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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.

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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.

Civilization 6 is adding Australia: but first, grab the series in this Humble Bundle

21 Feb

If you’re interested in Civilization, now’s the perfect time to jump into the beloved strategy series.

civilizationvi_outback_station

An Australian contingent has just been announced for Civilzation 6, which will be led by former Prime Minister John Curtain (we suppose Bob Hawke was busy). They’ll be able to build outback stations, and will have a unique ‘digger’ unit, based on the country’s forces from World Wars 1 and 2.

They might not sound like the most exciting country, but as an Australian myself…we really know how to build a big outback station.

The same update will add Steam Workshop support, additional modding tools, and multiplayer team functionality as well.

If you’re not caught up on the Civilization series, though, now is a perfect time to get into it through the latest Humble Bundle. The Humble Civilization Bundle offers up several titles and expansions for very little money.

Pay $1 to unlock the complete editions of Civilization 3 and 4. Pay over the average (currently $7.31) to unlock Civ 5, all its DLC, and coupons for 20% off Civ 6’s standard and deluxe editions. Splurge out on the $15 pack, and you’ll get the spare-faring Civilization: Beyond Earth, and two expansion packs.

The Humble Bundle deal runs for two weeks. No date has been announced for Australia’s addition to Civilzation 6 yet.

A playthrough of puzzle game Rime will average ten hours – give or take

21 Feb

Puzzle game Rime won’t take weeks to complete. In fact, it could take less than half a day.

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Speaking with WCCF Tech, lead designer Kevin Sarda said depending on the player, it could take anywhere from eight to twelve hours complete.

Ten seems to be the standard, though.

“It will largely depend on each player’s play style and how he or she would like to immerse into the exploration of the island and unlocking all the secrets it keeps,” said Sarda (thanks, Nintendo Life).

“If if you really want to take your time and collect all the secrets, you might well end up in the 8-10 hours range, but it could take a couple hours fewer or a couple hours more.”

The game ending is “well defined,” but Sarda also said it’s possible for some to have missed several secrets and collectibles the first time out. These aren’t items added in order to “artificially increase” the core game, but will instead offer a “deeper understanding” to the story.

Since it is more or less around 10 hours long, which is plenty long for a puzzle game, according to Alex, it may be worth giving it another go after you finish, then.

Announced at gamescom 2013, Rime was originally a PlayStation 4 exclusive, but after the publishing deal with Sony fell through back in March 2016, the game was picked up by Six Foot publishing arm Grey Box for multiple platforms.

Rime is set for release in May on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.

Overwatch in-universe “interview” with robotics genius Efi Oladele may provide hints to next hero

21 Feb

If Doomfist isn’t the next Overwatch hero, maybe 11-year-old robotics prodigy Efi Oladele can provide us with some sort of hint.

overwatch_efi

In the latest blog entry on the Overwatch website, an in-universe interview with Numbani native Efi Oladele has been posted.

According to the post (thanks PC Gamer), Efi Oladele won a genius grant from the Adawe Foundation for her work in artificial intelligence and robotics.

In the interview, Efi discusses how she became obsessed with creating small drones after receiving her first robotics kit. In the future, her goal is to “build something that can keep us safe, like the new OR15,” and as far as how she’s going to use the grant money, “it’s secret for now,” but she is “taking a trip to celebrate” her achievement first. And it will be her first time flying. We can only assume she will fly somewhere outside if the current Numbani locations in the game, but you never know with Blizzard.

Also, what is the OR15? Speculation is running all over the place on that end, but one interesting theory pointed out by reddit user andygb4 is rather intriguing.

As he points out, the third Doomfist in the poster which was shown in the original Overwatch cinematic has Omnic text underneath instead of the normal font on the other two.

“Maybe she builds a robot that eventually becomes Doomfist?,” he suggests.

doomfist_overwatch

If you aren’t familiar with Overwtach lore, an Omnic is a type of robot with artificial intelligence – both are subjects Efi seems to have plenty of knowledge on. Omnics were “originally designed and built by humans,” mostly notably the Omnica Corporation, to serve the economy. Eventually, the Omnic Crisis occurred when the machines became infected by God Programs, developed militarized Omnics of themselves and started attacking humans (see Overwatch wiki link above).

