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Blizzard has finally put out the first details of Hearthstone’s long-awaited single-player “story mode” at Pax East and an online article.  The theme will be the raid of Naxxramas, which has long been one of the more memorable and popular dungeons in World of Warcraft; first appearing in the original game and then re-appearing in the Lich King expansion after being remade and re-balanced for the higher level content.

After reading the article, here is what I can glean:

– The adventure mode will consist of 5 separate bosses that must be defeated, one per “wing”

– Each boss will function as an AI controlled hero that must be defeated in 1v1 combat, and will have unique hero powers and probably unique cards also

– The first wing will be free.  Remaining wings will release one a week after the first, and must be unlocked via either gold or real money.  No prices listed.

– Defeating a boss will unlock one of the 30 new player cards associated with the adventure.  Defeating all wings of the adventure will reward players with a legendary, most likely the Baron Rivendare card spoiled in the article.  4 other player cards are also spoiled.  All spoiled cards have or interact with the “Deathrattle” keyword.

– The adventure will also include new “class challenges” for each class, the defeat of which will unlock a new card for that class.  Details are this are very sketchy though.

– The adventure will be played on a new game board themed to the dungeon

– No release date announced or hinted.

So, some thoughts.

First off, on the positive side I think this is a pretty cool development for the game.  I really loved the concept of the Raid decks for the WoW TCG and they really seem to be retaining the flavor of those, albeit as a single player experience which is too bad but expected.  I also really like the idea of opening the wings over 5 weeks, it will give the community something to talk about and will give players a reason to keep coming back.  Depending on how the class challenges are formatted, those might also allow for a whole lot of replayability as players keep coming back with different classes to unlock the class cards.  The new neutral cards spoiled seem pretty powerful to me and may make silence effects incredibly important.  Deathrattle was already a powerful keyword on it’s own even without these new buffs to it.

Still, though, there are a lot of questions.  How will the class challenges be formatted?  Will they be some sort of optional twist on the content?  Will they be specific to one boss or include multiple bosses?  It’s really unclear.  Also, the difficulty level will be interesting to see; there will be huge amounts of public decks posted for defeating the adventure immediately after it comes out, it will be interesting to see how the difficulty is tuned with this in mind.  Also, how many of the new player cards will be available via the single free wing?

But probably the biggest question of all is pricing for the 4 wings after the first free one.  This is the first micro-transaction added to the game apart from the basic purchasing of packs and arena runs, but surprisingly it will be available for gold also… Blizzard is being even more faithful to the Free-To-Play model than I expected, though this is also because presumably they want to ensure all cards can be acquired for free.  It will be interesting to see how they price it.  If it’s skewed too far in either direction they will suffer.  Too little gold and no one will pay the cash, too much gold and you’ll see massive whining about pay-to-win.  Currently Blizzard has established a conversion of 100 gold is approx. $1.25-$1.50 so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the wings cost 200-250 gold each or $1.99.  But we will see how much of a cash cow Blizzard is shooting for here.

 

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After a long journey through the Steam Greenlight process, Panzer Corps and all of it’s expansions and DLC are now available on Steam thus making this great game more accessible than it’s ever been.

As I’ve written in the past, Panzer Corps is a medium-weight turn-based strategy/puzzle game with a boardgame feel to it, playing out on a hexagon map with single units per hex.  The scenarios represent actual or hypothetical operational-sized engagements from WW2 but are designed to favor gameplay over historical accuracy, so the game is not a serious simulation by any means.  The AI opponent, more accurately a programmed opponent, is of limited capability but is specially programmed for each scenario.  The scenarios are well designed and plentiful leading to lots of game content, as each scenario presents it’s own unique challenges and an array of difficulty options ensure your experience can be tuned as hard or easy as you like.

The game includes a simple but effective representation of command elements such as experience, airpower, fuel and ammo supply, and replacements.  Even more fun, the scenarios can be linked together into campaigns where you move from scenario to scenario with the same core of units, which can make losing an experienced tank unit you’ve had for a long time even more meaningful than in the context of a single scenario.  It also allows the game to model some of the technological advancement of the war as larger and more capable units become available in later scenarios as a lowly Panzer II unit driving through Poland in 1939 may many scenarios later be fighting on the Steppes of Russia equipped in King Tiger tanks.

