It's been a huge week for online gaming, with DotA 2 being shown for the first time at Gamescom and new details being released on Diablo III. In this week's Not So Massively, we give out beta keys for upcoming online action game Brawl Busters and reintroduce MMO-esque online FPS Blacklight: Retribution. Heroes of Newerth makes some controversial changes this week with patch 2.1.5, putting a free courier in every game and reorganising items in the shop.
The biggest news came out of Gamescom this week was the conclusion of Valve's massive $1.6 million US DotA 2 tournament The International. League of Legends retaliated with the announcement of a $5 million US total prize fund for competitive tournaments in season two. Blizzard also attended Gamescom to reveal new details of Diablo III's difficulty settings, which will include a brand-new Inferno endgame mode designed to challenge even the best players.
Skip past the cut for details of this week's biggest news from the world of MOBAs and other online games.
One of the more inventive games to fall into my inbox recently is Brawl Busters, an online multiplayer action game by new developer RockHippo Productions. The game has a distinct Team Fortress 2 visual style, and its team deathmatch gameplay certainly gives me a few TF2 flashbacks. Proving that you can make an online game out of practically anything, the expected combat classes have been replaced with a guitar-toting rocker, a firefighter, a baseball player, an American football player and a boxer.
The Brawl Busters closed beta began this week, and Massively has free beta keys to give away. Head over to our beta key giveaway page to bag yourself a key and then register on the official Brawl Busters website. If you're on the fence about whether the game will be worth trying, the trailer below gives a sense of the visual style and class gameplay RockHippo is aiming for.
While we've seen a lot of new information on Blizzard's upcoming online action RPG Diablo III recently, until now we didn't know how the game's difficulty modes would work. In Diablo II, players progressed from level 1 to 99 through three difficulty levels: normal, nightmare and hell. At Gamescom this week, Blizzard revealed that Diablo III will feature all three of these difficulty modes plus an additional Inferno mode.
The level cap has been reduced to 60, and the enemies in Inferno mode will start at level 61. A full team of highly skilled level 60 players will be needed to tackle Inferno content, making it a form of co-operative endgame that was sorely lacking in the game's predecessors. The best gear in the game will drop here, with better stats than equipment dropped in hell and unique visual styles.
Back in April we found out that Global Agenda developer Hi-Rez Studios planned to enter the MOBA scene with Smite, a DotA-styled online game with heroes based on mythical gods. Hi-Rez showed off two screenshots of Smite this week at Gamescom and plans to properly unveil the game next week at PAX Prime. No solid release date has yet been announced for Smite, but the game is scheduled to go into closed beta before the end of the year.
Last year, Blacklight: Tango Down hit XBox live, PC and the PlayStation Network with a huge amount of content for a relatively low price tag. The game sold well, prompting developer Zombie to announce the production of a sequel. Blacklight: Retribution aims to merge the core gameplay of its predecessor with MMO-esque mechanics like classes, experience gains, customisable skill trees and upgradeable gear.
While unlocks and levels have been a part of most modern first-person shooters, Zombie also plans to continue development on the game after its release, providing patches and expansions in much the same manner as an MMO studio. The developer has also teamed up with MMO and online game publisher Perfect World Entertainment.
Aside from the obvious graphical improvements over Tango Down with the inclusion of DirectX 11 features, Retribution features some interesting new gameplay features for online matches. Players earn credits for kills made during a match, which can be used to launch huge mechs that drop periodically during the game. Zombie plans to unveil the game with a full trailer next week at PAX Prime and has released the short pre-PAX trailer below to show off the game's impressive graphics.
With season one of League of Legends' PvP scene coming to a close, Riot Games announced that season two would feature an absolutely colossal $5,000,000 US total prize fund. That money will be spread over competitive tournaments throughout the year, securing LoL's position in the growing world of competitive e-sports. This announcement comes at the same time as DotA 2's $1.6 million tournament The International, which is likely to put pressure on DotA 2 to continue offering massive prizes for high-profile tournaments.
This week marks the conclusion of Riot's second Song of the Summoned contest, in which hundreds of players submitted their LoL-themed original and parody songs for a chance to win prizes and fame. A gallery of the winning submissions has been launched, and I seriously reccomend checking it out. Players have created some awesome techno mixes, rap parodies and original metal songs, even branching into slow rock, pop and hip hop.
Proving that the League of Legends community didn't exhaust its entire supply of creativity on the Song of the Summoned contest, this week's Summoner Showcase includes an awesome fan-made League of Legends cereal box. Much of this week's LoL news focused on upcoming champion Talon, the Blade's Shadow. In addition to an art spotlight on the character, Riot has released a few screenshots and a mechanics preview detailing his abilities. While you wait for Talon's inevitable Champion Spotlight, check out the long overdue Blitzcrank spotlight below.
Patch 2.1.5 went live this week in Heroes of Newerth, bringing with it all the usual bug-fixes and balance tweaks. Several big gameplay changes accompanied the patch, including the inclusion of a free ground courier in every game. Buying the courier is usually the responsibility of a player using a support hero, sacrificing 200 starting gold to give teammates a way to deliver items from the main shop without going back to base.
A free courier was already available at the start of casual mode games aimed at newer players, but one will now be present at the start of all games. This will allow support characters to buy two extra wards at the start of the match or upgrade straight to a flying courier. Controversially, the Bottle can no longer be filled by giving it to a courier and having it fly home, removing an element of tactical skill often used in by competitive players.
The shop has been reorganised to put cheaper items at the top, a move aimed at making purchase choices easier for new players. This change has unfortunately broken the item-buying shortcut keys veteran players have learned to use. While some players have welcomed the free courier and shop reorganisations, others complain that S2 is systematically dumbing the game down to make it easier for new players to pick up.
[UPDATE: S2 has clarified that only the order in which items are purchased as part of a recipe has changed, and that the changes should not affect anyone buying using normal keyboard shortcuts.]
Valve's $1.6 million US DotA 2 tournament The International concluded this week at Gamescom, with some incredible matches between the world's top classic DotA teams. The top two teams from each of four qualifying rounds proceeded to the winner's bracket, in which they faced each other in a knock-out style elimination process. In Saturday's winner's bracket final, Ukranian Na'Vi beat Singaporean team Scythe.SG to secure a spot in Sunday's grand final.
EHOME and Scythe.SG proceeded to the finals of the loser's bracket, facing off in a best-of-three series of matches to determine which team would face off against Na'Vi in the grand final. A victorious EHOME proceeded to the championship final while team Scythe.SG walked away with a respectable $125,000 US prize. In Sunday's grand final, EHOME and Na'Vi battled for the million dollar prize in a best-of-five game series designed to prove one team's superiority beyond any doubt.
The grand finals were extremely close, with both teams winning one match and putting on a strong display of gaming skill. Na'Vi secured a confident win in the third match, claiming the million dollar top prize and being crowned the winner of DotA 2's first competitive tournament. EHOME didn't go home empty-handed, taking the massive second place prize of $250,000 US back to China. If you're interested in seeing what DotA 2 competitive play looks like, we've embedded the frantic deciding round of the grand final below.
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 email@example.com.