Numbani, where Efi lives, is one of the few places in the Overwatch universe where omnics and humans live in harmony and equality. Formed after the Omnic Crisis, it’s “one of the world’s greatest and most technologically advanced cities.” This is also where as part the Unity Day festivities, the gauntlet of Doomfist is exhibited at the Numbani Heritage Museum.

So. Even though the 24th hero coming to Overwatch is apparently not Doomfist, unless Blizzard is messing with us, it’s quite possible Efi may have something to do with his story, or will possibly introduce some sort of new Omnic hero into the game. Or, she could transform into a hero or even be the hero. Only Blizzard knows.

We’re just speculating on all of this obviously. Hopefully, we’ll know more soon.

Doomfist may not be the next Overwatch hero, teases game director

20 Feb

The 24th Overwatch hero is not who thought they would be.

overwatch_doomfist_payload

Since Sombra’s release, and for some time after Overwatch launched, the game contained many hints that Doomfist – a character referenced in CG videos and in-game lore – is going to be the next hero.

These teases intensified with the most recent PTR patch which included a big change to the payload model on Numbani. Said payload was transporting Doomfist’s gauntlet, and the updated files revealed the protective glass was about to be broken.

The Overwatch community is very convinced, then, Doomfist is the game’s next hero. Who else is it going to be? Well, someone else, apparently. According to game director Jeff Kaplan, the game’s 24th hero is not who we think he is.

Kaplan said this on the official forums, but sadly did not elaborate further. With that in mind, the director did not explicitly mention Doomfist in his reply. Still, it’s clear to see who he was talking about here, if a bit surprising.

Unless the next Overwatch hero is a ways off, Blizzard should probably start dropping hints about their identity pretty soon.

Terraria has sold 20.5 million copies since its release in 2011

18 Feb

Since its release in May 2011, Terraria has sold 20.5 million copies, according to developer Re-Logic.

20mil-AnnounceForumSize

The milestone was reached by the end of 2016, meaning over 4.1 million copies of Terraria have been sold each year for the past five years. 8.3 million units were sold within the last 18 months on PC since update 1.3 launched in June 2015.

Along with unit sales figure, (thanks, PCgamesN) the studio also shared more stats on the 2D sandbox adventure since launch day:

Launch (May 2011)

  • PC only
  • Over 250 Items
  • Six NPCs (seven counting the old man)
  • 20 Enemies
  • Three Bosses
  • Ten Biomes
  • Game “ended” with the Dungeon, explorable upon defeating the final boss of the game at the time.

Present

  • Available on: PC/Mac/Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, Vita, PS4, 3DS, Wii U, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Amazon mobile.
  • Over 3,800 Items
  • 25 NPCs (26 if, again, you count the old man)
  • Over 350 Enemies
  • 16 Bosses (plus nine mini-bosses)
  • 27 Biomes (Plus a number of “mini-biomes” such as Pyramids or Living Trees)
  • Optional “Events” (The Moons, Invasions, etc)
  • Game “ends” with Moonlord, though optional content remains
  • Expert Mode
  • Numerous Quality of Life Improvements
  • More planned

The developers also promised there are more “tidbits” they aren’t quite ready to share yet, including and update on the status of Otherworld.

Also, update 1.3 for consoles is “just around the corner,” according to the studio with the mobile version releasing afterward.

Re-Logic also described Terraria as a franchise with “so much life left in it,” in the post, and said it “cannot wait to share those plans in the months and years to come.”

Overwatch’s Tracer is getting her own, adorable Nendoroid

16 Feb

Yep, Tracer from Overwatch looks pretty cute in chibi form.

Overwatch‘s Tracer is one of the most recognisable heroes today. She’s on the game’s cover, and her distinct British accent and style is hard to miss.

The creators of Nendoroids, Good Smile Company, have announced a new figure for Tracer. Nendoroids are little toys that give famous characters chibi looks and allow you to set different poses for them. They’re palm-sized, and this one comes with customisable parts.

These include interchangeable bent legs, hair style options, and her pulse pistols. You can basically create some of Tracer’s in-game poses using the figure, you can even have her pose without the guns. The pulse bomb is also included.

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“The Nendoroid is fully articulated, allowing her to be posed in many different ways, and has been carefully sculpted and tuned to ensure that the joints do not stand out, keeping Tracer’s unique appearance intact,” reads the product description.

