Dark Age of Camelot Free-To-Play Impressions 2020

Before World of Warcraft, there was another massive MMORPG capturing the attention of thousands of players worldwide. In 2001, Mythic Entertainment released Dark Age of Camelot, a fantasy MMO with Realm versus Realm combat as its focus, despite offering a PvE experience as well.

I dearly recall the day when the game arrived in my hands. It came in this bulky box that is designed to stand the test of time and looks great in every shelf, even nearly two decades after its release. Try doing that with your digital library of games, will you?

Following Dark Age of Camelot, Mythic released Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning in 2008 to a warm welcome. However, it turned out to be its final MMO, having shut down by late 2013. Mythic Entertainment closed soon after, in 2014, but this wasn’t the end of Dark Age of Camelot, with Broadsword picking up on this and Ultima Online, keeping the studio’s legacy alive.

In October 2019, Dark Age of Camelot finally surrendered to the times and added a free-to-play option called Endless Conquest. In a day and age where most games tend to do so after a year or two, this long-running MMO deserves a pat in the back for supporting its paying players for nearly two decades. Alas, a vigorous player base is crucial to keep such a game going, and that is why this move makes perfect sense.

Dark Age of Camelot Free-to-Play Impressions 2020 Castle View

As I booted up the game, it felt like an exquisite time-traveling experience, with everything that it entails. The graphics are acceptably low poly, but it was the font used during character customization that gave the game an antiquated feel. Oddly enough, the start of the game itself brings a cleaner, more eye-friendly font choice, although the UI remains as rudimentary as expected. Clearly conceived in a time when functionality was key and with a few text commands to support this notion, it is the sheer embodiment of pragmatism in detriment of friendliness and style, a challenge that ensuing MMOs eventually decided to tackle.

While you can expect the choice of class archetypes that we’ve grown to know and love, with tanks, healers, spellcasters, and the like, Dark Age of Camelot isn’t very friendly on its approach. That is understandable, since this was early days for the genre and the developers were paving the road for an unpredictable future. Therefore, going with a Sorcerer but failing to find a supporting class such as a Paladin to join you is a death sentence. You need to find a good balance right off the bat because this MMORPG isn’t going to take you by the hand, apologize for its mistakes, or point you in the right direction.

Well, except for the quest markers, a handy feature to have due to the open world nature of the game. Given the slow pace and the now rudimentary mechanics, it would be a burden to explore the realms of Albion, Hybernia, and Midgard without at least some clues. This is a game that is heavy on lore and content, and the expansions that followed only served to increase its scope. In tandem with the Dark Age of Camelot free-to-play release, these expansions are now available for free as well.

Dark Age of Camelot Free-to-Play Impressions 2020 Castle Battle

“XP is shorthand for experience” | Dark Age of Camelot Free-To-Play Impressions

That hint above sounds just like something only a videogames rookie would be thankful for, right? However, shortly after the turn of the century, this was very reasonable advice for a genre that was extremely niche, a notion that was only dispelled with the release of World of Warcraft in 2004. And the rest is history, as they usually say.

But going back to the Sorcerer, my XP… I mean, my experience with this class was ambiguous, to say the least. This is a class that has a penchant for crowd control, but the truth is that there is no crowd to control during the many first hours of questing. Although I did try to dip my feet in Realm vs. Realm combat early on, the battlegrounds were deserted and far from what I was expecting to find – a deafening silence that was made all the more baffling by the slew of idle NPCs. It does make sense, however, as these battlegrounds are divided by levels and the Dark Age of Camelot veterans are surely testing their might on the high-level areas, or in the main RvR zones in New Frontiers.

The issue here is that for a game that is so focused on large-scale guild battles, it’s highly likely that its player base is the equivalent of a very restricted boys club that few new players will be able to enroll for. For that, you would need other players to begin the adventure with you, something that isn’t highly plausible, or at least easily achievable. I did stumble upon a few players and even joined one of them for a couple of quests, but we soon disbanded, never to meet again.

Dark Age of Camelot Free-to-Play Impressions 2020 House

This means that a new player will be forced to venture solo for the majority of quests, with such an unnatural path reflecting on your perception of combat. In hindsight, the tab targeting system was superb for its age, and still holds up today if you’re not too picky. However, the creaks are showing and what was considered fun many years ago now feels like a laborious and tedious task. Thankfully, each class has enough skills for you to experiment with, giving you a feel that you have a wide range of options at your disposal, especially for caster classes.

Dark Age of Camelot has rightfully earned its place in videogaming history. It’s a remarkable achievement, designed in a time when the genre was taking baby steps, with little more than EverQuest to serve as inspiration. It’s a testament to its quality that it remains live after so many years, but the truth is that it’s a harsh and somewhat barren game that is entirely geared toward organized groups of players. Endless Conquest was a great trip down memory lane, but this Dark Age of Camelot free-to-play release ends up being extremely time-consuming and mechanically outdated, and I prefer my realm wars to be more contemporary. So, I guess I’ll wait to see what its spiritual successor Camelot Unchained brings to fans of King Arthur and realm combat.

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Vikings: War of Clans – City-Building Games Through a Norse Lens

Vikings: War of Clans is a city-building game that follows on the tradition set by Plarium and a few other developers. It’s a game about expanding your realm and fighting for supremacy, but it’s not a groundbreaking design that and doesn’t push the genre forward. However, there are millions of fans of the genre and this is one of the best games that they can try.

I decided to give Vikings: War of Clans a go to discover what is so appealing about the genre. A few hours in and it was easy to see why so many players are hooked to the game.

Vikings War of Clans Bastion

Norse Architect

Vikings: War of Clans is meticulously designed to grab your attention from the outset, beginning with the ease that you can start a game in your browser. The appealing graphics and easy to read user interface contribute to a solid world that is immediately tempting to casual players, with its simple tutorial and initial rewarding sense of progression.

Everything you do nets you some sort of reward; it’s a feeling that keeps you wanting more, as you develop your village and see it come to life. There are plenty of little animations to make it feel lively, with your shiny purple oracle standing out in the middle of the village. The distant snowy peaks are made of a few different graphical layers, adding a nice sense of depth to the bastion. Your troops cheer and train, your little workers are always busy mining and cutting wood, the druids are concocting mysterious potions in their cauldron, and while you may nitpick that the animations are made up of short endless loops, they manage to look good.

Constructing buildings and upgrading them is one of the focus of Vikings: War of Clans and similar strategy games such as Sparta: War of Empires. It’s a satisfying but somewhat repetitive gameplay loop, one that isn’t meant to become your main occupation during the day – this is a game that works best as an alternate way to occupy your journey, as a background task that you’ll check into several times a day to see your progress and unlock further options. It’s like a Tamagotchi of city-building, where you need to take constant care for your village and inhabitants.

Vikings War of Clans Global Map

There are several systems for hero customization, with various skill trees, gear, and more to constantly spend your hard-earned skills on. During the first hours you’ll find yourself clicking away at more notifications than you can stomach, but progress will eventually iron out this kink. After all, it’s not like you are the only player earning all those rewards, you are just another Viking hero in a mad, mad world.

As your village evolves, there is a whole mass of land out there ripe for exploring and conquering. Training troops is crucial, amassing a respectable army that will set out to capture farms, fighting centurions and monsters, all in a bid to get more resources to use with your people. The process is mostly automatic, with the player allocating the troops for the battle and getting a final report about the clash. It’s a tried-and-test formula that is spruced up when it comes to player-versus-player combat, the core of Vikings: War of Clans after the initial hours of introduction to this world.

Ultimately, Vikings: War of Clans goes from casual to hardcore, as your character and village climb experience levels and engage other players. There is a ruthless competitive side to the game, one where certain building upgrades take several weeks to conclude. This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff, with some players unable to withstand the lengthy process of leveling up their hero and village, while others take pride in showing their achievements and power.

Vikings War of Clans Troops

While Vikings: War of Clans is a good choice if you plan on dipping your feet into the city-building genre, Nords: Heroes of the North is a viable alternative. Both games share the Norse mythology theme, albeit Nords does so with a cartoon aesthetic.

