Desktop Platform RSS Feed | Desktop RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Salt And Sanctuary - 2D Dark Souls (First Impressions),h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/a/l/salt7-45985.png 74cxh/salt-and-sanctuary-2d-dark-souls-first-impressions Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:58:24 -0500 Vian De Bod

“Is this Dark Souls!?”

After about an hour of playing this game, you will undoubtedly have had this exact same thought. Salt and Sanctuary is a game developed by Ska Studios. Many people call it a 2D Dark Souls, and for good reason!

It shares many similarities to that franchise. From bonfires to in-game currency, Salt and Sanctuary is a game deeply inspired by the Souls series, but one that sets itself apart from that series in many, many ways. 

Salt and Sanctuary came out nearly a year ago, but it fell through my radar until recently. Here are my first impressions after a bit of gameplay!


SaS has a unique 2D art-style that creates a perfectly eerie atmosphere. The dark color palette and very-well-done character models make it feel gritty, even when it seems pretty basic at face value. The blood and gore in this game is (in my book) a huge plus because it really helps take the aesthetic of the game to a new, dark level.


The controls are simple to understand and configurable to your liking (I played with a controller). The combat is fast-paced and brutally difficult (even more so when you add traps to the mix).

Though I would like to see some more attack variety (there are basically only three attack types per weapon), and the rolling mechanic could use some work, it does not detract from the game very much.

The character customization is very well done for a 2D game. The skill tree is also absolutely humungous, so there’s a lot of customization room for players whol want to play, for example, a rogue or a warrior or a mage. 

From my research, there is local co-op (and local PvP), but I have yet to try it. Unfortunately, there is no online co-op or PvP, though there is a “message” and “phantom” system (like in Dark Souls), which helps players traverse it's dark and morbid world.

Setting & Story:

This game has a very dark setting and it makes it obvious from the very beginning. You are a sailor that has been shipwrecked on a dangerous, mysterious island. Once you arrive, you are asked to choose between three different religions, which ultimately determine the look of your sanctuary (equivalent of a Dark Souls bonfire) where you can spend Salt (equivalent of Souls in Dark Souls) to level up! They also provide buffs that help players in different situations throughout the game. 


The sound-track for SaS is very well done, though it does sometimes feel a bit like it lacks a variety of songs. The ambient sound, however, is spot on for the tone of the game, and it adds a very spooky atmosphere to all your dungeon crawling. The combat sound effects are crisp and clear, but quite repetitive.

There is no voice acting in this game either, but in my opinion, that’s nothing inherently bad. The enemies in the game also have very limited catalog of (but still well done) sounds, though the bosses are all unique (so far!).



Salt and Sanctuary has a great art-style and overall visual aesthetic. The game mechanics are fun, but not too complicated (yet). It has a fluid combat system (though the lack of attack options isn’t that great) and is as brutally difficult as the Souls-series can be. The setting and atmosphere are both superb, and although the sound in the game lacks some variety, it is still very well done!

Overall it is definitely a game I would recommend so far and well worth the money!

Check out the epic trailer!

What do you think about Salt and Sanctuary? What do you think it does well, and what do you think it could do better? Let us know in the comments below!

Top 5 Modern Metroidvania Games,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/e/t/metroidvaniaheader-0fe1a.jpg 7ww8h/top-5-modern-metroidvania-games Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:43:28 -0500 Will Dowell

The metroidvania genre provides a sense of exploration and growth. Whether  it be exploring an alien world or the land of the dead, these games create wonder and excitement in their worlds. While not the most popular, the metroidvania genre has been a consistent driving force in how video games are designed.

Originally, these games increased their length by keeping players lost. Now however, metroidvanias have to create worlds that can be explored without overwhelming the player. The originators of this genre, Metroid and Castlevania are close to dead, but new games have risen to take their place. Here are the Top 5 Modern Metroidvania Games.

Number 5: Cave Story

Considered a hallmark of indie games, Cave Story is a shining example of what one man can create. Explore the land of the Mimigas, a cute race of bunny-like creatures as they war with a mad scientist. Engage in challenging combat with each weapon providing a different tool.  Cave Story clearly takes  inspiration from Metroid through the use of musical cues and the 8-bit pixel art.

Sadly, this inspiration is only skin deep as Cave Story is extremely linear. The only time Cave Story does not directly guide you is with its true ending, but that challenge is incredibly obtuse and frustrating. It not only requires external information, but is a grueling gauntlet that will cause most players to simply put down the controller. Even with these major issues, Cave Story should be experienced by any fan of indie games or metroidvanias.

Number 4: Strider 

Jumping straight into 4th place is Strider. Explore Kazakh City as you attempt to assassinate Grand Master Meio. With a teleport dash and double jump, traversal is fast and fluid. Combat itself is intense and fast paced, with Strider Hiryu flipping across the battlefield, causing mayhem and carnage. Multiple upgrades allows this dance of death to increase in intensity with explosive kunai to deflecting bullets with a sword swing.

The reason this adrenaline fueled adventure is only number 4 is its linearity. Strider will lead you room to room with only a few moments letting you run wild. While this allows the game to focus on a tight pace that grips the player from start to finish, it limits the ability of the player to truly get lost in the world. If you want an action-fueled adventure, get Strider

Number 3: Guacamelee!

Guacamelee is easily the most unique entry on this list. Set in a humorous Mexican-themed world, Guacamelee takes you on a daring quest to save the President's daughter. Along the way, you will travel through bustling towns, giant mountains, and even the Land of the Dead. To best your foes in combat, Guacamelee provides a satisfying beat-em-up fighting style rife with combos, throws, and special moves. These special moves also serve as the main upgrades used to unlock the world. This allows the world to create challenging obstacles that will require the player to master its mechanics.  Guacamelee turns the standard combat of most beat-em-ups and turns it into something unique.

Guacamelee also combines video game humor with a Mexican theme which creates some of the most entertaining parodies out there. Metroid in particular, is referenced through the use of Choozoo statues and Metroid sculptures. This may date the game but is enjoyable none the less. The only drawback is the linearity. While it is more open than Strider or Cave Story, Guacamelee leads the player through a predetermined path, leaving exploration for only hidden goodies and upgrades. Even so, it is still one of the most entertaining games on the market.

Number 2: Salt and Sanctuary

One of the more recent metroidvanias on the market, Salt and Sanctuary pays homage to both Castlevania and Dark Souls with its gloomy atmosphere and brutal combat. Explore a dark world filled with danger and traps in attempt to save a princess. The story may be cliché, but the world building more than makes up for it. Combat is weighty and punishing, yet never feels unfair as every enemy attack is telegraphed and can be countered. Backtracking is also kept to a minimum with its levels looping onto themselves.

Salt and Sanctuary nails the sense of growth that makes metroidvanias so satisfying, but its exploration can feel obtuse and limited. This is due to the lack of a functioning map or other tool that can be used to track your progression throughout the world. While Dark Souls was able get away without a map feature, Salt and Sanctuary does not have any major landmarks to create a sense of direction. Even with this blemish, Salt and Sanctuary is one of the best metroidvanias ever made.

Number 1: Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge is by far, one of the best metroidvanias ever made. It nails everything; from exploration to the sense of growth. Exploration in particular, is one of the most satisfying experiences as every upgrade provides a creative twist in traversal. The teleport for example, can give you an extra jump or allow you to pass through walls. Combat truly shows your power as a character, with almost every weapon being useful and appealing. While the exterior makes it feel like a Metroid clone, Axiom Verge provides a unique experience that exceeds many games in the Metroid series.

Axiom Verge's world design shows how to give the player a sense of exploration while not overwhelming the player with too many options. Every zone provides areas of no return, that gate off the world into smaller, more manageable, sections. With this and a fully functioning map, it is only a matter of time before the player finds the next upgrade. This perfectly balances the need of tight structured challenges and the need to provide a sense of wonder. Axiom Verge is a shining example of how a metroidvania should be done. If you can only buy one game from this list, buy Axiom Verge. It is worth every penny.


The future of metroidvanias as a game genre looks increasingly bright. These games show that the market still love to explore and experience. Upcoming titles such as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Chasm provide excitement for fans of the genre. While the future of the Metroid and Castlevania series look grim, the legacy they created will live on in these titles.

What do you consider the best metroidvania? Let us know in the comments!



Top 5 Themes We'd Love to See in a New "World of" MMO,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/w/o/t/wot-d1e70.jpg 135ys/top-5-themes-wed-love-to-see-in-a-new-world-of-mmo Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:32:28 -0500 Rafal Gac CodeRM11


So there you have it: My Top 5 Themes We'd Love to See in a New "World of" MMO.


As mentioned before, I am sure there could be another 50 good ideas to propose for this type of MMO. 


What makes World of Tanks so amazing is the playability. And any of these games would be amazingly fun to play.


What themes would you like the next World of game to explore? What do you love about World of Tanks? Let us know in the comment below!

#1 World of Jaegers and Kaiju

Please let me reassure you. In my ‘World of’ MMO countdown, I did not forget about mechs. There are obviously a lot of games out there that implement mechs to varying success. So a game that uses just mechs wouldn't necessarily be interesting. 


Then few days ago, I  stumbled upon Pacific Rim again, and it was enlightenment!


There is nothing wrong with mechs. They are not boring by any means. But to make them unique, you have to put them in interesting situations. This is exactly what Pacific Rim does by introducing Jaegers fighting against Kaiju.


This creates more possibilities for rather interesting game design. On the one side, we could have Jaegers, huge mechwarrior machines with two pilots. Those could easily use the economy and leveling up from World of Tanks.

On the other side, Kaiju, genetically engineered monsters fighting with the use of, let’s call it – nature. They would need a slightly different system of gaining experience and skills. This could make the game even more interesting and full of variety.


Creatures and machines in World of Jaegers and Kaiju have no limits. Designs could be endless, going way above Tier 10.

#2 World of Steampunk

Nothing to add really to this idea!


World of Steampunk would be a lot like World of Tanks, but with tanks and war machines from the era of the First World War -- packed in a steampunk universe. 


Steampunk gives developers a world of endless possibilities. Steampunk machines can have wheels but can also crouch around, or fly, or swim. A properly designed World of Steampunk could even connect the dots between World of Tanks, World of Warships, and World of Warplanes!




There are tons of ideas on how to implement leveling up machine and crew skills. To be honest, it would be very easy just to copy and paste ready-made ideas from World of Tanks.


Certainly, though, machines and old-world tanks would be 100 percent more badass than World of Tanks. But that's just me ... 

#3 World of Spaceships

I know it is not a completely original idea and there are games on the market that are concentrating on fighting spaceships and building huge worlds in space -- particularly EVE and Elite: Dangerous, which are legendary by now. But there are also others like Star Conflict, which has some correlations with Wargaming ideas.


And while these games share some similarities with World of Tanks, they don't have the MMO panache that Wargaming's flagship has. 




What I would expect from World of Spaceships is an EVE-like approach to nations being placed in-game, ships with grandiose designs and crew levelling. This should relate to World of Tanks simple economy – fight the battle, gain experience and money, improve your ship and crew, level up.

What I would take from another space MMO game – Star Citizen -- would be the multiple crew member system, where every crew member has his own set of skills, ultimately affecting the overall performance of the ship.


This way World of Spaceships would maintain World of Tanks' dynamics and playability with games like EVE.

#4 World of Dragons

This alternate universe would be amazing to play around in. Enormous living creatures being ridden into battle by fantasy warrior to fight in giant MMO wars. This is a parallel reality we want to see happen. 


It would be a reality where scientists have genetically designed new breeds of dinosaurs and dragons, allowing warriors (and players) to equip these terrifying mounts with all sorts of mechanical and military add-ons -- lasers, shields, turrets, sensors, and more. And as player's progress to higher tiers, modifications and gear sets would become more diverse and powerful.


Of course, dragons can be divided between different fighting nations or factions.  Players could also choose different types of dragons. Smaller and more agile beasts would operate like some sort of light tank or light aircraft. Bigger and heavier dragons, equipped with rocket launchers or high beams, long distance lasers, and more would be like B52 Flying Fortresses or Tiger tanks.


Perhaps riders could even be grouped as crews – small dragons would require only one crew member but huge ones would need full crews to operate.


It seems that this could give players endless options to choose gameplay styles, resulting in hours of fiery battles in the air above. 

#5 World of The Warriors of The Future

Let’s start with a little bit different approach.


Of course, there are a few big titles already on the market that have taken the idea of the future soldier a run with it. At the top of this list are, obviously, the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises. 


But because these are FPS's and not MMO's, let's look at how a this concept of a World of Soldiers would work.


What I am thinking about is a game that will follow the research and development concepts laid on in World of Tanks. Players would choose from several different nations that are actively designing original systems for soldierss of the future – aiming devices, guns, drones, armor, and possibly also some genetic engineering.


Players would start commanding soldiers 2017 – with soldiers donning and using the exact gear available right now in different armies across the world. And then – level up! Choose the nation, choose class of the soldier: sniper, assault, support, engineer, spy. Earn experience and cash in battle and then use it to improve your gear and characteristic of your soldier. When you will achieve all possible improvements and certain level of experience – you will move to another level, let’s say 10 years into the future of the warfare every time you will reach higher Tier.


And then – level up! Choose the nation, choose class of the soldier: sniper, assault, support, engineer, spy. Earn experience and cash in battle and then use it to improve your gear and characteristic of your soldier. When you will achieve all possible improvements and certain level of experience – you will move to another level, let’s say 10 years into the future of the warfare every time you will reach higher Tier.


