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Mortal Kombat vs Street Fighter an Unlikely Wish, Weighs Ed Boon

22 Feb

The possibility of a crossover between Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter certainly sounds alluring, but one which carries stern complications. The Mortal Kombat name is synonymous with blood and gore, set in a dark alternative dimension comprised of terrifying warriors that routinely decapitate foes or tear out limbs at a moment’s notice. Then you have […]

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Overwatch: is it time for a new map?

22 Feb

Better yet, how about something a little different…

Screenshot-3---Capture-The-Rooster

“Clever level design can lift unused heroes to new heights. Where many Overwatch players seem happy to have a new hero once every three months, the arrival of a new map between these vacant periods could comfortably satiate the need for something more.”

Regardless of how good the gunplay is in a first person shooter, the maps that its players play on are an incredibly important part of ensuring the overall experience is enjoyable. Poorly designed locations that lack a cohesive theme, layering or verticality, can often result in play feeling dull and lifeless. Well designed maps not only transform a game, but they often remain memorable for years to come.

Overwatch has 21 maps in total if we’re to also include seasonal variants and Arena. 14 of those are set across Assault, Escort, Hybrid and Control and the last to be released, Oasis, was in January 2017. I’d consider it a relatively large number in total but there’s also an imbalance right now, with Hybrid and Control having four a piece and Assault and Escort only three.

There’s no suggestion that Overwatch has to have an equal number of maps across its game modes, but it’s fair to say that Assault and Escort have a great deal of potential. Although they’re incredibly simple in design, there’s an immediacy to the playstyle they offer that’s moreish. Volskaya is a particular favorite of mine simply because the nuances of its design create a challenging ebb and flow of combat. Its mix of bottle necks, open spaces, flanking routes and mobile platforms – wrapped up in a beautiful snow setting – allow it to stand out.

To be entirely fair to Overwatch, all of its maps are strong. I’d argue however that the lineup of Control maps are the weakest simply because it’s a game mode with so few transitions. Fundamentally, success or failure on all of them revolves entirely around one set area and everything on the outside is largely irrelevant.

The addition of any new map to Overwatch can massively affect the meta and while it might not push change as far as the arrival of a new hero, clever level design can lift unused heroes to new heights. Where many Overwatch players seem happy to have a new hero once every three months, the arrival of a new map between these vacant periods could comfortably satiate the need for something ‘more’.

Screenshot-2---Volskaya-Industries

With Overwatch drawing its map inspirations from the real world, albeit a future one, it did get me thinking about how Blizzard could improve on their existing game modes, but also what map could be next. Considering we’ve already been to most ecosystems and world locations that have a clear theme, there’s inevitably a risk of overlap. It’s when looking back over past first person shooters then, that my favorite ever map sprang to mind: AS-Convoy from Unreal Tournament.

The map in question see players fight across a series of moving vehicles and as it hurtles forwards, players have to undertake a variety of objectives, whether attacking or defending. Objectives include opening the transport panel to create a closer spawn point for the attackers, opening the rear door of the convoy to allow a plane to perform a bombing run or bomb the doors for access to the repair vessel.

With the Convoy constantly in motion, combined with its multiple objectives, there’s an unquestionable excitement to the entire map. There’s not only the risk of falling from the moving cars and the transport carrier, but the dynamics of the map changing in real time – depending on the success of the attackers or defenders – makes for nervy and exciting play.

Even after all these years I’ve still yet to play anything that comes close to AS-Convoy and in many ways it would be amazing to see something similar in Overwatch. With all existing maps largely static, anything with motion to this degree would instantly stand out, especially as an Assault map.

Screenshot-1---Oasis

Choosing a setting for something of this kind would be rather difficult, but I did wonder whether the Orient Express could be a possibility. Although Overwatch is set some time in 2070, I suspect retention of key landmarks is very much the norm and considering Hollywood and Route 66 still exist, it seems sensible to suggest the Orient Express – an iconic train – absolutely could.

“Dynamic maps that change direction based on the success of the attacking or defending team could drastically alter the design approach to Assault and Escort, to the point where they’d not only have more originality, but potentially greater longevity.”

