Not So Massively: Blizzard’s $1.2 million tourney; X-Wing successor hits Kickstarter


In a bizarre coincidence, four separate MOBAs announced new champions this week. SMITE revealed an adorable Norse squirrel god named Ratatoskr and officially launched its XBox One closed beta. League of Legends put new champion Ekko on its public test server and pushed Patch 5.9 live with major changes to Ashe and a small change to the game’s Attack Move function. Infinite Crisis released DC Comics villain Solomon Grundy, a resurrected corpse who returns to life after being killed. Heroes of the Storm showed off Warcraft’s famous Blood Elf fire mage Kael’thas and announced a $200,000 top prize in a new $1.2 million tournament series to be held at this year’s BlizzCon.

Online RTS Grey Goo released nine new symmetrical maps designed for competitive online play, and Path of Exile showed off its new Ice Crash melee skill gem. Dota 2‘s compendium sales broke the $27 million revenue mark, and develoeprs added several new ways to gain compendium points. Elite: Dangerous released a Mac version that will play online seamlessly with the PC client and announced the release date for its upcoming Powerplay update. Star Citizen released Alpha patch 1.1.3 to fix an exploit and several bugs, opening the game to free play over the weekend. And X-Wing may be getting a spiritual successor as the series’ Lead Designer David Wessman is attempting to Kickstart a new space shooter named Starfighter Inc.

Read on for detailed breakdowns of the stories above and other news from the wider world of online gaming in this week’s Not So Massively, and don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed for weekly updates!

SMITE’s XBox One closed beta has now officially launched, and players who were in the alpha will have their progress carried over. You can sign up to the beta now for a chance to get a key as the developers expand the testing pool. XBox players can also now link their console and PC game accounts together to allow some cosmetic skins to be unlocked on both copies of the game at once. Finally, Hi-Rez Studios is raising some money for disaster relief with the release of a new Nepal Earthquake Relief Chest full of rare skins and loot. The chest costs 400 gems (around $7-8 US); $2 US from each sale will be donated to the American Red Cross.

This week also saw the release of SMITE‘s newest and most adorable character with the addition of Norse God Ratatoskr, The Sly Messenger. Ratatoskr is a squirrel who has lived in Yggdrasil, the world tree, since the beginning of time. In SMITE, he’s a highly mobile assassin who can teleport around the map and lob lightning acorns at enemies while looking both fuzzy and wuzzy. [Thanks, Sorenthaz.]

greygooOnline RTS Grey Goo released a pack of nine new multiplayer conquest maps and asked players to vote on which one will make it into the ranked arena queue. The new maps are all symmetrical to ensure fairness in competitive online play, but players have expressed concerns that they may already be too late to save the game. Players report that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a match online, and Steam’s charts show an average of only 51.8 players online over the past month.

In the latest State of The Beta post, the Path of Exile developers revealed that they aren’t quite ready to introduce the entirety of act 4 to the beta yet as they’re still working on some new content. This past week saw a balance patch with big changes to how the Reduced Mana support gem interacts with aura skills, as well as a sneak peek at the new Ice Crash melee skill gem. Work also continued on the revolutionary Deterministic Lockstep synchronisation model that promises 100% desync-free gameplay for those on low-latency internet connections. The expansion is still on track for release at the end of June or early July.

Patch 5.9 has come to League of Legends, and with it comes the highly anticipated Ashe overhaul that’s been on the public test server for the past few weeks. Ashe has been rebalanced as a ranged utility champion, with a new passive called Frost Shot that briefly slows targets by a small percentage every time she hits with a spell or basic attack. Ashe can no longer crit by random chance, but any basic attacks that hit a target afflicted by Frost Shot will instantly crit. Hawkshot no longer grants bonus kills, but its range is now global and will store up to two charges. The patch also brings a small change to the game’s Attack Move functionality, and a laundry list of balance tweaks.

This week also saw the release of new champion Ekko, The Boy Who Shattered Time, onto the public test server. Ekko is a highly mobile assassin who specialises in crowd-control, but he has a neat trick up his sleeve: He can rewind time by a few seconds. Using his Chronobreak ability, Ekko can instantly rewind to where he was a few seconds earlier and recover some of the health he’s just lost. Nearby enemies are not affected by the rewind but will take a lot of damage, making this a strategic movement-based ability. His other abilities include dashes, area effect spells and slows.

