Max PC News MMO Games

Battle Royale Weekly: State of the Battle Royale Genre

Every week here in the Battle Royale Weekly column we take a look at the news from just the Battle Royale genre, much of which doesn’t get reported by other games media sites. Currently, our list includes 38 Battle Royale titles that we check every week for anything new to talk about. Last week, however, there were only a few games across the entire genre that had news. That’s…shocking really. What made it even worse was that going through that list we found many of the games hadn’t received an update in months and their populations according to Steam Charts were below 10 players a day. So instead of focusing on the news this week, we thought it was time to take a look at the state of the Battle Royale genre.

Before we get started, let’s address the two big elephants in the room: Fortnite and PUBG. As two of the biggest, most popular games in the entire game industry they stand out from the rest of the genre. Both games are doing very well and are essentially the pillars that are holding up the Battle Royale genre. However, they’re also the reason the rest of the genre is struggling. Fortnite is so big that Netflix sees them as a bigger threat than HBO. Fortnite and PUBG are proving to have amazing brand loyalty and from the looks of it, many players aren’t interested in trying out the competition that is sprouting up online.

So, where is the genre going wrong? Well, to start with many Battle Royale games are buy-to-play, meaning you have to pay for the game once to get access to it. Fortnite, the biggest game in the world, is a free-to-play title. Fortnite makes its money through the in-game store selling dances and cosmetic items. This is something it was able to do because unlike the smaller games in the genre it had the backing of a massive studio that could afford to develop the game and allow it to grow in popularity while not bringing much money in. Many Battle Royale games are indies and have very small budgets to start with. They need that initial push of players buying the game to help them continue the development. Unfortunately, that puts them at a massive disadvantage.

Another place that the genre is going wrong is not having very good PR. For most of that list of 38 games, we have to go to their Steam store page to find any news about them. Many of these games don’t issue press releases and they don’t offer review codes both of which would put their game in the public’s eye and attract more players to it. Instead, they’re relying on being seen on social media, being seen on Steam, and word of mouth. This method quite simply isn’t working. Games that are still in Early Access and still being developed are seeing incredibly low player numbers. This makes future development on the game difficult, especially since as mentioned above, they typically are relying on money they don’t have to finish the development of the game. In fact, their lack of being in the public’s eye is what inspired us to start this column to begin with. There are some really amazing, gorgeous looking games that aren’t getting the attention they need to survive.

While there are some beautiful, fun games in the genre it is lacking in ingenuity. Many of the games have just taken the basic concept of the genre and slapped a different art style or setting on it. That isn’t enough to make the game stand out and it isn’t enough to pull people away from Fortnite, a game that is much more established and always has enough players for a match. That may not be the fault of the developers, rather the restrictions of the genre. There are only so many ways you can combine the idea of the survival game with last man standing gameplay. There are different modes that are being introduced in Battle Royale games, so perhaps not starting with the traditional mode would work for new games.

Many Battle Royale games suffer from developer abandonment issues. When a game’s Steam page hasn’t had a news update in 3 months, it’s very easy for it to look like that game has been abandoned by the developer. Maybe it has, or maybe they’re just hard at work behind the scenes and they’re active on social media or in their Discord. This adds to the perception that the game has been abandoned. It’s also a sad fact that many Battle Royale games HAVE been abandoned by their developers. This can happen for a number of reasons and every time it happens it hurts the genre a little bit more.

Islands of Nyne: Battle Royale

While the MMOGames office is still torn over whether or not there’s room for more games in the Battle Royale genre, there is one thing we agree on: the genre is still in its infancy and 2019 will be the year that either makes or breaks Battle Royale games.

Hopefully next week we’ll be back to having news to report on for the Battle Royale genre that isn’t just Fortnite getting sued by ANOTHER artist (this makes 5 now) or PUBG’s latest update. If you’re interested in trying out a Battle Royale game that isn’t Fortnite or PUBG take a look at our Battle Royale Beta List. It’s filled with the smaller indie Battle Royale games that you won’t see talked about anywhere else. If there’s a Battle Royale game that you love and would like to get the word out about leave a comment below telling us and other readers about it!

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Battle Royale Weekly: Fortnite is Hosting a Concert

In this week’s look at the Battle Royale genre we see the first signs of a release date for Fear the Wolves, but could it be too soon? There’s also going to be a Fortnite concert, and PUBG is making itself more available for those with subpar PCs. Plus news from Ring of Elysium and Rules of Survival.

Fear the Wolves Gets A Release Date

Fear The Wolves

We haven’t heard a whole lot from Fear the Wolves recently and it seems that’s because they’re gearing up to launch. The game will officially release on February 6th but the developers have said that they may do a soft launch a few days early just to make sure everything is running smoothly.

In addition to launching on February 6th, the game will also be free to play until February 12th. This will give new players the opportunity to try out the game just as it is starting out. On top of that, they’re offering a 50% discount for the game during the free period because you will have to buy the game to play it outside of the February 6-12th window.

Many of the comments on the announcement express concern that the game isn’t ready yet. They only started Early Access back in August and as it stands now reviews on Steam are mixed with just 53% of reviews being positive. Those who have played said they’re worried that the game isn’t ready yet and that the developers are rushing the game out the door. Next week when the servers go live, and the game is available to the world, we’ll find out if these concerns were warranted or not.

Source: Steam

Fortnite Hosting a Concert

fortnite concert

Have you ever wished you could see your favorite musician play in your favorite video game? Well if you’re a fan of DJ Marshmello and your favorite game is Fortnite then you’re in luck. This Saturday the DJ will take to the stage in Pleasant Park. These kinds of one-off events have helped cement Fortnite’s popularity, though this is the first time there’s ever been a concert performed in the game.

Of course, thanks to events in the past, we know that things don’t always go according to plan. In fact, many people who have wanted to take part in previous events have found themselves dead before the events even began and were unable to participate. In the past Epic has taken away weapons for these events and even transported players to another area. It isn’t clear what, if any, precautions Epic is going to take for this concert. In fact, Epic hasn’t even announced it’s happening at all. The only evidence it’s taking place appears on Marshmello’s site, which lists Pleasant Park as an upcoming tour location. With the concert just a few days away we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Source: The Verge

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Lite in Testing

PUBG is currently testing a slimmed down version of the game that will play on PCs that don’t meet the hardware specs for the regular game. Right now it’s being tested in Thailand and we may never actually see it in the West. It’s being developed specifically for “players in areas where the core game’s required specifications are more difficult to achieve due to the hardware available.”

PUBG Lite has its own dedicated development team, which means that work on it isn’t taking away from the main game. This version of the game will get its own exclusive content and quality of life features. Right now the game is offering solo, duo, and squad battles in third person mode.

While we may never see PUBG Lite released in this part of the world, it is incredibly good news for the game as it opens up the possibility of it being played by an all-new audience that never would have had access before. That means more revenue for PUBG Corp, which of course means more development for the game. We’ll be watching to see what kind of impact this has on financial reports in the future.

