How The Arrow Season 8 Premiere Changes The Crisis Crossover

The final season of Arrow has officially begun, and it is already having major ramifications for the upcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Season 8 premiere of Arrow, titled “Starling City.”.

At the conclusion of the episode, it was revealed that Earth 2 had been wiped from existence as Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Diggle (David Ramsey) were preparing to leave and return home. While they made it out, along with Laurel (Katie Cassidy Rodgers), this development has thrown a wrench into the Arrow-verse.

“It does indicate that Crisis [on Infinite Earths] is starting earlier than we thought,” Arrow executive producer Beth Schwartz revealed during a press Q&A for the episode. While viewers had been led to believe that the majority of the Crisis would occur during the crossover, with the early season episodes of Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Batwoman setting the stage for what was to come, that’s all out the window now.

Instead, with the destruction of Earth 2, the Crisis has begun. That, paired with the revelation that the Monitor expects The Flash (Grant Gustin) to die during the event, makes for an interesting couple of months leading up to the crossover. What remains a mystery, though, is how the loss of Earth 2 will play out in upcoming episodes of the various shows. The Flash fans, especially, are going to be wondering what this means for Harry (Tom Cavanagh), a fan-favorite version of Harrison Wells that resides in the alternate universe.

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Whatever the case, the Season 8 premiere of Arrow did its job. “We don’t have that many episodes, so we wanted to start big and we wanted to introduce the upcoming Crisis immediately because that is what this season is about and what Oliver is struggling with the entire time,” Schwartz explained.

That said, don’t expect a planet to get obliterated in every episode this season. Schwartz confirmed that the remaining episodes of Season 8, outside of the crossover, will take place entirely on Earth 1. However, they will see Oliver on the road.

“In our upcoming episodes we visit places that we’ve gone to in our previous seasons, so they’ll take place in different locations,” Schwartz said. “I think we only have maybe one or two episodes actually in Star City.”

Now viewers will have to wait to find out exactly where Arrow is headed. If old locations are being revisited, though, don’t be surprised if Oliver winds up on Lian Yu to say one last goodbye to his favorite island.

Arrow airs Tuesdays on The CW.

League Of Legends Dev Reveals A Hearthstone-Style Game With No “Over-The-Top Randomness”

Riot Games, the developer of one of the world’s most popular games in League of Legends, has announced its next game. “Legends of Runeterra” is a free-to-play strategy card game that takes place in the League of Legends universe. It’s aiming to launch in 2020 for PC and m

Just like Blizzard’s popular CCG Hearthstone features characters from its source material (Warcraft), Legends of Runeterra (LoR) will include League of Legends characters in its card decks. Each has “their own style and strategic advantage,” Riot said.

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“LoR’s gameplay is built around dynamic, alternating combat that demands players use their skill, creativity, and cleverness to succeed,” Riot said.

Players can spend real money to acquire cards in LoR or they can grind to acquire them through gameplay. “Shards” are earned through gameplay while “Coins” can be purchased with real money at any time.

To unlock new cards and content in LoR, players can complete quests to earn experience that in turn unlocks new cards. The game has numerous different “regions,” and players can determine which region to pursue, and each has different cards to unlock.

Each week, LoR will add new chests to unlock from what’s called the Vault. “The Vault levels up as you play and upgrades the chests inside, which increases the number of cards you get from each. Individually, both the cards and chests have a chance to upgrade into something even better, and at level 10 and above, you’re guaranteed a champion,” Riot said.

LoR also features cards called “wildcards.” These are rare cards that can be turned into any card you want. A “limited” number of these wildcards will be available in the store each week.

“We know that sometimes you just want a guaranteed way to get specific cards. So instead of waiting for the right drop, you can unlock cards for your collection using the Shards you’ve earned or the wildcards you’ve acquired through play or purchase,” Riot said.

“In Legends of Runeterra, you will never pay for randomized packs, and you have a bunch of different ways to get the cards you actually want and build multiple decks for both casual duels and the competitive meta,” the company added.

Riot could seemingly make more money by offering wildcards for purchase all the time. However, the company said it is limiting their ability to “ensure you always have something you’re looking forward to unlocking, and that you’re constantly discovering new cards and strategies.”

Riot added: “Slowing down how quickly the entire set of cards can be unlocked is one method for helping us accomplish that goal. There’s a lot more to it than that, so expect to see an article soon that dives deep into how card acquisition will work in LoR.”

