Enplex Games Release Official Population Zero Trailer

Hotly-anticipated Sci-Fi MMO Population Zero is poised for early access via Steam on May 5th. And now developer Enplex Games has unleashed not one, but two videos to help whet your appetite: the official Population Zero trailer & a retrospective development video documenting its progression since its 2017 beginnings.

Set on uncharted planet Kepler, the player is tasked with survival over the course of 168 hours (7 days) after which the cycle will repeat, only this time bolstered with new mechanics and modes unlocked with the experience gained in the last cycle. PvP modes are unlocked via account progression after the first few hours of life on Kepler, though entirely optional. 

This offbeat approach to the MMO genre, a time-constrained objective fulfilment mechanic, comfortably sets Population Zero apart from others of its ilk and already has us eager to get stuck in. 

Well, now Enplex Games has decided to amplify that anticipation with the sublimely-crafted Population Zero trailer below entitled ‘Gravity’, in which we are given not only a taste of the myriad hazards that await us, but also a tantalizing look at the living colourscape that is Kepler:



Complete with its very own stirring soundtrack courtesy of Indie Pop artist Naadia, this trailer is giving us some serious Fallout meets Outer Worlds vibes. The recent decision by Enplex Games to shift from free-to-play to buy-to-play is indicative of the quality we can hope to expect. 

The promising impressions continue  as we take a look at the retrospective video below which showcases Population Zero’s development since its initial conception in 2017, compared to the product that we can expect this May. 


The graphical progress is dazzling, transitioning to a mesmeric vision worthy of its $29.99 price tag. Population Zero will be available through Steam early access with an additional 17% discount for the first week, and additional packages containing cosmetic perks to help you stand out from the crowd of survivors on Kepler. If you’re as excited as we are, prospective players are invited to add the game to their Steam Wishlist ahead of its release on 5th May.


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Population Zero Begins Early Access on May 5

The Survival, Sci-Fi MMO Population Zero is expected to launch on Steam Early Access starting May 5. Players will not only be challenged to survive the wilderness, but time itself will become an enemy.

Population Zero

Unlike many other survival style MMOs, Population Zero will have a clear goal in mind, and players will need to reach that goal within 168 hours (7 days). This is how Population Zero will play out:

  • The very first cycle starts in a special instanced Drop Zone, a single-player Tutorial
  • Game cycles last 168 hours, or 7 consecutive days – a light day on Kepler
  • You have more than enough time to complete the main objective, explore the planet, engage themselves with building, resource gathering and crafting, battle mobs or other players
  • Each cycle rewards players with account experience necessary to unlock new modes, mechanics and further enhance the gameplay
  • Win or lose – you still get rewards and experience according to your progress during a session
  • When joining a new session players will be matched according to their current account level

In addition to having defined goals and rewards, the time constraint in Population Zero will allow for detailed stories that combine narrative and survival mechanics, prevent specific groups from taking over servers, allow developers to experiment and create exciting new mechanics, and allow players to gradually unlock new mechanics and achievements.

To survive, players must repair the power generations on Artemis by completing a series of goals. There are 4 ways a game will end:

  • Complete the main objective and survive
  • Fail to make it in time and lose
  • Get turned into an alien monster and die: frequent respawns increase colonists’ mutation level which will eventually lead to a complete character transformation – the very first death in the form of an alien creature ends the session
  • Deliberately end the session

For those interested in keeping tabs on Population Zero, it can now be added to your Steam wishlist.


Source: Enplex Blog

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Tribes of Midgard Preview – Surviving Ragnarok

The looming threat of Ragnarök is something that no Norse tribe can ever ignore. It’s the kind of mythology that isn’t frequently used in video games, but it serves as a flawless setup for relentless battles involving gods and colossal entities. Tribes of Midgard is based on that premise but mixes it with survival game trappings to create a familiar but compelling game.

Tribes of Midgard is being developed by indie studio Norsfell, based in Montreal, Canada. Its backlog is mostly comprised of mobile games, but the ambition driving its upcoming game is worthy of attention, thanks to a satisfying core gameplay that motivates you to advance your character. Nevertheless, the latest open beta is proof that there’s a lot of work to be done, mostly balancing the different systems and providing additional content to keep the player invested.