Source: Polygon

Ring of Elysium Introduces New Systems

Ring of Elysium has introduced two new systems to the game adding to the complexity with the first being accessories. This allows you to further customize your characters after you’ve purchased accessories from the lobby store.

The second new system is vehicle appearance. When a player gets into the car, in any seat, and the car is in the default appearance the vehicle will automatically change to the player’s selected vehicle appearance. Each vehicle’s appearance can only be modified once. This also includes vehicles that are abandoned by the player who originally made the change. Just like with the accessories, the vehicle skins will need to be purchased in the lobby store.

Neither of these new systems are game-changing in any way, but for players who enjoy leaving their mark on a match and having a unique look these new systems give them more to work with.

Ring of Elysium is also holding a Spring card-flip raffle event from January 31st to February 13th. The event is a great way to get some new skins for your characters and vehicles.

Source: Steam

Rules of Survival Season Six and Spring Events

Rules of Survival

Season Six of Rules of Survival has begun! This means that rank data has all been cleared and a new winner can rise to the top. There is also no longer a level limit for character upgrades. Characters can be upgraded without limitation. When players reach levels 100, 200, and 300 they can claim Exclusive Level Medallions, Avatar Frames, and other rewards that prove they’re awesome. Due to this, and the introduction of level chests, gold rewards will no longer be handed out at the end of games.

Finally, Spring Festival Events will be gradually introduced to the game. These includes things like fireworks and a new emote.

If you haven’t tried it out yet you may want to take a look at Rules of Survival. It has one of the most active playerbases outside of the big games in the genre.

Source: Steam

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WoW Wednesday: The Lunar Festival

The wide world of Azeroth is home to some of the strangest holidays one could imagine; from the March of the Tadpoles where the young murlocs of the Borean Tundra make their march to safer waters, to Children’s Week where heroes of Azeroth can adopt an orphan and show them the life of a champion. This month, however, features a much more humble and simple holiday, born from the real-world concept of the Chinese New Year. This month Azeroth celebrates the Lunar Festival and the turning of the Elvish New Year.

Held traditionally by the Druids of the Moonglade, the Lunar Festival celebrates the victory of the world’s oldest alliance (namely the Night Elves, Tauren, Furbolgs and Earthen) banding together and repelling the first invasion by the Burning Legion. Heroes of both factions gather not just to honor their ancient heritage but also the wisdom and valor in times of old. Fireworks are shot off in remembrance, a symbol of the moon goddess Elune’s power, though the festivities also have a much darker purpose. Beneath Lake Elune’ara, the Wild God known as Omen stirs in his slumber. Once blessed by the Moon Goddess, Omen was driven mad by the Burning Legion’s power and must be slain once a year lest he return to wreak havoc upon the mortal world. It will take true heroes, blessed by their ancient forbears, to drive Omen back into his slumber.

The Festival never sleeps in Moonglade!

The Lunar Festival, in regards to the rest of World of Warcraft’s holidays, is fairly straight-forward for players with the main draw being Coins of Ancestry. These Coins are given to players who speak to various elders across Azeroth: ancient ancestors bathed in moonlight. Players may then turn in these coins for a variety of rewards ranging from cosmetic dresses, head-pieces and toys to the new seasonal hearthstone: the Lunar Elder’s Hearthstone.

The main goal for most players will be completing To Honor One’s Elders, the holiday achievement that is required for the meta-achievement What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. To Honor One’s Elders is really the best and most rounded of the meta-achievements, and will give players the most thorough cross-section of the Holiday as well as the majority of their currency to spend on the holiday toys.

For those new to the Holiday, you will want to speak to the Lunar Festival Harbingers in your respective major city. They will give you a quest, which will require you to set off both singular and Cluster fireworks in launchers around the area. Purchasing 10 Cluster Rockets and 10 Festival Firecrackers will enable you to complete both Frenized Firecracker and The Rocket’s Red Glare by using them up in 10 seconds. From there players can teleport to Moonglade proper and begin the arduous process of finding the Elders of Azeroth.

“The best Omen was once a hero of this world…”

With the return of the Lunar New Year, the Elders who first fought against the Burning Legion return to Azeroth to offer up their wisdom and insight unto heroes who seek them. The majority of To Honor One’s Elders will revolve around tracking down each individual Elder across Azeroth and paying your respects to them. Each Elder will offer you a Coin of Ancestry which can be redeemed for toys, transmog and more. Each Elder only offers one coin per lunar festival, meaning that each year you can obtain up to 84 Coins of Ancestry to spend. This will afford most of the low-tier toys each year, as well as several parts of the Dragon Costumes (either Head, Body or Tail). Finding an Elder will also reward 75 reputation with your major city factions before any bonuses, meaning you can earn an additional 6000 reputation as well. Its best to gather this at the start of your reputation grinds, as players are reporting these bonuses are not applied to factions past Honored. These are not locked to your account, meaning you could easily gather all the toys in one year with a handful of characters.

There are roughly thirty elders on each major continent, including Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms, Northrend and Deepholm. Each of the original major cities of the Horde (Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff and Undercity) and the Alliance (Stormwind, Ironforge, and a Teldrassil) have Elder’s located for players of both factions to talk with them. Elders are also situated within Dungeons throughout Azeroth (up to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion), meaning that some delving will be required to round off your major achievements. These will fulfill Elders of Cataclysm, Elders of Eastern Kingdoms, Elders of Kalimdor, Elders of the Dungeons, Elders of the Horde, Elders of the Alliance, Elders of Northrend and 50 Coins of Ancestry.

For Lunar Festival Finery, players simply must spend a little of their newly earned coinage and purchase one of the dresses or pant-suit transmogs from the Coins of Ancestry vendors in Moonglade. Some of the transmogs are actually quite fetching, and pair well with the new transmoggable flower crowns introduced in 2019!

Dragons just wanna have fun too!

The last achievement, Elune’s Blessing, requires players to complete the quest of the same name and defeat Omen, a summonable max-level boss in Moonglade. Details on how to summon Omen are incredibly limited, however, the process is rather straightforward. Players must first purchase Cluster Fireworks of any kind, and travel to the southern end of Lake Elune’ara. On that shoreline are two cluster firework launchers, which players can use to launch their explosives into the sky! These will summon roughly half a dozen Minions of Omen, ghostly spectral wolves, that must be killed. These spawn in a wide area around the southern parts of Moonglade, from the Stormrage Barrow Dens to the southern bridge and must be killed before more Minions can be summoned.  After three or four waves of summoning, Omen himself will appear to terrorize players on the shore. While Omen can still be tagged by only one faction, a ray of moonlight will fall onto his corpse after the great Wild God is defeated. Simply walking into it will give you credit for Elune’s Blessing, and will allow you to complete the quest, rounding off To Honor One’s Elders.

What do you think of the Lunar Festival this year? Have you paid your respects to the ancients of old, are you celebrating with friends in Azeroth, or are you simply goofing off in the battlegrounds wearing a dragon costume?

