Shacknews - Daniel Perez

Blizzard Entertainment has announced its latest adventure for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, called One Night in Karazhan, will be available on August 11.

Blizzard announced One Night in Karazhan earlier this morning, which is being described as the hottest party in the Eastern Kingdoms as players will enter Medivh’s tower, Karazhan, to take part in a completely enchanted experience filled with lavish feasts, Opera performances, and more.

Unfortunately, when you arrive at Karazhan, you’ll find Medivh is missing and his collection of arcane objects have completely run amok throughout the castle. You and Moroes, Medivh’s buttler, to not only attempt to find him, but to also keep the party under control while attempting to find time to enjoy yourself.

“One Night in Karazhan will give players the chance to party with Medivh while earning some great new cards for their collections,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment “We’re excited to reimagine one of Azeroth’s most beloved locations in Hearthstone, and we can’t wait to see players put their new decks to the test.”

One Night in Karazhan will introduce 45 new cards to Hearthstone when it launches on August 11 on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android for $19.99 for all four wings. Those who want to purchase each wing with gold or a smaller price, you can spend 700 gold or $6.99 for each wing. Those who are curious about the new adventure can partake in its prologue for free, which will net you two new cards. Hearthstone players who purchase the full Adventure during its week of release will receive a special Karazhan-themed card back.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Tonight at an event at Chinajoy, Blizzard took the wraps off its next Hearthstone adventure, One Night in Karazhan. 

The adventure will consist of 45 cards across four wings and 13 bosses, along with a free prologue mission. Wings will be released once per week, starting in two weeks. As usual, buying the entire adventure within the first week will grant you a special cardback.

The story follows a magical party thrown by a young Medivh. He's enchanted everything in his tower to liven up the party, but then went missing. You show up early and set out to find him and save the party while avoiding the magical items littered around the area. The prologue mission has you playing as Medivh himself, and will grant you the Enchanted Raven (Druid) and Firelands Portal (Mage) cards.

As a result, the stages shown so far all have some kind of unique interplay with the board:

  • The Parlor: An enchanted chess match with pawns to be positioned on the board
  • The Opera: A play recounting famous storybook tales
  • The Managerie: A haywire Curator releasing all manner of beasts
  • The Spire: A dragon with beams that require careful positioning

Take a look at all of the cards revealed so far:

Shacknews - David Craddock

Earlier this week Telltale announced a multiplayer mode titled Crowd Play for its upcoming Batman episodic adventure that will let a gaggle of friends and family vote on decisions while you play. In a blog post, the developer explained that Crowd Play wasn't designed with high-latency scenarios in mind—scenarios like, say, thousands of people crammed into a Twitch channel attempting to steer the Caped Crusader toward one morally ambiguous choice or another.

Crowd Play works by sending interested parties a URL that lets them view your game as you play. When a choice comes up, everyone votes on what to do. Depending on certain options set at the player's discretion, the choice with the highest number of votes will be carried out, or the player can override the collective and do what he or she thinks is best.

However, Telltale says Crowd Play works best in smaller, more intimate settings. "The most important point is that Crowd Play is a local multiplayer experience. It’s designed for everyone to be watching the same screen, at the same time, in the same room and works best with 6-12 people."

Streaming services such as Twitch will put a crimp in Crowd Play. "There is latency introduced by services such as Twitch. This means that everyone isn't seeing that game at the exact same time, which means that everyone doesn’t see the choices at the same time. The group can’t make a choice together at the same time. We are working closely with all the streaming services to address this problem, but it certainly won’t be ideal for streaming out of the box. For now, everyone needs to be in the same room, watching the same screen."

Here's hoping Telltale can figure out a way to mitigate latency issues soon. While the limitations posed by latency make sense, Crowd Play seems tailor made for the growing trend of hundreds of players joining a Twitch channel and sharing a gaming experience together. The structure of Telltale's adventure games post-Walking Dead combined with the voting feature of Crowd Play has all the makings of a reality TV show-like event that would be as fun to watch as it would be to join.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Adrift, Elite Dangerous, and Pool Nation VR are just some of the titles on sale in Steam's weekend VR sale. Games for HTC Vive and Oculus have been discounted by as much as 50 percent.

