MU Origin 2 Closed Beta Announced

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about Webzen’s MU Origin and now here we are on the cusp of the MU Origin 2 closed beta for North America and Latin America talking about it. The closed beta starts today and will run for 10 days, until April 7th. It’s only available for Android users though there will be an iOS version when the game launches later this year. Though the game will also be releasing in Europe players located there won’t be able to take part in the closed beta.

MU Origin 2 is, as the name implies, the second spinoff from Webzen’s massively popular Korean MMORPG MU Online. Players will be able to pick from three distinct classes; Dark Knight, Dark Wizard, and Elf. The press release boasts that the game will include classical MU elements and gameplay on a mobile device with a huge selection of quests, dungeons, modes, pets, items and more.

All closed beta participants who reach level 150 and submit a short survey about their experiences in the beta will get an exclusive title when the game launches. It should be stated, however, that characters from this closed beta will be wiped. According to comments made on Facebook Webzen currently hopes to launch the game for everyone in May or June.

If you’re looking for a new mobile game to play then it looks like MU Origin 2 will be a great option for you going into the summer. Check out the trailer below and for more information head over to the official site.

Source: Press Release

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Play of the Fortnight: The Precarious Future of Overwatch

We’re coming up on the two year anniversary of Overwatch’s launch. No one can deny that its first year was a massive success: the esports scene flourished, Blizzard added new content on a consistent schedule, and we saw people flock to the game even if they had never played shooters before.

However, as we come to the end of the second year, the future of Overwatch seems a little less certain. Updates have slowed, new content is sparse, and we’re wondering where the game is going.

No new Overwatch events

Future of Overwatch - Events

Overwatch events have always been a highlight for players. Whether you play the game the rest of the time or only come back for the event-specific content, there’s always something to do when an event rolls around. However, we haven’t seen a new event in a long time. In fact, Blizzard seems to have happily settled into a schedule with no intentions of doing anything new.

There is something to be said for knowing what to expect. Each year, many players including myself look forward to the Halloween Terror event. Unfortunately, it does feel like the events have got a bit repetitive. While Blizzard adds new skins to each event, and sometimes revamps the game mode or map a little (such as in the Archives or Summer Games examples), it’s getting all too familiar.

With their approach of bringing out an event every few months, on a fairly regular cadence, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough scope to weave any additional events in, either.

Lack of original content

Aside from events, we haven’t actually had anything new in a long time. The hero release schedule has elongated, new maps are infrequent, and even the regular patches seem to be spaced out a lot more than they were before. It feels a bit like Overwatch is in limbo: there’s still fun to be had, but the lack of a clear future is only going to hurt the game in the long run.

Even balance patches have suffered. In the Polygon article “Overwatch feels outdated in the era of Fortnite”, they talk about the meta and how Brigitte went practically unchecked for almost a year (article by Cass Marshall). Multiple balance patches happened, yes, but it took Blizzard a long time to get her to a more reasonable place.

At the beginning, Overwatch felt like a shiny new experience, with new and fun updates coming thick and fast, along with frequent tweaks to heroes and their abilities.. The events were something to look forward to, the story was constantly evolving, and the hero-based FPS gameplay was fresh. Where did they go wrong?

Trying to please too many people

Future of Overwatch - Esports

One of my theories is that Blizzard has spread themselves too thin. The major appeal of Overwatch was that it was a welcoming game for even a casual player. People who don’t normally play FPS games but are fans of Blizzard’s storytelling and world crafting were interested in the game and didn’t feel excluded. The colorful characters, the lore, the fun and not-too-serious gameplay were all major draws.

And then eports happened. Something that, when done well, usually serves to strengthen a game’s place in the gaming world seems to have done nothing more than weaken the one thing that brought so many players to Overwatch in the first place.

Try to please everyone, and you often end up pleasing no one. I worry that this is what is happening in Overwatch at the moment. This raises an interesting question: does every game have to be an esport? And how do you balance a competitive scene with a large but now ever-shrinking casual playerbase?

We need a PvE game mode

Future of Overwatch - PvE Game Mode

I’ve said it before, and this is definitely the hill I am willing to die on: Blizzard needs to bring in a PvE game mode. Junkenstein’s Revenge remains one of the most popular event game modes to date, and it seems strange that they haven’t added a permanent PvE mode already. Another suggestion players have made is a campaign mode, where players could explore the backstory of different heroes.

Ultimately, Blizzard needs to start doing something different. While I’ve talked before about a Battle Royale mode, maybe they need to do more to highlight their strengths rather than succumbing to the current flavour of the month genre. A PvE game mode would do this wonderfully, and would cater more directly to their more casual playerbase, perhaps even drawing some who’ve already left back.

Closing Thoughts

Overwatch isn’t dead, but it has certainly seen a decline in popularity lately. A large part of this impression is due to the fact that we aren’t seeing the game evolve any more. Is Blizzard trying too hard to please too many different types of players?