My thought surrounding the train and this map is that it would be more akin to the Snowpiercer but on a much grander, futuristic scale. Glass carriages, multiple floors, wide balconies and open decks as well as a variety of holds would make up the train. These layers would add verticality, close quarter play and variety. Not only this, but as the train sped along – levitating above the rails below – hover vehicles would pursue the train and regularly change formations. These would provide hazards for the player but would also grant further width to the map as players would be able to freely move across them.

I suspect an initial reservation may be the prospect of repeated deaths for anyone who lacks shore footing when playing from a first person perspective, but this would largely be balanced by the fact everyone would spawn on solid ground and access to the Orient Express would be guaranteed. Using the flanking routes on the outside of the train (technically the surrounding vehicles) would be high risk, high reward paths. Despite these risks, there would still be some reliable paths to pass over.

The lore surrounding the map would see the differing Overwatch factions all attempting to intercept and/or protect a dignitary on board the train. Widowmaker would be attempting to assassinate, while heroes such as Winston and Tracer would be hoping to extract the target. Roadhog and Junkrat would simply be along for the gold bullion in the hold.

overwatch_year_of_the_rooster (23)

In many ways the map would play out like the multi-stages offered by those in Brink or Powerstone 2. It would undoubtedly be technical and no doubt a challenge for Blizzard to implement something of this scale, but many of the objectives of the map would be Capture Points that resulted in a significant change to the map.

If Blizzard is to continue as it is by simply implementing fixed location maps of a traditional nature, irrespective of game mode, I suspect things may get stale quickly and the desire from players to have more maps delivered at pace would grow louder. Ensuring that new maps retain their simplicity, but with greater layers to their delivery (such as my hopes above), would not only keep things interesting, but add life to game modes that are already growing stale.

The reaction to Capture the Rooster, another traditional game mode that uses existing maps, perfectly highlights the player base’s desire for something new. Dynamic maps that change direction based on the success of the attacking or defending team could drastically alter the design approach to Assault and Escort, to the point where they’d not only have more originality, but potentially greater longevity. They effectively become an evolving game tug of war where the maps are constantly changing: to me, that sounds a very good thing.

What would you like to see from new Overwatch maps? Would you like more dynamic alternatives? Are you happy with what we already have, as long as a new setting is provided? Let me know.

From EA Sports to EA Esports; Peter Moore Talks Strategy for Creating an Audience

21 Feb

The concept of competitive gaming isn’t something new for Electronic Arts, having hosted various tournaments for its FIFA franchise in the past decade. However, it wasn’t until 2015 when the company established a separate Competitive Gaming Division under the leadership of Peter Moore that would focus solely on esports. As a publishing giant, one would […]

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Virtus.pro Crushes the Counter-Strike Competition at DreamHack Masters

21 Feb

Over the weekend, Virtus.pro earned its first grand Counter-Strike title of the year by securing DreamHack Masters Las Vegas in spectacular fashion. The win is a testament to the amount of hard work put in by the team after experiencing the worst struggles in its history. About the same time last year, the Polish squad […]

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Recall Animations Inbound for Older League of Legends Champion

21 Feb

During the early years of League of Legends, every champion in the game featured the same bland recall animation. As the roster expanded to include new additions, along with new skins to boast, Riot Games made it customary to add special unique recall animations to all. However, this left at least 74 champions outdated. Despite […]

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Rainbow Six Siege Patch Notes Are Full of Fixes and Improvements

21 Feb

Ubisoft has revealed the patch notes for the new Rainbow Six Siege update which is scheduled to arrive later today across all platforms. Filled to the brim with fixes, Patch 2.1.1 addresses a ton of issues relating to gameplay, modes, operators, levels, and user-interface. A previously reported bug where players would sometimes spawn with the […]

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New Mod Reduces the Infernal Loading Times of Street Fighter V

20 Feb

A member of the fighting game community has managed to tackle an annoying issue with Street Fighter V which has seemingly eluded Capcom all this time. To say that the game’s loading times are long would be an understatement. Booting the game is a journey in itself, and finally transitioning into an online match is […]

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SKT Sparks Ire by Going After League of Legends Content Creators

18 Feb

Several League of Legends content creators on YouTube have reportedly received take-down notices from SK Telecom T1 on the basis of copyright infringement. According to a recent thread on Reddit, the management is not happy with montages and other gameplay-related videos featuring their players. It should be noted that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) […]

