Sony Online Entertainment have announced that the running of many of their games is transferring to German publisher ProSiebenStat.1 Games Group in Europe. Games affected include EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, and this year's Planetside 2.
While SOE will continue to manage the European servers for their games, European players will no longer be able to play with friends in the US. The two providers will use separate account systems and virtual currencies, effectively splitting each game in two.
Existing European players will be asked to create an account with the new provider, and SOE will be offering a way to transfer characters and progress as well as any virtual currency in their possession. European EverQuest II players, meanwhile, will be able to use their SOE accounts as normal after the handover is complete. All new European players will go through ProSieben, however, meaning that Planetside 2 will be region locked.
SOE's FAQ on the subject says that "generally speaking, prices for game content, in-game items and services will remain similar." We've contacted SOE for comment on what this means in practical terms, and whether European players should expect a price hike. We've also asked what measures are being taken to ensure that patches and updates are localised quickly. We'll let you know what SOE have to say.
That intergalactic jerk Braniac has been bottling the cities in DC Universe Online and stealing Earth's citizens for too long. His attempted take-over for Earth has been the primary storyline in DC Universe Online for the past year, since the game's launch in January 2011. A year and a few raids later, we're finally going to be able to go toe-to-toe with Mr. smarty-pants when the next content pack takes us to Wonder Woman's native island of Themyscira. We've got the exclusive scoop on what players will find there, and where DCUO is headed after its big, bad villain is down for the count.
PCG: Those hydras and architecture seem to indicate that we may be fighting on Wonder Woman’s Themiscyra. Is that where this screen is taken? If so, is it a whole new open-world zone, or just an Alert?
Jens Andersen, Creative Director: Yes, this is on Paradise Island, otherwise known as Themyscira. The situation is so dire they're allowing men on the island to defend it, which is unheard of for the most part. The Gates of Tartarus have long been guarded by the Amazons. Suddenly they are taken by surprise as Brainiac emerges from the gates of Tartarus, having stolen the power he sought inside, and is now assaulting Themyscira from within with a surprise attack. It’s a bad situation and the Amazons are looking for help from just about anywhere to aid the, in stopping Brainaic’s Avator of Magic from escaping the Island.
PC Gamer: Braniac is fighting us directly? I always figured he was more of a “sit back and let minions take you out” sort of bad guy. What is it that finally pushes him to face us personally?
Andersen: As a comic-book cut scene explains in-game, this was actually Brainiac’s final push, but Future Lex Luthor knew it was coming—and he hid the truth from everyone, even his past self. So, as history has unfolded, it's only now that we realize we’ve done little to divert Brainiac’s plans. Future Luthor wanted the confrontation to play out as it did in his timeline, so HE could seize victory from Brainiac at the last moment. Thankfully, Future Batman doesn’t break his promise that he will be "coming for Luthor," and he shows up at the end to save our bacon… or does he? It's a big cliffhanger to enjoy as we launch a new storyline surrounding these two mysterious iconics from an alternate future.
PCG: Braniac seems to be wielding some sort of demonic staff. Are those tentacles behind him coming from the staff, or is that his other arm doing something crazy?
Andersen: That's the Avatar of Magic. Throughout the fight, he will go through many different phases thanks to the power he obtained in Tartarus—the Flame of Change. It allows him to create Chimeric minions and alter his own form as he sees fit. Those are the Horns of the Bull he has on in the screenshot, and it lets him do some powerful charges.
PCG: It also looks like we might have just fallen in through that hole in the dome above. Will the fight feature changing terrain like that?
Andersen: The hole above is not where the players enter from, they can however look down into it from behind a portcullis at the start of the raid. The whole map makes a big loop around itself and you often get glimpses of what’s coming next along with some fantastic vistas.
PCG: Braniac’s been the ultimate bad guy of the entire game up until this point, is it time for players to take him out for good? It almost feels too soon for us to be taking him down. Is this the final act in the story arc that started at launch?