These games are designed with extreme care and based on a winning formula, although it’s sometimes difficult to pick the better game from such an assorted offer. While the genre could do with some sort of breakthrough, the existing titles should be more than enough to keep you busy for hours.

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Raid: Shadow Legends is a familiar but spectacular adventure

The beginning of Raid: Shadow Legends is a nice surprise, feeling like a big punch in the gut. A party of four very diverse warriors with tongues as sharp as their weapons rush to face an impressive dragon, only to end up eaten and scorched in the face of such unsurmountable odds. The use of high-level gameplay as a tutorial isn’t an unusual approach, serving as a way of showcasing the heroes and bosses at their full potential. Yet, it remains fresh and convincing after so many years.

Luckily, not all the champions are gone for good – a single champion is bestowed a second chance and it’s up to you to choose which one. Will it be High Elf Archer Elhain, Orc Galek, Paladin Athel or Dark Elf Kael?

Raid Shadow Legends Dragon Boss

Roasted Champs

Plarium is the developer of many acclaimed strategy games, mostly based on a tried-and-tested city-building template that has proven successful since the studio’s inception in 2009. However, Raid: Shadow Legends breaks with the tradition, instead being a turn-based role-playing game with more than 300 unique champions to collect.

Raid: Shadow Legends is a mobile game, but a desktop version is in the works if you prefer to play on your computer and aren’t too fond of emulators.

The main strength of hero collecting games lies in their roster. A great cast is more than capable of making or breaking a game, even if the core mechanics are polished to the brim. Raid: Shadow Legends is off to a great start with its enticing introduction and when the dust settles, it gradually presents you to its diverse modes and challenges. It’s a clever way of easing casual and veteran players alike, using your bastion as the hub for every possibility.

The visuals in this game instantly grab you from the get-go. While initially doubtful about the high quality of the intro graphics, when the campaign started it was clear that these were actual in-game models. Raid: Shadow Legends looks stunning, with some spectacular scenarios and environmental effects. The sheer diversity of the locations is enough to keep you going, always on the lookout for background details that makes the whole experience that little bit better – the beautiful snow effects in Ice Peak, or the scorching pits in the Minotaur labyrinth are a sight to behold. The same can be said about the bosses, with some attention-grabbing creatures such as the creepy Spider, or the devastating Fire Knight.

Raid Shadow Legends Champion

The champions are beautifully rendered and with detailed animations achieved through motion capture. The smooth movements highlight their different personalities, even in the case of the grotesque beasts or undead hordes that you get to recruit.

If there is one thing that would add to the immersion and mood of the game, it’s champion interaction. It was enjoyable to see the four warriors poking fun at each other during the intro sequence, although their detachment was somewhat worrying for the well-being of the party. It would be interesting to see something similar in the campaign, with an affinity system for each champion to express their amity, hate, or benevolence towards one another. This could build on the game’s universe and pave the way for interesting stories or side-quests.

There’s this unmistakable The Lord of the Rings vibe to the whole setting. The accomplished dark fantasy aesthetic is a breath of fresh air, moving away from the saturated cartoon or anime style that similar games tend to use to the point of exhaustion. This is a great looking game and one that will instantly catch the attention of onlookers in their search for the next collectible card RPG.

Raid Shadow Legends Spider Boss

Your four-man party of champions can be comprised of units earned by advancing in the campaign, or by using shards to summon new heroes. Your progress will unlock better shards and legendary champions, with several means to upgrade your squad. There’s PvP, dungeons, faction war, and so many other options and regular rewards, that you won’t be thwarted by a level for long. It’s a multi-layered game where getting a new and formidable champion feels like a victory and a free pass for more challenging levels.

Despite featuring an auto-combat mode, this is a quality-of-life option that is better suited for re-runs and to earn additional experience using low-level champions. Using auto mode when playing the latter half of the campaign or PvP will only earn you shameful defeats, so it’s best to steer clear of it. Tactical prowess is necessary to advance, considering that the A.I. isn’t always going to make the best combat decisions in the long run.

Raid: Shadow Legends is a game that stands out from the competition, even if it doesn’t exactly push the genre forward. I’ve enjoyed my time with it and was thrilled at every new stage and boss fight. With great looks and a remarkable cast of champions, this is one compelling adventure that I will frequently return to.

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Top 10 Upcoming Diablo-Like Hack and Slash Games

There is no denying that Diablo was responsible for the explosion of hack and slash games. More than a couple of decades after its release, the action RPG genre is often referred to as “Diablo-Like” and for good reason. Blizzard’s classic spawned countless clones and they are still coming fast and furious, with tons of loot, relentless mouse clicking and a fair share of wrist pain. Here are a few Diablo-Like games that you should keep an eye out for.

Pagan Online

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Pagan Online

Pagan Online is the upcoming action RPG from Wargaming. Taking a break from its serious warfare simulators such as World of Tanks, World of Warships and World of Warplanes, the Belarusian company is helping Serbian-based developer Mad Head Games with this grim hack and slash RPG inspired by pre-Christian mythology.

I can tell you that Pagan Online’s world is deliberately bleak and desolate, with its heavily stylized visuals. But it’s the template that stands out, with its MMO-ish design and bite-sized gameplay pretenses. The Pantheon is the hub for your character (from the initial choice of eight unique heroes), with short missions of different types awaiting you. WASD control assures optimal ease of use and co-op play doubles the fun – or even quadruples it, if things go according to plan.

Despite looking and playing like your typical hack and slash game, Pagan Online’s 50-hour campaign doesn’t shy away from some interesting twists, such as the occasional mission with increasingly difficult enemy waves and intense, challenging combat that takes cues from MOBA games.

Pagan Online may draw inspiration from Diablo, but it proudly shows its very own, fierce distinctiveness.

Torchlight Frontiers

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Torchlight Frontiers

What’s not to love about the Torchlight games? They take all the exciting combat and endless loot from the Diablo series and multiply it by a substantial dose of fun, resulting in two of the best hack and slash experiences ever made.

Following Torchlight 2 would never be an easy task. The next chapter needs to bring something special to live up to the hype, and indeed it does – an extra layer of MMO goodness. From public areas with up to eight players and dungeons supporting parties of four, Torchlight Frontiers ups the ante in co-op potential.

Torchlight Frontiers also tries to deviate from the tried-and-tested vertical progression systems found in most MMORPGs, offering a distinct take on levelling your character. Each frontier is levelled up independently, with specific gear best suited for each one. The alpha tests brought the first two frontiers, Goblin and Hyvid, along with randomized dungeons and a season-based contracts system that will reward players for completion of their daily and weekly missions.

Oh, and loot. Tons of loot. Torchlight Frontiers doesn’t seem destined to disappoint in that regard, nor where it comes to classes. The Forged was different enough, but the Railmaster is an entirely original beast, probably the cleverest class ever designed for an MMO in the last decade.

Last Epoch

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Last Epoch

Last Epoch is another Kickstarter-funded action RPG that looks like a close relative to Path of Exile, but with a twist: time travel. Now there’s a great excuse to take you to forbidden lands and forgotten places, or even to the end of time – no, seriously, this is a real map, set in space.

Last Epoch also comes with a skill tree of hell – or in fact, 110 skill trees. The promise of “endless replayability doesn’t fall flat in light of this feature. With five base classes and 15 mastery classes there should be more than enough to experiment, regret, re-roll and finally specialize into your favorite character. Developer Eleventh Hour Games claims that this is an action RPG for newcomers and veterans alike, so you tell us if that is the case since the beta should be available right now, with the full release slated for April 2020.

Lost Ark

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Lost Ark

Each day that goes by without an official announcement of a Lost Ark North American and European release, an angel loses its wings. We know it’s coming – Smilegate’s CEO has confirmed this – but it hurts seeing our Korean friends enjoying one of the best MMORPGs of recent years and realizing that we can’t get our grubby fingers on it before… what? Late 2019 or 2020?

Oh, come on, will you please hurry up with the English localization? China and Russia versions are well underway, and the original Korean release already got a host of new content including a new class, the Lance Master, so the anxiety is eating me up inside.

