In a forum post on November 29th, Battleclinic‘s founder SghnDubh quietly announced that the website would be shutting down this month. Battleclinic was founded in 2001 to service games other than EVE, but quickly became the most feature-complete third-party EVE Online site after EVE’s launch. It made a name for itself in the community primarily through its killboard services and ship fit sharing service, while also providing a home for the venerable EVEMon character planning and monitoring application. In his post, SghnDubh outlined the various achievements of Battleclinic in relation to EVE Online:
It’s been a fun and occasionally frustrating time, and we hope that you’ve enjoyed our offerings. We were the first and most innovative major killboard for Eve, and the first site to allow players to share Eve loadouts. We provided Evemon a permanent home and assisted many other projects. We were the first fansite to display a booth at Fanfest.
Also in the post, SghnDubh stated that Battleclinic will be archived for 6 months, though no indication was made as to what will happen exactly after that six month period. In recent years, Battleclinic was overshadowed as a ship fitting service by utilities like Pyfa and websites like Osmium and Null-Sec.com, while its killboard was supplanted by the now-ubiquitous zKillboard.
Battleclinic was the go-to third party site when it came to EVE Online when I joined the game back in 2007/2008. It was unimaginable at that time that any other website could supplant Battleclinic as the most useful place on the web for EVE players – and that remains true. No one website or application comes close to offering all that Battleclinic did; rather, the site appears to have wound down due to the fact that it was run by two enthusiasts in a part-time capacity, as well as a staff of volunteers. As with all such projects, entropy catches up with you in the end. I would like to extend my personal thanks and congratulations to both SghnDubh and MrCue for their service and their achievement.
A while back we covered the beginning of the Second Civilization V Battle Royale, an effort put on by user TPangolin of reddit to pit 61 AI civilizations against each other in an epic round of Civilization V to see who would come out on top. Now, as the Battle Royale nears its 30th update, it’s time to see how history has treated the AI nations.
In 29 updates spanning over 300 turns, the world of Battle Royale is a topsy turvy one. Sparta emerged as the great power of Eastern Europe, Ireland conquered the British Isles, the Inuit founded so many cities that they ran out of names and are now borrowing from random civs (hello Inuit city of Viana Do Costelo!), and Australia looks like the future site of World Wars I, II, and III. Despite all the moving and shoving of civilizations on this crowded Earth, surprisingly few have gone into the history books as ancient relics.
Rome was the first to go, the victim of Sparta’s cruel and efficient war machine. Mali ground the weakened remains of the Ashanti to dust in turn 233 (just 32 after the fall of Rome). After given a surprising reprieve by the Australians shortly before the death of the Ashanti, the Philippines found itself in a two-front war against both Vietnam and Champa, and eventually lost their last city – Manila – to the latter in turn 256. 40 turns later, a surprisingly ambitious looking Sweden took out the last vestiges of Nazism in Europe. And then there was a firefight! In a single update, three civilizations that had been teetering on the edge were pushed right over: Poland, the Sioux, and Kongo.
The bloodshed is nowhere near over, however, as those five civs account for just 8% of all the civilizations in the game – and the game isn’t ending until only one remains. Next on the chopping block are likely to be England (reduced to a single city by the ferocious Celts of Eire, though Portugal is having difficulty conquering that last city), The Huns (Attila may have been a bit too aggressive and was recently smacked around by the Sibir), China (long story), and the Mayans (who are clinging on to their little perch in Central America not through tenacity, but rather the absentmindedness of their neighbors).
But what of potential victors, you might ask – to which I would answer “Patience, young one.” There remains a lot of Civ to get through, but right now the Boers currently control a substantial amount of Africa, Australia looks primed and ready to destroy the world at a moment’s notice, the Sibir have demonstrated they’re no slouch militarily in the steppes of Asia, the Inuit are looking to basically outgrow everyone else, and Finland is currently the most populous country in Europe.