Andersen: Well, never count a comic book character out . But yes, this is Brainaic’s final push, but it will be an ongoing one as he tries to recover from the player’s resistance and future Luthor’s manipulation of everyone, including Brainiac. The presence of the new heroes and villains, our players, is what made us able to defeat Brainaic so soon in this timeline. The story will then move into a new phase, but Brainiac’s actions will always have a lasting effect on DC Universe Online as he gave birth to the exo-bytes which created many of the new heroes and villains our players created in the game.
PCG: Will defeating him affect the bottled buildings around the game world?
Andersen: Once Brainiac’s initial plans are thwarted in the raid, he is hamstrung, but not completely defeated. He will continue to try and regain control of the situation to continue his plan to assimilate the multiverse. Now the pressure is on for him to do that before Future Luthor takes his place. He’s relentless after all. So the bottles and the actions of the Union around them will always be something players can take part in—an epic battle to save the Earth.
PCG: Will another mega-villain rise up to threaten the world, or will it go back to a semi-normal state? If so, is the idea to rotate the game world through various crises over time, such as No Man’s Land Gotham? Roughly one year for every major crisis?
Andersen: We want to provide a many-colored tapestry for our players. Focusing on one storyline isn’t needed with the pace at which we release content. So players can look forward to the next chapter in this story, resolutions to some of our launch stories, as well as totally new things in the years to come.
DC Universe does a lot of things really well, but building easily-navigable hangout spots is not one of them. The Justice League Watchtower and Hall of Doom serve as the primary meeting points for all Hero and Villain characters, respectively. Both house a ton of useful objects—like the Phase Shifter, which allows you to swap between PvE and PvP phases of the server at will—but not all of them are easy to find.
The cryptically-named RedDragon74 over at DCUO Life has done heroes a great service by putting together an all-encompassing map that labels the locations of everything you'll need in the Watchtower and also provides a full list of bounty locations and a complete breakdown of how to earn the different PvE currencies at endgame. It's not the prettiest map ever made, but all the info is here.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an equivalent for the Hall of Doom quite yet (sorry, Villains), but the endgame breakdown list should still be able to help ne'er-do-gooders.
I've always liked DC Universe Online's twist on the classic tank-healer-DPS trinity that defines most MMORPG's group roles. DCUO gives everyone access to two roles—DPS and then either tank, healer, or control (CC and power-restoration), based on their power selection—and lets them swap between them whenever they want.
It's a hybrid system that lets players specialize, while limiting the usual problem of there being too few healers or tanks because most people want to be able to level and solo efficiently. As a result, the queue times in DCUO are much shorter than they are in many other MMOs. And with the Role-Optional Alerts SOE's adding in the game's next update, which use specialized buffs to make any combination of players an effective group, players should be able to form groups almost instantly.
When the tool puts together a group of players, it analyzes what key role(s) your group is missing, and grants the entire team a buff that helps shore up their weakness. Your group will still have to be organized however, as the buffs will only be effective when all four players are fighting together.
If you don't have a tank, everyone in the group receives a buff that reduces the damage they take. Not enough to make everyone tanks, but enough to make the incoming damage manageable for your healer. Oh no! You're missing a healer too? Well, everyone in your group will receives a buff that triggers a "small amount" of regeneration whenever their health dips below a certain point. Tanks without a healer in the group will always be regenerating. And finally, if you're missing a controller, your group will receive a buff that gives everyone "varying amounts" of power during combat
The game's Duos—which plant two characters in a more challenging version of a solo instance—already function off of a similar desire to get people playing together, regardless of their character type, and have been a huge success by all accounts.
In the same update, SOE is also adding Novice Raids, alternate versions of all existing raids with lower gear and difficulty requirements. Their goal is to allow everyone to experience the story arcs told inside the Batcave, Kahndaq, and the Fortress of Solitude, and to let players start raiding much quicker after hitting the level cap, if they want to. Novice Raids will award the same quality of gear that existing raids do, but reward less of it per run.