Blizzard faces a huge challenge in balancing its game for regular players, casual players, and its competitive and esports scenes. Whether or not this will be possible in the long run remains to be seen, but it’s definitely going to be difficult and they’re likely going to continue losing people along the way.

Will Blizzard strike a balance that works for the majority of the community? We’ll see what happens as we enter Overwatch’s third year shortly.

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Minecraft Removes References to Notch

Five years after it was sold to Microsoft Minecraft removes references to Notch, the man who originally created the game. His name still remains in the credits, but references to Notch in the main menu that previously read “Made by Notch!”, “The Work of Notch!”, and “110813” have been removed. For anyone who has followed Notch on social media, this won’t come as a surprise at all. He has turned out to be quite a controversial person when it comes to politics. In the past, he has tweeted support for a heterosexual pride day as well as having what was considered by many a white privilege meltdown. He’s also known for using the term feminist as an insult and has called a female game developer an fing c-word, just…with the proper words used. His bigoted views are a stark contrast from the very family friendly game that he created. Many of Minecraft’s very large audience is younger children.

The removal of the references was first noticed a Twitter user and then it was later confirmed by PC Gamer. So far, Microsoft hasn’t responded to press requests for comments. They came as part of a patch that added a status effect called Hero of the Village as well as an accessibility button on the title screen. They’ve replaced the references to Notch with “Don’t worry, be happy!” and “Go to the dentist.”

Removing Notch references from the main menu will make it less likely that new Minecraft players will learn about Notch. Having him in the credits is still entirely safe because let’s be honest, outside of Marvel movies no one actually sticks around for the credits. If we’re perfectly honest, it’s really surprising that this day hasn’t come sooner. Notch has been notorious on Twitter for the last couple of years.


Source: PC Gamer

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WoW Wednesday: The Bans of Ten Lands

Last week I was banned from the World of Warcraft.

To be fair, after fourteen years, it was going to eventually happen. I’ve survived several of the game’s more controversial bans, especially in the early days of what we now call Classic WoW. Bans are not an uncommon thing in the game’s long history, both the temporary variety (which I received) and more permanent ones. Receiving one is as simple as using an item in a manner that was not intended, but some of the more infamous have resulted in players distinctly modifying game files to skip entire legions of raid trash.

This week I’d like to talk on the latest of these mass-bans for one of Battle for Azeroth’s simplest items. This ban, for a majority of its users, is utterly well deserved. However due to the nature of the details in this particular situation its vital to discuss, especially when it comes to the playability and enjoyment to be found in the earlier portions of Warcraft’s gameplay.

The item is one that most players starting their quest will not be aware of for quite some time. In fact, most max-level players in current content are not aware of its existence, as it was quietly added by Blizzard with the introduction of the new Service Medal Currency. The Draught of Ten Lands is a flask made available for five Service Medals, awarded through participating directly in your faction’s war effort. Binding to your Blizzard Account, this flask can be mailed to any of your characters and give them a small stat boost, as well as a 10% increase to experience.

Draught of Ten Lands
The intent of such an item is rather clear, from first glance. In addition to heirlooms, gear which scales with a new character and grants an experience bonus, this is intended to assist in the leveling process. Many players purchased them to use for this purpose, myself included. This has been in the game since the original release of Patch 8.1 and has already seen prolific use by people wanting to level their new Mag’har or Dark Iron characters.

However with the release of both the Kul Tiran and Zandalari races, there seems to have evolved a new, far more interesting use of this rather unassuming item. To say that the Draught was bugged is a very minor understatement of the facts. On multiple occasions when mailing it to other characters, the Draught sorted itself into individual stacks in my bags. Sometimes the Draught would just completely disappear from my inventory entirely. Despite appearing to last an hour, the buff the draught gave has no form of duration tracker on it, making it seem eternal and difficult to track. This, to my knowledge and the knowledge of others, has been going on for at least a month.

All of this would combine into the now famous leveling exploit, one which neither the staff of this site or myself condone. I first discovered the exploit by accident, when all of the above bugs combined to my general confusion; thinking the timer had gone up on one of my Draughts I used an additional, separate one from my bags. And then the buffs stacked.

I first discovered this during a Stockades run with a party of newly created Zandalari Trolls. I received a whisper, “I see you’ve noticed the Draughts too.” Our tank had discovered the bug.

And he had almost forty separate buffs from the Draught of the Ten Lands.

warcraft Auction House Hotfix
It turns out that if your potions had individually stacked in your bags, which mine had, you could consume entire groups of them to potentially fill up all of your 250 buff slots and exponentially increase your experience gain. Cumulatively. Imagine that, a 2500% experience gain outside of the Monk leveling buff and addition 50% gain from Heirlooms.

This was a bug that Blizzard had been aware of for some time. Even searching through the World of Warcraft Customer Service accounts on Twitter you can see players general confusion on whether or not this item was working as intended. Bug reports about various features regarding the Draught can be seen as early as December of last year when it was added to the game. These issues were a widespread concern far before the addition of the new Allied Races in 8.1.5, but because of the publicity of the new leveling scale this issue became far more widespread. People began to purposefully use this to level their new characters, myself included. After all its hard not to see why this wasn’t intended, having been available for nearly four months in game with no changes or fixes.

