Okay EA – What The Hell Is SEED?

One of the weirdest announcements at EA’s E3 presentation was that of SEED (Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division), awkwardly crammed in between games and without any real explanation of what it was. I you can bet that I wanted answers, since I was supposed to be writing TechRaptor’s article on the damn thing.

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TroldenWatch is back!

I’ve been a fan of Trolden’s Hearthstone videos for a long time now. His series – up to 226 episodes as of time of writing – comprises of funny and random moments from professional and amateur Hearthstone play. It’s a format that’s by no means unique, but Trolden is the person who does it best. His sense of humour, editing skills, and musical taste are 100% on fleek.

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Blizzard kills classic WoW private server, “Nostalrius Begins”

It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul

Gerry Rafferty sang this about the nature of London – but these days, it’s clear that various video game companies fit that criticism just as well.

In a bittersweet post on their front page, World of Warcraft private realm-providers Nostalrius Begins have revealed that Blizzard Entertainment have begun legal proceedings to shut them down.

I have supped from the cup of nostalgia and played on Nostalrius’s server. Unlike other private realms, Nostalrius Begins spurned the idea of faster levelling, increased gold gain, and purchased bonuses in favour of delivering the only thing that mattered to a lot of people. The original World of Warcraft experience. Gone were the heirlooms, hastened levelling curve, and the ridiculously easy early dungeons that now pollute the WoW experience – and back was the pure MMORPG experience that so many of us knew and loved.

Classic Orgrimmar
Many an hour was spent here, waiting for raids

And now it’s gone – killed by the very company that originally created it.

I’m being melodramatic – Blizzard has the right to close down anything that infringes on their copyright. Technically, Nostalrius Begins does this, and it’s Blizzard’s duty to see that World of Warcraft’s rights are upheld.

The thing is, “Old Azeroth” no longer exists. Every piece of content that was present when World of Warcraft originally launched in 2004 was completely remade in the 2010 Cataclysm expansion that famously “broke” the old world and allowed Blizzard to re-envision Azeroth as a more modern MMO experience. And despite my past insistence that Cataclysm cured me of my Warcraft addiction, there’s little merit to the idea that this was a bad thing. It needed an update. But this means that everything Nostalrius Begins recreates is no longer available. It’s not provided by Blizzard. It’s not abandonware, but only by a technicality.

So why haven’t Blizzard created classic servers of their own? Because they firmly believe that people don’t really want it. Patronisingly, Blizzard sees us as children, expecting us to drop the mode after a few weeks. It’s not hard to believe that they see classic WoW as outdated, archaic – a product of its time, now regarded with disdain by its creators.

What it must be to have such faith in your product. A product that near single-handedly brought Blizzard to the prominence it enjoys today.

But, Blizzard believes that we don’t really want this. Nostalrius boasted nearly a million registered accounts, with usual active server populations of eight thousand people. At peak times, that number would almost double to fifteen thousand; three times the usual capacity of official Blizzard servers. That’s the number of people who “don’t want this”.

At one time, those numbers would have been a drop in the ocean. And it still is, but that ocean is shrinking fast; World of Warcraft subscription numbers are dwindling. From a peak of 12 million in late 2010, subscribed accounts are now suspected to be around 5.5 million. Still an incredible number for a subscription-based MMO, but clearly not what it used to be. How long can Blizzard afford to ignore money on the table?

Why do people want this? It’s in the name: “Nostalrius”. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. It was powerful enough that, thanks to Nostalrius, I was able to go back and play vanilla WoW. And I loved every moment of it. The original World of Warcraft is a part of my childhood; a treasured memory. And yet Blizzard tells me that I “don’t want this”.

Well I do. And so did almost a million other people, just like me.

Get with the times, Blizzard. Build it, and we will come. And we will throw money at you for it. But until you do, you won’t be able to stop the private servers from giving us what you haven’t.

Today is also the day where Nostalrius will start being community-driven in the truest sense of the word, as we will be releasing the source code, and anonymized players data (encrypting personal account data), so the community as a whole will decide the form of the future of Nostalrius. We will still be there in the background if you want us to, but will no longer take the lead.

To sign the petition asking Blizzard to create a “Legacy” server, go here.

Overwatch’s second short animation releases – spiders, societal tensions, and ‘ssassinations

It should be obvious that Blizzard’s short Overwatch animations owe a lot to Team Fortress 2‘s “Meet the Team” series. And thankfully, they’ve inherited the characterisation, engaging narrative, and quality of animation from Valve, rather than “Valve Time”, that curious phenomenon that meant releasing ten videos took five years.

Valve Time
Never forget.

But who cares about that? These shorts are doing a fantastic job of building the surprisingly deep world of Overwatch – any ideas that this was going to be yet another multiplayer shooter can be safely put aside. With this video, we’re introduced to the idea that there are larger issues in the Overwatch universe than just the war the players are engaged in. Who was the robotic messiah-figure “Halo”? What implications do his assassination have for the wider world of Overwatch? Add this intricate world-building to the compelling and fun characters that we’ve seen so far, and it’s clear that Blizzard know the key elements that are going to keep people shooting at oversized gunbots and Cockney women until long after launch. The game comes out in May, but now all I care about is seeing the next video and seeing how the pseudo-Deus Ex narrative continues to build.