DC Universe Online's Creative Director, Jens Andersen, announced yesterday that they're undertaking a large overhaul of DCUO's holiday content. Thankfully, they're cutting the uncomfortably weird Valentine's Day event from last year, and building a new one from scratch. Their goal is to have four major events that each host open-world content, collections, and a boss encounter.
Most MMOs have at least a few holiday events, but BioWare has yet to reveal any of its plans for holiday content for The Old Republic. What's the best holiday content you've ever played in a game, and what do you want to see from holiday events in TOR, DCUO, or any other MMOs you're playing?
Massively multiplayer spandex puncher DC Universe Online has released it's second DLC pack, Lightning Strikes. The update is themed after super speed hero The Flash and will take players on a time travelling adventure back to his origins as a superhero, adding a new electricity powers into the bargain. Some of those sparkly new powers are on show in the trailer above, plus some clips of The Flash running on his cosmic treadmill. Yes, that's how he travels in time. Yes, we know it's ridiculous, just roll with it.
If you're not sure if you're going to splash the cash for the DLC, check out ourDC Universe Online Lightning Strikes preview to see what you get.
Let's get this out of the way up front: yes, the Flash has a ridiculous contraption called the Cosmic Treadmill that he runs on to somehow transport people back in time. It's weird, it's goofy, and it's going to provide some of the coolest gameplay moments of any superhero game ever.
How can a treadmill of the cosmos possibly provide such mind-blowing gameplay experiences? Well, just think of the most memorable, awesome events in DC comic history. Now, imagine getting to play out all of those events and see them unfold first-hand. That's the power of the Cosmic Treadmill, my friend.
We sat down with DC Universe Online's Creative Director Jens Andersen, who walked us through all of the content in the big Flash-themed update releasing next Tuesday, and teased us about his big plans for the future, including revisiting the origin stories of DC's biggest villains and heroes.
The first origin story is coming in next week's big update and is, of course, centered around the Flash himself. In a new two-player Duo instance - balanced for players with top-end Tier 3 gear - you and a buddy will be transported back in time to stop meddlers from screwing with Barry Allen on the fateful night he gets struck by lightning and turned into the Flash.
The first portion of the Duo was my favorite: you're tossed in a long hellish hallway filled with crazy electric minions trying to sabotage your attempt to travel back in time. A whirling vortex of time is constantly moving up behind you, threatening to suck you in, and if you can't clear the baddies fast enough, you're going back to modern day and Barry Allen is doomed. I felt the same panicked sense of urgency I get on those Super Mario Bros. levels where the screen is constantly moving to the right. One slip-up and you're toast!
Once you break on through to the other side, you find yourself in a Central City police station from times-past, with all the colors bathed in a light sepia tone to complete the old-timey look and feel. I won't spoil the story of the encounter, but there were a few elements that I really enjoyed about it and want to point out. During the demo, Jens told me that one major thing they'd learned from player feedback on existing content is adding more interactive objects to Duos. So, Central City's police station is loaded with secret areas, computer terminals, and robots to interact with that can provide extra challenges or alter the way boss fights work.
For example, if you take your time and snoop around the office area, you can hack terminals to disable security robots that are protecting one of the bosses. In another room, prisoners are breaking out of their cells. Some of them start releasing their fellow prisoners, while others make a beeline for the wall of guns in the back of the room. Who you decide is the bigger threat and take out first will change how the fight in that area plays out. It's a lot of small twists that add up to a diverse set of possible outcomes that should make these repeatable instances more exciting for players tackling them frequently.
The other thing I love about the Duo is that it features The Pied Piper. I have to admit I'd never heard of this guy before, but he's a villain that plays a flute to mind control people (such as the well-armed cops surrounding him in the police station). It's a cool concept that allows for some very fun combat mechanics throughout the instance, and I'm really excited that the devs are using these lesser-known characters in DC history, who would never get a chance in the spotlight in a limited-world game like Arkham City, to create unique and interesting content.
