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Monthly Archives: February 2017

New Vanilla World of Warcraft Server is Growing Fast!

A new fan hosted server for vanilla World of Warcraft went live a couple of months ago, and since then it has been growing rather popular. For those of you that are unaware with the common dispute among new and veteran WoW players alike, there has been quite a divide between the fans of Blizzard Entertainment’s heavily updated version and the ones who miss how it used to play in its golden years.

World of Warcraft is a very different game to how it was before later expansions were released, and the mechanics were drastically altered. Whereas reaching the level cap in Vanilla (original version) was something that took a huge time investment and a lot of learning and dedication, in the current and official version of WoW this can be as easy as buying a max level character to enjoy the end-game content almost instantly.

In addition, many of the raids which are high-level dungeons meant for groups have been toned down and made much easier.

These reasons amongst many others meant fans were left to their own devices when it came to reliving the glory days of the still ever popular MMORPG. This fan hosted server titled Project Elysium, allows PC users to enjoy WoW in it’s purest and most cherished form in the eyes of many. What makes this even more interesting is that this isn’t the first unofficial server to do the same thing.

The Nostalrius server was WoW’s biggest private server until it was eventually shut down by Blizzard on April 10th 2016, a landmark event for players, most of which all met up with their in-game characters to attend the server wide disconnect at 11 pm. Nostalrius reached a pretty huge 150,000 active accounts before its demise and there were petitions made for Blizzard change their rules to allow the server to continue, but this was ultimately to no avail.

Project Elysium popped up shortly afterwards and has been gaining quite a bit of traction. According to the Elysium Project’s twitter, they reached a peak of “20,685 players” all online at once just yesterday. However, with the abrupt shutdown of the Nostalrius server in 2016, this might not be around for too long if Blizzard has anything to say about it. Let’s hope Blizzard realises that this fan collaboration shouldn’t be seen as a negative. If they really don’t want their IP out of their control, then why not release an official server of Vanilla WoW?

Why Andromeda’s Sex Scene Animations So Much Better?

Mass Effect: Andromeda’s array of strange and incompetent facial animations are now so well-documented that they already seem to be a part of gaming lore. It’s been written off by plenty, which is a shame – once you can live with its jankiness, Andromeda is actually a pretty good game.

While the landscapes and scenery of the Andromeda Galaxy are usually captivating, the facial animations belong on the other end of the spectrum. It’s especially bad for Sarah Ryder, who seems to forever be either grimacing or storing food in her cheeks for winter. Bizarrely, the female characters receive the brunt of the jank; most male characters are untouched, though hardly realistic. Addison’s blank stare and emotionless expression is already a meme.

So, after completing the story and ending up with Cora (she has nice hair), I have one question.

Why are the sex scenes in Mass Effect: Andromeda animated so much better than the rest of the game?

I can’t believe I’m about to analyse a sex scene in a video game, but here it goes.

During the romantic encounter with Cora, Ryder walks through the door and a spike in animation calibre is immediately obvious, so much so that I had to sit up and pay attention and not because I am a teenage boy who doesn’t understand how a search engine works. It was so confusing that I wasn’t even watching the act itself, moreso looking to see how the models interacted with each other. It actually, as weird as it to say, looked quite good.

When the pair greet, Ryder’s eyebrows emote in a believable (but pretty slimy) way. Likewise, Cora’s raising of her shoulders is a far cry from the sometimes robotic animation found throughout the game. Their expressions before kissing even look like they might have been mo-cap – the smiles and, erm, “looks” aren’t seen anywhere else in Andromeda. Even the kissing itself is halfway decent. I’m not going through the next steps of the scene; hopefully you get the gist.

Why is it that special care seems to have been taken with Andromeda’s sex scenes? When searching for a reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about a series of tweets by animator Jonathan Cooper, who actually worked on the very first Mass Effect.

Cooper suggests that such a large and expansive game would be hard animate in painstaking detail, so an algorithm takes care of the basics. That’s what you see for a lot of Andromeda, the bare minimum. Perhaps knowing that sex scenes in video games are almost always laughably bad, Bioware paid extra attention to those in Andromeda so that it didn’t go down in that infamous crowd.

It isn’t that hard to believe, either. During sidequests and some non-essential NPC sidequests, the animations are at the worst. When the game is going big, however, the quality rises and its scenes become more impactful. Maybe the idea was to cover the essentials first and get around to the polish later, something Bioware evidently couldn’t follow through with in time for its hurried release date.

The Nintendo Switch launch, in many charts

The Wii broke the Nintendo Co. Ltd. 7974, -2.62%   curse of having every new console sell less than the one before it, and early returns from the Japanese gaming giant’s latest release, the Switch, suggest it could happen again.

With strong early sales for the Switch, investors like what they see so far, with Nintendo’s stock rising almost 15% since the console launched on March 3. But that kind of bounce actually might seem tame for Nintendo after the past year, which included a dramatic 112% rise after the July release of the PokemonGo mobile app and the 29% bounce after Super Mario Run was released for Apple Inc.’s AAPL, +0.03%  iOS. Both of those gains were short-lived, though.

