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Dev Diaries

Previewing RIFT's new masteries system

Betas, Fantasy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, RIFT, Dev Diaries

RIFT
Trion Worlds has today previewed the new "masteries" system coming in RIFT's Nightmare Tide expansion later this month. Masteries take the place of the soul points normally earned as players level up. Instead of spending soul points to take new powers in your soul trees (which would have created class imbalances), players will essentially buy powers from a new set of skills open to all characters within the same base class. Trion outlines the types of powers available:
Most Masteries provide a general primary bonus and a secondary bonus that focuses on individual abilities and Souls. These secondary bonuses have several types of effects ranging from increasing the functionality of a given ability (or type of ability) to improving utility and hybridization options for others. Masteries from level 61 to level 64 focus on passive bonuses. The primary bonus on these Masteries will generally fit a theme for all Masteries at the same level:

Level 61: Survivability
Level 62: Healing
Level 63: Utility
Level 64: Damage

When you hit level 65, you'll unlock the final tier of Masteries along with an array of active abilities. These are aimed at supplementing multiple builds, allowing you to add damage to a healing build, or even give some healing to a pure DPS build.
Masteries are saved per role and can be swapped out of combat.

EVE Online hopes to rescue nullsec with dramatic travel changes

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Subscription

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CCP has big plans to shake up the EVE Online sandbox. The studio has just published a dev blog declaring that nullsec, the most lawless area in the game, is "stagnant and needs a change." Phase one of CCP's plan for that change is to "significantly" increase travel times for capital ships by introducing both a jump cooldown and a new mechanic called jump fatigue, which will effectively limit how often those ships ship can jump. CCP Grayscale explained the expected results of the overhaul:
In the short term, we would anticipate a reduction in the degree to which the average non-trivial capital fight escalates, and the number of parties involved. This seems likely to increase the frequency of capitals being deployed in small-scale engagements, in both lowsec and nullsec.

Over the medium term, we see the potential for more substantial changes in the nullsec status quo as the various competing parties work to adjust their internal objectives to the new situation; it seems plausible that the general reduction in travel capabilities will lead to more localism, but we don't want to make any firm predictions in this area. We're confident that these changes improve the overall system of lowsec and nullsec gameplay and take them in better directions, but any set of changes that would allow us to accurately predict their consequences would by their nature be too simple to be interesting for very long.
Phase two and three, CCP vows, will focus on starbases and territorial capture and control.

Massively EVE expert Brendan Drain has documented modern nullsec problems in his long-running EVE Evolved column.
EVE Evolved: How to fix nullsec territorial warfare
EVE Evolved: Capital ships ruined nullsec

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Anarchy Online steels itself for inferno missions

Sci-Fi, Anarchy Online, Patches, Previews, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

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A new type of mission is coming to Anarchy Online, and if its name is any indication, inferno missions will be hot in more ways than one.

Funcom Gameplay Designer Henry Senger wrote a monthly development update in which he focused on the upcoming inferno missions for players levels 170 and over: "These missions will involve protecting NPCs from waves of assaulting creatures. The difficulty of the mission will determine how many waves will appear, level of the assaulting monsters, as well as the mission reward. The assaults will end early if all the targets that need to be protected are killed."

Other fun things coming with the 18.6.15 patch are the return of battlestation daily missions, quality of life improvements, bug fixes, and convenient mission exits.

Dark Age of Camelot passes the torch to a new producer

Fantasy, Dark Age of Camelot, MMO Industry, PvP, Dev Diaries, Anniversaries

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It's a season of change over at Dark Age of Camelot, as the team is transitioning from former producer Talal Saad to the new one, John Thornhill.

Saad said that he's not leaving the studio, but moving into a role that oversees more than just one game. "Rather than serving at the helm of one particular game, my responsibility will be to act as advocate and to use my time and energy to focus on how Broadsword can have a bigger impact, provide more investment, and achieve greater success for multiple products," he wrote.

Thornhill introduced himself as the former lead designer for DAoC and outlined what the team would be focusing on for the future. He said that there are plans for the game's 13th anniversary (including new race and class pairings), the release of patch 1.116 around the end of November, the increase to champion level 15, an addition of a casual group finder, and more interaction with the community.

"Our focus is going to be updating and modernizing the user experience of Dark Age of Camelot for the foreseeable future," Thornhill promised.