Valve even took the liberty of rounding up a selection of 20 games and packaging them as the VR Weekend Sale Bundle. It'll set you back $252, but that's a lot less than you'd pay picking them up individually.

One of the discounted titles is House of the Dying Sun. It was made by "Rampancy," a member of our Shacknews community, and is available at 10 percent off or as part of the Weekend Sale package.

The sale ends Monday at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Earlier this week, Blizzard teased a "special Hearthstone announcement" during this week's ChinaJoy event. Lead designer Ben Brode will make the announcement tonight at 11pm Pacific / 2am Eastern on Blizzard's official Twitch channel. You can use the embedded video to follow along.

While nothing has been confirmed, Blizzard's language promising "an unforgettable adventure" stemming from tonight's event indicate plans to announce Hearthstone's next single-player Adventure content.

Watch live video from PlayHearthstone on www.twitch.tv

Shacknews - Josh Hawkins

When Elder Scrolls: Legends was first announced back in 2015, I was disappointed to say the least. Here we were, drowning in Hearthstone clones trying to ride the wake of success left by Blizzard’s colorful and fun card game, and Bethesda was ready to buy into the fad? I’ve spent the past week or so playing in the game’s closed beta, and Bethesda isn’t simply trying to ride Hearthstone’s popularity wave, it’s trying to make a wave of its own.

Pointing Out the Obvious

Before we dive too deeply into the features that Legends offers, I think we should take a moment to compare the upcoming game with its estranged father figure, Hearthstone. The obvious similarities include a dedicated hero health bar, which begins at 30, as well as a pool of mana used to play creatures, actions, and items. Of course, being built upon the Elder Scrolls lore, mana is actually called Magicka, but it works in the same basic way. Each subsequent turn sees the players drawing one additional card, as well as gaining an additional Magicka point. Destroy your opponent’s creatures and then target their face for the game winning kill. Most of the keywords used to describe the various card effects are direct equivalents of Hearthstone, so they’re pretty easy to pick up on. Guard is to Taunt as Ward is to Divine Shield as Summon is to Battle Cry, and so the list continues. They’re instantly understandable, and easy to pick up on. Legends does offer some differences, however. Some cards have keywords like Regenerate, which causes it to heal at the start of your turn.

Hearthstone isn’t the only CCG that Legends has drawn inspiration from. One keyword that I often found useful in my battles, Breakthrough, hurls all the excessive damage dealt by a card directly at your opponent’s hero. It’s basically Trample from Magic: The Gathering, and it’s pretty clear throughout the game that MTG played a huge role in Legends’ birth.

A Two-Laned Highway

There are a lot of small differences I could go into detail about, but this isn’t a catch-all compare article for Legends and Hearthstone. There is really one big thing I want to focus on though, as it is Legends’ strongest game mechanic, and it is massive part of what really makes me confident in the game’s success as a Hearthstone competitor. This feature is the lane system.

In each match the game board is broken up into two separate lanes (there have been hints at more, but currently the game only features two lanes), which can have different special effects. Each lane holds different special effects, which apply to all the cards that are played in that field. Alongside these special effects, creatures placed in one lane can only attack other creatures in that same lane, meaning any creatures played in the left lane, can only attack enemy creatures in the left lane. The exception to this rule, however, are Summon effects, which allow you to target any creatures in any lane.

The use of lanes is a huge step in a good direction, because it makes games in Legends that much more challenging. Instead of simply having to control one board, you’re forced to control two boards, making your card play strategy more important than ever. The lanes also allow for a great way to use stalling tactics against your enemy. Throw a few guards down in one lane, while keeping your stronger enemies in the opposite lane, where they can freely attack. I found this especially useful when Shadow Lanes were in play (when a card is played in a shadow lane, it is hidden from creature attacks until it attacks), as I could hide my most aggressive cards in the Shadow Lane to use in direct combo attacks against my opponent. The lane system allows a deeper scope for strategy than Hearthstone does, which feels like the direction that Bethesda is taking to try to make a name for itself in the CCG arena.

