Interview: Switchblade’s Development and Lucid Games’ Success

Even with it’s explosion to popularity years ago, the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre is still rife with new and exciting ideas to discover. Launching out of Steam’s Early Access program with a new seasonal Battle Pass, Switchblade has driven onto the scene with engines hot for action. Developed by Lucid Dreams, this MOBA combines the best of both worlds in lane-battling, tactical driving, and rapid-deployment combat systemic of classical Strategy Games. Last week I got the chance to sit down and discuss the game’s development with David Deeble, one of the team’s designers.

 

With most popular MOBAs featuring a greater focus on individual characters standing out, rather than their tools, why the focus on different types of vehicles rather than say their pilots?

We started Switchblade with the goal of making a great vehicle action MOBA, so it’s natural that the vehicles themselves are the focus. Early in development we knew that vehicles needed to be more than just tools and that players should be able to identify with certain traits or characteristics inherent to a vehicle’s gameplay – so, you have the sneaky rogue archetype being fulfilled by the Goofer or the Sniper Prince as the glass cannon and so on. By approaching the design in this way, I think that our vehicles fill the role of the traditional character commonly found in other MOBAs. We also allow players to create and customize their own Pilots so they can forge a sense of identity for themselves – it’s a more relatable way for players to interact in our shared spaces within the game.

 

While currently there’s a skin system in place, are we going to see further vehicle customization options arise in future, such as tires or framework in a similar vein of Rocket League or Mechwarrior Online?

Customization on vehicles is something we’ve talked about internally. It’s a topic that comes up in the community occasionally, but not all that often. Ultimately the discussion always comes back to “how does this impact gameplay”, for example any significant change to a vehicle’s silhouette may impact how identifiable a vehicle is over distance – the skin system we have allows us to create some really cool and unique designs while maintaining authorial control in the interests of gameplay. We do have some ideas in the pipeline that could satisfy all considerations though.

switchblade

With the distinction between different vehicle classes (Tanks, Artillery, Support, etc.) and some of the game’s escorting AI mechanics, is there a potential exclusively for Player vs. Environment encounters or perhaps a main storyline in the future?

Never say never, but right now we’re focused on making the best vehicle action PvP MOBA we can.

 

While the roadmap for Switchblade has been largely laid out as early as February of this year, the game is still in Steam Early Access. What are the team’s plans going forward to push outward from Early Access into a full release?

We have some major updates on the horizon including Leagues (our first competitive playlist), a brand-new map and new vehicles. We’re in a pretty good place right now in terms of stability and all our major systems are in place so our focus can begin to shift toward content creation and managing the live game. Ultimately, we’ll leave Early Access when we feel ready but it’s pretty close!

 

As with many games in the industry, microtransactions are often frowned down upon, particularly with the traditional or seasonal pass. How does Switchblade’s Season Pass stand out in this often-downtrodden field?

Our focus has always been on creating a great multiplayer experience that anyone can jump in and enjoy from day one. Microtransactions in Switchblade are completely optional and purely cosmetic – and they always will be! Our pre-alpha testers may remember our old “Tech” system that allowed players to buy items and modify their stats – we learned the hard way that this was completely counter to the type of experience we wanted players to have. One of the key pillars when creating our Battle Pass was to get the right balance for players to earn everything in a reasonable time frame – but we also give time-poor players the option of progressing their pass. It’s a fine-line between balancing the system for good commercial sense and not pissing off our community – I think we’re doing a good job if we’ve got content that players want to spend a little money on to support us while not interfering with anyone’s enjoyment of the game.

switchblade

Are there plans in the works to see an expansion of the world’s story beyond the edges of the game’s narrative arena?

Yes! Actually if you check out some of the vehicle descriptions in-game you’ll see hints at the wider Switchblade universe. Internally, we have a wiki page with plenty of lore that really fleshes out the world, it’s definitely something we want to get out there in future releases.

 

Currently there are concerns that there’s not a real end-game feel to gameplay, rather a tepid, eventual finale with the destruction of the enemy base during matches. How is the team working to diversify the end-gameplay?

We’re constantly gathering analytical data from the live game and listening to the community, and that really feeds back into our plans to improve the game. It’s still early days, but we’re working on a more refined ruleset for overtime and actively investigating how to make a more satisfying back-and-forth with Tower destruction. In earlier versions players could actually heal their own Towers, and while we felt this perpetuated “turtling” it gave players a reason to defend an exposed power-core rather than abandon it completely. We’re working right now to create a good balance between attack and defense, while not letting one team snowball a victory.

 

How happy is the team overall with Switchblade’s production and reception thus far?