Now to be once again transparently clear we here at do not condone the use of exploiting or cheating in any game. I myself feel I was justly banned, receiving a 48 hour lockout for powerleveling roughly 40 levels with my Zandalari Monk. Others, like Warcraft Youtuber Preach were banned for their first offence for 31 days. Most people who intentionally used this flask were caught somewhere in the middle, punished for how far they had gone with their characters. However, there are some incredibly important things that should be discussed here.

The first is why is this such an issue? Most of the community is understandably upset as this was not an issue for nearly four months. These bugs have been prevalent throughout its release, and the silence was deafening from all official Blizzard communications until the eventual bug-fix of the Draught in-game. Its not hard to see why some of the more vocal playerbase feel slighted by what’s happened with this banning process, particularly with how other bans have occurred in the past.

Taking an example from more recent history, the Legion expansion saw players journeying to the far reaches of the universe to combat the Burning Legion. Aside from assaults by the demonic horde on Azeroth, players could also assault the Legion on worlds they were invading as part of end-game content. A particular account-bound toy players could receive could teleport low-level players TO these invasion sites, which allowed them to group up with other players and collect large amounts of experience very quickly.

Clearly this portal toy was not intended to be used by low-level alts. However, despite that, no one was banned for its usage. Equivalency is a hard thing to achieve in moderating anything, whether it be a Discord server, a game forum, or even an MMORPG itself. Warframe most famously has its issues where players can receive bans for using certain words which could be perceived as social slurs in the global chat, even when discussing particular colloquial abilities between Frames. Moderation is not easy, especially on a massive scale. Some of the backlash is apparent due to the timing of it; most of the bans whether they be 48 hours or 31 days fell over the free ‘Return to WoW’ weekend.

The second question we need to ask is, “Why do players care?” The reality is no one cared. Players didn’t notice the usage of the Flask until it was already incredibly widespread during the Allied Races. Those that found the bugs on the whole reported them as it came up. This was not a large-scale issue until the release of the Zandalari and Kul Tirans and the summation of widespread bans. Without any form of public correction from Blizzard through any channels, players were getting swept up simply by asking other dungeon-goers how they were leveling so quickly. Hundreds of players have been banned, from the cutting-edge Mythic raiders to the most casual of questers, the demographic is huge.

The last, and potentially most important, question is, “Why are players looking to accelerate their leveling experience?”

It is simply because World of Warcraft is boring.

This has been a problem for years and is a systemic issue with playing Warcraft. Adventuring through the world of Azeroth is a very dry experience. Some content is older than the current design of the level 1-60 experience and is wretchedly repetitious. I’m currently leveling a fresh Druid through the old world questing systems where there isn’t any of the high-scale production value found in Battle for Azeroth. Unless you read every piece of quest-text there is very little to really hook you into gameplay until you reach the later end of your journey.

There is no focus on the leveling experience for either newer or veteran players, which makes sense. World of Warcraft, unlike other MMOs, is focused on its core endgame development. That is what keeps older players returning

So where does this leave us? Players have been, rightfully, banned for exploiting game mechanics. Blizzard’s silence and the confusing stance on previous bannings, however, have left the majority of the affected playerbase wanting. There is a clear disconnect between the desires of players and the intents of the developers in regard to the playing of Warcraft with little clear sight of resolution. Even the most important things now are falling through the cracks of Azeroth’s very design for players to toy with to improve their own experience.

This situation is clearly been brought to a head from deep seated issues that have been prevalent from some time now. We’ve asked the why, but when it comes to a clear divergence on the views of Azeroth, we need to ask a far more important question:

Can players truly ever enjoy Azeroth as intended, or there a greater conversation to be had about the user experience and what really constitutes as ‘fun?’

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10 Studios That Would Make Your Dream MMORPG

The MMORPG genre is far from dead, but it could surely use a boost from a top player in the industry. Can you imagine if the masterminds behind the Witcher franchise decided to make an MMORPG? Just how splendid that would be.

This thought alone led me to ponder on other studios that could potentially deliver your dream MMORPG. I chose to leave some renowned developers out of the equation as they clearly need a respite to reflect on their recent blunders. Who exactly, I hear you ask?

Bethesda, to begin with. The mess of a game that is Fallout 76 didn’t do any favors to its reputation, so they need the time to realign their focus – The Elder Scrolls fans are watching. BioWare also seems to be stuck in a rut following the lackluster releases of Mass Effect: Andromeda and the highly anticipated and equally unfulfilling Anthem. Finally, Destiny 2 is clearly showing that many players are getting tired of Bungie’s microtransaction-laden sci-fi worlds and the studio needs to move on to more rewarding and fair experiences.

Without further delay, here are ten studios that wouldn’t let you down – hopefully.