Tribes of Midgard bare beginnings

Bare-naked Vikings

Tribes of Midgard is a cooperative survival game where up to ten players join forces to defend their village. At the center of the village lies the Seed of Yggdrasil, the tribe’s last hope against the invasion of the grim hordes from Helheim. Your goal is to survive the incoming onslaught for as many days as you can, something that is far from being an easy task, considering that increasingly difficult shadow creatures and colossi will invade your village every single night.

The procedurally generated maps of Tribes of Midgard are one of its triumphs, adding a refreshing stance to each new match. Each map is unabashedly huge, with fast travel shrines thankfully dispersed across the land. You will be running back and forth to your village to heal and craft superior gear, so using these shrines will save you precious minutes. Furthermore, protecting the Seed of Yggdrasil is crucial, so you won’t want to be caught amiss when your help may end up making a difference.

The bulk of the game consists of exploring the wilderness and gathering all kinds of materials. Nearly naked and only with your bare fists to protect yourself from the dangers of the wild, you pick up branches, stones, sticks, and other materials to get you started. The village blacksmith is eager to help you, with a pickaxe and a wood axe inevitably being your first tools. These are used to mine stones and minerals, and to chop down every tree in your way. Soon you’ll be handling a sword or a hammer, but you need more in the way of protection than your undies.

Being a survival game at heart, you’ll often see your objects and weapons break. Having a replacement at the ready may save you from some uncomfortable situations, but it’s a matter of balancing your future needs with your stock of materials.

Tribes of Midgard Jotun attack

Edly the tailor is glad to help, offering several kinds of helmets, chest guards, gloves, pants, and shoes. It’s not a daunting task to get yourself some basic gear; however, to wear those imposing and comfy helmets and chest guards requires some thorough exploration of the region and a sheer dose of luck. Rare minerals or jewels are necessary and hard to find, with some of the best materials dropping from the colossal and threatening Jotun.

Jotun is the giant and ambiguous entity that will occasionally show up to attack the Seed of Yggdrasil. It is a mighty challenge, requiring the concentrated efforts of every player to take it down, not to mention some well-placed and appropriate traps placed near your village. The giant will relentlessly crush any ill-prepared tribe, putting an end to your efforts in that world. Along with the objects that you gather, you also collect souls that you need to deliver to the Seed of Yggdrasil, acting as its health.

If your world is destroyed, that doesn’t mean that your developments are going to waste. Progress is seamless between worlds, so you get to keep your experience level and blessings when you start your crusade in a new map. However, you lose all your equipment and gear, having to start from scratch in your quest to get some decent weapons and armor. If you’re lucky, some better prepared player may offer you some of his loot, sparing you the initial struggle.

Blessings are the skills in this game, improving your character’s build and abilities. Spread across four classes (Ranger, Brawler, Warden and Guardian), Blessings provide several buffs and improvements that aren’t to be neglected. Increasing fog of war reveal, improving weapon durability, or increasing damage with a specific weapon, among other things, will come extremely handy when push comes to shove.

Tribes of Midgard hammer time

Fighting for My Tribe

When the night comes, the shadows roam in the direction of the Seed of Yggdrasil. Every player must make a run for the village, defending it with every ounce of their strength. Having a wealthy amount of materials may help you build a wall, delaying the entry of the mythological evil spirits. Dagny the Seeress will patiently wait for harmed Vikings to reach out, healing those who stand within her magical circle; however, whenever a player heals (alone or in a group), the others must wait a couple of minutes for the healer to be available once more.

While Tribes of Midgard already provides a satisfying gameplay loop, there is room for improvement in order to make it a full-fledged cooperative survival experience. The current lack of a player communication system undermines the tribe’s efforts, but this is said to be in the works. Even a simple ping system would be immensely welcome for teamplay and strategizing.

The durability of weapons and items is a bit on the shaky side, forcing you to repeatedly craft the same gear instead of aiming for a better one. This is one aspect that requires finetuning, along with others such as the day and night cycle. Daytime is over too quickly, frustrating your plans to go out into the wilds, exploring at your own pace – suddenly, it’s time to rush back to the village and if there is no fast travel shrine in sight, it will be a long and troubled way home.

