E3 2018: Hands-on Overcooked 2

While sadly not an MMO, Overcooked was one of those games I knew many MMO players who aren’t exclusively into combat enjoyed. Limited to local multiplayer, the game was like small-scale raiding on steroids. Not communicating was not an option. Fires literally needed to be put out. Collision detection and narrow pathways forced you to play out proper routes. Customer orders forced to you pay attention to specific recipes rather than mass produce a basic one. Ingredients strewn about the level with inaccessible crafting stages added to the hectic frenzy because, buddy, your customers will only wait so long for their food, and failure to meet their expectations will cost you. To be blunt, this game tests friendships and relationships. And now we no longer have to limit ourselves to local multiplayer.

My demo occurred at the Nintendo booth with three Nintendo booth guides, one of which was a hardcore vet used to giving orders in the kitchen. Like a good raid leader, she’d call out what we needed to do and ask for people to take up assignments. While I’m no hardcore vet, I know my way around the kitchen, even with new recipes such as cucumber sushi rolls. Our newbie did her best, occasionally remembering to volunteer for tasks and communicate with us. Our opening night went spectacularly, earning one of the highest scores the booth attendants had seen, and towards the end of Day 3 of E3 to boot.

Our next level was a bit more hectic. Conveyor belts scattered the floor, forcing us to occasionally run so as to avoid letting the food burn or orders from expiring. Normally in Overcooked, running felt like a huge gamble that rarely paid off except on straightaways. Levels are filled with hazards, from simple gaps caused by your kitchen being built on top of two trucks in motion to moving platforms in a volcanic kitchen. Cooking Mama this is not.

While it’s nice that the developers addressed the niche feeling of dashing, the official addition of throwing adds significant depth and strategy to a game that’s already much harder than its adorable graphics and cute sounding gameplay conceal. In the original game, you could kind of throw items by releasing them while moving, causing the item to move a short distance. Throwing in Overcooked 2, however, allows you to toss ingredients over objects, including the counter, a hurdle that occasionally required Overcooked 1 players to run around the entire level to deal with. In addition to the ability to throw is to catch; It may sound small, but catching allows players to remove yet another step in the Hell’s Kitchen madness.

Rather than needing to pick raw chicken off the ground after it’s been hurled across the kitchen (the fact that animals are cooking without gloves further shows that the world of Overcooked has no food safety laws), tossed food can be caught, saving a button press and speeding up the cooking process. It can also be thrown directly into dishes. If your friend is on the other side of the chasm with some uncooked rice, you can simply catch it in the cooking pot, saving even more time. I play the game mostly for completion rather than high scores, but these small changes give players lots of new potential strategies, before considering the levels.

My demo ended in a sort of fantasty/sci-fi kitchen with three sections separated by two chasms. A magical bridge would connect the middle platform to one of the side platforms, but only one at a time. Ingredients and work stations, however, were spread among all three. In order to get from one side platform to the other, one had to use a portal. While that may sound simple enough, burning food and impatient customers caused panic, and we saw several food items (and chefs) plummet into the abyss. Luckily, Overcooked 2 is a family game with no permadeath, and fallen players simply sit out of the kitchen for a few seconds, robbing your co-workers of an extra set of hands/paws.

 

All of this can be enjoyed in local multiplayer, though Online multiplayer, especially if it lacks voice chat on the Switch, could make things difficult. I’ve played the original game on the PlayStation 4 using the Share Play feature, which allowed us to do voice chat, but only allowed us to play the game with two people and not the usual maximum of four. However, at least for the Nintendo Switch, the game has added emote systems based on your objectives. For example, if you’re making hamburgers, which require cut cheese, chopped beef, sliced tomatoes, cut lettuce, a cooked patty, and/or buns on a clean plate, you’re able to emote things like, “Cutting tomatoes” or “Washing dishes” so your fellow players at least know your role. Unless the game allows you to also draw pathways or call out sections of the map you’ll “patrol,’ I’m not sure it’ll be enough to make up for the lack of voice chat. I reached out to Nintendo post E3 to inquire more about online details, but we’ve sadly received no response yet.

Just the same, I thoroughly enjoyed my local-multiplayer demo. Like raiding, I feel like you learn a lot about someone from playing this game with them, which is one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about MMOs: finding a shared activity that allows people to show their thought process. I’m not sure how well Overcooked 2‘s emote system will fair in four player multiplayer without voice chat, but MMO players are no strangers to finding third party options to get over issues. The game is coming out on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One on August 7th, and preorders grant access to a bunch of new chefs, which are just for looks.

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E3 2018: Heads-on Vive Wireless Adapter

Virtual Reality feels like it’s making less of a splash at E3 every year. While we’re still seeing it on the showroom floor, high costs and little innovation seems to largely keep it in the realm of gimmick with great potential. Some claim that the limitations of being tethered to your computer breaks immersion, but I wasn’t convinced. Even so, when given the opportunity to test out DisplayLink’s Vive Wireless Adapter, I figured I’d give it a fair chance. My demo was short and didn’t induce nausea, but the thought of the potential price for a small convenience might trigger it.

