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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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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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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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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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19 Jan 2018

The MMO Subscription Cull: 2018 Edition

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bit of a January ritual. I look at the games coming out and think about what I want to play, and there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018. But I only have so much time to play games, which means something else has to give.

Sometimes it means that a free-to-play game gets shelved for a while, but it also makes sense to cut back on subscriptions. After all, why spend £10 a month for a game that I don’t even have time to log into? That way I get both more time and more money.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s on the chopping block this year. And although some of the titles may be obvious, the reasons why might surprise you.

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