Not So Massively: Dota 2's 5 million players, Path of Exile's death penalty, and Blizzard as an 'indie'

Not So Massively Dota 2 passes 5 million monthly players, Blizzard isn't indie, and Path of Exile cuts its death penalty
Star Citizen revealed details of the Hurston Dynamics corporation and jump-hub star system Terra in two new Galactic Guide lore articles this week. Diablo III developer Blizzard Entertainment regained its status as an independent development studio after CEO Bobby Kotick bought $8.2 billion US worth of shares back from parent company Vivendi. Path of Exile developer Grinding Gear Games announced plans to cut its XP death penalty by 50% in the next patch but pushed back new skills and performance improvements until the next update.

Meanwhile, League of Legends announced that its new website will be released soon following promising results from beta testers. The new site includes a community portal and a heavier focus on images and videos. Heroes of Newerth discussed its new design strategy of making every player feel different and announced plans to revamp Blitz, Ravener, and Lord Salforis in Patch 3.2. Dota 2 showed that its recent launch may have been a big success as it passed the 5 million unique player mark. And Prime World officially entered open beta this week and released an extensive guide for new players.

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Chang'e, Faerie of the Moon dances into the SMITE fray
Hi-Rez's latest SMITE patch brings a host of stuff to the game including skins, voicepacks, new ranked queues, and a variety of item and ability tweaks.
Firefall's open beta trailer highlights dynamic events
If you happen to be in Cologne, Germany next month, you can stop by Firefall's booth at Gamescom to check out the inbound improvements and new content because Red 5 Studios announced that it is returning to the convention this year.
Hi-Rez's Todd Harris argues Tribes: Ascend is a 'complete' and 'content-rich' experience
We reported earlier this week that Hi-Rez decided to stop updating Tribes Ascend in favor of user mapmaking tools because the studio feels that the Tribes experience is "complete" as-is.
Activision Blizzard goes indie after CEO Kotick buys back the company
Activision Blizzard is set to split from parent company Vivendi after a deal has been made to buy back the company for just over $8 billion. Led by CEO Bobby Kotick and Chairman Brian Kelly, the split will see 439 shares (worth $5.

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As Star Citizen approaches the $15 million US crowdfunding mark, developers have announced that they will be running a private party for backers at Gamescom in Germany next month. If you're a game lore junkie or just love reading about awesome fictional sci-fi universes, check out this week's Galactic Guide articles on in-game corporation Hurston Dynamics and star system Terra. Named for its third planet's natural environmental similarity to Earth, Terra is likely to be a huge focal point in the Star Citizen universe and is a naturally strong jump point hub.

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In an unexpected move, Activision Blizzard announced that it will be buying back its financial independence from parent company Vivendi for a colossal $8.2 billion US. Though there's no doubt that Diablo III is a AAA game, this bizarre turn of events may technically make Blizzard an independent game development studio. The majority of shares in the company will still be owned by the public and Vivendi will retain 12% of the shares. The move has sparked a great deal of debate online over what makes a development studio or game indie.

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Path of Exile is an oldschool style action RPG in every way that matters, and that means dying carries a pretty significant penalty. Deaths currently result is losing 7.5% of the XP you've earned toward your next level in Cruel difficulty and 15% in Merciless mode, which can add up to hours of grinding at higher levels. Patch 0.11.3 is set to decrease this to a loss of only 5% in Cruel and 10% in Merciless based on player feedback and testing. The team considered alternative systems to penalise players for dying but eventually decided that a straight XP penalty was the way to go.

Patch 0.11.3 will also separate the Trade chat channel from Global chat and allow players to cycle through all available channels by number. Several new microtransaction effects and unique items will also be deployed, and bugs in the newly released Twitch livestream integration system will be squashed. A new as-yet-unrevealed skill and performance improvements were originally scheduled for this patch, but both have been pushed back to 0.11.4 due to quality assurance testing.

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Riot Games is preparing to roll out an all-new League of Legends website following positive reactions from beta testers. The new design will go live soon, bringing a more streamlined navigation system and a clearer way to access news and older articles. The site promises to feature more articles backed by artwork and videos and comes with a community portal full of programs and fan-made content.

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In the second development diary video for Heroes of Newerth's upcoming Patch 3.2, Product Manager Brent Wiedmer discussed the design team's new direction. With over 200 unique heroes, there's a lot of overlap in playstyles that lead some heroes to be essentially underpowered versions of others. The team will start tackling this issue with balance changes to Blitz, Ravener, and Lord Salforis.

Blitz is a speedy support ganker whose abilities scale in power with movement speed, but he currently doesn't scale very far in power because all heroes are limited to a maximum of 522 movement speed. Ravener is in a similar mess, as his magic damage doesn't scale well into the late game due to the presence of magic armour and shrunken head magic immunity. Lord Salforis was also intended to be a counter to healing heroes but hasn't really excelled in the role. Check out the video below to see how all of these problems are being addressed in Patch 3.2.


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Dota 2's peak concurrent user total has seen a significant increase since the game officially transitioned from beta to release, and it looks as if even more new players than expected are now trying the game out. According to Steam's player stats, over five million unique players have played the game this month. For comparison, genre giant League of Legends released figures nine months ago showing that it had 32 million monthly unique players.

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Western gamers have had their eyes on Russian castle-building MOBA Prime World for some time, but until now only a small number of people had been given access to the English release. Open beta officially started on July 26th this week, so the game is now free for anyone to play. Developers have put together a list of useful links for first-time players, including a guide covering everything from building your castle to picking heroes.

Join us every Monday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to brendan@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.