While at #E32018 we got our hands on the co-op mummy puzzle game Strange Brigade. #StrangeBrigade http://www.mmogames.com/gamearticles/e3-2018-hands-on-rebellions-strange-brigade/

To be clear, I own an Oculus Rift myself. It’s less about the specs than the fact that the Rift also has lighter, more intuitive motion controllers. Lucky for me, my demo had me using a fake Gatling gun controller. While cool, it did nothing to help my demo. Ignoring that for a moment, it should also be noted that DisplayLink is looking into using their wireless tech for other headsets, but for now they’re only working on the Vive. Each generation of headset is being made lighter, has better resolution, and even the cables are getting better, though my demo was supposed to be about getting rid of some of those.

Unfortunately, my demo did nothing to really show the power or use of wireless headsets. One of the biggest reasons I don’t embrace VR more isn’t because I’m tethered, but because I lack enough space for moving in VR. Even when I’ve done it, I’ve never had a wire situation except for when I’m taking off or putting a headset on.

htc vive

The game, Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, was a simple wave shooter with all the enemies coming from the front of the player. The heavy Gatling gun controller combined with the gameplay had few people moving about the demo area. I specifically tried walking around and dodging as to get a feel for VR without wires, but again, I’m not someone who usually has a lot of space or wire issues. I will say that I didn’t notice the extra addition to my headset, which plugs in where the other cables in the back of the headset usually go, so I didn’t have to deal with the usual hassle with wires while putting on or taking off my headset. However, putting the headset on is already a bit of a hassle and a strike against VR any time I know I may have to answer the door or phone. Combined with the fact that movement felt detrimental to my demo, I didn’t walk away feeling like the adapter is a must buy.

To note, there’s still no estimated price on the adapter. If it’s anything like the TPC Cast Wireless Adapter, you may be looking at something around $270. You can buy a lightweight, mobile VR experience for less than that, and honestly, most of the good VR experiences are already fairly short and sweet. Wireless VR gaming certainly feels like a luxury peripheral for those able to afford a luxury gaming experience. While there are some VR games I enjoy, I almost feel like it’s easier to recommend someone to check out The Void VR experiences, as the cost is still a bit expensive (depends on when and where you go), but significantly less than a headset. While not wireless, there’s a deeper attention to not only immersion but free-roaming VR. Unless we get adapters that also include virtual smell or games that know how to take advantage of movement without making people sick, even the unobtrusive lightless of the Vive Wireless Adapter doesn’t make a big enough impact for me to recommend it to most readers.

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E3 2018: Hands-on Strange Brigade

I wasn’t sure what to expect with Rebellion’s Strange Brigade. The game’s reveal trailer certainly had a unique angle, as we rarely seem to have games set in the early 1900s narrated in the kind of hammy style associated with early Hollywood. Part of this may be because I’m part Egyptian myself and know that the whole “mummy” monster thing is purely a western creation. I don’t mean to say it’s offensive, but it’s like someone telling you a ghost story about the spirit of a statue getting revenge on a small child that kicked it. It’s kind of freaky, but you probably won’t consider vengeful statues as a monster trope to rely on. As the western mummy mythos has always seemed less developed than, say, the zombie apocalypse, I wondered how much content the game could muster.

The above trailer really serves to highlight most of what I saw. While the queen herself didn’t show up, I did see a good amount of similar traps and puzzles. What the trailer doesn’t show is that gameplay often feels like moving from one wave-mode defense point to another. While that may sound boring to some players, from a design point, Rebellion actually sets it up pretty well.

At least for our demo, the basic set up was that we’d come to a new thing, have the hammy Hollywood narrator hint at what to do (say, aim magnified light at a target, Indian Jones style), watch what happens, and then find the same set piece in the next area but figure out how to correctly solve the mirror in a new context. It’s very Nintendo-esque and helped ensure that we were learning the game. As you’d expect, after being shown a few things, like how to bring down dangling objects to hit switches or activating spinning blades of death to help cut through waves of mummies, the game would give us several pieces together, culminating in our final battle, which, like many cinematic demos, ended right when the fight would have begun.

I should point out that the narrator does fit into the game’s style quite well. Everything we did felt episodic. We didn’t just have the narrator acting as hint guide, but setting the scene that we were old-timey, turn of the twentieth century cultural imperialists largely fighting foreigners, as foreigners, in another foreigner’s land. Again, my background makes it hard to ignore this, but at the same time, that’s exactly how the game makes everything feel exotic. Everyone except for the mummies seem out of place, but potentially in a good way. If you have British explorers in Egypt with what I think is a Nubian Warrior, why not toss in a samurai or Cherokee warrior? A lot of fun can be had if you embrace the kitsch.

