Major gaming studio, responsible for World of Warcraft and the Warcraft franchise, Diablo III and the Diablo franchise, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch.

Western qualifiers for Blade & Soul’s $135K esports tourney are this weekend

Not many MMORPGs take a stab at true esports these days. There’s World of Warcraft, of course, but other titles, like Guild Wars 2, have long since given up. Not Blade & Soul, however. NCsoft has kept up B&S’s esports globally, and indeed, the 2018 season is soon coming to its explosive conclusion.

“The Intel Blade & Soul Tournament 2018 World Championship Qualifiers and Semifinals are September 7–9, with the Finals happening on September 15. The top North American and European teams decided at the World Championship Qualification Tournament will be heading to Seoul, South Korea, and facing off against teams from Taiwan, Vietnam, Russia, Japan, China, Thailand, and South Korea to determine which region and team can claim the title of 2018 Blade & Soul World Champion.”

Wanna watch? The NA and EU qualifiers are this very weekend. For the best of the best after that, you’ll want to tune in on Twitch starting at 5 o’clock in the morning (EDT) on September 7th for the first qualifying event. The semifinals are late at night on the 8th, and then the finals? Set your alarms again; they’re at 5 a.m. EDT on September 15th.

Worth pointing out is that Intel and NCsoft put a nice chunk of change on this tourney: The prize pool sits at $135,000 US.

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First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 4: Conclusions

As I worked my way up in levels and through more of the zone stories in World of Warcraft over the weekend, I realized something odd that summarizes just how different Battle for Azeroth feels from Legion. For some reason, I actively did not want any Azerite.

This struck me as wrong immediately. Azerite is quite literally powering the heart of this expansion. It grants you artifact power, which feeds directly into the Heart of Azeroth, which is also the actual leveling mechanic for this expansion (just like how your artifact was the real key to leveling in Legion). Why would I not want it? Why was I annoyed when a quest rewarded me a chunk of Azerite?

Then it struck me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Artifact Power; it was that whenever that was my reward, it meant I was getting only that power, and it was boring. I would much rather have a piece of gear, or a new reputation unlock, or almost anything aside from a chunk of artifact power. It didn’t feel like a reward; it felt like a replacement for an actual reward. And if your main mechanic feels like it’s not actually a reward… boy, that’s an issue.

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Gamescom 2018: Blizzard announces Diablo’s Mephisto for Heroes of the Storm, Tychus and crew for StarCraft II

Blizzard is rolling into Cologne with a bunch of Gamescom reveals for some of its titles, two of which are on display already today.

First up: Heroes of the Storm has announced Mephisto, Lord of Hatred, the latest Diablo franchise character to port over to the MOBA. “In his Heroes incarnation, Mephisto is a deadly mage who thrives on momentum-based combat and rewards an aggressive playstyle,” says the studio. The game is also getting a facelift for the HOTS version of the Hanamura Temple battleground “to emphasize team fights,” complete with layout tweaks and new payload mechanics.

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One Shots: Supporting characters

When you look for famous characters in your MMO, you may be looking for someone complete different than the rest of the crowd.

Lt. Commander Hikari gives us an example of that with this Star Trek Online pic: “In Star Trek, I’ve always been a fan of Janice Rand. An often underestimated member of the crew (and cast) she’s one of the things that really stood out for me through the series and movies. There are lots of reasons to be a fan of the actress and character that I would encourage people to find on their own. When Agents of Yesterday was released, Grace Lee Whitney had only just passed a year prior. It was lovely to see her with the rest of the crew, where she always belonged.”

I always cheered her appearance in Star Trek VI, myself!

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Take-Two scores in lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto franchise hack distributor

US courts have once again aligned with game companies in a lawsuit against cheaters and purveyors of cheat programs.

This time, it’s Take-Two Interactive doing the winning. The Grand Theft Auto developer had sued Georgia man David Zipperer for essentially creating and distributing for profit a GTAV/GTAO hack, Menyoo, designed for griefing and cheating purposes. While the court dismissed Take-Two’s claim that Zipperer had engaged in “unfair competition” to the tune of half a million dollars in corporate losses, it did grant the company’s petition for an injunction against the hacker, who is now legally barred from selling his hacks.

Similar suits have been won by both Blizzard and Epic; Epic has been on a tear suing cheatmakers and promoters one by one, while Blizzard famously took bot-maker Bossland to court, ultimately running the cheaters out of business.

Rockstar and Take-Two specifically have begun taking a tougher stance on mods that veer into cheating territory. Gamers will recall that last year, the companies sent cease-and-desist letters to legitimate modders whose tools supposedly enabled less legitimate mods to exist, causing much dismay across the community.

Source: Reuters via Gamasutra


A fluffy casual’s starting perspective on World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Let me tell you a bit about me and how I play MMORPGs. Between two jobs and a family, my gaming time is relegated to the deep evening hours where peace descends upon our household. If it’s a good night, I can get in two full hours of adventuring through virtual worlds before I grow too tired to continue. Some nights it’s less.

It has been a long time since I was able to sprint alongside the pack when a new expansion or game launches, so you have to picture me as the slowpoke waaaay in the back who keeps getting distracted by small details, stops to read the quest text, and takes screenshots like I’m putting together an art book.

That’s me, the fluffy casual, and while plenty of folks have devoured vast swaths of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this week (including our own excellent Eliot), I’ve been rotating through my roster of characters and experiencing this engaging expansion at my own tempered pace. Does that mean that I lack a perspective or any observational details? Absolutely not! In fact, here are some things that I’ve been thinking about and looking at this week from the position at the far back of the pack.

