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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Story of the Day 1/31/14 - Nightcrawler in Marvel Heroes

Posted by MikeB Friday January 31 2014 at 7:08PM
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If you've followed any of my writing here at MMORPG.com, you'll probably know that I'm a bit of a Marvel Heroes fan. I've made the case a couple of times that anyone interested in Marvel and ARPGs should really give Marvel Heroes another look and I feel the recent release of Nightcrawler makes the most convincing case on his own.

I played Nightcrawler at level 60 (level cap) on the test server about a week or two ago and he easily feels like the culmination of all the things Gazillion has learned about hero design over the last year. I can't speak for his viability as a hero in MH's endgame PvE, but his fun factor is simply through the roof.

NC's abilities are just awesome. One ability allows him to teleport into a location and snatch multiple enemies in an AOE before bringing them back to your original point,  he's also got an entire line of abilities revolving around stealth, which is pretty novel for the game, and then there are my two favorites: Blink Strike and Brimstone Blitz. Both abilities do an awesome job at showing off the amazing work that Gazillion has put into making NC's iconic rapid teleportation look great. Blitz, in particular, is inspired by Nightcrawler's awesome opening scene in the X-Men 2 film.

Don't take my word for it though, check out this video to see for yourself.

Story of the Day 1/30/2014 Star Citizen Modding Competition

Posted by Grakulen Thursday January 30 2014 at 7:43PM
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Earlier today we posted in our news section The king of crowd funding, Chris Roberts, is hosting what could possibly be a once in a lifetime event for the fans of Star Citizen.

The Next Great Starship is a modding contest that will award one winning team $30,000 USD and a chance to have their very own spaceship used in this upcoming space sim game.

A total of 270 teams representing 65 countries entered the competition. The judging panel includes members from Star Citizen’s art, design and animation teams, in addition to Chris Roberts himself. Celebrity judges will appear in later episodes. The judges already have narrowed the initial list of entries to the top 24 teams. 

Every week after that, each team will provide work-in-progress videos to the panel and face the possibility of elimination (judges can save teams and the community also has a vote on who stays and who leaves). It all culminates in The Next Great Starship finale airing on June 7 from Los Angeles where the champion team will be crowned and awarded $30,000 in cash.

“The quality of the entries has been amazing,” said Chris Roberts, co-founder and CEO of Cloud Imperium Games. “And we had quite a variety of entrants including a husband and wife team, a father and son team, several high school level teams, automotive designers, bartenders, DJs, filmmakers and of course several professionals from the gaming industry. It just shows the breadth of our fan base and the numbers themselves show the excitement that our community is bringing to this competition. I can’t wait to see the final result and fly the winner’s ship in Star Citizen myself.”

Prizes:

  • GRAND PRIZE: $30,000 in cash for the team members. Your Great Starship is included in Star Citizen and each member of your team receives the first production models off the press!  As well as Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite, Maya Premium and one high-end AMD based system with Radeon R9 290X (for each team member)
  • SECOND PLACE: $10,000 in cash for the team members. Alienware laptop, Autodesk Maya 2014, AMD Radeon R9 290X (for each team member)
  • THIRD PLACE: $5,000 in cash for the team members. Autodesk Maya LT, AMD Radeon R9 290X (for each team member)
  • SPECIALTY PRIZE: (to the most valuable player out of the remaining contestants among the final three teams voted on by the judging panel): One Cintiq Companion, the new Windows 8 “Make the World your Studio” tablet from Wacom
  • FINALIST TEAMS 4 THROUGH 16: $250 in RSI Credits (non-transferable/non-refundable)

Star Citizen is a crowd funded game that officially launched on October 10 of 2012. Since that time Roberts’ company has raised more than $37.5 million from backers all over the world making Star Citizen the top ranking crowd funded project ever.

The amount of money that Chris Roberts has raised for this game is absolutely staggering. It is nice to see that a game being able to be created due to the generosity of its community is able to give back to its community. Not to mention it was only a matter of time before someone made a reality TV series out of video game creation. I'm almost surprised this didn't end up on TLC... (kidding).

We will continue to cover the outcome of this contest here on MMORPG.com but you can also watch the episodes for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd

You can see a video for the contest here in the previous announcement. 

Story of the Day - 1/29/2014 - Funcom Under Investigation

Posted by SBFord Wednesday January 29 2014 at 7:53PM
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A huge story broke earlier today when multiple sources began reporting of a then-current "raid" on the Funcom offices in Oslo, Norway. Reportedly, charges have been filed against the company for stock irregularities. The charges are serious enough that Funcom's stock has been removed from the Norwegian exchange pending the outcome of the investigation. Reports further indicate that Funcom is actively and cooperatively working with authorities to secure the needed documentation.

The official statement from the Norwegian Stock Exchange is as follows:

Økokrim (the Norwegian National authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime) has charged Funcom N.V. based on suspicion of infringement of the provisions of the Securities Trading Act with regards to the financial information given to the market regarding The Secret World from August 2011 until the launch of the game in July 2012 and the two months following the launch. In the view of Økokrim, there also exists a probability that the company has not maintained the required log of information within the company during that time.

The Company is fully cooperating with Økokrim.

Badhoevedorp, The Netherlands, 29 January 2014 Funcom N.V.

