Now is an interesting time for MOBAs. League of Legends is the largest game in the world. The International (the largest Dota 2 tournament) had a payout rivaling many professional sporting events, and was shown on ESPN2. In light of this, it’s not surprising that other companies have been trying to take their own piece of the pie. Let’s examine some of these.

Two is better than Three

Dawngate, EA’s MOBA is unique in many ways, but follows similar gameplay as LoL or Dota. The primary draw is the 2-lane map (with a greatly expanded jungle), which forces the meta to develop differently from League or Dota. It otherwise plays somewhat similarly, although there is a decreased emphasis on last-hitting; you get fewer resources for not doing it, but more than the nothing you’d get in League or Dota. Speaking of League, the “Trinket” ward comes from here. The stats and items are completely different from League or Dota, so that’s an adjustment that’s necessary to make going into this game. it also contains my favorite MOBA character thus far, Moya.
Moya, the Smuggler
Personally, I saw Dawngate really early, and I’m not sure it’s something I’m terribly interested in. Moya aside, I’m not interested in the game, and I don’t know anyone playing it. It also has the problem of not being different enough from LoL that I’m interested in playing it over LoL. The item system is different, and towers also serve the functions of inhibitors (and respawn accordingly), but this isn’t enough to get me to sign in regularly. Maybe someday in the future something will draw me in, but I’m passing for now.

Dawngate Screenshot

If at first you don’t succeed

Also recently coming around is Strife, the second MOBA from S2 Games. Their first attempt is Heroes of Newerth, which did not change enough from Dota to become as popular as LoL, but changed too much to be as well-received as Dota 2. Strife is their attempt to make a MOBA that’s easier to get into, and also one that changes the mechanics that players tend to fight their own team over. The hero design is almost universally on the cute and cuddly side, in an attempt to appeal to a more casual crowd. The map itself is more open, but still has the familiar three-lane structure.

Despite that first paragraph, I’ve felt no need to really give this one a shot. It does very little to distinguish itself from the mountain of other MOBAs available now. From my perspective, it seems like another MOBA with slightly different mechanics with characters and items I’m not familiar with doing the same things I could be doing in any other game. This might be a little unfair as the game is still technically in closed beta, but so are the other two games on this list. As a newcomer, they have to demonstrate why I want to play their game over the other options, and Strife has not succeeded in that task.

Strife Screenshot

The Great Regret

Since Dota started as a mod for Warcraft 3, and in turn was based on a Starcraft custom map, it’s a bit of a surprise that it took Blizzard this long to do anything formally in the genre. Heroes of the Storm is their entry into the MOBA field. Announced in 2012 as “Blizzard All-Stars”, I can only assume the name was changed when they realized it could be shortened to “BAllS”. This one changes the most from the standard format by having a number of different maps, doing away with individual progression in favor of team progression, and replacing items with talents. It’s also worth noting that this game stars familiar faces from other Blizzard games as heroes.

This one I like, mostly because of the maps. they’re varied mechanically and thematically, and none of them are quite the same as the “standard”. The major problem I have with it right now it that it’s in Closed Beta with no keys at all, so getting in is entirely luck-based. I’m also not completely sure about some of the out-of-game progression being hero-specific, making it hard to switch heroes as desired without some grinding. I hope this one opens up more soon.

Get Over Here

On Odd Combinations

Potentially winning awards for the least expected crossover in recent memory (Pokemon Conquest comes close), Hyrule Warriors was announced about a year ago and it’s gone gold recently, so I’m writing about it.

It’s a Secret to No One

Koei’s “Warriors” series has a relatively long history containing games of various qualities. The announcement that a game was going to be made based on the Zelda series was surprising, but it doesn’t make any less sense than One Piece or Fist of the North Star. Trailers showcasing the different characters and weapons have been releasing over the past couple of weeks. Since I’m a fan of both Zelda games and Warriors games, this seems like a game I absolutely want to play.

It’s a Secret to Everyone

The two most common comments I see about the series are about the enemies not attacking and the game being about button mashing, both of which have varying degrees of truth. The games are not actually about killing hundreds of enemies, although that’s certainly a thing that happens. The primary objective in most of these games is territory control, and mass destruction of basic troops is a means to an end. The player character is almost always the strongest force on the field, and figuring out where to apply that force is where the game is interesting. Frequently you will have to react to multiple developing situations at once, and dealing with these situations frequently involves killing one or more enemy officers, who are much more of a threat than the basic troops who are primarily there to extend your combo chain. In higher difficulties the normal enemies do pose more of a threat, but I think this makes the game tedious on the highest difficulty.