Now, the death of the Ashanti isn’t particularly surprising (as you’ll recall from our previous piece, they opened the Battle Royale by sending a worker on an extended tour of Africa rather than, you know, working), but I’m genuinely shocked that Rome bit the dust first out of anyone, and the expansion of Sweden is another eyebrow raiser. So far, the Battle Royale appears to be without many bugs or hitches, and the updates remain plentiful and high quality as various members of the subreddit take turns providing narration.
As for what comes next – my money is on England finally succumbing to its fate on the Iberian peninsula before anyone else goes, and there has to be a titanic struggle for the Australian continent at some point. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next major conflict erupted in Europe, where warlike Sparta now shares a border with Sweden and the whole area is rather overcrowded. Whatever comes, though, one thing is for sure: there will be plenty more bloodshed.
Kaiserreich, a popular alternate history mod for Darkest Hour, recently released its 1.7 update. Kaiserreich is an exhaustively complex scenario for the Hearts of Iron 2-derived strategy game Darkest Hour, packaged as a full modification, and celebrates its tenth anniversary this month as well.
I dearly love Kaiserreich. Its alt-history setting is well-thought out and realized. As in Darkest Hour or any Hearts of Iron game, players choose a nation and guide it through war and peace from 1936 on, making important decisions, designing and directing their armies, and so on. Despite the engine’s age, Darkest Hour is a great experience in its own right – the final and best iteration of HoI 2, and far superior to HoI 3.
In Kaiserreich, the Central Powers won the First World War. The defeated Entente powers of Britain and France fell to Socialist revolutions, with the royal family fleeing to Canada and a rightist French government in Africa. German colonies, greatly enlarged, extend across the globe, but a showdown between the forces of Syndicalism and Mitteleuropa is imminent. India is divided and headed for war, and the United States, robbed of the moderating influence of FDR, seems destined for a second Civil War.
Just a few months ago, Kaisserreich 1.6 released, overhauling the Indian subcontinent. 1.7 is a more modest update, though Mexico has received a good deal of necessary work. (Mexico is quite a fun experience, incidentally – if you’re lucky, you can intervene in the Second American Civil War and steal back the lost states.)
Kaiserreich Europe, 1936
It’s an astonishingly flexible and polished experience, the product of a decade of work. The alternate history setting means that various gameplay elements can be balanced without making the whole exercise inaccurate. Unlike the standard HoI/Darkest Hour experience, which tends to play out WW2 along historical lines with historical actors, every playthrough of Kaiserreich is unique. Almost every nation has the opportunity to join a different faction, and the mapgame plays out in very unpredictable ways.
You can download Kaiserreich from this Paradox forums thread (I recommend the ModDB link). For those interested in the setting but who might not have access to Darkest Hour or the time to play it, Ofaloaf’s outstanding LP “This Land Is Your Land” is ongoing, serves as a solid introduction to Kaiserreich’s mechanics, and is a great read in its own right.
Wargaming.net’s latest foray into, uh, historical vehicular arena combat (there has to be a better way to describe it), World of Warships, has finally raised anchor from the semi-public beta and released publicly. How many tortured nautical metaphors can I fit into this post? Let’s “sea”!
By all accounts I’ve heard, World of Warships is Wargaming’s best offering yet. It is also impossible to acronym properly. Your friends will all assume you’re talking about World of Warcraft, and they will think you’re cool and normal, and you will hesitate to disabuse them of this notion. It can really torpedo a conversation!
The game features a wide selection of WWI and WWII warships, with destroyers, cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers (in escalating order of size and juicyness). This weekend is probably a pretty great time to give it a shot – there’s an x3 experience bonus until Monday, and you can be sure that the servers will be clogged with players as charmingly new and inept as yourself. Give it a shot, landlubber! I like boats.
Take a look at Rossmum’s videos (especially the ones with commentary, like this destroyer and this battleship vid) to give yourself a leg up on the competition; Rossmum’s an old Wargaming pro and knows his stuff. Oh, and if you’re interested in 20th century warships, check out Shipbucket, CombinedFleet.com, Navweaps, and Wikipedia’s Battleships Portal. That should be enough to get you hooked on these big deadly metal dildos of the sea.