And to think, all I previously wanted to do was shoot people. Shame on me.

Tracer - Overwatch
That, and to spend time gazing at this fine derrière.

Coupled with the positive feedback coming from the closed beta, Overwatch is clearly set to be one of the most anticipated hits of 2016. As long as Blizzard doesn’t “do a Blizzard” and mess up the launch, this could be huge. If you’re a Blizzard employee, keep that in mind. Oh, and send me a beta key.

If you missed the first Overwatch short, catch it here. It’s similarly great, and features baby gorillas. D’awww.

Video game sites give own audience a bad “Rapp”

These days, I only seem to post if I’m angry about something. My “buggery of the highest regard” tag is getting one hell of a workout of late, and mostly because there’s a lot to get angry about.

Nintendo staffer Alison Rapp has under a sustained smear campaign ever since she was accused of being behind the supposed censorship of Nintendo’s games. And because this is the Internet, this led to a bunch of fuckwits digging into her past, her university papers – and most shockingly of all – her Amazon wishlist in search of dirt to tarnish her name. And unfortunately, they succeeded. On Wednesday, Rapp announced her dismissal from Nintendo via Twitter.

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The real reason 2GD was fired – and how Valve can fix it

A week or so ago, I wrote a piece on James “2GD” Harding being fired from the Dota 2 tournament, the Shanghai Major, and I was at as much of a loss as everyone else to explain why it happened. GabeN knew, but obviously wasn’t telling anyone, choosing to limit his explaination to “James is an ass”. James himself wrote a rather lengthy post speculating everything from the last few years involvement with Valve, from a rogue Valve employee, to his demeanour on the show, to alien involvement.

Alright, he didn’t really blame aliens. But he might as well have done, because there were no real answers to be had. James’ hosting had been tamer than some of his past performances, and seemed well within the acceptable lines for e-sports presenters – so what gives, man?

According to Redditor /u/BalboaBaggins, it may have less to do with a salty Valve employee, and more to do with the fact that the Shanghai Major is – somewhat obviously – based in China.

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Top Dota 2 presenter fired by Valve during Shanghai Major

Oh dear.

Valve seem to have pulled something of a Sochi 2014 on us. Like the infamous Russian-hosted Winter Olympics, the Shanghai Major was supposed to be one of Dota 2‘s biggest events. Instead, it’s been a technical shambles, with dropped streams, commentary going MIA, and a myriad of other technical issues. What was meant to be a poster child of the rapidly growing e-sports scene has become a veritable comedy of errors.

And since this clearly wasn’t enough, Valve pulled a leaf from the React Bros playbook, and decided to turn the community against them. How? By sacking James “2GD” Harding, one of the most prominent personalities in the Dota 2 world.

James has always been a divisive figure in the community, with off-colour remarks and common usage of curses, including das ist verboten itself – “cunt”. He’s as reviled as he is supported, and calling him the marmite of Dota 2 wouldn’t be an awful analogy. But Valve knew this, and if they’re going to get upset at a presenter for doing what he’s known for – especially after allegedly being told to “be himself” – then they’re fully deserving of the ire coming their way.

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Amazon releases free triple-A game engine “Lumberyard”

Amazon have decided to drop a free Triple-A standard game engine on us. Could this revolutionise the gaming industry as we know it?

Last night I bought 64 rolls of toilet paper from Amazon. Why? Because Amazon Prime meant I could, and because Amazon are trying very hard to become the first and only stop for absolutely everything.

And they show no signs of stopping, because today they’ve released “Lumberyard“, a game engine that can be used to develop games for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One (thanks to deals with Microsoft and Sony). And it’s completely free.

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A Russian man is suing Bethesda because Fallout 4 is "addictive"

So, some Russian bloke is suing Bethesda for 500,000 Rubles because of how addictive Fallout 4 is. According to various gaming news websites, he lost his job and his wife because of it, and believes that Fallout 4 should carry a warning about how addictive it is, and that if he had known, he wouldn’t have started playing it until he had the free time.

We’ve seen these stories before – “tragic teen gamer dies after playing computer for 22 days in a row“, “man dies in Taiwan after 3-day online gaming binge” – there was even an episode of Boston Legal about a gaming publisher being sued for a game being too addictive.
So does this mean it’s time to really start looking at the very real dangers of video games, and to crack down on a dangerous sub-culture? Is it time for Obama to declare The War on Games?

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No more free packs in Tavern Brawl?

One free pack per week during the opening celebration of Tavern Brawl.

I think we were all ignoring that second part. But I guess it’s time to pay the piper. Last week’s Brawl was the first to not have a free pack as a prize for your first victory, instead granting a Christmas-themed card back.

Which was good, because last week’s Brawl was shit and I really didn’t want to play it.

I mean, I did anyway. But I didn’t enjoy it. And that card back can go into the ever-growing pile of card backs I simply do not give a fuck about.
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