We’re absolutely thrilled – the game’s out there, people are enjoying it and we have a strong and passionate community who are really invested. They can be pretty tough on us but we love it – we’ve always maintained that it’s their game as much as it ours!

switchblade

Currently there’s a very wide spread of vehicles across the different types. Is there a planned or ideal cap for the development team?

The cool thing about Switchblade is that we’re still finding fun new ways to play. When we start developing a new vehicle we ask ourselves how will this vehicle challenge players, what niche does it fill that we haven’t explored yet. So long as we can answer those questions then we’ll keep updating the roster. We’ve got some really cool vehicles in the pipeline that expand on the tactical aspect of the game, so right now the sky’s the limit!

 

Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about Switchblade, its upcoming development and its future?

It’s a great time to be playing Switchblade right now – the upcoming launch of competitive Leagues is our biggest update yet and I’m really excited to see how competitive play changes the game, we’ve also got the new Monorail map just on the horizon and of course our very first Battle Pass is still running. Switchblade is a real labor of love for us so if you’d like to join our passionate community then you can grab the game free on Steam and on PS4 from the PSN store.

A big thanks to David for sitting down with us to talk about Switchblade.

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Last Oasis Early Access to Begin October 1st

Last Oasis was one of the few new MMOs that were shown during E3 this year and now players are just a month away from getting to try it for themselves as the Last Oasis Early Access will begin on October 1st.

Last Oasis is set on Earth thousands of years in the future after the Earth has stopped rotating. This has created two extreme environments, one of razor-sharp ice and darkness, the other an arid desert wasteland. Between these two there is a thin strip of habitable land. To stay alive humanity has built a large walking city. Clans clash over resources and territory in this hellish future.

It is a woodpunk inspired open-world MMO being created by Donkey Crew, an indie studio from Poland. It first got attention in a big way during E3 2019 when it was one of the games featured in the PC Gaming Show Press Conference. It was also met with an impressive reception at Gamescom last week.

If you’d like to know more about Last Oasis you can find it on Steam where you can already add it to your Wishlist. This is a great option if you’re interested in the game because you’ll be alerted when it is made available on October 10th.

They’ve also released a new trailer for the game which features a deadly giant worm called the Legendary Sandworm. These sandworms are massive and have claimed the lives of many captains in the past.


Source: Press Release

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Road Rage Royale Rolls onto Steam

If you’re looking for a new vehicle based Battle Royale game then you might want to check out Road Rage Royale. This indie game just came out on Steam and was made by Neutral Oscillations Games in France. This is actually their debut title though their founder has been in the industry for the last 10 years. You may remember seeing Road Rage Royale on Kickstarter in May. It had a small, though successful campaign that raised €5,000. Since then they have been hosting weekly Twitch streams to keep people updated on the state of the game.

Road Rage Royale is a cyberpunk post apocalyptic coliseum tactical race car combat game. The object of the game is to take out fellow drivers and be the last man standing doing loops around the coliseum’s track. Each lap you take is unique as deadly obstacles could spawn at any moment.

The developers list Micro Machines, Lethal League, Street Fighter II, Nidhogg, Mad Max, and Fallout as just some of the inspiration behind this game. For me personally it reminds me of all those hours a spent using a cattle prod against my little brother while playing Road Rash on the Sega Genesis combined with those destruction derby games that were so popular in the early 2000s online.

You can find the gameplay trailer below.

If this sounds like your kind of fun check it out on Steam.

 

Source: Press Release

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Legends of Aria Steam Launch Announced

Citadel Studios has announced that the Legends of Aria Steam launch date will be August 6th. We’ve been following the game since it was first announced in 2014, though back then it was called Shards Online. The game has changed quite a bit since those early days and even now there have been more changes made to the game based on feedback from various beta and alpha events.

“Not only have we added a new playable skillset in the Bard and a whole new armor and weapon enchanting system to make the crafters in our community even more important, but we’re making the world of Aria a much friendlier place to live,” said Derek Brinkmann, CEO. “We’re ecstatic to finally be launching Legends of Aria on Steam after so much hard work and love were poured into the game. We cannot wait for MMO players of all sorts to join us on our journey.”