Pre-orders will be open starting February 15 from 9am JST, 4pm PT, 12am GMT all the way through March 30 at 12am JST, 7am PT, 3pm GMT. You can order yours through the official store for ¥4,900 ($43).

The Tracer Nendoroid is scheduled to release this August.

Overwatch Competitive Play Season 3 ends next week, here are your rewards

16 Feb

We now have an end date for this season of Overwatch Competitive Play, and a few details about rewards.

overwatch_sombra_blizzcon_2016_screens_new-11

Blizzard has announced that Overwatch‘s third season of Competitive Play will come to an end at 4pm PT on February 21 (12am GMT February 22). As expected, Season 4 is set to kick off a week later, on February 28 at the same time.

In a blog post, the developer confirmed that anyone who finished their placement matches during Season 3 is eligible to get a special spray and player icon.

These will be given out at the end of the season, and you’ll see them on your next login. If you’re among the top 500 players on your platform in your region, you’ll be getting an extra icon and an animated spray to go along with the standard rewards.

Season 4 may bring some changes based on feedback, and Blizzard will reveal more in the coming days. For now, you can take a look at Season 3’s Skill Rating to Competitive Point breakdown below:

  • SR 1-1499 (Bronze): 100 CP
  • SR 1500-1999 (Silver): 200 CP
  • SR 2000-2499 (Gold): 400 CP
  • SR 2500-2999 (Platinum): 800 CP
  • SR 3000-3499 (Diamond): 1200 CP
  • SR 3500-3999 (Master): 2000 CP
  • SR 4000-5000 (Grandmaster): 3000 CP

Blizzard is making big changes to combat Overwatch hacking in Korea

15 Feb

Blizzard has revealed a number of new ways through which the developer intends to tackle the Overwatch hacking problem in Korea.

overwatch_year_of_the_rooster (17)

Overwatch is very big in Korea. With a PC and eSports-focused country like that, you’re naturally going to have cases of players trying to use any advantage they can get, even through cheating.

The issue is so widespread in Korea because of the prevalence of cyber cafes (PC Bangs), which is where a large number of Overwatch players game. In a statement on the Korean Battle.net (later translated to English), the studio outlined a multi-prong approach.

First, Blizzard said it’s keeping up with the latest cheats and hacks, implementing back-end changes that are sometimes unannounced, in order to combat them. This extends to taking action against developers of said hacks.

“It’s critical for us to be able to maintain the integrity of our games, and for that reason, we will always seek to stop the development and distribution of these programs through whatever means we can—including taking legal actions against developers and distributors when necessary,” reads the post.

In the short term, Blizzard will be cracking down on inappropriate use of VPNs by cheaters, though the post did not outline how.

Finally, and perhaps the most crucial of all, is that starting February 17, certain Battle.net account policy changes will be be made so that only players who own a copy of the game in their Battle.net account home region can play. This particular policy will also carry over to Diablo 3 and StarCraft 2 later.

Put simply, Battle.net accounts registered outside of Korea will not be able to play game unless they have a license appropriate for that region. Because Korean Battle.net accounts are connected to social security numbers, cheaters often just create new EU and NA-based accounts and use them to hack.

“This approach will help us ensure we’re providing the best possible game experience for our community, while at the same time allowing us to address any unintended side-effects that occurred from allowing non-Korean Battle.net accounts without game licenses to access Korean IGR services,” Blizzard added.

Despite what you may feel, Blizzard says Overwatch loot box drop rates haven’t changed

15 Feb

Loot boxes in Overwatch’s most recent Year of the Rooster event did not have worse odds for skin drops, even if it feels like they have.

overwatch_year_of_the_rooster (13)

Overwatch developer Blizzard has responded directly to player concerns that the game’s loot boxes have had their drop rates changed.

We don’t mean how often they drop, of course, since you’re guaranteed one every time you level up. Rather, it’s the content of these boxes that appears to have been skewing more towards sprays and other fluff that isn’t skins.

A number of players brought up the issue on Battle.net forums, after having opened a number of loot boxes from the most recent Year of the Rooster event. According to them, skin drops used to happen more often.

Game director Jeff Kaplan responded to these concerns by simply stating that drop rates for Summer Games, Halloween Terror, Winter Wonderland, and Year of the Rooster are all the same.

Since odds are not publicly available, we’ll just have to take Kaplan’s word for it.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild getting a day one season pass

14 Feb

The first ever downloadable content for a mainline Legend of Zelda game is in development for Breath of the Wild.

