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EVE photo
EVE

CCP releases statistics for largest EVE Online fight


Spoilers: It was a glorious death!
Aug 03
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Last weekend, we reported on a battle that was taking place in EVE Online. At the time, it wasn't hard to see that it was the literal largest battle that had ever taken place in the game since it launched back in 2004. Develo...
EVE Online photo
EVE Online

Largest EVE Online battle yet is currently in motion


Is a titan about to fall?
Jul 28
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
[Update #2: All fighting is complete, and the remaining CFC/Goonswarm players are leaving the system now as well.] [Update: Test Alliance has started to back off from the system. A small amount of fighting still remains, b...

Preview: Anomaly 2

Mar 20 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
The preview build that I got to look at featured the first handful of levels in the game, including three tutorial levels, the first three missions, and a prologue level. The absolute first thing that popped out at me was the production level that Anomaly 2 has over its predecessor. The menu feels slicker, the pre-mission dialogue is fully voiced, and even the in-game cutscenes are choreographed with a lot more flair. The prologue level opens up shortly after a helicopter crash, following the small surviving team as they try to recover data to a weapon that can help humanity reclaim Earth from the alien invaders that have conquered it after the events of the previous game. The level opens with a monologue setting the scene of the world's state. There also feels like there's more dialogue between units when the squad leader, controlled by the player, manages to link up with the other survivors of the crash. This opening level also introduced me to the big new mechanic that Anomaly 2 has. The units can now transform into a mech form on command, offering a greater emphasis on strategy and real-time reaction. The prologue introduces the first new unit, the Assault Hound, which has a Gatling Gun that fires faster the longer it keeps attacking. When the squad encounters aliens held up on both sides of a narrow canyon, this unit turns into a flamethrower-wielding Hell Hound. While the concept of a rate of fire that increases over time is retained, this form is more capable of attacking on both sides of itself at the expense of range. The three tutorial missions reintroduce the two staple gameplay mechanics from the previous game. At any time, the player can hit a button, or scroll back on a mouse scroll wheel, to zoom out to a tactical view to alter the planned route through a level. This functions pretty much identically to how it did before, right down to the interface. The other returning mechanic is the ability to arrange the layout of your squad, which once again functions almost identically. There are small changes, primarily with the squad interface, to allow you to transform units from the menu as well as selling, buying, and upgrading them. Upgrading a unit will enhance both forms of it, so there's no need to worry about paying twice per unit for a single level of upgrade. The presentation of the tutorials are really phenomenal as well. They take place in a virtual reality simulator in a truck of a moving convoy, as they head on a mission to infiltrate New York City and rescue a trapped scientist. Because of the hostile nature of the world, there are a lot of scenes during the tutorial where the simulator almost gets destroyed when the convoy is assaulted. The "graphics" glitch out, with sound and communication stuttering during these moments, and it helps add weight to the sequence. After the third tutorial, you're given free reign outside of the simulator as you push towards the building the scientist is trapped in. A hint of this can be seen in the prologue mission, but the alien dominance is really shown in the level design. Though the recognizable buildings of a city like New York are shown, they're all run down, and dilapidated, covered in the snows of what looks like a perpetual winter. All across the levels are alien structures, much resembling metallic roots, or tendrils, sticking out of the ground, and pulsating as if collecting energy or something else. The world feels more than just war-torn. It really feels beaten, and the units of your squad absolutely feel like they're the last ones fighting in the world. Of course, presentation is one thing, gameplay is another, and the gameplay here feels just as solid as in the previous games. Strategically planning a good route, managing skilled use of commander abilities, and squad arrangement are all still very important to victory as well as earning a good score. Since there are more real-time elements available, players can indulge in a faster-paced game if they feel like it. If not, any of the real-time elements can also be accessed through some way that also pauses the game, and allows time to think about the strategy. The levels also feel more dynamic than I remember from the first Anomaly. New aliens burst forth from the ground in the middle of missions and at times, force a last moment re-planning of my route through a level, or other times, require me to transform my units suddenly. I'm sure that most of this is scripted for when your units pass certain points in the level, but the effect is still cool. It's hard to say how "deep" this aspect will be in the full game, however. From the mission selection map, it looks like the game may encompass a global scale. At the very least, it seems as if the game will span across the continental United States, and possibly some areas to the south. Hopefully, this remains true, and the single-player manages to have a nice chunk of content and a lot of levels to go through. If all else fails, the multiple difficulty levels will add replay value, especially with the scoring system. Anomaly 2 is slated for release sometime later this year, and it's a game I recommend you keep an eye out for.
Anamoly 2 preview photo
Anomalize harder!
Anomaly: Warzone Earth had one of those experimental ideas -- controlling the troops that rush past towers rather than the defensive structures themselves -- that turned out to be really cool in practice. I don't know for cer...