The Early Access Steam Launch will have a whole lot of new content for all to enjoy.
The Bard skill-line: a unique addition with useful buffs and abilities
A guided experience in the Profession System that takes players from newbie to Grandmaster
A New Weapon and Armor Enchanting system that expands crafting with unique dropped ingredients that allow for more high-end items
Ruleset changes to provide a more consensual PvP experience across more of the map for those who wish to play without fear of ganking
A Fresh Start Server where everyone begins on even footing at launch
An optional Premium Subscription with in-game bonuses and perks

According to the little FAQ section on Steam Citadel Studios estimates that the game will remain in Early Access for 6 to 12 months. This will be when the game is relatively bug free and 100% feature complete. Also talking about the price of Legends of Aria, they had this to say, “MMORPGs and even more so fully persistent sandbox MMORPGs rely heavily on active population. Our plan is to gradually reduce the price of the game over time to reduce the barrier to entry as in-game digital item sales grow to support the ongoing development of the product.”

 

Source: Press Release and Steam

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KurtzPel – When Karma Needs a Hand

Outside of the steady stream of licensed 3D fighting games such as Naruto or Dragon Ball, not to mention the underwhelming Jump Force, it’s not like you have many options to scratch your anime brawling itch. Luckily, South Korea once again comes to the rescue as KOG Games is about to release KurtzPel, an exciting class-based third-person arena brawler.

KOG isn’t new to the genre, having released a couple of action games before, albeit in somewhat different styles. Grand Chase and Elsword were both 2D side-scrolling brawlers and sizable successes. KurtzPel, on the other hand, marks the leap to full-fledged 3D arenas with complete freedom of movement, a dual-weapon system and aerial combos inspired by the aforementioned animes.

KurtzPel Preview Battle Start

Everybody Was Combo Fighting

The Early Access release of KurtzPel shows a no holds barred fighting system where you don’t have more than a couple of seconds of respite per match. Use this break wisely to gather your thoughts and rethink your strategy, since this is a game where player skill is of the utmost importance, against bashing the controls in the hope that some devastating blow appears out of nowhere. Practice makes perfect, as much as unlocking new abilities and items to make your character look good, but also to boost your stats.

KurtzPel begins with a personality test of sorts. If you’re wondering what this has to do with a fighting game… well, you’re correct to do so. Answering a few questions will steer you towards a specific type out of 16 possibilities, such as Observer, Hero, Shy or Leader. This test is based on the Myers-Briggs personality test that you can find online, but in KurtzPel you don’t get any kind of accurate report about who you are and what makes you tick; instead, your results will set you up with a prearranged character with a distinct stance, hairstyle and voice. However, you are not bound to the result and can change this before tweaking your character.

KurtzPel has one of the most in-depth character customization systems that I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Scratch that – one of the most detailed systems in any online game. You can make your character tall, short, skinny or fat, change several aspects of your hair and dye parts of it, among other things. It’s not quite at the level of Black Desert Online as it doesn’t offer the complete freedom to customize facial features such as the nose and mouth, aspects that are sorely lacking, but you get more than enough to stand out from the crowd.

KurtzPel Preview Black Fang Battle

Eltheca is the hub town where you and other fellow Chasers unite. This label isn’t random; it is in fact inspired by one of KOG’s previous games, Grand Chase. Fans of this 2D brawler will immediately recognize some of the characters and it’s not unlikely that a tear or two will be shed. KurtzPel is set in a parallel universe of Grand Chase and while this may not mean a thing to most players, it’s a pleasant layer of fan service that should be celebrated.

One of the defining traits of KurtzPel is the Karma system. Karmas can be compared to the classes found in other games, determining the weapon and skills that your Chaser takes to the arena. Currently there are four Karmas available, with the first two being unlocked from the start: Longbow (Dance of Wind), Greatsword (Sword Taliah), Staff (Diabolic Witch) and Gauntlets (Blazing Fist). The next in line is the Dual Swords (Dual Souls) Karma, which is self-explanatory.

While you must pick a Karma to begin with, it won’t take long for you to unlock a second one. The big twist is that you can equip two Karmas and switch between them on-the-fly. The best players will even be able to create combos based on cunning Karma switching, but this requires quite a bit of training. Choosing a long-range Karma such as the Longbow and a melee-based Karma like the Greatsword results in a timeless combination that every fan of fighting games should be able to learn and master.

Additional skills can be unlocked when you acquire Karma shards. These can be obtained by your growing affinity with the NPCs in Eltheca, increasing the strategic options in the arena. When you choose a PvE mission, it is tied to a specific NPC and you can sometimes chat with him or her at the end of the dungeon. Picking the right keywords may increase your affinity level with Crim Plie or Lire Eruel, for example, paving the way for rewards such as specific skills or equipment.