Players would choose the nation, choose the class of the soldier (sniper, assault, support, engineer, spy) and start play, commanding troops across a battlefield. Players would also earn experience and cash in battle and then use it to improve their soldier's gear and characteristics. When you will achieve all possible improvements and


When players achieve all possible improvements and a certain level of experience, they will move to another level, let’s say 10 years every time they reach a new tier.


It means that a soldier (or groups of soldiers) on Tier 10 would be a warrior in the year 2117. They would probably be equipped with virtual reality helmets that use auto-aiming; they would have drones and exoskeletons to improve physical performance, and more.


Sounds good!


Of course, to level up, players would participate in all sorts of team games – co-op, capture the flag, death match, exactly as we know from World of Tanks.


In the amazing universe that is MMO gaming, there is undoubtedly one world that leads them all. At least for 45 million registered players, this is the World of Tanks, the golden child of MMO developer, Wargaming.


Another two games from Wargaming – World of Warplanes and World of Warships – never became as successful for different reasons. Warplanes didn't become as popular due to rather odd ideas around key binding and plane steering, and Warships because of a lack of tight battle mechanics. 


So, the question is what is it about World of Tanks that makes it so popular among its players?


As very humble World of Tanks player, I've managed to reach about 20 thousand battles and buy probably around 80 percent of the available in-game machines. I can confirm that there are a lot of annoying features in this game, but I can also confirm that it is very addictive because it prefers skills over levels. this means that s skilled tanker can easily succeed in any battle with players driving bigger, and in theory, better tanks.


Another great feature of World of Tanks is the variety of machines and upgrades available for them. Also, building out the skills of your crew members adds to the game's overall variety. Finally, the learning curve is shallow, meaning anyone can pick up and play.


So, looking at the MMO landscape and how popular World of Tanks has become, let’s think what else could be squeezed into this recipe for success. What other "World of" games could Wargaming develop that could take World of Tanks' winning formula and replicate it?


I could personally think of 5 interesting ideas -- although I am sure there is many more.

6 Horror Games That Use the First-Person Perspective to Deliver Their Scares,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/o/u/t/outlast-c34d8.jpg w16tt/6-horror-games-that-use-the-first-person-perspective-to-deliver-their-scares Sun, 22 Jan 2017 11:57:01 -0500 Michael Llewellyn


The rise in first-person horror games has demonstrated just how well suited to the survival horror genre the perspective is. It adds a level of immersion that works so well with the dark and oppressive atmospheres, effectively placing the player directly in the fear-inducing action.  There's something about facing horrors of all types when up close and personal. And not knowing what is around the next corner or if something is behind you, definitely adds another layer fear.


There's something about facing horrors of all types when up close and personal. And not knowing what is around the next corner or if something is behind you definitely adds another layer fear.


Obviously, there is still room for horror games that use a third-person perspective, but unless aided by awkward controls and clever camera angles (to ratchet up the scares and sense of helplessness), I don't feel they quite pull you in and play around with your senses and emotions in the same way the first-person perspective does.


What do you think? Is the third-person perspective better for horror games or do you like your scare up close and personal? Let us know in the comments below!


Alien Isolation


Platform: PC/PS4/Xbox One/PS3/Xbox 360


One of the first big-budget games to take inspiration from the likes of Amnesia and Outlast with its run and hide mechanic, Alien: Isolation perfectly melds stealth and exploration to create a work that perfectly captures the context of the first film.


Through the eyes of Amanda Ripley, you're completely underpowered and unprepared as the Alien AI is completely dynamic, doesn't follow any set patterns, and is every bit the predator the Alien should be. It hunts you down through the narrow corridors of the Sevastopol, a decommissioned trading station -- and it's horrifying. 


When the Xenomorph appears you truly get an up close sense of its size and terrifying nature, whether you're facing it down for the first time or hiding inside a locker, a first-person perspective really adds to this level of immersion. Coupled with the impeccable sound design, the PoV works wonders. 


Alien: Isolation recaptures everything that made the first Alien movie so intense and atmospheric and puts you right in the middle of the horror. It not only manages to be one of the best survival horror games of any generation, it's also easily one of the best-licensed video games ever made.




Platform: PC/PS4/Xbox One


I challenge anyone not to get more than a few scares playing this game.  Another indie title but from experienced developers who set out to make their passion project, Outlast shines through its execution and is one of the purest horror games I've played.


There's no way to defend yourself beyond just mashing buttons to escape and run from some of the inmates. The object is to hide and use the darkness to your advantage.  


The game carries many genre influences from films such as REC and The Blair Witch Project, and it uses them to full effect as you work your way through the asylum completely terrified and defenseless. So the first-person perspective here is a completely natural fit that works when looking down the lens of a camcorder, constricting your field of view, and ratcheting up the horror. 


Amnesia: Dark Descent 


Platform: PC/PS4


I didn't get to play Amnesia upon release in 2010 because I never had the PC to play it, but it's impact and influence still echoes today in modern and future horror games. It has recently been ported to the PlayStation 4 as part of a collection and is absolutely worth playing.


The game is starting to show its age a bit now, but the scare factor hasn't weakened in the slightest. Just like Frictional Games' successive title SOMA, to give away too much information would be to spoil some of Amnesia's impact, as you really should experience it all for yourself. But I will say its execution is a masterstroke in psychological horror every step of the way.


The first-person perspective here allows the player to feel lost in some of the game's ultra dark areas. If this was played from a third-person viewpoint, there would have been a risk of making the player feel disconnected from the surrounding horrors.




Platform: WiiU/PS4/Xbox One


Originally an exclusive WiiU launch title known as ZombiU, Zombi was overlooked at launch, just like Condemned.


This game was Nintendo's attempt at trying to draw in a mature audience from the get-go, rather than just being associated with itsfamily-friendlyy roots.

It wasn't a big seller, which was a shame because ZombiU is a superb horror title on any system and one of the scariest games in the zombie genre. It brings a perfect blend of tension, atmosphere, and challenge to make it truly stand out on its own. ZombiU was also one of the few games that made good use of the WiiU controller, without it feeling too gimmicky.


Perspective aside, the game cleverly follows a similar structure to the Dark Souls series. Only this time, after your character dies (permanently) you will wake up as an entirely new character in the safehouse, and instead of trying to retrieve your "souls," you'll aim to try and recollect your previous corpse's belongings.  Unlike the Souls series though the first person viewpoint helps immerse the players in its truly desolate and dark environments.


It's recently been remastered on the PS4 and Xbox One, and I would definitely give this game a look if you missed it the first time round.


Condemned Criminal Origins


Platform: Xbox 360


Condemned is a game that was criminally overlooked as an Xbox 360 launch title in favor of the Perfect Dark sequel, but for me, Condemned was the real system seller. I loved the intense and gritty atmosphere, the lighting effects, the shadows and legitimately horrifying gameplay.


There are so many moments that stand out so well for me in this game that it remains one of my favorites today. It would be higher on my list if not for the weird final chapters. But it's still a fantastic game in spite of this.


Taking an alternate approach to the defenseless run and hide gameplay mechanics of more recent titles, Condemned features one of the most brutal and well-implemented hand-to-hand combat systems I've seen in a horror FPS. The brutality of the game doesn't pull any punches at all and the perspective definitely adds to that.  

If viewed from a third-person viewpoint, I think the atmosphere would have been lost in what may have looked and played like a half-baked action game.




Platform: PC, Mac, and PS4


Following their success with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, developers Frictional Games released SOMA, a.A disturbing sci-fi horror game set in an underwater facility.


As much as it's a horror game dealing with disturbing alien lifeforms with a similar running and hiding mechanic previously seen in Amnesia, the real impact comes from the psychology and the philosophical questions raised in the game. To go into too much detail will probably spoil game, but I feel it's a definite stand-out game in the horror genre and one that will stay memorable long after you're finished.


The first-person perspective works brilliantly with SOMA's vision of horror. The true horror is found in its psychological and atmospheric surroundings and the perspective here helps the player feel fully immersed in the shoes of the protagonist.


Ever since I was first introduced to the genre through Alien 3 on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis and later Resident Evil on the original PlayStation, the survival horror genre has been a favorite of mine. 


The portrayal of the of the genre in gaming has varied over the years in my experience, as I've seen it implemented in 2D side-scrolling horror-fests like the aforementioned Alien 3, the static prerendered back drops of the first three Resident Evil games and the now familiar over-the-shoulder action oriented horror games like Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill, the Dead Space series and Gears Of War.


The direction most big-budget horror games have been moving in in the last several years has been more action based than we've previously seen, and unfortunately, a lot of these action-horror games have lost their fear factors, too. And it all seems almost ironic that as revolutionary as Resident Evil 4 was at the time of its release, it was so in a totally unforeseen way: It was instrument in moving the genre into far less scary, more action based territory that influenced games for years to come.


There has been the occasional exception to the rule, but overall, horror quickly fell out of favour with publishers. Even Capcom's own Masachika Kawata declared there was no market for survival horror anymore.


That is until a passionate few indie developers brought in a sort of renaissance with titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Slender Man, Outlast and others.  They opted for a more immersive first-person perspective and added in a feeling of helplessness with deeply oppressive atmospheres that had been lacking from the genre for so long.


And all of those indie titles have since had good success beyond the PC, and made their way to the current generation of consoles, too. They have given rise to many similar titles in the genre and now even the upcoming Resident Evil 7 has taken quite a lot of inspiration from those very games, right down to the first-person viewpoint. And based on my experience with the demo, it is set to be a fantastic horror experience.


So here, and without further ado, I have listed some of my favorite survival horror games that like Resident Evil 7, use a first-person perspective for that all important level of immersion -- and horror. 

Controversy Over Upcoming World of Warcraft Armor Appearances,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/l/o/g/logo-ba939.png ui5to/controversy-over-upcoming-world-of-warcraft-armor-appearances Sun, 22 Jan 2017 11:18:26 -0500 BizarreAdventure

This week a new patch hit the PTR for World of Warcraft. In that patch, the newest designs for tier 20 armor sets were data mined. The armor sets in question seem to be updated designs of Tier 6 armor, with the exclusion of classes that didn't exist when Tier 6 was originally created: the Death Knight, Monk, and Demon Hunter. The armor set designs themselves can be seen here

However, not everyone is happy about these new armor sets. Posts and threads on Reddit and World of Warcraft dedicated sites like MMO-Champion have been created to argue for or against the sets. 

Some feel that the new "reskinned" armor sets are just lazy rehashes that contain little inspiration: 

"I think a few people, myself included, got the impression that it would be more inspired than just a copy/paste deal, similar to how T19 paladin was inspired by the judgement set -- CerealLord on MMO-Champion

While there are others who don't see an issue with these sets being reimagined for new and old players alike: 

... They [Blizzard] said it was going to be inspired by T6. There is nothing lazy. They have been completely redesigned and upgraded in order to be enhanced T6 sets wich most people love. -- Nemmar on MMO-Champion

Regardless of your stance, it's a fact that these "new" designs and tweaks are dividing the WoW community at large. 

What are your thoughts on the new tier sets? Do they represent a bought of laziness on Blizzard's part or do they represent a nice bit of nostalgia? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The 11 Best Gaming Accessories You Didn't Know You Needed,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/g/a/m/gamepad-1837422-640-e05c5.png z7ibj/the-11-best-gaming-accessories-you-didnt-know-you-needed Sun, 22 Jan 2017 11:00:03 -0500 AwesumPawsum




Do you have any of these things I mentioned? From what I've seen, most gamers don't have (or even know about) a lot of this stuff. But if you're serious about this awesome hobby and want the best experience possible, sometimes having the best video game accessories out there makes all the difference. 


Amazon Echo Dot

  • Price: $49.99
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  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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This last one may seem a bit strange. How would the Echo Dot help a gamer?


Here are a few ways I've used the one I just got for Christmas

  • Set a timer to make sure I don't lose track of time and play for too long.
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  • Turn on my jam to replace the (usually boring) video game's music
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  • After a long night of gaming and I'm too tired (read: lazy) to cross the room to get my phone, I tell the Dot to set an alarm for the morning
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You can also use it to order something on Amazon- like the newest game your buddy just told you about. 


Here's where to get yours.


Phone Clip

  • Price: $12.99
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  • Rating: 4/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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Have you ever tried to stream a game from your PC or console to your phone? Assuming you have great Wifi, it actually works pretty well. The main issue is figuring out where/how to mount your phone. 


Investing in a decent phone clip that snaps onto your controller makes this a bit easier. Even though it may feel a little awkward (and heavy) at first, you get used to it. 


Perfect for those nights where your significant other wants you to "spend time with them." In other words- you can sit next to them in the living room and play your favorite games while they watch their favorite (stupid) TV show.




Adapter with Mods and Paddles

  • Price: $39.99
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  • Rating: 4/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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As I mentioned earlier in the article, there's a reason why there's a market for high end controllers. They give the user the millisecond advantage required to be extremely competitive in games like Call of Duty. 


If you're not looking to invest in one of these controllers, you can always get an adapter like the one pictured above to snap onto your existing controller. It comes with a lot of different mods built in for Auto Run, Burst Fire, etc. 


These bad boys also have paddles that you can map buttons to. This makes it much easier to push a few buttons at the same time, or at least have no delay between presses. 




A Racing Chair

  • Price: $377.54
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  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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Let me start out by saying- if you're one of those people who solely play racing games and put in 20+ hours a week... I understand you probably know these things exist.


This one is for normal people.


These chairs really help you take racing to the next level. Once you combine them with a racing wheel and foot pedals, you almost feel like you're really racing. 


I mean- it won't be as intense as something like this- but still very cool. 



Actually, that thing doesn't even make sense. It seems to be bobbing and weaving even when the guy is going straight on level ground. 


Stick with the one linked to above. 


