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3 Jun 2021

Discovering Palia

It takes a lot to drag me out of retirement. And yet, with the announcement of their first game, Singularity 6 has managed just that. Palia looks to be a tranquil, laid-back experience that’s heavy on social bonds and community building, and light on the competitive combat that dominates online gaming today. And that potent combo is totally my jam.

There’s hints of Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the lush new announcement trailer, with beautiful scenery and curious characters captured directly in-game. The post-apocalyptic vibe has also grabbed attention with WildStar’s legacy playerbase, which is just as well considering Palia will be a full-fledged MMO. A new home for lost souls to call their own? Possibly.

Peeking behind the curtain a little, Singularity 6 was formed by Aidan Karabaich and Anthony Leung, two former Riot Games devs that quit the LoL-house to start something new. Their premise was to build a cozy world, a “community simulation MMO.” And it’s an idea that’s attracted big money, with investors like a16z, FunPlus Ventures and London Venture Partners backing the studio to nearly $20 million. After attracting talent from Blizzard, Epic, Riot and even Carbine (Karabaich was the former Spellslinger class designer), the studio now feels confident about lifting the lid on this ambitious project

But what exactly is Palia? The premise is steeped in high fantasy, where thousands of years have passed since humanity last walked upon the world. Hallmarks of their grand civilization and monuments to their mastery of magic litter the landscape, but the lost race had vanished into legend. Today, on the cusp of being forgotten, humans have started to re-emerge.

As one of these re-appearing humans, we’ll be discovering a world that has learned to move on and live without humanity’s influence, building a home for ourselves in a familiar and friendly yet utternly different community.

We’re told that gameplay will include gardening, fishing, cooking, and more, with skills levelling up and unlocking new abilities. I’m hoping that these will include social aspects, like being able to work on big gardening projects together and engaging in cooking challenges Overcooked-style. It’s a fair guess to assume that we’ll also have to gather and farm materials for our crafting projects, which gives the potential for expeditions to locate rare and precious resources.

It’s also fair to say that the pandemic has probably helped to shape some of these ideas. Singularity 6 is open that many staffers have never met face-to-face, relying on games to learn about each other and build bonds. MMOs have long been about forging communities across cities and continents, and the year-plus in lockdown may have ended up being a stimulating boon to the studio.

Either way, Palia looks set to be almost unchallenged in the online gaming space. Low competitive gameplay, high social focus, plus a cozy and welcoming atmosphere sound like a shot in the arm for the MMO genre. And I’m totally down with that. 

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Comments Off on WildStar: The End
29 Nov 2018

WildStar: The End

I always knew there would come a day when WildStar closed for good, but I never expected it to be so soon. Bursting onto PCs in 2014, the brand new MMO brought attitude and charm in equal measure, quickly developing a cult following. Alas, the numbers were never great enough to sustain the project, leading to the game’s permanent shutdown some four and a half years later.

This isn’t a post-mortem on what went wrong. Instead, I wanted to reflect on how WildStar affected my life, first as an MMO player and then later as a blogger, critic, columnist and streamer. I wanted to talk about the amazing people I’ve met, the friendships I’ve formed, and the lasting impact they’ve had on my life. Then there’s the communities I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, all as part of this one game.

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Comments Off on Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward – The Latecomer Review
24 Nov 2018

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward – The Latecomer Review

Last week, I witnessed a potent fantasy story come to an intense climax. Heroes took to the ramparts of an ancient citadel, joining battle against a monstrous foe that feasted on vengeance for a thousand years. It felt like the end of a journey, but the Warrior of Light could barely pause for breath before the nation of Eorzea cried out for aid once more.

And so, with the end credits of Heavensward rolling in front of me, I was minded to look back on where the expansion began. I last wrote about Final Fantasy XIV when sharing my latecomer review of A Realm Reborn, but nine months and ten levels have passed since then. Even so, I have a jumble of screenshots and scraggy notes to remind me of the steps I took.

So here it is, my Latecomer Review of FFXIV’s Heavensward expansion. It’s the middle slice of the saga, with Stormblood rounding out the current content and Shadowbringers arriving in summer 2019. But, as I’ve only been playing since the start of the year, I’ve seen very few mechanical changes. As such, my review is mainly limited to Heavensward’s content, plus some of the new bits and bobs I’ve discovered along the way.

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Comments Off on Blizzard Engineering – The Nuggets from Blizzcon 2018
6 Nov 2018

Blizzard Engineering – The Nuggets from Blizzcon 2018

If I had to pick a favourite panel from Blizzcon, Blizzard Engineering would be near the top. Hearing how the various programming teams overcome technical challenges to produce games with incredible polish is always interesting, particularly as their passion always comes through in their enthusiasm on-stage.

While there was only the one session this year, the Blizzard Engineering panel at Blizzcon 2018 still had a few interesting tidbits. Compared to last year’s deep tech examination, this year saw more of a focus on engineering culture, quality approach, and delivery methodology. There was a clear demonstration that it’s not just about problem-solving, but collaborating as part of a team that’s becoming increasingly important.

However, if I had to ask for one thing for 2019, it would be to repeat a request for more discussion around architecture. System componentisation came up a few times during the panel, but yet there was never an explanation of why it’s important or what value it provides. Likewise, many of the questions were from hopefuls looking for advice on getting a job at Blizzard, indicating a strong need for a separate careers fair at the event.

Before I get into a summary of the panel, I’d like to give a little attribution to those on-stage:

  • Somer Esat (Panel Chair) – Senior Engineering Manager, Overwatch
  • Rachelle Davis – Senior Software Engineer, New project. Previously an original member of the Hearthstone team, and has been with Blizzard for 7.5 years
  • Bruce Wilkie – Principal Software Engineer, Overwatch. Specialist in game engine and graphics rendering.
  • Diane Cochran – Lead Engineer, New project. Previously lead on Blizzard’s approach to Continuous Integration, lead on battle.net desktop app. Worked on authentication, public API, and has been with Blizzard for 8 years.
  • Collin Murray – Lead Software Engineer on WoW. Has written code for Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft III, and every version of WoW. Been with Blizzard for 23 years.
  • Sarah Doebler – Technical Lead Battle.net. Started as a GM, has worked on Blizzard.com, the Armoury, and Content platform. Now leads tools team on battle.net, and has been with Blizzard for 14 years.

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5 COMMENTS
4 Feb 2018

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – The Latecomer Review

As part of my New Year’s commitment to MMORPG gaming, I promised to finally give Final Fantasy XIV a proper go. And, over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’ve raced around Eorzea on a heroic adventure, uncovered sinister plots, and saved the world countless times. Even as an FFXIV latecomer, I’ve had a blast.

But that’s not everything. I’ve also started working on secondary classes, dug into the crafting system, pledged my allegiance to a Grand Company, and even bought an apartment. There’s a heck of a lot to do in FFXIV, and I’ve been desperately trying to sample as much of it as possible.

However, all this got me thinking: just how many people are in a similar boat? There’s a lack of good-quality and story-driven MMOs right now, and FFXIV promises to fill that niche in a major way. But is A Realm Reborn still worth trying some four years and two expansions later? To answer that question, I’ve put together this FFXIV Latecomer Review based on everything pre-Heavensward. I’ve also included some tips on the best ways to get started, should you be tempted to join in.

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