This information is subject to the disclosure requirements acc. to § 5-12 vphl (Norwegian Securities Trading Act)

At this point, the investigation seems to be focused on the lack of stock documentation provided by Funcom to the Norwegian Stock Exchange since Q3 2013. The story is developing, something that we will be keeping a close eye on over the coming days.

What must be kept in mind is that, at this point, there is no evidence that Anarchy Online, Age of Conan or The Secret World will be impacted in any way. Barring catastrophic findings by the authorities, there should be no cessation in game continuity.

Secondarily, and as is often so in cases like this, there seems to be an element that takes some sort of pleasure at the plight of Funcom. What can be forgotten in the headlines of the day is that these are currently allegations, not proven fact. That Funcom is fully cooperating with authorities speaks well for them.

As the story unfolds, it is worth remembering those who count on Funcom for employment and hope that all works out to keep the company viable and productive for years to come.

 

Story of the Day 1/28/2014 - World of Warcraft's 100 Mln Players

Posted by garrett Tuesday January 28 2014 at 6:21PM
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Coming up on a decade of game play Blizzard Entertainment put out an amazing info-graphic today detailing some of the World of Warcraft statistics. The biggest number was that WoW had over 100 mln lifetime players or unique accounts. It has been played in over 244 countries or territories, even Antarctica. The game has dominated many gamers’ lives and has even broken into pop culture on several occasions. The last decade of gaming was Warcraft’s to command. So with the datasheet today let’s talk about what is coming in the next decade.

First we have Warlords of Draenor the next expansion for the game. It was previewed for us at BlizzCon and looked to be a much more hardcore approach to WoW than Mists of Pandaria. The expansion goes back to WoW’s roots exploring the darkness and savagery of the orc leaders from the past. It also gives the players a free boost to level 90 for one character. This is exciting for returning players because they won’t have to level through hours of content to catch up to their friends.

Another exciting addition to the Warcraft universe is the creation of a World of Warcraft movie. Much has been done back and forth over the last few years in terms of development. At one point even Sam Raimi was attached to the project. Now Duncan Jones is the director and seems to have a clear vision for the project. For those who don’t know Duncan Jones he made the movies Moon and Source Code. He is also David Bowie’s son, and yes he has been playing MMOs since Ultima Online. Watch Moon if you get the chance, it is awesome.

World of Warcraft has been a part of all our lives for the past ten years. It remains a strong presence in the MMO space and continues to serve legions of fans every day. I began playing World of Warcraft in beta back in 2004. I will never forget how excited I was to get the invite (this was before I worked at MMORPG.com). I still have the same Orc I created on day one even though he has a different name. Thanks for ten years World of Warcraft, it's been a fun ride. 

Story of the Day 1/27/2014 - The Repopulation's Alpha Impresses

Posted by BillMurphy Monday January 27 2014 at 8:13PM
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I’m going to go back to Saturday to shine the light on Josh Halls’ and AB Tech’s The Repopulation. This weekend the team released a new alpha gameplay trailer that really finally got me amped to dive into the sandbox they’re creating.

There was a lot that happened at the end of this week, what with Vanguard, Clone Wars, Free Realms, and Wizardry all shuttering this year and Smedley teasing SWG vets that their next unannounced game would please them very, very much. But this trailer from The Repopulation is what stoked me the most from games that tend to be “under the radar” with the general public.

I’ll admit, despite growing support for the game here at MMORPG.com, I’ve not been paying it all that much attention as “a gamer”. Now? After hearing more about its goals for PVE as well as its already burgeoning PVP plans, and seeing how polished and fluid combat’s beginning to look… I’m finding it hard to resist offering my own pledge to the Kickstarter. 

I’m also reminded of Carolyn Koh’s preview from late last year (PAX Prime). It seems in a few short months, the game’s really come a long way. But what stuck out to me most were the little things: like no fast travel, and reliance on crafted everything. From the article:

The siege process will take about three days and the defending city gets to set the time windows. A two hour combat window is set for two days during which time the assaulting teams can set up siege camps and make preparations as well as test the cities defenses. The city at this time also gets to set up defense towers. During this time, the camps can also be attacked. On the third day, a four hour combat window opens up for the siege and attempted takeover. These sieges are not lightly undertaken as a lot of resources will be used. An energy shield is set up and the Offense has to take the shield down first before they can invade and get to the player combat. A city can be built also, in such a way to prevent Mechs from entering. Low doorways and narrow streets will certainly hamper them.

Travel in Repopulation doesn't have any of that fast-travel teleporting. It is either hoof it, ride player created vehicles, or use the rail system between major hubs. In time, player cities will be able to tie into these hubs.

Have you been following the Repopulation?  What are your thoughts on AB Tech’s sandbox hopes and dreams?

Story of the Day 1/24/14 - WoW's New Models

Posted by MikeB Friday January 24 2014 at 5:46PM
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Warlords of Draenor, the next expansion to World of Warcraft, will bring with it updated character models (among other things). Blizzard has been feeding fans a peek of what the new models will look like over the last few months, with the human female as the latest reveal.

I'm not actually a World of Warcraft fan, but I have to say, I've been intrigued by these reveals. I was never a fan of the original character models (aside from the Blood Elves), but honestly, the stuff Blizzard has shown so far looks pretty good. It's always a tricky thing, doing something like this. WoW is a pretty old game at this point and this sort of change could either be one of the most welcome or most disruptive of changes they've ever made. On the one hand, the game desperately needs it. On the other, you risk players logging into characters they've had possibly since launch and being unable to recognize them, making this an extremely delicate issue.