Controller Charging Station

  • Price: $29.99
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  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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What's worse than your controller dying on you?


Having it die on you when that boss in Dark Souls 3 has just a sliver of health left. 


Ask me how I know about that. (sigh)


Unless you use a small monitor and sit close to your console, you probably don't like using a cord. Plus, cords are messy. Instead, it's nice to have a charging station. This does 3 things:


1) Let's you charge one controller while you play with the spare. 


2) Charges two controllers at once (which is nice for preparing to play with someone else.)


3) Clear up clutter - somehow my charging cords tend to always be laying in the middle of the floor, looking messy. 




A Heavy Duty Gaming Chair

  • Price: $199.99
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  • Rating: 4/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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Let me make this clear- there are gaming chairs, and then there are gaming chairs.


The first is the kind you buy for $20 at Wallie world. It's meant for kids that weigh like 40 pounds and is made from the cheapest materials known to man- which doesn't make sense, considering the audience.


But an adult gaming chair is different. It has speakers on the sides, allowing you to hear the peripherals. Got someone running up behind you in Battlefield? Now you'll hear 'em.


Or maybe you just like to jam to your favorite music while you game. No problem - you can also hook up the speakers to your phone, tablet, etc.


The best part is the size. Even though it's not extremely comfortable for tall folks like myself, it's high enough off the ground that it's actually usable for adults. 




GAEMS Carrying Cases

  • Price: $349.99
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  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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How fun is it to carry around your console in a backpack to go play at a friend's house?


Right - not very. 


Because assuming they have a screen you can use, you still have to deal with plugging/unplugging stuff, throwing the console in your dirty, falling-apart backpack, worrying about it getting hit/stepped on during transport, etc.


And if you're traveling a lot, it's even more of a hassle. When I used to travel for work 2 weeks a month, I didn't even consider hauling my PS4 with me.


...but with a GAEMS system, it's easy. It's very strong and protective, easy to carry, and contains everything in one simply package. 


Perfect whether you're a road warrior for work or just want to head up to your brother's for a night of gaming.




Keyboard for Your Console

  • Price: $14.99
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  • Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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A lot of gamers (myself included) primarily use their console for just one thing - gaming.


But for some people, it's their primary entertainment hub. They'll stream Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, their favorite music - all kinds of stuff. I know people who bought the PS2 when it first came out just for its ability to play DVDs, or an Xbox to manage their other hardware.


Using these features is great, but typing things with the on-screen keyboard isn't. Fortunately, there are mini keyboards you can purchase to make typing in your favorite sing, YouTuber, etc. much easier. 




Vertical Stands

  • Price: $21.99
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  • Rating: 5/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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 One nice feature of modern consoles is their ability to operate vertically. If you're short on space, it's a great way to free up some space for your towering stack of video games.


...but there are two little problems.


For one thing, standing vertically makes the console more susceptible to tipping over. The base isn't very wide, so a number of things can knock it over. 


Kids. Dogs. Cats. Roommates. Yourself... especially after a few adult beverages. 


Enter the hero - a vertical stand. 


The biggest benefit of these stands is the wider base. This makes the unit much more stable and roommate-resistant.


The other benefit is (some) vertical stands help with ventilation by including a fan. 


You can get these for both a PS4 or Xbox One, although the one linked to above is Xbox specific. 


Trigger Stops

  • Price: $19.99
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  • Rating: 3/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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Some games- especially first person shooters like Call of Duty - are largely about reflexes. The quicker you can draw your gun and shoot, the better your odds of leading your team to victory.


While changing your button configuration (such as switching your trigger and shoulder buttons) is one way to give you an advantage, using trigger stops is another option. 


There are a few types out there, but the main premise is simple. They extend the trigger and include a "stop" that reduces how much you have to press the trigger to get it to fire. In other words- instead of having to pull the trigger all the way down, you just to pull it back a hair to get the controller to register it.


Sounds useless? Just wait until you try it. There's a reason why $100+ SCUF controllers have them. 




Joystick Covers

  • Price: $4.99
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  • Rating: 4/5 Stars
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  • Where to Buy: Amazon
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Have you ever been in the heat of an intense firefight in Call of Duty or Halo and had the joystick slip? 


Or maybe after that six-hour session of Skyrim Special Edition, it felt like your thumbs were a bit sore because your controller's joysticks are starting to fall apart? 


Getting these must-have joystick covers can help with that. Not only do they help protect your controller, but they give you a little better grip on the dang thing. You'll appreciate it the next time you're in an intense match in Overwatch and realize how much more control you have over your aim.


Some gaming accessories are necessities. Like your mouse, keyboard, controller, etc. You really can't play without them.


But some gaming peripherals just aren't quite as necessary...until you try them. Once you do, and you understand how much better your gaming experience can be with something like an awesome gaming chair, you can never go back.


Here are a few of my favorite gaming accessories that you may have never even heard of, but that you're really missing out on.

10 Worst Reviewed Games of 2016,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/c/r/screens-1468512970-5239a.jpg s2103/10-worst-reviewed-games-of-2016 Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:01 -0500 Curtis Dillon


Well there you have it -- the awful, the bad, and the ugly. Some titles on this list were disappointing because they had potential to be great games (i.e. Alekhine's Gun, Weeping Doll), while a few others were laughably bad, (like Soda Drinker Pro).


Like I said at the beginning of this list, if there is a positive to be taken, it's the fact that none of the games on this list were downright unplayable -- at least not the way Afro Samuari or World Cup Rugby were last year. Heck, not every game on this list would be a complete waste of your time and money, but there are definitely better things to spend it on.


2016 boasted many great video games like those pictured above. In fact, we'll be doing a Best of 2016 list really soon, so be sure to check back here for that rundown!


Did any of you actually play any of these titles? Are they as bad as we think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned to GameSkinny!


1. Ghostbusters

Metacritic Score: 30 (User Score: 0.6)

You know what happens when you take a franchise like Ghostbusters and make an atrocious video game? Hmm? Activision, you just made the list!


Wrestling references aside, you would think it would be fairly easy by now to make a fun 4-player game that utilizes the Ghostbusters license, and yet here we are. Activision and FireForge Games clearly wanted to copy the Helldivers/Alienation formula, but they missed the key component of those titles: fun gameplay.


You could maybe forgive the bad sound design, bad script, bad story, and sheer repetitiveness if the game was fun to play, but it's far from it. Sadly this is just another example of a terrible game made to service a movie deadline.


2. Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival

Metacritic Score: 31 (User Score: 4.5)

The Kick Off series dates all the way back to 1989, and back then it was a critically adored smash hit. Well, jump forward almost 30 years and the formula just ain't popular anymore.


Importantly, Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival is seemingly less of a game than the 1989 original. It features shoddy graphics, cheesy music, and (literally) one or two sound effects. Just like its predecessor, Kick-Off Revival has only 3 modes and uses only one button to kick/head/tackle the ball.


Dino Dini's Kick Off Revival is proof that some things are just better left in the past, where nostalgia can gloss over impurities.


3. Soda Drinker Pro

Metacritic Score: 31 (User Score: 4.7)

Now, here we have the worst visuals imaginable. (Seriously, how freakin' bad can a video game look?) This looks like it was made in Microsoft Paint, and would make the list for simply looking this bad.


Soda Drinker Pro is a soda-drinking simulator...whatever the heck that means. Allegedly akin to a flight simulator, the objective is to -- you guessed it -- drink from a cup. You traverse levels and drink until the cup is empty. That's all there is. It might not be as basic and insane as My Name Is Mayo, but Soda Drinker Pro really is asking a lot for anyone to spend money on it.


Even in a world where farming simulators and a goat simulator can be big successes, I don't think anyone was asking for this.


4. Weeping Doll

Metacritic Score: 34 (User Score:3.8)

Without doubt, Weeping Doll is far and away the prettiest game on this entire list. But as we all know, looks are far from everything.


Weeping Doll is a VR horror game that only lasts around an hour, and offers very little in the way of interactivity. The narrative is delivered via voice-over, which robs the game of much of its eerieness -- and the VR isn't offensively bad but up-close the objects are very blurry, which could cause a headache.


All in all, Weeping Doll isn't the worst game on this list, especially as a proof-of-concept VR title. But it fails to deliver in most regards, and clocking in at the hour mark makes this one very hard to recommend.


5. 7 Days To Die

Metacritic Score: 35 (User Score: 5.2)

7 Days To Die is an open-world, sandbox zombie game, that is much more H1Z1 than it is State of Decay.


First and foremost, it's startling that a game can look this awful in 2016. I mean, it reaffirms the concerns that the Xbox and PlayStation stores are seriously lacking in quality control. This level of crappiness is to be expected in the deep depths of Steam, or all over the App Store, but you don't expect to find it on consoles.


And yet, Telltale Games actually published this series. I'm not sure what Telltale saw in 7 Days To Die that made the developer want to publish the game. But is an ugly, glitchy mess that no-one should waste their time on.


6. Langrisser Re:Incarnation - TENSEI

Metacritic Score: 35 (User Score:6.3)

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you've never even heard of Langrisser Re:Incarnation - TENSEI, well don't worry, you're better off not knowing it.


A 3DS game from developer Masaya, Langrisser is a strategy-simulation RPG in the same vein as Fire Emblem, minus all of the charm and quality. Amazingly, the Langrisser series has been around since 1991 but this might be the worst installment yet.


The action is lackluster and downright boring, while the visuals leave a lot to be desired -- even on the 3DS. The biggest problem with this title is that it's so close to the competition that its flaws are glaring in comparison.


7. Umbrella Corps

Metacritic Score: 36 (User Score: 2.3)

Ahh, the last straw for the Resident Evil we knew it. After the mega-success of Resident Evil 4, developer Capcom seemingly misunderstood what we loved about the series. In the follow-ups to the masterpiece, Capcom chose to focus on big-budget action (as opposed to survival horror), and the series took a serious downturn as a result.


Just when you thought the series couldn't get any worse, Capcom followed-up Resident Evil 6 with Umbrella Corps - a multiplayer shooter. Clearly Capcom was attempting to capitalise on the success of the FPS genre but it didn't believe enough in Umbrella Corps to give it the RE branding. Well, that turned out to be a smart decision; Corps is a clumsy, ugly, un-fun mess that should have been aborted.


While Umbrella Corps was undoubtedly the ultimate low-point for the Resident Evil series, it's great to know that Resident Evil 7 is about to release and looks like a genuine return to form.


8. Alekhine's Gun

Metacritic Score: 36 (User Score: 3.7)

Cold war games are extremely rare, despite it being a fascinating period in history. So when one comes around you want it to be good. Well, want all you like -- Alekhine's Gun is not the game you've been waiting for.


Although it borrows from great stealth games like Hitman and Splinter Cell, Alekhine's Gun never quite managed the level of polish or design ingenuity of those titles. It's even been said that the game outright rips off some levels from early Hitman games, and still couldn't match the quality of the almost-two-decade-old series.


Although it features a great premise, and time period, Alekhine's Gun fails to hit the mark.


9. Coffin Dodgers

Metacritic Score: 36 (User Score: 4.4)

On the face of it, Coffin Dodgers is a pretty great idea for a game. The grim reaper comes to take the lives of the residents of a retirement home, so they hop on their mobility scooters and try to outrun him. Kart racers are usually great -- they're hard to screw up -- but Coffin Dodgers did just that.


The mechanics are everything in a kart racer, which is partially why Mario Kart is so fantastic, and Coffin Dodgers definitely needed some more time in the oven to balance out the gameplay. You'll find yourself braking with frustrating regularity -- and should you find yourself in 1st place, you'd have to throw the race away to actually lose.


It's a shame how this one turned out because the visuals are nice, the idea fun, and the soundtrack lively. Alas, Coffin Dodgers is one better left in the grave.


10. Ace Banana

Metacritic Score: 38 (User Score: 4.8)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that a VR game in which you play as a banana with a knack for archery couldn't be anything but amazing. Sadly, Ace Banana for PSVR is anything but ace. Sorry.


Ace Banana sees waves of monkeys trying to steal your banana friends, forcing you to pull out your bow and ward them off -- using the Move controllers. The actual act of shooting the arrows is OK, but not as accurate or responsive as one would hope, and the visuals are like that of a PS2 (or Wii U) game.


Ace Banana isn't a broken game, but it's a PSVR launch title that Sony will be hoping you forget sooner rather than later.


2016 was home to many great video games, but you'd be wrong to think it was all fun and good times. Unfortunately every year sees many more terrible games get released than it does great ones, and 2016 saw some serious stinkers.


I guess one upside to this year's list is that it doesn't feature a single game as bad as the worst from 2015 -- Alone In The Dark: Illumination. Nor does this list of games feature many recognizable franchises, whereas last year had big-hitters like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Afro Samurai, and more.


Alas, that's about as good of a spin as I can put on this list. The upcoming games you're about to read about are the very worst of the worst, be they completely broken or just downright terrible. Two things worth mentioning though. The scores from these games (and therefore their listing) comes from Metacritic. Also this is a list of bad games, not disappointing, so don't expect No Man's Sky to make an appearance!


So, without further ado, your eyes on the very worst that 2016 had to offer!

What's the Beef: Why Don't More Survival Games Let Players Farm?,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/f/a/r/farming-simulator-2017-4bbf5.jpg o2fhm/whats-the-beef-why-dont-more-survival-games-let-players-farm Sun, 22 Jan 2017 01:07:33 -0500 Neal Cox

Ever since Minecraft officially released in November of 2011, survival games have been a staple of the video game release schedule. Games like Day ZRust, The Forest, Ark: Survival Evolved, and many more have really struck a cord with gamers.

