League of Legends Ports and Other Riot Games

I can’t recall the actual day, but recently Riot Games had a 10th anniversary livestream featuring League of Legends and other stuff. First of all, what an accomplishment to keep LoL going for ten years and building the Esports community up around it. Professional play has gone from some nerds in back rooms of warehouses to huge arena-filling events with famous live performers and a quality of production rivaling ESPN and other mainstream outlets — all of this on what I’m sure is less income and all done over the Internet eschewing traditional TV outlets. I started playing LoL back in 2011 which was around the end of season 1 heading into season 2. I’ve seen the majority of the champions release, I’ve seen a ton of events and in-game happenings along with changes to the game, its launcher, the main maps/modes, and Riot itself. I’ve watched the World Championship nearly every year since I first heard about it. I’ve watched regular season games of each of the major regions, even participating in their Fantasy League (like Fantasy Football) for a couple of seasons. I’ve collected vinyl figures, owned T-shirts, and have a rather large poster hanging on my wall. You could say League became a major part of my life, despite the fact that I haven’t really played very regularly in the past couple of years. Still, when I heard the news coming out of this live stream, I knew I had to talk about it. To be fair, there’s even more that was announced that I’m not going to touch on, but IGN has a great article encapsulating all of the news.

What excited me the most out of all that was said during the live stream was that League of Legends will be ported to consoles and mobile. Called “Wild Rift,” this version of League is not a direct port, it’s the same game rebuilt from the ground up for these other devices. I’m not a huge fan of complex games on mobile phones because usually the screen isn’t big enough and touch controls can be pretty wonky… but on console, I’ll play the shit out of this. It’s not so much that I dislike the game on PC, no, I’d rather play it there. But I have friends who don’t own PCs and probably never will, along with having never played LoL before and I’d love to introduce it to them. Also, the potential for a nice long trophy list makes the trophy whore in me lick his lips. I did play a different MOBA on PS4 recently and it had some fairly intuitive controls, so I assume if they are anything like that, this version of the game will be very enjoyable even with a controller in lieu of keyboard/mouse.

Teamfight Tactics, which I wrote about when I first tried it (and I’m still not into this auto-battler genre) is getting ported to mobile now as well. This makes sense since their main competitor DOTA Underlords is also both on PC and mobile. I assume this would probably be more fun on a mobile device since you can be doing other things while playing it. I get bored too fast with this type of game so this news wasn’t particularly interesting to me.

Legends of Runeterra is new. It’s not an existing game getting ported to other devices. It’s free-to-play. It’s a card game. That’s really all I know. The above trailer will give more detail than I can. What I do know is that I do enjoy card games. I just haven’t really found a digital one that I can play for a long term. I did play Hearthstone for quite a while, but then it got stupid (as Blizzard games tend to do). I can’t get into any of the Magic: The Gathering digital versions because I simply like playing the paper version so much more. This is a world/lore that I enjoy, and depending on what they do to make this stand out from the competition, this could finally be the card game I play when I need a fix.

Project A, as it’s being call at this juncture, is Riot’s attempt at a tactical FPS, but also looks to be a hero shooter. So think games like Paladins or Overwatch. I’m intrigued by this one, mainly because it’s such a far cry from a MOBA and this company has only been known for one game for so long. A card game based on the world is great and all, but I’m a FPS player through and through, so this is very appealing. My hope is that they do something different enough to make this feel better than existing games on the market. Graphically it looks okay, but I think that will get bumped up a notch when it gets closer to release. Gameplay looks fine, but I want some heroes with crazy abilities and I want tight gunplay. I’d also like to see some objectives and things that are different from what’s out there, but time will tell. Keeping an eye on this one.

Project L was announced as a fighting game. If this is 2-D hand drawn and plays like a Street Fighter title, I’m all in. If we’re looking at more of a Tekken style fighter, I’m less excited. We’ll have to wait for more details but I love me a good fighting game and Riot has already developed so many cool characters I’d love to fight as them. It’s unknown if that’s what’s happening or if all of the characters would be original. Also keeping an eye on this one.