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Play of the Fortnight: Overwatch Lunar New Year Event Guide

The Year of the Pig is upon us, and so is the Overwatch Lunar New Year event. Technically starting on February 5th, 2019, the Year of the Pig features an earth element this year, and the lucky colors yellow, gray, brown, and gold. You can see these colors highlighted in many of the event skins Blizzard designed for the Year of the Pig event.

In this Play of the Fortnight, we’re giving an Overwatch Lunar New Year Event guide, letting you know all the skins and achievement unlocks you need to get before the event ends.

Overwatch Lunar New Year Event 2019

When is the Lunar New Year event?

The Overwatch Lunar New Year event already began on Thursday, January 24th. As usual, the event lasts three weeks (just over that, in fact) and will end on Monday, February 18th. This means the event will run throughout the real life Lunar New Year celebrations, which are on Tuesday, February 5th, and give players some additional time to get their unlocks.

Festive Capture the Flag

First appearing in the Year of the Rooster event, Capture the Flag has been a relatively popular Arcade game mode. This year, Blizzard has added a festive twist with the Capture the Flag: Busan map. Players can access this by simply queuing up from the Arcade menu for the duration of the event.

On top of that, Season 2 of Competitive Capture the Flag has started. Players can earn an icon, spray, and competitive points. They can also climb the ranks as in regular competitive.

Lunar New Year Achievements

Players can unlock two exclusive sprays through achievements in the Lunar New Year event. The first of these achievements, “Delivery Interruption”, is unlocked when players kill an enemy flag carrier. Unsurprisingly, it awards a spray called “Interrupted Delivery.” Capturing a flag earns the next achievement, “Captured”, and awards a flag spray.

Unfortunately, there is a bug with these achievements. Blizzard accidentally added the achievements before the event began, and players who unlocked them in regular Capture the Flag weren’t given any rewards. Now that the rewards have been added to the game, those players weren’t given them retroactively. Blizzard will likely fix this soon, but there’s been no update so far.

Exclusive Overwatch Lunar New Year event skins

Overwatch Lunar New Year Event 2019

This year, Blizzard added six Legendary event skins. Five of these skins are named after famous Chinese generals: Huang Zhong (Hanzo), Lu Bu (Reaper), Guan Yu (Reinhardt), Zhang Fei (Torbjorn), and Zhuge Liang (Zenyatta). The sixth legendary skin is Hong Gildong (Tracer), named after a hero from a Korean novel, who has often been compared to Robin Hood for his exploits of stealing from the rich and corrupt.

Blizzard also added two new Epic skins: General Brigitte, and Sanye Orisa. Both of these are a lot more detailed than previous Epic skins have been, and it’s lovely seeing Orisa getting some attention.

Additional Content

Of course, the skins aren’t the only unlocks players can earn. We have two new emotes: one for Ana, and another for Soldier-76, the latter of which features a Rattle Drum. Players can also pick up six new victory poses, mostly featuring fireworks, but also Lucio’s excellent Drumming pose, which pairs nicely with his Drumming highlight intro, also added in this event.

Blizzard also added ten new voicelines, for Ashe, Brigitte, Hanzo, Junkrat, McCree, Winston, and Wrecking Ball. And finally, there’s six new non-achievement sprays to unlock. There’s plenty to pick up in the Lunar New Year loot boxes over the next three weeks, so make sure not to miss out.

What’s Up Next?

Blizzard doesn’t host an Easter event for Overwatch, but we do have an event around the same time. Originally called Uprising, the Archives event is due to run around April. Archives, assuming it keeps its name, brings with it a PvE brawl that so far has changed slightly each year, and always highlights an event in the Overwatch roster’s past.

There’s a lot of heroes who haven’t received any skins in a long time. D.Va is a great example: she’s only had four event skins in total, spanning three events. Redditor Foxy_Jr posted a detailed recap of the event skins, which gives us a bit of an idea of which heroes may be selected for the upcoming events.

Overwatch Lunar New Year Event 2019

Closing Thoughts

The Overwatch Lunar New Year event is a beautiful nod to a real life seasonal celebration. The skins have been tied to historical or legendary figures. As has become tradition from Blizzard, a lot of care has been put into their designs.

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!

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MMO Money: Nexon is for Sale

A massive share of Nexon is for sale with some of the biggest names in the entertainment world taking an interest. Niantic has raised more funds to help them shape the future of Augmented Reality. Plus two different stories that involve lawsuits, including another one about Fortnite. Find all of that and more in this week’s look at online gaming’s business side.

Niantic Raises $245 Million in Funding

The makers of Pokemon Go are riding high right now as they just finished a round of funding that brought in $245 million for them to use on Niantic’s Real World Program. The funding will allow the company to bring on more staff for the AR project that aims to deliver “contextual computer vision” that will allow AR objects to understand and interact with objects in the real world. The funding brings Niantic’s total value up to nearly $4 billion.

The funding round was led by IVP who join the likes of aXiomatic Gaming, Battery Ventures, Causeway Media Partners, CRV, and Samsung Ventures who have already invested in Niantic. IVP Partner Sandy Miller had this to say about the funding, “IVP is excited to support Niantic in building the future of AR — initially as it delivers the magic of AR through highly popular games, but ultimately by delivering an operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world. It’s a rare opportunity to partner up with a company that is already highly profitable at this stage, which is another reason we are so bullish on Niantic.”

Source: GamesIndustry

NCSoft Layoffs Staff at North American Mobile Studio

A few years ago, NCSoft announced they were pulling away from the North American and Western audience to focus more on their home audience. Then after a year or two, they announced that North America and Europe would play a key role in the company going forward. Part of that announcement included a new mobile games studio in California: Iron Tiger Studios. This studio was to work on mobile ports of NCSoft’s games as well as making new games.

Now here we are at the start of 2019 and layoffs have been announced for the studio. It wasn’t made clear how many people were hit by the layoff, but an NCSoft representative did stress that the studio wouldn’t be closing. Also, the game they were developing would continue in the hands of another studio, though which one isn’t known yet leaving the fate of the game up in the air at the moment. From the sounds of it, Iron Tiger Studios will continue to create mobile ports of NCSoft games rather than working on their own projects.

Source: MMOGames

Nexon is for Sale

When a 98.64% share in a company goes up for sale that effectively means the company is up for sale too, right? This is exactly what is happening with Nexon as the founder, Kim Jung-ju is selling his share of the company. This share is reportedly worth 9 billion dollars and it already has attracted a lot of attention from companies who are interested in buying it. Those companies include Activision, Disney, EA, and Tencent. There are also a number of US investment firms who are looking for US game companies to partner with to gather the funds needed for a bid.

An investment presentation session is planned for October in San Francisco in order to sell the shares. With $9 billion to be exchanged, it really isn’t a surprise that this is the sort of story that will take all year for us to see to completion. Whichever company does end up buying the shares will have quite an investment on their hands as Nexon has been having a great few years with their work in mobile gaming.