However, there is a feature missing from some of these games that has left a hole in the hearts of many players: Farming. Now, I'm not asking for these games to go all Farming Simulator on us, but there is something important, both mechanic and thematic-wise, that is lost when farming or farming features are left on the cutting-room floor.

Of all of the games I listed previously, three of the four (Rust, Day Z and Ark) had farming mechanics. You may notice that these three are some of the most well known games within the genre. I'm not saying this is directly because of their farming mechanics, but farming mechanics help to serve two main purposes.

 In these three games, hunger is a major aspect of the gameplay. If you don't eat, your stamina, and sometimes your health, will drop until you die. It may take longer than getting shot in the back or falling off a cliff, but it will happen.

So, now that you have to eat, you are presented with two choices: farming, which is safer but may take a while, or scavenging, which may be quick, but is also more likely to result in your death. Some players may decide to just scavenge, living like animals in the forest or among the ashes of a post-apocalyptic eastern-european country.

Farming, however, allows players a chance to build their supplies and be better prepared when dealing with the world around them. Farming also leads to investment, which makes base-building and fending off attacks that much more important. Farming, if done right, leads to player immersion within a game's world. Without it, the world can sometimes feel just a little hollow. However, there's more to farming than what's on the surface.

Thematically speaking, farming signals a change both in the player and in the game world. It shows that, even in its early stages, that the player is beginning to bend the world to their whim. Some games may not introduce farming until the late game, when a base has been established, and enough supplies have been gathered to make such an undertaking feasible. Others may introduce it in the tutorial, and require the player to invest some time in it if they hope to last a day within the game world.

Regardless of how they do it, farming exists as a physical manifestation of the player's power. Imagine what it is like for a player to go from having a small farm to having a plantation. Imagine going from one crop to many. You can see your progress in many things within a survival game, such as a house, but very rarely do other manifestations of power actually provide you with something. By the end, when you've altered an entire field, island, or biome to suit your farming needs, you will have truly seen the effect that you have had on your world. You are no longer just surviving, you are thriving

Now, why don't more games include farming mechanics? From what I've described, it must sound like the best thing in games since the ability to jump. Well, there are plenty of reasons for this. Most obviously, it might not fit what a game is going for. Some games just aren't about taking over the world of a game.

Maybe the game world is hopeless and futile, and the idea of being self-reliant may go against the themes of the game. It would weird if a game like I Am Alive, a survival game set in a post-apocalyptic America, were to focus on farming when everything else was about combat and traversal.

Some games like The Forest are more combat focused. Why waste your time farming some carrots when you could be hacking some naked cannibals to death with an axe? What if, more mechanically speaking, the programmers and designers only have a few features that they could put into the game within their time-frame and budget? If you wanted to make a fun survival game, would you focus on farming instead of movement, scavenging and combat?

Farming isn't perfect for every game, just like Farming Simulator 2017 isn't for every player. However, more survival games should definitely consider adding farming to their list of game-play features. If they want the player to merely survive in their survival game, go ahead and ignore the farming.

But, if they want your character to take on and conquer the world, bend it to their will and become the true master of their destiny, they should add it in.

Alternatively, maybe they just want to get your players hooked on the success of growing fake carrots and tomatoes. Whatever works for them. As long as there are seeds to plant and wheat to harvest. 


Great Sex and 6 Other Ways to Make Romance Better in Mass Effect: Andromeda,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/a/n/d/andromeda-60170.jpg 3bi6e/great-sex-and-6-other-ways-to-make-romance-better-in-mass-effect-andromeda Sat, 21 Jan 2017 12:16:50 -0500 AwesumPawsum

It was recently confirmed that Mass Effect: Andromeda is going to have a great romance aspect. I don't think anybody's surprised by that -- after all, the romance system is what led to many funny GIFs of Shepard saying "We'll bang, okay?"

But even though it's great we'll get to bang our favorite shipmates, there are a few things I think should be implemented to improve the whole romance process in this upcoming Mass Effect game.

1. Make it Count for Something More

It's not uncommon for relationships to count for something in RPGs. In some games, you may gain a bonus of some kind once your friendship level is maxed out with a character.

Why not implement that for romances? Maybe you could get a bonus for having the maximum friendship, but being in a romantic relationship could add another ability, passive bonus, awesome weapon, etc.

Doesn't it make sense that your partner would want take care of you both on the battlefield and the bedroom?

2. More Missions

The typical formula for building a relationship with someone in an RPG goes something like this:

1. Meet them, find out who they are, and ask them to join you. 

2.  After having them in your party for a while (and talking to them 50 times in camp/the ship/etc.) they will open up about their past and ask you to help them with something.

3. Go on a mission and build up their trust.

4. Profit! Now they're your best bro. 

That's great and all, but you would think a romantic relationship would spur on more specific adventuring. Your partner would probably open up more about their past and aspirations, hoping you can help 'em out. It'd be great to have missions that you take only with your partner, or at least those where you have to work closely together to accomplish anything.

So maybe on their trust mission you learn that the person's brother -- who they thought was dead -- is actually still alive. Then maybe there could be some follow-up missions for them. But these missions only open up if that person becomes your special someone.

3. More Places to Procreate

In the other Mass Effect games, you don't exactly experience the spice of life -- variety. Rather than make love everywhere like newly-beloveds do, most sex is just done in one place.


Why not in the cockpit while Kello Jath (the pilot) is asleep? I'm sure he won't mind. 

Maybe in your partner's room and the captain's room. 

And a random closet and the ship's kitchen and medical bay . 

...okay maybe I'm getting carried away here. But you get my point. At least 2-3 places would make it better.

4. More Effort

It's a little too simple to romance people in most RPGs. The Witcher 3 did it right in my opinion, because it was easy to make the wrong decision and blow your chances. One mistake and could forget a frisky night with the redhead. 

Granted, in the previous Mass Effect games you could still make the wrong choice. But in my opinion it's less difficult than it probably should be. 

Hopefully Mass Effect: Andromeda is a little better about this. Getting someone to fall in love with you should require:

  • Saying just the right things
  • Doing a few extra missions for them
  • Maybe giving them gifts? (Like in Dragon Age: Origins.)

I mean, come on. Let's pretend the characters in the game have a little more class and require more schmoozing before hopping in bed with their fearless leader.

5. More Character Interactions

If your boss was dating your coworker at work, there'd be a lot of talk about it, right? Some people would throw around friendly banter. Others would be a little harsher and bring up the issue of favoritism. 

The same should go with Mass Effect: Andromeda's romance. 

For example, let's say you're playing a male and decide to romance Cora. Well some of the other guys on the ship -- especially the ones who aren't bisexual or homosexual -- could start making funny or "way to go" kind of comments. 

But the females who may have been interested in you may be a little less forgiving -- especially if you'd already started down the path of romancing them but quit it to boink Cora. Hell, maybe they could even become more difficult to work with if you snub them.

This could happen everywhere. On the ship, walking around on planets or in cities, etc. 

6. A Better Ending

No, I'm not talking about ME3's horrible endings. 

The final cutscenes of the game should be different based on who you romanced. Maybe you go back to the home planet of whoever you chose as your partner. Could be that you settle down at the Ryder's home. Or go on a much-needed vacation. 

Heck -- I would be happy with just a hug and a kiss between the loving couple. 

But that isn't the norm. Instead, we're just left with a warm and fuzzy feeling of saving the world...or whatever. 

7. More Sex

From what I've seen, this is already confirmed. But I still wanted to include it, just in case. Because let's get real -- a lot of people are looking forward to some Mass Effect sex. Not many games let you bang aliens! 

What Changes Do You Want to See?

Have you been happy with the romance aspects of the previous games? Or do you, like myself, think they can do a lot more with Mass Effect: Andromeda's romances? Let me know in the comments!

4 Reasons Astroneer is Going to Continue to Kill it in Early to Mid 2017,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/a/s/t/astroneer-6692e.jpg 4o6xu/4-reasons-astroneer-is-going-to-continue-to-kill-it-in-early-to-mid-2017 Sat, 21 Jan 2017 12:14:29 -0500 Caio Sampaio


While we'll have to wait to see the final product, we can infer from what we have already seen that Astroneer has the potential to become a watershed exploration game that takes the genre to brand new heights.


By making players believe in procedural generation after the No Man's Sky fiasco, adding a multiplayer mode, developing a meaningful crafting system that adds depth to the experience and allowing players to personalize their journeys through their own imaginations, Astroneer is a game that will continue to rise in 2017. And if you have not started playing it yet, you definitely should. 


Astroneer and The Sims have more in common than you might at first think. 


While the universe of Astroneer provides players with incredible vistas, the textures and the models of the in-game avatars are not truly detailed, as we can see in the image above. The game aims for a more minimalist approach to its graphics, much like The Sims.


This allows the player to insert their own imaginations into the hopping space suit they see on the screen.

As the author Katherine Isbister writes in her book How Games Move Us -- Emotion by Design:


"Astute design choices made in The Sims series help make the game extremely absorbing. The nonsense babble, and the simplified cartoony graphics and animations leave more to the player's imagination than if the game had highly polished dialogue, surfaces and performances."


The simple graphics of Astroneer allow players to project their own imaginations onto the in-game avatars, thus making it a more personal experience. This creates enhanced engagement and buy-in, making the experience that much more engrossing. 

Moreover, as Scott McCloud explains in his book Understanding Comics:


"A more abstract and stylized rendition of a character allows viewers to project more of themselves onto the character".


The author says this in the context of character design in comic books, but the same principle holds true to characters and environments in video games. The more a player can insert his or her own consciousness into the game world, the more they will become part of that world. 


If Astroneer can keep doing this for players, it's popularity will only continue to expand throughout 2017. 


After the success of Minecraft, adding crafting systems to games has become somewhat of a trope. But problems arise when developers add crafting in a context where it makes little sense. 


In Astroneer; however, the crafting system works in complete concert with the core elements of the game, adding depth to the gameplay. 


As players explore planets, they acquire more resources and craft new items, which in turn, allow them to explore more planets. This is something that many players of No Man's Sky, for example, have been clamoring for. And something that definitely sets Astronomer apart.


When crafting actually has a purpose and just isn't used as a selling point, it's not a distraction, but a major enhancement. 


Astroneer features a cooperative mode that supports up to four players. In a game with as many variables as Astroneer, implementing multiplayer is an incredible achievement and the team behind the game certainly deserves praise for how it's implemented. 


Even if the planets in this game provide players with mesmerizing sights and interesting places to explore, the fun would not be complete if your friends could not join you in your interplanetary endeavors. (Yes, we're looking at you, No Man's Sky.) 


Consequently, the co-op functionality of Astroneer will only help increase its popularity. YouTubers will create series about and share memes of their adventures on social media, boosting the game's presence; streamers will surely get together and partake is crazy adventures; and average players will be able to team up and overcome challenges that could never be completed with just one set of space gloves. 

Procedural Generation 

This was one of the biggest selling points of No Man's Sky, but after that fiasco, players became incredulous over the potential of this rapidly growing ubiquitous technology. Luckily, however, Astroneer proved it is possible to have a beautiful procedural world with interesting maps and dazzling sights. 


This adds a virtually infinite number of locations for the player to explore. Of course, some will inevitably be similar to others, but from what we have seen thus far, we can believe some repetition will not be a problem as the quality of the code (and overall design direction) in this game remains breathtaking. 


Released on December 16, 2016, in Steam Early Access by System Era Softworks, Astroneer has gathered a passionate following on the internet, stacking a total of 11,952 reviews on Steam, 90 percent of which were ranked as "positive" by the platform. 


The game is currently in its version and as players continue to explore its resources, hype only continues to grow for the full release. 


In this list, we will share four reasons why Astroneer will continue to blow everyone's minds throughout the first half of 2017 -- and beyond. 



Minion Masters Early Access -- Pick Up and Play PvP at Its Finest,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/m/i/n/minion-masters-preview-head-6022e.png ajgit/minion-masters-early-access-pick-up-and-play-pvp-at-its-finest Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:10:00 -0500 Ashley Gill

There are not a lot of games that come around that I do the whole "one more turn" thing with -- generally only turn-based strategy, Dota 2, and various action roguelites get that sort of attention from me. But somehow BetaDwarf's Early Access Minion Masters has wriggled its way into my assortment of go-to games -- and I'm certainly not complaining.

Minion Masters is a real-time PvP card-based strategy game that pits two players against one another in an effort to take out the other's throne. The arena is split into two lanes, with both players having a field area they can play minions and buildings on to either defend their throne or take the opponent's. And of course, there are a number of spells

This is a very simplified way to describe the game, as there are uncountable card combinations, strategies, and playstyles across the game's current 78 cards and 8 heroes. A player's chance to win relies on both their deck and their ability to play cards at the right time and in the right place, which gives Minion Masters just the right amount of strategic complexity to make learning to play well a rewarding and addictive experience on its own.

Developer and publisher BetaDwarf allowed me a Premium Upgrade key to give the game a whirl last week, and I'll be honest in that I did not expect much -- I've been around the Early Access block a few times, and that really just saps all your enthusiasm about Early Access games on Steam.

With the above in mind, somehow I have put over 26 hours into Minion Masters over the past five or six days. Those 26 hours have been pretty great.

I'll force you to duel, all right

So the game's subtitle is "Forced to Duel", and I'm pretty all right with making waves upon waves of minions sacrifice themselves for my personal benefit. After all, I'm a master and they're minions. That's how these things work.

Minion Masters has a few PvE versus AI rounds for you to hone your skills at, but once fleeting matches are over your only option is to take your gameplay to PvP and prove yourself against other players to climb through the ranks. This is not a game for purely PvE gamers, and it doesn't seem like it's ever going to be.