Since the Wii’s successful 2006 release, Nintendo has continued to try to innovate with interactive hardware elements, such as wireless motion and touch controls, rather than attempt to compete with Sony Corp. SNE, -2.10%  and Microsoft Corp.MSFT, -0.47%  on processing power and high-end graphics.

While that worked well with the Wii, it wasn’t such a success with Nintendo’s follow-up, the WiiU. That system ended up being Nintendo’s worst-selling home console to date as a puny lineup of original games and inability to attract desirable third-party releases kept hard-core gamers away.

With the Switch, Nintendo has once again ignored the arms race of computing power and is focusing on an innovative form factor that combines a home-gaming console and mobile device.

The 6.2-inch LCD tablet with detachable controllers can be used on the go, but it can also be inserted into a docking station for use on a television. Initial reviews aremostly positive, though some complain about battery life, storage capacity and lukewarm performance compared with devices built solely for home or mobile gaming.

Nintendo has also bucked console convention by making the Switch a gaming-only gadget. Like the Wii and the WiiU, people can’t use the Switch as an all-in-one home entertainment unit to watch movies and television shows, unlike the Sony and Microsoft consoles that offer Blu-ray disc players and the ability to watch online content from services like Netflix NFLX, -0.07%   and Hulu.

But Nintendo does have a few aces up its sleeve, most notably its catalog of original games.

While PS4 and Xbox One fans mostly have access to the same game titles on either machine, if you want to play a Mario or Zelda game on your TV, you need Nintendo hardware. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” for instance, was launched along with the Switch to universal acclaim.

However, given the new Zelda game is also available on the older WiiU console, with nearly identical graphics, some are left wondering if fans will want to run out and plunk down $299 for the Switch.

Since its release on March 3, the Switch has been hard to find. A senior director from GameStop has called the early sales “phenomenal” and says it could eclipse the Wii in sales. But the WiiU debuted to solid sales numbers, as well (3 million units in the first quarter) before quickly falling out of favor.

Nintendo fans, while not as rabid as, say, Apple devotees, are always good for a system launch. The Switch will have to maintain that excitement like the Wii did a decade ago to make it a true hit.

The Other Side, Fizzles & Dies With Kickstarter Funds

In 2015 Indonesian game studio, Artoncode ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for their new project.Winterflame: The Other Side was planned to be an exciting puzzle adventure game with a complex emotional story. Over 600 backers pledged CA$ 70,832 to help Artoncode bring the project to life, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. A recent update has revealed that it probably was never going to be either.

Winterflame got off to a great start. Not only did the campaign raise slightly more than its goal, but the game also got on Steam Greenlight. Artoncode never explicitly stated how far along the game was during the campaign, but they did have a presumably working prototype available at the time. Combined with their assertion that the project’s biggest challenge would be designing the puzzles, backers had every reason to think the game was well underway.

In truth, despite updates to the contrary, Winterflamewas already facing difficulties. Backers were told, “We ensure you that we have progress very well until now,” in updates. Meanwhile, the project was actually experiencing numerous design and technical issues. Information which remained hidden from backers until the team’s most recent Kickstarter update.

After only two “backer only” updates throughout the whole of 2016, Artoncode has finally (10 months later) come clean with backers about the state of the project. Namely, that quite unexpectedly, they have canceled the whole thing.

The setbacks at the end of 2015 significantly slowed down the team’s progress. To counter this they attempted to split up the content going into 2016, but they had already used up a considerable chunk of the budget. With only 3 months of funding left they decided to build a working demo to pitch the project to publishers. By the end of May 2016 the demo was done, but it had depleted all of the team’s remaining financial resources.

Rather than come clean with backers about the complete suspension of the project, a few members of the team tried to keep things going. However, after several months of desperately trying to secure additional funding the company went under and the team dispersed.

The update notes that as the team is currently without resources they have no means of refunding the backers who’d supported them. Instead they are planning to release all the progress they’d made to their backers. Particularly, the Winterflame: The Other Side demo, which for CA$ 70,832 doesn’t seem like much.

Backer Backlash

Naturally, backers are angry. Not just about their lost money, but also about how Artoncode hid the problems. As backer, Tyler Bledsoe commented, “What upsets me most is that the team knew 9 months ago that things were going downhill & this may be the end result, & yet they did nothing to warn us. They even posted updates in May & June saying ‘Look how great things are going! I hope you’re all still excited about this great game we’ll have to you soon!’.”

It’s always disappointing when a project fails, but even more-so when developers try to be sneaky about it. Kickstarter might not be an ‘official’ investment platform like Fig, but when people believe in you enough to give you money to create something, common courtesy suggests that you be honest with them. It seems like CA$ 70,832 should have bought at least that much.