If you don’t know what Lost Ark is, then you have no love whatsoever for Diablo, MMOs or both. This is everything that you ever wanted from a Diablo MMORPG, but with so much more than you asked for. Combat alone is a thing of beauty, with several classes so diverse and resourceful that you will shake your fist at the skies in the selection screen, rightly enraged by the unfair decision that must be made before you start your adventure. Do not fret, that is what additional character slots are made for. Then you have the incredible cinematic dungeons, with camera angles and boss battles designed to keep you on the edge of your seat right until the climax.

Lost Ark is the real deal; an MMORPG that delivers on its promises. This is, by definition, the kind of rare beast that is on the verge of extinction.

Warhammer: Chaosbane

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Warhammer Chaosbane

The Warhammer franchise has seen so many video game adaptations, dipped its feet in so many genres that it sounds odd to think that no one ever created one action RPG set in this fantasy world. I’m not talking about the Warhammer 40K universe, as that one was already graced with the middling Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr.

But that glaring mistake is about to be fixed with the release of Warhammer: Chaosbane. This is a Diablo-esque action RPG coming to PC and consoles in June 2019, with a focus on co-op play up to four players, but you can play alone as well. You should know what to expect right now: hordes of monstrosities for your righteous heroes to slash through.

Four character classes doesn’t sound like a lot (Mage, Soldier, Waywatcher and Slayer) and the Dwarf’s spin attack is already getting on my nerves, but other than that, Warhammer: Chaosbane is shaping up to be a good action RPG, with 10 difficulty levels and a boss rush mode to keep you busy.


Top 10 Diablo Like Games Fractured

In theory, Fractured sounds more ambitious than most of the games in this top 10, but that comes at a price. Coming from Italian-based indie studio Dynamight Studios, this is an open world sandbox MMO complete with a full-fledged housing system.

Graphically, Fractured looks a bit rough around the edges, but nothing to be ashamed of. If the trade-off is a deep MMO with exciting action combat and interactive environments, then I can live with it. You can pick from three very different races (Humans, Beastmen and Demons), something that isn’t just for show, having a practical effect in your game: from your society to the interaction with other players. You can choose to go to a PvE co-op only world, a brutal open PvP environment or a mix of the two. Crafting and trading is entirely player-driven, something that can either make or break a game.

Fractured has a lot of potential but we’ll have to wait and see if this small indie studio is able to pull it off. Sheer ambition can only take you so far.


Top 10 Diablo Like Games Darksburg

Darksburg isn’t so much about loot or forging your path in a vast world. Instead, it places you and a few friends in a zombie-infested world where surviving the invading hordes is the objective. It’s a more immediate and enjoyable hack and slash game without loot dropping every step of the way – items and rewards should be more manageable than your average action RPG and won’t get in the way of the fast-paced game.

Darksburg offers 4-player co-op action where teamwork is crucial. Each character from the roster comes with unique skills and personality – Sister Abigail has a set of abilities that is completely different from Varag, the escaped werewolf. Your character will improve with items and unlockable talents and you’ll need all the help that you can get to fight the bosses. There are different maps with varied objectives to keep gameplay fresh: find the cure, escort someone, escape from the area and more. In PvP mode you can choose to play the bad guys and face other players.

Coming from the makers of Evoland and Northgard, Darksburg looks like the kind of multiplayer experience that you can’t go wrong with. It may not bring a ludicrous dose of loot like some of the other games from this list – that is not its purpose –, but I’ll be a rotten zombie if it doesn’t turn out to be tons of fun.

Lineage Eternal (Project TL)

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Project TL

NCSoft is having a hard time finding the sweet spot for the next Lineage game. The follow-up to one of the most profitable MMORPG franchises ever is switching from third-person to a top-down isometric perspective like Diablo.

Lineage Eternal is in development for ages, having been first announced back in 2011. So that nearly makes for a decade of development hell that doesn’t seem close to the end. In 2016, things seemed to be on the right track – you could pick a team of four characters out of the existing 13, there was a nice system for randomized dungeons and the closed beta was coming soon.

But that didn’t happen. In 2017, a new game producer and a new team undertook some serious changes to the game, including the switch to Unreal Engine 4. The multi-character system is gone as well, replaced by a traditional class system. The name was scrapped, changing to the Project TL codename. That stands for The Lineage, apparently.

It’s been a while since we last heard from Project TL, but you can rest assured: NCSoft has a lot at stake with this game and you can bet that it won’t disappoint.

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Wolcen

Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem is in a strange place. Once hailed as the next coming of the action RPG, it is slowly dragging its blood-drenched sword through Early Access for over two years. While it entered beta in March 2019, the community seems to be losing faith in the developers, with some updates to the game being badly received, such as the removal of the open world from the first act in favor of a bog-standard, linear area.

Notwithstanding, Wolcen still looks promising, albeit in an unashamed Diablo 3 wannabe kind of way. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but it did subvert initial player expectations in a way that is affecting its reputation.

But what about the game itself, you ask? Wolcen is a fun action RPG with some great gloomy graphics and solid, weighted combat without any class restrictions. It feels like a mashup between Diablo and Path of Exile but currently with much less content and with streamlined skill trees, things that surely will be improved as development progresses.

And that is where Wolcen’s worries lie – a slow-paced development that despite showing commitment to the game, is under fire from a community that is growing impatient as months go by. It’s been four years since this game showed up as Umbra on Kickstarter, but let’s never forget that good things come to those who wait – Path of Exile is a perfect example.

Legends of Aria

Top 10 Diablo Like Games Legends of Aria

Legends of Aria tries to scratch that old-school MMORPG itch that very few games managed to do effectively. Citadel Studios mentions Ultima Online as its biggest inspiration, something that is not to taken lightly seeing that the creation of Origin Systems was released in 1997 and is still running today.

Much like Fractured and even Albion Online, Legends of Aria tries to go for a sandbox open world design, possibly the most difficult template to successfully pull off for an MMORPG. It is advertised as a game with no hand-holding and where community servers and modding are not only allowed, they are vigorously encouraged.

Legends of Aria is another one of those MMORPGs where the community will dictate how it will evolve. If the mechanics are sound and polished, it may stand a chance; on the other hand, a lackluster Early Access phase will surely lessen its chances of success.

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10 Absolutely Shocking or Surprising MMO Events

The video game industry isn’t all about making games; that would be so downright boring. That is why now and then we get a shocking scandal, surprise announcement or surreal occurrence. Here are 10 controversial or surprising happenings that spread like wildfire and in some way changed the industry.

Save the Whales – Lockbox Legislation Around the World

Video Game Industry Scandals Star Wars Battlefront 2 lockboxes

Do you like gambling? Great! So why aren’t you inside a casino? Oh, that’s right, most games nowadays come with some sort of gambling feature called lockboxes. The premise is simple and ingenious: you are promised amazing in-game rewards that will be all the rage. So, what should you do? Purchase more and more of these boxes to increase the odds of getting that rare piece of gear or costume. Go on, put that credit card to use, games don’t make themselves, you know?

That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t notice. Always be responsible with your spending.

The shady thing with lockboxes is that the odds of really getting something worthwhile are incredibly slim and shrouded in secrecy, not to mention that they have this tempting allure that many players aren’t able to resist. It does sound a lot like gambling, right? That is how you end up spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on randomized pieces of loot.

Oddly enough, it was China that first started looking into this matter and demanded that developers publicly revealed the odds of earning an in-game item. Crossfire was one of the first games to come to light and the ludicrous 3% proves that lockboxes are a wonderful deal… for publishers.

Other regions such as Belgium and The Netherlands started investigating lockboxes, with some games such as Overwatch stopping the sale of lockboxes in affected regions. Electronic Arts was involved in this controversy as well, with games such as Star Wars Battlefront 2 and FIFA 18 being mentioned as examples. Of course, other countries aren’t entirely sure about this subject. France and Ireland, for example, aren’t the biggest fans of lockboxes but see this practice as a legally grey area.

Lockboxes are a touchy subject and will surely continue to be discussed during the following years. My advice to you is: if you really like a game and want to support the development team by spending some money, which you should totally do, look at the item shop and leave lockboxes alone.