Earlier today, Firaxis Games’ Jake Solomon, the mastermind behind 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, took to Firaxis’ Twitch account to “dive deep” into XCOM 2’s strategy layer. The archived broadcast is available for viewing. For those of you who don’t want to sit through an hour-plus of (admittedly entertaining) banter and designer-talk, below is our take.
Details about XCOM 2 have been trickling out over the past few weeks. At Gamescom, that trickle became a flood, as Firaxis showcased their first demo footage of the Geoscape (strategy layer) and the Avenger (XCOM’s new mobile base/flying fortress). Jake Solomon and Pete Murray first played through the Gamescom footage in its entirety, then ran it through once again, taking time to pause and elaborate on areas of interest.
In XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within, your Geoscape objectives were to research new technologies, build new weapons and devices, and respond to alien attacks. XCOM 2’s Commander has many of the same tasks, but a whole wealth of changes and additions, as well. The activities and objectives of a resistance group are very different from that of a global defense organization, and XCOM2 appears to reflect this.
Talented staff is hard to find for a gang of rebels on the run. Every engineer and scientist is an individual with their own mugshot, and these individuals can be assigned and reassigned to various projects by the player. Engineering (headed by Lily Shen, the daughter of your XCOM EU/EW Chief Engineer) is similar to the 2012 release, in that you use resources you’ve gained to build items. There are two major divergences here: first, there are, reportedly, many more items in XCOM 2 than in EU/EW. Secondly, instead of building individual weapons, you build a weapon “class” – say, Magnetic Rifles. At that point, you have an unlimited supply of Magnetic Rifles. This makes a great deal of sense, given the many ways to customize and upgrade individual weapons in XCOM 2. You can upgrade your weapons, paint them, even name them. Similarly, Rookies can be trained into specific classes – player’s choice – and once they are veterans, many more customization options unlock for the player.
One of the most interesting new tidbits dropped by Solomon is a detail regarding the Advanced Warfare Center, one of the later upgrades for the Avenger. Its primary task is to speed up the healing of soldiers – and as your squaddies become more advances and powerful, this will become increasingly critical. More intriguing, though, is that it apparently can uncover “hidden” perks within your soldiers as they level up. This means that it’s possible for soldiers to receive perks from outside their class – Snipers could conceivably receive Run And Gun, to use Solomon’s example. This is extremely exciting, and integrates the “Training Roulette” Second Wave option from XCOM EU/EW without losing the essential nature of XCOM 2’s classes.
As for the Geoscape itself, it is much different. In XCOM EU/EW, the strategy was clear: the entire world was begging for your help and players had to rush out satellites and fighters to save nations from spiraling into panic and leaving the Project. In XCOM 2, the player starts with control over a single region, and must expand the territory influenced by the Resistance by making contact with cells, gathering intel, and striking back at the alien occupiers. There’s a lot of stuff to actually do in the geoscape besides wait for missions – the Avenger flies around at your direction to influence events, investigate rumors, and support allies.
The aliens certainly aren’t static, either. They have their own plans, drawn from a large deck of objectives, and their own win conditions. The player encounters these through the “Dark Events” Geoscape popup, giving XCOM the opportunity to pre-empt or respond to alien activities. Players can spend Intel (one of the new resources, along with Supplies) to dig deeper into the enemy’s plans and flip hidden cards.
Solomon repeatedly came back to his “mantra” for XCOM 2: that, in comparison to Enemy Unknown, the sequel should be more unpredictable, more replayable, with Firaxis’ “hands off the reins.” This can be dangerous idea, particularly in terms of balance, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Solomon, Garth DeAngelis, and the rest.
Yesterday, game designer CCP Fozzie announced a batch of changes to the recently-rebuilt EVE Sov system.
We previously touched on the new mechanics, commonly called “Fozziesov” or “Aegis Sov.” EVE’s nullsec players have been crying out for changes to the sov system for years now, and the Fozziesov mechanics are the product of months and months of discussion in Reykjavik. They also came with a promise to improve, patch, iterate and otherwise build upon the new system.