Source: MMOGames

Westworld Mobile Shutdown after Lawsuit

You may remember that back in June 2018 Bethesda and Behaviour Interactive along with Warner Bros. got into a legal dispute over the Westworld Mobile game that looked suspiciously like Fallout Shelter. Bethesda went so far as to call it a “blatant rip-off of Fallout Shelter.” In fact, it was so bad that they could point out specific bugs that existed in Fallout Shelter as well as the Westworld Mobile game.

After many months the copyright dispute was settled amicably, and in early January the companies involved put out a press release that was incredibly light on details. It only went so far as to say that the dispute was settled amicably and leaving every other detail out entirely. This, of course, left people wondering what the details of the agreement were and now it looks like we know.

The Westworld Mobile game is shutting down in April and it has already been removed from the App Store and Google Play. The dispute wasn’t mentioned in the announcement that the game was shutting down, but it isn’t very hard to put two and two together. Anyone who already has the game will be able to continue playing it until mid-April when the servers will be turned off for good.

Source: GamesIndustry

Orange Shirt Kid Joins in the Lawsuits Against Fortnite

The mother of Fortnite superfan Orange Shirt Kid has joined the list of people who are suing Epic over dances used in Fortnite. In this particular case, Orange Shirt Kid’s dance, which he called The Random, was put into the game as part of a dance contest. Unlike the others, The Random, called Orange Justice in Fortnite was never sold. In fact, it was given away for free. It was also submitted as part of a contest that specified the winner wouldn’t be compensated and that the dance would be used for promotional material, which is pretty standard stuff for a game run competition. After the dance became popular though, Orange Shirt Kid became the target of extreme cyberbullying that eventually resulted in his YouTube and Instagram accounts being deleted. It should also be said that this lawsuit was filed by the same law firm behind the 2Milly, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Backpack Kid lawsuits against Fortnite.

Source: Variety

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WoW Wednesday: What’s New in Season 2?

The Tides of Vengeance have risen again for Azeroth, and the Alliance has begun its movements upon Dazar’alor, capitol of the Zandalari Empire. The arenas have been emptied and its champions awarded with the spoils of war. Season 2 for Battle for Azeroth has officially begun! This week we’ll be diving into everything that’s new with the release of Season 2.

The Battle for Dazar’alor

“Talanji… Forgive me…”

First and foremost is the release of Battle for Azeroth’s second major raid tier, The Battle for Dazar’alor. Drawing the Horde forces away from the seat of the Zandalari Empire, the Alliance mounts a daring offensive to assassinate King Rastakhan and sever any potential political hopes the Horde might have. The Battle for Dazar’alor will feature nine separate bosses in a linear fashion, with each faction assuming the other’s role in the story as things progress. When the Alliance moves to besiege the temple proper, Horde players will temporarily become Alliance races and vice-versa for later segments. The boss breakdown will look something like this:

1st – 3rd Bosses will be flavored over the enemy faction, but each version will have identical abilities.

Besieging the Temple; The Alliance moves to attack King Rastakhan’s seat of power. Horde players will temporarily become Alliance races for three bosses culminating in a fight with King Rastakhan.

Pursuing the Alliance; The Horde returns to Dazar’alor with a vengeance and seeks to kill the Alliance invaders. Alliance players will temporarily become Horde races for three bosses, culminating in a fight with Lady Jaina Proudmoore, who is the last boss of the raid.

During the ‘Neutral Wing’ players will play as their own characters but the second and third wings are story-type encounters written for one faction. Both factions will have nine bosses to defeat in a linear order, just with the added bonus of you get to see what you’d look like with that faction change…

Looking for Raid Wing 1 and Mythic Difficulty will open the week after your region’s particular launch of Season 2.

Step Into The Arena!

“More bones for the arena!”

Battle for Azeroth Season 2 brings a new and darker title to the mix, “Sinister Gladiator.” With the rollover into the next season of Rated PvP both personal and matchmaking ratings will normalize and return to zero. This means a fresh-start for all players seeking to carve their name in the halls of conquerors. Returning to Season 2 is the graduated Elite Gladiator system, rewarding players who advance their rating with progressive unlockables for your Elite Sinister Gladiator set and the seasonal Tabard and Cloak. Those looking to claim the Gladiator Title and the Sinister Gladiator’s Proto-Drake must also win an additional 50 games in the Elite bracket (2400+). Those looking to claim the “Sinister Gladiator” title must place in the top 0.1% of rankings, as well as claim 150 victories in Season 2. The Gladiator’s Dreadflame enchantment appearance will still be attainable for those who hit 2100 rating in Season 2.

New to Season 2 are temporary “Elite Class” titles. These seasonal titles will be awarded to players who reach the Elite bracket. Players who earn a Conquest Chest each week will now also find a Quartermaster’s Coin among their winnings, ten of which can be turned in for a piece of Gladiator level equipment.

Returning to the Rated PvP circuit are Vicious Saddles. Used as a currency for those wishing to purchase one of the Vicious Racial Mounts, the saddles were mysteriously absent in Season 1. For Season 2 players can obtain their Saddles after claiming their first mount, the Vicious Black Warsaber and Vicious Black Bonesteed for the Alliance and Horde respectively. Players will earn an additional saddle each time their bar caps out for wins over 1400 rating.

At this time Gladiator PvP sets from Season 1 will be unavailable to purchase until a later date.

Mythic+ Madness!

Seasons don’t fear the reaper.

With the start of the new season comes a new host of adjustments for Dungeon Delvers in Azeroth. To follow the curve of player gearing, Heroic and Mythic dungeon difficulty has increased by 30% across the board, with Mythic+ Keystone levels decreasing by three (Mythic 5 Keystones in Season One are now Mythic 2).

With the defeat of G’huun, and the rise of Bwonsamdi, a new Mythic affix has been introduced as the Seasonal Affix: Reaping. Added to every Keystone that is level 10 or higher, Reaping affects non-boss enemies throughout your Mythic+ Dungeon. Whenever the group completes 20% of the Enemy Forces Bar (20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100%), Bwonsamdi will ressurect every enemy defeated in that 20% span. They will then traverse the dungeon to assault your party. While they do not possess True Sight or stealth detection, they have a gigantic player aggro radius. These enemies have set abilities between dungeons (depending on what type of mob they were in life), posses 50% of their original health, do not aggro other monsters in your dungeon, and are not affected by other Mythic+ affixes (like Bursting). If players run out the timer on their Mythic+ dungeon they may barter with Bwonsamdi to, “Serve him in life and in death,” and receive a 20% buff to health and damage until the completion of the dungeon.

Players banking up their Titan Residuum for the Ethereal Traders will be pleased to note that Titan Residuum does not reset between seasons, meaning you can continue to save it for upcoming gear in Season 2. The amount players gain through looting their weekly chest and scrapping higher levels of Azerite Gear has also increased.

Upgrading Gear Tables!

“Show her no mercy. She will show you none.”

Along with the the Battle for Dazar’alor, players will find new loot with increased item levels in their weekly activities. Baseline rewards in Normal, Heroic,Mythic and Mythic+ dungeons have been increased by 30 item levels, bringing them on par with Uldir raid rewards.