KurtzPel Preview PvP Battle

Big Brawl in Little Eltheca

Being an instance-based dungeon brawler, KurtzPel is entirely comprised of either PvE boss battles or PvP clashes. In PvE you are tasked with missions that are related to an NPC and may be solo or two-player co-op, with a specific category of real-time missions only appearing at certain times. The only surefire thing is that you will be facing one threatening and usually larger than life boss…  well, apart from the Dark Elves Shay and Ney, who are very much normal sized but a tough challenge as well.

The PvE mode may feel a little bare-bones, but it goes without saying that KurtzPel is first and foremost a PvP game. This addition feels like the devs going the extra mile to please a portion of players disappointed by the lack of a story mode. Their intention is laudable and if you are not too picky, you can have a lot of fun with it. Otherwise, you would miss on some stunning boss creatures, so even if you are a PvP player at heart, make sure to learn the combat basics in the story mode.

In this aspect, KurtzPel comes highly recommended, with bosses that are accomplished in every regard. Your foes come in different shapes and sizes, with a selection of attacks that will always require you to stay alert, either up close or at a distance. Some encounters double the danger, with a pair of bosses to defeat – while Dark Elf Karin stays safe in the distance using her magic-based skills, her oversized cougar Black Fang gets up close and personal, with fierce claw attacks to knock you down.

KurtzPel Preview Giant Stone Golem Battle

KurtzPel is a looker, there is no denying that, with the Unreal Engine 4 being put to great use. The anime design is clean and well-defined, with models that are far from being overloaded with needless details. The game truly shines when it comes to the dazzling visual effects, a spectacle of color and motion that often distracts you from your mission – arrows raining from the skies, dragon fire, tiny tornadoes… There is no shortage of things going on in each battle.

As soon as you set foot on the arena, you’ll immediately realize just how fast everyone moves and how your ability to use break skills is crucial to interrupt the enemy’s attacks, creating opportunities for your ally to strike. Each class has a unique Karma crystal, a powerful ability that works as a vital comeback mechanic – the meter grows as you successfully attack, but mostly as you take damage, a mechanic that isn’t to everyone’s tastes but that you’ll have to learn to work with to your advantage.

But fighting the AI-controlled bosses in KurtzPel is a walk in the park when compared to the real meat of the game, player versus player. I’m not overstating it when I say that I felt physically exhausted after a couple of deathmatches, such was the relentless pace, eye-watering projectile-based scuffles and brutal melee combat. Current PvP modes are 2v2 and include Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Conquest, with a custom match system where 3v3 is a new feature.

KurtzPel Preview Eltheca Hub Town

Deathmatch is exactly what you think it is: two teams of two players unleashing hell on one another, with the team that has scored the most points when the timer runs out winning the match. In Capture the Flag you must keep the flag in your possession for the longest possible, with the victory once again smiling to the team that has more points. Conquest is all about capturing and dominating the middle area of the map.

After some thinking, KOG ultimately settled on a free-to-play business model for KurtzPel, which means that the game must continuously generate enough revenue to support further development and updates. For this Early Access preview I received the Vanguard costume and weapon set, among other items that will be available as paid DLC. Besides looking good, these pieces of gear give your character a few stats boosts, and you can go to the Library to upgrade other equipment or unlock additional Karma crystal slots. Having two locked Karmas – which you can unlock through gameplay progress – stirred up some turmoil, but KOG has stated that this is meant for those players who wish to completely skip the PvE portion and dive in instantly in PvP. How this will work out for the game is still up for discussion, but the community will surely cry foul at the first sign of unbalanced clashes.

KurtzPel still needs fine-tuning to make all the Karmas feel balanced and fair. Nevertheless, that is precisely what the Early Access phase is for, with player feedback hopefully steering it in the right direction. It’s a game with high production values and an experienced and enthusiastic team. Unless something goes terribly wrong, KurtzPel is bound to give other games such as Dissidia Final Fantasy NT or Jump Force a butt-whooping to remember.

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Switchblade, the MOBA with Vehicles is Now Free to Play

Vehicle-based games are rare so when Switchblade graced our inbox we knew had to talk about it. Switchblade is a 5v5 team-based MOBA where all the combat takes place with heavily armed sci-fi vehicles in a massive arena. The game is currently in Early Access and is being developed by UK development team Lucid Games. You can find it on Steam right now and Playstation 4 is scheduled very soon.

From a development standpoint, the move to free to play also represents a transition from Early Access to beta. Of course, this can’t quite be accurately displayed in places like Steam. For them being in beta means that the game is effectively feature complete. Beta is about getting player feedback, squashing bugs, and introducing more content.