Tribes of Midgard barbarian settlement

As far as weapon selection goes, it’s somewhat slim and I couldn’t fail to notice a disheartening lack of ranged weapons. Not having a single bow in sight is an odd omission, especially considering that some of the first foes that cross your path are bow-wielding barbarians. Combat feels satisfying, with the skills spicing up the fights, but hit detection is far from perfect.

While the sandbox gameplay set within randomized worlds is a plus, Tribes of Midgard could benefit from the addition of missions or side quests to break out of its endless loop. Escorting an NPC to a certain area or finding a specific item for someone would help with the flow of the game, adding some extra layers to its free-form gameplay.

The art is good, with a cel-shaded style that isn’t tremendously detailed, but the whole picture makes for a game that is easy on the eyes. When the snow is gently falling and you see the clouds reflecting in the pristine water, everything seems to come together. The giants are quite impressive to watch, as they slowly move towards their goal, your ultimate destruction.

Tribes of Midgard duo combat

The Tribes of Midgard open beta suffered from a few disconnect issues and another bug that cut the matches short. The day never ended, and without the usual warning to swiftly return to the village, surprise struck as the Seed of Yggdrasil was left hopeless, destroyed by a swarm of grim shadows.

This is nothing that can’t be fixed before the official launch, although there is no way to tell if the developers are going to add side quests to Tribes of Midgard to flesh out its core offering. While satisfying, it’s a game that feels extremely niche as it stands right now, and that may end up being its most gigantic challenge yet.

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Conan Unconquered – A Ruthless, Barbaric Take on Real-Time Strategy

Conan Unconquered is the latest game – but surely not the last – featuring the ruthless barbarian. Since Funcom snagged the rights to develop video games based on Robert E. Howard’s franchise, we’ve had our share of bloody adventures. From MMORPGs (Age of Conan Unchained) to survival MMOs (Conan Exiles), the time has come for a survival RTS.

I’m not an expert in real-time strategy games anymore, but I’ve grown used to the genre pretty much since its genesis. Dune 2 may not be the game that spawned an entire genre, but Westwood Studios’ game was surely the one that made it mainstream. After that I’ve played a deluge of RTS hits that include Command & Conquer, Warcraft, Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and many more.

While it isn’t exactly a case of going full circle, it’s comforting to know that Petroglyph is at the helm of Conan Unconquered. Founded by former staff from said Westwood Studios, this company has a track record mostly comprised of strategy games and is now at home with this new game. A bloody, battered and brutal home, but a home, nonetheless.

Conan Unconquered Preview Blood on the Sand

Savage Rush

What is this thing that Petroglyph is selling as a survival RTS? Aren’t most RTS games about survival anyway, crushing wave after wave of player or AI-controlled enemy hordes and making a run for it when you find an open spot? They Are Billions immediately comes to mind and is one of the few games that often draws direct comparisons to Petroglyph’s latest project.

However, Conan Unconquered takes it a step further and completely focuses its sound real-time strategy mechanics around the straightforward premise of resisting the enemy onslaught. It’s not that far from a tower defense game, in that you have a short period of time to develop your stronghold and strategize before the next wave comes crushing everything in its path. Make no mistake, this is a challenging game with a barbaric difficulty level (pun not intended) that will make you tear your hair apart when you collapse to the last enemy wave.

This approach comes with both pros and cons. It feels somewhat restrictive and limited in its scope, making you feel confined to your stronghold and adjacent territory while there is a world out there to explore, albeit a small one. You must take your chances to destroy spider and scorpion lairs, not to mention those bloodthirsty ostriches, for some reason. Seek some valuable resources and increase your hero’s experience, only to return double-time or risk seeing your buildings razed to the ground.

You feel restrained, you seriously consider the risk and reward ratio in sending a decent army to explore the terrain. On the other hand, it is a deliberate choice and ultimately it pays off, especially for battle-hardened players in search of a challenge that always keeps them alert. One mistake too many and the battle is over, forcing you to restart from the first wave.

Conan Unconquered Preview Watching the World Burn

Conan Unconquered is challenging and it can get a bit draining as well, due to its design that favors trial and error. Lose the battle and prepare yourself for another set of waves, hopefully getting your stronghold in better shape for the final showdown. It is slow-paced as well, a decision that may not be in everyone’s tastes, as your hero slogs back to base just in time to watch it burn. It doesn’t quite detract from the gameplay, but it takes some getting used to.