CDProjekt (The Witcher Franchise, Cyberpunk 2077)

Dream MMORPG Studios CDProjekt

The storytelling gurus at CDProjekt delivered three of the best RPGs ever made but are yet to prove themselves outside of Geralt de Rivia’s universe. Cyberpunk 2077 is its first stab at another setting, trading medieval fantasy for grim futuristic sci-fi. Here is a studio that doesn’t shy away from a challenge and is known for pouring its heart into each game. CDProjekt deserves extra honors for its crusade against DRM technology and the belief that players should feel compelled to buy a game for its sheer value, instead of pirating it.

The Witcher series has all the trappings of an MMORPG. Great lore, captivating characters, exciting combat and large regions to explore. CDProjekt could probably build on this to create a massively multiplayer world and considering that it owns the rights to video games based on The Witcher novels, there is no shortage of potential or visible blockades along the way – except when Witcher creator Andrzej Sapkowski realizes he needs more money.

Or they could go for something completely original instead, no strings attached. No matter CDProjekt’s decision, it’s a proven fact that they value their players and would go the extra mile to create something utterly memorable.

Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto Franchise, Red Dead Franchise, Bully…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Rockstar Games

No matter what Rockstar sets out to do, Rockstar achieves – even if it means putting its staff through excruciating long hours. That’s the ugly side of the video game industry, sadly not as unusual as it should be.

But back to the matter at hand. Rockstar Games is a huge publisher with several subsidiaries with proven track records. Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead are its two major franchises, where they show their skills both in single-player and multiplayer. There is no doubt that they would work wonders in an MMO environment…

… “But isn’t that a thing already with GTA Online and Red Dead Online?,” the observant crowd asks. Well, you ingeniously inquisitive fellows, the answer is both yes and no. These online modes for the popular franchises may be robust and excitingly entertaining, but I want to see Rockstar doing something bigger and bolder. Not just multiplayer revisions of the original gameplay, but something supporting way more than 32 players. An entirely new IP, featuring the same open world ideas from the above-mentioned games but with a more elaborate, story-based approach to the game world.

It would be an interesting challenge to tackle, and I’m convinced that Rockstar would be successful. Business as usual.

Ubisoft (Far Cry Franchise, Assassin’s Creed Franchise…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Ubisoft

Currently, Ubisoft is synonym with Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, but the French company has a lot more under its sleeve. The Division 2, for example, is just one of several games that happily dabble with online gameplay, but is it a true MMORPG? I wouldn’t say so. Oddly enough, there isn’t a single full-fledged story-driven MMORPG anywhere to be seen in Ubisoft’s enviable backlog.

Ubisoft’s experience with rich open world settings would be invaluable when it comes to building a vast and diverse map for an MMORPG. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey shows a developer with several great ideas and a brilliant grasp on art direction, storytelling and combat system. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is a potential candidate for a massively multiplayer release, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Ubisoft using its expertise and resources with an original IP.

Epic Games (Fortnite Battle Royale, Gears of War…)

Dream MMORPG Studios Epic Games

The overwhelming success of Fortnite Battle Royale coupled with the industry-leading Unreal Engine are the two main drivers of Epic Games’ unstoppable growth. The failure of third-person MOBA Paragon wasn’t enough to deter the studio, and it was convinced that Fortnite would come out of development hell and convince the masses. It did, but the “help” of a rival to steer it in the right direction was essential: PUBG introduced it the wondrous world of Battle Royale.

For a studio that was founded in 1991 and enjoyed several successes over the years, Epic Games is sitting at the top of its game. They could easily design a traditional third-person MMORPG as they have the resources – mainly the engine –, the know-how and the financial freedom. They are proven masters of every visual style, so they could go for a sci-fi fantasy theme enriched with realistic features (as seen in Paragon) or choose a laid-back cartoon approach (Fortnite). While it is early days for fully-fledged Unreal Engine 4 MMORPGs (Nexon’s Project BBQ, Blade & Soul’s Vision update, NCsoft’s Project TL…), Epic Games could easily stand out from the competition with its expertise with the engine.

Grinding Gear Games (Path of Exile)

Dream MMORPG Studios Grinding Gear Games

Is Path of Exile an MMORPG or is it not? That’s a discussion that could go on for days, but the general opinion is that it is an ‘online action RPG.’ Rightfully acclaimed as one of the best examples of the Diablo school of hack and slash, Grinding Gear Games’ title could work as a great prelude to an MMORPG.

Grim and gloomy just as Diablo is – or was? –, Path of Exile could serve as the stepping stone for an isometric MMORPG in the style of Lost Ark. With open world areas and world bosses for dozens of players to cooperate, along with the traditional instanced dungeons, it’s not like GGG’s first and only game strays too far from MMORPG territory. Their updates are renowned for being huge and going in the direction of player requests and aren’t afraid of drastically changing something that doesn’t feel right – as they did with the Fall of Oriath expansion, completely altering the campaign structure.

The big question here is if it would be worthwhile developing a second game that fundamentally would borrow many mechanics from Path of Exile. Perhaps going for a different, less grisly theme would be the best choice?

