Sally Bowls asking why, with all of these issues, why the same rules don’t apply to MMOs.
The answer? Well, there isn’t one answer. There are three answers, all of which are part of the same set of considerations. For one thing, there’s the difference of development time and depth. For another, there’s the time before grinding. And last but not least, well… they do apply, really. But let’s take this piece by piece to talk about why trend-chasing for MMOs doesn’t quite provoke the same immediate reactions as it does for, say, MOBAs.
There is a lot of stuff in Heroes of the Storm that’s meant as an homage to classic bits of Blizzard games, but the new Alterac Pass battleground is… well, an homage to Alterac Valley. Which is an actual battleground. So it’s like playing something that’s a more direct patch over from the original, although it seems unlikely that Alterac Pass will devolve into both teams ignoring one another and racing for the faction leaders at top speed.
Also, Alterac Valley features very few British lesbians who can teleport or armored space mercenaries with flamethrowers, so that’s a bit different.
True to the inspiration, players will no longer be rushing the enemy core but will deal with the enemy generals as they capture graveyards, take out forts, and generally weaken the other team’s defenses. Check out the preview trailer for the new map just below, and remember: if you want to take part in a battle in HotS, you are expected to actually take part in that battle. Blizzard has just banned a number of people for the crime of joining matches and then either going AFK, refusing to participate, or intentionally dying. So be fairly warned that joinging without intent to play will, well, stop you from playing.
You can’t accuse Hi-Rez of not chasing trends: Not only is it introducing a battle royale mode to SMITE, but it’s actually just launched a standalone free-to-play battle royale game into Steam early access today. It’s called Realm Royale, and the company is calling it the “first 100-person fantasy Battle Royale” title. You might remember it from its previous incarnation as Paladins: Battlegrounds, a mode originally planned for the MOBA-shooter Paladins (and we liked it when we played it then too).
“Players begin each round of Realm Royale by selecting one of five traditional fantasy classes. Each class offers a unique playstyle; Mages can soar above the battlefield and rain down fireballs, while Engineers deploy turrets and shields in hero shooter-style combat. […] Each round unfolds in true battle royale style, with 100 players dropping from a zeppelin into a massive fantasy-inspired map full of goblin villages and mushroom forests. Players loot weapons and abilities from chests as the fog closes in, customizing their character and effectively creating their own personal champion. In another fantasy twist, players are able to summon a mount at any time to quickly cover open ground and get right into the action.”
Back in May, we covered the bizarre silence surrounding Hi-Rez’s SMITE-infused free-to-play online card game Hand of the Gods. At the time, the information and update flow had completely and dramatically stopped; Hi-Rez was refusing to communicate with the community or the press about the fate of the title, causing players on Reddit and Discord to suspect the game was dead.
As it turns out, it’s not dead, but it’s as close as it gets. Just over a week ago, Hi-Rez president Stewart Chisam finally responded to player inquiries on Twitter.
“We have been working on and off on a nice bug fix patch to come out sometime soon,” he writes. “But no major content updates on the schedule. Servers will stay up as long as we have enough people wanting to play.”
I’d like to say that the game’s subreddit is filling up with farewells, but there are just a few, which probably won’t come as a surprise. Even an attempt at a postmortem hasn’t gotten much traction; players argue that stiff competition, marketing, balance, system requirements, bugs, and the mobile version were all factors in the game’s poor reception.
Battle royale is the thing to do lately, and by Zeus, SMITE
is doing that thing: In update 5.10, the Hi-Rez MOBA will introduce Medusa’s Death Match, another of its adventure side-games, only this one is explicitly a battle royale map.
“The 3v3v3 death match brawler adventure will be played on a new egyptian themed map. Teams will spawn at bases around a center objective, but the true goal is to be the last man standing. The first team to win 3 rounds wins the match. A death fog will quickly close in on the map, until only the center play area is left available. The 3-team game format makes for interesting strategy and the potential for alliances not normally found in SMITE game modes. The killer fog sets a definitive timer for rounds, and it makes matches quick-paced and fun.”
The new adventure should be rolling out to PC and consoles later in June as part of the game’s ongoing fifth season.
5.9: Dragon’s Fortune is technically live on all three major platforms today
, with a pile of bug fixes, new skins, new chest items, and the usual round of item balancing tweaks. As for the gods themselves, here’s the breakdown of what to expect:
- Ah Puch’s Corpse Explosion’s damage will shift around to rely a little bit less on minions, buffing him in the early game;
- Cu Chulainn is getting a wee nerf to Berserk;
- Erlang Shen, Neith, Skadi, Zeus, and Nox will see slight buffs;
- Hachiman and Xbalanque are being nerfed slightly to bring them into parity with other characters of their archetype;
- Zhong Kui should be a whole lot less frustrating to play;
- and Chernobog, the game’s newest god, is getting well-earned buffs to make him easier to play.
Of course, that rundown assumes you can actually get in to play, which isn’t a given as the servers have been struggling to stay afloat thanks to tons of people playing and a strange bug, as Hi-Rez’s Stewart Chisam notes:
If you’ve ever had the desire to send in hordes of minions to fight at your command, yet you also felt anguished about causing so much human suffering, then The Maestros has a kinder, more technological solution. The PvP team battler puts players in charge of creatures and robots as technology faces off against nature.
Who will win? We might find out this weekend, when The Maestros kicks off a three-day closed beta test from May 25th through the 27th. It’s a perfect time to figure out whether or not this title, which the devs describe as “League of Legends meets Pikmin,” is for you.
“The Maestros is a team-vs.-team action-strategy arena about transforming cute animals and clunky robot minions into battle-ready beasts and bots,” the team described. “Pick a commander and beat down leafy monsters to build up your squad, then mutate them into a walking wombo combo your enemies won’t soon forget.”
With Gigantic shuttering soon, Massively OP’s MJ has only a few more chances to get in and play her favorite characters (and flay her favorite enemies). Can she break out of her support character comfort zone and give the assassin Tripp another whirl? Or will those writhing tentacles of Xenobia seduce her the whole time? Tune in live at 3:00 p.m. as MJ delves back into…
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 3:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 25th, 2018