Before you set your feet in the battleground, you must pick one hero unit, which is infinitely tougher than your regular cannon fodder and comes with a powerful ability. Will you go with the main man Conan, or do you prefer Valeria? Maybe you want to step into Kalanthes’ blood-soaked sandals, but for that you have to purchase the Deluxe Edition of the game. Wait, what?

Having one hero out of three locked seems like a tactic straight out of the worst examples of free-to-play, and Conan Unconquered is a premium game that shouldn’t keep its heroes behind a paywall. In the future, when the roster is loaded with assorted heroes, it won’t be the right thing to do, but will be forgivable; right now, it feels like a punitive shove in the direction of a more expensive edition for not much reason whatsoever.

Conan Unconquered Preview Javelin Soldier Battle

“You Hesitate… You Die”

No truer words have been spoken. Conan Unconquered is a game where second chances are few and far between and while your hero unit can die only to return a minute later, this cooldown period may jeopardize your efforts. Your hero levels up as he slays minion after minion, becoming a powerful warrior that can singlehandedly turn the tide of battle, but he needs the valuable support of Swordsmen and Javelin Soldiers, to mention just a few, with the latter being incredibly useful when it comes to hitting enemies at a distance or over a wall. Pathfinding needs some polishing, as they often engage in a frenzied and futile run through the mountains instead of simply approaching the wall and throwing their javelins.

That brings me to walls. Never, ever underestimate the importance of a judiciously positioned wall. Since the fail state in Conan Unconquered happens when your fortress is destroyed, well-placed walls can slow down the enemy and buy you some vital time to attack their forces. There is an intricate economy in place with a robust tech tree for you to despair over, but early beginnings usually require you to fortify your defenses. Later, things like a ballista tower are a barbarian’s best friend during those massive sieges, but good luck unlocking the mandatory structures to get what you were initially hoping for.

Conan Unconquered isn’t just about building structures and enjoying the view; there is an upkeep for most buildings and troops, with resources such as gold, food, wood, iron or stone to keep an eye out for. It’s a delicate balance and the destruction of a single hovel may throw your plans under the desert bus (bonus video game reference), setting in motion a chain of events that will see the obliteration of your economy and power. Let’s not forget about the micro-management that is necessary to put out those pesky fires, otherwise brace yourselves for a glorious spectacle of flames, as half of your stronghold burns to the ground in no time.

Conan Unconquered Preview Co-op Mode

As it happens with most things in life, Conan Unconquered is best enjoyed with a friend, or a stranger. The co-op mode pits you and another warrior against waves of savages, but with a few twists in comparison to the solo mode. While you get to build a shared stronghold, resources are split between each player, so you must be responsible for your buildings and your army upkeep. The upside of this is that exploration is now more tempting, as you and your teammate may agree on methods to scout the map and scavenge every nook and cranny for useful resources. The downside is that the game is now even harder, as the enemy waves are more numerous and more determined than ever.

Thanks to random maps and the unpredictability of a human partner, this is where Conan Unconquered truly shines. But this is also where the odds of a nervous breakdown are at their best, not to mention the likely ending of a friendship or two.

Conan Unconquered is ruthless, no matter how you look at it. It’s a fierce challenge that feels utterly rewarding when you manage to nail those beasts, but it’s rather niche and would greatly benefit from 1v1 multiplayer. Fighting alongside someone is fun, but it’s supremely more entertaining to challenge someone directly, while still having to occasionally fend off the assault of AI enemies. Conan Unconquered may feel like busywork at times, but it’s worth persevering through if you dive in with the right mindset.

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New Online Games Announced at Tencent Up 2019

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

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

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


Codename LN, Land Next

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


Codename SOC

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


Ace Force

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


The Outcast Mobile

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


Source: MMOCulture

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The Culling is Shutting Down After Rough Year

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

The Culling

The Culling

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: Official Site

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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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Why Does Ark: Survival Evolved Have So Many Spin-offs?

Back in 2014, the idea of dinosaur survival games was just taking off. There were a few different titles in the works, most of them never made it though. Ark: Survival Evolved was the only success story to come from the dinosaur survival genre. It was quite the success too with several spinoffs. This brings us to the question, why has Ark: Survival Evolved been such a success where others have failed? A question we’re going to dive into as well as taking a look at the other titles in the franchise.