Riot Games Bro Culture, Testicle Flicking and Gender-Based Discrimination

Video Game Industry Scandals League of Legends Riot Games

Riot Games achieved intergalactic fame riding on the success of League of Legends, but by late 2018 it was talked about due to the worst possible reasons: an alleged culture of sexism, a “giant fraternity,” and a “bro culture” where women were not welcome. It was a place where women were discriminated against, as their career progression was stifled as positions went to less-qualified men.

Kotaku created an amazing article with several interviews that dropped like a bomb in the already fragile and scandal-ridden video game industry.

Naturally, this piece spread like wildfire and had severe repercussions, with Riot Games having to undertake some serious damage control. Riot’s COO Scott Gelb was in the spotlight by facing accusations from multiple employees about repeatedly flicking testicles, farting on employees or humping them for comedic effect. Sounds like a lot of fun when you are on the receiving end, right?

To cut a long story short, several former Riot Games employees started sharing their experiences after reading the articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and the least that can be said is that it is some heavy reading. Riot Games eventually apologized, but the damage was done, and the past can’t be erased. How it has affected the studio – and League of Legends – remains a bit of a mystery, but I doubt that it did them any favors. And it’s so easy to apologize after your humiliating studio culture is revealed to the world…


A Bad Case of Battle Royale – PUBG Corp Sues Left and Right

Video Game Industry Scandals PUBG

Here’s a lawsuit for you! And you! Everyone gets a lawsuit!

There is no denying that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the game that kickstarted the Battle Royale craze. It remains as one of the most played games in its genre, but it is now trailing behind Epic Games’ Fortnite, and Respawn’s Apex Legends is also proving to be a worthy challenger.

However, if there is one thing that developer PUBG Corporation can’t claim is having invented the Battle Royale genre or its mechanics. That is why suing Epic Games sounded more like a desperate attempt to put a stop to the rising fame of Fortnite Battle Royale than an authentic, credible case. It felt more like a kid throwing a tantrum because someone stole his candy. His delicious, everlasting candy.

But before the Epic Games lawsuit, there was a previous one targeting NetEase. PUBG Corporation wasn’t pleased with Knives Out and Rules of Survival, going to the extent of detailing several game mechanics over 100 pages. Claiming copyright infringement for things such as a pre-game lobby, the air jump, character attributes and much more seems a bit of a stretch. Sure, I’ll admit that the frying pan armor may be somewhat original, but still…

PUBG is a huge success and shady copycats were bound to happen, but it will be a depressing day when a studio is granted the copyright for trite game mechanics or a completely unremarkable game idea. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that the day will never come.


Trust Us, This Time It’s Good – Bless Online Western Release Mess

Video Game Industry Scandals Bless Online

Bless Online is the perfect lesson in exaggerated hype and subsequent disappointment. May its legacy serve as a warning for future generations about the dangers of high expectations.

For the lucky few who aren’t aware of the whole situation, Bless Online is a Korean fantasy MMORPG that was several years in the making and had a large budget as well. A few lackluster betas led to a Rebuild project that ended up not changing that much, and the attrition between original western publisher Aeria Games and developer Neowiz was a clear sign that Bless Online wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Ultimately, Neowiz decided to self-publish Bless Online in the west through Steam, but with a major twist – it was going to be buy-to-play! An unfinished, buggy mess of a free-to-play Korean game that the western crowd was now expected to pay for. Oddly enough, many players cheered this decision because things are always better when you pay, right? With the reality shock and negative feedback stemming from the Early Access phase – because Bless Online wasn’t in development for long enough, you know –, there was a 180º turn and Bless Online’s official launch marked a switch to the original free-to-play business model. Too little, too late?

Apparently, yes. As the original Korean servers shut down, along with the failure of the Russian and Japanese versions. The Steam release of Bless Online is now the sole focus of Neowiz. Unsurprisingly, it is bleeding players and its future is uncertain, to say the least.

But I saved the best for last! Out of the blue, Neowiz and Bandai Namco announced Bless Unleashed, further stirring up the hornet’s nest, a.k.a. Bless Online PC players claiming that resources were being shifted to this upcoming game. This Xbox One exclusive is developed in Unreal Engine 4, is free-to-play and is scheduled for a 2019 launch. How does that old saying goes? Fool me once, shame on you…?


Who’s the Parent – Daybreak / Columbus Nova Chaos

Video Game Industry Scandals Daybreak PlanetSide Arena

Daybreak Game Company was in the spotlight for an important part of 2018, and no, it wasn’t due to the massive layoffs (around 70 people). It was because of all the confusion surrounding Daybreak’s alleged parent company, Columbus Nova.

The makers of Z1 Battle Royale, DC Universe Online and PlanetSide Arena, among others, were involved in a tangled web of miscommunication, doubt and unexpected twists. Daybreak has officially denied any affiliation with Columbus Nova, claiming that Jason Epstein, former member of Columbus Nova, is the primary owner of the studio. This conflicts with a 2015 privacy policy which described Columbus Nova as the parent company.

This almost feels like a detective movie, involving a Russian oligarch, billions worth of frozen assets and nail-biting suspense. All that is lacks is a romantic subplot, but let’s not make it more complicated than it already is.


Elves on Spaceships – Pearl Abyss Purchases CCP Games

Video Game Industry Scandals Black Desert Online

What does it take for one Korean studio to acquire a hugely reputed developer with a massive hit that has been live for more than 15 years? The answer has three words: Black Desert Online.

Pearl Abyss delivered a stunning MMORPG that is almost unrivaled when it comes to graphics and action combat. It is also incredibly deep and complex – so much so that it’s awfully grindy and requires a hefty dose of patience, and usually money, to become a powerful player. There are reports of players having spent over $5,000 USD on Black Desert Online, and I’m betting that is the tip of the iceberg.

With such revenue numbers, it’s clear that Pearl Abyss had a bit of pocket money. They decided to use it on the acquisition of CCP Games, makers of the intergalactic epic EVE Online. Apart from the upcoming release of EVE Online in Korea, we don’t know what other plans Pearl Abyss has for the Icelandic studio. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t involve spaceships landing in Black Desert Online.


A Handful of Nothing – Wargaming Seattle Closes Without a Single Release

Video Game Industry Scandals World of Tanks

Gas Powered Games is a name that brings back some pleasant memories. It takes me to a time when I enjoyed playing the Diablo-like Dungeon Siege, or the complex real-time strategy series Supreme Commander. However, in 2013 the studio was suffering from severe financial issues and ended up being purchased by World of Tanks publisher Wargaming.

Thus, Wargaming Seattle was born, along with hopes of a new “big free-to-play MMO” that never saw the light of day. Five years later, not a single piece of info or a measly screenshot was released to the public, and Wargaming decided to cut its losses. The studio was closed, affecting a 150-strong team and leaving the gaming community oblivious to what kind of project was in development.

However, this isn’t stopping Wargaming’s ambitions. The Belarusian company acquired Edge Case Games in November 2018 and has several partnerships with various developers, one of the latest being Ukrainian studio Frag Lab, which is working on a next-gen free-to-play MMO first-person shooter.


Not So Heroic – Marvel Heroes Downfall

Video Game Industry Scandals Marvel Heroes Gazillion

There was once a time when Marvel Heroes merged the best of two worlds: Diablo-like gameplay and super heroes. Sure, it didn’t have the greatest start, but just as it happened with other online games – League of Legends is the perfect example –, it eventually got better as development progressed, gameplay was finetuned and new heroes joined the fray.

After a few years of live service, some worrying news came to light, and not all of them involving the game. A sexual harassment scandal concerning Gazillion’s CEO Dave Dohrmann is a major problem, and Disney’s (owner of Marvel) intention to cut ties with Gazillion was a death sentence. It all ended with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2018, meaning that the studio wasn’t paying its creditors and was forced into bankruptcy by the same entities.

Gazillion workers ended up without any kind of PTO or severance, making the entire situation even more dramatic.