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SKT Sparks Ire by Going After League of Legends Content Creators

18 Feb

Several League of Legends content creators on YouTube have reportedly received take-down notices from SK Telecom T1 on the basis of copyright infringement. According to a recent thread on Reddit, the management is not happy with montages and other gameplay-related videos featuring their players. It should be noted that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) […]

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Major Aatrox Changes Revealed for League of Legends, Unique Items for Supports

18 Feb

Significant changes for Aatrox are scheduled to hit the League of Legends Public Beta Environment (PBE) early next week, Riot Games confirmed. Posting on the official boards, lead gameplay designer Riot Meddler stated that the upcoming update for the Darkin Blade is aimed at putting him “into a better place until we [Riot Games] can […]

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Overwatch Sales Reach New Milestone in China

17 Feb

Last year, just over two months after release, Overwatch became the fastest selling PC game in China. This year, it has achieved a new milestone. According to analyst Daniel Ahmad from Niko Partners, Overwatch has successfully sold over five million copies in the country since release. The figure takes into account sales conducted through both […]

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Valve Enlists AI to Detect Counter-Strike Cheaters

17 Feb

Valve believes that the only efficient way to curb the menace of Counter-Strike cheaters is to have a machine do it for you. Responding to a thread on Reddit a couple of days back, the developer explained why it cannot simply hard-code the system to detect cheaters on sight. According to Valve, doing so would […]

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“Year of the Mammoth” Holds Exciting Changes for Hearthstone

17 Feb

Blizzard has outlined its plans for Hearthstone this year, revealing a ton of new changes that will keep the free-to-play card game fresh and exciting. The “Year of the Mammoth” will officially commence with the upcoming first expansion pack of 2017, which is rumored to be called Lost Secrets of Un’Goro. At the same time, […]

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Scripting Accusation Unearths Bug in League of Legends

16 Feb

Internet detectives worked themselves into a frenzy yesterday when Gosu, a popular League of Legends streamer, was accused of scripting in the game. The North American player is known for his mastery of Marksmen, particularly of Vayne. What he is not known for is cheating in League of Legends. Scripting is the injection of illegal […]

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New Support Champion Confirmed for League of Legends

16 Feb

A new champion scheduled to release this year for League of Legends will be a traditional support, Riot Games revealed. Responding to a thread on the official forums, lead gameplay designer Riot Meddler confirmed that the upcoming support champion will focus on “helping allies and hindering enemies”. Taking into account the current meta where several […]

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Overwatch Season 4 Begins Soon

16 Feb

The current ranked season of Overwatch is scheduled to conclude later this month, giving the community less than two weeks to grind any further milestones. Posting on the official forums, Blizzard announced that season three is scheduled to end on February 21. The new season will then commence just a week after on February 28, […]

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Sejuani Changes Teased for League of Legends Tank Update

16 Feb

Riot Games has begun talking about the upcoming League of Legends Tank Update and Sejuani is the first champion to receive a complete thematic overhaul. The Winter’s Wrath is facing an identity crisis at present. Despite being a barbarian war-leader who rides a boar into battle, the current form of Sejuani fails to depict that […]

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Brazilian Soccer Star Neymar Rumored for League of Legends Debut

15 Feb

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is reportedly preparing to enter the competitive world of League of Legends by buying his own team for representation. According to both Veja and ESPN, Neymar is looking forward to following the footsteps of soccer legend Ronaldo who recently acquired 50 percent of controlling interest in CNB, a Brazilian esports […]

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Attend EU LCS and Earn League of Legends Swag

15 Feb

There are now more incentives than ever for League of Legends fans to attend the European League Championships Series (EU LCS) in person. It all begins by obtaining a rewards card system at the entrance of the studio. Following that, a single stamp can be earned on every visit to the EU LCS. Collect enough […]

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New Hearthstone Ranked Floors Bring Safe Havens for Anxious Players

15 Feb

A highly requested feature will be rolled out for the competitive Hearthstone ranked ladder later this month, Blizzard announced. In its efforts to refine the Ranked Play experience, the developer is taking steps to curb or at lease reduce the amount of anxiety that players face while climbing the many rungs of the competitive ladder. […]

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