Drawing Upon the Rune

Of course, there are other differences between Legends and Hearthstone. The rune system, which rewards you with a card each time your character health drops below a certain point, is an inherently RNG system which can either make or break you in tough situations. Paired with the Prophecy keyword, which allows you to play a card for no cost if it is drawn from a rune, the rune system can be both a hindrance or a boost towards your victory. Support cards also add another layer to the game’s strategic depth, allowing you to play cards which can grant you different benefits. One particularly beneficial Support card, Divine Conviction, is an ongoing card, meaning it will remain in play until it is destroyed.

Moving past the strategic depth that Legends has added to the CCG genre, there are a few more major differences that help to paint Elder Scrolls: Legends in a different spotlight of its own. Unlike Hearthstone, which forces you to play in the Arena against real opponents around the world, Legends offers a Solo Arena, which pits you against AI opponents, while still allowing you to experience the panic inducing gameplay of Arena battles. This is great for people who are struggling to get ahead in the Versus Arena, and I found it to be quite a fitting way to practice building new decks and builds against challenging AI.

Legends also allows players to upgrade some of their cards to higher tiers of that same card, even sometimes allowing multiple options for the upgrade. Divine Conviction, which is a Support card I mentioned earlier, rewards the user with +0/+1 on all friendly creatures. However, upon reaching Player Level 9, you can upgrade that card to Divine Fervor, which gives all friendly creatures +1/+1, allowing greater support for any creatures you have on the field.

Heroes Aren’t The Answer Anymore

One of Legends biggest changes from Hearthstone is the noticeable lack of a Hero system. Unlike Hearthstone, which relies upon Heroes to determine its deck types, Elder Scrolls: Legends is built upon a two-trait system. When building a deck, players will have the option to choose from cards that fall under Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, and Endurance cards. There are also Neutral cards, which can be added to any deck, and Dual-attribute cards - which draw upon two different attributes, meaning they can only be paired in decks that offer those same attributes.

This makes building your deck important, as you’ll want to make sure the two attributes you are pairing have plenty of cards to offer up during your battles. I often found myself drawn more to my Intelligence and Agility deck, which I found to be a good pairing against almost anything I came across during my time with the beta. Another difference between Legends’ deck system, is the card count. Unlike Hearthstone, which only allows players 30 cards, Legends offers up anywhere from 50 cards, which is the minimum to use a deck, to 70, the max. Of course the game recommends not going above 50, as adding too many cards will limit the potential of you getting your strongest cards into play.

Aside from the attribute systems and the card count, Legends deck building mechanics are pretty much just like Hearthstone's. Players can create new copies of cards using Soul Gems, which is equivalent to Arcane Dust in Hearthstone, and the actual deck building system itself looks eerily similar to Blizzard’s counterpart, which means Hearthstone's fans should feel right at home when putting together their first deck.

Like Hearthstone, Legends also includes an in-game currency which can be used for multiple things. You can purchase new card packs and arena tickets using Gold, or real currency, and just like Hearthstone, Legends uses a Daily Quest system to reward players with more Gold to help them get along. Of course, grinding for Gold was never meant to be easy in these games, and you’ll have to spend a fair amount of hours playing through the game’s different modes if you want to remain a free-player forever.

Another key difference between Legends and Blizzard’s reigning champion is the story driven campaign mode, which sends players on an adventure featuring well-crafted cinematics, and expert-voiced actors. Of course, stories aren’t the strongest part of a CCG, but it does do a good job of building upon the lore that the Elder Scrolls world has to offer. Legends is also a bit darker and grimmer than Blizzard’s colorful and cheerful, Hearthstone. For some this might be a turn off, but for users like me who enjoy the darker lore that the Scrolls world has to offer, Legends is a welcome turn away from the cheerful nature of Hearthstone’s format.

All in all, Elder Scrolls: Legends is looking to pave its own way through the CCG industry. It’s the first time that anyone has ever truly challenged Blizzard’s number one spot in the genre, and it will be interesting to see how Bethesda manages the game going forward. Of course, right now things are in the beta stage, so things are subject to change, and the way that some systems work may be tweaked as the months go by. That being said, if Bethesda can keep a firm hold on what they’re offering, and keep the various aspects of the game balanced, they just might be able to pave their way to success, and steal some of Blizzard’s limelight, making them the first real challenge to the CCG throne.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Shacknews has our hands on the NHL 17 Beta and Eric has captured some awesome gameplay footage. Check out this full game capture of a battle between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils. 