Worlds Divided – Gamigo Buys Trion Worlds

Video Game Industry Scandals Trove

Trion Worlds was once one of the most prolific free-to-play games publishers and developers. Trove, Rift, Defiance and Atlas Reactor are all their own doing, and you certainly have heard about ArcheAge as well.

While some of these games were moderate successes, they weren’t enough to keep the company afloat. In October 2018, German publisher Gamigo acquired Trion, along with the full rights to the aforementioned games. They even managed to get a few Gazillion assets (makers of Marvel Heroes) in the deal as well.

Gamigo was undoubtedly one of the top players in the free-to-play market when the genre was on the rise. Recently, however, its catalog is more discreet, with the decent shooter Ironsight being one of the latest releases.


Guild Lost – ArenaNet Layoffs and a Grim Future

Video Game Industry Scandals ArenaNet Guild Wars 2

For some reason, ArenaNet felt to me like one of those studios that couldn’t do any wrong. Sure, it’s not like they have done much besides Guild Wars and its sequel, but both MMORPGs were critically and commercially acclaimed, thus my appreciation and admiration for their spotless track record.

Nonetheless, there are very few studios that manage to keep going for years without the occasional new release. Founded in 2000, ArenaNet was allegedly working on two new projects, but delayed development and a shift of staff from Guild Wars 2 to these unannounced games ended up being an unsuccessful move.

Reports mention over 100 layoffs at ArenaNet following a restructuring decision by the studio’s owner NCSoft. The future of ArenaNet is now uncertain, and if there aren’t any new games in an advanced stage of development, there is only so much that new Guild Wars 2 expansions can do. I fear that we will end up seeing the talented staff being engulfed and separated by NCSoft in a not-so-distant future.

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What Is Lost Ark Getting Up To?

Lost Ark is regarded by many as one of the most promising MMORPGs currently in development, and with good reason, I might add. It’s not easy to capture the minds of so many players, a feat that very few MMOs ever manage to accomplish. The hype meter is reaching remarkable levels of anticipation, and more than a few players have expressed their desire to pack their bags and move to South Korea for a couple of years.

They are obviously exaggerating wildly, but the point comes across clearly. It’s impossible not to compare Lost Ark to Blizzard’s Diablo – here we have an MMORPG with exciting combat, a sprawling and surprising world where you can even become microscopic and turn into a ladybug during a magical bug-filled journey reminiscent of a reverse “Gulliver’s Travels” – but these are the good kind of bugs.

Lost Ark took seven years to create with 200 staff working on the game and nearly 90 million dollars invested in its development. Smilegate developed this game specifically for PC, aiming to prove that despite the unrelenting rise of mobile gaming, this remains as the undisputed best platform for MMORPGs. Once a studio on the verge of closing down, it achieved incredible success with the multiplayer online shooter CrossFire, which still remains as one of the most profitable games in the entire world.

Now that the introduction is out of the way for those who have been distracted, what is Lost Ark getting up to? Announced by Smilegate by the end of 2014, this game has gone through three closed betas – logically restricted to Korean players, unless you could work your way around this limitation – and every single one brought a host of improvements, fixes, class balancing, graphical revamps, and a lot more. It was magnificent to look at the patch notes after each beta and realizing that there was a never-ending list of updates based on player feedback.

At this point we are less than a month away from the Lost Ark open beta, being scheduled for November 7, 2018. In case you didn’t know, South Korea usually considers an open beta as the equivalent to launch (or soft-launch, if you prefer), so the time is coming for every Lost Ark player to fully enjoy the game without regrets. Of course, Lost Ark is in continuous development just like any other MMORPG worthy of such a name, so you can expect a nonstop flurry of updates with additional content, fixes and more.

What Is Lost Ark Getting Up To - Town

In fact, we already know exactly what is planned for Lost Ark concerning future updates. These are divided into three types: Season, Episode and Middle Update. The Season updates are intended to be the largest of the bunch, adding tons of fixes and setting up the game for future updates. The Episode updates bring the kind of content that many of us are eagerly waiting for, such as new regions, character classes, stories, and events. As for Middle Updates, these will add more endgame content such as high tier raids, dungeons, and gear, as well as field bosses. The frequency of these updates remains unknown, but my guess is that we will get one of these every few months.

For the open beta, Smilegate is clearly working extremely hard as to not disappoint a large community that has placed a lot of expectations in Lost Ark. The changes and improvements range from several combat upgrades to a graphical overhaul, and it’s not often that a studio cares so much about the game as to upgrade the visuals before the open beta, with the promise of more improvements further down the road. Years and years go by and many other MMOs remain untouched, still offering the same graphics as when they were released, so this accomplishment is worthy of praise. Blade & Soul is one of the very few that are going to receive a visual overhaul, with the Vision update upgrading the engine to Unreal Engine 4.

The combat system received a lot of attention, with the aim to make it more impactful and meatier. The AI was reworked, and new movement patterns were added for the enemies, so that players aren’t tempted into repeating the same attacks. The reintroduction of blood effects is also intended to give a better feel of the battles and the devastating skills of your character. The Identity skill, which is a special skill unique to each character, was either balanced or overhauled according to each character, with the purpose of becoming more distinctive and effective.

What Is Lost Ark Getting Up To - Tripod System

One of the Lost Ark highlights is the Tripod system. With this system you can customize your skills and make the combinations feel unique to your character class. This must feel right, or it will turn into an unfulfilled promise that has no place in any game. The revamp’s objective is to make each new tier feel like a natural progression of the previous skills, creating a rewarding and natural chain effect, instead of just feeling like a separate progression. Mastering your tripod skills is going to make all the difference between regular players and Lost Ark pros.

If you like speeding through your games, then you’ll just love the latest addition, again based on player feedback: mounts in towns. That’s right, players were asking for ways to increase movement in town and one of the things to solve this was the addition of mounts. Sounds like a perfectly logical step – it would be an absurd oversight if it didn’t happen. And let’s all give a warm round of applause to the option to skip cutscenes!

So, you like having a cozy home in every MMORPG that you step in? I can relate to that; after all, even the boldest heroes need the occasional breather. However, Lost Ark takes the housing system a step further with the option to build not just your own house, but your entire island! Since Lost Ark has an NPC affinity system, you can invite some of your preferred characters to your island, play dress-up and all that jazz.

All this and still no Battle Royale mode in sight, for better or for worse. And before you think that this sounds utterly ridiculous to even allude to, let me remind you that both MapleStory 2 and Moonlight Blade, two MMORPGs, did get the unlikely Battle Royale mode. We’ll see what the future holds for Lost Ark.

This is only a short piece focusing on the more important points that the Lost Ark open beta is bringing, but Smilegate is already working on four new classes (there are 12 available right now), new islands and additional quests.

Lost Ark isn’t a sandbox open world MMORPG, instead being more of a theme park MMO – the kind where you go along for the ride, there is always a lot to see and do, but not much in the way of choices with memorable consequences. But it sure is one hell of an exciting journey, with a wonderful world to explore and a sailing system that has some unexpected depth to it.

While you may show some worries when you realize that Lost Ark runs on the Unreal Engine 3, a quick look at some closed beta gameplay should be enough to dispel those fears. Smilegate has tweaked the engine in many ways so that it remains relevant in a day and age when the Unreal Engine 4 seems to support every other game, from Fortnite to Sea of Thieves. But the best news of all is that according to general player feedback, Lost Ark’s optimization is already top-notch, with no signs of frame rate drops, even in highly populated areas.

What Is Lost Ark Getting Up To - Dungeon

The business model is one of the things that can’t go unnoticed. Lost Ark is going to be free-to-play – in Korea, at least. You can purchase some things in the cash shop such as mounts, costumes, items for housing decoration and others for convenience (pets, storage expansion and more). There is the option to purchase gear to level up faster, but before you begin shouting “pay-to-win!” you should know that you can’t acquire high-end gear from the shop. Is it still pay-to-win? You decide.

This is all fine and dandy, but most of you aren’t living in South Korea and are left scratching your heads, wondering when you can play an English release of Lost Ark. According to Smilegate, the plan is to focus on existing markets first – which translates into Korea and possibly China for now – and then work on the global market. You can rest assured, however; Lost Ark is absolutely, positively, unquestionably coming to North America and Europe sooner or later, as there are too many details hinting at it.

