Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    No Man’s Sky: 21 ways today’s Prisms update provides sci-fi adventure a visual overhaul

    Hello, today we are so excited to be able to release our latest update for No Man’s Sky, Prisms, free to all PlayStation owners from today. Whilst exploring the universe, how you perceive the sights around you is so important. That is why we’re so delighted to be able to give No Man’s Sky a visual overhaul with this update. We wanted to allow you to see everything you encounter with new eyes, and we hope your screenshot button is about to get even more use! Play Video Whether in the depths of space, on synthetic structures or on organic planetary life, everywhere you look there are now stunning details like reflections on your spacecraft, more detailed caves, enhanced lighting in space stations, realistic water and weather effects, and even more variety with fur on creatures and pets! And of course, with all these visual enhancements, it makes sense to upgrade Photo Mode too with improved depth of field and bloom controls. Here are some of the features and enhancements PlayStation travellers are able to download from today:  Volumetric Lighting – New styles of volumetric lights improve the lighting in a number of areas, including starship and vehicle lights as well as environmental effects. Warp Effects – The audio and visual warp effects have been completely reworked for a dramatic new interstellar experience. New Caves – Caves have been completely reworked, with new lighting effects, more detailed environments and greater variety of generation. Parallax Occlusion Mapping – New parallax occlusion mapping technology brings extra texture detail and depth to planetary structures and the Space Anomaly. Star Effects – The variety, quality and number of stars in the sky have been significantly improved. Improved Rain Effects – Rain effects have been significantly improved, bringing storms to life in a new way. As the rain continues to pour, the ground and other objects in the world become slick and coated with water. Improved Torch Visuals – The Exosuit torch now benefits from improvements to its visual effects as well dynamic brightness and positioning improvements. Refractions – New lighting technology brings refractions to No Man’s Sky. The new effects can be seen all over the universe, including on glass base parts; starship cockpits; forcefields and more! Space Station Core – The Space Station hangar has been dramatically overhauled for a brand new visual experience. Creature Fur – Fur has been added to a wide range of planetary creatures, bringing both extra variety and extra fuzziness to exploration and companion taming. Extra Planetary Details – Players on PlayStation 5 will see a dramatic increase in planetary detail across a whole range of environments. Screenspace Reflections – PlayStation 5 players will find reflections and improved lighting quality in the Space Anomaly, space stations, Atlas stations, freighter hangers, derelict freighters and more for PlayStation 5 players. Photo Mode Improvements – Photo Mode now benefits from significantly improved depth of field quality and controls, as well as now giving photographers manual control over bloom settings. Appearance Modifier UI Refresh – The UI for the Appearance Modifier has been refreshed for a cleaner and clearer customisation experience. Exotic Companions – The range of creatures that can be adopted as your companion has been hugely increased to encompass virtually every lifeform you encounter. ByteBeat Sharing and Drum Improvements – The ByteBeat Synthesizer now allows you to save tracks in a personal library, use them as a custom soundtrack to your exploration experience and share tracks with other players. Significant improvements have been made to the ByteBeat’s drum synthesizer, allowing for the creation of meatier drum loops and driving rhythms. Dynamic Weather Objects – Hazards such as meteors or lightning impacts now have a chance to spawn valuable objects, offering rewards to those who brave extreme planetary weather events. Move Freighter Bases – When purchasing a new freighter, your existing freighter base is automatically transferred and reconstructed. Freighter base layouts can be reset at any time from the Freighter Upgrade Control terminal. Recipe Station on Nexus – A new terminal has been added to the blueprint research area of the Space Anomaly. This new automated research station will provide recipes for crafting components, in exchange for nanites. Quality of Life Improvements – A number of UI and quality of life improvements have been added. These include: an icon to show when new items have been added to an inventory; improvements to the UI when receiving several blueprints at the same time; and improvements to planetary charts so that they will not be used up if they fail to find a building and will now give more detailed error messages. Flying Rideable Creatures – Low-flying creatures, such as giant beetles and flying worms, can now be adopted as your companion. Mount up and enjoy a whole new perspective on planetary exploration. It was just a few months ago we launched the Expeditions update and No Man’s Sky travellers on PS4, PS5, and PS VR have already enjoyed the first two seasonal adventures. Just last week we loved watching the community unlock the SSV Normandy SR1 frigate from Mass Effect, what a moment! The Prisms update is already our third major update of 2021 so far as we continue to celebrate our 5th anniversary on PlayStation. It has been a whirlwind of a journey so far, but there are plenty more surprises ahead. Our journey continues.

    Announcing “Origins”, the latest update for No Man’s Sky

    Hello! 4 years ago, PlayStation fans around the world first stepped foot onto their first planet in our near-infinite universe and embarked on their voyage of exploration. For a surprising number of people, it would be a voyage which would see them spending hundreds and even thousands of hours journeying to the next horizon, the next planet, the next star system, propelled by the desire to see what was around the next corner. In fact, that universe we created day one has already provided hundreds of millions of hours of entertainment across the globe. That’s why it is so exciting to release No Man’s Sky: Origins on PlayStation 4 today. For the first time we are breathing new life and variety into that universe in a significant way, adding new worlds to explore, new planets never-before seen, new life to discover.  Play Video How do you radically change a universe where so many have made their homes, built bases, named, and discovered? Our solution is to birth entirely new planets into the universe, with vistas never possible before. Fly your Starship through towering mountains and epic chasms vastly larger than ever. Survive lightning storms, fires and hostile weather systems. Discover new creature behaviours like fauna that land and take to flight, or huge alien sandworms. Walk beneath new giant flora that changes from day through night. Visit buildings of an entirely new scale, containing new lore and much, much more. When No Man’s Sky first launched, we watched as players awoke on their first planet. It might have been hospitable. It might have been dangerous, barren, or teeming with life. For sure though, it would have been an intriguing alien world filled with curious flora and fauna never seen before – not even by us, the developer. We’re excited to experience that thrill again with you. No Man’s Sky on PS4 has been updated over a dozen times since those early beginnings. The game has expanded in almost every direction to accommodate almost every play style: base building, PS VR, multiplayer, trading, community missions, exocraft, expanded lore… This year alone we have already introduced living ships, mechs, abandoned freighters and cross-platform play.  At No Man’s Sky’s core though, beats the heart of an experience which has never really lost its main existential purpose: a voyage of discovery, of exploration. It is only fitting therefore that, for our major update of the year, and in the lineage of the larger annual updates of Atlas Rises (2017), Next (2018) and Beyond, we return to that core principle. Whether you’re a veteran traveller who has been to the centre of our universe and back before, or whether you’ve yet to take your first tentative step on that first planet, the No Man’s Sky: Origins represents a major moment in our journey so far. Why not come see what there is to discover? Our journey continues. Sean

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