If you’re interested in learning more about the game there will be a developer livestream tomorrow, January 23rd at 3 PM GMT on Twitch. They don’t have an agenda planned for the livestream but they will be there to answer player questions, celebrate the launch of free to play, and giving away some in-game currency. If you have a question already in mind send them a tweet and they’ll be sure to answer it on stream. This is especially great since 3 PM GMT is 10 AM Eastern so there’s a good chance you won’t be able to watch the stream live anyway. Thankfully the livestream will be available on social media after it wraps up so you’ll be able to watch it whenever you get the chance.

If you’re interested in giving Switchblade a try head over to Steam where you can grab it for free. If you haven’t already seen it be sure to check out the brand new, explosion-packed trailer below.

Source: Press Release, Official Blog

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Breach Hits Steam Early Access in January

The multiplayer “dungeon brawl” of Breach looks to be about ready for prime time. QC Games has confirmed that Breach early access will arrive to Steam users this coming January, bolstered by player feedback during the game’s recent testing.

breach early access

“The reception we’ve received from everyone who’s played the game has been nothing short of amazing, giving us confidence that we’re definitely on the right track in our development of Breach,” states game director Gabe Amatangelo. “We look forward to taking the next big step of bringing Breach to a wider audience in January 2019 through Steam Early Access.”

As is often the case with these things, early access will be a paid affair, though the complete game will launch free-to-play. According to the game’s Steam page, the plan is to keep early access short and release the game by next summer, barring any major adjustments needed based on community feedback.

Until then, there will be an extended technical alpha test running between November 30th and December 2nd which will introduce the Chronomancer class to players. Testing is scheduled to begin at 1pm EST and will wrap up at 12am EST. There is no expected downtime for the game’s servers.

Naturally, the announcement comes with a fresh new trailer. That can be seen below.

Our Thoughts

It’s good to know that testers have been enjoying the game enough to push forward into early access. We’re looking forward to seeing how this piece of multiplayer gaming shapes up as we move into next year.

Source: press release

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The AlterVerse: A Crypto World Building MMO

Games are a creative medium with nearly infinite possibilities and dozens of ways in experiencing them. Every year playing and developing video games becomes more widespread and accessible as tools and systems become not only more affordable, but easier to grasp and understand. Since the early 2000’s developers have been making and sharing their games on websites like RPGMaker.net. One developer, Dog Star VR Studios, is looking to take that a step further and not only give gamers a community universe to explore, but developers the tools and universe to easily create their own aspiring games in. AlterVerse is intended to be just that project, hosted in a community developed multiversal landscape but built on the basis of Blockchain technology.

Blockchain is a term we’ve been hearing off and on in the Games Industry since 2014, but most people simply are unsure what it means, despite having accessed very similar systems for most of their internet careers. First digitally developed by a body known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, Blockchain was then later implemented into popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and has since exploded onto the internet as a means of publicly recording and decentralizing transactions. Managed anonymously using peer-to-peer networks and distributed by a time-stamping server and secured cryptographically, Blockchain is used to log data (such as monetary transactions) by independent, self-interested users and managed by the same in a public and transparent manner. Much like a real-world economy this ‘public ledger’ ensures that the digital currency tallied within maintains its value and is open for any interested or invested party to inspect whenever they wish, meaning no one group could alter it for fear of social repercussions. Decentralizing it among a peer-to-peer network and a server means that if the server should ever go down, all its users still have a permanent copy of the data transmitted.

Now this is greatly oversimplifying the concept of Blockchain, and even in several hours of research I myself was not able to entirely wrap my head around so vast a concept. One of my personal colleagues explained the concept to me as, “Imagine a Wikipedia page, where every user’s account is logged when it interacts with a page. That way a community of contributors develops new content for that page, while that same community then verifies the information for accuracy. No one will really want to step out of line unless they want to get ejected from the community for mucking around with the page. No one will be able to muck around with other user’s accounts to make those changes, because it’s all secured thanks to a password only that account’s owner can decrypt!”

Blockchaining was first introduced into gaming in February 2014 with the release of Huntercoin. In this game, players earned a specific in-game currency by competing with each other in card battles. This HunterCoin(HUC) currency could later be exchanged for BitCoin securely due to the game’s inner BlockChain systems, but the game’s success was hampered by a wide exchange of issues. One of the game’s main abilities, Destroy, caused players to detonate like a nuclear warhead, killing players and scattering their HUC for other players to pick up. The game also suffered from a lack of moderation, its chat window open-sourced and rife for abuse and inappropriate content. Even the gameplay itself had fundamental design problems due to the core concepts of Blockchain.

