Diablo III took another step toward release this week by finalising a replacement for the scrapped rune stone system and cutting socketable runes from the list of potential features at the same time. Torchlight II teased players with six new screenshots, and Path of Exile discussed the design process behind the game's unique items. Finally, Blacklight: Retribution announced its public open beta, which is due to start next week.
League of Legends continued its World Tour series this week with a look at its massive Chinese community. The Chinese beta was launched in July 2011, and by the end of the year, LoL had become "one of the fastest growing games released by a foreign game studio in the past three years." In addition to strong cosplay and craft communities, China boasts many of the game's best competitive players. In the IntelEM Global Challenge in Guangzhou, Chinese team World Elite dominated the North American favourite Counter Logic Gaming, and all three Chinese teams went on to participate in the IntelEM World Championship.
Dota 2 released its biggest ever update this week, following two weeks of development in which no changes could be deployed. The popular single draft game mode has finally been added, providing players with a choice between a few randomly selected heroes. The matchmaking system has been redesigned and now displays the average wait time for each region and allows players to choose between All Pick, Single Draft, and the tournament-style Captain Mode. Players can now repick during hero selection at the cost of 100 starting gold, and they can now see what heroes their teammates are about to pick. Check out the official changelog for the full list of updates.
Diablo III's rune stone system has been problematic throughout beta; players expressed concerns over the unattuned stones, and Blizzard eventually scrapped the system altogether. This week Blizzard revealed details of new changes to the skill and rune systems designed to make the game easy to play but difficult to master. By default, players will choose their skills from specific categories to ensure they always have an appropriate mix of resource-generating primary attacks, resource-consuming secondary attacks, and defensive techniques. Once a player is used to the skills, he can switch to Elective Mode and pick any mix of skills from any category.
Runestones are now called runes, not to be confused with Diablo II's items of the same name. Rather than being an item that you pick up and use to modify a skill, skill runes are just picked through the skill selection interface. As runes are now used as skill-modifiers, Blizzard will be unable to release Diablo II-style socketable rune items.
Blacklight: Retribution public open beta, your wait is nearly over. The open beta officially starts next week on Monday, February 27th, at which date the servers will open to the public and all closed beta characters will be wiped to give everyone a fresh start. Special events will take place throughout open beta, and new maps and gameplay mechanics will be revealed as it progresses.
Heroes of Newerth has released Draconis, a fire-breathing dragon with massive damage output and a very limited ability to fly. Draconis' first move, Dragonflame, causes a huge cone of damage, applies a slow, and knocks back affected opponents. It has a massive range and can be used to farm, push lanes, gank, or escape chasing heroes. Draconis' second ability, Blazing Flight, lets him briefly fly a few feet off the ground, increasing movement speed and letting Draconis walk through creeps. A trail of fire follows Draconis as he flies, causing damage over time to anyone in the affected area.
Draconis' third ability, Fiery Barrage, makes every fifth attack spawn an area-effect fire on the ground at the target's feet. Casting any other ability will make the next attack automatically trigger Fiery Barrage. Fiery Barrage and Blazing Flight make Draconis an incredible farmer able to jungle and push lanes with ease. Draconis' ultimate, Cataclysmic Assault, grants incredibly high attack speed and causes each attack to split and hit nearby heroes for a significant portion of the main attack's damage. Combined with items like thunderclaw and frostwolf's skull, this ability can practically win teamfights on its own.
Diablo-style dungeon crawlers, providing very specific stats that allow players to put together reliable gear builds. This week Grinding Gear Games discussed the design process behind the creation of new unique items, from lore and naming conventions to piecing together the right stats and modifiers to make a useful item. While rare gear has random attributes, uniques are manually designed and so can be given huge bonuses that would be unbalanced to add to the general pool of attributes that can be randomly rolled on an item. The GGG team gives the example of a piece of armour that gives a huge +1,000 life bonus but has no other attributes and no sockets.
Torchlight II, you'll undoubtedly want to check out Runic Games' latest offering: six awesome screenshots of outdoor scenes. With the same painterly style as the first game, Torchlight II is shaping up to be a true sequel.
Rise of Immortals released its first mortal immortal this week as confused U.S. Marine Kaos stumbled into the fantasy world of Graxia. It's not entirely clear why the gun-toting soldier is taking part in the immortal games, but Kaos' immortal spotlight is sure to appear soon to explain more of the character's backstory.
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