From what I can tell, most fans have been receptive to the new models, and I think Blizzard has done an excellent job of walking the line and creating new models that give WoW a sort of 'HD remake' look while keeping the overall soul of the characters intact. As someone huge on customization, I would be pretty invested in what my character looked like and understandably nervous about these 'upgrades' as a result. But given the examples we've seen so far, I don't think many, (or perhaps any?) players will be logging into characters they don't recognize.

I also feel that this seemingly simple feature will likely be one of the biggest draws in getting former subscribers to login and check the game out once the expansion hits. The curiosity of finding out what your character looks like with a new coat of paint will probably be enough to pique players' interests and this could go a long way towards recapturing some momentum if the rest of the expansion is compelling enough.

What do you think of the new character model reveals we've seen so far? Excited? Nervous? Don't care? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Story of the Day 1/23/2014 Big Names Added to Voice Cast

Posted by Grakulen Thursday January 23 2014 at 4:14PM
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Earlier today Bethesda and Zenimax announced a number of top flight voice actors for their upcoming MMO Elder Scrolls Online. 

While it might be a stretch to refer to all of them as A list the majority of them are well respected actors with a number of accolades to their credit.

  • John Cleese (Monty Python Fame) plays Sir Cadwell, the cheerful and endearingly mad lost soul who is not afraid of anyone, even a Daedric Prince. 
  • Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean) portrays High King Emeric, a merchant prince whose luck and determination won him the throne. 
  • Kate Beckinsale (Underworldtakes on the role of Queen Ayrenn, the leader of the Aldmeri Dominion and Queen of the High Elves who is far more comfortable with a blade than her crown.
  • Alfred Molina (Spider Man 2) takes on the role of Abnur Tharn, a wily old wizard and politician who is the head of the Empire’s Elder Council, and the de facto power behind the Ruby Throne
  • Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman duuuh) plays Azura, the Daedric Princess of Dusk and Dawn from Skyrim who is a popular part of Elder Scrolls lore
  • Michael Gambon (Some dude named Dumbledore) voices The Prophet, a mysterious blind man who guides the player through their journey to retrieve their soul; and 
  • Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange. Says Totes a lot in Sprint commercials with Darth Vader) plays the key figure Molag Bal, an evil Daedric god from another plane who schemes to enslave the mortal souls of Tamriel.
  • Peter Stormare (“Fargo”) plays Jorunn the Skald King, an unexpected monarch who led his people into an unlikely alliance.
  • Jim Ward ("WALL·E," "Despicable Me 2") voices Mannimarco, a renegade High Elf wizard exiled from the realm for raising the dead and the world’s most powerful necromancer.
  • Jennifer Hale appears in the role of Lyris Titanborn, a Nord half-giant, who, along with the Prophet, aids the player on their journey.
  • Kevin Michael Richardson rounds out the cast as Sai Sahan a noble martial artist and master swordsman.
In addition the team behind ESO released a video interview with the majority of the actors. After watching it I'm pretty sure that Malcolm McDowell is possessed by Molag Bal, or who he likes to refer to as "Little Mo" a Demon God. 
 
This news posted earlier on our site lead to a flurry of back and forth from our community on the importance of voice acting in a MMORPG. A number of people have weighed in that they believe Zenimax wasted money on a part of the game many MMO players will just skip right over and that Zenimax could have used the resources on something better. On the other side of the coin we have the players that believe that Zenimax did a great thing in making sure Zenimax is taking care of the RPG in the MMORPG. 
 
Personally I like the choice. This is a game with a lot of lore looking to pull in players that enjoy RPGs but might be new to MMOs. Fleshing out ESO to be a great RPG and a great MMORPG only adds value to the product. What side of the fence do you find yourself on? Also what do you think of the casting decisions? Let us know in the comments below.

Story of the Day - 1/22/2014 WildStar-Flavored Guilds

Posted by SBFord Wednesday January 22 2014 at 5:10PM
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In the latest WildStar Wednesday, Carbine revealed its plans for guilds in the upcoming futuristic title. While the idea of guilds is nothing new, the WildStar team, in keeping with the sometimes quirky nature of the game, decided to give guilds a special WS touch.

The article breaks the guild experience into three essential parts:

  • Guild Holomarks: These are the guild identifers with a unique twist: Rather than limit players to a cape or tabard or other such pedestrian outerwear, Carbine has given them a unique flavor: You can choose to have your holomark project on your back, your shoulders, above your head, or any combination of those options. Want to go gank someone in PvP? Make sure your Holomark is turned on so they know who's destroying them. Is your guild invading an enemy warplot? Your foes will be sure to know who's boss (and who to kill) when you've got 135 holomarks floating above their enemies' heads.
  • Guild Influence: Guild members who party up can earn Influence, the currency needed to purchase Guild Perks (see below). Rather than reward guidies for partying up for raids or dungeons only, Carbine is giving out Influence for any group of guild mates that adventures in the world together. The more guildies, the faster Influence is gained.
  • Guild Perks: Where else would any guild want to spend Influence than on Guild Perks that include six guild-wide buffs, a guild banks and more. According to the team, smaller guilds will have as much viability in gaining perks as larger guilds.

What is obvious from what Carbine has planned for guilds is the fact that it sees how vital social groups and social grouping are to the longevity and vitality of any MMO these days. It's important to have players not just come together under a unified banner for dungeon and raid content, but to actually band up to take on the untamed world that they collectively face together.

