Star Citizen reached a whopping $39 million in crowdfunding this week amidst controversy over feature creep and the delayed dogfighting module. The next stretch goal will fund an R&D team to look into the possibility of procedurally generating entire planets for players to explore, but this feature will not be coming until after release. Developers on Elite: Dangerous were surprised this week when two games they developed as part of a company game jam event led to $6.2 million in signed publishing contracts on a yet-to-be-named platform.
Blizzard revealed the final details of Diablo III's upcoming Paragon 2.0 update that will provide theoretically endless progression, and players have figured out how to power-level characters with Diablo II style runs. As the release of Path of Exile's first mini-expansion draws near, Grinding Gear Games revealed details of what will be in the expansion, including a strange new Vaal Orb currency that can significantly buff items.
Valve announced that it will be releasing a new feature-length documentary named "Free to Play" next month, which chronicles the struggles of three participants in Dota 2's first ever million-dollar tournament. SMITE's launch event has been expanded into a new GameVid Expo event featuring prominent livestreamers and YouTube celebrities, and old character Agni received a graphical overhaul. And Twitch Plays Pokemon continues to grow in popularity, reaching over 100,000 simultaneous viewers this week and adding new Democracy and Anarchy modes.
Sci-fi sandbox game Star Citizen continued to exceed crowdfunding expectations this week as it broke through the $39 million mark to unlock a new solar system. All of the recent stretch goals have been to add new solar systems and content that will be in the game at launch, and that has players very worried about feature creep on a game that is already behind schedule. Developers are now working hard to get the promised dogfighting module in supporters' hands, but there's no release date in sight.
After the next stretch goal, which will add two new solar systems to the game, Cloud Imperium wants to start focusing on funding development after release. The $41 million stretch goal will fund a research and development team to look into the possibility of procedurally generating entire planets. If this is successful, the highly requested atmospheric combat and planetary exploration will be released some time after the game comes out.
Elite: Dangerous developer Frontier Developments received an unexpected windfall this week when an internal company game jam event led to the signing of a new $6.2 million development contract. Many popular indie titles have spawned from public events like the annual Global Game Jam, and some game development studios run their own internal versions for fun. Games resulting from internal events like these are the property of the studio and can potentially lead to real marketable products.
This is similar to what happened with CCP Games' Oculus Rift based dogfighter EVE Valkyrie, which started life as a side-project between a few developers operating under the company's 20% time policy and is now one of the studio's core games. Gamasutra reports that publishing deals have been signed on two games and that the unnamed publisher may be a manufacturer of next-gen hardware. Gamers have speculated that the new games may be exclusive to the Oculus Rift or Amazon's new console.
Blizzard gave players a first look at the finalised version of Diablo III's upcoming Paragon 2.0 update and clan tools this week. The new Paragon leveling system removes the level cap to allow unending progression and shares paragon levels between all accounts. Each level will also now give you a point to spend on any stat you wish in one of four categories: Core, Offense, Defense, and Utility. The new system will allow some complex builds to work without expensive equipment, taking the pressure off players to get the perfect gear in every slot.
Combined with the upcoming Loot 2.0 update and new endgame features in the Reaper of Souls expansion, these changes are intended to make the game much closer to its Diablo II roots. The only thing missing is the rapid power-leveling from Baal runs and Ubers ... or is it? In the video below, livestreamer Menthur discovered that a brand-new level 1 character can be pushed to level 60 in as little as four minutes by a team of fully leveled and geared players in Torment VI difficulty.
Path of Exile's first mini-expansion is due to land next week on March 1st, but developers are already teasing players with information on new features and league modes. The Sacrifice of the Vaal expansion centres around the deadly enemy Queen Atziri and introduces secret new corrupted areas of the game with additional challenges. New Vaal skill gems and unique items will be revealed next week along with details of the Ambush and Invasion leagues. Players hoping for more PvP options will be glad to know that the new Sarn Arena will host free-for-all PvP matches.
A new Vaal Orb currency item will reportedly allow players to corrupt their items by sacrificing the implicit stat bonus in exchange for a random affix that isn't available to other rare or magic items. The Vaal Orb will drop about as often as Chaos Orbs, and there are rumours that it will have a chance of not erasing the implicit affix on your item and even making one of the sockets white. It's not yet clear whether there are any drawbacks to corrupting your items or whether the corruption is permanent.
The competitive MOBA scene exploded several years ago when Dota 2 joined League of Legends in offering a million dollar prize for its world championship series. Millions of gamers worldwide now aspire to become part of the competitive elite who can earn a living from gaming and livestreaming, but only a few actually make it. This week Valve announced that it will soon be releasing a new feature-length documentary named "Free to Play" that follows three professional gamers as they competed for the million dollar top prize in the first ever Dota 2 International tournament.
The tournament that the film follows took place nearly three years ago and was a real tipping point for e-sports. Though professional gaming is now a little more of an established industry, the first batches of competitors launching into the fray risked more than a bruised ego to participate. Some were kicked out of their homes, risked their education, and caused rifts within their families, all in the pursuit of becoming the best in the world at one game. The documentary will be released for free via Steam on March 19th and was produced in-house by Valve.
The Twitch Plays Pokemon livestream reached a peak of over 100,000 viewers this week and briefly became the most popular gaming stream on the service. If you haven't heard of Twitch Plays Pokemon, it's the hilarious new stream of Pokemon Red that puts viewers in control of the action. This experiment allows viewers to type commands into the chat and the relevant buttons will be pushed in the game, creating a chaotic and competitive environment.
The system was updated this week with a new democracy mode that chooses the most popular input command provided every 20 seconds, allowing players to vote collectively on actions. To make things more fun, developers have given players the ability to vote on switching the game between anarchy and democracy modes.
An entire internet subculture has arisen around discussing and chronicling the game's progress, sharing memes, and creating original artwork based on events in the game. This week's crowning achievement for the experimental gaming stream occurred when players managed to successfully locate and capture legendary Pokemon Zapdos while in anarchy mode.
Third-person MOBA SMITE has become one of the most consistently popular livestreamed games on the net thanks to its focus on competitive tournaments. To celebrate that success, Hi-Rez Studios has expanded the SMITE launch event at the end of March into a full-on industry event. The first ever GameVid Expo will take place from March 28th to March 30th in The W hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. SMITE's launch will be the cornerstone event, but several prominent livestreamers and YouTubers such as TotalBiscuit have been invited as special guests.
This week's SMITE update saw a huge graphical overhaul for existing character Agni, the God of Fire. Agni is a ranged mage who can lay traps of noxious fumes and then ignite them when enemies are in the area for bonus damage. Careful micromanagement of Angi's basic attacks can also lead to considerable damage increases, as he gains a combustion buff after successfully landing five attacks. On casting Flame Wave or Rain Fire, the buff will set all characters hit by the ability alight, dealing damage over time. This character was introduced some time ago, but has had a complete model redesign and particle effect change to bring him up to the current design standards.
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