The above said, those comfortable with and seeking some player versus player action will find themselves right at home with Minion Masters. A match only lasts a few minutes, with the longest I've had yet sitting at slightly over seven minutes. Despite the short match length, even if you take the same deck and master combination into the arena time and time again, every match is going to be different. Everyone plays the game in their own way.

The 10 card deck limit means every card you've got is as valuable as the last, from the one mana cost to the nine mana cost. Each card has a use, though playing them at the right time and in the right place is just as important as the minions, spells, and buildings you use themselves.

Part of the strategic fun of the game lies more in the placement and positioning of your minions than the cards you're using themselves. Placing some well-timed two mana Crossbow Dudes to distract incoming enemies from taking out a more powerful higher mana cost minion or building feels rewarding, even if you end up doing it every match.

You simply always feel like you're outplaying your opponent when you're winning. That equates to some pretty engaging gameplay.

Paid Early Access now, free to play later

Now this is something that really gets a lot of people's goats, and one has to speak on a game's monetization when covering free to play games. In F2P today, money always equals power.

I can't give a personal account about the gold, Ruby, and Shard accumulation in Minion Masters because I have the Premium Upgrade, which threw a bunch of currency at me. But as an outsider looking in on the totally free to play portion of the playerbase, I can tell you that currency gains are not ideal.

A free player is going to getting about 40 gold per win, which is not much considering it costs 1,000 gold to buy a Power Token -- you know, the things you use to draw cards. Each player gets a Free Token each day, which gives gold, Rubies, or Shards instead of cards. Sometimes you can get a reasonable amount of one of the three currencies from a Free Token, but more often than not it's a small sum.

Rubies and Shards, which are used to buy masters and arenas, are very hard to come by at the time of writing.

It appears one can only get Rubies from Free Tokens, level rewards, and league rewards. This feels a bit scarce, as totally free players would take an exceptional amount of time to get enough to buy a new master via Rubies. I suppose that's the caveat of most F2P games.

Shards, the alternative "premium" currency, are obtained via the same methods as Rubies but can also be gotten by salvaging unwanted cards. Shards are also used to craft new cards, making them a valuable asset and probably best not spent on masters or arenas.

Lastly, gold itself is simply used to buy Power Tokens. While win and loss rewards are meager, completing daily challenges can net you between 2,000 and 3,200 gold per day on their own. Most players should be able to pull at least two Power Tokens per day, more if they level quickly.

Just one more match!

I really don't want to paint Minion Masters in a bad light -- not because BetaDwarf graciously granted me a Premium Upgrade, but because I really enjoy the game. Meager currency rewards aside, I can't think of many things about it to really complain about.

Between deck building and actually playing matches, Minion Masters is a great timesink for medium to hardcore PvP players alike. It's hard to imagine casual players doing fantastically considering the amount of planning needed to both work up a deck and play your cards to your advantage. Spamming doesn't really get you anywhere in most cases and the timing and positioning of your plays is very important.

For being in Early Access, Minion Masters is already well fleshed out and offers a lot of versatility for the ambitious and bloodthirsty player. BetaDwarf has been keeping the game updated on a nearly weekly basis, with the new Wildcard system having been implemented just today. You can even see in the game itself when it's going to be seeing its next update, which is very welcome considering how some developers run their Early Access projects.

If you're looking for a PvP-oriented game with some very solid gameplay, quick pick-up-and-play matches, and the ability to suck you in for a couple hours when you only intended to play five minutes, Minion Masters will probably be a good bet for you.

I really can't emphasize enough how surprised I was at how fun it all is, and I would bet hard money (a roll of quarters) that the game is going to see some reasonable success once it leaves its current paid Early Access period. It's going to be exciting to see how BetaDwarf fleshes out Minion Masters considering the current quality of the game and their openness with the game's budding community.

The 3 Most Believable Reasons Why Scalebound Was Cancelled,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/u/n/t/untitled-a05c7.jpg aeljq/the-3-most-believable-reasons-why-scalebound-was-cancelled Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:02:38 -0500 Sergey_3847

Scalebound, an exclusive action RPG for Xbox One and PC, has been cancelled. Microsoft made the announcement on January 9, 2017 and killed the dream of so many fans who had been eagerly awaiting the game. Scalebound was supposed to be a fresh concept that combined an open world with action and RPG mechanics.

People that had the chance to play the game at various conferences reported that it looked awesome. So what happened? Why did Microsoft cancel an expensive AAA title that had been in development for almost four years? Let’s find out.

The Developer: Platinum Games

Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

Platinum Games is a Japanese development company that was founded in 2006 by Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4, The Evil Within), Atsushi Inaba (Nier: Automata, Bayonetta 2), and Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Bayonetta).

Platinum Games made some of the most stylish and insane action video games we've ever seen, including Bayonetta, Vanquish, and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Currently, the company is working on Nier: Automata, which should be out on March 7, 2017.

So what does Scalebound mean for this company? It turns out that it means more than people imagined. It was actually the first project the newly-formed Japanese development team started work on -- but due to its scale, the game was postponed for almost 7 years.

The development of Scalebound finally started in 2013 as a part of the partnership deal between Platinum and Microsoft. The project was truly ambitious and required a lot of effort from both companies. While Platinum worked on innovative combat and RPG mechanics, Microsoft made sure that the game looked as appealing as possible.

However, the insiders say that Microsoft intruded into the development of the game too much and too often. This kind of attitude infuriated the director of Scalebound, Hideki Kamiya, which didn’t improve the relationship between the two companies at all.

On the contrary, the reports say that as of Autumn 2016 both sides came to the conclusion that there is no way for two of them to move forward with the development of the game. Here is a bit from an interview with Polygon in 2015 that explains how Kamiya felt during the development of Scalebound (read the full interview here):

"Up until now, the style of the Japanese publishers I've worked with is, for better or worse, 'good-ol'-days game development. To be blunt, their vibe is 'as long as it works out in the end.' Microsoft is the first overseas publisher I've worked with, but is seems like the overseas style is, for better or worse, 'next-generation game development.' It is focused not just on the final result, but also on the process you take to get there. For someone as irresponsible as I am, it's hard to get my head around sometimes."

The Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

This is not the first time that Microsoft cancelled a game due to misunderstanding with third-party studios. In the first half of 2016, the publisher made the decision to cancel Fable Legends -- a continuation of the Fable cult-classic series of video games.

More than that, Microsoft even shut down Lionhead Studios, which had developed the game for many years but wasn’t ready to release it. Fortunately, it can’t shut Platinum Games, so there is at least one positive side to this story.

When rumors started circulating that Scalebound had huge problems during the development, Microsoft decided it simply couldn’t release a subpar product under its  name. The company decided to review the entire design of the game, which brought an inevitable clash of opinions with the developer. The last time the game was shown at GamesCom 2016, and after that there were no updates whatsoever.

In December 2016 the rumors started flying about the cancellation of Scalebound, which were then confirmed by Microsoft in January. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, commented on his Twitter account that the decision to cancel Scalebund was hard, but it was made after a lot of consideration.

We can deduct three main reasons why this decision has been made by looking at the history of development and into the events of the last few months.

(Speculated) Reasons Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

1. It took too long to develop the game.

The development of Scalebound began in 2013, and at that time Platinum and Microsoft agreed to release the final game by the end of 2016. However, in the beginning of 2016 Platinum released a statement that it would postpone the release of the game to 2017.

"In order to deliver on our ambitious vision and ensure that Scalebound lives up to expectations, we will be launching the game in 2017. This will give us the time needed to bring to life all the innovative features and thrilling gameplay experiences that we have planned."

So what happened there? The game definitely needed to be worked on, and since it wanted to put too many things together, it was really impossible to bring everything to a solid conclusion in just three years.

The combat system looked interesting, but it mostly left gamers confused. The main protagonist named Drew had a special connection to his dragon sidekick -- Thuban. Together they would engage in battles against monsters inhabiting the world of Draconis.

However, Thuban was designed to be controlled by an AI in unpredictable ways, which didn’t make much sense at the time. Drew’s combat style was a mix of various level attacks that depended on factors such as speed, damage, and range (depending on the weapon equipped).

On top of that, Platinum and Microsoft wanted to include a multiplayer mode.

So with so many things in the development queue, the game would never be ready by the end of 2016. It wouldn’t even be ready by the end of 2017. And since the new footage didn’t answer the gamers’ questions about the gameplay mechanics, any further delay would kill any interest in the title.

All this culminated into huge amounts of pressure for both the developer and the publisher.

2. The game was riddled with technical problems.

Microsoft wanted the game to look as good as possible, hence the suggestion of making the game look photo realistic. That’s why the development team decided to bring a new graphics engine into the production -- Unreal Engine 4. However, insider reports claim that Scalebound’s production had huge problems with implementing all the innovative gameplay mechanics into a newly acquired Unreal Engine 4.

Platinum Games had no experience with this type of software, and it was apparent after the reports started coming that the game was riddled with bugs and glitches. The framerate suffered greatly during the last Gamescom presentation, while certain animations looked blurry and unfinished.

The biggest criticism received the failed anti-aliasing (TAA) effect that was supposed to make the picture extra crispy. However, the gameplay shown in previews proved that there is too much inconsistency between in-game footage and the press releases. See the comparison below:

Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

Screenshot from the press release.

Why Scalebound Was Cancelled

Screenshot from the actual gameplay.

3. The team fell apart due to stress.

It’s hard to accept one’s failure, and that’s why we will never hear any official statement on the fact that the development team for Scalebound couldn’t handle the pressure of the production. But rumors have been circulating lately that Hideki Kamiya and former Executive Producer JP Kellams took time off of developing the game due to stress.

The famous industry insider Shinobi602 tweeted the following on his account:

However, Kamiya himself responded that it was never the case:

Another user on Reddit posted the response from the Platinum Senior Graphics Designer about his opinion of the game.

“MS pulled the plug because the game design was really bad. He said the story was good, the engine was good but the actual design was appalling. 4 years of his life he'll never get back, he's happy he's moved onto better and bigger things though.”

Looks like not only Microsoft and Platinum had a hard time of communicating, but neither the people in the Japanese team.


Scalebound is now irrevocably a thing of the past, even though there was some serious potential for the game. Microsoft couldn’t possibly delay the game any further, since the production budget would’ve blown out of any reasonable proportions. So the only correct decision was to cancel the game for good.

We will never see Drew riding his massive dragon Thuban -- now it’s just another hugely ambitious idea torn to shreds by the rules of the industry. On the other hand, Platinum promised to deliver even bigger and better games in the future, so the cancellation of Scalebound is not the end of the world.

What do you think about Microsoft cancelling Scalebound? Whose fault do you think it is? Share your opinions in the comment below.

A Second Visit Into the Horrifying World of Beyond Despair,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/header-c55e4.jpg 70ngx/a-second-visit-into-the-horrifying-world-of-beyond-despair Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:00:02 -0500 Damien Smith

Just over a month ago, Russian indie developer PixelMate gave us the opportunity to not only interview them but take an exclusive look at their survival horror multiplayer game, Beyond DespairOn January 16th they released the game on Steam Early Access.

Despite it only being just over a month since I last entered the dark world of Ansora Island, a lot has changed. New basic mechanics such as thirst, hunger and temperature have been introduced, locations have been further developed and all forms of weapons are now at the player's disposal. Assuming they can find them.

Since its release I have put in about four hours into the game, experiencing these new features along with exploring the island with its many horrors and mysteries. My original thoughts on the game still stand, even at this early stage of development, it is shaping up to be something quite special.

Disclaimer: Beyond Despair is currently in an alpha stage of development. This article is NOT based on a fully developed and complete product.

Thrown in the deep end, alone or with friends

When getting started, you may choose to host a server or join one that is currently active. When hosting you can control how many players are allowed on the server or if you wish, you can make it a solo server, allowing you to play the game as if it is single player. 

I love this decision by the developer, as there are many out there who would love to experience the game but wouldn't if it was multiplayer only. It gives players the best of both worlds, allowing the game to reach a much broader range of audience than if it was exclusively multiplayer.

Be it alone or with friends, you will start the game on the southern coast of the island. Generally between the lighthouse and the dock. You will have no supplies or weapons in your possession, making finding some your top priority. Between the dock area and the lighthouse, you will likely find at least an adequate amount of food and water along with perhaps a basic weapon or two.

Of course going to either or none of those locations is entirely up to you. It is a possibility to go in an entirely different direction but they are great spots to find loot, to begin with. With every advantage, there has to also be a disadvantage.

Both the dock and the lighthouse have their hostile inhabitants to be found. Wandering both the locations are madmen, individuals whose minds have been altered by the catastrophic event that happened on the island. As they wander around, you will hear them babbling to themselves in a human yet non-human voice "so hungry" and something about "before the light."

Without supplies, you can't survive. You have no choice but to search the areas for a weapon and nourishment. How you tackle the hostile inhabitants is your decision. It is a tough beginning to the game but one that really acquaints you with the harsh world. From the moment that you step into Ansora, you are shown exactly how dangerous it is going to be.

You will die, that is certain. But each time you do meet your gruesome end, it is very much a learning experience. There is a tutorial that explains all the ins and outs of the game but putting them into use in the real world is a different matter. It is a difficult game but it doesn't pretend to be anything other than that.

Personally, I enjoy games that throw me right in the deep end forcing me to figure things out for myself. If you too enjoy it, then Beyond Despair will likely be an enjoyable experience. If it is a case that you don't enjoy such gameplay, it may not be the title you are looking for.

Stealth and avoidance over brute force is the key to survival

Using brute force to make your way around the island is not going to make life easy. The key to survival is more about avoiding or using stealth to take out your enemies. Coming face to face with an enemy should only be a very last resort.