“We’re all huge card game fans on the LoR team, so we know the issues with the genre: things like excessive cost, over-the-top randomness, and seeing the same decks over and over,” executive producer Jeff Jew said in a statement. “We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we’d do differently, and now we have a chance to shake up the genre by keeping what’s great, improving what’s not, and adding some new twists of our own.”

“We’ve been hard at work making the best card game we can imagine–one that we hope players everywhere will love,” he added. “We’re pretty excited to show players what we’ve got so far, and we can’t wait to hear what they think!”

Riot is promising to update LoR frequently with new content and gameplay balance changes.

Pre-registration for LoR is available right now. Everyone who pre-registers will get a chance to play the game ahead of its official release, while they’ll also get the “Poro pet chroma” at release.

Riot is letting people play LoR immediately, as those who pre-register can play a “preview patch” now through October 21. A second preview patch will be available in November.

Riot, which is owned by Chinese internet company Tencent, has been in the headlines over the past year regarding gender discrimination claims against the studio. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is currently investigating the company.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Has No Loot Boxes

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’s release on October 25 is coming up soon, and now one of the developers has clarified the game’s stance on loot boxes. In short, there are none.

Infinity Ward’s Joel Emslie said on Reddit that the studio is “definitely not working on any kind of supply drop or loot box system.” He added that Modern Warfare’s “functional” content, which impacts gameplay, is unlocked through gameplay, not by paying for it.

More details about how Modern Warfare handles this system will be shared this week, he said.

Emslie’s comments came in response to renewed discussion about whether or not Modern Warfare would feature supply drops or loot boxes like in previous Call of Duty games. “Sigh. There continues to be misinformed and incorrect info being pushed about Modern Warfare,” he said.

In 2017’s Call of Duty: WWII, from developer Sledgehammer, loot boxes literally rained down from the sky in the game’s social space.

While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare may not have loot boxes, the game may still feature the Call of Duty Points virtual currency from previous games. If it’s implemented similarly to previous titles, players will be able to buy these Points with real money and spend them on cosmetic items like weapon skins and emotes that do not impact gameplay.

Loot boxes have created a lot of controversy, and governments around the world are examining the business practice to determine if they will take legal action. In August, it was announced that new games or game updates that add loot boxes on Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony platforms will be required to disclose the rarity rates of items.

Devolver Boss Defends Steam Amid Epic Store And Exclusivity Controversy

One of the most talked-about developments in gaming over the past year has been Fortnite developer Epic establishing a new digital store and its pursuit of exclusives–of which there have been many. In addition to paying for exclusives, Epic’s store gives creators 88 percent of revenue compared to 30 percent on Steam and others. Publisher Ubisoft no longer releases new titles on Steam because they believe the 70/30 revenue split is “unreasonable.”

Now, one of the founders of boutique game publisher Devolver Digital (Hotline Miami, Genital Jousting, Fall Guys) has spoken up to defend Steam and call for a “reset” of the wider conversation that can at times paint Steam as the bad guy.

Devolver is publishing MediaTonic's wacky battle royale game Fall Guys
Devolver is publishing MediaTonic’s wacky battle royale game Fall Guys

“I feel like this conversation needs to be reset,” Graeme Struthers told GameSpot at PAX Aus. “The conversation never really took place properly in my opinion.”

Struthers said the launch of Steam more than a decade ago changed the landscape of PC gaming. Steam was an integral part of the success of Devolver and other studios, he said.

One part of what made Steam appealing then and continues to now is that developers are paid every month, which is not the case with every store.

“Every month we were getting paid, and you were being paid accurately,” he said. “We’ve all got our horror stories about doing audits on our publishers and finding huge discrepancies about what was being reported in sales. Here’s Steam–every month, accurate, straightforward, and transparent.”

Regarding the revenue share model, Struthers pointed out that Steam’s 30 percent cut was a more generous offering than others at the time. The payment scheme that Steam offered allowed publishers to offer more favorable terms to developers, Struthers said.

“To come out of a model [before Steam] where we were, as a games publisher, maybe making 25 percent, and that’s if you were successful. To be in a 70/30 relationship, it was transformative in every sense,” he said. “And that led to realignment with relationships with developers. If there is more money and it’s more frequent, you can have better terms with developers.”