Trends of this Generation: The PC-ification of consoles

Feb 18 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Hard Drive Required The first major sign of the PCification is the inclusion of hard drives. A hard drive in a console by itself is not an odd thing. Theey can store more data than memory cards of the past. PS3s have always required one, but the 360 originally launched with hard drives optional. At the time, I didn't think many would imagine just how necessary large amounts of storage would be. Downloadable games started small, but grew to be gigabytes in size. This, paired with the inclusion of installs, made a large shift in how storage is viewed. The 360 would see multiple revisions, with hard drives becoming part of a SKU you'd buy off the shelf, eventually ending with the slim model which has an unchangeable internal hard drive. As for the PS3, the system outright used laptop hard drives, which allowed anyone to buy and use their own storage. Downloadable Gaming Downloadable gaming blew up in popularity this generation. I'm not just talking about stuff like XBLA either. It's very true that sub-retail releases were able to find a nice home on the platform, and as time went on, the size of downloadable games got bigger. Originally, on XBL, a downloadable game was limited to 50 MB. Today, the limit is 2 gigs. Some games are even bigger than that! Aside from those games, there was an increase in making retail games available to download from home. Steam does this for PC, and it's still much better at it. Digital distribution of retail games on consoles hasn't slowed down at all. On both the 360 and the PS3, a large number of retail games have also been put up on the console's respective store fronts for digital purchase. Many of these games rank in with a good 5-10 gigabytes of data needed to run them, so it's no wonder that the 80 gig hard drive had become standard in a console. Game Installs and Patches Up until this generation only PC games were capable of receiving patches. Now, consoles share this trait. Small ones, frequent ones, release day ones, they were all suddenly there! There are updates to fix bugs, and a little note to say what changed. Even the base firmware of a console can get changed in a patch. The most notable case would be with the major revision of the 360 dashboard, replacing the blades of yore with the current metro tiles. Game installs were the cherry on top. Installs is something that people once said consoles had over PC. On console, all you had to do was pop in a disk and play it. On PC, you had to pop it in, and then wait ten minutes for it to install. Not anymore though! Want to play Halo 4's multiplayer with that freshly opened box you just brought back from GameStop? Hang on a minute then, we need to install it to that fancy 80 gig hard drive that we made sure to install on that 360 slim you have. Some games have taken this to a ridiculous level, such as Metal Gear Solid 4. You're required to install a chapter you're about to play, but you can only have one chapter installed at a time. Not all games actually need it on console to play so far, but the 360 has a particularly interesting quirk here. Any 360 game can be installed to increase performance when playing. This leads to a situation where installing is desired, as it helps load times move faster and prevent disc stuttering. Program Expandability! Or Apps... Installing new programs to do new things with a console hit with this generation. Wii had it first, PS3 wasn't far behind, and the 360 was quick to catch up. Last week, Starkey brought up a lot of good points about how the consoles were expanded through greater media playback capabilities. Much of this is thanks to console makers allowing programs to be made and installed on their machines. It's something that, till then, only PCs did. Hell, even now, the PC does it better. Long strides have been made since the start of the generation for consoles despite that. The first indicator fell with the idea of Channels on the Wii. Not only could games fill these slots, but so could some Nintendo made "non-games" as well. Fun little things, like a photo viewer, a news ticker or weather station. PS3 and 360 would pass the Wii in time when programs, or apps if you will, for things like Hulu and Netflix would become available to install on these platforms. The 360 even began to embrace the nomenclature with the release of the current dashboard layout. Video, music, and social apps are legitimate categories with a myriad of options in each one. Internet Explorer was even made available for the 360, which goes to show just how integrated some programs would become in the future. The Future The trend of PC-ification does not seem to be slowing down, as we enter the next generation. All ready, we have the Wii U which makes almost all games available at day one in both retail and digital formats. The system has firmware patches being readied too. Rumors aren't hard set facts, but they do give strong indications -- and in the case of Microsoft, well, let's just say they've been kind of transparent leading into this. Much of the rumors surrounding the next PlayStation and the next Xbox, indicate an even further merging of PC and console. Rumors suggest each machine will be based off of currently existing PC architecture. That means, unlike the past, much of the innards of the consoles will basically be the same as the innards of a typical PC; so, nothing extravagant and proprietary like a cell processor. In Microsoft's case, there are strong indications that the next Xbox will use a slightly modified version of Windows 8 as the base firmware. Given how much the current 360 dashboard already resembles the Windows 8 start screen, I don't find that to be too far a stretch. It's a exciting time to be in gaming, no matter what side of the field you're on. I haven't even taken into account mobile or handheld gaming as a part of this article. With a mysterious conference on February 20 by Sony that may lead to the announcement of the PS4, the stakes are high. We may get to see a real look at the future of gaming. And then, of course, there's Valve tackling the problem from the other end, trying to make the PC as viable in the living room as a console. It may still be a long way off, but the intersection point between the two methods will be the most interesting. Did someone say "one platform world?" [Header image courtesy of SnQQpyDog]
PC-ification of consoles photo
Say 'PC gaming is dead' one more time please
Last week, we covered the trend of consoles as an all in one media center. The trend is very noticeable, but it is part of a much larger trend that happened over the generation. It's a trend that I feel a lot of people o...

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League of Legends' third season officially starts


May the best Legend win!
Feb 01
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Riot Games has been drumming up a storm for the third season of competitive play for League of Legends. The road leading up to the start has been a surprisingly long journey. It started with a lot of gab at th...
League of Legends photo
League of Legends

Riot Games inspired by the NFL for League of Legends


Developer talks about the future of eSports in League of Legends
Jan 30
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Riot Games is no stranger to the spotlight, and certainly not above giving players their own chance to shine. The competitive scene for League of Legends has blown up in the past two years since it launched. Things ...