Lastly, stuff that isn’t game related. A documentary about LoL called “League of Legends: Origins” was released on Netflix the other day and I watched it. It was a really good look into the origin of the company via Ryze and Tryndamere, along with the rise of the game itself and Esports. Basically all stuff that I lived through, but fun to see it in a different context. If you haven’t paid attention to LoL or Esports, or just don’t “get it,” I’d recommend giving this a watch. Also, an animated series called “Arcane” is being developed and looks to deal with stories about LoL characters. You can watch the trailer above, it looks really cool and I’ll definitely watch it when the time comes.

That’s all I’m going to touch on today, but some exciting stuff coming down the pipeline. There were a few other tidbits in the article I linked at the beginning of this post, so if you haven’t had your fill you can read more there. What do you guys think about Riot Games finally branching out?

Early Impressions: Borderlands 3

The king of Looter Shooters has triumphantly returned. I first played Borderlands back in 2010 upon purchasing my Playstation 3 (it was actually the first game I purchased during that generation) and instantly fell in love. The 3-D but cell-shaded art direction, the sense of humor, and most importantly, the RPG progression and loot system all hooked me right in. Truth be told, I played that game more than any other in the series, maxing out my character level and completing all of the DLC, also collecting the platinum trophy. I would play through it again a second time with my roommate, and from there he was hooked too. We purchased the sequel on day one. We played through it a couple of times but I only scraped the surface of the DLC, only coming back to the game most recently to play through the added DLC that bridged the story gap between sequels. Despite Borderlands: The PreSequel being a similar type of game and one that bridged the story between 1 & 2, it didn’t hold my attention long enough to finish it, and once we had the proper release of 3, I knew I probably wouldn’t go back. Having played the newest game, I can confirm that going back to the older games would be difficult. So many quality of life improvements have me spoiled and I’m not sure I could do without them again.

Fans of the series will be familiar with the above splash screens — each time we’re introduced to a new/returning character or a boss, we’ll get these art pieces displayed across the screen for a few moments, and then either the fight or dialogue proceeds. So far, nearly every character that has existed in the series has made an appearance, outside of those that are now deceased (Handsome Jack, Scooter, etc). I picked up the game a few days after release when I got paid, and my best friend got his copy as well. Once we decided which classes we were going to play, we got down to business. The new classes are sort of a mixture of new and old ideas, where my friend is playing the Operative that is most similar to the soldier class from past games in that it gets a flying drone that functions like a mobile turret. Whereas I’m playing the Gunner who gets to summon a bad ass mech suit and blows shit up real good.

As I was speaking of quality of life improvements, one thing I really like is the fact that you no longer have to collect cash, ammo or health vials, you just have to walk close enough to them and if you have the space/need, you’ll collect these pieces automatically. That alone sells this game, as there is a lot of looting to be done and I can’t be bothered to click on each dollar bill I see. Gunplay is also improved in my eyes. This is a new engine, and despite the fact that the game looks the same as it always has (with improved visuals of course) it runs smoother and I feel that the controls are more precise. Gun fighting always felt a bit floaty in the earlier titles and it feels like that’s been tightened up. I heard complaints that the game didn’t embrace a more open world model, but I don’t think that’s an issue. It’s always been sort of an instanced shooter, with dungeons and a world that feels like some MMOs I’ve played. Fast travel is still there, but the ability to actually leave Pandora presents itself and soon enough you’ll realize you can explore places you hadn’t heard of to that point. Vehicles are back, and there are multiple varieties, but now you can customize and upgrade them which is a nice touch. Vehicles will appear in certain areas that you can steal in order to get more parts for yourself as well. Changes to the skill trees means that you get multiple ways to customize your character, and you’ll be able to further augment your ultimate ability in ways that hadn’t be available in the past.

The new antagonists aren’t as interesting as Handsome Jack was. Nor are they as funny, but they serve their purpose. A pair of Sirens that have formed a cult and feed on their followers, they seem pretty twisted but also non-threatening. We’re working for Lilith and fighting for Sanctuary, which is now our flying space ship after the city itself was destroyed. A corporate war is raging, and some of the planets you’ll go to house complexes where these corporations have weapons and armies stashed, and it’s our job to fuck shit up. We end up working for Rhys as well, but in the process are putting together vault keys on other planets. It’s not quite as engrossing, but the mechanics and gameplay are still amazing, so I’m not as keen on the story anyway. I’ve put in close to 20 hours so far, but am exclusively playing with my best friend for the time being. I think after we complete the main story I might start up some new characters, but we also know DLC will be out soon enough, so there should be more to do soon enough. I’m having a blast so far, and I haven’t been this hooked by a game in a while. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re bored with the Destinies and Divisions out there.

