Online gaming and e-sports are getting bigger by the day, and there are literally hundreds of popular online games out there that don’t really fit into the MMO category. Join me each week for Not So Massively, where I gather together the top stories from the biggest MOBAs, competitive card games, first person shooters, and other popular online games in one place.
The big story this week is that the ongoing drama surrounding Star Citizen has now reached boiling point as Cloud Imperium Games is now threatening to sue The Escapist Magazine unless its demands are met. Dota 2 players are up in arms over details of the new Fall digital compendium, and player activity has dropped by 16%. We also have some awesome new characters from SMITE and Heroes of the Storm, a hacking rumour from Splatoon, a $70,000 prize pool for mobile MOBA Vainglory, and Jagex’s Block N Load is now free-to-play!
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The recent drama surrounding Star Citizen reached new heights this week after gaming blog The Escapist published an article that made serious claims of illegal activity against Cloud Imperium Games. The article by writer Lizzy Finnegan quoted seven different anonymous sources purporting to be ex-employees who made claims of severe harassment, illegal activity in the workplace, and private misuse of crowdfunded money. Marketing Director Sandi Gardiner was singled out by the article for reportedly screaming and swearing at staff and for allegedly enforcing illegal racist hiring policies. Chris Roberts issued a lengthy rebuttal of the piece on the Star Citizen website, calling it “conjecture, falsehoods and opinions of disgruntled ex-employees enflamed by Derek Smart’s personal quest to destroy Star Citizen.”
The Escapist’s Managing Editor John Keefer stands by the article and asserts that all sources used in it had been appropriately vetted according to journalistic standards. It was later pointed out by a user on Reddit that small parts of some quotes in the article seem to match anonymous reviews on Glassdoor. The reviews in question all appeared within a few days of each other and just before the offending article was published, leading to speculation that they may have been faked or part of a coordinated effort by interested parties. Keefer categorically denies sourcing any quotes from Glassdoor, stating that the sources actually reached out to Lizzy Finnegan via phone following her article Eject! Eject! Is Star Citizen Going to Crash and Burn? on September 25th and did so before the reviews were posted. Keefer also asserts that the identities of the sources were visually confirmed by comparing their pictures on Skype with LinkedIn profiles or other images available on the web.
In response, Cloud Imperium’s Co-Founder and Attorney Ortwin Freyermuth issued a strongly worded five-page letter to John Keefer and The Escapist Magazine. The letter claims that the site has caused considerable distress to Sandi Gardiner and others at CIG, ignored easily obtainable evidence that contradicts the sources’ claims, and failed to account for possible collusion between the sources. CIG has demanded an immediate retraction of the article, a formal apology, and an independent investigation into the creation of the article and the motivations of its writer. If the company’s demands aren’t met by the end of business today, it has threatened to pursue legal action against the site and the offending article’s author in both the US and the UK. As of this evening, The Escapist has posted that it stands by its coverage and now claims more sources have emerged.
In actual game development news, CIG released its latest Star Marine Status Update and sat for an interview on Star Citizen’s engine architecture and zoning optimization (thanks, Cardboard and Vikingr!).
Jagex’s quirky first person shooter Block N Load officially went free-to-play this week. The competitive MOBA-like game pits two teams against each other in a fight to infiltrate and destroy the other’s base, with the twist that each team first has to build its base from blocks and place traps, weapons and supplies throughout it. Block N Load is available to download for free through Steam and uses a similar business model to League of Legends with a free character rotation and microtransactions.
Dota 2‘s fall competitive season kicked off this week with the release of a new digital compendium full of challenges and prizes. This short competitive season will continue until November 16th and culminates in the Frankfurt Major Finals with $3,000,000 US in prize money up for grabs. The new compendium enables in-game challenges that unlock virtual coins, which can then be wagered in matches or redeemed for exclusive rewards. As expected, you can also spend cash directly on levels for your compendium to unlock rewards. This compendium won’t be contributing to competitive prize pools, and players have complained that many of items unlocked through it can’t ever be traded on the secondary market or even gifted to a friend.