Digital Extremes (Warframe)

Dream MMORPG Studios Digital Extremes

Through perseverance and unshakeable belief in its original vision, Digital Extremes managed to surpass everyone’s expectations and showed a thing or two to many publishers of little faith. Warframe went from being a niche game to a behemoth of an online action RPG.

It’s this perseverance and long-term vision that would ultimately set them apart from other developers. Ironically, it was absent from hero shooter The Amazing Eternals, but realizing early on that something isn’t going to take off may be a positive as well.

Digital Extremes is absolutely at ease with sci-fi and fast-paced movement, so it would be the perfect candidate for a frantic action combat MMORPG. They are no strangers to open world MMO gameplay as well, with Warframe’s updates Plains of Eidolon and Fortuna showing that they can hold their own in this department.

The only downside would probably be that this hypothetical MMORPG would be, just as Warframe, in open beta for all eternity and beyond. But we all can live with that, right?

Riot Games (League of Legends)

Dream MMORPG Studios Riot Games

Riot Games must step up its game soon or risk seeing the fountain of riches that is League of Legends eventually dry out. How fun would it be to see Runeterra becoming the stage for an MMORPG? It’s not as crazy as it sounds either; it was Riot Games’ co-founder Marc Merrill that came up with the thought and fans reacted accordingly.

Of course, this is nothing but speculation. While Riot Games is said to be “experimenting a lot of stuff,” and considering the implications of going head-to-head with World of Warcraft, nothing is set in stone.

However, it should happen. League of Legends has some terrific characters and intricate lore that could work nicely in an MMORPG. The colorful cartoon aesthetic feels just right for a third-person perspective, and it goes without saying that the League of Legends player base would jump at the thought of seeing its favorite world expanding. This MMORPG must be made while the MOBA remains at its best, so that gives them… two to three years?

KOG Studio (Grand Chase, Elsword, KurtzPel…)

Dream MMORPG Studios KOG Studio

KOG Studio is something of a weird case. While an expert in online games, the South Korean studio still hasn’t dipped its feet in traditional MMORPG territory. Grand Chase and Elsword are acclaimed MMO games but they are action games at heart and couldn’t be further from the likes of World of Warcraft or EverQuest.

Nonetheless, Elsword is considered a 2.5D action MMORPG, which means that it includes core mechanics such as guilds, PvP and item trading. KOG’s latest game, KurtzPel, switches to a third-person perspective but is a focused PvP brawler experience with boss raid PvE gameplay tacked on.

So why do I reckon that KOG could deliver an outstanding MMORPG? Because they have years of experience in online games, a couple of successful titles under its belt, and a mastery of action gameplay. The cherry on top is the combat system developed for KurtzPel, which would work impeccably in an MMORPG. The same thing goes for the beautiful anime graphics.

I don’t want to sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon, but adding hub towns with proper quests to KurtzPel would be a great place to start. Follow it with complete dungeons, let it cook for a couple of years and we would get a stunning anime MMORPG. Sadly, KurtzPel isn’t going to be that game, but KOG may eventually get to it in the future.

DevCAT (Vindictus, Mabinogi, Dragon Hound, Ascendant One…)

Dream MMORPG Studios DevCAT

For many of you, the name DevCAT may not ring a bell, but what about Mabinogi and Vindictus? Now that tells you something, doesn’t it? The South Korean studio is behind these classic MMORPGs, with Vindictus being one of the best examples in action combat before TERA or Black Desert Online showed up to the party. This game is live and getting updates up to this day, further proof that DevCAT stands by its work.

A sequel to Vindictus is long overdue and was once in development, but it felt more like an arena brawler spin-off than a proper follow-up. It ended up being canceled, with DevCAT moving on to other games. The monster-hunting online game Dragon Hound is one of its upcoming titles and a very promising one, and DevCAT is also reimagining Mabinogi for mobile devices, and it looks terribly cute. DevCAT’s catalog shows that it is a studio capable of tackling any challenge, from MMORPGs to MOBAs and even card games.

DevCAT should consider updating Vindictus to the current generation, just as Neople is doing with Dungeon Fighter Online’s sequel (codename Project BBQ). A third-person, brutal action combat MMORPG mixing Vindictus’ varied character selection with an open world like Black Desert Online could be a pleasant recipe. Nexon just needs to give them the go-ahead and we’ll all be happy.

SEGA (Yakuza, Phantasy Star Online 2…)

Dream MMORPG Studios SEGA

I’m not even going to bother with Phantasy Star Online 2 anymore. I gave up on the promised western release a long time ago, but SEGA could at least be so kind as to officially confirm that this version is dead and buried, something that they didn’t even worry about telling their fans. We need some sort of closure on this subject, guys!

SEGA is no stranger to MMORPGs, as you can see, so it’s peculiar to realize that it has all but abandoned the genre. A new Phantasy Star Online game would result in millions of joyful players worldwide, but I wouldn’t rule out something based on the Yakuza franchise as well. This prolific series is acclaimed for its open world and story, as well as for the abundance of mini-games and entertaining side-quests. Aren’t those some of the fundamentals of a full-fledged MMORPG?