As you walk you will make noise that enemies will pick up if they are close to you. The amount of noise made depends on if you are walking, running or crouching and is shown using the sound metre on the bottom right of the screen.

Walking fills the metre two-thirds and if running it fills entirely. If you are crouching while moving, however, your movement is silent. It allows you to sneak around the enemies without them noticing you, as long as you stay out of their line of sight.

Alternatively, if you have a weapon equipped, you can sneak up behind them for an instant kill. While the stealth kill is an effective tactic for dealing with the likes of the Mad Men, against other enemies, however, avoiding them entirely is the best approach.

Dorgs (a mutant doglike creature) for example are one creature best avoided. Just because you only see one doesn't mean there are not more nearby. If one spots you, it will howl alerting all others nearby. Attempting to take a pack of these monstrous K-nines on is almost certain death, even for experienced players.

While the combat and stealth mechanics are still in their early stage, they still offer tense, nail-biting gameplay. The behaviour of the enemies is each very different, resulting in needing various approaches in order to deal with them. While a lot of games at this stage of development are rather bland or boring, Beyond Despair has enough content to keep you playing for quite some time.

A beautiful, horrifying and mysterious world with a sole purpose of unnerving and then killing you

Beyond Despair is very much like S.T.A.L.K.E.R Shadow of Chernobyl when it comes to its atmosphere. It is not an outright horror game as such but atmosphere along with dark environments results in really unnerving and at times scary moments.

While scares are a case of moments, the tension that the game creates is permanent. Not for a second does the game let down when it comes to making the player feel tense. A lot of this is due to the enemies along with the many other ways you can die.

You never know when you are going to run into the next enemy as they are capable of being anywhere. Even on a back road that appears empty, you can be sure there is a madman or some other monstrous being hiding in the bushes and shadows.

As if ambushing monsters wasn't enough to worry about, you can also die from thirst, hunger and cold. When it is snowing it can cause your body temperature to lower. If it gets too low you will begin to take damage until you warm up again. You will be able to warm up by finding shelter, a campfire or a small fireplace in buildings.

Despite all of that, I feel the feature that stands out above all else is the design of the island. As I previously talked about in my initial preview of the game, the giant mushroom field is an impressive sight, one that makes you feel like you are in an alien world.

There are sights to beholder other than just that of the mushroom field, however. There is what appears to be a war zone that is literally frozen in time right in the middle of an explosion. Cars are frozen in mid-air and other vehicles stopped in their tracks as they turn over.

Then there are the unusual mountains that I can only describe as being like The Giant's Causeway in Ireland. Overall the island is only about 4km squared but it is the creativity and imagination that is put into its different areas that make it such a joy to experience.

You could give me a world that is ten times the size of the island and it wouldn't have the same impact on me. The large worlds of Skyrim or Fallout 3 never had the impact that that, of Beyond Despair, does. The sights stop me in my tracks as I look at them in awe.

As I said, it is a beautiful world while also being horrifying and mysterious. It isn't very often, you can call a world of horror, beautiful and it is that which makes it such a special game.

A world that absorbs you

Just like I stated at the beginning of this article, my opinions on Beyond Despair haven't changed from my first preview. Even with the new additions to the game, there is little that I can fault. As is to be expected with an Early Access title there are a few balance and technical issues here and there, but nothing that would cause a major hindrance.

Whether playing alone or with some friends, it is a game that can cause tension, dread, horror and outright awe. I found that I don't just play Beyond Despair for the gameplay but more for the world it is set in. While the gameplay is great in its own right, it is the world and atmosphere that absorbs me and keeps bringing me back. 

Ever since I first played the game back a month ago, I have often thought about it, pondering and wanting to know and explore more. Something that very few video game worlds have ever done with me and I can't wait to see it in it's completed state.

Beyond Despair is available to buy on Steam Early Access.

Disclaimer: A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this preview.

The Number One Reason I Stopped Playing Hearthstone,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/h/e/a/hearthstone-e9d53.jpg 81c4j/the-number-one-reason-i-stopped-playing-hearthstone Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:00:02 -0500 Slannxe

Ever since Hearthstone was fully released, I have been addicted. It's a strategy card game created by Blizzard, Hearthstone is built upon the world and lore of World of Warcraft. I never played WoW, but that did not stop me from playing this spin off. It was enjoyable building new decks, experimenting with new attack combinations, and feeling the sensation of personal improvement.

I have not played Hearthstone in almost a year now. Normally, I would drop the game here and there until the release of a new expansion would reinvigorate my passion. So, when the "Whispers of the Old Gods" expansion was announced, I was ready to return to the game I enjoyed so much; I even preordered the 50-card pack.

Once released, I logged on, opened my packs, and immediately lost my desire to play the game. Opening up the card packs was exciting, seeing all the new cards added to my collection but the desire to actually create a new deck on the new expansion was non existent. I assumed I would return to it later, I just needed to research all the new cards. Time went by and Hearthstone remained out-of-mind.

Several months later Blizzard announced a new adventure expansion with the release of "One Night in Karazhan." I was intrigued. I would see articles talking about the new cards, and showing off the gameplay trailer. This was all elevating my excitement. I kept thinking "I really need to get on so I can preorder the adventure. Get that limited edition card back!" I never did.

Missing out on the "One Night" adventure is what really made me drop off Hearthstone. Having missed out on two back-to-back expansions, I was so far behind in the meta that it hardly felt worth the hassle to relearn so much. When "Mean Streets of Gadgetzan" was displayed at Blizzcon, I had no emotion towards it. All I could think was "it is too late for me." I still love Hearthstone. The game remains on my phone, but I do not see myself ever playing it again. Getting so far behind in the meta game truly is detrimental to lapsed players like myself. Perhaps when the game does the reset again, eliminating the new expansion cards, I will feel better about jumping back in. For now, the barrier of entry created by my lapsed experience feels too large to break through.

The 7 Best Overwatch Heroes for the Defensive Minded Player,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/q/q/q/qqqqq-34ada.jpg w5by1/the-7-best-overwatch-heroes-for-the-defensive-minded-player Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:00:02 -0500 Marc Anthony

In order to successfully win in Overwatch a team must be balanced in its ability to obtain and keep an objective, and to push payloads in strategic gameplay. Depending on whether the objective is point capping or payload moving, a specific team composition makes the difference.

Keeping this in mind these are the more effective characters in Overwatch to play with a defensive play-style.


Everyone's worst nightmare during the beta and current distributor of player salt is the military mechanized Omnic Bastion. Bastion is on the list for his ability to be played by any player of varying degree of skill, as he is able to be efficiently played under several circumstances.

His standard form has a submachine gun doing 6-8 damage, but in addition he also possesses a sentry mode, as well as self-repair giving him massive survivability boosts. Sentry mode allows 35 rounds per second to high value targets, such as Reinhardt's shield and other tanks, at 4-6 damage per 1 bullet. This allows him to maintain control over an objective unless dealt with.

His tank form will add mobility and 150 armor, making Bastion harder to destroy and more deadly with a whopping 205 damage cap to his projectile to wipe an objective.


Reinhardt lives with a knightly code of justice, loyalty, and courage. Boasting a large hammer and shield he is definitely defensively inclined.

Reinhardt can hold several choke points with his 2000 armor shield to accurately defend his teammates on the frontline, in addition to 300 HP and 200 armor himself. With his shield, it is easier to push back as well as push into enemies whilst protecting more offensive characters. A charge allows him to disable and separate close-knit teams, most likely taking them out with a charge into a wall (300 damage), off the map, or the ending blow of his swing (75 damage per second).

Finally his hammer down can completely disrupt an enemy push on the objective if done effectively, stunning enemies for 2.5 seconds to take out key members.


Gameplay is more complex with Zarya and revolves around your teammates as well, but her activity in a match is rewarding if properly used.

Zarya is useful by protecting her team and herself with bubbles, but to enhance the charge of these bubbles she has to do more damage. Zarya can be used to protect flankers, critical allies, and damage takers as well in order to sustain lives and charge to significantly damage enemies.

Graviton Surge serves as a defense to gather close enemies together, which allows attention to direct towards more offensive heroes or it be used for a wombo combo (capitalizing on one ultimate ability with another), or focused away from the objective as well.


Ana currently is the highest ranked healer in Overwatch, displaying massive amounts of restoration to all characters with her sniper (80 damage, 75 healing). In addition, her biotic grenade deals 100 health with a bonus of 100% healing from other sources (healing stacks) -- in other words she'll keep you healthier than your annual visit.

Keeping teammates alive is a strong part of defense and with Ana it is sufficient, especially when she can target and sleep dart problematic enemies for the team; even during ultimates.

Her ultimate is also given rather then received, as she deals boosts to a teammate; increasing their damage by 50% and decreasing damage received by 50% as well.

Soldier 76 

Soldier 76 is the embodiment for "the best defense is a good offense."

76 is an offensive hero, but his addition to defense is pivotal in providing teams with a good amount of DPS (damage per second) to keep enemies away from objectives, while also team healing when supports are down. 76 can be used for reconnaissance in this regard, with abilities to stand tall against offensive teams and protect against targets such as Pharah, Bastion, and Roadhog with his pulse rifle (6-20 DPS) and his helix rockets (120 damage) to keep foes at bay.


Mei is a strong defender, so much as she has developed quite the reputation as a disease within the Overwatch community.

Mei can single handedly protect a point or payload when her ice wall is used effectively to block opponents from herself and teammates, as well as establishing barriers to hold choke points.

In addition she can self heal with her freezing ability without being harmed (37.5 health per second, 150 in total) to hold an objective alone for a short time before her team can return to fight.


Symmetra was once the least played support in Overwatch, but ever since her buff she has dominated the game and become one of the most problematic, pesky, and somewhat overpowered character.

She is almost a necessity to be used on point maps as she can use her teleporter to reach the point from long distances, and she even has a shield generator to boost all teammates in range and give them (+75) shields. This in turn makes the whole team more difficult to kill with a small upgrade, but that is not all Symmetra brings to the table.

Symmetra's ability to keep hold of choke points and payloads by constantly beaming at enemies, focusing and slowing them down while also doing 25 damage per second makes are necessary. This holds enemies up while Symmetra can play the backline and bubble ahead for distraction, maybe throw a moving shield to block incoming damage or use her ultimate abilities. The most popular activity is running around every enemy and holding down her primary weapon ability -- which requires no additional accuracy to clear out several enemies.

Symmetra is tough with her new found abilities and overpowered to many, but honestly the community may have created this monster.

Overwatch has many strategies and many can argue which defensive heroes are more effective. What are your thoughts?

A Certain Point of View: Why There Aren't More 2D RPGs in the West,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/2/d/c/2dcultureheader-5ebaf.jpg 7qcwi/a-certain-point-of-view-why-there-arent-more-2d-rpgs-in-the-west Fri, 20 Jan 2017 12:36:52 -0500 Will Dowell

The resurgence of 2D games has invigorated the gaming industry, and JRPGs are no exception. With the upcoming Project Octopath Traveler being a beautiful 2D JRPG for the Switch, and other love letters flooding the digital marketplaces, JRPGs have found another home in the two-dimensional world.

But what about 2D Western RPGs? With the exception of indie experimentations such as Undertale, the Western RPG genre is flooded with large 3D open world. AAA devs don't dare make games sans that third dimension, even though it seems to work so well for their Japanese counter parts.

This isn't a haphazard mistake on the part of Western developers. And it certainly isn't because RPGs can't work in 2D. It's more because the JRPG and RPG genres are, at the end of the day, very different from each other -- which means they require different techniques and styles in order to succeed. So with that in mind, let's look into the real reason why there aren't more 2D RPGs floating around in the West. 

Different Goals Means Different Styles

When examining possible choices in visual style, developers must first decide if the graphics will drive the purpose of the game. And where Western RPGs use graphics as a primary form of storytelling, that isn't the case for JRPGs.

Most JRPGs use mechanics, dialogue options, and cutscenes to tell a story full of fantastical creatures and lively characters, though often at the cost of creating a fully fleshed-out world. Meanwhile, Western RPGs focus on the player creating their story and becoming immersed in the world around them.

Simply put, a 2D art style doesn't really augment that sense of immersion that make Western RPGs special. They do however, aid the storytelling in JRPGs by allowing the creator to focus less on the graphical design and more on the story itself.

Putting DnD in 3D

As any harcore RPG gamers knows, Western RPGs take direct inspiration from Dungeons and Dragons -- the pen-and-paper roleplaying game that paved the way for the modern RPG experience. Many of the systems that existed in DnD are still used as mechanics in modern RPGs...but what's more important is the fact that the complex scenery and design which DnD inspires is much more suited to a 3D environment than a 2D one. Even with top down adventures such as Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights, the use of a third dimension fleshed out the environment and allowed for more interactivity. It created a breathing world -- which was all any old-school DnD fan really wanted. 

This is not the case for JRPGs. The iconic titles that shaped the genre and future games -- like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest -- were 2D sprite games. They flourished with their stylish pixel art and aged rather well. And since it worked so well for the games that birthed JRPGs, it makes sense that the trend would continue as new titles were made with that style in mind. 

A Push for Realism

Gaming outside of the RPG genre has been pushing toward realism for years. FPS franchises such as Call of Duty and Battlefield made names for themselves with realistic graphics and action. Following suit, games such as Skyrim, Fallout 4, or The Witcher 3 are trying to push graphical fidelity in large open worlds, while still providing the create-your-own adventure approach that's heralded in Western RPGs.

But the realism trend simply doesn't seem to have caught on in the East. Japanese games are consistently more stylized and colorful than they are realistic, and they sell as well on that side of the world as realistic games do here. This means beautiful sprite work can still be a major selling point, on account of being exciting and nostalgic.