For one, Smilegate representatives have already hinted at their desire to release Lost Ark globally, going as far as mentioning an international release as soon as the game service is stable enough in Korea. But the more interesting piece of info comes from the closed beta client, which includes a very telling “English (US)” folder. If that is no indication of the desire to release Lost Ark in western territories, then I don’t know what is.

What Is Lost Ark Getting Up To - Crowd

2019 is going to be a crucial year for Lost Ark. The first few months after the Korean release will be revealing of the true potential of this highly anticipated MMORPG, and Smilegate will have to make good on its promises to deliver quality content at regular intervals. With a political crisis leading to a China ban on new licenses for video games created in South Korea, there is some uncertainty about the fate of Tencent’s Lost Ark release. Some are saying that Lost Ark already has a license, so it won’t be affected by this ban, while others are convinced that this decision will represent a significant hurdle for Lost Ark’s Chinese release. Truth is, we haven’t heard much about China’s Lost Ark for over a year, so it’s not looking good.

Hopefully, by early 2019 we should finally get some official news on English localization, as I doubt that the Korean studio will back up on its ambitious plans for a global release. If Lost Ark is a huge success in South Korea – and everything points to that, including the huge investment that it represents for Smilegate – then it’s very likely that we may get this game sooner than expected, just as it happened with Black Desert Online. We can only hope.

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Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players

Steam is unquestionably one of the greatest gifts of all time, right after a perfect night’s sleep, for us gamers. However, it is by no means a bed of roses, and there are more than a few reasons why Steam can be a terrible thing for MMO players as well. How come, you ask? Read on to find out.

Gone are the times when Steam wasn’t very practical to use. Slowly but steadily, a rough start gave place to a new and exciting world of video game distribution, and the mass spread of broadband internet connections paved the way to this leading digital distribution platform. It was no mean feat, and drastically changed the way that players purchased their video games. Many of you eventually had to give in to this new method that threatened the existence of physical releases and lead to the closing of many video game stores.

Unfortunately, Steam has grown so much that as it happens with most of these cases, it is abused in many ways on a daily basis. Either by would-be developers or asset flippers, there is always something going on, something capable of disrupting a balance that Valve is pursuing for over a decade and is likely to never happen.

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - DayZ

MMORPGs also suffer from this ease of entry, from Steam as a platform where everyone can release a game without much effort and taking advantage of a total lack of quality control. Early access, in particular, is abused to a point where many of us are questioning if it should exist at all. It needs a serious renovation and to demand more from game developers before their games are approved (more stable builds, enough content, little to no issues) and remain out of bounds for those who have a shady track record.

One thing that would change the face of Early Access for good would be some sort of strict deadline – let’s say, a year. After that period, either your game is deemed ready for launch or it is removed from the store and players get a refund, taking their time to decide if they will purchase the game again in the future. No more easy money from careless, hopeful players.

There is no greater example of a rushed Early Access game than DayZ. It’s been five – FIVE! – years since it first landed on Steam, and it has gone from incredible acclaim to scam claims, with the developers promising that it will officially release before the end of 2018. No Man’s Sky also suffered from a premature Early Access release, lacking the promised features that helped build the kind of hype that one can only dream of – multiplayer, in particular, was only added to the game in 2018 with the NEXT update, and with it, No Man’s Sky miraculously managed to bounce back after some very rough times. Was all the Early Access money worth it? All the scam accusations, deluded players and even the death threats that the developers received?

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Bless Online

It’s inevitable to bring Bless Online as a topic of conversation when discussing Early Access. For a game that was already released in a couple of territories, was paid Early Access necessary? Did everything change for the better during these five or so months on Steam? Spoiler alert: it didn’t. In fact, it felt unnecessary, further ruining the reputation of the game, possibly without return.

Other games should have no place on Steam at all. Re-releases of old, previously canceled MMOs lead the pack, with names such as ASTA and ELOA being fine examples. The case of the latter is even more baffling, as it has returned with a new team, a new name – Warlords Awakening – and… a price tag. Because despite its qualities, a failed game is ‘surely’ going to succeed if you must pay upfront for it.

If there is one game that will remain for years as a scar in my memory – and I’m certain that some of you remember it as well –, that game is Landmark. Surprisingly released as the appetizer for that tempting main course that once was EverQuest Next, Daybreak Game Company failed to deliver on the promises of this prelude to the next chapter in the EverQuest series. Maybe it was too ambitious, but it was also unfinished, featured terribly bland gameplay (despite some undeniably cool building tools) and desperately lacked support. Players were lured in with the promise that the best designs would carry over to EverQuest Next (a nice carrot on a stick, right?), and while the price tag was low ($9.99, plus optional Founder’s Packs that many fell for), Landmark was initially supposed to be free-to-play. Landmark turned out to be this empty shell of a game that didn’t go anywhere, disappointed many players and yet remained on Steam for more than two years.

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Landmark

More recently, the cool robot battle vehicle game Robocraft was the subject of a rushed spin-off to profit on the growing Battle Royale trend, and it was another one of those early Steam releases that shouldn’t have happened. Robocraft Royale was more of a prototype than an actual game and yet players were asked to spend $19.99 to get in the game. Without one of the main features from the original game – robot customization –, this Battle Royale ‘me-too’ left the few players that jumped in completely unsympathetic, and the publisher was forced to switch the business model to free-to-play one day after the Steam release. ONE day! Robocraft Royale sold a few hundred copies before getting a small boost of free players, only to ultimately end up canceled a month or so later for further development. Why was this game ever considered to be in an acceptable state for a Steam release?

And what about Twilight Spirits? NetEase, the Chinese studio responsible for Revelation Online, didn’t even bother translating the game into English before releasing it on Steam. For the common gamer, English is a universal language and it’s easy to get to grips with, even if you’re not versed in the language of Shakespeare. Seeing a game in Chinese only, and one that you may even need to fiddle with your operating system to play, seems baffling. This game has been sitting on Steam for over a year, no updates whatsoever on its Steam page, and averaging 0.9 players for the last 30 days. It’s a good thing that no one had to pay for it, right?

Why Steam Can Be a Terrible Thing For MMO Players - Twilight Spirits

These are just a few examples of Steam’s ability to turn unappealing games, rehashes of previously canceled MMOs and untimely prototypes into enticing projects. Some of these games may be victims of a ruthless market that jumps from trend to trend, but most of them are either ancient designs marketed in appealing ways or partially developed games that don’t really care about your feedback; they just want your hard-earned bucks as quickly as possible before the inevitable negative feedback rears its ugly face.

Careless players may fall prey to these enticements, but experienced gamers will immediately notice when something looks odd and steer clear from it. My advice is to only jump into Early Access if you blindly trust the developer, wait a few weeks for the first proper reviews, and always be wary of ‘dead games’ – usually there is a good reason for it. Steam has brought such good things into our lives, but for every good game we get, there are ten or so that are trying to trick you out of your money.

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Thoughts on Elite Dangerous: Beyond Chapter 4 Changes

Frontier Developments recently confirmed the scope of the exploration changes coming to Elite: Dangerous Beyond – Chapter 4. Frontier invited me to their offices, along with 16 other community members and content creators, to see the exploration changes in action. We also got to see the rest of the content coming in Q4 of this year. While some of it is still unannounced and therefore under NDA, I’d like to take this time to share some of the details of what’s to come and some thoughts on the new features and changes.

Elite Dangerous Beyond - Roadmap

What’s Coming in Beyond Chapter 4

So far, Frontier Developments has confirmed a revamp to their lighting model across the entire game, along with some pretty extensive changes to their existing exploration and mining systems. They also shared the upcoming “Codex” back at Frontier Expo last October. Frontier said these systems would tie quite neatly together, and improve the quality of life for players who engaged in these activities.

However, the devs have given very little information about how the changes would work up until very recently.