Too many of us have "used" guilds in other MMOs as convenient Looking for Raid groups while continuing to run around the world as a solo player. It's not to say that everyone does, but a great many players in massive multiplayer online games spend an inordinate amount of time alone. Carbine gets this and is making it worthwhile and, yes, lucrative, for players to spend time in one another's company in order to gain influence and perks. 

The way that friendships are forged in today's world is vastly different than in the waning days of the last century and firm, deep relationships can be developed with people from far flung corners of the world. Carbine sees and understands this new paradigm and is encouraging people to not only enjoy the content of WildStar together, but to also spend time learning about new people and other cultures and places along the way.

Want to know more about Carbine's guild plans? Head to this week's WildStar Wednesday to read it all.

Story of the Day 1/21/2014 - Hearthstone Open Beta!

Posted by garrett Tuesday January 21 2014 at 5:50PM
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Hearthstone Open Beta!

Fans of Blizzard can rejoice and the hardened players in closed beta will now have fresh meat for Hearthstone. The collectible online card game has now entered open beta and will bring in thousands of players. Anyone who has not tried a demo at a show or been lucky to get a closed beta key can now try the game out. With other games like this, open beta is basically similar to a soft launch.

One of the changes that Hearthstone added for OBT is a new ranking system. The new system looks to be more friendly and easier to interpret. Now rank mode will last for one month and allow players a chance to reach Top Rank of the Innkeeper. They are also adding in the Players Near Me feature which will show who on your friends list are close by. The other addition to the social network of Hearthstone is the Recently Played Opponent which will allow you to see the last played opponent after the game if you wanted to add them to your friends list.

Hearthstone can be called a starter drug. For me personally I got into beta and then found myself hooked for months. It also brought me back into playing World of Warcraft again. The main reason to join Hearthstone is the fast and furious gameplay which doesn’t take a lot of time and gives you a quick sort of satisfaction. It keeps you connected to the world of Azeroth. The fun of the game really is the simplicity.

When we were at BlizzCon we saw Hearthstone playable on the iPad. The team at Blizzard also said an Android version is being made for phones. This is definitely where Hearthstone will win over a huge amount of players. For now, the game is downloadable in the Battle.Net to try out on your computer. It is when the game goes mobile that it really will take off. I cannot imagine people working seriously all day when they can quickly log in and fight battles at any time. Lunch time games of Magic the Gathering will soon be replaced by anytime games of Hearthstone. 

Story of the Day 1/20/14 - Eternal Crusade Alpha

Posted by BillMurphy Monday January 20 2014 at 10:32PM
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I'm a bit jealous of our own Garrett Fuller. It was supposed to be me too that flew out to Montreal to visit with Behaviour Interactive and took a tour of their studio, then played an early pre-alpha version of Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. But due to some family obligations, I stayed home. Now, seeing the footage that Garrett came back with (which is coming your way soon, promise!), I'm inclined to believe that Behaviour is onto something pretty intense and exciting up in the land of Bacon-Which-Is-Really-Ham.

Garrett's interview with Michael Chan sold me that the team has a solid plan in place for progression, and all the info we've heard so far since E3 about the game makes me confident that the team at Behaviour really does get and appreciate the IP they're working with. Massive 1,000 player battles, all the bobbles and bits from the Table Top, and AI controlled Tyranids to level the playing field when needed is enough to whet my appetite, and I'm not even that big of a 40K fan. 

My question for today's Story of the Week is a simple one: aside from the video we're planning on bringing you, what more are you looking to learn about Eternal Crusade? The video we have of Garrett playing in the studio is rough art-asset-lite footage, but even at an early stage you can see how the studio's nailing the vibe of the universe while offering the same frenetically paced combat as THQ's Space Marine.

But combat, though it's a big part, is just one aspect to any MMO. What else do you want to know about how EC will work?  Let us know, and we'll be sure to send off the questions to Miguel and crew.

Story of the Day 1/17/2014 Hearthstone Card Balance

Posted by MikeB Friday January 17 2014 at 5:34PM
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Hearthstone lead designer Eric Dodds explained Blizzard's philosophy with regards to the game's card balance in a blog post made yesterday on the official Hearthstone website.

In that post, Dodds described a number of situations in which Blizzard would investigate changing a card, including:

  • The card causes non-interactive game play
  • The card is frustrating to play against
  • The card is confusing or non-intuitive
  • The card is too strong compared to others in its bracket
  • Specific builds or styles are too strong
  • A card is weak

The long and short of it is that unlike what players may have expected from Blizzard due to their history with balance patches in games such as World of Warcraft, Blizzard is actually looking to make very few changes to cards in Hearthstone. The goal appears to be giving players confidence in the cards they have and allowing the meta to shift on its own as players figure things out for themselves.

Non-interactive gameplay seems to be one area where Blizzard is a bit more open to changing cards , however. Examples given were the changes made to Freeze effects for Mages and OTK (One Turn Kill) changes in the current patch. The prevalence of card strategies that offer a lack of real counterplay is something Blizzard seems to be willing to adjust cards to resolve.

Cards that are frustrating to play against, such as Priest's ridiculous Mind Control and the Mage's face-melting Pyroblast, were also worthy of being changed. If a card is sufficiently confusing, such as the Frostwolf Warlord, Blizzard may opt to change it. And finally, Blizzard is also willing to change cards that end up being ubiquitous in their mana cost bracket. Everyone running the same neutral minions was a problem Blizzard wanted to address.