While Western 2D RPGs are still a possibility, especially with the rise of the indie development scene, the push for immersion and realism forces most games to be 3D if they want to sell. With how huge the genre is, experiments like Undertale are always going to happen. Just don't expect the AAA marketplace to be creating 2D games anytime soon.

Why do you think there are so few Western 2D RPGs? Let us know in the comments.

How Much Is The Online Gaming Industry Worth?,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/o/n/l/online-gaming-histroty-8fb60.jpg ompgj/how-much-is-the-online-gaming-industry-worth Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:16:09 -0500 vishal kumawat

Over the past decade online gaming has grown exponentially into one of the most lucrative avenues for developers to pursue.

With millions of gamers logging on to compete each and every day, the potential revenue for a business is massive, but how much is the gaming space actually worth? And who is leading the way in terms of pushing online gaming forward?

Web hosting experts 100TB have created a new infographic to help visualise the monetary value of this booming industry and answer these questions for anyone interested in the business side of the gaming industry.

For example, did you know…

  • Tencent games has a market cap of around $246 billion, making it the biggest gaming company in the world.
  • $36.9 billion of the online gaming market share is estimated to originate from the mobile market.
  • League of Legends is the most popular online game with an estimated 27 million active players every day. In 2014 the games earned $1.3 billion in digital revenue.
  • eSports continues to rise in popularity, with global revenue expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2018.
  • Saahil Arora, a pro gamer known as UNiVeRsE has earned $2,631,245 playing online battle arena game Dota 2.

You can take a look at the infographic below...

How Much Is The Online Gaming Industry Worth?
Provided by

What Can Disneyland Teach To Aspiring Game Designers?,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/v/a/l/valdiesnei-f0dfa.jpg u7n8q/what-can-disneyland-teach-to-aspiring-game-designers Fri, 20 Jan 2017 08:00:01 -0500 Caio Sampaio

If you wish to become a video game designer, it is wise to learn as much as possible about the field, but do not forget other mediums. Innovation is a vital element of the gaming industry and one of the keys for developing novel concepts is looking for inspiration where no one else is.

You can have your "eureka moment" and think of a new technique when watching a scene from a movie, reading a description in a novel or walking through an amusement park.

When it comes down to parks, Walt Disney World is the dream destination of most people around the globe, as it occupies the number one spot on the list of most visited theme parks on Earth, according to the website World Atlas.

This popularity did not happen without a reason. The experiences in the park are carefully constructed to push the human imagination to its limit and aiming to keep the Disney standard of quality in the park, the company developed a list known as Mickey's Ten Commandments.

This is a set of rules Disney uses when creating new attractions to the park, but it can also prove valuable to an aspiring video game developer, as parks and game design have a lot more in common than you may think.

Mickey's Ten Commandments are:

1- Know your audience;

2- Wear your guests shoes;

3- Organize the flow of people and ideas;

4- Create a weenie (visual magnet);

5- Communicate with visual literacy;

6- Avoid overload;

7- Tell one story at a time;

8- Avoid contradiction;

9- For every once of treatment, provide a ton of fun;

10- Keep it up!

In this article, we will explain each one of these rules and address how designers can apply them to design better games, but before talking about Mickey's Ten Commandments and their use in gaming, let's discuss  one core similarity between designing a park and a video game.

It is all about the experience:

Released in 2013 by Irrational Games and 2K, BioShock Infinite is a First Person Shooter that allowed players to be in the shoes of Booker DeWitt, a former solider who received the mission of travelling to the floating city of Columbia to rescue Elizabeth, a girl who spent her life incarcerated in a tower due to her ability to open doors to parallel universes.

The universe of BioShock Infinite (above) carries many references to Walt Disney World, from the art, to the design of the areas, where each one carried a specific theme, as in a Disney park.

The most important aspect to observe in this game; however, is that whilst its core gameplay mechanic consists of shooting enemies, the experience is larger than that.

As players walk through the streets of the city, they explore the area and uncover its secrets and pay attention to the slightest detail of the carefully crafted world, as they interact with its characters.

This occurs for a reason -- suspension of disbelief.

This is a basic technique of entertainment, which consists of making the audience accept the premises of a work of fiction, even if they are absurd in real life. The idea is to allow players to forget about the logic of the real world and immerse themselves in a fictional universe.

In order to "sell" the idea of a floating city in BioShock Infinite, developers created a set of rules through the story of the game and crafted every section of the experience accordingly, from the art style, to the soundtrack.

It is crucial that every aspect of the production communicates the same vision. A poorly placed element could break the immersion and ruin the experience of the player.

With this being said, BioShock Infinite is a shooter, but its success occurred due to the sum of its parts. Audio, art style, characters and many more elements that, when put together, created a whole experience.

Now, regarding Walt Disney World...

The central point of Disney, and any theme park, are the rides, but they alone cannot sustain the success the park has had. People do not go to Disney to ride a roller coaster, they go there, in order to explore the park and enjoy the experience as whole, to the finest details that compose the magic universe of Walt Disney World.

Just as BioShock Infinite is a shooter, but people do not play it solely for the shooting, Disney is a park, but people do not go there simply for the rides. In both cases, what people wish for is the whole experience.

The whole experience is what makes a game successful, not only its basic mechanics.

The whole experience is what made Disney successful, not only its rides.

This is the connection of game design and Walt Disney World. Their success depend on carefully crafted experiences, which need several fragments to come together and become an united piece.

This is a crucial lesson any aspiring designers needs to learn. A game is a lot more than just its gameplay.

With this said, it is time to analyze with more detail how Disney builds its parks and how these lessons apply to game design. In order to do this, we will take a look at the aforementioned Mickey's Ten Commandments.

1- Know your audience:

"Identify the prime audience for your attraction or show before you begin design."

In any commercial endeavor, it is crucial to determine who your target audience is. Any aspiring designer must understand that he may have to develop a game for an audience he is not found within.

If that is the case, it is paramount to discover the preferences of the target demographic, in order to determine the direction of the project.

This brief intro takes us to the next topic.

2- Wear your Guests’ shoes:

"Insist that your team members experience your creation just the way Guests do."

In this case, we should change "guests" for "players."

This second Mickey Commandment claims that a creator of a experience, as well as the people behind it, should see his work through the lenses of the audience. This is boils down to a single word: empathy.

The Marrian-Webster dictionary defines empathy as:

"The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner"

This skill is fundamental, because the designer needs to create a product that suits the taste of the target audience and if the designer is not inserted in this demographic, he/she may need to develop a game that is not fun for himself/herself.

In order to clarify this idea, let's see an example:

Imagine a 30 years old man, who needs to develop a game for a target audience that consists of teenage girls. The dissonance between the tastes of the designer and of his target demographic will make it hard for him to create a successful game, unless he develops empathy and starts to look at his design through the eyes of a teenage girl.

This is a tricky feat to achieve and in order to do so, the designer must know as much as possible about the players. Luckily, the field of psychology has some tools to make the life of a game designer easier in this regard.

One of them is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Wikipedia entry explains what it is:

"It is an introspective self-report questionnaire designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions."

Once the volunteer answers all of the questions, a report is generated, which gives an overall look at a person's psyche, as the image below shows:

The video below shows the YouTube channel The Game Theorists using this test to analyze the personality of its audience, in order to determine the reason why players had certain preferences in the choice-based game Life is Strange.

                                  [Warning: Spoilers for Life is Strange]

After applying this test to several people who represent the target audience, a game designer will have a solid idea of what to aim for when designing the game, thus develop empathy.

So, now you have the tools to know the drives of your target audience. What comes next? Mickey's Third Commandment tells us.

3- Organize the flow of people and ideas:

"Make sure there is a logic and sequence in our stories and the way Guests experience them."

 In Disneyland, each area of the park tells a different story, but the designers of the park ensured to expose each narrative in a concise way.

In video game design, this Commandment is mostly associated with open world games, through the way the development team places the various points of the world in the map.

Take for example the world of Fallout 4 (below).

Each one of these locations tells to the player a bit about the story of the game, but it is important to know where to position these places. The game must deliver the story in a concise, logical and sequential order, otherwise the player may become confused and lose the interest in the narrative.

To prevent this from happening, the developers must take into account two factors -- the player's starting point in the world and the game mechanic known as "fast travel."

Have you ever wondered why in most games you can only fast travel to a location after you have traveled there for the first time? There are plenty of reasons, but one of them to is to ensure that the player will follow the background story in a logical order.

In most open world games, which parts of the story a location tells is based on how far from the player's starting point this place is. With this said, if a player walks closely to the starting point, regardless of the direction, he/she will only uncover simple details of the story, while the game reserves more in-depth information for areas further away.

If the game grants to the player the ability to fast travel to a location, without progressing through the game to arrive in it, it will risk breaking the narrative, as players will discover elements of the story out of sequential order.

With this said, as Mickey's Third Commandment states, it is paramount that a game designer creates an experience that tells a story in a concise way, even if it is fragmented, as in a Disney park.

4 - Create a wienie (visual magnet):

"Create visual 'targets' that will lead Guests clearly and logically through your facility."

In a park, it is important to add visual clues indicating where to go next and so is in gaming. Players need to understand clearly where to go, in order to proceed with the plot, but adding an element to act as "visual magnet" can be tricky.

As stated herein, the game designer must sell the "plausibility" of the fiction, in order to suspend the disbelief of players and allow them to immerse themselves in the game.

If you add a visual element to guide players, but it does not mix with the rest of the universe, you will break the immersion, as the visual magnet will be perceived by players as a foreign element.

An example of visual magnets being well implemented in a game is Journey, where developers added a mountain with a light beam coming from its top. Most importantly, through the art of the game, this visual element matches with the surroundings of the player, thus feeling natural and maintaining the suspension of disbelief.

A game which received mixed reactions regarding its use visual magnets was Splinter Cell: Conviction (below).

The game used text projected on objects and walls to tell to the player where to go. These had the intention of showing to players the thoughts of Sam Fisher, the protagonist. 

A poll on Ubisoft's official forum asked whether players wanted to have the option to remove these projections from the game. The results showed a perfect split. As we see in the comment from this poll, some users felt that the projected texts were intrusive and hurt the immersion of the gameplay.

This brings us to an important conclusion -- when designing visual magnets, it is a safer bet to use objects that are already part of the universe, as the mountain of Journey, so they do not stand out in a negative way, appearing as foreign elements, as the texts of Splinter Cell: Conviction.

This connects with the next Commandment from Mickey Mouse.

5- Communicate with visual literacy:

"Make good use of color, shape form, texture – all the nonverbal ways of communication."

"Always show, do not tell," is a basic rule of any medium that delivers a story and it has more importance in video game than in any other form of storytelling.

According to the video below from the YouTube channel Extra Creditsone hour-long television shows have approximately 20-30 minutes of dialogue, whereas in video games, this figure drops to ten.

This occurs due to the interactive nature of games. They allow their audience to explore the environment and receive information regarding the plot by observing the world around them, as opposed to relying on an exposition done by a character.

This reduces the number of words spoken in a game, but places greater emphasis on what is known as "environmental storytelling" -- telling a story through the world.

A game that mastered this type of narrative is BioShock (below).

In it, players survive as they explore the fallen underwater utopia of Rapture. The image above shows how the game uses visuals to tell portions of the story.

In this point of the game, no character has told to the protagonist when this society met its demise, but through the art of the world, players know that it happened during New Year's Eve of 1959.

This is just one example of tens, if not hundreds, of opportunities where the development team found a way to send a message to the player through the art of the game.

6- Avoid overload – create turn-ons

"Resist the temptation to overload your audience with too much information and too many objects."

You can tell a story through the environment, but it is important to avoid filling the world of the game with an overabundance of objects and information, otherwise you may confuse the player with an overwhelming amount of messages and visual pollution.

To achieve this goal, we can rely on a rule from film making, which states that every object that appears on screen must have relevance to either the story or to the development of the character.

This concept provides us with a solid idea when designing environments for a game. As an aspiring game designer, when creating your levels, you must discover which objects and visual guides are essential to the player, in regards to both combat and environmental storytelling.

If you add too many objects to a room, not only the will distract the player, but they will consume resources from the team, as additional time will be required to create them. In the end, everybody loses.

Keep it simple, but you should also avoid placing too few objects and make the world lose its life. Finding the right balance can be tricky and concept arts are usually the most useful tool to use in this case.

The world of Mirror's Edge is an example of a game that only has enough objects in the area to build the suspension of disbelief and allow players to navigate through the level in a challenging way, as seen in the image above.

Which brings us to the next topic...

7 - Tell one story at a time:

"If you have a lot of information divide it into distinct, logical, organized stories, people can absorb and retain information more clearly if the path to the next concept is clear and logical."

As previously stated herein, in a Disney park, visitors walk through different areas and each one of them have a different theme and mostly importantly, they all tell a different story.

The 7th Commandment of Mickey Mouse exists in order to ensure the audience understands the message being delivered in a concise way. To do this, it is crucial that all of the areas in the park tell a different story, but all of them connect somehow to create a larger narrative arc.

This same principle applies to game design, and to discuss a stellar example of this concept in practice, we will take a look at BioShock once again.

In The 5th Commandment of Mickey, we addressed the concept of environmental storytelling and its use in this production. In order to understand how the rule of "tell one story at time" fits in this game, we first need to answer why it relies heavily on environmental storytelling. It is all about the narrative structure of the game.

The most common type of story consists of three acts:

Act I - Introduction to the characters and the universe of the story. It ends once the conflict of the plot starts.

Act II - The quest of the protagonist to resolve the main conflict of the narrative. Ends with the climax.