Moving characters became intrinsically painful the more one played Huntercoin; as each individual player was registered on the Game User Interface of every other player, each player was forcibly rendered in real time by the Peer-to-Peer transfer. The biggest hitch of Blockchain decentralization is that only so many calculations can be done every second. Eventually, if you continue to scale your world and the actions done within it, you will hit a limit for what some people in the chain can reasonably render, resulting in massive slowdowns. Without a central server to register player movement and interaction, that burden was then placed on every computer currently playing Huntercoin and then slowed down by weaker members of the chain, resulting in mass slow-downs across the player base that took minutes to move a character just a few spaces forward.

Fast-forward a few years to AlterVerse: Disruption’s appearance on Kickstarter. Having been in development since 2009, the AlterVerse engine was designed to be a building block system for players; an MMORPG that players could develop content for other players to interact with in any genre or vein imaginable. According to our own past coverage creators can inject fully moddable game worlds into the AlterVerse, modifying terrain, jumping between genres and developing strongholds throughout the solar system. It’s clear from the beginning that the intent for AlterVerse is to be a world-built MMO in the most literal sense.

Players can be adventurers, raiding player designed ships and dungeons or developing their own storefronts and businesses in game. Turning each players computer into a P2P server, players host their content as they play reducing problems games such as Huntercoin faced previously in the past while players helm their own village, starship or war-table.

No matter the focus the AlterVerse runs on the Arn, its own form of cryptocurrency generated and mined through in-game activities in the AlterVerse. Players can exchange it much like its own currency, charging other players to access content they develop or barter between others for services. Intended to work on a Subscription model, AlterVerse’s main appeal aside from creating and playing one’s own worlds with the Pro Editor tool is indeed the hunt for Arn and the payout for crypto, as their advertisements look to draw in those looking for additional revenue and business to jump into the Alterverse.

One of several different monetization related adverts for AlterVerse, this one targeted at game asset creators.

AlterVerse would later emerge onto Steam Greenlight, Valve’s Community voting feature prior to its retirement in early 2017. Greenlit, AlterVerse then began beta-testing, allowing users to play an unfinished version of its first content module, AlterVerse: Disruption, as well as demoing the other in-game systems and generating their own world content. AlterVerse: Disruption later emerged onto Kickstater in August of 2018, looking for $3000 USD to finish off the first of nine content modules currently in development for the AlterVerse platform. There the main rewards were exclusive Citizenships, premium accounts that never had to pay their subscription fee which could later bought and sold on AlterVerse’s player-driven market.

Sporting full-fledged avatar creation and development, it appears that Dog Star VR is putting their best foot forward for their first major development project. Right now their main focus is Disruption, their Sci-Fi shooter model toting ship-to-ship dog-fighter combat, death match modes and more throughout its Kickstarter project listing. The scope is certainly concerning, advertising that AlterVerse could host almost any game mode imaginable on the game’s main Twitter page. However, to the game’s credit it may be the first to ever actually do such a thing; with user generated content to pad out its repertoire, Dog Star merely needs to show that engaging story-telling and level design can be done in the game’s somewhat limited engine.

Now aside from what AlterVerse is pushing as a Black Desert-esque, “live your life,” MMORPG, it’s hard to look past the surface positively. When one talks about studios developing multiple games at the same time, even on the same engine, there is bound to be shortcomings across the board between games. In examining AlterVerse’s official art the in-game models and textures are far below the acceptable standard that most players expect from an MMO in the last few years, let alone 2018.

In comparison, even the original models from World of Warcraft, an engine nearly 20 years AlterVerse’s senior, look far superior. With this game boasting Virtual Reality support, its hard to see what would attract players to even assembling a VR headset to enter this low-res world. In making up for poor art direction, Alterverse seems instead to be focusing on a variety of features; examining their Kickstarter page, the developers are attempting to pack in a whopping 29 separate gameplay features, 17 of which most MMO players would consider incredibly basic or fundamental to modern MMOs and only another 7 which others would consider to be extraneous depending on the genre of MMO. However, as AlterVerse is intending to literally cover every possible genre of fantasy its hard not to see why the breadth is potentially far greater than the depth.

Ultimately AlterVerse has a very specific crowd it’s trying to cater to, and its not the traditional MMORPG market in my honest opinion. In assembling its machine, Dog Star VR is really targeting those who want to work on creating their own content primarily while potentially exploring the world enough to economize and develop their horizons in a stiff MMO design. Economists and creators will, in my opinion, get the most out of adventuring in this universe; from maximizing profits on the in-game market to churning out content for other players to explore. In marketing to just this particular group, however, the AlterVerse feels as if it lacks any sense of major identity throughout. While there are screenshots of upcoming content packs there is only predominately advertisements of Disruption, and even then they hardly talk about what Disruption is all about. It leaves AlterVerse feeling as if its simply a shell for a greater monetization vehicle, and lacks any sense of charm or draw aside from that.