Review: Forge

Jan 06 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Forge (PC)Developer: Dark Vale GamesPublisher: Dark Vale GamesRelease: December 4, 2012MSRP: $19.99Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo P4750 @ 2.30 GHz, 4 Gigs Ram, Nvidia Geforce GTX 260M Forge is a bit weird to me. I think I knew everything I wanted to say about the game within the first hour of playing. It's also technically incomplete, with some features missing currently, though the hooks are in the game for them already. I feel that it is complete enough to have loads of fun with, and there's enough included to still warrant a full review. The combination of a shooter and an MMORPG player-versus-player mode, Forge plays out with two teams engaged in arena-style combat, with a small variety of modes featuring different objectives. At its core, the shooter aspect influences these modes a bit more. Objectives range from killing enemies to capturing the other team's flag, or in Forge's case, a crystal. Teams are made up of players who can choose one of five character classes, each one falling more towards the MMO roles, such as tank or healer. There's the Assassin, a melee damage dealer with some stealth abilities; the Pathfinder, a ranged bowman than can lay traps; the Pyromancer, a magical damage dealer; the Shaman, a healing dwarf with some light offensive skills; and the Warden, a damage sponge and enemy distraction.  This fusion leads to interesting gameplay, as well as a control scheme that I just absolutely love. Forge controls less like a typical MMO and more like a shooter. You strafe with the A and D keys, not turn, and your mouse movements directly aim your viewpoint. Following the MMO formula, instead of swapping weapons with your hotkeys, they control your character's abilities. The biggest innovation here comes in how the default layout is set for the hotkeys. Eschewing the standard 1-9 keys that are used for weapon selection in shooters, and casting abilities in MMOs, Forge lays out the hotkeys on the keyboard buttons next to the WASD keys, and above the space bar. It takes a little getting used to, and perhaps a little rearranging, but the end result is that all your skills are easier to hit without having to compromise your movement or aim. This approach feels really cool and takes into account the fast pace of the game. MMORPG PvP isn't usually slow, but the pacing in Forge falls a lot closer to something like a Team Fortress or Unreal Tournament, but with the ability spam and cycling of World of Warcraft integrated. The choice in controls also allows for much more varied actions to be performed, such as wall jumping, which can be chained with no specific limit other than space or resource points. This brings me to the next point, stats. Each class has its own stats, including a unique "resource point." It sounds special, but it basically amounts to the mana or stamina for that class. These points substitute ammunition in shooter terms, though instead of governing how much you can use your weapon, they govern your ability usage. Not only do your abilities eat up this resource, but so does sprinting, jumping, and blocking. Resources do recharge at a quick rate, but the drain from skills and actions is fast enough that players still have to be conscious of their skill choices. After sprinting across the map, you may opt to hide in a corner for a bit to recover some resources before entering a fight, for example. It also can shut down popular shooter strategies such as bunny hopping, making the choice between fighting and fleeing more distinct in these cases. The stats extend beyond simply health and resources, with a usual bevy of RPG statistics that vary per character. Unlike an MMO, you don't "level up" to gain any new points to grow these stats. Each character starts with all the abilities, and all the stats that they will ever have. This means two things. Firstly, that skill in gameplay is the major distinction between levels of play. Second, it means that anyone who enjoys the feeling of growing in power will be disappointed. Characters do level up, though the usual association with what happens does not apply here. One of a few things can happen: you can rearrange some statistics, reallocate your armor's points, or you'll unlock something unimplemented yet. While there is no gain of power in Forge, you can make each character into a specialized version of that character by rearranging the points that it has at the start of the game. So if one really wanted to, they could make a Warden that dies more quickly than others, but is faster and deals more damage. The idea of specializing is something that I really enjoy in most games. That's no exception here, and it still helps keep the playing field even across the board, as becoming strong in one area takes away from another. Leveling goes back on one of the major claims in the marketing -- that there is no grind. There's a general pool of experience, earned from performing specific feats in a match, such as capturing flags and surviving for extended combat periods. The experience can then be distributed to a character to level them up. Earning experience takes a good few matches early on, and only continues to take longer with each new level. Add in varying performance each match, 99 listed levels per character, and you have a grind! Of course, this leveling can be ignored. Much like Team Fortress 2, one can hop between characters and still do well, even without having a lot unlocked for each of them. Similarly, it feels like the game emphasizes playing characters as the match calls for them, rather than just sticking to one familiar class each time. This specialization is the only small thing that feels counter to that idea, as it rewards you more for pouring all your experience into one character. Graphically, Forge manages to hold up to the standards of today, despite being an indie game. The environments of the levels vary wildly, from a medieval city square, to a forest outpost with cave network underneath, as well as a couple of massive temple ruins with a valley and single bridge between them. The characters are also intricately designed, with each one having a very distinct look, yet they all look like they fit with everything else in the game. I only counted three maps, not including the tutorial map, but each feels well designed. They are all large, offering multiple paths, and have a nice amount of "verticality" to them, such as underground caverns or high-laid rooftops. The nature of having each map need to apply to all of the modes in Forge shows -- each one has two distinct "bases," but given that all the modes are team-based, it works as a strength. The bases also usually have healing totems in them, which help fight back against spawn camping most of the time. The audio design is good too, once again fitting around a single theme, or a single track in this case. What is there is well composed, but at the same time, there's not too much variety in music or sound effects. I think I heard maybe two or three footstep sounds, and what feels like only one background track. Some skills even seem to use the same sound effects. The game performs well, even on my now aging laptop. The framerate with everything maxed out, running at 1366x768, the maximum resolution my screen supports, remained stable and smooth. The network connection also prove to be sturdy, as I noticed lag maybe once in my initial hours of playtime. Load times were fairly quick for me, taking roughly 20-30 seconds when changing maps. All in all, Forge is quite enjoyable. At the same time, I did find myself struggling to want to continue playing. I'm not sure if maybe it's that the game is more of a shooter than I expected, or how it lacks that progression and stat growth, or if it is just because it's incomplete. When I do play, I enjoy Forge, but I wish that I was playing an MMORPG with the same gameplay setup instead. In the end, unless you're someone heavy into shooters who is looking for something different yet familiar, or are into MMOs for the PvP mainly, then it would be worth waiting for the game that will be "forged" a few months down the road. 
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Disclaimer: Forging may not be featured
Maybe it's just me, but it seems that every once in a while there is a game that comes out that makes a statement about MMORPGs. That the best part of those games is the player-versus-player segments. In 2007, there was the "...