Ark: Survival Evolved

Ark: Survival Evolved started its life out as a little indie game that got a whole lot of attention. In the first week the game was in Steam Early Access it had made $10 million in revenue. It sold 400,000 units in that week and boasted over 60,000 concurrent players at its peak. A very good start for an indie game. What we didn’t learn until recently though was that in December of 2015 Ark: Survival Evolved stopped being an indie game. Chinese publisher Snail Games bought the entire studio, along with the now incredibly successful dinosaur survival game that was still in Early Access. How much money was exchanged hasn’t been made clear and it’s unlikely that it ever will be. But, this explains why Snail Games is the one making the other games in the franchise. The news of the studio’s purchase managed to stay out of the public eye until a lawsuit, which actually delayed the game’s launch, brought it to the forefront in 2017. Throughout Ark: Survival Evolved’s lifetime on Steam concurrent player numbers have remained very high, this is something we can watch on Steam Charts. But it doesn’t tell the game’s whole story. Ark: Survival Evolved is playable on 8 different platforms, which is basically all of them.


Ark Park

In March of 2017, the virtual reality spinoff Ark Park was announced and put into Early Access. It officially launched on March 22nd. Only a few days ago on June 28, the first DLC became available. The game doesn’t seem to have the success that Ark: Survival Evolved has enjoyed, however. Some of this can be put down to the fact that virtual reality never really took off like it was expected to. It’s high price tag of $39.99 certainly didn’t help matters. Perhaps most damning though are the reviews for the game. Instead of putting out a full VR adaptation of the game that is so popular Snail Games opted to pick out the best parts of the game and mash them together in a way that doesn’t quite work. Steam reviews say that the game is more of an experience than a game and there isn’t a whole lot to it. At the game’s peak on Steam, it has only had 70 players at one time since it released. Once again, this isn’t the whole picture as it is available elsewhere. But it does give us a glimpse at how successful, or not, the game is. Oh, and the new DLC has a fire-breathing dragon in it for… some reason.



This all brings us to PixArk, the Minecraft like dinosaur survival game. Compared to Ark Park this game is doing incredibly well on Steam. At its peak, it had 14,000 concurrent players and it’s only been around a few months. Reviews on Steam are mixed, though 63% of them are positive, which again, is up from Ark Park who has 51%.


Survival of the Fittest

Ark: Survival of the Fittest

You may also remember Survival of the Fittest, which was at one point being advertised as a different thing entirely from Ark: Survival Evolved. It’s an arena game with 72 players on a map. These days it comes packaged with Ark: Survival Evolved, so when you’ve bought one you get the other for free. It does make one wonder how much work it would take to turn Survival of the Fittest into a battle royale game.


This brings us to the question of why we’re getting so many Ark based games. To answer that we have to take a look at Snail Games’ history in the West. To date, their most successful game with Western audiences, not taking Ark into account has been Age of Wushu. This game was published by Webzen in Europe, though it closed down about a year ago. Age of Wushu has never been an incredibly popular title for the west, but it doesn’t seem to do too badly either.

They are also the team behind Black Gold Online. If you don’t remember Black Gold here’s a little bit you should know. It was a Steampunk Fantasy game being imported to us from the East and on paper, it sounded amazing. Steampunk is criminally underused in MMOs. It went into beta in June 2014 and people seemed to like it well enough. But son after everyone started talking about the game the business model that they used in China came to light. This model didn’t have a cash shop and there was no subscription. Instead, all your good loot would get saved and you would have to buy your loot for the last few hours. Also, I remember the idea of pay per minute being discussed for the game as well, but I can’t actually find any information online that supports that.

Snail Games is also the team working on turning Dark and Light into a survival sandbox game. It has been in Early Access for a year now with mixed reviews and a peak concurrent player count on par with PixArk. This game doesn’t show any signs of being close to completion though.


So all of this brings us back to the Ark games. Snail is using what is their most successful IP in the west and, from where I’m sitting it looks like they’re banking on its popularity and name to try to chase current trends. If they did do a battle royale that would really only further support this theory of mine. At the same time, it would also make a lot of sense to do so. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more Ark games coming soon.