The base game is $19.99 and includes the game engine and the original branching campaign which covers the entire war from 1939-1945 and includes several possible outcomes.

The two major expansions, Afrika Korps and Allied Corps, are each $14.99.  Steam requires the original game for them to function.  They each add a large new campaign as well as new units and graphics.

Lastly there are the Grand Campaign DLC, these are $4.99 packages which cover one year of the war and which can be linked together to form a large and much more detailed campaign that spans across more than 70 scenarios.  A lot of these scenarios are very unique and large scale and offer the ultimate Panzer Corps experience.  These scenarios are personally my favorite part of the game as they present the most interesting and fun challenges.

For someone who wants to dive right in there is the $79.99 bundle which includes everything at a 20 dollar discount.

The simple interface for the game has also been ported to create a Panzer General for iPad.

If you have an interest in WW2 operational level combat and enjoy turn-based decision-making and problem-solving but don’t want to commit to an overly complex simulation or learn a bunch of complicated mechanics, Panzer Corps may be a great game to check out.

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I managed to get $150 in Best Buy gift cards through work and decided to put them towards the purchase of a Solid State Hard Drive.  After some research I went with the Intel 530 Series 240GB drive.

If you don’t know what a solid state drive is, it is basically a hard drive that reads and writes at roughly the speed of RAM; something like 3-10 times faster than a traditional 7200 RPM spinning hard drive, with the exact performance improvement depending on a lot of factors.  The main appeal to me was that if you set the SSD HDD as your boot drive and main gaming drive you can boot windows and launch games a lot quicker.  Since my gaming time is at a premium and is often in small chunks, being able to get things going quicker could be really nice.  Not something I would shell hard hard cash for, but a seemingly good upgrade to target with the gift cards.

I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but installation wasn’t exactly trouble-free.  Physical installation was quite simple, the drive is 2.5″ but comes with a 3.5″ adapter which I had no trouble installing.  I then installed Windows 7 and was able to boot from the new drive no problem.  The problems came in when attempting to switch to the new drive as my sole boot drive and format my old 700GB drive into a storage drive.  Apparently not all Windows 7 installation partitions are created equal… since my original drive was still plugged in when I installed Windows on the new drive, it didn’t create a boot partition and other essential elements needed.  So when I did eventually format my old drive I was unable to boot from the new drive and had to run repairs from the Windows 7 disk to make the new installation bootable.  Fortunately there were lots of online resources to guide me through it.

Moral of the story is, if you are installing Windows on a new drive that you want to be your future boot drive you need to physically disconnect the old boot drive so that Windows doesn’t see it.  Otherwise Windows won’t install everything needed on the new drive.  It sounds weird, but that’s how it works.

Anyways, now that the drive is up and running I am pretty pleased with it.  My boot time dropped from a couple minutes of grinding down to a mere 10 seconds from power on to Windows desktop which is awesome.  Most games launch quicker also, though performance within most games seems largely unaffected except for things like loading save files or complex textures early on.  So I think it’s a good upgrade for a gaming rig provided you know what it does and doesn’t do for you.  I’m also still learning, and there may be some ways to leverage it that I’m not aware of yet.

240 GB isn’t a massive amount of space but I’m re-installing games as I play them and so far I haven’t even come close to capacity, though I haven’t installed any behemoths like EVE or WOW yet.

My next upgrade is likely to be my graphics card.  My GTX460 was very affordable and has been putting in good work, especially considering I don’t play many graphic-intensive games, but it is getting a bit long in the tooth and there are some decent new options.  I’ll probably look around this summer and see what I can find for my budget.  My wife would certainly appreciate this as it would allow me to retire the GTX460 to her machine in time for the next Warcraft expansion.