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World of Warcraft’s voice actor roundup, R. Lee Ermey tribute, and Horde identity crisis

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has elicited a lot of praise from the community for its superb voice acting. Blizzard Watch put together a roundup of some of the key characters and their human counterparts, just in case you were wondering who was doing that voice.

And as players explore this new expansion, they’ve been uncovering all sorts of Easter eggs and sly references. Catch that Calvin and Hobbes or Winnie the Pooh nod, did you? Well how about the in-game tribute to the late R. Lee Ermey, who appears as a sergeant in the Alliance’s 7th Legion.

Blizzard recently sat down for an interview that covered the identity crisis that is hitting Horde players really hard right now. “Battle for Azeroth is absolutely an opportunity to look at both sides [honorable and evil] that have made up the Horde storylines throughout the years and pull them together,” said Narrative Producers Steve Danuser. “And maybe give a chance for the Horde to look inward and maybe become something new, something stronger than it ever was before.”

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The Daily Grind: When have studios tried to ‘strong arm’ you into changing your MMO playstyle?

The other day when we reported how World of Warcraft had removed the auto-accept functionality from its group finder, Reader Kalech noted, “If people don’t want to be social, they’re not going to be social no matter how much Blizzard tries to strong-arm them.”

That made me pause and reflect, because over the long history of MMOs, studios are forever trying to influence, direct, and sometimes “strong-arm” players into engaging in certain activities or playstyles. It’s not always that overt or constrained, but once in a while you do see a studio try its mightiest to shove players into PvP or to make them socialize more.

So when have MMO studios tried to force you into changing your playstyle — and were they successful?

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There’s a free Overwatch weekend in your future later this month

As a buy-to-play game, Overwatch has always had that financial barrier that’s kept some potentially interested players at bay. For those who haven’t taken the plunge yet, Blizzard is planning to tempt them with an extended free play weekend in the near future.

From August 23rd through the 27th, anyone can access Overwatch on the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One and enjoy it with no restrictions for the duration of the event. It’s a good time to have this happen, what with the Summer Games going on and all. And yes, progression made during this weekend will carry over if you decide to purchase the game afterward.

“For this free weekend, we’re making Overwatch’s full roster of 28 heroes — along with the newly released Wrecking Ball — and 18 maps available for play in a variety of modes, including Quick Play, Custom Games, and the Arcade,” said Blizzard.

Source: Overwatch


First impressions of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, part 3: Narrative

All right. Strap yourselves in, folks, because this is when we have to start talking about narratives and story and intended emotional reactions. In short, this is where World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth becomes a seriously messy piece of work, because this is an expansion in which the game posits that maybe colonialism is super great and native peoples are evil villains in league with dark powers.

Yes, that’s a thing that happens. No, we’re not going to leave it there, but I’m trying to minimize spoilers before the cut.

I’ve said on Twitter before today that the game feels like a $500 million movie with $50 spent on the script, and that still rings true. A ton of effort has been put into the presentation of this expansion, and there’s nothing to do but praise all of that; there’s honestly very little to fault in any part of the presentation of the story. The faults all arrive once you start examining the actual text of that story. And boy-howdy, that’s a mess.

Fair warning, people, there will be spoilers below.

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Hearthstone’s new puzzle labs is coming next week as its production director departs

Just because Hearthstone’s Boomsday Project expansion is out and about doesn’t mean that the dev team is done with its crazy experiments.

In fact, next week will see the rollout of the new Puzzle Lab solo adventures. These will, as the name implies, revolve around puzzles (with four types in all). Players can progress through the labs in any order as they try to solve the puzzles from easy to difficult. Each puzzle game gives players a tricky objective to play through in a solo setting.

While the Puzzle Labs are coming, one Hearthstone developer is going. Production Director Yong Woo decided to follow after former Hearthstone lead Ben Brode and join Brode’s new Second Dinner studio. Blizzard Watch reports that this now makes a total of five ex-Hearthstone devs that now work at this indie game company. Guess Brode has that kind of charismatic pull?

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Massively Overthinking: Would you want to play a League of Legends or Diablo MMORPG?

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had some tantalizing rumors and teases that both Riot Games and Blizzard are building something new: Riot’s dangled some questions about maybe making an MMORPG – might it be a League of Legends MMO? – and Blizzard’s outright said it’s returning to the Diablo franchise for multiple projects (one of which is the Switch port announced this morning). Can we hope for an MMO from one of the big studios again – and should we?

That’s what we’re pondering in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Do you think either of these companies is actually working on a new MMORPG using an old IP, what might it look like if so, what are they working on if not, and what do you actually want to see happen? Read more

Rend’s Jeremy Wood on how Frostkeep borrows from Blizzard, Dark Age of Camelot, and PlanetSide

GameDaily has an interview with Rend’s Jeremy Wood this week that covers a bunch of meta topics of interest to MMO players and watchers of this oddball hybrid title. While Rend has no plans to suddenly become a battle royale title, Frostkeep is very much watching what the MMO subgenres and companies are up to in order to “fill the same psychological needs that are being filled by those games in [Rend].” Specifically, Wood says his team learned a lot from Blizzard and the MMO genre.

“Our biggest takeaway from our Blizzard experience is you can make a fantastically unique product without really inventing anything new,” Wood explained. “Blizzard got where they are by taking inspiration from all sorts of different great pieces of games in different genres.”

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