Third-person MOBA SMITE added the 34th god to its roster this week with acrobatic assassin Ne Zha entering the fray, and Guardians of Middle-Earth released new DLC character Kili the Dwarf. Rise of Immortals added support for game replays and introduced and interesting new White Knight feature that lets players take over from characters who have disconnected or quit in the middle of a game.
Heroes of Newerth announced a huge upcoming balance patch that may finally get rid of the paid-for early hero access and promises to rebalance much of the game's expansive roster of characters. Dota 2's streamlined abuse report update backfired when players discovered they could use the report feature itself to abuse other players. And Firefall may finally be edging toward release with the announcement of a date for the start of open beta.
Star Citizen released some new concept art of Terra this week and discussed the process of designing and refining the artwork. Most AAA games don't show off what goes on behind the scenes, but Star Citizen aims to change this with its community-driven development model and crowdsourced funding sources. If you're a fan of the game or just want to follow development, check out Massively's new Star Citizen column Stick and Rudder.
Diablo III's upcoming Patch 1.0.8 continued to be refined on the public test realm this week with a series of balance tweaks and skill updates. Most skills that grant life regeneration have had their values doubled to make regeneration more competitive next to lifesteal and life on hit. The Wizard Ray of Frost and Witch Doctor Fire Bats spells have had their damage outputs buffed. Blizzard has also finally acknowledged that the fire pool left by Blazing Guardians dealt far too much damage; the minimum damage of the attack will be increased, but the damage of the fire pool left behind has been cut in half.
These changes aren't guaranteed to make it to the live server, and there may be more changes on the way before the patch goes live. In particular, Blizzard stated this week that it wasn't happy with the idea of the Wizard's Archon Form being used to consistently farm. The spell currently has its duration extended by one second for every enemy killed and can technically go on indefinitely if you can farm efficiently. Blizzard wants it instead to return to being a short term super-powered boost like the Barbarian Wrath ability.
Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games has announced details of its second race season that is now underway. This season's prizes include some insane items like a ring with 76% bonus item rarity, a level 290 amulet that grants 96 to all stats, and a robe with six linked sockets that can support any colour of gem.
SMITE added its 34th god this week with a reveal on upcoming melee damage-dealer Ne Zha, the Third Lotus Prince. Not even death can stop Ne Zha completely, as he is reborn for a short duration after death and provides huge healing and anti-crowd-controlling buffs to nearby teammates. Every four basic attacks Ne Zha lands also deals damage in a cone in front of him. This pairs well with his Flaming Spear ability that greatly increases his attack speed and critical hit chance for a few seconds.
Ne Zha can toss his legendary Universe Ring at enemies, dealing damage and reducing their armour. If the ring hits an enemy god, it will bounce between nearby enemies a few times for extra damage. He can also use his Armillary Sash to latch onto target enemy gods and pull himself across the battlefield toward them. His ultimate ability knocks an enemy up into the air, hits him with a chain of flying combo attacks, and then sends him crashing to the ground.
Rise of Immortals patch introduced two much-needed new features to the game this week: replay mode and the White Knight queue. Replays will let players look back at previous matches and learn from their mistakes; indeed, replays have become a standard feature across the MOBA genre. Players have been experiencing errors with the system, and the server process that records matches has been causing extra lag, but developers are currently working on a fix.
The White Knight queue is an interesting new feature that lets you sign up to replace players who quit or disconnect during a match. White Knighters will be dropped into the middle of the game in progress and can help turn things around for his team, but could be at a severe XP disadvantage compared to other players.
S2 Games announced that a huge balance patch is making its way to Heroes of Newerth. The teaser trailer below shows a new rune, Pebbles chucking multiple allied heroes into a fight, and a giant "EA" sign smashing. This is almost certainly indicating that the Early Access hero system is being removed. New heroes will hopefully be free to all players on release rather than restricted to those who pay cash for the first month. The patch is due to land on the 3rd of May following the HoN Tour grand finals.
League of Legends has dealt with the issue with its player-mediated banning tribunal, but other games like Dota 2 just have a report feature that sends information on the offense directly to GMs for approval. The latest Dota 2 update streamlined the report process by adding a new communication offense covering text and voice chat, but it hasn't exactly gone as planned.
The new system appears to be automated and immediately chat-bans any player who is reported by all four teammates during a match. Teams of four queuing for matchmaking games now have the ability to automatically ban their fifth team member from chat; the ban persists for an unknown duration after the match ends. People are reporting that the feature is also being abused by players just wanting to punish someone on their team for something other than a chat offense.
Guardians of Middle-Earth released new DLC character Kili the Dwarf this week, a striker who uses a shortbow and deals massive damage with his basic attacks. Many of his abilities deal true damage to cut through enemy defenses, and his flare can pierce stealth and reveal enemies hidden in the brush.
Firefall has been a long time in development, but it's almost here. Red 5 Studios has announced that the game will finally enter open beta on July 9th following a series of huge patches rolling out tons of new content. The patches will add the ability to explore inside parts of the Melding cloud that forms the border of the playable landscape and open rifts into the alien dimension and take the fight directly to the enemy. When the game enters open beta, we'll finally get to see just how massive its multiplayer can be.
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