Between a new Phantasy Star Online and a Yakuza MMORPG, the choice is far from easy. Recently we were fooled into thinking that the latter one was happening, but Yakuza Online turned out to be a mobile card game. In your face, expectations!

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New Online Games Announced at Tencent Up 2019

Over the weekend Chinese gamers weren’t looking to GDC to find out about the latest and greatest games, they were watching Tencent Up 2019 where new online games were announced along with some familiar Western games being released in China.

Brawl Stars and Stardew Valley were just two of the titles we’ve been playing for a while now that China will finally have access to. At the end of 2017, it was reported that Stardew Valley had sold 3.7 million copies, this was just a couple of months after the game released on Nintendo Switch. Since then it has released on PS Vita, iOS, and Android. Now the game will be available to the biggest gaming market in the world.

While it is awesome that Tencent is taking more Western games to China, the real appeal of Tencent Up is when they announce new titles. There were four titles announced and we’re going to break them down below.


Codename LN, Land Next

It looks as though Tencent is getting in on the Battle Royale action with their very own game, LN. It is a PC game that brings together two things you don’t often see together; Steampunk and Ancient China. According to local media, movement looks similar to Apex Legends. It’s being made by Tianmei Studio, an internal Tencent team who worked on one of the PUBG mobile games as well as Call of Duty Mobile. There is no timescale or release date for this game yet and no word on if it will be released in the West. But, based simply on the setting, we don’t hold out a lot of hope for a Western release.


Codename SOC

Codename SOC is a mobile zombie survival game that has been in development for two years now. Lightspeed & Quantum Studios are the minds behind the game. Previously they’ve made a PUBG Mobile game and worked on more than a dozen titles since 2008. The game is powered by Unreal Engine 4 and boasts a seamless open world. Also, the trailer looks kind of badass so be sure to check it out. No word on a release date for this game or a Western release. But, we’re pretty hopeful about this one. Sure, zombie survival games have been done to death, but this game looks amazing and the fact that its open world leaves us wondering what we don’t know about the game.


Ace Force

Ace Force is an Anime style team shooter similar to Overwatch, except that it’s a mobile game. The game has a large variety of characters, each with their own unique abilities. There are several game modes and maps to play on. One interesting thing it also features is the ability to switch characters during play. While this game has seen a few small test phases in the past it is going into a larger beta phase next month in China. It’s possible that this game will see a Western release in the future, but it’s equally possible that we will never see the game. Our personal opinion here in the office is that it will largely depend on how well the game performs in China.


The Outcast Mobile

The Outcast is a Tencent IP that started its life as part of the Tencent comics platform. Thanks to its popularity it got a 2 season anime called Hitori no Shita: The Outcast which aired in 2016 and 2018. Now, it is being turned into a mobile game. The game has 4 clans which 2 unique characters in each who are dealing with the supernatural using their powers. What does that mean exactly? Who knows. There is no release schedule for this game yet. As for a Western release…it’s our opinion that it’s never going to happen.


Source: MMOCulture

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Albion Online is Going Free to Play Next Month

Next month Albion Online is going free to play after spending nearly two years behind what they call a $30 paywall. They said this in the FAQ section of announcement answering the question, Why are you making this change now? Here is the full text of their answer:

Overall, the game is doing very well. We have a fully staffed development team of 35 people, just released our sixth major post-release update, and have a stable and growing player population.

However, we’re also convinced that Albion Online can be taken much further. Our mission is to bring back that old-school, hardcore MMORPG feeling, to as many players as possible.

In today’s world, a 30-dollar paywall – the price of our cheapest game pack – is a massive deterrent for trying out a new game, especially one as unconventional as Albion Online. We believe that by removing the initial paywall we will be able to grow Albion Online as a game and continue to further expand our development team to bring you even more content updates and exciting new features going forward.

Ultimately, we believe this step will help us realize our long-term vision for the game.

As a thank you to their loyal players they’ll be giving anyone who has redeemed a starter pack before April 10th an exclusive Specter Wolf mount, 1,000 gold, and 3 days of claimable premium time. Starter packs will continue to be available until April 10th, and are in fact, discounted for the remaining time they’ll be available.

Premium status which can be bought with in-game currency or real money will remain the same. The only thing being changed is that barrier of entry wherein you must buy the game.

All of these changes take place on April 10th at 10:00 UTC. If you’d like to learn more about Albion Online going f2p you can find more information in the official announcement linked below.


Source: Official Site

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WoW Wednesday: Why Warfronts?

War has touched every aspect of Azeroth’s wild and untamed horizon in the last fifteen years of its history. In Battle for Azeroth players have gotten to experience that ongoing faction war first hand in both its deep-rooted storylines and in the game’s newest instanced content: Warfronts. One of the few ulterior modes of gameplay aside from Raid Tier and Rated PvP, Warfronts offer players the chance to take the field in some of the world’s most heavily contested battlefronts. The main question I wanted to ask this week is why? Why should players invest their time in warfronts, why should Blizzard continue the trend, and why is it that these great pieces of content lose their luster so incredibly quickly?