Star Trek Online: Delta Rising exposes androids and isolationist aliens

Sci-Fi, Expansions, Lore, Previews, Star Trek Online, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

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We're mere weeks away from entering the delta quadrant in Star Trek Online, but there is so much more left to learn about this new space and its inhabitants. Cryptic posted an intelligence briefing today about two additional races that one might encounter in Delta Rising: the Automatic Personnel Units and the Turei.

The APUs are androids built by a long-dead civilization to wage war by proxy. The androids turned on their creators, continued fighting with each other, and searched for a way to reproduce (pro tip: Newegg should have some in stock). In contrast, the Turei are reptilian, isolationist aliens who use the Underspace corridors to traverse the delta quadrant. They're kind of jerks but have been known to engage in trading in their journeys.

How 'feel' trumps realism in H1Z1's weapon design

Horror, Game Mechanics, News Items, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, H1Z1

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H1Z1 Senior Game Designer Jimmy Whisenhunt has penned another dev blog about SOE's inbound survival sandbox, this one aimed at weapon design, starting with the modeling and rigging process. Animation design in particular, he says, is critical. "A huge part of the tuning process that is commonly overlooked in FPS game development is how a weapon reacts to in-game actions," Whisenhunt explains. "Design and Animation have to be in lock-step for a successful feel in combat; we need to have the same vision to ensure a solid experience for the player."

He also discusses recoil and shooting mechanics and how "feel" can trump realism.
"We've mentioned in the past that we want to avoid tuning and creating things simply because they 'that's the way it is in real life,' which means I get to take to take a realistic ballistic and weapon recoil feel and make it feel satisfying and fun. Typically the gravity of projectiles in real life doesn't fit the intended play experience we seek out. After all, the weapon feel and functionality has to fit our world design as well as Zombie and Player combat."
The full dev blog is on the official site. We took a look at H1Z1's art and lighting effects last week.

EVE Evolved: Features coming in Oceanus and beyond

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Culture, Economy, Expansions, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, Previews, PvP, Endgame, News Items, PvE, EVE Evolved, Dev Diaries, Sandbox, Crafting, Subscription, MMORPG

EVE Evolved title image
It's been almost four months since EVE Online switched from publishing two major expansions per year to releasing ten smaller updates, and so far it looks like the new schedule has been a huge success. Rather than forcing the industry overhaul out the door in Kronos before it was ready, CCP was able to push it forward to the Crius release window seven weeks later and the extra development time meant the feature launched in a very polished state. It may be too early to tell if the new schedule's success can be seen in the concurrent player graph for Tranquility, but the numbers have remained steady for the past few months in what is typically the annual low-point for player activity.

The Oceanus update is scheduled to go live in just two day's time, adding several graphical upgrades, more difficult burner missions, an experimental new notification feature, and other small improvements. The scale of the update seems to be on par with the recent Hyperion release, consisting of mostly small features and minor iterations on gameplay. While we're told that CCP is still working on large projects behind the scenes, the new release schedule means they won't be rushed out the door and so we may not see them for some time.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I summarise everything we know about Tuesday's Oceanus update, and take a look at what's to come in further releases.

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Camelot Unchained celebrates new website and forums

Betas, Fantasy, PvP, Community Q&A, Dev Diaries, Camelot Unchained, Subscription

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Camelot Unchained is now boasting a shiny new website and player forums, according to the game's second newsletter.

That's only the tip of the wordy newsletter. A brief community question and answer section addresses a few in-game topics, such as boat travel and caravan details. Then it dives right into a treatise on world game design and how the team is still attempting to figure out how large Camelot Unchained's landmass should be and how quickly players will be able to traverse it.

"In our case, we are making what is essentially a medieval fantasy war game conquest map, which means things like territory and resource control, logistics, and force projection are extremely important considerations, but things like good quest flow are less so," the team said.

The art department also piped up to say that it's working on the Tuatha Dé Danann race, the Arthurian Storm Rider, and pre-alpha testing support.

EVE Online nukes named modules

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Patches, Previews, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

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One thing that we're becoming increasingly convinced about the purpose of EVE Online's dev diaries is that they are secret recruiting and training grounds for future CCP employees a la The Last Starfighter. If you're willing to chew through thousands of words and a dozen or so charts on something called "Module Tiericide," then you should be awarded with a salary plus benefits.

That theory aside, today's new Oceanus dev diary explains (at great length) how the team is retuning its approach to module balance in order to give all ships significant strengths and weaknesses and purposes. One such change is that named modules are on their way out: "Our solution to this problem is to replace the meta-based named module system with a new role-based system."

CCP promises that this is but part of the overall and continuing effort to balance ships and prepare for new additions to the game.