Nintendo has announced that it’s begun working on the first DLC for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, to be released later this year. This is the first add-on of its kind for a mainline Zelda game.

What’s more, the publisher announced an expansion pass, priced $20/£18/€20. The pass will be available at launch and it gets you access to two add-ons. Anytime you buy the pass, you’ll receive three treasure chests. The chests will appear in the game’s Great Plateau area.

One of these chests will contain a shirt with a Nintendo Switch logo for Link – exclusive to owners of the pass. As for the rest, expect them to contain “useful items,” according to Nintendo.

Neither of the DLCs were named, but Nintendo confirmed the first will launch this summer. The add-on will bring a new hard mode, a Cave of Trials challenge, and a new feature for the in-game map that hasn’t been detailed.

The second is primed for a holiday 2017 launch. It’s said to bring a new dungeon and a new “original story.”

Finally, Nintendo confirmed that the add-ons will not be available for purchase separately, but the expansion pass itself will be available on both the Switch and Wii U.

Watch the video above for a message from Eiji Aonuma about the new pass.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is out March 3 on Switch, and Wii U,

Switch exclusive Ultra Street Fighter 2 has a first-person mode

14 Feb

Switch gamers can play Street Fighter 2 as (probably) never before.

ultra_street_fighter_2_switch_box_art

As spotted by some eagle-eyed fans in the Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers reveal trailer, the new Switch exclusive version of Capcom’s legendary versus brawler includes a first-person mode.

Nintendo Everything harvested this intel from a photo of the Ultra Street Fighter 2’s box, now that Switch images are starting to come out of Japan.

According to the site’s translation, the new mode is designed for JoyCon controllers. It’s called “Unleash! Hadoken”, where the Japanese character for “do” has been placed with the English letters, presumably as a play on the fact that a first-person, motion-controlled mode is more like really “doing” what the character is.

There’s a screenshot on the box if you really squint, and you can see multiple enemies and a timer. That suggests it won’t just be a perspective twist on normal Ultra Street Fighter 2 gameplay but something quite different. Given the name, fireballs are likely to be involved.

Ultra Street Fighter 2 has not been dated beyond 2017. Look for it sometime after switch launches in early March.

One other major point of interest from the Ultra Street Fighter 2 Switch box is that there’ll be an art gallery with over 250 images. Nice.

Overwatch: what can be done to balance the 13 rarely picked heroes?

13 Feb

No one wants to be left on the sidelines.

Overwatch_Sombra

“Despite the meta fluctuating since launch, the core lineup has seldom shifted. Although the introduction of Ana has displaced Mercy into the realms of obscurity, there are still 8 Heroes who are rarely chosen competitively.”

Last week I wrote about the delivery of new Heroes to Overwatch. It generated a great deal of discussion, with a relatively even split between those who wanted more, and those who were happy with the current delivery rate. What was evident however was the general consensus that many of the existing Overwatch Heroes not only needed improvements to their kit, but some who have remained “must have” for so long, they may need rebalancing.

Having played Overwatch since it opened its doors, parting with my cash like many millions of others, it has been apparent from day one that certain Heroes were vastly superior to their counterparts. While there have been ups and downs as Blizzard find their feet for balancing, Heroes such as Reindhart, Lucio, Winston, Zarya, Roadhog and Tracer have remained constant. In total, 12 of the existing roster have always done exceptionally well and whether played competitively or casually, they’ve rarely strayed far from player pick lists.

Despite the meta fluctuating since launch, with team compositions often changing (double Winston, Fan the Hammer McCree as a few examples) the core lineup has seldom shifted. Although the introduction of Ana has displaced Mercy into the realms of obscurity, there are still 8 Heroes who are rarely chosen competitively and 5 who have a usage rate above 5 percent, but below 20 percent.

overwatch_symmetra

Knuckling down on the statistics, courtesy of Overbuff, the likes of D.Va, McCree and Pharah are chosen only 16 percent and 15 percent of the time, while Mercy and Reaper are 5 percent and 6 percent respectively. Heroes such as Sombra, Bastion and Junkrat have pick-rates of less than 1 percent.