Of course, the Duo is only one part of the content pack, which will be free for subscribers and 10 bucks to F2Pers--a tremendous value for all the content it opens up. The pack also gives you access to a huge zone loaded with new daily quests, collections, and gear sets; about 10 new bounties for both factions (villain players hunt the Teen Titans and hero players hunt the Rogues); and a brand new Electricty powerset that has DPS and healer roles.
The Electricity power set is a lot of fun to play as. A few of my favorite abilities were Lightning Arc, which shoots a bolt of electricity at an enemy that bounces between other people near him (the closer the enemies are together, the more times it will bounce between them) and Tesla Ball, which launches an orb of high-voltage pain in a straight line out from you, continuously zapping anyone too distracted to move out of the way. The overall flow of the power set was strong - the healing lands somewhere between Nature's high-burst reaction heals and Sorcery's slow-and-steady prediction heals, and DPS isn't quite as frantic as the other recently-added Light powerset, but has the same level of fun visual effects.
Central City, a modestly sized city plot instanced for 50 players at a time, is probably the closest thing we're going to get to a third large city for a good long while, now that DCUO is doing quarterly updates. (There's no current plans to build another city on the scale of Gotham or Metropolis, according to Andersen, but the team does want to start making origin stories a regular occurrence in DCUO.) The city offers some new areas to explore, but it's not the sort of place that you're going to be hanging out in during your downtime. Still, it's leaps and bounds more exciting to fly around a city with alleyways, shops, and little nooks and crannies than run around an island that you can see immediately see everything it has to offer, which is what so many other MMOs add in updates like this.
Andersen saved the best part of our demo for last, though. After we'd taken down the Pied Piper, he used cheat codes to summon all of the new characters being added as open-world bounty targets in Gotham and Metropolis to let them duke it out in front of us. With collective nerd-breaths held tight, we watched as the Teen Titans did battle against the Flash's Rogue gallery. Cyborg blasted Captain Boomerang with lasers, The Trickster chucked out toy helicopters and JLA action figures that came to life and harassed Donna Troy, and some weird "villain" named The Top twirled in circles semi-quickly to annoy everyone while Weather Wizard, Nightwing, and the rest duked it out. After the dust settled, Titan and Rogue lay side-by-side, and Cyborg emerged victorious. So there you have it, fellow geeks, we can all cross one "What if..." question off our comic book fight club lists. Cyborg wins.
The superhero MMO has been super-punching above its weight since its shift to free to play with news of a massive bounce in player numbers and profits since the shift. Massively spotted Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley tweeting some quite interesting stats. The superhero MMO has seen a "700% increase in daily revenue" since it relaunched earlier this month.
Smedley also says that "DCUO's playerbase is growing at 6% a day," adding that 47% of the boosted profits are coming from the PC version. The rest are from the PS3 version. Smedley also says "we are over 1000% of our pre-F2P concurrent numbers" and "more than 85% of daily log-ins are returning players."
Lag and long log in queues are proving to be a problem for many players at the moment. "We're very aware of the long queues and other issues. We're on it," says Smedley, adding "very bluntly this has been a wee bit more successful than we planned on." The DC Universe Online client is available to download for free on Steam.
Flash Fact #1: DC Universe Online's transition to free to play has been very successful, with huge numbers of players joining since the switch.
Flash Fact #2: Sony are capitalising on this by working on a new DLC pack called Lightning strikes.
Similar to the Green Lantern themed Fight for the Light pack, this pack offers a new set of content themed around one of the iconic DC characters, in this case The Flash. New with Lightning Strikes will be an Electricity power set, a new map based around the Flash's home town of Central City, new gear, new characters and more.
Check inside for a rundown of what's included and some early screenshots:
Included in the DLC pack are:
Electricity Powers - Including powers like Tesla Ball, Shockwave and Ionic Drain Central City - A new zone with solo and group missions New Gear - Including a Professor Zoom inspired set for villains and a Black Lightning inspired pack for heroes. New Characters - Including Livewire, Black Lightning, The Top, The Trickster and Static. The Flash Museum Duo - An adventure starting in the Flash museum where players travel back in time to make sure Barry Allen becomes The Flash.