These are all good things and Blizzard should be changing cards for these reasons, but I'm not so encouraged by Blizzard's more hands-off approach to dealing with builds or styles that are too strong or their approach to dealing with altogether weak cards.

Instead of addressing a build or style dominating the meta, Blizzard intends to release entirely new cards that may be designed to counter these strategies. Suppose something is so dominant the meta stagnates and remains the same until Blizzard releases new cards? That doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. Sure, the current track record has seen things shift in and out pretty rapidly, but that could change going forward if Blizzard makes few card changes overall and doesn't introduce new cards quickly enough.

Not changing weak cards is another area I'm a bit concerned about. I do understand Blizzard's explanation here, but even so, leaving weak cards with potential to be useful, fun, and viable in a weak state is fairly discouraging. Blizzard has noticed that making small changes to weak cards has often created a ripple effect in card balance and they're looking to avoid this, but I don't think just stepping away almost entirely is the answer here. There are tons of cards that get pretty much no play at the moment, especially in the Legendary set, that could use tweaks. The best example of a weak card that needs love is Kidnapper, an epic Rogue card with tons of potential to be interesting that is literally never run by anyone looking to actually win a game. It's simply terrible all around. It's these cards that I hope Blizzard will make a rare exception for and try to improve.

What do you think about Blizzard's approach and philosophy towards card balance in Hearthstone?

 

Story of the Day 1/16/2014 Steam Dev Days

Posted by Grakulen Thursday January 16 2014 at 5:58PM
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Over the past few days in Seattle the notoriously tight lipped Valve has opened up and is holding a conference known as Steam Dev Days. Billed as: 

 

Steam Dev Days is a two-day game developer’s conference where professionals can meet in a relaxed, off the record environment. Developers will share their design and industry expertise, participate in roundtable discussions and attend lectures by industry veterans on topics ranging from game economies to VR, Linux/OpenGL, user-generated content and more. Developers will also have direct access to Valve’s Steam Team, and will be given a chance to test-drive and provide feedback on Steam OS, prototype Steam Machines and Steam Controllers.

 

 

So basically Valve and crew are plotting how they are going to take all of your money and free time from you. And they are becoming more successful at it at a staggering rate. And providing us a quality service in the process.

In late October Valve announced that Steam had reached the 65 million users mark. Today they have announced that they have reached 75 million. In all of 2013 they added 23 million. That is a lot of people. North America holds a slight edge in users at 41% with Western Europe a close second at 40%

Valve also has plans to support 12 new currencies for Steam in 2014, and no bitcoin is not one of them. 

Currently Steam accepts: US dollar, Pounds Sterling (UK), Russian rubles, Euro, and Brazilian reais.

Steam plans to add: Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, New Zealand dollar,  Singapore dollar, Indonesian Rupiah, Japanese yen, Mexican peso, Norwegian krone, Philippine peso, Malaysian ringgit, Thai baht, and Ukrainian hrynia. 

For those of you currently stuck converting your currency into the US Dollar to make your purchases online this could end up saving you a few dollars. It remains to be seen if it will actually normalize the prices for games outside of the US and bring them more in line with what the US typically pays for a game.

PC world also reported that Gabe Newell in his opening address informed the public that Steam Greenlight would be going away, "Our goal is to make Greenlight go away. Not because it's not useful, but because we're evolving."

 

 

Story of the Day January 15, 2014 - STO Previews Season 8.5

Posted by SBFord Wednesday January 15 2014 at 5:42PM
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Today's Story of the Day is really a twofold one starting with yesterday's news that Executive Producer Dan Stahl had left Star Trek Online and is now moving on to a "new and exciting" project at Cryptic Studios. 

The move came as a surprise to some, while others were less surprised and somewhat relieved that Stahl was not leaving Cryptic but was merely moving on to a new position. As yet we don't know if he will be working on a new project or with one of Cryptic's other games, Neverwinter and Champions Online.

Stephen D'Angelo has returned to Star Trek Online and takes the reins as the new Executive Producer. In his introductory letter, D'Angelo said:

I am a long time Star Trek fan who watched The Original Series as a child and watched all of ST: TNG and ST: DS9 as they aired. I originally joined the Star Trek Online team almost exactly 5 years ago, when STO transitioned from pre-production into production, and I was one of the Dev leads that helped shape and create the game we launched with. I went on to serve other roles at Cryptic and then was STO’s Executive Producer for 6 months starting in September 2011, when Daniel took a break from working on the game. Those were some of the most challenging and rewarding months of my career.

Lucky for him, D'Angelo got to lay out today's preview of Season 8.5, new content set to arrive at the end of January and that will help usher in the game's fourth anniversary.

The preview letter also let loose the news that a "mystery" Star Trek actor, previously unseen in the game, would be joining up with 8.5. According to D'Angelo, all will be revealed within the coming week.

What makes these two stories of keen interest to our staff and to the larger STO and MMO communities is seeing a good game becoming great. STO is approaching its fourth birthday, something many never would have predicted. Yet Cryptic has persevered through the rough launch and often harsh criticism to bring a lot of interesting game play elements and lore into Star Trek Online. While not a complete remake ala Final Fantasy XIV, STO has shown steady upward progress and has become a game that continues to hold onto its players and, at the same time, bring in new players.

