It's sometimes hard to believe that MMOs and online gaming in its current form are both relatively new. In a single generation, online gaming has gone from a technical infeasibility to a global industry worth billions. The list of MMOs is constantly growing, and the line between MMOs and other online games blurs more every year. In the past few years, we've seen a massive rise in the popularity of microtransaction-supported and free-to-play MMOs. Other online games like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth have adopted similar strategies, using a cash shop to fund ongoing development.
There are now lots of heavily community-based games out there that for one reason or another aren't quite MMOs. The lack of shared persistent worlds in some online games or the relatively small size of server communities can render the game not-so-"massive," but persistent stats, character progression, cohesive communities, or other qualities make them more than just another online game.
In this first edition of Not So Massively, I look at the generosity of League of Legends players, a new hero on the way for Heroes of Newerth, the Rise of Immortals closed beta, plans for future development in Bloodline Champions, and other big news stories from the previous week.
Riot Games is no exception. Champion Akali and a limited-edition Nurse Akali skin were made available for purchase in the LoL cash shop, with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross. LoL players raised over $160,000 US in just a few weeks though this promotion, making the scheme a huge success that we're likely to see repeated in future.
Although news of the new LoL champion Lee Sin was released at the end of March, no roundup of this week's news stories could pass without mentioning him as part of Riot Games' April Fools' Day joke. A fake champion spotlight video was released on March 28th for Lee Sin the hilariously overpowered blind monk, a champion who was due for release on (you guessed it) April 1st. On March 31st, Riot Games released the real champion spotlight video for Lee Sin. Although he's not quite as overpowered as his April Fools' Day counterpart, Lee Sin is a versatile champion with some pretty cool abilities. Watch the official champion spotlight video below in HD for more details.
Heroes of Newerth, and this week is no exception. A few days ago, S2 Games revealed the next hero destined to join the Legion ranks, giving an exclusive first look to PC Gamer. The Nomad is a melee semi-carry designed for players who like to play mind games with their enemies. His first ability is Sandstorm, an AoE slow that hides ally heroes and follows The Nomad. The enemy will see the sandstorm coming toward him but won't know how many of your heroes are hidden inside it.
The Nomad's second ability, Mirage Strike, allows him to either charge the opponent to deal high damage or send a decoy mirage to charge the target while turning himself invisible. This is sure to be a fun ability for laning, as the enemy won't know whether the attack is real or a mirage. The Nomad's third ability, Wanderer, is a passive charge-up skill that increases the damage he will deal on his next attack, with a charge being added after moving 100 distance units. Finally, The Nomad's ultimate ability, Edge Counter, puts him into a one-second-long stasis period, during which time any attacks directed at him cause a massive counter-attack and stun. The new hero was due to launch in a patch on Friday (yesterday).
Also in the news for HoN this week was the creation of a brand-new Reddit-based community for the game. To celebrate, the new community is running the QQ Ninja RedditHon Open tournament for amateur teams around the world. Teams of five will battle it out from April 11th until April 17th. The only entry requirements are that you must have under 1850 MMR and PSR on all of your HoN accounts. Prizes of 4,000, 2,000 and 1,000 goblin gold for the HoN cash shop will be given out to the first-, second-, and third-place teams.
Stunlock Studios, creator of Bloodline Champions. On April 1st, Stunlock published an April Fools' Day developer blog on the upcoming patch 1.2 update, a fake blog featuring such hilariously terrible ideas as bloodline mounts and damage-scaling handicaps. The real April developer blog was released a few days later, and we're happy to say it's a lot more sensible. It covered topics ranging from an upcoming invite-a-friend scheme and a reworked tournament system to several pieces of big news. A new clan system is due for release this month, complete with private clan chat channels and clan-based achievements.
The bumper Bloodline Champions patch will contain numerous gameplay and balance changes to turn the Glutton and Thorn bloodlines into more support-based tank roles, which are scheduled to go live during April. Taking a look ahead, Stunlock detailed a new game replay system due for release in May. Players will be able to record games and re-watch them later as if they were an observer in the game. Ultimately, the goal is to let players skip to any point in the replay and alter the speed of playback. The community's response to the dev update has so far been very positive.
Rise of Immortals came a step closer to reality this week as it officially moved into closed beta. If you're interested in getting into the RoI beta, just head over to the official webpage and enter your email address for a chance to secure a beta key. New keys will be released over the next few weeks to ramp up participation in the beta test and help collect as much feedback as possible. If you're not sure whether or not you want to participate in the RoI closed beta, take a peek at the official closed beta gameplay video below.
Darkspore yet. Unlike many of the other multiplayer online battle arena games, Darkspore seems to have a focus more on persistent, co-operative campaign gameplay than competitive arena matches. Darkspore is due for release on Steam at the end of the month, with unlockable items available for pre-order customers. The big news for Darkspore this week is the release of a new hero spotlight video showing the unique gameplay behind the Meditron bot. With the ability to cleanse friendly targets of debuffs and heal them with nanobots, Meditron is sure to be a valued asset in any multiplayer mission. Watch the video below for a sneak peek at the Meditron's gameplay.
Join us every Saturday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.