“Steam has invested I don’t know how many hundreds of millions of dollars in their platform; Epic have yet to do that.” — Struthers

With the launch of competing game stores–including Epic’s–developers have more options, and this competition is good overall for the industry, Struthers said. At the same time, Struthers stressed that comparing Steam to Epic directly is not fair or helpful.

Steam has been around for more than a decade; it’s a refined platform with important toolsets and features for developers and consumers alike that make for a better overall experience, Struthers said.

“Competition is going to come along at some point. Epic have taken a view that their way of bringing content to their platform is far more generous revenue share and obviously they’ve been pushing exclusives–that’s great,” he explained. “And it’s giving developers and publishers a choice. You can’t compare the two things however as like for like. Steam has invested I don’t know how many hundreds of millions of dollars in their platform; Epic have yet to do that. I’m not saying they won’t, and hopefully they will. In terms of the features and in terms of the toolsets for developers, there’s a ways to go. But competition is good.”

Finally, Struthers said all the drama and controversy over Epic paying for exclusives “doesn’t really hold up” because exclusivity has been a part of gaming since the beginning.

“The rise about developers and publishers going to Epic and exclusivity, it doesn’t really hold up,” he said. “I play games on PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch, and Devolver–we’ve done console exclusives with Sony, with Microsoft–I think it’s good, but I think we have to respect Steam for what they’ve done. Without them, none of this would have been a conversation in the first place.”

In addition to paying developers a larger share of revenue, Epic gives studios money up front to convince them to make games exclusively for Steam. Games like The Division 2, Metro Exodus, and Borderlands 3 are all currently exclusive to the Epic Games Store, though they will also release on other PC stores at a later date. The next big exclusive for Epic is The Outer Worlds from developer Obsidian; it launches on October 25.

Top New Game Releases On Switch, PS4, Xbox One, And PC This Week — October 13-19, 2019

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this episode of New Releases has a bunch of exciting games for Nintendo Switch owners. The portable console is getting ports of

This version of The Witcher 3 includes Geralt’s 2015 adventure plus all previously released DLC and two full expansions:

Battle for Neighborville is the latest in the Plants vs Zombies shooter series, once again pitting the fighting flora against the living dead. This entry includes three new classes for both the plants and zombies, plus a new team-up option that lets two troopers combine into a stronger unit. You can hop into competitive multiplayer modes or explore Neighborville itself in co-op.

More Coverage:

  • New Plants Vs. Zombies Game Available Now, Sort Of
  • Plants vs Zombies: Founder’s Edition | GameSpot Live

October has more remasters to come, including MediEvil next week. The next episode of New Releases will take a look at that re-release, plus some hotly anticipated new titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and The Outer Worlds.

Fortnite Event Seems To Be Causing PSN Problems [Update]

It appears PS4’s PSN service is currently experiencing some issues. Players across social media are reporting they aren’t able to access certain games and online features on PS4.

It’s currently unclear how widespread these issues are. GameSpot unsuccessfully tried to join a party on PS4, and many players on Twitter are reporting similar issues. However, we were able to log into both Apex Legends and Borderlands 3, so these issues don’t appear to be affecting all titles. Sony’s PSN status page claims “all services are up and running.” [Update: GameSpot has verified that PS4’s party feature is once again working. We’ll update this story with any further developments.]

The issues coincide with Fortnite’s big “The End” event, which saw a black hole swallow up everything in the game. Since the event, players have not been able to join any new games of Fortnite, but they are still able to log in and watch the mysterious black hole, although those on PS4 appear to be having a much harder time logging in due to these issues.

Developing…

Human Culture Is Yours To Shape In Upcoming Strategy Game, Humankind

Humankind is the latest project from the minds behind the Endless franchise, a hit in the 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate) and turn-based strategy markets. Endless Legend in particular, which arguably put developer Amplitude on the map, told an entirely original tale rife with politicking and questions about the conception of freedom and humanity. The strategy-patterned chariot of the gameplay fed into those themes, with its branching narrative quests that touched on probing questions dealing with survival, religion, and the things that divide cultures and colonies.

Amplitude’s latest is ambitious in the way that it seeks to do the same thing, though the lessons it seeks to impart are less divorced from our own realities. Humankind is, quite literally, a choose-your-own-adventure look at the “glorious trajectory of human history,” according to the narrative director, Jeff Spock. The premise of the game is fairly straightforward. Featuring more of the 4X sensibilities that drove the studio’s previous titles, Humankind’s focus is no longer based in fantasy, as Endless Legend was, but on our real-world legacies.