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Wargaming.net is implementing the Havok physics engine fairly soon and the results are pretty awesome.  Destructible buildings, much more realistic tank movement, detachable turrets, and flippable tanks will all be added to the game.  The destructible buildings is probably the single coolest element but the improved tank physics allows for both more realism and more differentiation between tank models.  The tanks flipping over and having turrets blown off will result in some much more satisfying and humorous tank deaths and battlefield effects.

I’m continually impressed with how far the Free to Play model is taking World of Tanks.

Wargaming.net is showing off the new effects in a recent developer diary video that is well worth watching:

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No blogger with even a passing interest in EVE Online can avoid writing a post about the battle that happened in B-R5RB  on Monday January 27.  EVE Online is capable of producing far larger player-driven game events than any other game I’m aware of, but the fighting in B-R5 tops everything the game has seen in it’s 10+ years history in sheer scale.

A lot of articles have already been written about the details of the fighting and how it occurred (links at the bottom) so I won’t go into great detail here, but I do want to point out a couple things.  As a lot of articles are emphasizing, it’s true that the opportunity for the battle happened due to a simple missed sovereignty  payment which seems trivial.  However it’s important to understand that (more…)

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I’m totally stoked by this announcement.

Don’t Starve is a phenomenal and unique game experience, as I related in my previous post gushing about the game.  Developer Klei packed a huge amount of gameplay into a very affordable package via the use of dynamic world creation and simple mechanics including permadeath that maintained a high level of tension through most of the game.  Klei continued to add content for a period of months which is impressive considering the small price, but eventually the free updates stopped and Klei talked about planning for a future DLC as a paid major content addition.

While a few folks will always whine about the DLC model, I am quite content to hand over more money if Klei will continue developing the game.  Open world games like this benefit in a sort of exponential fashion from additional mechanics and experiences for the player, and of course no small developer is going to be able to continue to substantially support a game long after sales of that game have stopped.  The DLC model makes perfect sense and so I have patiently waited for additional information.  Finally we have some details!

Klei has now announced the DLC will be entitled “Reign of Giants”.  The goals of the DLC are described as follows (from the dev forum post on the DLC):

Our goal with Reign of Giants is to make a large chunk of content that is both meaningful and interesting. The new content touches all corners of the game, focused on adding content throughout the entire upper world of Don’t Starve. It includes new cycles, creatures, characters, craftables and biomes that will work together with the existing content of Don’t Starve to provide new challenges to overcome and new ways to adapt to these challenges.

Don’t Starve has always been about the fun of learning and discovery — applying your knowledge of the world when reacting to the many curve balls that it throws you; all while struggling to survive. We’ve taken that to the next level with Reign of Giants, layering on more challenges and systems that will interact with the existing content to provide many more scenarios to master. I’m being purposely vague on what Reign of Giants actually has in store for you, but I can tell you that it’s going to be big. And awesome.

What I’m most excited about is the developers goal to improve the gameplay across “all corners”.  Much of the later development of Don’t Starve was to support a new Cave game which added a lot of content for players to explore but left the primary “surface” game feeling a bit flat and static after a while.  This new DLC looks like it will be just what the game needs to really start to take off and explore the creative space.

In case you can’t tell, I am very excited and will eagerly watch for further news.

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I had known World of Tanks was a financial success, but I had no idea of the sheer scale of that success.  It turns out World of Tanks raked in $372 million in revenues in 2013.  For comparison, World of Warcraft brought in a mere $213 million.  The giant that is League of Legends meanwhile brought in $624 million.  Which of these is not like the other?  WoW is the only subscription game of the three and yet brought in less revenue; only about a third of free to play LoL.

Both LoL and World of Tanks are also emphatically avoiding “pay to win” pricing traps where players start playing a game for free but end up having to pay to compete.  World of Tanks has removed pretty much all gameplay advantages for premium players as you can now purchase all the same items for in-game currency.  Paying players can still acquire them much more quickly and, in the case of consumables and ammo, can use them more frequently so the advantage to paying players is still there but it is a lot more subtle now.  Paying players also have access to premium tanks that are only purchasable with premium currency but Wargaming.net has done a nice job of balancing these so that they earn greater rewards but don’t really offer any advantages in actual combat.

It seems to me that the key distinction in terms of success is (more…)

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