The fact 13 of 23 Heroes rarely see competitive play is worrying, especially when you consider 8 of those 13 have always been considered poor. Not only that, but relatively new arrivals to the “5 Percent Usage Club” are D.Va and McCree, two Heroes who were hit with the dreaded nerf bat.

While it’s fair to say the meta of Overwatch is in flux right now, especially after the changes to Ana’s Biotic Grenade and the rebalancing of D.Va, it remains highly unlikely to think that those Heroes who were already picked less than 5 percent of the time will suddenly find their fortunes revised. I suspect it will simply see Heroes once considered strong (McCree, Pharah and Reaper) rising ever so slightly instead.

My question then: what can Blizzard do to help those at the bottom?

overwatch_year_of_the_rooster (24)

I would argue that there is only so much any developer can do to aid a Hero within the constraints of its kit. If a kit is poorly designed or considered lacklustre in relation to its proposed role or the pace of the game itself, tinkering with its numerical values will do little. It may stem short term complaints, but it will eventually stumble in the long term. On that basis, reworking a Hero’s kit might seem an obvious solution to the problem but it’s evident, certainly where Symmetra is concerned, that this isn’t always the case.

Having received a variety of changes to her kit in December, not only has it had little impact on her competitive selection, but she still remains poor. Her static nature of play, the superiority of Ana and Lucio, combined with the shielding of Reinhardt, render her largely redundant.

“A major part of the difficulty Overwatch faces is that when designing and releasing Heroes, Blizzard has attempted to find so many unique roles across its existing roster that kits are diluted as a result.”

She remains redundant not just because of her kit or that of her peers, but because of the role Blizzard have attempted to have her fill. While she is considered Support, her kit could easily be interpreted as defensive, certainly when you factor in her stationary Sentry Turrets, Teleporter and her Photon Barrier. On that basis, it’s also interesting to find that every Hero also suffering a selection crisis are categorized as Defence, with Bastion, Hanzo, Junkrat, Mei, Torbjorn and Widowmaker falling into this area.

overwatch_ps4_3 (Copy)

I must stress at this point that I’m fully aware that many players do in fact play these Heroes; I’m certainly guilty. I rarely play anything other than Mei and Junkrat, simply because I enjoy their kits so much. I’m acutely aware however that for general play it’s largely acceptable, but for ranked? Not so much. I feel I’d be doing my team a great disservice and doing more harm than good selecting, say, Hanzo, or Mei, when I could simply choose Soldier 76 or Reinhart.

Unfortunately for Blizzard, adjusting numbers or reworking kits isn’t a guaranteed solution: there’s every potential for it to do more harm than good. Were Torbjorn to have his kit revised within its existing framework we’d be back to square one of players complaining about an AI lead Hero being carried by a turret that happens to do all the lifting. To digress and for what it’s worth, I’ve always felt Torbjorn should have followed the Team Fortress 2 Gunslinger approach.

Is there a solution, besides nerfing the most popular Heroes? I think so.

A major part of the difficulty Overwatch faces is that when designing and releasing Heroes, Blizzard has attempted to find so many unique roles across its existing roster that kits are diluted as a result. For all intents and purposes, Widowmaker and Hanzo could have comfortably had their kits merged while the same could be said for Torbjorn, Symmetra and Bastion. I appreciate this would have resulted in the loss of some wonderful characters, but they could have – arguably – been stronger for it. Those character designs could have then been retooled at a later date.

overwatch_fi_6

Were Torbjorn able to erect a barricade (similar to what Symmetra projects), while offering six small turrets and an “armor” generator, he’d likely be in a much better position. Especially if these abilities were further bolstered by his Molten Core. The exact same could be said for Widowmaker, who could easily absorb Hanzo’s Wall Climbing, Sonic Arrow and Scatter Arrow (the latter two as alternative fire modes on her Widow’s Kiss).

You’re probably thinking at this point: “What you’re suggesting goes completely against your article where you wanted more Heroes, more often!” and while I do believe Overwatch would benefit from more Heroes, not less, Heroes need an identity that suits all areas of the game. Many Heroes have been placed into such niche roles, in a game where the best defence is offence, that they’ve been relegated to the sidelines.