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From a demo we were shown, players start out in the Neolithic age, on the cusp between the Stone and the Bronze Age. You immediately have choices to make, as in any strategy game: Where will you roam? What will you prioritize? How will you ensure that your tale isn’t lost to time? Humankind asks you all of those questions and invites you to answer them by engaging in what can only be described as an exploration of humanity and its cultures. Your faction, usually locked by race or creed in other 4X games, is mutable. You can choose to play as an ancient Chinese dynasty one era and the Mayans the next, learning from every new culture that you choose to embrace.

The vagaries of your win conditions follow the same theme. It’s no longer a matter of being the most industrious, or being the most diplomatic out of a bunch of people who might be raving warmongers. Humankind asks you to leave your mark on the world. Whether it’s infamy or charity, you’re asked to make an impact as all of the different civilizations you get to play as have done. It feels like learning from actual human history and trying your best not to repeat its mistakes. You can choose to be more isolationist and to stay loyal to one faction for your entire playthrough, or pursue assimilation, rejection, or something in-between.

According to Spock, Humankind is a labor of love for Amplitude. They were clear that this is the game they have always wanted to make: a title to interrogate history, diversity, and politics in today’s political and social climate. Those are challenging things to attempt, and we haven’t seen enough of the game to see where it falls on the spectrum between on-the-nose and ambitious.

Still, Spock believes that it’s “important to have a game asking those questions and to answer them if one wants to be a responsible game developer.” Seeing end-game footage of brutalist Western architecture perched alongside Qing-era pagodas in a sprawling megapolis made the studio’s idea real, even just for a few minutes. Amplitude maintains that there’s a lot of affection for humankind in Humankind, and we’re curious to see where it takes us, complete with the triumphs and foibles of our own history.

How Shadowbringers Came To Be The Best FFXIV Story Ever

Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers was released in mid-2019 to an almost unanimous standing ovation from the community and critics alike. One of the strengths of this expansion is its reverence for the stories that have been told in installments past. However, it tells these tales not through the sweeping statements about morality and the nature of war that veteran players might be used to, but rather through a focus on well-known characters within the game as well as their relationships to the world around them and each other.

Natsuko Ishikawa, the lead main scenario writer for Shadowbringers, and Takeo Suzuki, art team lead, are some of the minds who were responsible for reframing established character narratives and refining familiar systems in order to carry out the above. The design philosophies adopted by their respective departments have been instrumental in allowing this expansion to have delivered what is arguably the game’s most engaging content to date. GameSpot spoke to both Suzuki and Ishikawa to gain some insight into their process.

Natsuko Ishikawa (center) and Takeo Suzuki (right) during the Shadowbringers Post-mortem at PAX West 2019. (credit: PAX)
Natsuko Ishikawa (center) and Takeo Suzuki (right) during the Shadowbringers Post-mortem at PAX West 2019. (credit: PAX)

The latest installment in Final Fantasy XIV’s already-impressive canon has been praised for the way that it managed to weave in years of old lore whilst still managing to serve up a story that is potentially the biggest and the best that Square Enix’s flagship MMO has ever told. Stormblood, its predecessor, felt a little more like a clean slate in terms of expansion design when it took the Warrior of Light to a whole new continent and to a whole new conflict that really had only parts of it hinted at in previous quests.

By comparison, one might wonder whether or not the team at Square Enix felt constrained at all by the sheer amount of callbacks in the lore and threads of plotlines from A Realm Reborn that made up such a significant part of Shadowbringers. However, Ishikawa adopted the same core philosophy towards writing the Main Scenario for this expansion that she had when she was in charge of writing scenario content for Stormblood. “With Shadowbringers, it feels like it’s just a similar approach but on a larger scale. You’re pulling from other elements that have existed and kind of connecting the dots from there, creating one big story from there,” maintained Ishikawa. “We can’t say that there wasn’t any sort of limitation at all, but it was still a really fun experience for me, that I’m able to carry on the narrative that existed for a while and to expand upon it and building another story.”

This ability to draw on the wealth of established lore with Final Fantasy XIV is something that the design team at Square Enix sees as a strength. Suzuki, who has been working with the company since the Chrono Cross days, agrees with Ishikawa that what they’ve done with Shadowbringers is one of the great advantages of the game and that referencing its storied past is a boon.

