It’s been a huge week for online gaming, with GDC drawing to a close and PAX East being packed full of reveals. We heard from Diablo III game designer Josh Mosqueria on why the game’s launch was a failure and what’s been done in the intervening years to fix it. League of Legends revealed its new Party Rewards system to encourage people to bring their own friends into games rather than relying on a matchmaking algorithm to put their team together. DC Comics based MOBA Infinite Crisis announced its official free-to-play launch date of March 26th, and Hearthstone announced that its upcoming Blackrock Mountain expansion will start rolling out in April.
Popular Destiny streamer The HM05 was filmed this week soloing the Crota’s End group raid instance without firing a single bullet. Futuristic ninja FPS Warframe revealed a trailer for its upcoming Tombs of the Sentient expansion, and Heroes of the Storm coincidentally revealed its Tomb of the Spider Queen battleground. Star Citizen opened the floodgates with an invitation for everyone to try out its Arena Commander and Hangar Deck modules. Overwatch got a tentative closed beta release window of Q3 2015 and revealed its two powerful new heroes McCree and Zarya. And the Minecraft players who have been building a scale replica of the entire Game of Thrones continent of Westeros for the past three years are on their way to RTX 2015.
Read on for detailed news on all the above stories and more from the wider world of online games that aren’t MMOs.
We’ve seen some impressive creations in Minecraft over the years, from working computers to scale models of the USS Enterprise, but the WesterosCraft project puts all of them to shame. Over the course of the past three years, a group of players has managed to put together a replica of the isle of Westeros from Game of Thrones on a 1:100 scale. The map is maintained on an online server and boasts a community with thousands of fans, hundreds of talented builders, and even their own programmers, composers, and graphic designers.
The server’s lead project creator Jacob Granberry was interviewed by Time magazine for the video below back in 2013, when he discussed how the project got started and why it had become so huge. The team launched a small Indiegogo campaign a few days ago in order to pay for a booth at RTX 2015 and travel expenses, and the devs have already reached over 70% of their goal. [Thanks to Jes for tipping us this story!]
The MOBA genre has a reputation for being one of the most toxic online gaming communities in the world. League of Legends has managed to curtail that problem somewhat over the years with initiatives such as the player-mediated banning tribunal.
Now Riot Games is trialing a new Party Rewards system that will multiply the IP rewards from a match by a number based on how many people are in your party when you queue for a game. It’s hoped that this will encourage people to queue with full groups of friends, which in theory should make them less likely to complain about their teammates, but solo queuers will get no rewards under this system, and players warn that this initiative will do nothing for toxicity in random matchups.
No matter how difficult you think the content is in your favourite online game, there’s probably someone out there who’s worked out how to solo it. Popular Destiny streamer The HM05 went one step further by soloing the whole of the Crota’s End raid instance without firing a single bullet. Crota’s End is a difficult raid designed for teams of players, but The HM05 managed to beat it on his own using a build based around melee attacks and spawning grenades.
Diablo III‘s tumultuous launch is a story that no game developer will forget and that is sure to be used as a case study for years to come. Though it sold a record number of pre-orders, D3 launched to weeks of technical issues and some pretty fundamental game design problems. Game Designer Josh Mosqueria was been part of Diablo throughout the entire process, and he spoke frankly about the botched launch from an inside perspective at this year’s GDC.
Mosqueria explained that the team vastly underestimated the number of people who would use the auction house and got the loot balance for the game all wrong. Players would loot inventories full of rare items knowing that the chance of getting a gear upgrade was slim, which drove thousands to the auction house to find better equipment. But rather than give up, the team has worked hard ever since to fix all of the game’s shortcomings through the Loot 2.0 revamp, Adventure Mode, Greater Rifts, and the Reaper of Souls expansion.