Combat wise, the gun play is much less Nintendo than the design. Guns have recoil, so you can’t easily line up headshots and wait for mummies to turn into a death factory. Unless you’ve activated traps in front of them, in which case, you’re safe. You can hurt yourself on traps and explosives, but that’s the limitation of friendly fire. Sorry, no headshotting your fellow players!

strange brigade

As you might expect, the undead on their own don’t pose much of a threat. They’re very much the shambling zombies you’d see in standard zombie movies or in the Lon Chaney Jr Mummy movies. However, as you progress, the mummy waves become denser and denser. By the end, it did kind of feel like a zombie movie, in that there was a sea of them, but as the “actors,” we had just enough breathing room to take one out before having to deal with a threat right behind us. The risk of being overwhelmed is very real, so ensuring that you time your use of traps correctly is important. You have room to be creative, but things like setting off a trap before its able to hit anything clearly will put you at a disadvantage, especially if its something like an exploding barrel. Certain traps like the electrical magic fields can be reset, but explosive pottery stays blown up.

I wasn’t able to see every character’s ultimate ability, but the Nubian warrior woman’s was a nice AoE fireblast attack. Unlike in most games, the ulitmate isn’t just something you get from fighting, or even from standing around. You can actively choose to charge it, but doing so prevents you from using your weapon or kicks, including the head-smashing finisher you can execute on undead that fall to the ground but aren’t exactly… perma-dead. While charging, you can only run around and hope your tactic proves useful, as you can’t defend yourself or your allies.

The whole time you’re fighting, you’re also trying to pillage treasure. The game may be co-op, but getting gold only counts for your character and helps you unlock gear between matches. The end of the round screen ranks you by performance and shows who got how much gold, adding just a little competition in ways other co-op games like Monster Hunter World does.

Sadly, Rebellion had no one on hand for me to ask questions to about the potential for new characters, other levels, DLC, or what all persists on your character between rounds. The game’s not an MMO, but it may act as a unique, co-op lobby game that some readers may enjoy.

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E3 2018: Hands-on with For Honor: Marching Fire

Last year I was present at E3 for For Honor’s coming out. As a digital murderer, I’m usually bored with raw combat, especially in non-persistent, lobby-based games. However, what I saw from Ubisoft gave me hope. I admittedly didn’t buy the game at launch due to some personal issues at the time, but I’ve been following the news and still feel like it’s added to the online multiplayer sphere: simple combat design with deep mastery, fun gameplay, and yes, avatar gender and ethnic flexibility that still brings in people of other cultures to help respect the team’s modifications. It may not be important to everyone, but at the very least, the base game had well designed combat.

The Marching Fire update takes that and goes further. While it’s cool that we have the new Wu Lin faction and four new classes, what MMO fans might really enjoy is the new Breach mode, which plays like an action-oriented Alterac Valley, after the World of Warcraft devs streamlined it. And honestly, AV is still the PvP experience I use as a baseline for decent MMO PvP scenarios. While I enjoyed my hands-on with the new mode, I also got to sit down with Ubisoft Montreal’s Creative Director Roman Campos-Oriola to talk about cultural influences, bugs, and balance.

For Honor Marching Fire

Shaolin Viking Showdown

People around the internet have complained about the game’s inauthentic take on history and gender. Black vikings? Female knights that can stand toe-to-toe with a man? “Where’s the realism?” they ask. Campos-Oriola responds by asking how many times you find Samurai fighting vikings. It’s all fantasy anyway. The question is how to present it in a way players can enjoy, and enjoy they are. While dark corners of the internet may be brooding about their perceived loss of exclusive main roles in game stories, the people actually playing For Honor are actually pushing for more flexibility. When certain classes are restricted for a certain gender, the team does it for story purposes, but fans want Ubisoft to nix that. It’s something Campos-Oriola doesn’t say will happen, but he understands that players are passionate about wanting more freedom. Perhaps if people push hard enough, we can get stories for the other genders currently locked out of some of the class fun.

But story is important in For Honor. It’s not just lore but dictates how the characters come into being. The Wu Lin aren’t joining the fray because the team wanted a Chinese faction but instead because they picked out certain weapons and looked through various martial arts to see where it would fit the best. Once chosen, the team not only got cultural experts to help them tell the story, but practitioners and stunt people familiar with the martial arts to help Ubisoft build enough immersion that the game feels grounded despite obvious fantasy influences. Just the same, what’s refreshing to me about the series is that it’s still simple combat mostly grounded in reality. All melee, no frostbolts or darkflames whizzing by.

That being said, the game isn’t perfect. Some of you may recall that the game’s first tournament had an embarrassing exploit still in it that the champ used to win. While Ubisoft made the bug more difficult to execute, some of them still remain. The difficulty to execute them makes Campos-Oriola unfazed by their existence, but acknowledged that, yes, bugs do slip in, despite having internal and external people helping the team quash bugs, including fans. Some bugs are bound to slip by, but many more are caught.

