Not So Massively: Winter game update edition (December 21, 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.

With just a few days to go until Christmas, every online game out there has been releasing its big winter update in the hopes of capturing your precious play time over the holiday period. Dota 2‘s Balance of Power update added a classic DotA hero you may recognise, and Heroes of the Storm released yet another classic Warcraft character. Dungeon Defenders II launched its huge The Harbinger Awakens update, Warframe released its massive The Second Dream update, and Paladins released its tenth closed beta update.

Elite: Dangerous released its planetary landing feature with the Horizons expansion, and Star Citizen took the opportunity to show off its own impressive-looking planetary landing gameplay demo. Path of Exile launched a competition to win one of four Alienware desktop PCs, and Splatoon revealed its final piece of free DLC. Finally, Destiny managed to upset its community again this week with an expensive new microtransaction item that automatically raises a player to level 25. We also discovered some surprising League of Legends news this week and heard the latest from SMITE and Heroes of Order and Chaos.

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.

destinyIf you’re one of those who were worried about Bungie’s plan to add microtransactions to Destiny, it turns out that your fears were completely justified. In addition to selling the usual cosmetic items and emotes, Destiny’s microtransaction store got a new cash item that instantly boosts a character up to level 25. Several games have sold items like this in the past or bundled them free with expansions, including industry giant World of Warcraft which lets players boost characters up to the level cap in order to get straight into the endgame.

Some are calling the level boosting items pay-to-win, while others have complained that it’s just poor value for money as the level 1-25 grind doesn’t take long and the current level cap is 40. There are also concerns that this may be just the first of many planned cash shop items that give players direct gameplay advantages. Back in October, Kotaku reported that dataminers had uncovered the level 25 boost item in the game files along with a booster that fully unlocks a subclass and several unused consumable buffs that increase things like experience gain and raid loot drops. At that time, Destiny’s creative lead Luke Smith stated that the raid buffs were abilities that had been removed from the game during development and would never be sold for cash.

dota2Dota 2 released its colossal Balance of Power update this week, adding classic DotA hero Arc Warden and a ton of new content and balance changes. Custom map creators can now work with desert terrain and a new desert music pack, and everyone can now play Valve’s new Desert Colosseum map from the Arcade tab in-game. The patch also adds private chat channels and a new Hero Stats page in-game that tracks your hero usage statistics. Four new items have been added to the game (the Iron Talon, Aether Lens, Dragon Lance, and Faerie Fire), a new cooldown-lowering Arcane Rune can now spawn during games, and the main map has been modified with two new neutral creep camps and a few new travel paths.

dungeondefenders2Dungeon Defenders II released its massive new The Harbinger Awakens update this week, adding three new game maps, a series of winter holiday events, and gameplay overhauls. The level 1 to 50 experience has been revamped to be considerably faster, and the endgame content has had its level requirement reduced to 40 so players can participate in it even before they hit the level cap. Loot drops have also been rebalanced to make each piece of loot more meaningful, with fewer junk items and more smart-loot items that drop based on your current hero and build. Items in the shop will similarly generate items relevant to the currently active hero.

elitedangerousElite: Dangerous launched its Horizons expansion this week, adding planetary landing gameplay and the ability to drive around planets in rovers and buggies. The feature is currently limited to rocky planets, with plans to expand it to cover other planet types in the future. To help players get to grips with the new landing and planet-bound mechanics, developers have released a series of pilot training videos.

heroesofthestormIf you’re one of those who are finding Heroes of the Storm‘s matchmaking a little wonky, you’ll be glad to know that Blizzard is definitely working on it. The original system was based on the StarCraft II matchmaking algorithm, but developers quickly realised that a team game doesn’t exactly work the same way as a one-on-one multiplayer game. A new devblog delves into the changes planned for matchmaking and waht the future holds for the system.

This week also saw the addition of a new replay and observer user interface and the release of new hero Lunara, the First Daughter of Cenarius. Lunara is a ranged Dryad assassin with abilities that poison foes and augment her movement, allowing players to deal consistent damage over time while reamining safe. Lunara can also summon a wisp to scout out areas of the map, granting vision in a small area.

paladinsHi-Rez Studios’ upcoming third person shooter Paladins is still steaming ahead through beta this week with its tenth closed beta patch. A system has now been put in place to prevent players from starting the match until everyone has connected in order to ensure that all players are on equal footing. The update also adds constructed decks, which let players bring a pre-created deck of 15 cards into a match in order to guarantee that a character can be built for a particular play style. The patch also fixes a ton of bugs, improves some of the game’s graphics, and tweaks character balance.

pathofexile

If you’re looking for a reason to jump back into Path of Exile for the new Talisman league event, how does the chance to win a brand new Alienware desktop PC sound? Anyone who manages to kill Rigwald in the new challenge leagues will be entered into a draw to win one of the PCs, with two winners drawn from the standard league and two from the hardcore league. The prizes will be drawn when the league ends in early March 2016.

splatoonNintendo has announced that Splatoon‘s final piece of new content will be released in January, introducing two new maps named Prianha Pit and Ancho-V Games. January’s release will mark the end of a full year of free content updates since Splatoon‘s release, though the game will continue to get bug fixes and tweaks for the forseeable future. The new maps feature new elements such as moving treadmills and fans that can be used to elevate parts of the map.

starcitizenStar Citizen wowed fans this week with an impressive video showing seamless flight from space all the way down to a ship hangar on the planet’s surface. Star Citizen will be using a combination of procedural generation and pre-built assets to create its planetary environments, which is the only feasible way to create such vast landscapes. Realistic light scattering is used to simulate what you would actually see as you seamlessly transition from space to ground level, and a dynamic Level of Detail system is used to render the planet in higher detail as you close in.

The planet in the video has a radius of only 1000km, making its explorable surface area just 0.6% that of the Earth or about 8.3% of the surface area of the moon. There’s no word yet on whether Star Citizen will be able to scale its planetary rendering technology up to the level of entire planets, though there would be considerable technical challenges to overcome and there may not be any gameplay advantage to doing so.

warframeOnline cyber-ninja FPS Warframe received its biggest update yet this week with the release of The Second Dream. The update adds the game’s first big cinematic quest and a new Archer warframe that can cycle through different types of arrows with different effects. A new Orokin Moonbase map has also been added along with weekly challenges, and a new sortie mission system provides big endgame challenges for solo players and groups. The Second Dream update is live now on PlayStation 4 and will be coming soon to XBox One.

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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Quincha Hopefully OG will still stay strong and maybe an OG vs EG rivalry will develop.
Over the past 2 years I have been more watching more Dota 2 than the NFL & NBA combined.  Since the rules do not differ based upon the popularity of players I find it easier to follow.