That promise is being fulfilled, as the reaction to Fozziesov has been far from uniformly positive. Many of the features are sound in principle, but require tweaking in practice. Most of the complaints seem to revolve around the amount of wasted time it takes to defend space, even against nuisance raids. Fozziesov has seen the rise of the “trollceptor” fleet: gangs of difficult-to-catch Interceptors roaming through space and triggering defensive timers with no intention of contesting them in battle, merely wearing down and annoying the defender with busywork. More overarching complaints, like the relative paucity of rewards for holding space, will have to be addressed as well.
The general thrust of the proposed changes seems to align with the most common player concerns with Fozziesov, as chronicled by Thoric Frosthammer and Wilhelm Arcturus. It is reassuring to see iteration come so quickly, and the promise of further work on Sov is good to see, as well. CCP put their “superstar” devs on point for this; with Fozzie working on mechanics and Punkturis building the interface, it’s hard to imagine a stronger commitment.
Most interesting, perhaps, is the “preview” of coming updates in the final paragraphs of CCP Fozzie’s post:
Galatea is just the beginning of our commitment to iterating and improving nullsec and sov. We are hard at work on the changing coming in future releases, including formal methods for dropping sov, the ability to turn IHub upgrades on and off, updates to the formula for calculating activity defense multipliers, new PVE experiences for sov nullsec and much more. Nullsec and Sov remain our focus here at Team Five 0 and we’ll be continuing to update you on progress as we go forward. We are listening to your feedback and continuing to observe the results of our changes as we make them.
These Galatea changes will also obviously not be the final changes to the capture mechanics themselves. We have some changes we know we want to make (like partially captured structures returning to defender control at a slow constant regeneration pace to reduce the need for “maintenance linking”) and others that we don’t want to rule out but that also need more investigation and internal/external discussion before making final decisions (such as ship restrictions on Entosis Links). Thanks to everyone who’s been providing constructive feedback so far, we hope you’ll continue.
The promised iterations are to be released, along with a host of other features and updates, on August 25 as part of the Galatea update.
One of the best strategy games in history was released in 1997: Total Annihilation. Long-defunct developer Cavedog created a title that spawned a legion of fans and a few well-received spiritual sequels. The most recent, and most troubled, of these sequels is Planetary Annihilation. Today sees the release of a new stand-alone expansion, Planetary Annihilation: Titans – and it just might turn the franchise around.
These games, at their best, truly make the player feel like a commander – a general of armies – with warfare on a grander scale than other contemporary RTSes. Even in the original TA, players managed hundreds or thousands of units without feeling overwhelmed. It was one of the first ever 3D RTS games, where terrain really mattered and projectiles were true objects. In an oft-cited example, a shell from a Big Bertha artillery piece, flying across the map, could vaporize an aircraft that happened to be flying through the shell’s trajectory. Stuff like that can’t happen in Starcraft.
A sequel (in spirit) wasn’t released for ten years, but Supreme Commander eventually came out in 2007 to almost universal acclaim. Once again, it debuted features we take for granted in most strategy games now, the fully zoomable map being the most prominent. Supreme Commander 2, though worse than SupCom, continued the tradition, and is a fine game on its own merits.
Then Uber, a new developer with lots of old TA and Supreme Commander vets at the helm, announced a new title: Planetary Annihilation. This was one of the first big Kickstarter projects, and it soaked in cash from the legions of fans looking for a modern take on the old formula.
Upon release, my experience was similar to that shared by many old Annihilation/Commander fans: extreme excitement, followed by confusion induced by the poorly-written tutorials, followed by disorientation and disappointment. The “fighting across multiple planets in a solar system” thing is a great advance in theory. In practice, the planets are tiny, making battles feel cramped and their consequences swift. There’s no space to trade for time, and managing multiple bases across multiple planets and moons quickly became tiresome. The key selling point of the game just didn’t work.
A few years passed, and the developers at Uber patched and updated and patched again. By all accounts, Planetary Annihilation has become much more playable. Today, Uber capped this all off with the release of Planetary Annihilation: Titans, a stand-alone expansion.