Balancing the classes, of course, is another priority that fans sometimes have trouble appreciating. Campos-Oriola noted that there’s essentially two types of balance. One is actual balance, like with the Peacekeeper. It’s not just the developers thinking, “Oh, this is broken,” but looking at damage numbers, player statistic data, the meta, the pro scene, etc. As it’s been said, the Peacekeeper was overpowered, but it was also a one trick pony, in that most of its kit was useless compared to the overpowered aspects. Balancing that gives Peacekeeper players more tools and also makes the class less predictable to fight against, which is hopefully more fun to play against too.

Then there’s the perception of balance. Many people have asked Campos-Oriola when they’re going to revamp the Lawbringer, but in fact, it’s already one of the most balanced characters. This is a bit harder because you need to change people’s perception of the class. Hopefully, balancing the actual broken classes, like the Peacekeeper, helps make balanced characters, like the Lawbringer, stand out more.

Campos-Oriola couldn’t hint at any possible future factions, but I felt like he expected this question and didn’t want to give me too many details. We certainly won’t find out until Marching Fire’s been out for awhile.

For Honor Marching Fire

Into the Breach

While I certainly enjoyed talking shop with Campos-Oriola, it’d be a mistake to not address the hands-on demo I had with the Breach PvP mode that Marching Fire brings to For Honor. I had quite a few demos this year, but I don’t think my fellow press or demo guides were more enthusiastic about any other match I played this year.

The demo started off fairly basic. I was allowed to practice a bit with several characters on the roster, including the new Tiandi and Shaolin Monk classes. The Tiandi I played was the standard soldier class. I’m no For Honor veteran, but it very much felt like a default character, which isn’t necessarily bad. The Shaolin Monk, however, was quick, able to weave about a bit, though it’s power attack still felt slow and left me wide open. When it came time for our Breach, I went with the monk in hopes that it would be more useful for doing objectives.

Think of Alterac Valley. Now cut it in half and make one side attacking and the other defending their keep. The defenders have infinite lives, the attackers only have so many. The objective for the defenders is to use up the attackers’ lives, while the attackers need to breach the castle and kill the enemy lord.

I started the match on defense, manning the ramparts. I had several NPCs helping me, and enemy NPCs came in to attack. It kind of felt like Dynasty Warriors on hard mode, in that the enemy NPCs fell easily enough, but they could do some real damage if I wasn’t careful. This always was significantly more obvious when a player assisted them. For those unfamiliar with the series, you choose to attack or defend high, left, or right. If both of you choose the same area (high) for example, you can’t damage each other. A blocked attack leaves you open, so you need to figure out where to attack your enemy and when to do it so as to not get blocked and leave yourself wide open. Is simple sounding but is rather difficult, especially given combos, nearby NPCs, and possibly having to fight multiple people at once.

While I was trying to repel the invaders, my teammates were down on the ground floor trying to destroy the enemy battering rams. Of course, they’re also guarded by NPCs and players. Our guide tried to help coordinate us a bit, but my main issue was I simply didn’t know how to find the healing station for a while, and that was good, since coordination mattered. Going into even a 2v1 fight is quite dangerous, as I learned a few times when I got to my ally just when multiple enemies had finished them off.

After losing the outer walls, we fell back to ours lord in classic Alterac Valley fashion. We needed to keep our lord alive and make sure they died enough for the match to end. While this sounds simple, at this point, we had another big issue: we didn’t have the environmental advantage to stop our enemies from resurrecting their dead anymore. Revived characters don’t count as a death against the attackers, so not only did we have to kill them, we had to make sure they didn’t revive their allies, which is difficult when you’re also trying to guard your faction NPC.

No moment better highlighted this than when I got caught unaware while trying to revive my teammates behind a not-so-secret piece of cover. As the last man standing, my death gave the enemy a window of opportunity to really hit our lord hard. Except that, well, we’d already chipped away enough damage that our lord was able to finish them off. Both teams and the demo guides were floored, as it hadn’t happened in previous demos. It was a tense moment, but also one where we’d made a good dent in their available lives.

We rode that small victory through several more waves of attacks. By staying near our lord, we were able to intercept the enemies quickly and wear them down so the lord could finish them off. The enemy zerg attacked, racking up their own deaths. It took them a few waves to reorganize and come in as a group again, but we were within two full wipes of winning the game. Everyone was hungry for a victory. Both teams were trying to make use of cover, NPC allies, healing stations, revives, everything. We had no discernible way to heal our lord, and visually he looked wounded without even needing to look at his health bar.

