Not So Massively: BlizzCon 2015 (November 9, 2015)

    
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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.

BlizzCon 2015 took center stage this weekend, producing a ton of news for Heroes of the Storm, Diablo III, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. Heroes of the Storm held its first ever world championship tournament, Overwatch the rejected free-to-play business model, and we learned that Blizzard is hiring a developer to bring oldschool Diablo II back to life.

Meanwhile, impressive one-to-one scale space game Infinity: Battlescape has just 12 days left to raise around $70,000 on Kickstarter, Destiny players have raised money for charity in a livestreaming event, and Path of Exile hinted that an expansion announcement is on the way. We also read an insightful article on systemic sexism in SMITE‘s e-sports scene, looked at League of Legends‘ new social tools and controversial Dynamic Queue, and discovered that Star Citizen‘s Alpha 2.0 release may be about to land.

If there’s a game or story you’d like to see covered in next week’s Not So Massively, please drop us a tip and let us know.

Activision-Blizzard opens movie and TV studio
On this morning's investor call, Activision-Blizzard announced a new endeavor for the company: its very own movie and TV studio. Activision Blizzard Studios will be headed up by former Disney…

infinity-titleIf you’re a big fan of space sandbox games, you probably remember the incredible scale of an MMO project called Infinity: The Quest for Earth. It started out as one developer’s dream to create a true one-to-one scale procedural universe, and over the years we’ve seen tech demos of its amazingly realistic and scale-accurate planets and other elements. The game was considered largely vapourware as sole developer Flavien Brebion could work on the engine only in his spare time. Flavien went on to form I-Novae Studios with ex-Epic Games partner Keith Newton in 2010 and began working on commercialising the engine.

When nobody licensed the engine by 2013, the studio announced that it was using the engine to develop its own game named Infinity: Battlescape, which would be a multiplayer space combat game rather than a full MMORPG. Now the developers have turned to crowdfunding to help fund development, and they’re very close to their goal. The Infinity: Battlescape Kickstarter campaign launched with a goal of $300,000 US and has less than $70,000 to secure in the next 12 days in order to succeed.

destinyDestiny players have been streaming for charity this past weekend with a campaign for Extra Life, an organisation that provides support for children’s hospitals throughout the US and Canada. They managed to raise $7,630 for the charity during a continuous 42 hour livestream event.

In gameplay news, Bungie has released some interesting stats on the year’s first weekend of the Trials of Osiris. A total of 133,444 players have made it to the lighthouse on Mercury at least once, which means only 16.25% of players who entered the arena got access to the really good loot.

diablo3If you’re a big fan of Diablo II but were somewhat let down by its sequel, you’re in luck! A new Blizzard job posting hints that the studio is investing in restoring its classic games such as Diablo II and Warcraft III. Though they can still be played, the older Blizzard games were designed to run in much lower resolutions than we use today and experience some compatibility issues. This may be the mystery Diablo project that the studio has been trying to hire an Art Director for as now the studio is hiring engineers for a small team that will pick apart the old games’ code and get them working again on today’s operating systems. There’s no word yet on whether this project will yield only compatibility fixes or if it will also involve HD remastering.

heroesofthestormHeroes of the Storm held its first ever world championship tournament this weekend at BlizzCon 2015, with eight teams competing live for their cut of the $500,000 US prize pool. Cloud9, Natus Vincere, Team Dignitas, and Team DK all made it through to the final elimination round, and in the end Cloud9 emerged victorious. They went home with the top prize of $250,000 US and were named the first ever Heroes of the Storm World Champions.

Blizzard revealed during the event that it intends to launch a full series of three global championships over the course of 2016 to cover the time until the next world championship. Each of the three seasonal championships will see 12 teams face off against each other for a chance to win part of another $500,000 prize pool.

leagueoflegends

League of Legends has been improved and updated over the years since its first release six years ago, but this week developers revealed that they’re working on a new game client from the ground up. An alpha version of the client will be released during the 2016 competitive season, and players can sign up now for a chance to be invited to test it. Developers have stated that the new client should perform better than the previous one on low-spec machines and will contain a resource-light social client to let you stay connected to your friends when you aren’t in-game.