Upcoming Exploration Changes – The Discovery Scanner

Elite: Dangerous Beyond Chapter 4

Frontier confirmed that the exploration system was getting a complete overhaul in Q4. You can read that on their forum. This was something they hadn’t gone into too much detail about until a few weeks ago during a dev livestream on their YouTube channel. To understand the extent of these updates, we first need to cover how exactly exploration works at the moment.

Right now, players jump into a system and use their Discovery Scanner (or D-Scanner) to scan the system for stellar bodies. By default, players only see the primary star. Assuming players have an Advanced Discovery Scanner equipped, which has unlimited range, all stellar bodies in that star system will then pop-up on the system map. Players can then target each stellar body and scan them with their default ship scanner to get additional information. Players also get their name on any undiscovered bodies this way. This also nets them some credits (more if they have a detailed surface scanner equipped). And…that’s pretty much it. It’s a relaxing experience, but there’s not much to it. Many members of the Elite community find it quite boring.

Elite: Dangerous Beyond Chapter 4 - Exploration Changes

The new system, however, adds more “gameplay” to the experience. Players will now use their D-Scanner to locate planets by investigating patterns and signals on a new Analysis Mode. This will involve narrowing your search down to specific areas and matching patterns to locate specific types of bodies. As you start to recognize patterns, you might decide only certain ones are worth chasing down for the planet or body on the other end.

Upcoming Exploration Changes – The Detailed Surface Scanner

Anyone who was primarily exploring in Elite: Dangerous would always have a Detailed Surface Scanner equipped. This module gives enhanced information about a body, including what materials exist, whether it’s terraformable, and other details. It also had the added side effect of providing extra credits when handing in the data at the end of your trip. However, it was mostly just point and fly in a direction, let your scan finish once you were close enough, then move on.

The new system takes the Detailed Surface Scanner and adds the ability to instead map planets. In this system, players will be able to launch probes from their DSS and map the surface. They can also use the mass and gravity of the planet to sort of slingshot probes around the opposite side, without having to fly around manually. It’s a really interesting, scientifically semi-accurate system. Players can also refill their probes through synthesis, though the recipe hasn’t been fully decided yet.

This also adds a new tag on stellar bodies called “first mapped by”. This will mean players can either get their name on an object by being the first to scan it or by being the first to map it. Or both, if you’re either determined or lucky.

Thoughts on the New Exploration Changes

Elite: Dangerous Beyond Chapter 4 - Exploration Changes

As a career explorer, I was really excited to see the exploration changes. The screenshots Frontier shared on their livestream and the details they gave already sounded like the system was exactly the way it should have been from the beginning. However, we did see the system in action at the Frontier offices. After that, I was pretty sold.

The new D-Scan system is much more engaging. I initially thought it might be too complicated, especially for newer players but it seems to be fairly intuitive. Locating the patterns is a simple but fun mini-game. It’ll be interesting to see how easily players can filter out less valuable planets to avoid having to scan down everything individually, even if it’s worth very little.

The new probes are probably the most exciting part of this. There’s an element of skill in launching the probes around the planet using its mass and gravity to predict the right angle. The sound of the probes activating is also incredibly satisfying. This also was shown to tie very nicely into the new mining system. Launching probes at planetary rings reveals hot spots that might be worth investigating for mining. My only concern is whether they’ll get the balance right for how many probes are stored in the scanner, and its synthesis recipe. Frontier is still working these out.

Upcoming Mining Changes

Elite: Dangerous Beyond Chapter 4 - Mining Changes

Frontier announced a mining overhaul last year during Frontier Expo. This was another welcome change, as mining is an area of the game that the community often feels is boring or has been somewhat overlooked. A lot of players feel like it’s a punishment to have to mine in order to unlock engineers.

So far we know that the mining tools and modules were getting a bit of an update. They also discussed “hot spots” and the ability to blow open an asteroid for big rewards.

The goal of the update to mining is to improve rewards, whilst simultaneously making mining a more engaging, if more dangerous, experience for players.

Thoughts on the Mining Changes

We got to see the mining update in action as well. The new miner’s toolkit opens up a few different ways for players to mine asteroids. It’s also tied in quite nicely with the new scanning system introduced for exploration. Players can still mine the current way, but there are additional tools that they will want to use for different purposes.

One thing we were all looking forward to was seeing an asteroid being blown open. This was something Frontier had suggested was coming before, and they showed it off in their offices during our visit. It’s a visceral experience. The asteroid shatters, exposing rewards within as debris floats off into space. The sound design team has, once again, outdone themselves. During the demonstration, I jokingly exclaimed, “Well, I’m a miner now.” I was only half joking.

The new system is a little more complicated than the existing mining experience, but it is again very intuitive. There are visual cues that lead players to make the right decisions for which tools to use and how. It definitely makes mining a lot more exciting and engaging than its current iteration.

Thoughts on Other Announced Changes

Elite: Dangerous Beyond Chapter 4 - Squadrons

We also got to see the lighting overhaul, the Codex, and the Squadron system. While I can’t go into too much detail about how each system looks or works until Frontier has officially announced them, I can give some thoughts based on what we got exposed to. The lighting overhaul is fairly self-explanatory, so I won’t go into detail on that. However, the other two features are a bit more detailed.

The Codex was initially described as a tool for explorers to be able to track where they’ve been and what discoveries they’ve made. They also mentioned there may be other information about things that might exist out in the black. However, it appears that there’s been a lot more thought put into this. Once again Frontier has been aiming at adding a feature to unify many disparate aspects of the game. The Codex essentially provides a kind of central hub. I feel it’ll be useful to a lot of different kinds of players.

Squadrons are effectively guilds or corporations, depending on which game you’ve come from. They add a lot of much-needed social features to the game, especially with Frontier repeatedly trying to encourage players to move towards Open Play. The Squadron system brings a lot of ways for players to communicate and show allegiance within the game. There are obviously some things missing, such as the Fleet Carriers which were announced in Frontier Expo and have now been delayed. Overall, though, it looks like they’re putting a lot of thought into the system. There will be more information on these as the developer livestreams come out soon.

But What About the Unannounced Stuff?

Frontier’s Executive Producer, Adam Woods, showed us some features that have yet to be announced or detailed anywhere. While none of us can go into too much detail on these due to the NDA, it’s worth noting that more is coming. The recent 3.2 update was a bit lackluster with updates, and the community was getting a bit jaded. Frontier has definitely added a lot more changes to the way a lot of basic game features work.

horizons update 2.4

It’s also worth mentioning that we didn’t see everything coming in Chapter 4. We certainly didn’t see any lore-related updates, which may or may not come with the update. It’s safe to assume there will probably be some additions to the Guardian or Thargoid storylines. However, what will come with this update remains to be seen. Frontier didn’t mention anything, and it’s quite possible this was because they like those updates to be a bit of a surprise. Of course, it may be that they don’t add any lore updates this time around. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see.

Closing Thoughts

Frontier Developments has had a rocky few months with Elite: Dangerous as far as community sentiment has been concerned. Whilst the majority of players are pretty satisfied, there have definitely been some dissenting voices on the forum and various social channels. This is particularly true of recent patches and the Gnosis community event. That, plus the fact that they’ve dialed back the ice planets and fleet carriers that were due to come in Chapter 4, had some players questioning what was going on.

After what they’ve announced for Chapter 4, and what we saw during our presentation, it’s safe to say this is the biggest update of the year for Elite. In fact, there’s a lot more content coming with the update than Frontier originally announced. This is even despite them pushing back two of the bigger features. While a lot of that content is intended to tidy up existing features and link them together more intuitively, there’s a lot of new things to play with. I’ll cautiously say miners and explorers are going to be pretty happy with the changes. We may even see more players venturing into those two areas very soon.

What are you most looking forward to in Chapter 4? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to ask any questions about what I saw. I will answer what I can.

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Guild Wars 2: A Star to Guide Us Preview

Before we dive into the article I’d like to get the usual spoiler warning out of the way. In the following article, there will NOT be any story spoilers. Just based on the little snippet of story that I saw in the press preview I know that I wouldn’t want the story spoiled, so I’m not going to do that to you, my reader. Please keep this in mind when you’re on social media as well and don’t post spoilers. So you might be wondering what will this article be about? Well, I’ve decided to focus on the little things that make a big difference. There’s the second outing of new technology, a little nostalgia, and something fans have been asking for. So let’s dive in.