Players have a lot to look forward to in 8.5 with the addition of the mystery actor, a new ship for participating in Q's anniversary fete, twelve updated early Federation mission arcs and much more.

From our perspective, STO is doing a great job forging its way through the Final Frontier. May it live long and prosper!

Story of the Day January 14th, 2014 - Greg

Posted by garrett Tuesday January 14 2014 at 6:49PM
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It is amazing how just updating your Linkedin profile can make headlines all over the webs. However, in Greg Street’s case his choice in jobs does just that. For those of you who do not know Greg, he had been with Blizzard for five years and really was the voice of World of Warcraft over the last few. He was the guy that everyone listened too as soon as those blue posts went live on the WoW forums. Greg was the Lead Systems Designer for Blizzard and now he is moving up the road to Riot Games.

Nothing official has been announced, but the change took place on Greg’s LinkedIn profile which quickly made it to Reddit, which quickly went everywhere. Now Greg will be working with the team that has brought us League of Legends, the all powerful, world dominating MOBA. From LinkedIn we see that Greg’s new title is Lead Game Designer. I guess the big question for us is, what will he be working on?

See Greg Street’s resume is pretty unique. He was responsible for balancing and working on some of Warcraft’s largest system changes and designs. So, will he go into League of Legends which already has very strong working systems and a massive community? Or will he be working on some other project? That becomes the major question. Only time will tell.

We here at MMORPG.com have interviewed Greg Street many times and often will catch up with him at BlizzCon or GDC. We are very excited to see what is in store for us at Riot Games and wish Greg the best on his new journey. Blizzard may have to change, but they definitely have endless resources of talent on their teams. Best of luck to Greg Street and all involved. 

Story of the Day January 13th, 2014 - A Game No One Else Will Make, For Everyone Else

Posted by BillMurphy Monday January 13 2014 at 6:51PM
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Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen has a Kickstarter, and I'd almost guess it's a foregone conclusion that Brad McQuaid's project will be funded at least at the $800,000 Visionary Studios is seeking. But what intrigues me most about Brad's next big project is that it's much better poised to do what I think he hoped Vanguard would do years ago: serve up a shiny piece of nostalgia to MMO gamers wanting a refreshed but still traditional MMORPG experience.

Early alpha image from Pantheon.

What I think is the key to this announcement isn't that it's McQuaid, or a Fantasy MMO, or another Kickstarter project from another developer of the Golden Age. What's key about Pantheon is that it's design tenets are decidedly old school.  Let me list them here, straight from the Kickstarter.

  • An awareness that content is king
  • A belief that game economies should be predicated on delaying and minimizing item value deflation
  • A commitment to a style of play that focuses on immersive combat, and engaging group mechanics.
  • An understanding that a truly challenging game is truly rewarding 
  • An expectation that the path of least resistance should also be the most entertaining
  • A mindset that Designed Downtime should be a part of the game to ensure players have time to form important social bonds. 
  • A belief that an immersive world requires intelligent inhabitants
  • An understanding that faction should be an integral part of interacting with the world and its citizenry.
  • A commitment to creating a world where a focus on group play will attract those seeking a challenge
  • A belief that the greatest sense of accomplishment comes when it is shared
I'm of the mind that there are many MMORPG gamers from days gone by who believe these virtues are exactly what they'd want in a modern MMORPG. They want the shiny new technology, with the old way of making content and building worlds. Keep an eye on the site tomorrow for Ryahl's List of things he misses from old MMOs, and you'll see that Pantheon is right up his alley.
 
But I also must wonder if this sort of game is truly what many longtime MMO-ers want, or whether it's just what they think they want. Don't get me wrong, I'll be backing Pantheon because I believe this kind of game is needed in the industry. We've gone far too long (until very recent developments) where the only game being made was just a copy of the staples on some checklist that studios thought an MMO should be made of. In 2014 and 2015, we're going to see a new era of MMO... one that gives everyone a kind of game they should and could enjoy. In many cases, there will be quite a few games you're liable to hop about in, or at least for some of you: that one game you've been waiting for.
 
Pantheon is smartly going after a niche of hardcore traditional MMO-ers. I do think there are enough of them (us) to make a go at this new world, so long as death runs, hard dungeons, and forced grouping aren't all we find in Terminus. The old ways are good, but let's hope Brad and his team take at least a few of the modern trappings and add them in.  Let's also hope Brad's learned the harsh lessons from Vanguard's rocky development (I'm more than willing to bet he has).
 
What are your thoughts on Pantheon? Will you be backing the Kickstarter, or waiting and seeing?

Story of the Day - 1/10/2014: Diablo III Patch 2.0.1 This Month

Posted by MikeB Friday January 10 2014 at 4:36PM
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Blizzard community manager "Lylirra" recently commented on the Diablo III official forums in response to a question on pre-downloading the upcoming 'Reaper of Souls' expansion to let folks know that pre-downloading will likely begin sometime this month:

Not yet! The exact date that the predownload will start is still TBD, but we're targeting this month if all goes well. Note: this download will begin automatically (meaning, you shouldn't need to do anything special).

Similar to what we've done with other games, the pre-expansion patch (2.0.1) will contain all of the expansion data that's on the normal disc. So, for players who don't predownload, they'll basically get everything that's available whenever they patch up to 2.0.1.

Caveat: Expansion-only content like the Crusader, Act V, and Adventure Mode won't be playable until March 25th and only players who purchase Reaper of Souls will have access to them.

