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Not So Massively: Jay Wilson steps down, layoffs at Gas Powered Games


Gas Powered Games laid off 80% of its workforce this week as the studio's future became uncertain. CEO Chris Taylor revealed that if his Kickstarter campaign for new action RPG Wildman fails, the company will have to close its doors. Jay Wilson stepped down as Diablo III's Lead Game Designer to move on to other projects but assured players that the game will continue to be regularly updated. With less than a week to go until Path of Exile opens its doors to the public, two Massively freelancers recently tried the game and delivered their verdicts.

Rise of Immortals released its new All Random All Mid game mode that promises short casual matches, while Dota 2 revealed its new Least Played mode that forces players to pick heroes they ordinarily avoid. Heroes of Newerth's new ranged agility hero, Bushwack, hit the servers last Friday, and League of Legends announced early details of its upcoming support champion, Thresh. For those who've ever wanted to get into competitive League of Legends gaming, Riot Games also published an infographic this week showing the path to this season's competitive championship tournament.

Diablo III title image
Diablo III's Jay Wilson stepped down from his role as Lead Game Designer this week, revealing that he's been working on the game for over seven years and will now be moving on to another Blizzard project. The rest of the Diablo III team will continue to update the game with regular patches.

Patch 1.0.7 hit the public test realm this week and we finally got a closer look at the detailed patch notes. The Wizard and Monk are getting some key ability updates, and the patch brings in new account-bound craftable gear made from Demonic Essence dropped by elite monsters. The new account-bound items include armour that can roll higher stats than rare drops, an item level 63 amulet, and a new Marquise gem tier.

Wildman title image
Game development studio Gas Powered Games went to Kickstarter this week to ask for $1.1 million US in funding for its action RPG Wildman. The game aims to merge classic action RPG gameplay with RTS elements and will include online co-op multiplayer. Despite an initially slow reception, the studio has received an outpouring of support in the media and has now hit over 22% of its goal with 26 days remaining.

Gas Powered Games is best known for the Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander series, and until earlier this month, it was developing ongoing content for Age of Empires Online. When that project was canceled, the studio no longer had the funds to keep its 50 staff on the payroll while developing Wildman. The fate of the studio now rests on its success on Kickstarter as in a surprising turn of events, Gas Powered Games laid off 40 developers from its 50-man team shortly after launching the Kickstarter campaign. A video update from CEO Chris Taylor explained the reason for the layoffs and divulged plans to potentially hire some of the laid-off employees back if the campaign is well-funded. Reactions to the video's blunt honesty have been mostly positive, with a few people decrying it as emotional blackmail but most just writing in support of a studio whose future now rests in the public's hands.

Path of Exile title image
With less than a week to go until Path of Exile enters open beta, two Massively freelancers have given the game a whirl and delivered their first impressions. Though the game may not officially be released for some time, January 23rd's open beta launch will include the game's final character wipe. As Path of Exile is free-to-play, there will be a smooth transition to full release rather than a limited beta followed by publication. There's been a flurry of media activity over Path of Exile in the lead-up to launch, and developer Grinding Gear Games has now released the official open beta trailer below.

Rise of Immortals title image
Following its recent revamp, Rise of Immortals has now started pumping out new characters, maps, and game modes. The latest patch added the new All Random All Mid game mode that forces all players to pick random characters and puts them in a new single-lane map. All-mid mode has proven popular in Heroes of Newerth, where it provides faster matches with highly compressed action.

Dota 2 title image
While game modes that force players to pick random heroes may be more fair to newer players, there's always a chance that someone will happen to get a hero she's exceptionally good at. To help combat this, Dota 2 has released its fun new Least Played game mode. As the name suggests, this game mode forces players to pick from the heroes they have the least experience with. In addition to ending up with a much fairer game for new players, this mode should help people learn new heroes and get over the Dota 2 learning cliff.

League of Legends title image
If you've always wanted to play League of Legends competitively but weren't sure where to start, Riot Games has a new infographic explaining the process for its upcoming Season 3 tournaments. Teams will now fight their ways up through six competitive tiers, each divided into five divisions. At the end of the competitive season, the top 16 teams or players in each division will be placed into an online tournament to qualify for the championship series. All you need to start this journey is a level 30 account with access to 16 champions and a lot of skill.

Early details of new support champion Thresh have now been revealed, including an interesting soul-stealing mechanic and a bizarre lantern-based escape mechanism. Enemy monsters and players who die near Thresh will occasionally drop soul essence, which Thresh can pick up to boost his armour and ability power. Thresh can also give nearby allies a small shield by dropping his lantern, which acts as an escape mechanism as any ally who clicks on the lantern will be pulled to Thresh.

Heroes of Newerth title image
Heroes of Newerth's new agility hero, Bushwack, officially released to early-access puchasers last Friday. Bushwack is intended to be an auto-attack carry who can dominate a game if he gets a good enough farm, but so far players report that his damage is underwhelming and his attack range is too low. Bushwack's Crippling Dart ability has a powerful slow to help him stay in range of enemies, but the low duration makes it a tricky ability to use well. His Splinter Shot passive also causes all basic attacks to split into three when they hit an enemy hero, making good positioning tricky.

Bushwack's main ability is his passive ultimate that adds poison damage and clearvision to every attack. The poison stacks multiple times on successive attacks and applies to targets hit by items like Frostfield Plate and Thunderclaw, but the damage isn't very high, and the clearvision serves a very niche purpose. Bushwack's Side Step ability lets him rapidly leap a short distance to position well for an attack, but players report that the leap doesn't disjoint incoming projectiles or targeted spells.

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