League of Legends released its annual Snowdown update alongside a coincidentally named Showdown game mode that offers short 1v1 and 2v2 matches. Dota 2 officially removed its Steam activation queue and opened its doors to the public, and Valve put out a call for 3-D modelers to make new items themed on the Chinese New Year. Heroes of Newerth's patch 3.3 went live, introducing a new tactical item that can copy runes without consuming them. And SMITE revealed new Mayan god Chaac, a rain god with a lightning axe that's bigger than he is.
Diablo III officially opened pre-orders for its Reaper of Souls expansion; fansite Diablofans collected together another 50 legendary item screenshots from players on the public test realm. Path of Exile's patch 1.0.4 is due to launch today, adding the channeled Flameblast spell and support for private PvP duels. And Firefall developer Red 5 Studios sacked its CEO and founder Mark Kern this week, prompting several anonymous employees to reportedly come forward with stories of poor management behind the scenes.
Elite: Dangerous alpha test was a phenomenal success with fans, surpassing the expectations of many who backed the game on Kickstarter or bought into the beta later. Alpha patch 1.1 was released this week, adding support for the Oculus Rift gaming headset, 3-D TVs and monitors, and TrackID. The latest Elite newsletter also offers fans a brief peek at how the game is made behind the scenes with a short visit to each department, covering everything from artwork and audio to programming and production.
Star Citizen's backers have been looking forward to testing out their own game's combat. The Star Citizen dogfighting module was originally scheduled for release at the end of this month and was intended as a feedback-gathering pre-alpha release, but it has now been delayed to add extra polish and integrate it better with the other parts of the game.
Chris Roberts answered questions about the upcoming module and explained why delays were necessary in the new Ten For The Chairman video below. The new plan is to integrate the dogfighter with the existing hangar module and social tools, allowing players to board their ships from the hangar and take them into matchmaking games. Crowdfunding on the project appears to have slowed markedly for Christmas, barely reaching the $35 million mark after a recent livestream to unlock the Drake Herald encrypted information transport.
League of Legends kicked off its Snowdown update with a Showdown update. Snowdown is the game's annual winter holiday festival, featuring seasonal skins and covering the usual game map in snow. This year's festival plays host to an experimental new game mode named Showdown that promises even shorter and faster-paced matches than Dominion.
Players go head-to-head in 1v1 and 2v2 matches across this single-lane map, with the winner being the first to eliminate the other team, kill 100 creeps, or demolish the enemy turret. The new game mode will be sticking around only until January 2nd, but many are calling for Riot Games to make it a permanent addition to the game.
Dota 2 is now available to the general public. Though the game officially launched back in July, players downloading the free-to-play game on Steam were put into a queue to be activated in batches. The queue has now been removed, and anyone can download the game to play immediately.
If you're a 3-D modeler and want to earn some cash while making a name for yourself in the Dota 2 Workshop scene, Valve has an offer you might be interested in. The game's next big event will be landing at the end of January to coincide with the Chinese New Year and Valve has made a call for new Dota 2 items that fit the theme. Items themed on Chinese history and springtime in general are also being considered for promotion. For a chance to have your items featured during the event, just tag your submission "Spring2014" in the Dota 2 Workshop.
S2 Games are currently focused on the studio's new MOBA, Strife, which officially entered closed beta this week, development on Heroes of Newerth hasn't stopped. Patch 3.3 is now live, introducing a new tactical item called the Ioyn Stone and some big balance changes to Scout and Blood Hunter.
Using the Ioyn Stone on a rune will copy that rune and bottle it without consuming it, allowing characters that don't normally use runes to grab some benefit from them without ruining the game for people playing roles that rely on them. The copied rune isn't as effective as a normal one, but you get three charges of it to play with.
SMITE introduced another Mayan god this week with the official reveal video on Chaac, God of Rain. Wielding an axe several times larger than his ridiculously muscular body, Chaac is a Melee fighter with powerful lightning spells and an interesting tactical twist: After he lands five basic attacks, Chaac's next ability costs no mana. This encourages Chaac to get right into the thick of battle and makes every attack count.
Diablo III's Reaper of Souls expansion officially opened for pre-orders this week, but you don't necessarily have to wait for release to start designing your ideal gear set. Fansite Diablofans has collected another 50 screenshots of legendary and set items players have found on the Public Test Realm version of the expansion, adding to the 140 it previous pulled from testers. Many of the items are still works-in-progress, however, and some are missing stats or graphics.
Content update 1.0.4 is due to hit the Path of Exile servers today, introducing the new Flameblast skill and adding private PvP duels. Flameblast is a channeled fire spell that grows in area of effect and intensity as it's channeled and detonates when you stop casting. Players will also be able to challenge individual players or groups to private PvP duels, bypassing the matchmaking system.
Red 5 Studios terminated CEO and founder Mark Kern this week following a meeting of the board of directors. It remains to be seen whether this will have a domino effect for the development of MMOFPS Firefall, but several employees are reportedly happy to see him go. The Escapist has published quotes from several anonymous sources within the company who claim that the ex-CEO was frequently absent and made impulsive and arbitrary decisions regarding Firefall's development