In the end, there was a final stand. A lot of people on both sides died. When the match ended, it took everyone a few seconds to process what had happened: our lord fell. We’d taken many of them out, but they’d won by a hair. Everyone, on both sides, both press and Ubisoft employees, cheered. It was a fun match for everyone involved

I can’t promise that everyone’s match will be so thrilling, but the game’s combat already felt, well, fair. Breach, however, is a familiar kind of PvP for MMO players, and combined with For Honor’s basic gameplay combines into something that feels accessible, deep, and familiar all at once. If you haven’t bought the game yet, you may want to consider trying it out when the new update arrives later this year.

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The Battle Royale Games of E3 2018

We went into E3 2018 expecting the convention to be completely dominated by new Battle Royale games. Now we can quite happily say that this didn’t come to pass. In fact, Bethesda came out and said that they WEREN’T working on a Battle Royale game. But, that isn’t to say that there were none. There were still a few announced. Some of them are just modes as part of a larger game, while others make it the sole focus of the game. So let’s dive into the Battle Royale games of E3 2018.

 

Fortnite for Nintendo Switch

We’re just going to get this one out of the way so we can move on to talk about other titles. Fortnite released on the Nintendo Switch during E3. In the first 24 hours, it received 2 million downloads. There was also some drama as people discovered there’s no cross-play with the PS4. In fact, you can’t log into a Fortnite account on the Switch that has been used on the PS4. Sony issued a pretty weak response that did nothing to cool tempers. Will anything change? Sony says they’re open to player feedback so…there’s a slim chance?

 

Mavericks: Proving Ground

Mavericks: Proving Grounds

We’ve actually been talking about Mavericks: Proving Ground for a little while now. It is taking Battle Royale and making it bigger. Most Battle Royale games currently have maps with 100 people, Mavericks is going with 1,000. It was literally the biggest game at E3. They’ve also opened up registration for closed beta, which will take place in August. The Battle Royale portion of the game is actually said to be Phase 1. It will have 400 players on the map then. Phase 2 will add RPG elements to the game as well as the rest of the players to make it a 1,000-person map.

 

Rapture Rejects

Finally, we get to move on and talk about new games! Our first one is Rapture Rejects, which takes place in the post-apocalyptic universe of Cyanide & Happiness. It’s being called a top-down, dark comedy Battle Royale, it’s exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from the folks at Cyanide & Happiness. It’s your job to scavenge for weapons and kill every other person on Earth…to impress God enough to let you into heaven after the rapture leaves only the worst of humanity behind. It’s being developed by Galvanic Games. “Rapture Rejects takes the battle royale genre, gets rid of the boring military stuff, and introduces a Worms-esque armory of insane weapons and over the top violent animation. Also, Satan is there.” – Rob, co-creator of Cyanide & Happiness

Sign me up! In fact, you can sign up for the alpha right now on the official site.

 

Battlefield V

Most of the talk around Battlefield V hasn’t been about the fact that there will be a Battle Royale mode. In fact, that has barely been getting any mention since the internet exploded and took offense to the inclusion of playable female characters in the game. But we aren’t here to talk about that, we’re talking about Battle Royale. The Battlefield V devs have said that it has been re-imagined for Battlefield V. They’re also promising an experience that you’ve never had before. But, that’s all that has been said about it so far.

 

Realm Royale

Hi-Rez brought Realm Royale out to play at E3, giving us the chance to see even more of the game. One of the things that sets Realm Royale apart is the game’s class system. Crafting also plays a big role in the game. It is totally free-to-play on Steam right now, so if you’re interested you can jump into the Early Access now.

 

Call of Duty Black Ops 4

Black Ops 4 is calling its Battle Royale mode Blackout. The map will feature locations inspired by maps from all across the series. Though the exact size of the map hasn’t been stated yet, though they have said it will be 1,500 times larger than the fan favorite: Nuketown. Characters from all across the series, including Call of Duty Zombie Origins will be available. It’s going to feature land, air, and sea vehicles. Finally, we know you’ll be able to play solo or in teams. How this all fits in with the Call of Duty twist they’re putting on the genre…only time will tell.

 

Fear the Wolves

Vostok Games, the folks behind Survarium dropped a trailer for their new Battle Royale game Fear the Wolves just before E3 got started. The game takes place in Chernobyl where you’ll be faced with radioactive areas, anomalies, and yes, wolves. In Fear the Wolves gear can protect you from the harmful radiation in the area as you make your way to the extraction point where a helicopter waits, but there’s only room for one. The wolves are said to be only the first of many more mutant creatures that will be in the game. Fear the Wolves enters Early Access sometime this summer.

 

The Division 2…maybe

Finally, we’re going to just briefly mention The Division 2. No, they haven’t confirmed that there will be a Battle Royale mode in the game. But they have said that they’ve not ruled it out. So while we don’t have any confirmation about it at the moment it will be a game to keep an eye on in the future, just in case.