Finally, Riot announced a new regional tournament, The Nordic Open, which will pit residents of “Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and any autonomous regions thereof” against each other and end at Dreamhack Summer 2015 in Jönköping, Sweden, on June 13th & 14th.

Infinite Crisis revealed its newest champion this week with the introduction of Solomon Grundy, the reanimated corpse of Cyrus Gold who continued to be reincarnated after each death. In Infinite Crisis, Grundy is a powerful crowd controller who can literally come back from the dead. When slain, Grundy instead becomes untargettable for a short duration and then returns to life with full health and refreshed cooldowns. He can’t be healed and deals reduced damage for five seconds, during which he can be killed for good. While Grundy may not deal much direct damage, he can knock enemies out of position with a powerful clobber attack and force them to spread out by spreading a toxic infection.

Blizzard announced that it will be holding a massive $1.2 million US world championship esports event at this year’s BlizzCon. Tournaments will be held for Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, StarCraft II and World of Warcraft, with a $200,000 first place prize for the world’s top Heroes of the Storm team. Qualifiers for a place in the tournament are set to begin soon around the world, with one team coming from Korea, one from Taiwan, two from China, two from Europe, and a final two teams from America, SouthEast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Qualifiers will take place online between June and August, with the winners advancing to November’s world championship finals at BlizzCon.

Blood Elf mage Kael’thas became the latest Warcraft character to be immortalised as a hero inside Heroes of the Storm this week. Kael’thas is a powerful area-effect damage-dealer whose abilities can be overcharged with the power of three verdant spheres he carries with him at all times. The spheres regenerate one at a time and it takes around six seconds for all three to regenerate. Kael’thas uses the signature fire mage spells Flame Strike and Living Bomb from World of Warcraft and can summon a phoenix or fire a huge homing fireball.

elitedangerousThe Mac version of Elite: Dangerous has now been released, and developers promise that both PC and Mac users can play together seamlessly. This comes just in time for the upcoming release of the Powerplay update that promises more player involvement in the territorial aspirations of the game’s NPC organisations. In the latest newsletter, Frontier Developments gave us a sneak peek at the Powerplay territorial map and promised that the beta version of Powerplay will land on May 20th.

The Dota 2 world championship prize pool now stands at around $8.4 million US, with the tournament’s digital compendium now having brought in over $27 million US in revenue. In response to complaints about the compendium being difficult to level up without spending cash, Valve added several new hero-specific challenges and achievements that earn compendium points. Last year’s item recycling mechanic is back, allowing players to turn any 10 junk items into 25 compendium points and a few other goodies. Owners can also now begin voting for their favourite players to participate in an All-Stars event, granting 50 free compendium points.

starfighterOne of the developers behind the X-Wing series of games has launched a Kickstarter to create a spiritual successor to the series called Starfighter inc. The small 15-person independent team is led by X-Wing Lead Designer David Wessman and includes several industry veterans. The studio originally set a kickstarter goal of $250,000 US to create the core multiplayer part of the game, describing its intended game as “World of Tanks meets Counterstrike in space.”

The team’s plans were later expanded in response to questions from backers about the possibility of including a singleplayer campaign. While the campaign has just broken the 50% funding barrier after 12 days, Impeller Studios has already revealed a series of stretch goals leading all the way up to a scripted singleplayer campaign at a whopping $17 million.

Star Citizen Alpha’s patch 1.1.3 released this week, fixing a chronic rubber banding problem with the Cutlass ship and closing an exploit that allowed pilots to bypass the life loss penalty by ejecting from their ship. If you’d like to see how Star Citizen‘s development is coming along for yourself, you can check out the space combat portion of the game for free for the next few days and find out how the starter ships handle.


Every week, Brendan Drain scours the net to bring you all the latest news from from the world of MOBAs, lobby-based games, and other online multiplayer games that aren’t quite MMOs in Not So Massively. If there’s anything you want to see covered here, post a comment or send mail to to let him know!
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