For more great videos, be sure to subscribe to Shacknews on YouTube.

Be sure to check out our other video of the new Create an Arena mode in NHL 17.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

Shacknews has our hands on the NHL 17 Beta and Eric has captured some awesome gameplay footage. Check out the new "Create an Arena" mode!

For more great videos, be sure to subscribe to Shacknews on YouTube.

Be sure to check out our other video of full gameplay footage in NHL 17.

Shacknews - David Craddock

Nightdive Studios' Kickstarter campaign to reboot System Shock has come to a close, and the studio made its goal with plenty of time to spare. Seeking to raise $900,000, the final total came to $1,350,700 pledged by 21,625 backers.

Helping the developers soar well over their funding goal enabled fans to unlock several stretch goals. Those include Mac and Linux versions, localization in other languages, myriad in-game content such as areas and crew logs, support for the Razer Chroma gaming keyboard.

In addition to a version for Xbox One, Nightdive will also bring System Shock to PS4, although not as a stretch reward. The developer announced earlier this month that the PS4 version is its way of thanking fans who have shown such enthusiastic support for the franchise and the reboot specifically.

One interesting note is that Nightdive will continue to accept donations through PayPal. They haven't made it clear whether additional funds and donations will go toward unlocking more stretch goals or put toward general development costs.

With the completion of this campaign, the System Shock franchise continues to pick up steam following a long hiatus. Warren Spector, director of the original game, was hired to take point on System Shock 3, in development at Otherside Entertainment in conjunction with Nightdive.

Shacknews - Cassidee Moser

Building a world can be a challenging task. It requires answering questions, many of which will have been unforeseen prior to writing. What condition is your fiction’s world in? How does the character relate to it? What sets it apart from similar stories or genres?

The way a story goes about building this world is often as interesting as the fiction itself, and VA-11 Hall A--or Valhalla, as it’s most commonly known--uses one of my favorite story justifications in recent memory.

Using the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world, Valhalla places the player in the seemingly mundane and routine job of bartender for a run-down dive bar. The current status of the world is bleak. Individuality and personal aspirations have been cut by corporate interests, and people feel more expendable and worthless than ever before.

And so, they stumble into Valhalla for the comfort only found at the bottom of a glass. Being the conscientious bartender that you are, you give it to them, along with the company and interaction they may be craving.

It’s through this that we learn all about the story and world of Valhalla without ever stepping outside of the bar’s interior. Through anecdotes, conversations, jokes, and interactions, we are slowly drip-fed information, piecing together the ideas and elements of this world in an enticing manner. Some characters are better developed than others, but everyone present remains valuable as part of the larger story.

Storytelling methods such as this tend to be my favorite. Rather than guiding the reader step by step through tedious exposition dumps, Valhalla instantly launches the player headfirst into the world, trusting their deductive abilities and choosing to help them understand the world through context. It’s an excellent example of show, don’t tell, and it works wonderfully.

Even the light mechanical elements of Valhalla are easily woven into the story. This is a place full of sad, desperate people who want nothing more than to escape their lives for a brief period of time, and you help them do so by mixing a number of drinks together based on their order. Drinks are made from a number of made-up ingredients like Bronson Extract and Powdered Delta and are used to create cocktails, mixed drinks, and classics. Business and employee management is also an aspect, although to a slightly lesser degree than bar shifts and usually involve making purchases to satisfy the wants of surrounding co-workers.

Failure is possible, but practically everything is stacked in the player’s favor. Valhalla doesn’t judge, it merely asks you to be attentive to your customers and your work. There are no order timers, no angry customers with mood meters, no end-mission rush to spend all of your recently-earned money on building the business. It’s there if you want it, but Valhalla won’t punish you for a lack of precision and strategy. After all, you’re a bartender. You’re the person one may need to see the most when they’re at a low point and in need of an escape. In moments like this, it’s sincerity that matters.

Valhalla is a dark and moody dystopic game with an infectious underlying optimism. It’s comfort food, a relaxed experience welcoming you with soothing music, cooly-colored visuals, casual conversation, and a calm sensation. This, mixed with its brilliant approach of telling a story through the experiences of its characters, makes it a smart and inventive new take on the science fiction visual novel.

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