 

So there you have it: the Battle Royale games of E3 2018. There weren’t nearly as many as expected and some of them sound like they’re going to be a lot of fun. The fact that there were so few Battle Royale titles at E3 may suggest that the industry has learned not to jump on the latest fad. The last  big ones were MOBAs and hero shooters, and many of those ended up being a waste of time and money for the developers and publishers who worked on them. This certainly doesn’t mean that the genre is dead though. There’s still plenty of time left for more games to join in.

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Pearl Abyss Fanfest “Into the Abyss” at E3 2018

Pearly Abyss had its first Fanfest called “Into the Abyss” at the Regal LA LIVE Stadium 14 during E3 2018. While I may not be a core Black Desert Online player, I’ve played the game for a few levels, kept up on some of the PvP news, and somehow was lucky enough to represent MMOGames at the festival this year. CEO Robin Jung hopes this will be one of many, as the company certainly wishes to grow beyond a single PC game.

Into the Abyss

Secrets Unleashed

One of the nice parts about the festival was that it wasn’t just the team giving itself a pat on the back. Yes, we were given some interesting information, like a representative from Samsung saying the mobile version of Black Desert Online is one of the top data-eaters on people’s cell phones in Korea, up there with Facebook, and it’s currently the #1 mobile MMO title (which means something there). The game has apparently been translated into 12 languages and is available in more than 150 countries. It’s neat information, but the series of collected fan questions answered was meatier.

For example, the company name: Pearl Abyss. The idea is that it’s light in the darkness. Something precious from the deep. However, it’s also just a “gorgeous name.” It’s funny to see the developers go from something serious and deep sounding to admitting that their name just had a nice ring to it.

For those wondering why the game isn’t big on instanced dungeons and raids, it’s because Pearl Abyss didn’t think they felt right. They actually had over a hundred dungeons before they realized they wanted a living game world in a persistent space. It wasn’t an executive decision, but something everyone had a chance to express their opinion about before they reached a consensus to ax their babies. It’s naturally hard to make a great game with a single “voice” with so many developers and so many of their own passions, but the fans come first. Hidden caves felt more fun than another static pocket in the world.

The other part here is that by talking these things out, the team can avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again. There’s a certain balance between realism and convenience that the team straddles, and communicating this and trying to keep everyone on the same page ensures that the company is developing content for its actual audience.

Raids are a similar issue. It’s not that outdoor raids are impossible to craft, but they’re certainly more difficult, which is why Pearl Abyss chooses to put manpower elsewhere. Like in its mobile game. While not exactly a 1-to-1 recreation of the original BDO, there’s enough in common that people who played on the PC should feel at home. The same idea is mostly true for the upcoming Xbox version of the game. I was told the console version is 99.9% the same in terms of familiar aspects of the game, like classes, attacks, fishing… the 0.1% is only to account for error, supposedly.

Part of this includes the fact that the game needed a control and UI overhaul. While it’s physically possible to just shove the console players together with PC fans, it creates problems. Using the PC UI on consoles would be rough, much like with mobile being, well, literally smaller. Changes need to be made not just to fit the machine, but audience expectations. For example, you can’t maximize text windows outside of the PC game, but looting is handled differently. PC gamers have their mouse and incredibly versatile keyboard of many buttons. Phones have a small touch screen while console has buttons. While you could just have a lot of combos, changing the UI to do things like having an option wheel helps greatly. Sadly, it’s not enough to close the advantage gap between PC gamers and console controllers, so don’t expect to see cross-platform play.

However, Pearl Abyss also said they want the game to be available on every platform. No names were dropped, but it’s not like there are too many consoles to imagine (unless Pearl Abyss also wants to create games for pagers). Focusing on the present, however, you’ll have to remember that Black Desert Online isn’t launching on the Xbox One, it’s starting a beta this fall. That beta is there because the team knows there are bugs to fish, optimizations to make, and a UI to tweak, all based on what players find in the beta. That’s what it’s there for! The hope is that the beta won’t last too long, but it seems to have an understandable goal even an EA leery vet like myself can appreciate at face value.

Console is just another long arm of Black Desert though. While this will be the third platform for the game, the team does feel their world has so much more it can share. There are some ideas and projects related to spinoffs that would also take place in the Black Desert world, but there was nothing specific to mention at the time. With that in mind though, the team also doesn’t want to pigeonhole itself. They’re working with Counter-Strike co-creator Minh Le to create an unnamed FPS. We’ll have to wait and see where that goes in the future.

Hands-on With Black Desert’s Mobile Self

To be completely fair, I really haven’t enjoyed any core mobile MMOs. The genre generally doesn’t feel like it lends itself well to the smaller screen for me. I dislike the 2.5 perspective they use. Automating a lot of the work is boring. Black Desert’s mobile version does a lot of this but, somehow, works. Part of it may be because our characters were pre-leveled and equipped. Spamming buttons made things die, and that can be highly satisfying sometimes, especially when you’re feeling casual.