Remembering studios that closed in 2012

Dec 22 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Hudson Soft Founded on May 18, 1973, Hudson Soft has been a force in this industry for so long that it seemed as if it would always be around. By 2003, the company had over 500 employees, with studios in both Tokyo and California. Throughout its history, Hudson designed a vast amount games and characters, including the iconic Bomberman, as well as less-iconic-but-still-identifiable Bonk. This story was one that was drawn out, as last year saw the closure of the offices in California. The final nail would come this year, when even the Tokyo offices would also be shut down. It’s something that is definitely heartbreaking for many a fan of the company's works, as well as people who loved the classic bee logo -- doubly for people in both categories like me. With the closure came the announcement that Konami would be absorbing what was left of Hudson, and retiring the name. So while the cute bee might be put out on the rocker on the front porch, hopefully the properties that bee ran won’t be neglected in the future. THQ & THQ San Diego Yesterday we reported that THQ had filed for bankruptcy. The company may not intend to reduce its workforce size during this period, but it's not a very optimistic situation. In March, the company reported a net loss of $239.9 million for the end of the fiscal year, which was over $100 million greater than the previous year's loss. Shortly after, THQ publicly made a deal with Electronic Arts to sell off its license to the UFC franchise. This directly lead to the closure of the THQ studio located in San Diego, the team behind the UFC games. This is one of those times that just goes to show you how fragile some things are in the industry. One deal sealed the fate of a whole studio, and all the workers there. While this might not be the end for THQ yet, the company's long-term survival is by no means guaranteed. I don't usually root for a publisher, but my heart is out for this one, if only for Saints Row 4. Black Hole Entertainment Black Hole Entertainment might be known for a few different games. It developed a couple of Warhammer games: Mark of Chaos and Black March. The company's most notable recent achievement would be Heroes of Might and Magic 6, which can be claimed as the reason for its downfall. Shortly after filing for bankruptcy, an insider from the company came out with claims that Ubisoft, the publisher they worked with, was at fault. The claims laid down include a lack of accountability from Ubisoft for missed deadlines, consistently sudden changes and feature removal demands by Ubisoft, and Ubisoft restructuring the key development team numerous times. Supposedly, the penalties from the missed deadlines, as well as the losses from money spent on features taken out of the game after completed made it so that an unreasonable 200 million copies needed to be sold before Black Hole would see any profit. Whether these claims are true is unknown, but the fact that the company went bankrupt still remains. Radical Entertainment Radical Entertainment is mainly known for the recent series Prototype, but it has been around since 1991, getting passed between multiple publishing companies through its history. There were layoffs, and many claimed that these layoffs lead to the crash of the Vancouver game design market. It was the oldest studio located in Vancouver, after all. This story happens to have a silver lining, as it appears that the company is still partially intact, functioning as a support studio for Activision Blizzard. Rockstar Vancouver/Barking Dog Rockstar's Vancouver studio is known for Bully and the recently released Max Payne 3. Shortly after the release of Max Payne 3, it was announced that Rockstar would be dissolving the studio to refocus its efforts in Canada on its Toronto-based studio. This story does not bring the saddest news of closure though, unless you're someone complaining about the decline of the Vancouver market. All 35 of the Vancouver employees were offered positions within the Toronto studio. With the additional claim of more positions being created afterwards, hopefully this leads to big new projects coming from those folks. Sony Liverpool/Psygnosis Sony Liverpool, perhaps better known as Psygnosis, is the studio behind the WipEout series. At the start of the year, Sony Worldwide Studios came out with an announcement that they would be restructuring the Liverpool studio. Many of the projects they were working on were halted as a result. It wouldn't be until August when the announcement finally came about the studio's closing. The studio employed roughly 100 people across two development teams. The studio was reportedly working on two projects at the time, each for the next-generation Sony console. While the facility at Liverpool remains functional, it is only to house other Sony Computer Entertainment Europe departments. The status of the two projects, one being a new WipEout, is unknown. BigBig Studios BigBig Studios, I feel, is mainly known for Pursuit Force, one of the better launch games for the PlayStation Portable. The studio was formed from a core team of four former Codemasters employees. Sony acquired the studio in 2007, and assigned them to work exclusively on games for the portable system. That might have been the major component in the downfall of the studio, due to the generally dismal life of the portable device itself. The last game they made would be the recent Vita game, Little Deviants which released to less-than-stellar reviews. The studio would be shut down at the beginning of the year as part of restructuring of Sony's European studios. Zipper Interactive Zipper interactive started out making computer games before it became tied to the franchise that would rule the company for the most of its life span, SOCOM. In 2006, the studio was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment and would go on to make games exclusively for the PlayStation brand.  Not to let SCE Europe have all the fun restructuring studios, SCE Worldwide Studios announced in March that Zipper Interactive would be shut down. The reason given was that it was part of a normal cycle of resource re-alignment within Sony. The studio had roughly 80 employees at the time of closure. Its recent games, SOCOM 4, MAG, and Unit 13 are still going to be supported, according to Sony. Paragon Studios NCSoft is one of the few companies that almost exclusively deals in MMOs. Of course, most of that is acquiring studios that make those kind of games and just putting the monetary system on top of that. There are two things that usually happen. Either the game becomes too bloated to sustain from a financial standpoint, or the people calling the shots shift their focus to something "new." Such is the case with City of Heroes, which was finally shut down this year, much to the outrage and disappointment of its players. The really sad part comes with the liquidation of Paragon Studios, the developers behind the game. As of now, I don’t exactly know what happened to the folks who worked there, whether they were reassigned, or just let go entirely. At the very least, I hope that they are all still out there making games. 38 Studios and Big Huge Games 38 Studios started in 2006, originally named "Green Monster Games." Founded by Baseball star Curt Schilling with a dream to make his own MMO, he seemed to start out the right way, hiring talent that had great experience in the game world. In addition to writer R.A. Salvatore and artist Todd McFarlane, former general manager of games at Comcast Jennifer Maclean, former lead engineer at EA Jon Laff, and a former lead designer of EverQuest Travis McGeathy were in the employ of the studio. To further bolster the prestigious talent base of the company, 38 games acquired studio Big Huge Games, of Rise of Nations fame. The single-player RPG that BHG was working on at the time would be turned into a tie-in to Schilling's MMO. It all looked like it was going the right way, and in 2010, the studio received a $75 million dollar guaranteed loan from the state of Rhode Island to relocate their business to the state, in the hopes of creating new jobs. In February of this year, that RPG would see release in the form of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which received favorable reviews. A missed loan payment just a few months later, and very shortly after, the entire 379 person workforce was laid off, with 38 Studios entering bankruptcy. Schilling and his studio has come under investigation since then for criminal charges, though at the time of writing, no federal charges have been filed against him. A state-level investigation is still underway. As for the folks under Big Huge Games, they're still happily together as Epic Baltimore.
Studio Closures in 2012 photo
Taking a sec to pay respects
This year was great in general for videogames. Beyond the predictable success of games like Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, there were a ton of hits that came out of nowhere, including not just big publisher titles, bu...