When a Hero is at the design stage, the first question Blizzard should be asking themselves is whether or not that Hero is not only unique, but brings enough to the table to compete against those already in the roster. I’ve no doubt that they do (they’re a brilliant studio) but even on paper, Ana was always going to oust Mercy, whereas Sombra would clearly struggle to wrestle a place from Tracer.

overwatch_doomfist_payload

“The arrival of Doomfist will likely see another tank enter the roster. If it is a tank, he needs to squeeze between the mobility and AOE shielding of Winston, the pure sponge of Reinhardt and the aggression of Roadhog.”

If Overwatch is to rescue its Heroes, a culmination of buffs and reworks is the only answer but one that still, potentially, leaves them undesirable. Barring total reworks (which no Hero has yet received) the easiest solution is to simply ensure a Hero “fits” into the game right from the get-go, across all game modes.

The arrival of Doomfist within the next few weeks (months?) will likely see another tank enter the roster. If it is a tank, he needs to squeeze between the mobility and AOE shielding of Winston, the pure sponge of Reinhardt and the aggression of Roadhog. There’s undoubtedly design space for it and I’m hoping for a kit something not too dissimilar to Gigantic’s Margrave. I’m just hoping he arrives in a better position than Sombra, so we won’t have yet another Hero in need of intervention.

What are your thoughts on the Hero balance of Overwatch? Does it bother you that some aren’t seen as competitively viable? Do you think some defence Heroes are too niche? Do you find balance largely irrelevant as long as a Hero is fun? Let us know.

The Legend of Zelda is getting a fancy art book this month, and here’s a trailer for that

13 Feb

The Legend of Zelda: The Art Book: The Trailer. Sure, why not, I wasn’t doing anything else.

The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts is a forthcoming art book from Dark Horse promising 424 pages of illustrations, some of which have never been released to the public before.

Drawing on the full 30 year history of the franchise – including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Arts & Artifacts features “rare promotional pieces, game box art, instruction booklet illustrations, official character illustrations, sprite art” and interviews with a number of artists who have contributed to The Legend of Zelda over the years.

Launching February 21, The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts will be available in digital format or in a fancy, oversize-format (9″x12″) hardcover for $40.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Link’s surname is also Link, you know, same as Mario

10 Feb

Shigeru Miyamoto answers a very critical question about The Legend of Zelda’s hero.

Link, sometimes referred to as The Hero of Time, has been the protagonist of The Legend of Zelda games since the start. Zelda: Breath of the Wild brings back our ferocious hero, of course, and it’s the perfect time to find out one more detail about him.

The latest rapid-fire questions episode from Game Informer sees Shigeru Miyamoto and Breath of the Wild producer Eiji Aonuma sitting down to answer 51 questions, as part of the magazine’s latest cover story.

Among the many amusing questions and interesting answers said on the show, one in particular about Link’s surname stood out. According to Miyamoto, Link’s surname is Link. So, he’s called Link Link.

Miyamoto even joked that it’s the same with Mario (remember that Super Mario Bros. scene?). Things are this way, though, because Link is actually not human, so maybe he doesn’t need to follow the same naming conventions humans do.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is out March 3 worldwide on Switch and Wii U.

Roadhog and Winston get new balance changes in Overwatch PTR update

10 Feb

A couple of small Overwatch balance changes before the week ends.

Control_Winston (Copy)

Blizzard is making some small adjustments to Overwatch heroes Roadhog and Winston.

Following the release of a big PTR update earlier this week, the studio announced a couple of other balance changes. Roadhog’s Scrap Gun will now be more effective, thanks to a decrease in spread by 20 percent.

To balance things out, his hook will now pull targets to a location 3.5 meters away from him, instead of 2 meters. The hook’s cooldown was also increased from six to eight seconds. Blizzard said these changes will reduce the effectiveness of his hook, but make his weapon more powerful when not using the hook.

As for Winston, his critical hit volume has been reduced by 15 percent. “Winston’s head hit volume was just abnormally big, making him take more damage than he otherwise should. This change brings it more in line with other heroes,” principal designer Geoff Goodman wrote.

The update containing these changes will arrive soon in the PTR.

Overwatch’s Lucio detailed for Heroes of the Storm, and he sounds mega helpful

10 Feb

Overwatch characters seem to translate perfectly to MOBAs, huh?

Overwatch support character Lucio is the third character to jump to Heroes of the Storm, and Blizzard has today provided details of just how that will work.

Just like in Overwatch, Lucio is a highly mobile support hero in Heroes of the Storm, who constantly heals or buffs the movement speed of nearby allies.