Titans looks interesting. It adds the titular Titan mega-units (similar to the Experimentals from SupCom) along with a hodgepodge of other new toys. Multi-level terrain, which was shockingly not part of the original PA release, is finally implemented, as well as a totally rebuilt tutorial experience. Titans is priced at $40 for new buyers, with a 66% off promotion available for previous owners of some version of PA (bringing the price down to $13.60). Additionally, those who backed the original Kickstarter will receive Titans for free.
For those of you – like myself – who felt burned by Planetary Annihilation, now might be the time to give it another chance.
Back in January of 2015, a Reddit user by the name of TPangolin harnessed the destructive power of Civilization V’s artificial intelligence to generate entertainment for us silly humans. The 42 Civilization Battle Royale lasted three full months before showing signs of fatigue; first Japan’s 239th turn crashed the game and corrupted the save file TPangolin was using. Then, at around turn 298, things broke again – and this time there was no saving the save. However, TPangolin has made improvements to the system and is back with a whopping 61 Civs in a brand new Battle Royale.
“People love to assign sentimentality and personalities to these AIs,” TPangolin said in an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun back in February – and I have to admit, I’m definitely one of those people. I find myself bristling at the Battle Royale Mk. II power rankings (c’mon, you have to have Rome higher up on that list!), already leaning towards certain Civs as personal favorites, and it is all sort of silly. However, there is something oddly entertaining about watching a game’s AI break down and break out in weird ways.
From the Round 1 Power Rankings, Yakutia currently is the odds on favorite to win.
Take, for instance, the Ashanti civilization in Mk. II. For some reason, they have sent a worker unit on a long exploration trip, around the west coast of Africa. In the south of Africa, the Boer civilization is mercilessly expanding, while in eastern Asia the Korean civilization is, well, lagging behind precipitously. England looks well set up to be crushed between the Irish (whose second city, Cork, was founded in northern England) and the French (particularly since the English decided it would be a good idea to form York in Normandy).
Texas is rambunctiously settling quite close to Mexico City and even Canada is getting in on the passive aggressive movement by encroaching swiftly on the US. With 61 civilizations on the map, it can be a little intimidating trying to make your way through the entire Part 1 update on Imgur. Thankfully, the Battle Royale community stepped up to the plate and released a Google-like map of the world.
No wars have yet started, but they are coming – all around the globe. Stellar Relic is standing by to bring you updates as they occur.
Update: CCP Games has asked Rixx to pull Drifter Wars down, in accordance with their intellectual property rights. The game can no longer be played, but the original article has been preserved below for historical purposes.
The EVE Online community creates all sorts of external tools and software for players to use, from Aura to Eve-Central. However, there are surprisingly few fangames, especially given the general tech-minded playerbase CCP has cultivated.
Drifter Wars is one of those precious and rare non-CCP EVE games. Created in a collaboration between Rixx Javix and Igor Puschner, Drifter Wars is a side-scrolling shooter in the vein of Gradius. You can pick from a few different ships, travel from left to right, and shoot incoming enemies. That’s about all there is to it.
While Drifter Wars isn’t a particularly good side-scrolling shooter, it’s such an interesting concept that it’s worth playing through at least once. There are, however, many flaws for the discerning shooter player. There is no wiggle animation on the player ship when going up and down, there’s extremely bad slowdown when the attack cooldown is charging up, bullets have no impact when they hit an enemy, the controls are a little too rigid, and there’s very little visual or audio feedback when you actually do something cool.
What if the EVE Online ships were rendered in side-scroller fashion? How does the universe of EVE translate to an arcade game? Where are all the EVE fangames, for fuck’s sake? These are the questions Drifter Wars asks, and while the answer isn’t a great game, it’s certainly a great project. We need more fangames, and hopefully the hard work of Rixx and Igor will inspire others to take up the mantle. I may not be a fan of this game, but if they improve on it and release a sequel, it’s quite likely that it’ll be a genuinely good experience. Keep an eye on it.