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EVE Online update overhauls bounty hunting


In a game this crazy, the patch notes are just insane!
Dec 05
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
EVE Online is one tough cookie to crack. Sure, it's a massively multiplayer online game. It's also one part space-faring strategy game, business simulator, and space-pirate dream fantasy as well. Much of the game is filled wi...
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Preseason Update is live for League of Legends


Apparently, preseason means 'test things on everyone'
Dec 04
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
It wasn’t too long ago that big sweeping changes were being discussed about the future of League of Legends. Well, now it seems like the change has gone live on the main servers. To commemorate this, Riot games has put...
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Upcoming League of Legends preseason update detailed


Competative gaming > eSports
Nov 19
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
It seems like we can't go too long without there being some big news about League of Legends. It can be something small like a record-breaking number of users, or perhaps a map with a new mode, or even a holiday getting the f...
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League of Legends Harrowing event officially begins


So many spiders, not enough fire!
Oct 26
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
A week ago, Riot Games teased its new Halloween event while keeping a good bit of detail secret. Now, not only are more details available, the event has gone live and is in action! There's a new champ out, new harrowing-them...
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New League of Legends Halloween event detailed


Ack, a spider, kill it with fire!
Oct 17
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Riot Games has been very well known for celebrating holiday events in League of Legends with a great deal of flair. This Halloween seems to be no different with the announcement of The Shadow Isles, a newly revealed area of t...
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League of Legends has 32 million monthly active players


Infographic stats are surprisingly unsurprising!
Oct 12
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
League of Legends -- lots of buzz, little stats. That changes today, with the second annual releasing of the League of Legends infographic. Like last year, Riot Games has put out a graphical representation containing numerous...
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Riot announces League of Legends Championship Series


Aug 06
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
It wasn't too long ago when Riot Games was hyping up the season two championship as being the big new thing to begin a strong focus on revolutionizing competitive gaming, or "eSports," into something that no one ha...
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MLG League of Legends Summer Arena wrap-up


Aug 06
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
This past weekend, Major League Gaming hosted a League of Legends competition, featuring a $10,000 prize, winner take all. Two teams, Curse Gaming and Team Black, won qualifying tournaments beforehand for spots in this compet...
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League of Legends Summer Arena broadcast this weekend!


Aug 02
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
League of Legends is that massive choo-choo train pulling free-to-play gaming goodness into the competitive sphere. Multiple circuits have been running across the globe, sponsored from not just the game developers themselve...