Frankly, there is a lot of economic promise in the vast galaxies and worlds of AlterVerse, if there’s a player base to be captured for it. But with a startling 9 content packs in development and their Early Access already slipping past its Q3 2018 launch, one can’t help but feel concerned that perhaps this universe might be a little too big for just one team to handle.

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Is Breach Finally 4v1 Done Right?

The idea of asymmetric PvP has a long history in the online gaming world that has never achieved its full potential. Back in the early MMORPG days of EverQuest and Asheron’s Call, developers actually spawned into the online words as raid bosses. Due to the unbalanced nature and resource constraints, these types of events haven’t been implemented in more recent MMOs. A few years ago, we had a small-scale take on players controlling raid bosses with Evolve while Shadow Realms attempted to recreate the Dungeon Master experience from Dungeons & Dragons. Now Breach is trying its hand at the asymmetric PvP subgenre as a 4v1, third-person action RPG that puts a twist on ancient mythology.

Breach Veil Demon

 

In Shadow Realms’ Shadow

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Dallas Dickinson (President) and Gabe Amatangelo (Chief Creative Director) of QC Games to get a hands-on demonstration of Breach. If those names sound familiar, it’s because they were previously part of Bioware’s Shadow Realms development team.

A few minutes into the game, I was instantly reminded of my time with Shadow Realm back at PAX 2014. The idea of taking over the Dungeon Master, or Shadowlord, role definitely intrigued me, especially as someone who very much enjoys PvP focused games. Setting traps, taking over monsters, and picking off heroes one by one was great in concept, but what was presented at the time lacked a special something. It could have been the generic characters, settings, and skills or the combat just not feeling quite right. It felt like the team had great ideas with Shadow Realms but wasn’t able to quite build the gameplay to deliver on them.

Already having those ideas to pull from, it seems as if the QC Games team has been able to spend more time building the core game mechanics such as combat, setting, and character progression . With that in mind, let’s look at what Breach is doing to set itself apart.

Breach gameplay

 

What is Breach?

In the short time that I spent with Breach, it was very apparent that the game does not simply fit into one category. It’s clearly a lobby-based, co-op third-person action RPG, but it also embraces pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons and pulls parts from the MOBA genre. Breach can be played solo as a hero or Veil Demon, co-op, or in full 4v1 PvP mode.

These varying game modes have the ability to draw in all kinds of different gamers and not just those interested in PvP; you can dungeon crawl with your friends or torment AI heroes as the Veil Demon. The standard game mode will have four heroes face off against a single Veil Demon that can manipulate the battleground and control hordes of monsters, but the number of players can be modified in the custom game mode.

There are the typical roles that one would expect from a team-based RPG: Mage, physical DPS, healer, and tank with a wide-variety of classes ranging from Necromancer to Nighthawk. Currently, there are 18 classes for the Heroes and 6 for the Veil Demon, with more on the way. Furthermore, players can mix and match skills between certain classes to tailor their own unique playstyle. Unlike traditional MMORPGs or MOBAs, players aren’t locked into a single class or hero but instead can customize an avatar that can change or modify classes before any match. In a way, it’s similar to Final Fantasy XIV where players can access every class on their main character and are granted extra ability options based on the number of unlocked jobs.

Breach God

Before a match starts, players will hang out in a central hub similar to Destiny or most other current lobby-centric games. This is where they can modify their equipment, talents, skills and practice on the training dummies. When a match begins, the two teams will take turns drafting. The heroes will draft their classes while the Veil Demon first chooses their class and then two elite monsters. In the current build, players aren’t forced to fill certain roles, and this can lead to some interesting team compositions. However, as I experienced in one of the play sessions, a team of all Demon Hunters isn’t the best choice and a good balance of roles will likely be optimal in most situations.

After the draft ends, players will be transported to the battleground and be required to complete various objectives as they move forward. These include missions such as killing a certain number of enemies before the timer expires or capturing points. While this seems simple enough, the Veil Demon is doing its best to stop the heroes from succeeding. The Veil Demon this omnipresent entity that can’t directly engage or be engaged by the heroes but it can spawn traps, take control of minions, or summon powerful elite monsters. At the end of each map there is a powerful boss that the Veil Demon can either take control of or work together with as a final attempt to stop the heroes.