Gladiator PvP gear will now begin at item level 375 in both the Conquest Chest and regular rewards from Rated Player vs. Player activities. When the Chest rewards fall under Azerite Gear pieces, players will now have 4 pieces of gear to choose from. On weeks when the gear rewarded is neither a piece of Azerite gear, trinket or weapon players will be able to choose between two different item slots of gear (e.g. Legs and Wrists week 1, hands and rings week 2, etc.).

Item rewards in the Battle for Darkshore Warfront have been increased by 15 item levels. Consequently the new requirement to enter the Battle for Darkshore is iLvl 335, and enemy difficulty has been increased by 15%. Emissary rewards for World Quests have likewise been increased and items may reroll their stats or update with the start of the Season.

Starting January 22nd for the US and January 23rd for EU servers, Azerite Knowledge will begin scaling once again for your Heart of Azeroth. This means levels for your necklace will get easier to obtain each week.

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Battle Royale Weekly: Fortnite Faces Another Lawsuit

This week we’ve got new modes for several games, Black Desert Online gets a battle royale mode and Fortnite faces another lawsuit over the unauthorized use of a dance. Find all of that and more in this week’s Battle Royale Weekly.

Black Desert Online Goes Battle Royale

Black Desert Online is one of the most talked about MMORPGs at the moment and it’s really no surprise that they’ve now received a Battle Royale mode. The new mode, called Shadow Arena, puts 50 players on a map together where they start out as Black Spirits. Black Spirits must quickly find one of the bodies scattered across the map and possess it before their health runs out. These bodies only come equipped with a basic weapon and a basic skill, so once they have a body they need to start looking for better weapons and skills out in the world. A dark fog filled with Black Spirits will spread across the land, shrinking the playable area as time goes on. Players who are caught inside the fog will be attacked by the very powerful Black Spirits.

At the moment the new mode is only in Early Access and as such available only at certain times. On weekdays players can play the mode from 4PM to 1AM PST. On weekends it is available 9AM to 11PM PST.

Source: Press Release

Call of Duty Blackout Introduces Respawning

Blackout has received a new limited time mode for squads that allows anyone to respawn when the circle resets. The only catch is that someone from your squad has to survive up to that point. Right now the mode, called Down But Not Out is only available on the PS4 version of the game. Treyarch hasn’t said if the mode will be available on other platforms. Down But Not Out is available now, from January 16th to January 30th, so if you want to try it out do so now while you can.

Source: Polygon

Fear the Wolves Improves Player Experience

Fear The Wolves

Fear the Wolves has released a new patch that is said to improve player’s experience with the game. There are now faster queues, a new waiting room, vaulting, and voice chat. They’ve also made matches more intense.

Source: Steam

Fortnite Faces Another Lawsuit Over a Dance

Joining the others who have previous gone after Fortnite for dance emotes we’re now seeing the parents of Orange Shirt Kid joining the fight. Orange Fight Kid is well known for his dance moves which he calls the Random, but in Fortnite they’re called Orange Justice. The lawsuit states, “Through its unauthorised misappropriation of Orange Shirt Kid’s highly popular signature dance, the ‘Random,’ along with his well-known catchphrase ‘It’s also a great exercise move!” in its smash-hit, violent video game, Fortnite Battle Royale, defendants have unfairly profited from exploiting Orange Shirt Kid’s protected creative expression, likeness, and trademark without consent or authorisation.”

One major difference between this emote and the other lawsuits that have come before is that Orange Justice isn’t actually available for sale in the game. Still, the lawsuit says, “Epic cannot profit from Orange Shirt Kid’s hard-earned fame by its misappropriation of the Random, Orange Shirt Kid’s likeness, or the Catchphrase.” It should also be added that this lawsuit is being handled by Beck Price & Hecht LLP, the same firm behind the other two major emote lawsuits.

Source: Independent

Proxima Royale Closed Beta Waves 2 and 3

Proxima Royale

In January the Proxima Royale servers will have two weekends where they are online and active for players to play. The first weekend is January 19 to 20 while the second weekend is January 26 to 27. On the first day of these two weekends the servers will be online from 3PM to 9PM EST. The second day the servers will be active from 7PM to 1AM EST. This will allow players from many time zones all over the world to participate without having to stay up all hours.

Source: Steam

Rapture Rejects Introduces New Mode

Rapture Rejects has introduced a new mode that will allow players to keep coming back to the game until someone finds that golden ticket to heaven that’s hidden in their neighborhood. Once the ticket is found the battle royale begins and it is a fight to the death to get it from the person who found the ticket. To make it even more of a challenge the person who is holding the ticket gets marked on the map. This new mode is available now on Steam, assuming you’ve paid for the game.

Source: Steam

Realm Royale Pirates vs Ninjas

Realm Royale is asking the question as old as the internet itself. Who would win in a fight: pirates or ninjas? The Steel vs Shadow Battle Pass has arrived and for a limited time, and players will be able to unlock exclusive items. The battle pass features 80 levels of unlockable rewards including mounts, character skins, chicken skins, skydive effects, titles, and more. The announcement doesn’t say how long this battle between Pirates and Ninjas will go on for but it looks like there is a lot of stuff to unlock. So if you’re like me, and you need to get everything, you might want to get started now.

Source: Steam

Valhall Beta Moves to Steam

Valhall has made the move to Steam after having previously decided they would use their own client. Now beta players will be able to play the game through their Steam profile. If you’re a beta tester and haven’t received your beta key yet you’re being instructed to get in touch with the Valhall devs on Indiegogo. They are sending out beta keys one time every day, so depending on when you get in touch it may be another day before you get your key.

Source: Steam

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WoW Wednesday: Who is the Villain in Tides of Vengeance?

With Battle for Azeroth’s first season of content drawing to a close, now is no better time to take a moment and reflect on the story of this expansion so far. For those that have played through each of the major War Campaigns, things are certainly getting interesting in the war between the Horde and the Alliance. This week I wanted to take a look at an incredibly muddy conflict and ask one question: Who are the bad guys in World of Warcraft Tides of Vengeance?

Most players would immediately point their fingers at the Horde and their current Warchief, Sylvanas Windrunner. She is more colloquially known as the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, a nation of Undead who have been rejected by their nations and found solace in each other. Whether through means of vengeance or simply finding companionship in those that share their struggle, the Forsaken endure simply because there is no where else for them to go. With their population dwindling, the Warchief has seen fit to create new Forsaken by the means of the Val’kyr, raising the dead into life. Some choose to join willingly, others are told that if they are not Forsaken then they can deal with those who seek to destroy the Undead.

On the other side of the equation sits the main race of the Alliance: the Humans. These are a hardy, adaptive people who in just two generations have been reduced from Seven Kingdoms and a population in the potential tens of thousands to just two nations and a few hundred between them. Humanity is quite literally backed into a corner and is strung together in an alliance of necessity for their survival at the core. Headed by High King Anduin Wrynn the Alliance hopes to take a virtuous path towards the future with the Light in hand.

Separately these two nations are the current driving force of both the Alliance and the Horde. Both of their leaders want the best for their people and both have incredibly big shoes to fill now that the Burning Legion has been routed. How did two factions that, at one point, had a serious ceasefire, come to full-out war?