Preview: Phantasy Star Online 2

Jul 14 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Phantasy Star Online 2 (PC [Japanese open beta])Developer: SegaPublisher: SegaRelease: TBA 2013 Right off the bat, the graphics stun and amaze. PSO2 is easily one of the best looking free-to-play games I have ever laid eyes on, which is saying quite a lot considering the quality of many recent titles to use that model. The style is very Japanese, which is staple for the series, but it doesn't go all the way in the direction of cell shading, leading to a clean and sharp anime-inspired look. I also really love the level of motion blur added to most of the actions in the game. They make the already amazing animations of the characters look even more authoritative, and fast-paced. Turning into a blur from dodging really adds to that anime -- or just even comic book -- feel of the aesthetics. The sound design is mostly up to the same level as the graphics. The ambient music is dynamic, shifting seamlessly in and out of different phases depending on if you've engaged in combat or not, and it all feels like it fits in the atmosphere of the world as well. Sound effects litter everything, with every little action in the user interface giving off a distinct sound, and combat noises really send home the punch of each attack. Hearing the “woosh” of a well-timed dodge while watching your character turn into a blur to dash away just in time to avoid the attack of a giant rock monkey thing's massive body slam has never felt so satisfying. This leads me away from the aesthetics into the core of the game, which is also the most satisfying part of the whole experience: the gameplay. Phantasy Star Online 2 plays most like the original, though there are lots of remnants from the following spinoff sequels still remaining. There are also a few new things thrown in that, while in a modern sense are nothing special, add new dimensions to the Phantasy Star Online formula. The three classes of the original are maintained. Taking a page out of the portable iterations, you can switch classes at any time, the caveat being that each class has an individual level to them. The main flow of combat also feels very similar to the original PSO. There's an attack button, a special button, and the input order can determine new combos, which you can also customize with the new Technic Arts you learn. Each class plays its own way, with hunters heavily emphasizing strings of specials; rangers using keep away, occasionally popping skills; and forces focusing on powerful and drawn-out magics. The timing aspect is a lot stronger here than in any of the previous Phantasy Star games. Timing your attacks and skills just right will not only pump up the damage of each one, but also make them chain into each other quicker. The same kind of timing also applies to blocking and dodging, all of which really does help the combat feel like it has more oomph than other MMORPGs. Other new aspects include the ability to jump, a full-on free-aiming, third-person, over-the-shoulder mode, as well as a customizable skill tree. The ability to jump may not sound like much, especially in the context of modern gaming, but it really does allow for more varied level geometry, with areas that have varying heights, and flying enemies that don't require using a ranged weapon. Free aiming allows you to more precisely aim for weak points on enemies, and gives you a greater sense of control of your attacks. From what I can tell, there is still plenty of reason to continue using auto aim, which does allow for a wider view of the area, and the easier targeting of enemies, even should you not be doing as much damage with each hit. The skill trees each class has allow you to mold and customize the stats of your characters to make one that is truly yours. It doesn't seem like anything overbearing or demanding, and feels like a fit replacement for just dumping points into stats each time you level up. MAGs, the little buddy robots you feed and evolve, also make their return, though it is a little bit before you can get a license to have your own. I can't say just how deep the MAGs get in this sequel, but so far, they seem to function much in the same way as the ones in the older Phantasy Star games, evolving based on items you feed them. There is also a personal room you are given that can be furnished and customized that has been brought back from Universe. The hub ship is laid out in a very similar fashion to the original, which will make veterans feel right at home when they jump back in. On some level, it started to remind me of PlayStation Home, as in certain spots you can see videos running on televisions in the world. There were also lots of people forming flash dance mobs. Simply put, it was more awesome. There's two floors that you're free to run around and socialize in, with shops on the upper level, and other miscellaneous skill and quest NPCs on the bottom floor, as well as the entrance to the mission fields. The controls all feel solid, and easy to use. There is controller support already implemented, though I opted to use the mouse and keyboard, which also worked extremely well. All combat is done with clicks of the mouse buttons, with movement on wasd, and shift as a weapon-type-specific action (such as blocking on melee weapons). Switching between auto and manual aiming is a simple one-button press, and 1 through 9 offer quick access to items. Lastly, this game has one of the most detailed character creators I have used this side of APB. Not only are there sliders for everything -- or in the case of breasts, a sizable box (!!!) -- but there are modifiers to the sliders that let you emphasize even more specifics. It really makes me feel like I was creating a unique-looking character. On the whole, Phantasy Star Online 2 has blown me away in a heartbeat. It shows a level of polish that I've only seen in maybe one or two other free-to-play games. As an MMORPG, it feels solid enough -- with combat more engaging than the typical fare -- that I think it will actually be able to hold its own in the wake of other big releases like The Secret World and Guild Wars 2. Considering that the game is still in beta, that really speaks something drastic to me. I remember being sad when Sega announced their departure from store-based gaming, instead choosing to focus on the downloadable market. After my own experience with Phantasy Star Online 2, I say that perhaps Sega was on to something. If PSO2 is the mark of things to come from the company, then Sega should have a bright future in this new world of online gaming.
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Sega announced this week that Phantasy Star Online 2 is headed to the United States and Europe come 2013. This is great news for fans of the series, especially for those who thought that the spinoff sequels deviated too much ...

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League of Legends: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow


May 07
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
League of Legends, the fantastic competitive online game brought to you by Riot Games, has been going through a lot of changes over the past couple of months since the last time we posted about the game here on Des...