Impa and Shiek
Most games in the series add more mechanics to the above framework, and I’m interested in seeing what Hyrule Warriors has in this department. There seems to be a Zelda-like inventory with traditional items in addition to the many weapons pulled from the series. These are used in creative ways, there’s a video of Midna using the hookshot to pull the moon from Majora’s Mask down on enemies. (Yes, it’s that kind of game.) I hope there’s a good game in all of the craziness.

Hookshot the moon

Fiesta Status Check

As a final note, there are now 5 weeks left in the 2014 Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta. This is still plenty of time to finish the game in, even if you haven’t started yet. I know some of you who have started but not finished, so this is a friendly reminder that the event doesn’t last forever.
second party

On the Fourteenth Final Fantasy

Since functionally quitting WoW during Cata, I’ve been a bit of an MMO nomad, wandering from game to game, looking at all of the shiny. Game companies have been more than happy to cater to this, offering plenty of new shininess at launch, and then eventually wearing out until I left. My relationship with all of these games isn’t the same, however. There are some games I’ll probably never go back to*, and some that I left on relatively good terms for some reason or another. Final Fantasy XIV is a game in the latter category. The group I was playing with gradually started playing it less and less, until eventually I stopped too. Also, FATE grinding was kind of terrible.Screenshot (118)

We Miss You!

Last weekend (Friday-Sunday) was a welcome back weekend, allowing previous players to log in without renewing their subscriptions. I patched the game up on Friday, even though I didn’t get a chance to play until Sunday due to the insanity that last weekend was. Apparently, Square has been quite busy since we left, and there’s a lot of content. The Duty Roulette (still the funniest and most accurate name for that concept I’ve seen) provides a way for players without pre-made groups to obtain decent rewards. Beast Tribe dailies provide other sources of XP and potential cosmetic rewards. There’s a really awesome bribe for tanks to do 8-man content (although it’s a bit grindy). In short, there are plenty of things to do, both with a group and without.
Sunset in Limsa

Instead of doing any of that, we ran an instance we were somewhat familiar with from before, Wanderer’s Palace. Just seeing this place again was enough to make me remember that I like playing this game. It’s WoW-style combat, but a bit more relaxed (mostly due to the much longer GCD). It doesn’t have my favorite character archetype, but it does have a pair of tank classes that I enjoy. It’s extremely pretty, and it’s one of the few games that I have a level-capped character in. Also, some of the music is awesome.

022 – Starlight and Sellswords by Final Fantasy 14 on Grooveshark

Happy Returns

I suppose you can congratulate Square Enix on a successful marketing promotion, because It got me to resubscribe to FF14. Unfortunately, the game to drop by the wayside here is WildStar, because not enough of the group I’m interested in playing with got into it. Once the new shininess wore off, I’m left with the same feeling I had before, that I want to like the game more than I actually do. Maybe they can have their chance to win me back later.

On Blaugust

The major advantage to writing a blog post in the afternoon is that I can “borrow” topics from people who post in the morning. This has been convenient more than a few times, and today is one of those times. Belghast has been posting daily since April of last year, and today he challenged others to do the same for the month of August. And to that, I think I have only one thing to say:

Challenge Accepted

There are two main reasons I started blogging during this year’s NBI. The first was to have a bit of an outlet for my random thoughts, because I have a lot of random thoughts, mostly (but not entirely) relating to gaming. The second reason was simply to write more. I’ve been sticking to two posts a week, albeit rather erratically, and I think I could probably kick it up a few notches. I’m generally a rather reserved person, and this has helped me to express some things I otherwise might not have.

With Reservations

As an additional note, Bel mentions posting a bit more personally, and I don’t think that’s going to happen this month. I’d like to keep this web space a bit more focused on my hobbies, rather than my personal life. But expect to see an expansion in the types of things I talk about, because staying focused on one thing for days at a time is just unlikely to happen for me. (Then again, my yearly obsession with FF5 does paint a different picture.) It’ll be an experiment for me. I don’t know how grand it will end up, but it should at least be entertaining. If you’re interested in doing the same, the community is here on Anook.