The social client will also tie in with some new social tools that are coming to the game soon such as player-run clubs and parties. Clubs will be freeform social groups that you can use to create anything from a fanclub for an e-sports team to a virtual hangout for your school’s LoL players. Parties allow players to group together in a chat channel with friends and then queue for games as a group of up to five players. All of this will be tied together with a new social app for Android and iOS, and Riot hopes that it will encourage people to play with friends and so be less toxic to each other.

This announcement has been somewhat controversial as the current limitation of the solo and duo queues are seen as important factors for keeping matches fair. With groups of four able to queue together, players queueing on their own run into the possibility that their four teammates are in a party and will not work well with the single outsider. It’s also worried that players could be carried up the ranks by highly skilled teammates and that the Dynamic Queue devalues the efforts of those who climbed the ranks solo. Heroes of the Storm has recently limited its queues to solo players and teams of two for these exact reasons.

overwatchBlizzCon 2015 was packed full of news on Blizzard’s upcoming online FPS Overwatch. We learned that the game is definitely coming to both consoles and PC and that it will be a full priced game rather than using a free to play model. Blizzard’s Jeff Kaplan explained that much of the gameplay revolves around switching team compositions mid battle and many free to play models “involved people not having access to enough heroes to make those team compositions actually viable.”

The game will launch with a purchase price of $60 on consoles and $40 on PC, and all 21 launch characters will be available to all players. Blizzard hasn’t yet decided on its strategy for post-launch DLC but has confirmed that it won’t be launching a store to sell additional characters after release. We heard that Blizzard actually tried various alternative game modes such as capture the flag and linear control point modes popular in competitiors like Team Fortress 2, but developers found they didn’t mesh well with Overwatch‘s gameplay. BlizzardWatch also reports that Overwatch will be getting its own series of short comics in addition to the previously announced graphic novel.

pathofexile

Grinding Gear Games has hinted that Path of Exile will be getting its second expansion soon and that announcements on it are forthcoming. This week saw the release of patch 2.05 and the beginning of the Soulthirst race season. The signature Soulthirst event is a normal league except that players gain the Soul Eater property for 10 seconds after killing a rare monster. There are also interesting Headhunter Solo events that litter the game with rare monsters and temporarily grant players the attributes of any rare monster they kill. Developers also revealed a new Contagion skill that places a chaos effect on enemies which deals damage over time and then spreads to nearby enemies on death.

smite

E-sports has always been a largely male dominated field despite the fact that communities of competitive online games such as MOBAs are composed of all genders. Colin Campbell over at Polygon has put together an insightful article highlighting systemic sexism in e-sports through stories of SMITE‘s female professionals. He tells the story of professional SMITE coach Lydia Picknell, who is reportedly amazing at her job but has recieved verbal abuse, misogynistic taunting, and threats throughout her e-sports career simply because of her gender. Hi Rez Studios revealed that although there are currently no female players in SMITE‘s competitive teams, women make up around 20% of the game’s total playerbase.

Another player named Mogee told Polygon that she initially hid her gender from the community, and that when she appeared on a webcam as part of a YouTube video the community’s treatment of her immediately changed. Mogee recalls men giving her over-flattering compliments and reacting badly when she wouldn’t respond to them, and people hurling abuse or jumping to defend her in stream chat. “People would either be super nice to me or super mean,” she explained. “There’s no middle ground.” SMITE currently has a strict anti-harassment policy in place for its competitive teams, but like all MOBAs, it’s facing some pretty serious toxicity problems.

starcitizenStar Citizen continued to tackle critical bugs this week as developers work toward the upcoming Star Citizen Alpha 2.0 release. Developers hope to be ready to deploy the update by next week but the inherently unpredictable nature of bug hunting and game development in general means there are no guarantees. Some of the crazy bugs the team has to fix before release include ships coming out of Quantum Cruise inside each other, server crash and stability issues, and crashes with multi-crew ships. The latest milestone in development is the completion of the new ship UI panels for the Avenger, Cutlass and Constellation ships.

inothernews

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 brendan@massivelyop.com to let him know!
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The first DotA2 Major in the new Valve backed format is next week.  Gonna be lots o Dota watchin here.
Then 2 weeks of team member cutting, trading, buying/selling, & adding before teams are locked down for the next major.