In the video, we saw group content, farming, pets, and other very “MMOy” activities. We were told we’d have guilds, 20vs20 guild wars, and duals in shared gameworlds. No asynchronous lies, but actual multiplayer. And I saw it, at least in 1v1 duels. Win or lose, several of us gave up some gourmet sounding food to just smash buttons and kill our digital co-festival-goers for far longer than we reasonably needed to in order to get a basic feel for the game. It’s embarrassing to write that, but true.

Unlike in the above picture, everything I saw was in understandable English, though admittedly I was mostly doing combat. You move with a virtual left control stick, then attack via “hotkeys” on the right-hand side, with dodge being in the lower left-hand side. It doesn’t feel precise at all, but attacks felt wild and wide enough to mostly hit the general area I wanted to be hitting anyway. I did a little gathering for fun, but no major quests, crafting, or anything non-combat, which is generally my focus. It could be the lack of sleep, but the spammy attacks were fun enough for a while, and I started to “wake up” and play for real after some of the other attendees started to get some wins against me. I think that’s a good sign.

Normally I’d be more cautious but one big thing struck me: the game was running live. On servers in Korea. This wasn’t something running off a local version of the game, which happens a lot at trade shows (online games really do get the shaft when it comes to showing themselves off in public displays). This was a specific build, yes, but a build populated with at least some other people. We could interact with each other (even if it was mostly murder). It just kind of clicked.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to tell you all to get ready to download BDO Mobile when it (hopefully) comes out next year. I will say, however, that Pearl Abyss was wise to bring it, and that players should consider giving it chance, especially if they’re already enjoying Pearl Abyss’ world

 

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E3 2018 Online Games Business Roundup

E3 2018 has brought us a few very interesting bits of business news for the online gaming world. For the first time, Nintendo has weighed in on lootboxes. Fortnite released on the Nintendo Switch, something that wasn’t without its own controversy. Fortnite also announced they’ve reached 125 million players in under a year. Perfect World is working with Valve to bring Steam to China, which (again) has a little bit of controversy thrown in. This isn’t even mentioning all the massive team-ups that Ubisoft announced where they brought Elijah Wood, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Shigeru Miyamoto on stage.

 

Perfect World Working to Bring Steam to China

Perfect World and Valve have been working together since 2012 when PWE brought Dota 2 and CS:GO to China. Now they’re working together again to make Steam available in China. However, it won’t be quite the same as the Steam we know and love. The two companies are currently working out which games will be part of the initial line-up. This, of course, has many people concerned about the possibility of a limited selection. But even worse there’s the possibility of heavy moderation and government censorship, something that is commonplace in China. In fact, it is very likely that Steam will be heavily curated simply because of Chinese laws. This news had very poor timing, however, as Steam is going through a bit of a controversy in the rest of the world. They just recently announced they won’t be moderating their selection of games unless submitted titles are illegal or designed to troll certain groups. This is something the company has received a lot of backlash over.

 

Fortnite Reaches 125 Million Players

Fortnite may be a relative newcomer to the scene but at this point, I think everyone knows that it is the hot game right now. Need proof? How about 125 million players. That number doesn’t include Nintendo Switch, which announced it had already received over 2 million downloads in just 24 hours. At the same time, they announced the 2019 World Cup event. It has the possibility of being one of the biggest, most watched esports events of all time. That’s thanks to the massive player base, the fact that Battle Royale players seem very invested in their game, and the fact that they’re including the community in the event.

 

Netflix and Telltale Teaming up for Stranger Things and Minecraft

Minecraft

Telltale will not only be working on a Stranger Things game, they’ll also be making what is being called an interactive adventure based on Minecraft: Story Mode which will appear on Netflix. What exactly that means isn’t quite clear yet, but Netflix has stressed that they aren’t planning on getting into games. Netflix has said that it will be similar to other interactive stories they already have on Netflix. They also have said that it will be 5 episodes long. It will be launching this fall while the Stranger Things game will be released at a later date.

 

InnoGames Closing Second Location

Grepolis Screenshot Islands

InnoGames will be closing their second location in Dusseldorf and merging it with the Hamburg HQ. The 29-member team will be relocated to the Hamburg office where they’ll join the team working on a currently unannounced mobile MMO. Talking about the upcoming shutdown CEO Hendrik Klindworth said, “Great depth and an engaging gameplay can only come to life if you follow this data-driven approach that InnoGames stands for. Our work on a production from Duesseldorf showed that we are struggling to support and empower our colleagues in Duesseldorf to the fullest potential across departments due to the distance between our headquarters and our Duesseldorf office. Accordingly, we decided on adapting the organization and to move the team and the production to Hamburg.”