The answer is simple: Azerite. When the Burning Legion was defeated its master, Sargeras, plunged his weapon into the world of Azeroth, wounding it greatly. Azerite rose to the surface in response, a literal scab over the blood of the world. A new mineral rising from the surface of the world is something that is hard to miss, and both factions readily jumped on it. Despite Azerite first appearing exclusively on Kalimdor both factions were quick to jump into researching it; so quick that it is incredibly difficult to reliably form a timeline on the situation. While the Alliance was reportedly first to send an expedition to investigate in the novel Heart of the Storm, traces of their presence would not appear until long after the launch of Battle for Azeroth, after Horde forces had already begun mining the rare mineral. Both groups were met with lethal hostility by the opposite faction and few survivors on either side.

The War of Thorns

Saurfang attacks from the North.

In an effort to control the continent of Kalimdor, and fearing an Alliance built on Azerite power, Sylvanas Windrunner laid siege upon the island-nation of Teldrassil in an attempt to slaughter their leadership and hold the Night Elf homeland hostage against the Alliance, effectively breaking the native people and severing their ties with the enemy. In the final aspects of an utterly brutal campaign the Warchief came toe-to-toe with Malfurion Stormrage, Archdruid of the Cenarion Circle and defender of the Night Elven people. In their battle High Overlord Saurfang intervened, hurling his axe at the back of Malfurion Stormrage and mortally wounding the druid. Sylvanas departed leaving the Overlord with one command: kill the Archdruid and return to her side to claim their victory. Instead Saurfang made an unprecedented move and defied his Warchief’s orders, believing his coming to his Warchief’s defense in such a manner was an incredible mark of dishonor.

To put this in perspective, High Overlord Varok Saurfang has never outwardly defied an order from his Warchief, even when the threat of death has been involved. Despite friction between past Warchiefs, and even superior commanders in Northrend, he has not once deserted his duty to the Horde, even when his son was slain at Icecrown and the Wrathgate. He could in fact be one of the more moderate voices among the leadership of the Horde. As noted in the novel War Crimes, at the trial of Garrosh Hellscream, who Saurfang defected from to join the Siege on Orgrimmar, the Overlord was one of a handful of people who did not believe that the deposed Warchief deserved a death sentence. Instead he believed that Garrosh should be tried by Orcish Customs and face the Overlord in mak’gora, a duel to the death to determine whether he would live and repent or perish for his crimes against the world.

When held at bowpoint by the High Priestess of the Night Elves, Tyrande Whisperwind, Saurfang gave her an ultimatum to either take her beloved and flee or try to stop the Horde and die. When the Elven commanders fled, Saurfang returned to his Warchief’s side. In response, Sylvanas performed the only thing that could potentially break the Night Elven people and set Teldrassil to the flame, murdering thousands of civilians, priests and Sentinels in the blaze. Despite how it galvanized the rage of several main Night Elven heroes, such as Warden Maiev Shadowsong, its clear this tactic worked on members of the Night Elves both who still live and who have been raised as Forsaken, including Delaryn Summermoon who now believes that Tyrande, Malfurion and even her goddess betrayed the Night Elven people.

“Burn it… BURN IT!”

Despite hoping to end a war long before it began, Sylvanas now found herself embroiled in a savage conflict that brought itself right to her doorstep. Soon after the Burning of Teldrassil, the Alliance besieged the Undercity, burning a swath through the Tirisfal Glades in their assault and rendering the land uninhabitable, even by the Forsaken. Rapidly devastating and routing the Horde forces, the Alliance savaged their way up to the front gates of the Undercity led by High King Wrynn. In an attempt to drive them back, Windrunner unleashed the Blight, a necromantic biological weapon that slaughtered the Alliance wholesale. Sending heroes of the Horde, armed with chemical masks and suits, she saw that her wounded were returned to the Undercity before raising the fallen as Undead, stripping the Alliance of their foothold on the region.

It was only due to the timely arrival of Archmage Jaina Proudmoore that saw a moderate victory for the Alliance and broke the defenses of the Horde. Abandoning the city, Windrunner and her retinue blighted the remains of the Undercity, refusing to let it be used as an Alliance stronghold in the region. With their fleets decimated by the Legion and their forces diminished from two bloody battles, the Horde and Alliance then turned to the Zandalari Empire and the Kingdom of Kul Tiras respectively for aid, both commanding the greatest naval fleets the world has ever known.

The War Campaigns

Both War Campaigns go into detail over what each side is willing to do to win, and who really has the upper hand in this conflict. The Alliance discovers that Sylvanas has recruited more of the Scourge’s top lieutenants into her fold, promising the vampiric San’layn that if they can control their hunger and prove their usefulness, they can have a place in her Horde. The rest of the Horde, ignorant and unknowing of this dark move, instead attempt to work on dismantling the Kul Tiran fleet, the only true force that could potentially rival the Zandalari Empire’s navy and challenge their rule over the seas. In both cases the lines here become incredibly blurred and indistinct when it comes to why each commander in this war truly wishes to be involved. Sticking around after talking to the heroes of both the Horde and the Alliance paints a telling story of the conflict.

In looking at the Horde their commanders are incredibly diverse; Nathanos Blightcaller, Champion of the Banshee Queen leads her expeditionary forces and the war effort in Zandalar. Garona Halforcen, infamous assassin of High King Llane Wrynn has become the Horde’s Mission Specialist because she claims to see the hubris of the Alliance, stating that, “Perhaps it is time to fell another King.”

Nathanos Blightcaller echoes her statements, though with the darker tone Forsaken are known for. Believing humanity has become hypocritical in their quest of following the Light and their abandonment of the Forsaken, an entire nation of people, Nathanos (and Horde Champion Lillian Voss) believe that the only method to prove them otherwise will be the killing and raising of the Alliance to force their perspectives to change. While fatalistic to the extreme, he certainly isn’t wrong. During the Horde’s War Campaign players will come across a tidesage by the name of Thomas Zelling; he is a native of Kul Tiras, who has become deathly ill and will soon die. After proving his power to the Horde he begs Lillian Voss to see he is raised as a Forsaken, so that he can protect his family even after his death. Raising him from the grave with one of the Val’kyr, Zelling returns to life as a Forsaken and rushes off to meet his family who immediately reject him as a monster. Left alone with no one else to turn to, Zelling resigns himself to his life as a Forsaken with a promise from Nathanos Blightcaller; as long as he serves the means of the Horde his family will remain unharmed.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Alliance, with High Commander Halford Wyrmbane leading the 7th Legion forces in Kul Tiras. Aided by Spymaster Mathias Shaw, both share stories about their career in the Alliance if the hero wishes to stand around and listen. Wyrmbane, a career soldier, has fought the Horde all of his life. Mathias Shaw sees himself more as a tool of the king, stating, “… If I had to choose between satisfying honor and getting the job done, I’ll pick the latter every time. For the Alliance, of course.” This results in them using tactics time and time again that others would see as utterly dishonorable: from the trapping of the San’layn to kill them to the hit-and-run bombing of Horde forces at sea, much to Falstad Wildhammer’s delight.