World of Warcraft gives you a way to undelete characters

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Dev Diaries, Subscription

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Those World of Warcraft GMs are probably beyond sick and tired of player petitions to undo a character deletion if a recent dev post by Blizzard is any indication. Coming with Warlords of Draenor is a new feature that will allow players to resurrect a deleted character with its gear and enchantments intact. The studio even said that it will even hold onto deleted character names "for a limited time."

There are a few exceptions to the undelete feature. Toons under level 10 won't be recoverable at all, and those between levels 10 and 49 will be lost forever after a set amount of time. Also, players can use this function only once every month, so undelete wisely!

WildStar adopts quarterly update cadence: 'No more drops before their time'

Fantasy, Business Models, Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, PvE, Dev Diaries, Miscellaneous, WildStar, Dungeons, Subscription

WildStar Product Director Mike Donatelli has penned a new state of the game post to address concerns about the themepark in the wake of Jeremy Gaffney's resignation as Carbine President and the announcement of server merges in the form of megaservers.

Donatelli says that WildStar will now function under a quarterly cadence for major updates. In August, he told players that the team was adopting a "when it's done" approach to drops instead of its originally planned monthly cadence. "If it's not ready, we'll hold it until it is," he reiterates today, citing quality as his motivator. "This doesn't mean we won't have other activities available to experience on a more regular basis; we're just taking the necessary time to get the major drops right." The next drop, scheduled for November, will include both solo and world story content.

He also promises improved elder game itemization, disincentives for toxic PvP behavior, attunement adjustments, and a new training dungeon to prepare players for WildStar's controversial raid content. "I want to stress that we're not nerfing raids," he writes. "We're just giving you the tools to succeed when tackling them."

EVE shows off Oceanus' features

Sci-Fi, Video, EVE Online, Patches, Previews, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

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Oceanus is coming next Tuesday to EVE Online, and if you haven't been reading the novelization of the patch notes in the form of dev diaries as of late, CCP has a more succinct video overview of the changes coming with the update.

In fact, there's a new dev post that's a gripping tale of how CCP saves spaceship data. It's a wild ride through numbers, software modules, and save files. Of course, such technical rejiggering must mean a vast improvement for you, the gamer, right? "What does this new system change for players?" CCP asks. "Visually? Nothing right now actually."

OK, maybe it's a dull dev diary, but there's a much more fascinating video after the break. Promise!

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EVE Online improves cloaking graphics

Sci-Fi, Patches, Previews, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

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Portraying stealth in games can be tricky, especially if the player is piloting a cloaked ship in the midst of outer space. EVE Online's team has acknowledged that the game's current cloaking effects sometimes makes it hard to see how these ships are positioned and has announced that the next content update will vastly improve this feature.

The new stealth graphics will not only look spiffier but be easier to see, according to the devs: "Fully transparent is not what we want! Pilots need to see their ships, remember, so we have a static effect that pulses along the surface of the ship from the spot where the cloaking started."

There are more details about what gets cloaked and how other characters see you (hint: They usually don't) in the rest of the dev diary. This change will come with EVE's Oceanus release on September 30th.

New burner missions scrap nearly 20,000 EVE Online ships, CCP happy with results

Sci-Fi, EVE Online, Patches, Previews, Dev Diaries, Sandbox

eve
CCP is "extremely happy" with the positive player reception of EVE Online's new burner missions that came in Hyperion. The studio said that the high level of difficulty in these missions was intentional in order to challenge the playerbase, and cited a bloodbath of 19,962 destroyed player ships as of September 14th as proof. The cost of the lost ships has topped 870 billion ISK so far.

Due to the embrace of these missions, CCP is prepping a new batch of burner missions for September 30th. These new burners, believe it or not, will be even tougher than the current ones, working in teams of three against players. CCP will be putting these missions on the test servers later this week.

World of Warcraft bumps up graphical settings

World of Warcraft, Fantasy, Expansions, Dev Diaries, Subscription

wow
While they're not big bullet point features for Warlords of Draenor, technical improvements will benefit those who want to keep their game looking the best. In a new dev diary posted today, Blizzard gave a detailed explanation about how it's putting new anti-aliasing tech into World of Warcraft for the expansion.

"In short, we're taking strides to improve the performance of World of Warcraft, while also ensuring there's plenty of potential to further increase graphical fidelity and enhance our support of high-end CPUs and graphics hardware," the studio posted.

Blizzard said that the changes represent the team "thinking long-term" for the game.

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