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Beginner’s Guide to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Everyone here wants to kill you. They run around, punch at the air or each other, jump on the tables and walls and fences, but their clownishness betrays the energy with which they will commit murder. Their crosshairs will, very probably, find you in the next few minutes. Bodies and blood will litter the weeds and sand of the landscape. It’s as inescapable as the tide, or the slowly closing wall of blue. Welcome to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, you will probably die. However, if you want some tips to try and stay alive, here is our guide to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.


First Thing’s First

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a competitive PvP game in which roughly 100 players will all get on a plane, strap on parachutes, and drop into a several square kilometer landmass that is full of empty stretches of land, abandoned buildings, discarded vehicles, where everyone will attempt to dive down, gather up weapons, and kill everyone else so they’re the last one standing.

The first thing to learn is the controls. Standard WASD movement, space is jump, F to open doors or pick up items, Q and E lean to the left and right respectively, C to crouch, X to prone, left click shoots, right click aims, R reloads, M is map, Tab is inventory. It’s fairly standard for most players familiar with the first person shooter experience, but these techniques are going to be the baseline on which all future techniques build. Oh, and holding Ctrl makes you walk slower, which quiets your footsteps. Alt lets you swivel your head without changing the direction you’re facing, which is good while running through fields to keep situational awareness.

The stuff largely unique to the battle royale genre: cities will be full of buildings—and thus loot—but will probably also be teeming with players and threats. Empty stretches of land provide distant sightlines, and less population, but also less cover if engaged out in the fields. Bandages and first aid kits only heal up to 75% of full health, energy drinks and painkillers and adrenaline all heal a set amount over time (including over the 75% limit of other healing items), and med kits are slower to use but heal you to full instantly. Cool? Cool.

Now that that’s out of the way…


It’s Time to Get Shot

Since you’re vacationing on the murder landmass, the important thing to learn is that you’re going to both shoot at others, and get shot at. Even if you manage a clever position, are well-equipped, and get the drop on your enemy (or enemies), you’ll probably get shot. You’ll probably also get shot at. Mathematically, you’re probably going to die.

So, embrace dying. Many players will advise that you should drop into populated areas on your first few runs, collect loot, and get into ill-advised gunfights often and early. These gunfights will serve as the foundation on which your survival skills get built. Through these fights you’ll learn how others take cover, what cover you took worked for you, how to fire from angles suit your style, and be quickly exposed to a range of weapons.

Guide to PlayerUnknown's BattlegroundsUse this time to figure out if leaning helps you expose less of yourself to attackers, to learn quick and smart inventory management, or to learn the profiles of weapons on the ground so you can quickly select weapons you like. All of these skills will make a difference in how long you remain vulnerable for the rest of your playtime.

Basically, get shot a lot. This will butcher your chances of winning early, because you’ll be diving face-first into gunfire on a regular basis, but it’s the first step to building up shooting skills that will help you survive in the final, tiny circle at the end of the game where conflict is. Even with the best habits, late-game conflict is unavoidable. So, learn to shoot and get shot early, and it will also teach you how to survive getting shot.


It’s Time to Not Get Shot

Okay, if you followed the above advice then you know know how to get shot. It’s a useful, if bloody, skill. The next technique is the far more elusive ‘not getting shot.’ Of the two, this one is my personal preference. Not getting shot is more fun, but it takes a lot longer.

Remember the frenetic energy with which the players all ran around, flung themselves from furniture, vaulted fences, and punched one another? That’s their weakness. Most everyone who plays PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is in a hurry to do some murderin’. So, an easy way to survive their killing spree is to let them be in a hurry, and lay down in the grass.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds hosts enormous maps, and chances are, if you’re trying to not be seen and not get shot, you can find somewhere to do that for most of the game. As long as you don’t get greedy, you can spend a lot of time surviving simply by letting the people in a hurry bump into each other with nine millimeters until they have less blood still in them than you do. Take time to scope out buildings, crouch and walk to make less noise and present a small profile. Stay out of cities, or scope them out carefully.

Slow and steady wins this race. You can actually complete the game by only ever killing a single person, as long as it’s the last person in the final circle with you. Learning how to navigate sight lines and how to prone and stealth effectively is one of the best ways to survive a long time, without ever needing a weapon or having to heal. As much as learning to shoot, learning to stealth is one of the best ways to live long enough to see the late game, where those good-at-shooting skills come into play.