Revisiting the Kerbal Space Program

May 02 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
To start, there are a bevy of new stock rocket parts sitting around to mess with, such as fuel tanks, rocket boosters, and control units. This helps allow for a much wider array of designs that can be made before going to mods. Each part has distinct statistics to define it; for instance, fuel-efficient thrusters may have lower thrusting power than previous ones. These parts seem like they are geared more towards use for the final phase of the rockets, the one in which you would put landing gear on. And landing gear you will need. Newly added is the first target destination from the Kerbal homeworld of Kerbin, the Mun. Getting to the Mun is no small task, though. Considering how the game is based on real-world physics, a lot of math governs realistic-feeling trajectories and orbits, as well as inertia. Getting off of Kerbin and throwing a ship into orbit took me a good deal of time when I last paid the Kerbals a visit. Mun, not so easy. You can't just shoot right off the planet to reach this destination. You need to plan out trajectories, be very careful of your thrust and speed, and make sure to build a rocket with enough fuel to last the trip, yet also one that isn't so bulky that it will just fall back to Kerbin shortly after getting into orbit. When you do get close to Mun, there's the ever tricky balancing act of controlling your descent, so that the rocket doesn't crash into the surface. The journey doesn't seem like much on the surface, but it's a long and involved process that will probably make you go through a lot of trial and error -- even after watching a bevy of tutorials on how to get there. Luckily, you're also supplied with quite a few extremely useful tools to help you on your mission to Mun, as well as to keep you from having to get an astrophysics degree just to play the game. There's the same Stability Augmentation System units that were included in the build I tried out last year, which help control any fluctuation in flight path that would occur from an unbalanced rocket. There's also a wonderfully made space or orbit view mode. Not only does it show Kerbin, Mun, and any rockets you might have launched at the time, it also shows the trajectories each one is currently on. It even adjusts the trajectory in real time based on whatever thrust you might be applying to the rocket, which helps in knowing how much each boost will alter your path so you don't over- or undershoot anything. There are also markers that show up along the Gyrocompass that help you with relative precise orientation of your rocket's path and of nearby objects or planets that can cause a collision. The game is shaping up well, and ran noticeably better on my computer than the previous build I played. The addition of a target to hit and explore was something I greatly looked forward to, and it was a pleasure to finally get to do. However, there didn't seem to be anything to do on the Mun other than orbit it, land, and take off from it after that. Oh, and you can roll your command pod around on the surface should you separate that from the rest of the rocket before setting down. There are a few issues with the game positioning rocket parts when you make obscenely big rockets, mainly related to putting things off center compared to the rest of the ship. You can check Kerbal Space Program out for yourself at the game's website, and pre-purchase it, netting you the current release build and any updates that would come out after that. It's still fun as hell to watch a massive creation suddenly go out of control into a spectacular explosion, but having a goal like the Mun is pretty good too.
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Last year, I got to take a quick look at the in-progress alpha for an interesting little game called Kerbal Space Program. The game was centered around building a rocket ship -- or, more a kind of rocket-propelled contraption...

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Linden Lab CEO talks future of company and Second Life


Mar 16
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Second Life. The name alone brings about a variety of images, usually ones involving furries and other odd debaucheries. It's really an odd amalgamation: one part chat, one part 3D world, one part faux-game. To me, it's...
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Guild Wars 2 PvP to set worlds against each other


Feb 18
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
I'm always a big fan of when game developers share philosophies and general development methodologies behind the games that they are working on. This week, Mike Ferguson -- of the Guild Wars 2 development team at ArenaNet -- ...