Digital Extremes certainly has a hit on their hand with Warframe. One of the most consistently played games on Steam – it currently sits in 11th place on the concurrency list – Warframe continues to get great releases that not only improve existing systems, but also add new ones. The latest patch, Echoes of the Sentient, touts a parkour revamp as its major feature, but it’s much more than that. New mods, new enemies, underwater archwing sections, a new duality-based warframe, a whole new utility mods system, and a reworked boss fight are all present in Echoes of the Sentient.
Bullet Slides and Wall Latches
That said, Parkour 2.0 is definitely the biggest improvement in this patch.
Parkour in Warframe before now was decent, but suffered from a few issues. The biggest was that the speed of movement heavily favored something called “zorencoptering,” where players would slide jump into the air and melee attack to zoom along super fast, at the cost of looking incredibly silly. Other issues included a restrictive stamina system that was never used to good effect – its only purpose seemed to be to slow you down – and a weird pause whenever you did movement that interacted with wall collisions.
No longer! Parkour is now much smoother, zorencoptering has gone the way of the dinosaur, and you can use as many movement abilities as you like without being constrained by that annoying stamina. While certain actions take a little longer to get used to, like wall-running. overall the parkour system’s revamp is a much-needed, much-appreciated improvement. A lot of Warframe’s appeal is in the fantasy of being a cool technofuture space ninja, and the old parkour system felt a little too rigid for the sort of ridiculousness that often played out in big firefights.
As a side-effect of this change, all stamina-related mods are now gone from Warframe. In its place, you will have a suitable number of fusion cores, depending on how many stamina-related mods you had and what their levels were. Free levels for your other mods and the removal of a mediocre system is a great way to start a patch.
For those players that wanted to have certain utility features like loot radar, but didn’t want to give up a whole mod slot, there’s good news: all warframes now come with an Exilus slot, which has been explicitly designated for utility mods such as Thief’s Wit.
This requires a special upgrade to unlock. Once it is unlocked on a particular frame, it will stay unlocked, even if you use a Forma to reset the frame’s level. Indeed, you can use forma to change the slot’s polarity, which allows you to tweak your builds more handily.
This may not seem like a big deal, and it really isn’t that major of a change, but it’s a really nice quality of life improvement. Most of the mods that were redesigned to use the Exilus system were rarely used, as they ate up valuable space that could be used on mods like Flow or Vitality. With this update we’ll see more and more players with interesting utility effects, and some of those unused mods will finally see play.
Equinox, or: Day/Night Cycles in Space
The latest frame is Equinox, and it’s certainly the most unique frame so far. Two frames in one, Equinox shifts between day and night forms in order to use different abilities.
By using this shift, players can go between the more damage-heavy Day to the more support-focused Night. Day’s abilities are all about power by either dealing damage or making players more effective at dealing damage. Conversely, Night’s abilities make enemies fall asleep, allow players to heal from kills, and reduce damage taken from nearby enemies.
This frame is a pain in the ass to craft, though, as you have to collect and craft the parts for both the Day and Night frames and then combine them into a single frame. It’s a bit of ridiculous grind in a game that already has plenty, but most veterans are so rich that it shouldn’t matter too much. Still, if you buy any single frame with platinum, this might be your best choice, purely because of the frustration it’ll take to craft.
Odds and Ends
Of course, there’s also the standard patch miscellany. Weapons can now be hid while holstered, which allows you to build more perfect-looking frames that are unmarred by rifles and swords cluttering up their appearance. New enemies, mods, and environments abound, with underwater Archwing levels being a big feature. Tyl Regor, the boss of Uranus, saw a rework that made him both harder and more satisfying to fight, as you must kill him in a rapidly flooding room.
Finally, PvP saw a pretty extensive rework of modes, and with the new parkour system it actually feels sort of fun. If third-person shooter PvP is your sort of thing, but you’re not fond of the slow pace of Gears of War competitive play, Warframe might be what you are looking for. They even added a PvP-specific progression, in case you want to minimize your fights against NPCs.
An excellent update all-around, both for its new additions and much-needed reworks. Somehow Digital Extremes keeps making my favorite free-to-play game even better.