This paints the conflict in two vastly conflicting ideals. For the Horde this is a war that has long since bubbled beneath the surface of the world; in fighting through the Darkshore Warfront introductions members of the Horde’s races fight side-by-side against raised skeletons. Even Orcs, who wholeheartedly revile unnatural magics like fel and necromancy, fight against the mutual threat of Tyrande Whisperwind. Much like Sylvanas’ original promise with the War of Thorns, this is a fight not just for their security but for their vengeance. The Horde is tired of feeling as, ‘the Other,’ in Azeroth and will now take any efforts to protect their home, perfectly illustrated by King Rastakahn’s bargain in the Zandalar Forever questline.

For the Alliance this war is less a war of ideology and the continuation of a long, tired crusade. While willing to fight tooth and nail to the end, this is a war the Alliance feels they’ve fought before and are still in the right on. To Wyrmbane and Shaw this is just another day in the life in pushing back their life-long enemy. In planning movements against the Horde Shandris Feathermoon, the General of the Sentinel Army, talks more about purging the Horde and the Forsaken in your quests together than simply seeking vengeance. The Dark Irons brought on board to strike a foothold in Zandalar unleash horrific elementals and fire magic to burn the Bilgewater Cartel’s forces alive, effectively glassing the beach.

The Tides of Vengeance

“I have a plan to ensure that the Proudmoore family pays dearly for Rastakhan’s death…”

This isn’t to say that neither Faction acts what most players would ascribe to them as, “typical.” The Forsaken still use and raise the dead of the Alliance as tools in their war for the psychological value. Nathanos even tells his forces to, “Blight it from shore to shoreline,” in the Battle for Darkshore, though the Forsaken do not use this recklessly. Even in their War Campaign after finding the body of Derek Proudmoore, the Crown Prince of Kul Tiras, they use his corpse to draw out the elite forces of Boralus so that a small group can infiltrate the heart of the capitol.

The Alliance follow much in suit, from Humans to Night Elves. High Commander Wyrmbane is often the voice of reason throughout the War Campaign, bringing his experience and knowledge of the Alliance to temper the attitudes and plans of his peers. His long-term plan in besieging Dazar’alor works to minimize casualties across the board, instead looking to shatter the Zandalari fleet and draw out the Horde forces from the civilian Zandalari Empire. Even Tyrande Whisperwind, Avatar of Elune, stays her bloodthirsty blade when faced with the gibing of Deathstalker Commander Belmont (though this is more of her opinion that he isn’t worth the effort).

The entire war, in my opinion, can be summed up in one daily quest. During an assault on Vol’dun there is a quest, Vulpera for a Day, where the Alliance seems to have assaulted a roving caravan of the native Vulpera. However, upon attacking the interlopers, several members of the 7th Legion will instead say that the Horde is responsible and they will slay them for their attack on the defenseless creatures. Despite two warring factions attacking each other for incredibly justified reasons, there are other forces at work driving them together like rabid dogs in the same kennel. This is a conflict that has been brewing for both the Horde and the Alliance for some time but undoubtedly there are whispers at the edge of the world, hoping to capitalize on the burning of empires.

So here’s the question, Who is the villain in this war? And who, or rather what, wants to see the world aflame?

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MMO Money: $7,000 Bundle for Shroud of the Avatar

It’s time to finally start getting back into our normal routines for the new year. That means it’s time for another look at the business side of the MMO industry. This week we’ve got lawsuit news, acquisition news, and a $7,000 bundle for Shroud of the Avatar.

Funcom Acquires Zona Paradoxal (ZPX)

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Funcom announced that it had acquired a 50.1% majority stake in Zona Paradoxal, a work-for-hire studio based in Lisbon. They have previously worked with the company on Conan Exiles, Mutant Year Zero, and other games.

ZPX will remain independent from Funcom and continue to work with other clients. However, Funcom is set to be their primary client going forward. Thanks to the acquisition the studio is also planning to double in size from where they are currently with 15 employees.

For Funcom, this means having more developers on hand to help them with their upcoming titles, of which they have 5 in the works. Conan Unconquered, a top secret game being released Halloween 2019 being made with RockPocket, a Heroic Signatures game, a Conan single player game, and an open world multiplayer game.

Source: Games Industry

Settlement Reached in 38 Studios Lawsuit

Do you remember 38 Studios? They were the studio that made Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and were working on Project Copernicus that shut down in 2012 after running out of money and has since been the subject of a long legal battle. The studio was moved to Rhode Island after being promised a $75 million loan then failed. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) argued that the studio was destined to fail after it wasn’t disclosed that they would receive only $50 million of the promised $75 million. This resulted in a lawsuit between the SEC and Wells Fargo and the Commerce Corp. That lawsuit has now been settled, however, the details have not been revealed and it seems pretty unlikely that they ever will be. We may not know how it ended, but it is nice to finally see the final chapter of 38 Studio’s story come to an end.

Though it is the end for the studio it may not be the end for the Amalur IP. In September 2018 it was bought by THQ Nordic. This means that yes, there is the possibility for Project Copernicus to be brought back to life. However, with the state of the MMORPG genre, it is far more likely that they will use the IP to create other games. Still, we have our fingers crossed for Copernicus.

Source: Gamasutra

Blizzard and Netease Extend Partnership

Diablo Immortal

While the Blizzard/Netease partnership has been received somewhat poorly in the West it is doing fantastically in the East, specifically in China. So much so in fact that they are extending their partnership until 2023. The partnership began in 2008 with Starcraft II and the platform. Now they’ll be working together to bring World of Warcraft, the Starcraft series, the Diablo series, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch to Chinese audiences for 4 more years. This seems to be leaving room for new games in the Starcraft and Diablo series. Does that mean we can expect more in the future? That does seem somewhat likely, or maybe they’re just leaving themselves open to possibilities. We will have to wait and see.

Source: Press Release

Tencent Gets Minority Stake in Vermintide Developer Fatshark

Vermintide and Vermintide 2 are quite easily the most popular multiplayer Warhammer games to have been made in a long time and that is paying off for their developer Fatshark. Tencent has now acquired a 36% share of the company worth 500 million kronor, approximately $56 million.

Fatshark has said that the investment will strengthen its position as an indie developer and help facilitate future growth. CEO Martin Wahlund spoke to Games Industry saying, “We are excited to announce that Tencent has chosen to invest in Fatshark. Tencent is known for investing in market leading top rated companies. With the investment, Fatshark is in a strong position to continue to grow while staying independent. Our unaltered mission will be to bring high-quality games to our fans around the globe.”

We can’t wait to see what this means for Fatshark and Vermintide 2 in the future.

Source: Games Industry

Activision-Blizzard Securities Fraud Investigation

A law firm is currently investigating claims that Activision-Blizzard committed securities fraud or other unlawful business offenses following the news that Bungie would be parting ways with Activision. In its press release, the law firm offered very few details but did specifically mention Bungie and the sharp decline in Activision’s stock price following the announcement. They also offered a link to join a possible class action lawsuit.