TellTale Games to Rise From the Grave?

It’s been almost a year since TellTale Games went under. It was a sad time, but also understandable. The company had honed in on a particular type of game to the point where it started to feel lackluster. Characters from cool IPs can only hold your attention for so long before there needs to be something new done with your games. Whatever the case, it was disappointing for me and other players who had already purchased what would become their final game, the final season of their long running Walking Dead series. After two episodes the company announced its impending closure, and we were left with a sour taste in our mouths. Thankfully, Skybound (owned by the creator of The Walking Dead) decided to open up a games division and promised that they would be finishing up the series themselves.

Within six months I would write my final post about a TellTale game, one of a long line of posts about their games. Or so I thought. I was sent a message by a friend on Steam the other day with a link to this article (thanks Hurt!). It appears that a holding company called LCG Entertainment has formed and is picking up “key assets.” From the article:

The new company will be focused on “re-releasing select games from the studio’s back catalog and developing new games in some of the company’s best-selling brands,” according to the announcement.

Good news for people who haven’t been able to play those older games for whatever reason, as I suppose at some point you would no longer be able to acquire some of their better options such as The Wolf Among Us or Tales From The Borderlands. Re-releasing means some of them may end up again on newer game consoles, which are looking to be a thing by next year. More exciting though, is that they have said they got licensing rights to TWAU and Batman both of which I really enjoyed and would play another season of.

The article goes on to talk about how they have acquired talent that worked for the original company and are offering freelance positions to some of those that were let go last year, with full-time positions to come in the future. I think that’s great, particularly if they didn’t get a steady job by now, they can go back to something more familiar. It should also keep some of what we’ve come to expect from this style of game intact. I for one look forward to some new games as well, that are completely different than their norm. Something on the level of Detroit: Become Human would be fantastic. I guess we’ll see what the future holds, I’ll try to keep up on this story as things progress.

Apex Legends Doing EA Things

Earlier this month, Apex Legends, coming off of an uptick for me with the release of the second season and some overall changes, boasted about a new “Iron Crown” event. With it, came a number of new things to check out:

  • Limited-Time Mode – Solos
  • Octane Town Takeover
  • Double XP for Top 5 and Wins Weekend
  • A special Iron Crown Collection Pack and Iron Crown Event Store
    • With Bloodhound Heirloom Set Preview
  • Exclusive event challenges with free loot

Sounds good right? A new queue (which is actually rather fun, more on this later), an updated part of the map (this sort of thing has happened before, but it keeps the map interesting) some XP boosts, and free to earn loot. A new limited time store with micro-transactions are fine, but then they went and did the whole EA thing and made these loot boxes with % chance for awesome skins and why can’t we just outright buy this shit or grind for it??? At least that seems to be the way things went. I didn’t keep up with the news much because honestly I’ve been just trying to do enough to keep my Blaugust post total on pace and otherwise it’s IRL most of the time. Whatever the case, Respawn back pedaled almost immediately, which is better than the reaction EA had back when this was going on with Battlefront 2.

  • Starting on 8/20, we’ll be adding and rotating all twelve of the event-exclusive Legendary items into the store over the course of the final week of the event for the regular Legendary skin cost of 1,800 Apex Coins. You will still be able to purchase Iron Crown Apex Packs for 700 Apex Coins if you choose. The store schedule for the week will be as follows:
  • For future collection events, we will provide more ways to obtain items than just buying Apex Packs.

So at least there was some feedback. It sucks that devs are constantly doing this sort of thing, but at the same time it shouldn’t take this sort of crack back for them to realize they should just do it the right way in the first place. But the discussion has been going on for a long time so I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Whatever the case, they have now plotted out a bit of a roadmap with things to expect, and basically promise not to lock exclusive stuff behind lock boxes. Or something to that effect.

  • One or more new gameplay changes such as permanent and limited-time modes (Ranked or Solos respectively), map updates and town takeovers, balance changes, new characters, new weapons, and more
  • New free progression content via challenges or the free Battle Pass track
  • Purchasable cosmetics via Battle Pass, Packs, and/or the Shop

Season Launches 

At the start of every season, you can expect a major map update, a new Legend, new loot items (weapons, ordnances, etc.), meaty changes to the Legend and weapon meta and balance, updates to our Ranked mode, and potentially new features (like we introduced in Season 2 with Ranked mode).Every season will also feature the release of a brand-new Battle Pass.