My skin's a-crawlin' after playing Gyossait this week. It's an interesting and wholly creepy platformer about the creator of mankind burrowing deep below the planet's surface in search of his lost love - and despite its simplicity (or perhaps because of it?) it manages to be thoroughly disturbing. If you want a bit less darkness and a bit more colour, though, try out DC Universe Online, which is now free-to-play. Plus: the tale of Icarus retold, a two-player driving game where you can play as a road, and a simple but effective tower defence game. Read on for this week's best freebies...
Amon 26. Play it on NewGrounds.
Gyossait is a super-creepy platformer in which you play as Oyeatia, the creator of mankind, as he delves into the depths of the Earth in search of his lost love. Armed with only a shield, with which you can deflect enemies' attacks back at them, you'll navigate a series of disturbing levels, hunting for keys and avoiding the instant-death situations that crop up with an alarming frequency.
The low-definition world is, despite its blockiness, drawn with a crude surrealism, lending to the dark and menacing tone of the game as a whole. And the sound design is just lovely. The ambient noises loop awkwardly, droning away, as scratchy and imprecise as the visuals but adding yet more of the unnerving atmosphere that the game is drenched in. And while the controls could be a little more fluid, such issues don't detract significantly from what is a genuinely enthralling little browser game.
AutomaticJill. Play it at the Hand Eye Society.
You'll probably be familiar with the Greek mythology surrounding Daedalus and Icarus. This top-down adventure is an attempt to re-tell that tale, and it's an impressively creative re-imagining featuring a 20-something slacker who loves videogames and sleeps in his own filth, an unfortunately dead father, and JETPACKS!
While it looks almost like a top-down RPG, and has plenty of point-and-click adventure elements, much of the inspiration for Icarus comes from interactive fiction. There is a lot of reading. A lot. Reams of text are available to read in a library. The developer says much of this text is currently placeholder, but it reads fine, serves a purpose. The rest of the game comprises searching for essential objects and filling in the story, which can be a little tedious. That's a shame, but the story the game tells is well worth experiencing - so persevere through the less exciting bits.
Eventhandler. Play it on Kongregate.
This is a lovely browser-based driving game with a smart twist. Player 1 controls the car, player 2 controls the road. In Versus mode, it's the job of the driver to stay on the road as their opponent weaves and twists that road in real-time, hoping to throw the driver off-course. Not only can devilish turns be incorporated, you've also the ability to add a speed boost to both the road and the car in an extra effort to confuse your opponent.
There's also a co-op mode where your job is to work together to survive as long as possible. For this there's scenery to contend with: if the road hits a tree or a house, it's game over; if the car veers off the road, that's the end of your attempt too. Roadeo is surprisingly challenging, especially when the environment fancies getting in the way more than usual, but it remains compulsive playing with a friend. Good, silly, imaginative fun.
Vlambeer. Download it from TIGSource.
Hey, look, it's Vlambeer again, continuing to create some simple yet delightful games. This one's straight-up tower-defence, but what's impressive is just how hectic things become so quickly.
It revels in its own basic visual design, as well: a cream background, with small coloured squares indicating your approaching enemies. The story goes that you've been assigned to a planet with the objective of clearing out its wildlife, ready for new holiday resorts to be built - but that's all basically irrelevant as you work out how best to position your turrets.
It's still in alpha stage, which kind of shows, but it's already a lot of fun.
DC Universe Online
Sony/Warner Bros. Get started on the official website.
Although only launched back in January, Sony's DC Universe Online has already become the latest MMO to take the plunge into the free-to-play space. Everyone else is doing it, so why not, I guess. Sony's idea was to create a new kind of MMO: one with a focus on physics-driven combat scenarios. I haven't played it, I admit, so let's turn to Josh for a critique:
"Its action-oriented design is a bold step out of WoW’s shadow. From the consistently clever boss fights to the daily activities to the points-of-interest around the world, it makes it look effortless to create interesting activities to amuse players and immerse them in the game’s world."
I'd say that sounds pretty good. Have a read of PC Gamer's full review to find out more.
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