Impressions: Dota 2 beta

Feb 08 // Sterling Aiayla Lyons
DOTA 2 beta (PC)Developer: ValvePublisher: ValveRelease: TBA 2012 Those who follow my writing know that I'm a frequent player of League of Legends -- arguably the most popular current-running MOBA game -- and have covered it around the site frequently. I have never played the original DOTA though, so while not completely blind in walking into the beta for this game, I would not be able to tell you for certain what all of the aspects are maintained. From what I could tell, much was held over from the original. The basic elements of the gameplay remain the same. There are three lanes connecting two bases on opposite corners of the map: one that curves at the top-left corner of the map, one that curves at the bottom-right corner of the map, and the third that crosses the center diagonally. Mindless and automated minions walk along these lanes, attacking the towers and enemy minions as they fight their way into the enemy base. Two teams of five players, each player controlling one hero character of their choosing, help these minions along in an attempt to skew each skirmish to their team's favor. Dota 2 plays like any other MOBA. It retains the same overhead perspective, and controls much in the same way you would expect an RTS game to. It also offers some RPG flavor as your chosen hero can level up during the match, and you can allocate points into attributes and skills. Finally, there's an obligatory shop where you can buy items to equip using gold gained from kills. Despite so many similarities, Dota 2 still has some good things going for it. The graphical fidelity is magnificent. Valve certainly has a solid track record of making detailed-looking games that manage to have a simplicity about them, and this is no different here. There is also a matchmaking feature for automatically setting up teams of people, which works really quickly, and seems to set up fair matches. Should there be someone who quits your team after a match has been made, a helpful rule can save you from wasting time on a loss. If five minutes have passed since said person left, then you can leave as well, and you won't incur a penalty for doing so. Until that point, you could actually deselect your own hero and take over the one that person left behind to try an compensate for the lost player. It's something that I'm sure could be greatly helpful for experienced players if one member of the team has a momentary lapse in their connection, or some other unfortunate circumstance. There is also a fully fleshed out Spectator Mode, in which any number of people can click on an in-progress match to watch it live as it happens. Perhaps the neatest thing about this is the inclusion of an automatic camera director, which will move your screen around to watch all the areas where the action takes place. There is also a spectator-only chat in this mode, allowing you to talk with other viewers watching alongside you. When making a private room for a game, you can disable the ability for people to watch in on you as well. Unfortunately, there are also parts in Dota 2 that don't feel quite so good. While the graphical quality is really nice, the general art style and the color choices feel rather bland -- even borderline generic. There are a lot of dark colors, and even on the side of the map that's supposed to be vibrant, there is drab coloring much in the same vein as first-person shooters from three to four years ago. The character designs also don't ring of any distinct uniqueness to them. Other MOBAs that have drawn inspiration from or pay homage to more famous icons, but here the characters all feel like they could be interchanged with anything from fantasy story-hood. This is also reflected in the lack of naming for each hero. While each character may have a name in their lore, the selection screen opts instead to name them by the closest thing to their "class." This also hurts the gameplay to some extent. Targeting specific enemies can become hard as they clump up randomly with each other in skirmishes. Targeting enemy heroes can be just as bad considering there is little that distinctly makes them stand out from the minions. Sure, there is a floating health bar that is a bit bigger than the ones over the minions, but there are still plenty of times where lots of minions and screen-obscuring special effects make conditions where you could lose track of all the players engaged in the same skirmish. The interfacing also hurts the game as well, taking up way too much of the screen for comfort. Given the level of zoom on the action, this can lead to situations where you end up clicking on your HUD instead of a spot on the playfield in an attempt to run away. The ability to deselect your hero is also problematic, as it makes the basic controls of your character slightly more complicated than they really need to be. Although there is a button you can hit to instantly re-select your character, miss-clicking can screw you over. Thankfully, you can bind the command to select your champion to any button, but the camera command only ever remains pressing the selection button twice. The shop system is something that has also been inelegantly handled. There are multiple shops scattered about the map, each with different items in them. It's a holdover from DOTA that was supposed to help separate the different skill level of players, with more "advanced" players knowing what items are bought from where. It feels unnecessary in Dota 2, when the mini-map will ping which shop has the item you're trying to buy. The organization of the items in the shop is also very lacking. The categories are by the type of item, but this makes finding items that affect specific statistics a hassle, requiring you to read all the tool tips and data for each one as you search. Dota 2 is still a beta product, and it shows. There are a variety of options that are unimplemented, or half-implemented. In private games, you can set up bots to play with, and they feel very reminiscent of how the bots are in Valve's other games. Not many of the characters have bots to play with, and even on the easiest setting, most of them are annoying and hard to play with and against. Bot matches could still become something useful for training and practice, but as they are now, they just feel incomplete.  An option for a tutorial is visible, but remains unimplemented at the moment. There is stat tracking, and you can see what characters you like using, as well as success or failure rates with each. Some form of level tracking is shown, though it's non-functional at the moment, which will probably be used for better skill assessment in matchmaking. All in all, Dota 2 is a much slower affair than some of the other established MOBA games to have come out in the past couple of years. It feels like an odd mix of a modern game and an antiquated game. It's clunky, and I would not say that it feels very friendly to new players looking to start playing a MOBA in its current form. Depending on how some of these unimplemented features turn out, they could make the game significantly more accessible for new people who are unfamiliar with the genre. A number of the problems I've found are things that can be fixed by the time the game goes out of beta. As it stands, Dota 2 feels highly aimed at fans of the original, who would claim that the other popular MOBAs are too simplified or too casual. For the most part, I would say that they will be happy seeking a new home in the sequel. For everyone else, I feel that it is a wait-and-see situation. As for which MOBA game the famous Basshunter will choose as the best, and make a new song about, only time will tell.
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The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre has been fascinating to watch grow. Like many popular independent works, it started from humble beginnings with a little mod for a well-known game. I can only imagine that few could&n...

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Location trailer for The Secret World sets the spooky


Jan 26
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
I've found over the years that lots of MMORPGs release with a good artistic style while at the same time missing out on offering an engrossing atmosphere. Funcom's The Secret World is one that definitely takes an intere...
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New League of Legends patch adds Skynet


Jan 24
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Last week, League of Legends saw a patch that swept the game with a massive change: the removal of the dodge statistic. Beyond this, a character was completely reworked, and a new one was introduced. Though it should be an o...
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Lots of details on new patch for League of Legends


Jan 14
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
The removal of the "Dodge" statistic has been something that Riot Games has been very open about sharing with the community. Today marks the big announcement that the stat removal will be completed with the patch coming next...
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It's not too late to sign up for the Dust 514 closed beta


Jan 02
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
This weekend saw much fun and excitement for many people as they searched to resolve themselves for the new year. Of course, such celebration makes for rather lacking gaming news on most fronts. The December e-newsletter for ...
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Join the League of Legends Snowdown Showdown!


Dec 14
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
[Update: Logins are reenabled now, and all the content is in the store for purchase] This past Tuesday saw the release of a new patch for League of Legends. It had the usual contents, another character, some new skins, and ga...
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Blacklight: Retribution dev diary details customization


Dec 09
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
The Blacklight development team is back with another video to follow their dev diary video series. Before, they just showed off their own excitement, and talked about the technology and art behind the game. This time, they t...
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Terraria patch 1.1 adds amazing!


Dec 01
// Sterling Aiayla Lyons
Terraria released one day in May to the wide world of PC gaming. When it came out, many claimed it to be a two-dimensional version of Minecraft. To an extent, that is correct. The game offers a much more adventure filled sen...

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