Guide to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds stealth guideYour biggest enemy here is circle management. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has a blue circle that closes in around the play area, and anyone on the outside of the blue takes damage the longer they sit out in the danger zone. The maps are big, and there’s a lot of ground to cover, so keep track of when the circle is moving (denoted by a timer in the lower right), and try to keep in somewhat easy reach of the inner white circle, which is the outer perimeter that the blue circle will pause until it moves again.


It’s Time to Get Engaged

Now that you’ve had your wild flings and your longer, slower, going steady periods with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s time to think about engagement. In particular, it’s time for you to learn how you want to engage with other players.

Some players live for the fight. Some players just want to lay in a field and watch the flowers sway. Figure out which one of these you are. Players who fight will exhaust ammo and healing items quickly, but will find lots of loot on the handcrafted corpses that they’ve made with their practiced hand at bullet handycrafts. Players who hide tend to use less ammo but will probably have looted fewer buildings (and bodies), but have a longer time of uninterrupted gathering (and not using) of healing items. Though, as a general rule, those who engage will find more on bodies than those who don’t, and will often enter the final circle more flush with stuff. That said, the people who move about quietly tend to hear those happy to engage, and will often be presented with more opportunities to maneuver and select how to engage if they manage their positioning wisely.

Both have pros and cons, so it’s up to you to figure out which one excites you.

If you enjoy engaging with other players in the bullet ballet, take some time to figure out what ranges you engage in best, learn the sound and visual characteristics of guns from a distance so you know how you should attack, and attack from the best possible position. Fighting often doesn’t preclude fighting smart. Smarter fights end quicker, use less ammo, and give your opponents less opportunity to waste their ammo and healing items that will soon belong to you.

If you like to stealth it up, the best method is to shoot only if you’re being fired on already, or if you feel completely confident you can kill your opponent. Good shots are bad, great shots are acceptable, perfect shots are ideal. Any gunfight, no matter, will betray your position, so know that firing is the probable death of stealth. Only take shots you know you can land and only with weapons suited for those ranges.

No matter which you pick, stick with it. Engaging is fun, but carries a larger risk of death. Stealth is easier to consistently pull off, but tends toward less loot and longer games. So, learn how to engage in a way that works well for your playstyle, and stick to methods that suit how you engage. Getting into fights with everyone you see, with any weapon you have, is a good recipe for losing fights you didn’t have to, or didn’t have to take.

Guide to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds lategameIt’s Time to Squeeze In

Over the time practicing good stealthcraft and gun-fu, you’ve probably developed a decent sense of the maps, where people tend to congregate, where loot spawns, where to find vehicles, and how to engage in a decent array of settings.

Now, all that information comes to a narrow point: the final circle.

A tight collection of about 200 square meters, a handful of murderers with guns, a wide array of cover, and a bunch of ways to die and shoot and live and hide. The final circle tends to be pretty tense, tight, and it’s easy to get nervous. If you’re the type to enjoy fighting, take time early to get decent cover on all sides, and swivel your head a lot to keep track of any potential movement. Rely on cover, know your lines of retreat. If you have to move, make sure you’ve cleared (or at least checked) your escape route first.

If you’re stealth, know that most players will congregate around rocks, trees, hills, and buildings since they offer the best cover. The smartest place for you to be is prone, in bushes or grass within a short jaunt of cover but not directly beside it, and with your smallest profile weapon equipped. Move slowly, crouch-jog if you need to move quickly, and if you’re careful, you’ll almost certainly see all of your opponents before they see you. Smoke grenades are both good cover and good distractions, grenades can end fights very quickly, and if you haven’t learned to shoot really well yet, it’s worth the extra time to crawl into a better position.

But honestly, if you’ve lived to the final circle then congratulations, and you probably know more than this guide can teach you.


Final Tips

The road to your first chicken dinner, particularly if you’re not a great shot, is hard. Stealth can consistently point at a top ten finish, but it almost always devolves into a gunfight. Good shooters will find the final circle pretty familiar, and depends on a number of factors but usually favors the faster shot or the better incidental position.