Lucio can attack while moving, making him a difficult target for some Heroes of the Storm characters to pin down, and he never needs to reload. Again, as in Overwatch, he has the ability to wall ride, which both speeds him up and allows him to pass through units, thanks to his passive trait. That’s gonna be handy for bypassing trouble – or causing your own in pincer attacks.

Lucio’s first ability in Heroes of the Storm is Soundwave, which allows him to damage and knock back enemies in its area of effect. His second ability, Crossfade, has no cooldown, and switches between his healing and speed boost songs, which play constantly. Amp It Up increases the effect of his current song. The Sound Barrier heroic ability also works really similarly to Overwatch, giving all nearby players a shield that decays over time. Gosh, Blizzard really hasn’t had to make too many changes from the Overwatch build, huh?

The second heroic ability, Reverse Amp, adds a nerf effect to Lucio’s songs, effecting all enemy units within its area of effect – slowing them or depleting their health. Note that this doesn’t negate the positive effects for team members.

It sounds like Lucio will be as much a help in Heroes of the Storm as he is in Overwatch, although he does have some weaknesses; Blizzard goes over them in the video above.

Street Fighter 5 Kolin reveal trailer shows the “Phantasm of Snow and Ice” in action

9 Feb

Kolin joins the roster and debuts her moves in her reveal trailer.

Street Fighter 5‘s newest addition to the roster has been revealed, and as suspected, it’s none other than Kolin. Or Helen, if you prefer.

As promised, her reveal was accompanied by Lupe Fiasco’s debut track, It’s Not by Design, from the forthcoming album, Drogas Light.

Kolin, described as the “Phantasm of Snow and Ice”, has featured in the series as an NPC in Street Fighter 3 before going under cover as Helen in Street Fighter 5, appearing in the story. Now she’s decided to join the roster and whoop some ass.

street fighter 5 kolin outfits

We also got a glimpse at her three alternate costumes, Story, Battle, and Street Fighter 3’s Nostalgia.

Kolin will go live on February 28.

Bethesda doesn’t know if Fallout Shelter will come to PS4

9 Feb

Technically, Bethesda didn’t make an Xbox One version of Fallout Shelter.

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Fallout Shelter was released on Xbox One and the Windows Store this week. This UWP version is an Xbox Play Anywhere title.

Right now, PS4 is the only platform that doesn’t have the game, which lead fans to ask if a PS4 port is something Bethesda is planning to do. “Dunno,” answered the company’s VP of marketing Pete Hines when asked the question on Twitter.

Hines elaborated by saying that, technically, the studio didn’t make an Xbox One port. The UWP version, which is the one the developer did release, allows it to work on PCs with Windows 10, as well as Xbox One, and any platform that supports UWP.

Of course, PlayStation 4 does not support Microsoft’s UWP platform, which means unless Bethesda is willing to create a specific version for Sony’s console, PS4 players may just have to look elsewhere to play Shelter.

Street Fighter 5 character reveal coming tomorrow, along with a new Lupe Fiasco track for some reason

9 Feb

The Street Fighter 5 cast expands tomorrow, although we think we already know who it is.

Street Fighter 5 Season 2 becomes slightly less mysterious tomorrow with the reveal of the second character, following on from Akuma.

In a bit of cross-promotion, the character reveal will be accompanied by the debut of a new track from Lupe Fiasco’s forthcoming album, Drogas Light. Either Lupe Fiasco likes Street Fighter 5 or Capcom is willing to fork out a lot of cash to promote it. Or both, possibly.

As for the identity of the new character, PVPLive reports community members are guessing Helen is joining the cast of Street Fighter 5. Helen is Gill’s assistant, and was previously known as Kolin or Colleen before going undercover for Street Fighter 5. Her new design certainly seems to match the latest character silhouette published on Facebook, and I suppose since she’s never been playable she technically meets Capcom’s promise that the remainder of Street Fighter 5 Season 2 would be all new characters.

There’s also a bit of speculation that a Redditor may have data mined or leaked details of Helen almost two weeks ago, notably playing up her alleged ice powers, which again matches the artwork on the Street Fighter 5 Facebook page and the latest teaser. But the original material has since been deleted, and it’s possible it was a joke or even a mistake, as Helen mods are available.

Put an end to speculation by tuning in tomorrow to find out who’s joining the Street Fighter 5 cast.