 

Atmosphere

According to the story, 70,000 years ago humans lived alongside mythological creatures where they were enslaved and hunted. Taking pity on the humans, a group of Immortals split the Earth into two realities by creating the Veil. The humans were separated from the other mythological creatures and allowed to live in relative peace. However, the Veil is starting to collapse and the worlds are colliding. This has simultaneously allowed demons to invade the human world while also providing certain individuals with a power called “The Spark,” which grants them magical abilities.

Breach Environment

There are a lot of legendary myths from around the world and not focusing on a single one, such as Roman or Greek, allows the QC team a huge amount of freedom in level and enemy design. Each of the battlegrounds embodies a different culture from Egypt to Japan, and the final boss represents one of their gods or mythical beings.

This initially made me think back to SMITE, which currently has close to 100 gods from 12 different pantheons. Hopefully, this will give the development team a lot of inspiration to draw from and continue to create new content while allowing players to experience cultures from a multitude of backgrounds.

 

Game Mechanics and Features

Before meeting with QC Games, I had the opportunity to play through the tutorial on my own. One of the first things I noticed was how smooth and responsive the combat was. When you press a button, there’s no awkward delay or animation before the attack or skill initiates. The overall control and feeling of combat reminded me a lot of Neverwinter, albeit with better visuals , and specifically playing the Assassin was reminiscent of the Trickster Rogue.

Attacks have a nice ‘snap’ to them and you can feel the impact on enemies. Standard attacks can be performed without a target, but there’s a sort of soft-lock when correctly aiming at an enemy and using certain skills. This aspect is also similar to Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online, but the controls are much less floaty.

According to the development team, the game will be free-to-play once released and there will be no pay-to-win aspects. For monetization, Breach will be using a League of Legends style where players can pay to unlock new classes faster or purchase cosmetics.

For the most part, the game will feature horizontal progression, which should also decrease chances for pay-to-win features. Unlocking new gear won’t provide a direct power bonus but will instead increase options available to the players. For example, each item for a class provides access to certain talents that are unlocked during a mission. Swapping out that item won’t make you instantly stronger but it could provide talents more suited to your play style. Furthermore, classes can mix and match certain skills, which means that unlocking more classes provides more cross-class combination options.

Breach Elementalist

 

What it Needs

I feel like the elephant in the room is the lack of a map editor. With Shadow Realms likely never seeing the light of day, Breach is the closest we’re getting to that Dungeon Master experience. And while it’s fun to spawn traps and monsters on the fly, getting to create and setup an entire campaign ahead of time is exactly what this type of game needs. Player created content has a history of driving longevity in games and it often spawns entirely different ways to play or even creates new genres.

To answer my initial question of whether Breach is finally the 4v1 game we need… the answer is maybe. For being in Alpha state, the game already feels great mechanically and the tools are there, but it just needs a few more features and to give players a bit more control over design.

Breach Heroes

In its current state, Breach is a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to what QC Games has in store for its future. For those of you interested in trying out Breach, it will enter paid Early Access on Steam later this year with an expected free-to-play launch in 2019.

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Legends of Aria Gets a Steam Early Access Release Date

Legends of Aria is making a pretty significant step forward in its development. Citadel Studios has locked down a Legends of Aria early access launch date on Steam and all of the salient details that go along with the announcement.

legends of aria early access launch

Legends of Aria will arrive to Steam Early Access on Tuesday, December 4th. The game’s early access release touts a number of features including skill-based character progression from over 32 unique skills, open player-driven sandbox gameplay, and full mod and custom community server support.

The game is holding a promotion for those who pre-order between now and December 3rd, offering a seven day head start and associated Founder’s Pack bonuses depending on which package you buy.

In addition to the pre-order offer, there will be a number of contests in the run-up to early access. The first of these involves players answering the question “What role will you play?”, with additional entries available to those who sign up to the game’s newsletter. The prize: an ASUS GeForce GTX 1080 8GB ROG Strix Graphics Card and a Lord’s Founder’s Pack, while two runners-up will receive Lord’s Founder’s Packs.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since we began this journey. So much has changed since then,” mused Citadel Studios founder Derek Brinkmann in a statement. “We’ve gone from making a smaller scale online RPG to making the large-scale full-on sandbox MMORPG we’ve been dying to play since Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and EverQuest first made us all believers in the genre years ago.”

That full-on sandbox experience is summarized in the trailer below.

Our Thoughts

Last time we were in this game, we found that things were becoming more full and intriguing in spite of the game’s overall hands-off approach, so naturally we’re very excited to see the nearly full experience arrive to early access. We also hope that said early access isn’t lacking in features, though that doesn’t seem to be a problem with this one.

Source: press release

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