On Moon Wizards

I’m writing a post today that I would not have expected to write a month ago. It turns out that a little bit of content can go a long way.

Hype Machine

I’m usually somewhat bothered by games that receive too much “hype”. Some games the Media seems to pick up and run with, and the end result is never as awesome as what’s promised (kind of like most political campaigns). The latest example of that is Titanfall, a game that received pre-release hype of the highest order, and ended up falling flat after about a month. On the MMO front, I can think of lots of examples, some of which I’ve been burned by personally. So now I have an automatic aversion to hype. I didn’t buy into any of the hype for Destiny, but I randomly got a spot in the Alpha anyway. Now I’m completely bought into the hype, because marketing works.

Caveat Emptor

But sometimes marketing works a bit too well. Playing the Destiny alpha got me to pre-order Destiny and therefore check out the beta, but I’ve also been burned by “marketing betas” before. The most notable example is Champions, which was awesome through the beta process and reworked into something else on Day 1. I’m also going to pick on Firefall, which wowed me with a 30 minute tradefloor demo at PAX East, and then revealed that there wasn’t much else in the game after those 30 minutes. (I hear it’s launching soon, so maybe it actually has content now?) Limited Time Demos are also a trap, and if this turns out to be one, I guess I’m falling right in, because what I did play was quite fun.


Space Magic

Of course, now that I’m jumping in, I’m really jumping in. Decisions like what class I want to play (probably Titan), what weapons I want to use (flux rifles seem cool), and what abilities to take (this one’s going to need some work). I’ve read up on how the skill system works, how weapon leveling works (for weapons that can do that), and any information I can find about the classes and what they do, as part of my drive to know everything. While I haven’t been into First-Person Shooters lately, I did play a lot of Halo 2 through high school, and I’m hoping this recaptures some of that magic. I just hope I’m not being completely duped.


It’s a good weekend for e-sports, and the reason this isn’t up earlier is because I was watching demos of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-. It’s EVO Weekend, and so the largest fighting game tournament in the US is underway. The schedule is here, and six of the nine “main” games have their finals tomorrow, all broadcast on Twitch. However…

I lied

This post isn’t actually about EVO. I talked with a friend who shall remain nameless about how hard it is to actually learn traditional fighting games. Fighting games are notoriously bad at teaching new players how to actually play fighting games. (They share this trait with most MOBAs and RTS games.) There are games making steps to correct this; I hear the new Killer Instinct does a decent job, but it’s only on a console I don’t own. Therefore, I’ll be talking about Skullgirls.

Setting the Stage

Skullgirls is a game that originally came out for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012. It carries a unique style (which turns some people off) and (at launch) an all-female cast (which also turns some people off). The gameplay is most reminiscent of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and the music is by Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane. Like Marvel, it has specials, supers, snapbacks, assists, tags, and tag supers. Because none of that made any sense if you aren’t incredibly familiar with Marvel vs. Capcom, it also has a very good tutorial.
barrel drop

And.. Action!

The vast majority of fighting games have a tutorial that teaches you what all of the buttons do, and Skullgirls has a tutorial that starts like this. They try to make it more interesting by giving you context, but it’s still the same “this is how you block” “this is how you dash” that most other games do. After a lesson on how super moves work (which is where most other games’ tutorials end), it shifts into practical knowledge. The very first lesson is “Defending against mix-up”, a very important thing to know when playing any game that has high and low block options. The second tutorial is on “punishing”, a concept applicable to even non-traditional fighting games like Smash Brothers. Other essential techniques are also explored in the tutorials, and it ends with character-specific strategies and moves.
guard mixup

That’s a Wrap

Skullgirls is coming to PS4 soon, and is available for PC, PS3, and 360 right now. If you ever wanted to get into fighting games but have been scared off by all of the arcane knowledge the genre doesn’t do a good job of teaching, I highly recommend Skullgirls. Even if the style of the game isn’t exactly your cup of tea, it can still teach skills that are useful for almost any other game in the genre.

On Everquest Next?