Themed Events

These events will generally occur during a season and bring with them a limited-time mode, event challenges that let players earn cosmetics, and a mix of event limited and evergreen cosmetics available for direct purchase. These events may also include a town takeover or small map change, and potential extensions to Apex Legends lore. Legendary Hunt was an example of a Themed Event, with the next one coming early September focused on a certain Phase Expert.

Collection Events

Collection Events will also take place throughout the season and deliver a limited-time mode, event challenges where players earn cosmetics, and a set of event limited cosmetics available via Event-specific Apex Packs or direct purchase; it’s your choice. Like Themed Events, Collection Events may also feature a town takeover or small map change.

So it seems there will be reasons to check in with the game from time to time, particularly if you’re kind of over the base experience. Most MOBAs used to have these sorts of limited time events, as grinding 5v5 on the same map over and over can get tiring and having a way to break that up keeps people playing your game. Skins and things will keep a particular type of player engaged, but most are going to stay more interested in your title when they have more activities to participate in. As for me, I enjoy the base gameplay loop, but I also like having new game modes once in a while. New characters, alternate progression. Give me something to work towards.

Developer Appreciation Week: Gearbox Software

Developer Appreciation Week (or DAV) is technically coming to a close, but I thought I’d squeeze a post about the topic in nonetheless. I haven’t really been following any of the scheduled stuff this Blaugust, but as it is I haven’t really needed any help getting topics down. Having to rush and blow through several posts in a day has left me looking for inspiration though. I’m leaving to Vegas on Thursday morning, and won’t return until Sunday night. As such I’ve been writing ahead for those days to have scheduled posts, and well, here we are. From what I can recall I have written a DAV post in the past, and I believe I included a couple of developers in it. This time around I wanted to pick someone different, and with Borderlands 3 releasing just around the corner (and my own personal time spent with the series recently) I realized that I have rather enjoyed much of the content put out by Gearbox Software.

When doing some research to make sure I had my facts straight, it turns out that my relationship with the company goes much further back than Borderlands, thought that’s the IP that I’m most connected to at this point. Nevertheless, way back in 1999 Gearbox developed Half-Life: Opposing Force, the expansion to the original Half-Life. I loved that expansion and played it while still in high school. It appears that I may have touched on some other games that the company developed as well, but my relationship wouldn’t get as serious until early 2010 when I purchased my Playstation 3 and a copy of the original Borderlands. I would go on to buy all of the expansions, level up a couple of characters to maximum level along with beating the end game raids and things. I basically 100% that game before playing it over again with my best friend once he got a copy as well. By the time Borderlands 2 had released, I had it pre-ordered and also picked up the season pass. I bought most if not all of the DLC too, and in some cases it felt less than worth the money, but I didn’t care due to being obsessed with the gameplay and wanting every new experience I could get.

Games like Destiny or The Division couldn’t exist without Borderlands before it. By that note, I don’t think Borderlands would exist without RPGs like Diablo either. Nonetheless, Borderlands solidified the FPS-RPG hybrid as a viable model, something that can be monetized and of which a whole universe can expand. Unfortunately developers typically need publishers, and 2K being the evil corporation here might have something to do with some of the negative press around said monetization, though at this time it has become the norm of the games industry.

The company isn’t without blemish though. Besides the games that I’ve mentioned, they had a fiasco over Aliens: Colonial Marines, but that has been better documented elsewhere. It could also be said that they lost the battle of the hero shooter, as their game Battleborn released near games like Blizzard’s Overwatch or Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins, both of which seem to have seen the most success (Quake Champions is the last game of this nature that I can recall coming out, and even it seems to be more successful than Gearbox’s entry).

It’s likely that we’ll see a return to greatness with Borderlands 3 though, and I fully hope for that outcome. Borderlands does the looter shooter thing right, is easy to jump in and out of with friends, has a humourous and well put together storyline and I just hope for the best for the company’s return to the series. We’ll know soon enough, Borderlands 3 releases on September 13th, which is just a couple of weeks away. You know I’ll be there from the start to dive in head first.