If you're at all interested in the Reaper of Souls expansion, you may gloss over this bit of news, but it's actually patch 2.0.1 that will change Diablo III significantly for players. The Crusader, Act V, and Adventure Mode that come with the expansion are all fine things to be excited about, but if you're a Diablo fan who quit the game due to its myriad issues, it's really the under-the-hood changes coming in patch 2.0.1 that should get you to want to give the game another look. You don't need to wait for the official Reaper of Souls release to get excited!

We covered many of these changes in our BlizzCon coverage, but here's a snippet from the 2.0.1 patch notes:

  • Players will now occasionally find "smart drops." Smart drops are items that drop with stats tailored to the character who found them.
  • Item properties are now separated into two categories: Primary and Secondary. Primary stats are stats that have the greatest impact on a character;s power and/or survivability, while Secondary stats generally offer utility or character power in an indirect way. These stat groups will no longer compete against one another when an item is rolled.
  • Stat ranges on items have been narrowed significantly (ex: instead of an item having a stat range of 1-200 Strength, its range might now be something like 140-200). In addition, players can now view the stat ranges on items in their inventory by pressing and holding CTRL while an item's tooltip is open.
  • Several new stats have been added to Rares and Legendary items with the goal of supporting and/or encouraging the use of specific builds.
  • All Legendary items have been reworked with one or all the above points in mind.

Out of all the things I learned about at BlizzCon with regards to Reaper of Souls, it was really the above changes that I found most significant. Adding new content and a new class is great, but if the underlying game is still a mess, it doesn't really matter.

Patch 2.0.1 effectively sorts out the game's many loot issues: Legendary items will no longer be useless, item stat ranges won't be as crazy (and you'll be able to tell what those ranges are so you can make informed reroll decisions when the Enchanter comes into play with the expansion), and you'll no longer have to make the false choice between using an item that offers more of your primary stat vs. an item with cool utility as these are now separately rolled.

Oh, and finding a bow with +Intelligence on it while playing a Barbarian (annoying!) may be a thing of the past due to the implementation of the 'smart drop' system outlined above.

If you've been thinking about giving the game another go with Reaper of Souls, we'd encourage you to check it out even sooner when patch 2.0.1 drops (hopefully) later this month!

Story of the Day 1/9/2014 Neverwinter Gateway Sword Coast Adventures

Posted by Grakulen Thursday January 9 2014 at 3:07PM
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Late last year Cryptic teased the Neverwinter community by promising them the ability to play a mini game of sorts with combat companions through the Neverwinter Gateway.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the gateway it is a web portal that allows players to access their account from any HTML enabled device. Within the gateway you can:

  • Access all of your characters and their characters sheets
  • Search your inventory
  • Perform crafting with your professions
  • Use the Auction House
  • Use the Astral Diamond Exchange
  • Use the Zen Market
  • Manage your guild
  • Access your in game mail 

I personally used the Gateway a lot to level up my crafting to avoid paying heavy astral diamond fees.

Now players will be able to send their companions on adventures when you cannot be in game. Sword Coast Adventures is a dice rolling game that by playing you will be rewarded with companion experience, items that include potions, runes, crafting materials and tokens for gear in game. 

There are even special adventures that award companions upon completion.

This is a smart move by Cryptic and finding ways to keep players engaged with their game even when they cannot play Neverwinter from their computer can only be good for business.

If you already have a never winter account follow this link to log in and get playing Sword Coast Adventures: https://gateway.playneverwinter.com/

If you do not already have a Neverwinter account you can get signed up here https://playneverwinter.com/

Story of the Day - Jan 8, 2014- DayZ: Devs Taking Their Time & We Love It

Posted by SBFord Wednesday January 8 2014 at 3:01PM
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In case anyone has missed the past couple of weeks' news on the DayZ front, here's a quick and dirty recap:

In just under a month, Bohemia Interactive has moved almost 900,000 copies of DayZ and raked in an astonishing $12,000,000...yes, that's million, dollars to really help the team kick the development of the game into high gear. It has to be remembered too that DayZ is clearly and absolutely being marketed at this time as in alpha testing only. Those folks who were ready to pony up about $30.00 for the game were clearly given fair notice:

“DayZ Early Access is your chance to experience DayZ as it evolves throughout its development process. Be aware that our Early Access offer is a representation of our core pillars, and the framework we have created around them. It is a work in progress and therefore contains a variety of bugs. We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle.”

This notice is posted, not once but twice, on the DayZ Steam page. It's clear that the developers want players and potential Early Adopters to know exactly what they're getting into before they shell out hard earned cash.

In today's news, the official DayZ blog was updated with a reminder about the game's alpha phase and the fact that the team has no plans to hurry the process. In fact, they are looking at the end of 2014 for the start of the beta phase, with release obviously coming after the turn of the year to 2015.

In these days of "beta as sales tools", it's refreshing to see a development team that is willing to host a true alpha and beta testing cycle. It wasn't all that long ago that all games did such things but, of late, it seems that betas are often such in name only.

This isn't to say, of course, that the game will be sitting in stasis and the developers off on Hawaiian vacations as a result of the huge influx of cash to the cause. Rather, the blog indicates that there is an aggressive plan for action throughout 2014 that will be based solely on the feedback of the game's testers.