For those not present in World of Warcraft’s current expansion, Warfronts are just that; Players parachute and storm a currently in-progress battleground between the Horde and Alliance that must be claimed. Securing a foothold for their faction, players then proceed to engage in a Player vs. Environment battle as they take territory along the battlements and advance upon the enemy’s fortress. Gathering resources heroes of the Horde and the Alliance will reinforce their own battlements while creating new weapons for their troops, creating siege weapons and eventually striking down the enemy commander.

Battle for Azeroth started the Warfront with its greatest showing so far. Taking fight to the Arathi Highlands, heavily featured in Christie Golden’s pre-expansion novel Before the Storm, this area has long since been in conflict since World of Warcraft’s inception. Originally struggled for by the Defilers and League of Arathor in Arathi Basin, the Highland’s Warfront features some of the game’s greatest legacy characters making their stands against each other. For the first time since the original Warcraft: Orcs vs. Humans, Danath Trollbane, the rightful ruler of the Kingdom of Stromgarde and the territory of Arathi returns home to claim the warfront. Famous characters of both the Horde and the Alliance take the field for the first time; both a recently returned Turalyon and an underused Muradin Bronzebeard square off against Lady Liadrin, one of Silvermoon’s greatest Blood Knights and Eitrigg, one of the Blackrock Clan’s greatest warriors.

Upon parachuting into Stromgarde, players quickly found themselves embroiled right in the thick of combat. It takes mere moments to engage the enemy and begin building your base outwards, assaulting the wilderness itself in order to gather resources and recruit forces to assist offensive players. No matter where you go in Stromgarde, battle is to be found, eventually culminating in a fight at the gates of your foe’s stronghold before the gates are blown aside by artillery. From there it is a mad rush into the jaws of the beast and the defeat of the enemy commander.

Furthermore, the unique Warfront rewards were more than just a passing fad. While sharing similar models with current season PvP gear, the Battle for Stromgarde also offered two different armor sets for the Warfront with different color variations. While the first could be gained through simply completing the Warfront, the other Elite variant required going above and beyond. Initially offered by both completing the Warfront once and again for a follow-up quest in the zone, Warfronts Equipment Caches could award multiple parts of this Elite set potentially.

This, however, was soon to become more frustrating than not in every respect. With the launch of the Battle for Darkshore and Battle for Azeroth Season 2, there has been a distinct paradigm shift in the design and reward philosophy of Warfronts.

Darkshore and Stromgarde are, in several respects, virtually identical in their construction. Both see players storming a battlefield, gathering resources, building a base, and launching assaults against an enemy commander in order to defeat them and claim victory. Darkshore, on the other hand, suffers far more from the limitations of the zone it is featured in and how the story has so far been structured about its conflict. Featuring the Night Elves, now empowered by the dark side of Elune, they try to retake their ancient lands from an encroaching Forsaken army intent on blighting the lands from shoreline to shoreline. Headed by Maiev Shadowsong, the leader of the Wardens and Sira Moonwarden, now raised into the Forsaken’s undead army, these two commanders offer little if any long-term history or development for the players unless they closely followed the goings-on of the Warden faction during Legion.

Unlike Stromgarde, players also must carve their way into their own base; while the invading faction quite literally parachutes into their fortress and can retake ground in moments, Darkshore players must now carve their path from shoreline to base before beginning the Warfront proper. This really only serves to extend the total length of the event. Both factions will take the exact same steps through the battle, from Bashal’aran north to Lor’danel Landing, effectively giving no real sense of battle-lines.

While Darkshore is almost identically laid out in terms of capturing bases and branching pathways to Stromgarde, the longer design of the zone makes the entire encounter feel much more claustrophobic. Frankly it feels more like players are skirmishing with the enemy in a hallway than spreading across a battlefield, allowing groups of players to easily intercept enemy forces and eradicate them with little effort. This problem is only compacted by the endgame where players must wait to disable sea-weaponry off the shoreline, making it unattackable. It can only be destroyed by your own siege weaponry meaning that it takes an extensive period of time before it can be obliterated and the commander unlocked. While some enemies will spawn to harry your assault, these are far reduced from their equivalents in Stromgarde, meaning most will simply /afk and twiddle their thumbs.

This narrowed focus can be seen once more in the Warfront equipment available to players. Unlike the three distinct varieties players could obtain in Season 1, this was altered to two with three different color variants (one for PvP ‘Aspirant’ gear, one for ‘Gladiator’ and one for ‘Warfront’). While the regular Warfront set can once again be acquired in a day or two of grinding, both the Darkshore and Stromgarde Elite sets have become much more difficult to achieve. With the addition of Darkshore there is now only one Warfronts Equipment Cache rewarded per week, meaning that in order to get every piece of your Elite set, you will spend at least four months per set if you are lucky. Each cache randomly generates its loot, meaning you can also acquire the same piece repeatedly if you are particularly unlucky.