 

Nintendo Weighs in on Lootboxes

nintendo switch joycon

Speaking to Bloomberg during E3 this week Reggie Fils Aime touched on the topic of Lootboxes. “Loot boxes, broadly speaking, have gotten a bit of a bad rap,” he said. “The game mechanic of buying something that you’re not sure what’s inside is as old as baseball cards. What we believe at Nintendo is that a gameplay mechanic that offers the consumer something to buy that they’re not sure what’s inside can be interesting as long as that’s not the only way you can get those items. And that’s where some developers have made some mistakes. For us, it’s one of many mechanics we can use to drive ongoing engagement in the game.”

All of this came about after Nintendo had a weaker than expected response at E3, prompting concerns about the Switch and a drop in Nintendo stock of 16%. Some are saying that Nintendo is running out of surprises. He also spoke about Fortnite saying that the game was downloaded 2 million times in just the first 24 hours.

 

There may still be some more business news to come from E3. Who knows what deals are being made there behind closed doors that we won’t see the results of for months, possibly even years. Feelings on this year’s E3 seem to be somewhat mixed across the internet. Many are overjoyed as their favorite franchises are getting another installment. On the other hand, a lot of companies, especially Nintendo are being criticized for not doing something new. Whatever your thoughts on E3 are you might be interested in reading this article from GamesIndustry.biz which talks about how E3 showed an industry on the brink of change because games as a service has drained the life out of the show floor. It’s a very interesting topic for anyone interested.

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The Sacrifice Coming to Warframe This Week

The next series of cinematic quests for Warframe is right around the corner. It was recently announced that The Sacrifice will be released on the week of June 11, 2018, where players will be tasked with hunting down a dangerous new Warframe.

Warframe The Sacrifice Umbra

 

Although free for all players, The Sacrifice will only be accessible to the most dedicated Tenno who have completed The Second Dream, The War Within, Chains of Harrow, and the Apostasy Prologue. In this storyline, players will learn about the plight of The Lotus, Ballas, and the creation of the Warframes. They will experience an action packed labyrinthine gauntlet, cutscenes, flashbacks, and the future of the Warframes.

Key Features:

  • UMBRA, AT LAST: Ferocious and untamed, Umbra’s fury is second only to his mastery of the blade. Complete The Sacrifice to discover the power of Umbra.
  • UI, PRIMED: Warframe‘s user interface is ever-evolving. Experience the first step in this brand-new UI, including a revamped inventory menu, customizable UI themes, updated vendor menus (like Baro, Syndicates, etc.), new UI sounds across all menus, and more!
  • TENNO CUSTOMIZATIONS: Embrace the shadows with these ancient Orokin masterpieces.
    • Umbra Armor: Eclipse the darkness of Umbra with this Armor Set for any Warframe.
    • Umbra Operator Cosmetics: Adorn your Operator with these ascendant Cosmetics.
    • Umbra Hooded Scarf: Prowl the night with this masterful scarf.
    • Umbra Blindfold: Embrace the shadows with this elegant blindfold.
    • Umbra Diadem: Adorn your Operator with this ascendant crown.
    • Umbra Earpiece: Dazzle your foes with these ancient earpieces.
    • Umbra Kubrow Armor: Howl at the moon with the Umbra Kubrow Armor Set.
    • Umbra Kavat Armor: The Umbra Kavat Armor Set embodies the height of feline Fashion Frame.

Additionally, players can use the code “OLDFRIEND” for a free Orokin Tea Set Decoration and a 3-Day Affinity Booster! Available on all platforms until at 11:59 p.m. ET, July 20, 2018.

The Sacrifice update is expected to arrive on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this summer.

Source: Press Release

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Possible E3 2018 Teasers Come from Anthem and John Smedley

We’re a couple of weeks away from this year’s E3, which means it’s pretty much high time for some E3 2018 teasers to come out of game devs and companies. Hot onthe heels of the Fallout 76 teaser are some intriguingly vague tweets out of both Anthem and John Smedley.

e3 2018 teasers

The first teaser we’ll be touching on is from the Anthem Game Twitter account, which suddenly decided to come to life today after being completely silent between now and June of last year. All we’re getting right now is a decoding message, though, so we can only keep eyes on things for now.

A somewhat more overt teaser was also shared today by developer John Smedley, who simply sent out a single sentence tweet that reads “It’s a beautiful day to make a shooter!” Whether this will be part of an E3 reveal or will be otherwise just shared at a later point independently is not immediately clear.

In both cases, we’ll be sure to keep you posted if there are new details.

Our Thoughts

It’s a safe bet that E3 reveals are planned here in both cases, particularly out of the Anthem camp. We’re only working on rumors and jumped-to conclusions, of course, but it’s all intriguing to consider for the time being until we can report some more concrete information.

Sources: Twitter 1, 2

Articles Related to This Story

John Smedley Hired by Amazon San Diego Studio
New Release Window for Anthem Confirmed by EA
Job Posting Suggests Anthem Will Have FPS Gameplay

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