In the short term, we’re going to focus on the most critical problems you’re experiencing atm and at the same time we’re going to work on the road to the DayZ Beta. We’re going to re-evaluate the roadmap plans in the second half of January but here is a list of the existing top priorities on our to-do list to make DayZ really meet or hopefully exceed your expectations:

  • Server performance, stability and security
  • Animals & hunting
  • Cooking & gathering resources
  • Playable user customizable vehicles
  • Player created constructions in the environment
  • More complex interactions with the environment and crafting options
  • Streamlined user actions and interface
  • Control and animations expanded and improved for fluidity
  • Upgraded graphics and physics engine (including ragdoll, etc.)
  • Support of user mods and more flexibility for user hosted servers and game types

That's right: I said testers instead of players since that is precisely what is needed to make the game, already one with a fantastic foundation and addictive game play, a great one and one that is truly ready for release.

Are you a tester? What do you think of Bohemia's philosophy about the alpha and beta testing cycles? Let us know in the comments.

Story of the Day 1/7/2014: Oculus Rift Shows Off New Prototype “Crystal Cove”

Posted by garrett Tuesday January 7 2014 at 4:31PM
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If you play PC games, or any games for that matter you are watching CES closely today. The first day of the show has had some really great announcements. Unless you are Michael Bay who walked off the stage yesterday, there is a lot to talk about. The Oculus Rift makes our Story of the Day today with the announcement of “Crystal Cove” their new prototype.

Crystal Cove brings two new features to the virtual reality headset. The first is Positional Tracking. This will allow the player wearing the headset to move, duck, dodge etc. as a small camera picks up dots on the Rift system itself. Now players can move their heads in the 3D space. The best part is the price will not be increased significantly and it will be included in the Oculus hardware package. The demo at CES today was done using the Unreal Engine 4 to show off the features.

The next feature on the Crystal Cove is the OLED panel. This prototype basically blinks the pixels onto the screen at very high speeds. This creates a term called “low persistence” which drastically cuts down on motion blur. The 3D world soon seems much more real.  

These two elements may not be some great MMO design mechanic, but what they do is to continue to push the bounds of virtual reality for video games. With CCP working on Valkyrie using the Oculus system and Rift mods popping up all over for games like Skyrim, there will be a lot to look forward too. Of all the announcements coming out of CES this one got our attention quickly. The main reason is that many games will be making the leap to VR in the near future and Oculus does a lot to support developers with their product. We demoed the Rift last year at GDC and E3 and loved what we saw. Now it is just a matter of putting it all together.

The good news is that this amazing piece of hardware will hopefully arrive by the end of 2014. Yes Please! If anything we should have a lot more hands on and coverage coming up this year at GDC, PAX, and E3. 

Story of the Day 1/5/2014: Smedley Says One Sub for All SOE Games Coming Soon

Posted by BillMurphy Monday January 6 2014 at 10:38PM
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John Smedley, as much flack as he gets for SWG, seems to be doing a lot of good lately over at SOE. Today the man released a statement that not only addresses current changes to Sony Online's Planetside 2 station cash and the like, but also reveals a new subscription model for all SOE games.  There's even more up to date info here, on this Reddit Thread.

From Smed's original post:

"We are considering (and are likely going to move forward with) a plan that means if you subscribe to one of our games you are a subscriber to all our games (this applies to PC titles only btw).. all for the current $14.99 a month. That's a benefit most companies simply can't offer because they don't have our portfolio of games. The goal would be to let you pick an item in each game you play. Some of you might say "well who cares..I only play Planetside 2. How is that a benefit to me?" My answer is simple - we've got a great lineup of games, some of which aren't announced yet that cater to a lot of players. We have EQN and EQNL coming along with other..... games... that PS2 players might just like :)"

Now, clever readers will remember something called the Station Pass, now the "All Access" pass. How is this new model Smed's describing different from the current? Well, it's basically a $5 reduction on the All Access pass. For the price of a standard MMO subscription, you'll get subscription status to all of SOE's games, across consoles and PC (the consoles are not a done deal, but should be), as well as added benefits every month in their completely free games without a subscription option.  

Now toss in the fact that EverQuest Next: Landmark is launching this year, and EverQuest Next might even see a beta this year (I'm just guessing), plus other games that Smed's hinting at which are yet to be announced... all of these you'll get access and special offers in for the cost of one game's subscription.  

As a game hopper by profession, I'm all over this. Something about the $19.99 has always kept me away, but knowing that for $15 I could get all the goodies across all the games would be just the right spot to get me to jump on the wagon.  I could see myself playing enough of those games enough times throughout the year to actually make a continual renewal worthwhile, and I'm sure SOE knows that most players of their games have dabbled or do toy around in their other titles.  

I also see this move as something that could potentially revitalize the subscription in a way. Industry insiders and analysts keep saying the sub fee is dying, but really... it's just that few games offer enough reason to subscribe for the long term. With the catalog of games SOE has in its grasp, this is a deal few MMO gamers would likely pass up (unless they're just not fans of SOE games, of course).

They're changing the currency of DCUO from Station Cash to Loyalty Points on the PC, and letting them stack up on your account, thus making the rewards the same across the PS3 and PS4 as well.  You'll still get your 500sc (see above-linked Reddit post), and additional discounts as well. Plus the All Access pass is being reduced to $14.99. It's a win-win-win. It's all with the goal of making these rewards for subscribing universal across all SOE products.  With EQ Next and Landmark on the horizon, I'm 100% behind this change.

How about you?