This is clearly only the beginning of this story. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the story and Activision’s share price, which has been slowly recovering since all of this took place on January 11th.

Source: Press Release

Shroud of the Avatar Offering $7000 Bundle to Fund Episode 2

Shroud of the Avatar is getting a bit of a change in its business model, moving to what is now considered a more traditional one. However, they’re also offering 8 people who happen to have $7000 laying around the opportunity of a lifetime. The Lord of the Island: Episode 2 Bundle costs $6,999 and includes a ton of amazing in-game and real-life perks. What do those perks include? A silver ring crafted personally by Lord British himself and an in-game version of it. A tour of the Portalarium offices. Finally, dinner with Lord British, Darkstarr, and Atos either in Austin or New York City. This offer is only available to 8 people total and one of them has already been sold.

Of course, the majority of us don’t have $7,000 that they can spare but that’s okay! We can still buy items in the cash shop which is about to change. The cash shop will be available in game, while the website will only have currency and maybe one or two things available in it. This is coming after the company has had a lot of feedback about the cash shop. This will also mean that the cash shop can be localized, something that hasn’t currently been possible.

Source: Official Newsletter

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Play of the Fortnight: The Issue of Overwatch Backfill

Players have been able to backfill in non-competitive Overwatch matches since the Dawn of Time. Or, you know, at least since the game launched or thereabouts. There’s been a lot of back and forth on why backfilling is not possible in competitive, and whether or not it should exist at all. Either way, we need to talk about the issue of Overwatch backfill.

In this Play of the Fortnight, we’ll discuss how Overwatch backfill affects players, why it’s important, how it could be improved and more.

Backfill might help hold a match together

Overwatch Backfill

The primary reason for backfill in a non-competitive match is to stop the match completely falling apart as soon as one person leaves. If one person left and was never replaced, their team would likely follow suit, and eventually the winning team would either finish out the (very dissatisfying) match, or they’d leave as well. Unsurprisingly, most players don’t enjoy completely stomping an empty team. It’s not fun.

Player A gets mad and leaves. Player B joins, and if it’s early enough in the match, maybe they can help turn things around for their new teammates. Then again, perhaps not, but at least it’s better and less demoralizing than being down a player and knowing you’re more than likely going to lose.

However, backfill feels really bad for the backfiller

Overwatch Backfill

The player filling in for the leaver generally has a pretty awful experience, though. You’re more often than not joining a losing game. Sometimes, you’re joining it with only 30 seconds to go before the match ends. Regardless of whether you’re rewarded for very little effort, it doesn’t feel good to join a match and barely get to leave spawn before it’s over. Even a free victory after a backfill feels hollow.

The rewards are also pretty lackluster considering you’re effectively bailing a team out of almost certain doom. Or at least, almost certain loss, which is practically the same thing to most players.

Even so, backfilling is a necessary evil

It may feel like a bad experience, but backfilling serves a really important purpose. It’s not just about saving the one match that had rage quitters and disconnects in it. In fact, more important than that is what comes after that terrible, good-for-nothing, no good game. With rage quitters and leavers, players who do remain in the match have to wait for people to rejoin, or simply get dumped back out to requeue themselves.

Overwatch Backfill

With backfill, you get one awful match that has a bunch of people join halfway through or later. But, assuming they stick around, everybody gets to go into a fresh match next time. The games get to continue seamlessly as if nothing went wrong. In theory, this is the ideal scenario for players. Blizzard wants to keep the downtime between matches low so players don’t get bored waiting around.

The rewards for backfill should be increased

Since backfilling is necessary for a healthy game, and is also a horrible experience at least initially for the filler, the rewards are poor at the moment. We’d love to see Blizzard adding additional rewards for backfilling to prevent the fillers from having a bad experience and also to stop them from immediately leaving when they join a losing game.

Players have suggested a few different things: increased XP rewards to allow faster unlocking of loot boxes, achievements or endorsements, or even separate reward tracks that again allow speedier loot box unlocks. While it’s unlikely Blizzard will go too far down the route of providing loot box rewards, we’d like to see a better nod to the people actively saving matches, not to mention other players’ time.

Allowing players to opt-out of backfill wouldn’t work

Some members of the community have suggested allowing an opt-out of backfill. While this idea sounds nice in theory, even with increased rewards as mentioned above, most players would opt-out. This would mean a few things: backfillers would be fewer and farther between, and worse still the players who didn’t opt out would only ever get put into a backfill.

While it’s nice to think that players would do the right thing and stay opted in, it’s unlikely. Give players a choice, and they’ll choose the easier, less frustrating route. An almost guaranteed loss and an annoying experience for a few measly XP? No thanks, I’ll take a brand new game with an undetermined outcome.

Ultimately, we’d see increases in queue times across the board, and backfillers would be even more upset than before.

Why it wouldn’t be good for comp

Overwatch Backfill

We’ve established why backfilling is important, but what about competitive? Surely it’s necessary there, too? Again, this would be great for teams already playing, but incredibly frustrating for the person having to backfill. If this were ever an option, the backfiller would need to lose no SR for a loss, which would make this a somewhat abusable situation. If the backfiller would join a game that was already being lost, without having contributed to the beginning of the match, losing SR would feel like a massive punishment. However, the alternative just doesn’t work.

Also, if backfilling competitive was optional, no one would want to do it. Some players have suggested that if they neither won nor lost SR but got the same XP bonus or better from quickplay, they’d backfill competitive matches for warm-ups, but that’s very easy to say. In reality, most players wouldn’t choose to backfill.

It’s also worth mentioning that competitive matches don’t roll into one another like quickplay. Players have to queue up manually each time. This would mean the backfill isn’t saving the following game, and is potentially just joining for a 30 second stomp. On top of that, it leaves players open to getting stuck in a backfill chain where they don’t get to start a brand new match.

There are other ways backfilling could be improved

Overwatch Backfill

Apart from rewards, there are a few different ways backfilling could be improved. At the moment, a backfilling player has no idea what the enemy team comp is, so their first pick is blind. It’s feasible that everyone on the team (including the leaver) knew at that point what the enemy comp is, so it’d be great if a backfiller could see the comp and pick accordingly.

Another change could be giving some amount of ultimate charge to the filler. As ultimate charge is based on a points system and then represented as a percentage, the filler could be given the same number of ultimate charge points that the leaver before them had. This would then translate into a variable percentage based on which hero they choose. This way, the team with the backfill doesn’t necessarily get an instant-ult on their new player, but they also don’t lose the ultimate charge that was being built before the leaver left.

Closing Thoughts

Backfilling is an important service every player provides when they play quickplay or arcade matches. It’s not always pretty, but it helps keep the game ticking along and gives players overall less downtime between matches by preventing them from having to requeue. However, it’s certainly not perfect, and we’d love to see some changes to make backfilling more rewarding.

What kind of changes would you like to see for backfilling? Are you a believer in competitive backfilling?

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