Why should players invest their time in Warfronts? That answer is simple: they are quite fun, despite their issues. While I still see Stromgarde as utterly superior to Darkshore, even gallivanting through the plagued treeline is still enjoyable once or twice per week. There is an innate thrill in playing out the war between the Horde and the Alliance, even if it is essentially the same scenario each time. As we covered in a previous WoW Wednesday, both Warfronts still offer a superior method to gearing characters than Normal or Heroic dungeons as well. There is something here for every player, even if that something is gradually worn down over time.

Why should Blizzard continue with Warfronts? Despite these detractions, Warfronts are a great way to put players into the field when it comes to struggling against the enemy faction. They wonderfully illustrate current battles in the game during Battle for Azeroth and are a wonderful vehicle to convey that visceral action the expansion has lacked thus-far in its regular question content. More can be done with Warfronts, but so far they make for quick and fun action-driven segments that are far simpler (and sometimes more relaxing) than PvP content.

Why does this great piece of content lose its luster so quickly? Frankly, Warfronts have nothing to give to the experienced player. Once you hit or exceed item level 370 there is simply nothing more that Warfronts can offer you in immediate rewards and this is where they begin to greatly suffer. Whereas completing the basic set is achievable and doable, the more elite rewards seem to be purposefully time and RNG gated to forcefully lengthen the amount of time required to ‘finish’ warfronts. While there is now an Honorbound and 7th Legion currency vendor tied to War Events in Battle for Azeroth, these medals are unobtainable in Warfronts, giving players looking for greater and enhanced rewards little to no reason to continue past the basic rewards.

Warfronts are a wonderful additive piece of repeatable content in Battle for Azeroth. While they’re perhaps a slight adjustment to older instanced content formulas permeated throughout the World of Warcraft, they are still incredibly enjoyable even for just casual play. However, their lack of mindful design through zone construction means that they amplify incumbent environment issues directly onto how gameplay feels in the Warfront. Rewards are simply unrewarding to a vast majority of players, meaning that the continued play for Warfronts will only decrease as the expansion drones on, even as additional warzones open up across Azeroth.

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Kakao Games is Publishing Path of Exile in Korea

Thanks to a newly inked agreement Kakao Games is publishing Path of Exile in Korea. The game has already been released globally but, in most cases where this kind of publishing deal takes place, it is about a lot more than just publishing the game. Localization, using local currencies, and local customer support are typically the reasons we see studios working with different publishers around the world. There’s also the fact that should there be any issues with gaming laws, like those in China, having someone who is already an expert in those laws on your side is a lot better than you bumbling in and hoping everything will be ok.

Thanks to their experience with Black Desert Online as well as publishing PUBG Kakao would already have connections and local workers in Korea to take on the challenges releasing Path of Exile in Korea present.

Path of Exile is one of the top played games on Steam and is beloved by its community. Despite being 6 years old the game is still going strong and will be releasing on PS4 in just a few days. Grinding Gear Games is already working with Tencent in Mainland China and Garena in Taiwan so this isn’t the first time they’ve worked with a publisher in the East. Though Tencent does have an 80% stake in the company.

Grinding Gear Games is one of those few internationally known studios based in New Zealand. Which is where the first ever ExileCon will be taking place this November. If New Zealand is a bit too far for you to travel for a game convention, don’t worry, the entire event will be streamed for free. More details on that are expected soon.

As for Kakao’s publishing of Path of Exile in Korea, right now there isn’t a time scale that has been made public. But, it has been said that a launch schedule will be announced at a later point.


Source: MMOCulture

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The Culling is Shutting Down After Rough Year

You may recall that about halfway through last year The Culling 2 was released as a Battle Royale game and fans of the original weren’t too pleased. At the time Xaviant decided to refocus their attention on The Culling, but it seems that the damage was already done. Now, after months of struggling to stay afloat, The Culling is shutting down.

The Culling

The Culling

For anyone who has been watching gaming news, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Culling had a lot of success in its small corner of gaming but instead of focusing on making improvements to The Culling, releasing DLC and such as you would expect, the studio launched straight into making the sequel. A sequel that wasn’t in the same genre as the first and instead chased the current Battle Royale trend. This was seen by many loyal fans as a cash grab and put them off the studio entirely.

Xaviant only tried to rectify the mistake a few weeks after The Culling 2 launched. At that point, they decided to shut down The Culling 2 and go back to The Culling which they would rename The Culling Origins and make free to play.

Sadly it seems that the effort was too little, too late. Despite the game being free to play the game has spent every month this year with an average concurrent player number under 100 players. They had hoped that making it free to play would save the game and they would be able to rely on sales from the in-game store to keep the game afloat. This didn’t go according to plan and so The Culling is shutting down May 15th.

The fact that there were no new development updates between October 2018 and the announcement of the shut down really goes to show that this has been coming for some time. The shutdown announcement says that even with thousands of players they weren’t able to generate the revenue needed to keep the game going.

But, there is the potential for salvation for the game. It would appear that Xaviant is willing to explore the option of another studio taking on the game if anyone is interested.

It’s a sad way to see this story end and hopefully, Xaviant will land on their feet soon.


Source: Official Site

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