Legendary Technology

It amazes me that even after 6 years of Guild Wars 2 being live, and 13 years of the original Guild Wars new technology, that new ways to use the technology are still being found. I mention Guild Wars because GW2 uses a heavily modified version of the Guild Wars engine. New technology was used to create The Binding of Ipos, the Legendary focus which featured a floating book along with a giant demonic hand. When that was created ArenaNet started considering other ways to use the technology. Specifically, they wanted to create some sort of pet that would go along with you. This is how Xiuquatl came to be.

Xiuquatl features a very cute little flying serpent who will accompany you in battle. Out of combat, the serpent goes away so you aren’t stuck with a little beast following you around everywhere. It was honestly so distracting that I forgot to look at what the footfall is like. Sadly, the scepter isn’t a weapon that Rangers can use at the moment but hopefully, this will change in the future as this scepter would be perfect for them.


Hitting Guild Wars Fans Right in the Nostalgia

A Star to Guide Us gives players who also played the original Guild Wars game a nice shot of nostalgia with the introduction of Sun’s Refuge, formerly known as the Sunspear Sanctuary. Sun’s Refuge is an underground, instanced zone that offers the opportunity to expand through the exploration of lore and completing tasks given by those inside. There are also things to do inside Sun’s Refuge including a small battle arena with an NPC who will kick your ass. For roleplayers, Sun’s Refuge offers somewhere safe to roleplay that still has a sense of urgency in the air. Sure, you can rest there for a little while, but ultimately you need to get back into the fight. It also presents a fantastic opportunity for those who are in small guilds that struggle to complete a Guild Hall, like my two-person guild with my husband. No, it doesn’t have any of the features that a Guild Hall has, but it does offer somewhere to be that you can call your own and you can bring friends. Unlocking it is quite easy, all you have to do is play the story as you will be anyway.


Player Requested, ArenaNet Delivered

One thing that players have often asked about is seeing important NPCs out in the world. You never see Dragon’s Watch outside of story instances but finally, that has changed. They aren’t quite out in the open world like we had hoped for but it is a step in that direction as once you’ve unlocked Sun’s Refuge, Dragon’s Watch can be found inside, giving us the opportunity for the first time, to interact with these characters outside of the world-shattering story taking place. They all have a variety of things that they’re doing, but it is nice to see them doing more than getting stuck into battle. I only hope that we see more of this in the future.

Another highly requested feature that has been introduced is the new upgradable Elegy Armor. What makes this armor so special isn’t that it glows, plenty of armor does that, but you can change the color of the glow. See the image below with a side by side visualization taken just moments apart.

The world is about to get a whole lot more colorful.

by the amazing Stjepan Sejic who is a GW2 fan.


Blowing in the Wind

Jahai Bluffs has a lot of things going on, but there is one feature that stands out more than the others: a massive purple tornado. This tornado travels the map, picking up adventurers and tossing them into the air with ease. Not only is it a great way to get up to some of the higher levels of the map, but it also gives you access to a sky full of volatile magic. The tornado is best used by griffon owners but those who have a glider will also benefit from it greatly. It’s also just a lot of fun to play in and made a great ending to our preview of A Star to Guide Us.


A Star to Guide Us is available to play right now so log in and get started! There’s so much more in this living story update that I haven’t mentioned yet, including a raid that ventures into the mystic toilet. Here you’ll finally get to meet Zommoros, the djinn who is the source of all your mystic forge woes and the great hoarder of legendary weapons. There’s also a very handy new mastery which every mount owner will want to get as soon as possible. Six years after launch, Guild Wars 2 is still finding new and interesting ways to keep bringing players back for more.

Please remember to keep social media spoiler-free for a little while so players have some time to get through the content. If you know you won’t be able to log in and play right away, I highly recommend you avoid social media until you’ve played. You won’t regret it.

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The Gaming Industry Needs Small Conventions

One of my biggest gaming regrets was that I never got to attend the yearly City of Heroes meet & greet in California. City of Heroes and conventions have been on my mind recently, and I started considering the other games I’ve played and how few of them have conventions or meet & greets of their own. This is something I think is sorely missing from the industry.


What We Have

BlizzCon is without a doubt the biggest of all the smaller, single-focused gaming conventions. In fact, it wouldn’t be difficult to argue that it’s too big. QuakeCon is also a pretty big convention held every year for ZeniMax games. Star Citizen has a convention, as does Elite Dangerous’ developer Frontier Developments. Warframe also has TennoCon, and then there’s the Final Fantasy and EVE Online fan festivals. At the moment these are the only ones that come to mind, though I know there are other games that do it. The point is that despite there being a lot of MMOs and online games, there are comparatively few conventions.


What They Bring to the Industry

These small conventions play an important role in a game’s community. They bring players together and give them the opportunity to interact with developers on a more intimate basis. Many games will try to get around this by holding small gatherings at larger conventions but they don’t have the same sort of impact. That’s not to say that fan dinners are a bad thing, but they just aren’t a good replacement for having full, multiple day events for one specific game or developer. They don’t foster a sense of community in quite the same way. The ratio of developer to fans is also usually quite poor for these events. That means there’s less of a chance to get to talk to developers. It’s also easy for these events to get lost in all the excitement of the bigger event. When players go home they’re thinking about the event as a whole and that one night with the developers of a single game might get forgotten on the grand scale. But an event that is on its own, at a completely different time is something that will be remembered for a very long time.

Smaller conventions aren’t just important for players, they are also a great opportunity for developers to interact with players and find out what they’re interested in. In this way, developers can get instant feedback on what they’ve been doing. Developers can even hold workshops where the group designs armor, weapons, and even classes. Then when they get released a few months later there’s a new sense of ownership over those items because the players helped make that. This fosters an even stronger bond between the players and the developers.


Who Should Do Them

Small conventions may not be possible for all games, that’s a simple fact of life. Games with very small indie teams aren’t a good fit, however, massively popular games are a great fit. For this, I’m thinking about games like World of Warcraft. Yes, WoW is already included in BlizzCon, but that event is so big that there’s not as much opportunity for developers and players to interact. For a game as popular as WoW, you could potentially have several events spread out all over the world throughout the year. A fantastic example of a game that does this is EVE Online. They have their big event every year in Iceland but they also send out developers to smaller events throughout the world.

From InsearchofMexican

Guild Wars 2 could massively benefit from this kind of event. The game is starting to get a bit older now, which means that keeping the community together is more of a struggle for ArenaNet. They could host an event similar to the one that City of Heroes held. Players would come for the day, get time to chat with devs, but also participate in workshops, attend panels, and perhaps most importantly get them involved in the development process.

Cryptic would be another great studio to have an event. They have three games; Champions Online, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter that are all very loosely connected and they heavily encourage you to play them all. They’re also working on a Magic: The Gathering MMORPG and while we don’t really know anything about the game right now it isn’t too much of a stretch to assume it will be equally as connected as the other three. Though I can only imagine that decorating for a Cryptic event would be a nightmare. How does one fit a Galaxy-class spaceship next to a dragon?

Smaller conventions can also be great for games that aren’t MMOs. I’m specifically thinking about MOBAs and Battle Royale games at the moment. These kinds of games don’t really do a whole lot to promote a sense of community amongs players. In the short term this doesn’t really matter, but as the games age and content starts getting a bit stale…what is going to keep players from moving on to the next big trend in gaming? For MMOs the answer to that is community. It could work for competitive games as well.

Dota 2 players have been talking about a decline in players for some time now. While the big esports events do a great job with community building they aren’t the same thing as a convention. They are in many ways a solitary event. They don’t really encourage you to talk to other players or give you the chance to see developers at all.


For a game to succeed long term it needs a strong and loyal player base and having small conventions is a fantastic way to get that. As we head into Gamescom, the largest Video Game convention in the world, it’s good to consider how things could be different. Do you think your favorite game should have its own convention? What sort of things would you like to see in one? Let me know in the comments below.

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