Almost a year ago, Sony Online Entertainment revealed their grand voxel-based, user-generated-content-driven, trinity-abolishing new MMO, going by the name of EverQuest Next. The reception was mixed, mostly because it looked to repeat problems in things I mentioned earlier. Also, people who liked the lore of Norrath weren’t exactly in favor of a reboot. They also announced their builder for EQ Next, called EQ Next Landmark at the same time.

Since then, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Less than a month after SOE Live, layoffs were announced. EverQuest Next Landmark was supposed to enter alpha in December but was delayed until February. Shortly after that, it was stripped of its EverQuest Next branding entirely, and is now just Landmark. So what happened to EverQuest Next?

Missing: Presumed Lost

I have a very strong suspicion that EverQuest Next in the previously demonstrated form is vaporware. E3 and PAX East have both come and gone with hardly a word. It’s scheduled to be talked about at this year’s SOE live in about a month, but more time is being given to Planetside 2 and Landmark than EQ Next. The Social Media accounts are still active, but I haven’t seen anything that comes close to “Gameplay” since last SOE Live.

What I hope is that they went back to the drawing board on some things. Roles (defined by class or not) are important, and I hope they don’t abandon them. Going with a Guild Wars 1-like ability system is a good thing in my opinion, but lessons should be taken to avoid the mistakes made by other games tweaking the formula. User Generated content is cool (and as seen in Neverwinter and Little Big Planet, can be quite impressive) but having professionally designed content is necessary to get people interested. A destructible world is cool, but not if it results in everyone but the first wave playing in rubble.

EverQuest Next looked like a potentially cool game with a lot of issues. I hope when it resurfaces it’s something I’m interested in, but it might just end up being a game that’s not for me.
orc art

On Podcasting

At this point, there have been twelve episodes of the Aggrochat podcast, which you can find in the sidebar. I’ve been in nine of them, meaning that it was about three months ago that Belghast approached myself and the rest of the normal cast about starting it. For a few reasons, I was hesitant about the idea at first, but I went along with it and things seem to be working out.

I am not naturally an outspoken person. I have previously been described (by other people on the podcast) as “chill”, “stoic”, “serious”, or other words that imply I don’t talk a lot. In addition, when I do talk I talk too fast and have a tendency to omit words. I think I sometimes come across as a know-it-all, despite efforts to tone it down when I’m talking to new people. All of this would make me think myself unsuitable for a podcast, if not for a few things. I’m told that I have a great speaking voice (and sometimes singing voice, but you will never, ever hear it). And as part of an earlier point, I’ve gained a bit of a reputation for knowing a lot of (sometimes useless) things.

Professor Ashgar

That last part is probably why I was asked to be on in the first place. I have an above-average memory for mechanics and random information. I know what most of the items in League of Legends do by name, even ones no one buys like Guinsoo’s Rageblade. (I don’t know what Vilemaw’s buff does, however.) During my raiding period in World of Warcraft, I knew theoretically how to play classes that weren’t ones I played personally, and what stats were valuable to what specs for everyone in the raid. This continues into games we play now; I tend to figure out most boss mechanics on the first or second try. I know oddball strategies for most of the bosses in FF5, which comes in handy on the Fiestas.

I could go on, but at this point I’m merely proving some of my earlier comments. I am the group’s walking information repository, and I’ve come to accept that as my role sometimes. This doesn’t come up a lot, but I’m actually the youngest one on the podcast, so it’s a bit of an odd situation. I don’t know everything, and sometimes things are mentioned that are simply before my time or beyond my experiences. I got into console gaming in the Genesis/SNES generation, and didn’t have my own system until the PlayStation. My first MMO is World of Warcraft*, so any experience with anything prior comes from what I’ve heard others say. This mix of experiences is what makes the podcast work, I think.

With a Little Help

This is still not a venture I’d be comfortable doing alone. It’s hard for me to think of myself as interesting, but I can see how someone might be interested in the random conversations were were already having before we started the podcast. Bel, Rae, Kodra, Tam, and Dallian are all great to work with. (I’m sure Waren is too, but the only one he’s been on I was gone for.) The final result is a variety of information sources, interests, and backgrounds talking about stuff, and things, and the stuff about the things. This is fun, and seems to work. Give it a listen if you haven’t already.


*This is technically not true. My first MMO experience was the beta for Wish, a vaporware MMO.