This week we also learned that the number of active Dota 2 players worldwide dropped by around 16% throughout the month of September despite the release of the Dota 2 Reborn update. The drop has been blamed on a combination of factors, most notably the fact that The International is now behind us and students will have gone back to school this month. Other possible causes include the variety of bugs players have been experiencing since the update, and the new engine’s increased system requirements.
With StarCraft 2‘s Legacy of the Void expanding due to land on November 10, Blizzard is doing a little cross-promotion by dropping classic Starcraft characters Lt Morales and Artanis into Heroes of the Storm. Artanis is a tough melee damage-dealer, while Lt Morales is a squishy support medic who can shield or heal allies and regenerates health when out of combat. Both characters are now available for testing on the public test server and will soon make their way to the main game.
If you’ve ever thought the respawn timers in Heroes of the Storm‘s early game were too short for teams to make significant strategic pushes, be sure to check out tomorrow’s live test session on the public test realm. The developers are trying out longer death timers for the first ten game levels and adjusted stat gains from leveling up in the Cursed Hollow Scaling Test map, which is accessible through the custom games menu.League of Legends world championship tournament, and things are looking good this year for Cloud9, SKTelekom T1, and Origen, all of whom have won their first three matches. Counter Logic Gaming and KOO Tigers are both topping Group A with two wins and one loss each, while favourites Invictus Gaming and Fnatic have both lost two of their three matches. Next week will see the second set of group stage matches to find out which teams will advance to the knockout round and which ones will be eliminated. with the upcoming release of Sol, a powerful Norse sun goddess. In SMITE, Sol is a ranged caster who gains a stacking heat buff that grants magic damage and attack speed as she hits with basic attacks and spells. Sol also has a self-heal and can turn into a fiery wisp to evade enemy movement-impairing effects. (With thanks to Sorenthaz for his faithful SMITE tips!)
Splatoon released its new Carbon Roller Deco weapon that comes with an auto-seeking special ability. A strange rumour has been floating around Splatoon communities this week about a dangerous hack involving the Octoling character model. We recently reported on a hack that lets players turn their characters from squidlings into fully playable octolings that can even be used online. The new rumour warns that players who encounter an octoling in their game must not quit the game after the match until the octoling character quits first or risk strange things happening to their game.
Some versions of the rumour warn that Splatoon fills your plaza area with players from your last match, and that the act of trying to add an octoling to your plaza messes it up and the plaza freezes. The problem reportedly clears itself automatically when the next Splatfest begins, as this resets the plaza. Other rumours claim that this glitch can reset your character level to 1, but none of the rumours have been substantiated with evidence so far. Players are nonetheless advising that you periodically back up your save game to a USB pen drive.
Mobile MOBA Vainglory released Patch 1.9 this week and kicked off its Autumnal competitive season with the promise of $70,000 US in prize money to be won. A total of $10,000 will be split among the teams participating the NA and EU pre-season and season qualifiers, and $15,000 for each league’s finals. The pre-season qualifiers are now available on Twitch to watch on demand. Patch 1.9 also saw the release of new hero and unstoppable hulk Phinn, who gains bonus armour and health from items and is resistant to all slow effects. He can also fling out a hook to drag enemies into melee range, making him a great hero for chasing down fleeting enemies.
- Industry analysts project that e-sports could be a billion dollar industry by 2020.
- Action RPG Grim Dawn revealed its new Outcast faction and the witch Anasteria.
- The Dungeon Defenders II free to play alpha is now live on the PS4 in North America.
- Path of Exile deployed patch 2.0.4 this week, adding some new divination cards and increasing the drop rate of maps.
- Blizzard is hiring an art director for an unknown Diablo-related project.
- Hearthstone is on the way to Japan.
- Stephen Colbert got a preview of No Man’s Sky.
- War Thunder demoed its new tech rendering and destructible environment (thanks, Zariarn!).
- And Wargaming released its first-look video of the upcoming Master of Orion remake.