Guide to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and incidental adviceBut a few more random tips not covered in other sections:

  • Vehicles are less bulletproof than you think. Concentrated automatic fire from even just two players can turn a car into a fireball in less time than you think.
  • Suppressors hide the direction the shot is coming from more than they mask the shot itself. Suppressed shots are good for longer distances, but tend to do less up-close because nearby shooting players tend to be easier to identify.
  • Some high-level players discard their pistols to free up room occupied by the pistols’ ammo.
  • Flash hiders make the flashes smaller, but it doesn’t removes them completely. Stealth players should still consider having a muzzle flash when engaging from a distance.
  • Diving under the water is really good at obscuring where players are, so aquatic escapes are surprisingly effective but cause players to move slow, so they’re bad for escaping the blue.
  • Holding Shift while aiming down sights will give the equivalent of a 2x scope and lower barrel sway, but it exhausts the player’s breath quickly.
  • Player models and gunshots cannot be seen or heard at over a 1000 meters.

Most importantly, try to enjoy your time in the murder landmass. Loss is the most likely outcome, regardless of how good you are, so enjoy the journey for the journey, and let the chicken dinners come without expectation!

Oh, and I’m also out there, so good luck.

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Rend at PAX East 2018: More, But Bigger

Last time I was here with Rend at PAX East, I was trying to tie together the location of a fish restaurant with what the game was ultimately about. This year, not an awful lot has changed with the survival sandbox, but there is absolutely a lot more of it: more map, more biomes, more crafting trees, and more potential for things to switch up.

The first thing that’s grown in Rend’s current build is the map, which is now five times the size it was previously. With new biomes added to the game for a total of 12, each with a whole lot of new materials and, of course, new dangers. One of those biomes is a swamp region, which was shown to me in a friends and family build of the game. The region changed from a sunshine-soaked temperate forest zone to being a black and green, fog-covered expanse with new enemies to take on.

Of course, these new biomes aren’t just set dressing. It was explained that these biomes will have their own dangers in the form of environmental dangers. For example, harvesting a certain type of plant will inflict damage on you while you’re trying to gather it. So players have a couple of options: either cover their armor to protect themselves against the toxic elements they’re facing, or build up their Survivalist tree, or even hire the services of players in their faction if they’ve built a character that’s more specialized in crafting than they are in combat.

With all of this new map space and all of these new regions to explore, doesn’t this kind of put Rend’s aim of making survival sandbox games less of a long slog in danger? Not exactly; certain materials that are required to make items, such as copper, tin, and flux to make bronze, can only be found in enemy faction territory. There’s also the potential for random map-wide events to show up, such as a bright light that can be seen by nearly everyone on the map that signals a comet’s arrival to the land; a comet that could hold totally unique and powerful items or resources. The map will also have static capture points dotted around that could confer faction-wide bonuses so long as that area remains under control. Overall the devs are working to make sure that conflict still happens as often as possible in spite of the map’s new size.

One new feature shown off in the demo includes the addition of personal base-building on the land. While faction bases are still going to offer a lot of services, these personal locations are going to offer many of those same benefits without requiring you to run all the way back to your faction center. The building system is pretty similar to other base-building systems you’ve seen in games like Conan Exiles. The bigger difference is that, once a structure’s skeleton is built, other players can feed that structure materials in order to beef it up and upgrade it. This structure-building system isn’t just limited to personal housing, either; for example, players can build a bridge over a particular river or span to help move things across the map easily.

As for the core gameplay loop of Rend itself, it’s much the same way as before; survive by handling hunger and thirst, get materials and other items to bolster your faction’s standing, and build defenses at your faction’s primary location to survive the Reckoning wave that will send enemies to your doorstep. The biggest difference here is the fact that losing your base doesn’t mean your faction is entirely removed from the game as was previously said. Turns out, players don’t like being told they can’t play a game, so instead, your faction’s primary keystone will just bleed out soul energy that you have to recollect before enemy faction members do. The stakes are still high, but they’re not so high that you’re not allowed to at least perhaps recover.

There are a couple of other noteworthy additions being added to Rend too, including the ability to tame nearly every creature on the map to have along as companions and mounts, the introduction of mod support and a related toolset to let players tweak the title as they see fit, and a crafting system that is now tree-based and expanded to include literally a couple of hundred different crafting trees.

Rend is looking at kicking off in a matter of weeks with thousands of players being added to the game. It further illustrates Rend’s desire to make their game as fast-paced and focus-designed as possible while also making it scale upwards in practically every conceivable way it can.

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