Act III - A brief glimpse of how the characters and/or the universe changed after the conflict has been resolved.

This structure is mostly used in literature and films, but in video games, it changes a bit. Given that the selling point of video games is their interactive nature, developers try to put the player in the middle of the conflict as soon as possible.

For this purpose, they often use a literary device known as "in medias res", which means "in the middle of things". This concept consists of starting the story on Act II, in the middle of the main conflict, and BioShock made a masterful use of this technique by dropping the player in the middle of the conflict for the control of Rapture.

"But how did developers introduced players to the characters and the conflict erupting in Rapture without the first act?" You may ask.

This is where environmental storytelling comes into play.

Through the art of the fallen society of Rapture, players can get glimpses of how life once was in that city and through constructions, posters and propaganda, the audience can understand the events that led to the downfall of the city, thus delivering the information of Act I, while players explore Act II.

The story of Rapture; however, is very complex, to the point it was turned into the novel BioShock Rapture, written by John Shirley, so delivering this amount of information through the visuals of the game is not an easy task.

The story of BioShock consists of the player traveling through key areas of the city of Rapture (above) and each one of these locations tell a mini-story. The player reaches the area, but some event prevents the audience from moving to the next level. Players then need to complete certain tasks to overcome these obstacles and continue to the next part of town.

This is how BioShock managed to deliver a complex story in an understandable way. It broke down the story of the city into smaller narratives and delivered them to players one at a time -- one level at a time.

8 - Avoid Contradictions:

"Clear institutional identity helps give you the competitive edge. Public needs to know who you are and what differentiates you from other institutions they may have seen."

Every major video game franchise has an element that identifies it, regardless of that being a character, the art style, a gameplay mechanic of a combination of each of these factors.

The problem; however, is that as more installments of the series are developed, it can become difficult to maintain the identity of the franchise -- the reason why it became popular.

A series need to change over time, in order to keep its fans engaged, but this movement needs to be planned carefully. If the change contradicts one of the essences of the franchise, the fans will not be pleased with the result.

A prime example of how the lack of consistence can hurt a series is the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Infinite Warfare, which sold approximately 50% less than its predecessor.

With the franchise moving away from its military roots to pursue shootings in outer space, it lost its identity and the interest of its fans in the process. This is a clear example of what NOT to do when aiming to deliver some change to a franchise.

9 - For every ounce of treatment, provide a ton of fun 

"How do you woo people from all other temptations? Give people plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves by emphasizing ways that let people participate in the experience and by making your environment rich and appealing to all senses."

This Commandment from the world's most beloved mouse stands for the autonomy visitors have in Disneyland. They can go to the rides, visit the areas and watch the shows in any order they wish and through all of the techniques created above, Disney created an alternative reality, via its parks, which provide a rich experience to all of the senses of a person. Even the smell of popcorn is added to some areas where visitors will watch a show, in order to explore people's senses to their fullest.

The most important aspect to observe here is the autonomy visitors have and how they can still enjoy the experience regardless of how they choose to spend their time in the park.

This is similar to the premise of GTA V, a game that allows players to explore an open world in any way they want and this is one of the reasons for its success. Through the autonomy it allows players to have when deciding what to do in the game, it pleases a broad audience.

This is a lesson every aspiring designer must have in mind. Of course, not every project has neither the scope nor the budget of GTA V, but it is important to allow players to have some autonomy on how they tackle the situations within the game. This not only adds depth to the gameplay, but also broadens the target audience of the project, thus making it more profitable.

10 - Keep it up!

"Never underestimate the importance of cleanliness and routine maintenance, people expect to get a good show every time, people will comment more on broken and dirty stuff."

Everything in a Disney park is built aiming for perfection, even maintenance and cleaning duty, as Disney strives to deliver to visitors the absolute best experience they possibly can. If you are an aspiring video game designer, this is the mindset you should follow.

Of course, it is impossible to be perfect, especially in the video game industry with the budget and schedule constraints teams operate under, but that should not stop you from trying anyways. When you do what you love, there is no excuse to not dedicate a 100% of yourself to delivering the best game you possibly can.

Do not use the circumstances as an excuse for delivering an underwhelming game, because players will only care for the quality of the final product, not the circumstances under which it was created.


These commandments developed by Disney have withstand the testament of time and are still relevant today, as Walt Disney World continues to be the most popular theme park in the world.

I made my best to summarize the applications of these rules in game design, but this is a complex topic and if you wish to know more details about the reasoning behind the art of crafting experiences at Disney, I recommend the book One Little Spark, which you can purchase for 14 dollars on Amazon.

Of course, these are only some guidelines you should follow when designing your game, but they show that making the right connections, it is possible to link two subjects that seem unrelated to each other.

So, next time your are watching a film, reading a book or walking through a theme park, remember to keep an eye on the small details, as it is always possible to learn from other forms of art.

As Steve Jobs said, innovation is all about "connecting the dots."

Overwatch is Celebrating the Chinese New Year with a New Event,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinny/114d77384d61b30cd94e1b2c649482a5.jpg m76fj/overwatch-is-celebrating-the-chinese-new-year-with-a-new-event Fri, 20 Jan 2017 07:55:41 -0500 Marc Anthony

A tweet from the official Overwatch Twitter account has announced that the next event in the series will be focused on the Chinese New Year. Dubbed The Year of the Rooster, this event will be releasing next week on January 24, right before the actual Chinese New Year kicks off. 

(D.Va with a Korean Hanbok)

Ensuing tweets also revealed a new look for D.Va, alongside a new costume for Mei as well. 

A Blizzard spokesperson revealed that the Year of the Rooster event will be similar to past in-game events, like Halloween Terror and Winter Wonderland. During this event, players will be able to obtain new skins, voice lines, emotes, and other items for hitting certain goals set out during the event.

In addition to these cosmetic releases, there will also be a new game mode added for the event -- but Blizzard hasn't revealed any further information about what that might look like. 

Stay tuned for more details and helpful guides as the Year of the Rooster event for Overwatch draws closer!

Relics and Rituals: What Active Item Changes in SMITE Season 4 Mean For You,h_360,w_640/e_sharpen:100/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto/v1/gameskinnyc/s/m/i/smite-604x423-37288.jpg ge8an/relics-and-rituals-what-active-item-changes-in-smite-season-4-mean-for-you Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:42:36 -0500 Justin Michael

With season 3 drawing to a close and after all of the amazing performances at SMITE World Championships it's time to look forward at what season 4 has in store for us. According to SMITE's lead designer, A.J. Walker, "We wanted to push the limits of what we can do in the game even further... we look forward to our fan's feedback as they get their hands on season 4 in the public test servers."

So what kind of changes can we expect to see in season 4? Well, the biggest change we can expect to see is in the adjustments to Relics, powerful items that could tip the scale in the early-to-mid game, and the addition of rituals, powerful consumable items designed for use in the late-game.


Relics provide special powers available to all Gods. Your first Relic is free at level 1 and your second Relic is unlocked once you reach level 12.

Relics are big-deal items that generally confer a large buff or powerful ability with an equally large cooldown timer. With the season 4 patch, we're seeing 2 Relics -- Frenzy and Scout -- being removed from the list and re-designed as consumable items.

Additionally, players will now have the ability to upgrade their Relics at any time for 500 gold. Upgrading the Relics reduces the cooldown timer and for certain Relics, it increases the buff percentage and buff duration. Some other changes include:

Sanctuary is now Aegis Amulet
  • Upgrading reduces cooldown from 160s to 130s
Blink is now Blink Rune
  • Upgrading reduces cooldown from 120s to 90s
 Curse is now Cursed Ankh
  • Healing reduction increased from 5s to 10s
  • No longer has a slow effect
  • Upgrading increases heal reduction from 50% to 65%
  • Duration increased from 10s to 15s

I think that the removal of the slow effect is really going to make the use of the Cursed Ankh a more tactical one and, where some people might see this as a potential nerf to the Relic, I see it as a balanced buff. You're getting double the duration of healing reduction right off the bat. Additionally, if you decide to upgrade it you're looking at putting a serious hurting on the enemy team's healer with 65% reduction of their role responsibility.

 Wrath is now Hand of the Gods
    • Deals 300+10 per level to a single enemy minion or jungle monster
    • Targets based off of max HP
    • Cooldown gets reduced by 30s if you kill the mob with it
    • No longer deals damage to jungle bosses
    • When upgraded it will also stun enemy Gods within range

This is a huge change to Wrath and how it used to work. It was designed originally as a tool to help clear jungle camps but if you were taking on a boss like the Gold Fury or the Fire Giant, Wrath would deal 1250 damage to this boss units. I still think that HotG will be a viable jungle clear tool but taking on bigger objectives is very much going to be a team effort requiring good communication as well as map awareness.

 Sprint is now Heavenly Wings
      • Slow only cleanses on activation now
      • Upgrading gives allies basic attack slow penalty immunity
 Shell is now Magic Shell
      • Base protection reduced from 45 to 30
      • Damage mitigation reduced from 15% to 5%
      • Upgrading increases protection from 30 to 45 also, increases damage mitigation from 5% to 10%
 Meditation is now Meditation Cloak
      • If upgraded buffs allies with 45% mana and 15% health increase for 30s
 Phantom is now Phantom Veil
      • New visuals and audio
      • Removed basic attack slow immunity
      • 40% CC reduction and immunity to knock ups
      • Upgrading it increases duration from 5s to 10s
 Purification is now Purification Beads
      • Upgrade reduces cooldown from 160s to 130s
 Thorns is now Shield of Thorns
      • Damage reflection increased from 40% to 50%
      • Upgrading increases duration from 5s to 8s and reduces cooldown from 120s to 100s
 Sunder is now Sundering Spear
      • New audio
      • removed the protection and attack speed debuffs
      • increases damage taken by the target by 30% for 5s
      • Upgrading increases damage from 40+14 per level to 60+20 per level and reduces cooldown from 120s to 100s

Sundering spear is still a great option for getting around a heavily armored foe with some great true damage. If upgraded, you're looking at doing 460 true damage in addition to dropping their defenses by 30% for 5 seconds. While this might not be enough to drop a hearty tank like Geb, this would most certainly be enough to crush a careless mage/hunter/jungler that overextends.

 Teleport is now Teleport Glyph
      • Increased cooldown from 180s to 200s
      • Upgrading reduces the cooldown from 200s to 160s
New Relics
 Horrific Emblem
      • Slows enemy Gods within 55 units by 40%
      • Reduces their attack speed by 25% for 5s
      • Upgrading reduces the cooldown from 150s to 120s
 Bracer of Undoing
      • Abilities on cooldown have their cooldown reduced by 3s
      • Restores 50% health and mana lost within the last 3s
      • Upgrading increases the damage timer from 3s to 5s
      • 120s cooldown

Alright, BoU is going to be one of those high-risk/high-reward Relics. In the right hands, this is going to be a powerful initiation tool as well as survivability tool. I could see this working very well on a character with an escape ability, like Neith, who could get into the fight, deal a lot of damage, and then backflip away restoring half of the damage taken during the exchange.

This could also be a great tool for the team tanks, allowing them to hold the line for longer because they can negate 50% of the punishment with the press of a button. The only thing that keeps this Relic from being overpowered is the fact that it is susceptible to healing reduction -- like that of the Cursed Ankh Relic mentioned above.


A new type of item comes to SMITE as a Consumable! The powerful Ritual Items are designed to enhance the late game experience of SMITE. When your build was finished, there were very few options for players to help end the game. Rituals will now provide way more options, but at a very high cost, especially since you only get one use per purchase. These items will allow skilled players to make truly amazing plays in the late game.

There are currently 4 rituals coming with the season 4.1 patch which can be purchased for 750 gold each. In order to buy them, you must be at level 10+ but at the cost point, it wouldn't likely be a viable purchase until you were in the late game or had the core items of your character build at a minimum. The Rituals are as follows:

Flickering Ritual
      • When activated, it teleports you to a ground target location up to 55 units away. Can be used in combat.

Unlike the Blink Rune, Flickering ritual can be used in combat, while BR requires you to be out of combat for at least 3s in order for you to use it. This could be the difference between life or death in a heavy engagement.

 Frenzied Ritual
      • When activated, it buffs all allies within 55 units of the caster, increasing their damage by 25% and attack speed by 20% for 10s.

This Ritual would be perfect for rapid sieging of a phoenix or a jungle boss like the Fire Giant. It could also be used to tip the scales in a team fight, especially if used in tandem with something like the upgraded Hand of the Gods Relic since it stuns all enemy Gods in range.

 Rallying Ritual
      • When activated, it teleports you to the allied God of your choice after a 4 second channel time. Can be interrupted by Hard CC and the Ritual will be lost

This is a very powerful global ability that could be used in so many ways. The biggest problem with it is the fact that it can be CC'd and that means a potential 750 gold blown. I see this being really useful in blitzkrieg use for rapidly bolstering number during lane splits or for turning a 1v1 into a 2v1. I'm looking forward to seeing this Ritual in competitive play.

 Revealing Ritual
      • When activated, it provides your entire team with vision of the entire enemy team, revealing their locations on the map, and also their placed wards within 70 units of the user for 5s.

This is another very powerful, late game Ritual. Knowing where your enemies are is a powerful tactical advantage and being able to see, and destroy their vision wards is as helpful as it is satisfying. The ability to deny camp vision on big jungle targets like the Gold Fury and the Fire Giant could be the key to victory.

It will be interesting to see how players adapt to the changes and additions to Relics and Rituals once season 4 makes its way to the main SMITE servers.

What Relic changes and Rituals are you most looking forward to in season 4? Let's talk about it in the comments below!