Last week I introduced Vainglory, a self-confessed hardcore iOS MOBA designed for touch screens. Players had always assumed that the game was built from the ground up to be run on iOS and porting it to another platform would be difficult, but this week we heard the good news: Vainglory is coming to Android devices and has opened signups for a closed beta. Before you sign up to test the Android version, be aware that it will work only on high-end tablets with NVidia GPUs, such as the Google Nexus and the Samsung Galaxy Tab series.
Warframe released a reveal trailer this week at PAX East for its upcoming expansion Tombs of the Sentient. The futuristic FPS is known for its unique wallrunning mechanics and other ninja tricks, with a focus on co-operative online PvE gameplay. The Tombs of the Sentient update is due for release some time in 2015 and will see the player fighting against one of the game’s most ancient enemies.
If you’ve been following Star Citizen from afar but haven’t bought into it, your chance to see what all the fuss is about has finally arrived. As part of a promotion for PAX East, developers have opened the current gameplay to the public until March 15th. Just head over to the promotion page and enter the code PAXEASTFREEFLY2K15 to get your hands on the Arena Commander and Hangar Deck modules.
If you read only one Star Citizen article this month, make it the colossal February monthly update on the Star Citizen blog. The post has a full breakdown of everything that’s been done in the past month, including reports from team members of the various studios working on the game around the world.
Developer Turbine announced at PAX East this week that its MOBA Infinite Crisis will be officially launching on March 26th. The game is based in the DC Comics universe and has been in closed beta testing for almost two years, but player activity has dwindled in recent months. It’s hoped that its official launch on March 26th as a free-to-play title will bring in the hordes of players that a healthy MOBA requires to operate. The PC-only title will be available both through Steam and the official website, and Turbine has put together an FAQ to answer the most pressing launch questions.
For those who’ve been following Blizzard’s MOBA Heroes of the Storm with interest but still haven’t and got a beta invite, getting into the game will soon become a little easier. In addition to its normal invite waves, Blizzard will soon be sending out beta keys to a small selection of players to give out to their friends. The keys will be sent to the email address associated with their Battle.Net account.
PAX East was flush with news on Heroes of the Storm, with the reveal of upcoming hero Sylvanas Windrunner, huge UI improvements, and a new battleground map called Tomb of the Spider Queen. We’ll also be getting a new ranked Team League, a ratings system to help prevent player toxicity, ten additional account levels of progression, and more.Blackrock Mountain expansion for Hearthstone at PAX East this week, including details of pricing. The update will be rolled out in five stages at a rate of one stage per week and at a total cost of $24.99. The expansion features a new game board, class challenges, heroic mode, and 31 new cards.
Blizzard revealed more details of its upcoming online shooter Overwatch at PAX East this week, including giving a Closed Beta release target of Q3 2015. Developers revealed two new characters at the event: the gunslinger McCree and the unstoppable heavy tank Zarya. McCree can fire single aimed shots from his revolver or unleash it rapid-fire, and his ultimate ability allows him to slowly lock onto and one-shot-kill all heroes within his field of vision.
Zarya is similarly powerful, sporting a short range particle cannon with a built-in grenade launcher. She can also launch a shield around herself or an ally, and all damage that hits the shield serves only to power up her particle cannon. Her ultimate ability launches a gravity well grenade that sucks in enemies and holds them in place, which synergises well with McCree’s ultimate ability. Developers at PAX East also showed off the upcoming map Gibraltar and provided some answers to several fan questions.
- Torchlight II got an official Linux release this week on Steam.
- Details of the next update to GTA Online‘s Heists patch were leaked today ahead of tomorrow’s update.
- Dota 2 announced that it’s fixed a pesky pathfinding bug.
- Dungeon Defenders II‘s latest devstream shows off the latest work on Foundation part two.
- RuneScape creator Jagex announced that its upcoming multiplayer game Block N Load will launch on Steam on April 30th.
- Prime World gave a sneak peek at its upcoming patch, which aims to punish players who leave matches early and improve the castle building part of the game.
- MMOTCG Spellweaver outlined its upcoming development plans, including card crafting.