This philosophy that focuses on the building blocks and small moments drawn from familiar reference points is perhaps best illustrated by the design process behind the cities of Eulmore and Amaurot: two new environments for you to explore in Shadowbringers that conveyed very poignant tales whilst also clearly being quest hubs. This meant that their primary mechanical focus was to place players convincingly within the central conflict of the game’s world. Eulmore, in particular, was a symbol of the corruption and the antagonism that seethed below the surface of Norvrandt for a large portion of the expansion.

Eulmore is a lavish upper-class utopia with a very ugly side.
Eulmore is a lavish upper-class utopia with a very ugly side.

In order to accurately convey the unsettling nature of Eulmore and its surroundings, Suzuki’s team had to consider not only the aesthetic of the location but also to put themselves in the shoes of the NPCs inhabiting the world in that particular area. After the art design team received information about the basics of each town, step one for Suzuki was to think about the type of people who would live in Eulmore.

“We do have the poorer people living at the base of that area, and so the background design team would try to imagine ‘What kind of life do these characters live?’ in that slum area. They then start to think about what elements we want to place in that world,” he elaborated. “From there, it’s very interesting, because it goes back to the game planning team and the game design team. They see certain elements like ‘Oh, they utilize pieces from broken ships’ or ‘There’s a flower they planted there’ and go ‘Oh, that’d be cool if they tied into a quest we wanted to place in that area’”.

This collaborative process is reflective of the emphasis that Square Enix has placed on interconnecting elements in Shadowbringers, ranging from the approach to developing new in-game lore to ensuring character continuity and growth for fan-favorites like the Scions (who have been around since A Realm Reborn). When quizzed on how familiar faces in the new expansion have grown and changed in an empathetic way, both Suzuki and Ishikawa identified characters that they had a soft spot for.

Ishikawa noted that Urianger had come a long way since his introduction in the base game. “When he was first introduced in A Realm Reborn you kind of had this Shakespearean feel; you had no clue what he’s saying,” she noted. “But by the time Shadowbringers hit, he’s choosing his words more carefully, and you actually see that he’s trying to choose words that people can “get.” I think the people that he traveled with have impacted him and he’s started to become more considerate about how he’s relaying and conveying what he feels.”

While Urianger’s manner of speech and his behavior have long been a source of amusement for fans, the way that the writing team incorporated those subtle changes to his demeanor whilst also crafting an entirely new personal arc for the Elezen gave both meaning and nuance to what was previously seen as a hammy, over-the-top affectation.

We can’t say that there wasn’t any sort of limitation at all, but it was still a really fun experience for me, that I’m able to carry on the narrative that existed for a while and to expand upon it and building another story. – Natsuko Ishikawa

It’s finding those little pockets of storytelling and capitalizing on them which helps balance Shadowbringers on that knife’s edge between characters being so different that they lose their relatability, and characters being so firmly entrenched in old lore that they don’t grow with the world around them. The most famous legacy character referenced in the latest expansion, Ardbert, could very easily have fallen into the latter category especially considering Suzuki’s fun fact that the team had actually repurposed his art assets for the expansion.

“When Ardbert was first introduced, he was the Warrior of Darkness that was responsible for the First falling under the influence under the flood of Light,” said Suzuki, who was of the opinion that Ardbert’s story didn’t initially conclude very well. “But through Shadowbringers, you talk with him and it feels like he gets a sort of resolution to his regrets and what he felt he was not able to accomplish, so that was very memorable for me.”

Small moments of storytelling were put into the Trust system; Alisaie keeps her composure during tragic events.
Small moments of storytelling were put into the Trust system; Alisaie keeps her composure during tragic events.

Suzuki and Ishikawa’s observations on the care that went into fleshing out the supporting cast of characters only reaffirms that Final Fantasy XIV’s latest expansion isn’t another re-do of the Chosen One trope but rather a story that places immense value on the power of friendship in the face of adversity. This is especially true of the Trust system, which Ishikawa recalls fondly even though she admitted to struggling with how to depict the various NPCs and their reactions to dungeons to account for player variability. “I also had to consider where I draw the line in depicting these NPCs and their reactions,” said Ishikawa. “To what point do we want to have these NPCs react to their environment and still make it enjoyable either way, whether you take them to the dungeon or not?”

This focus on adaptability and worldbuilding is one of the hallmarks of Shadowbringers. Through main scenario writing that focuses on those two elements and the game’s companions, players are given the chance to feel the impact of in-game decisions made as far back as A Realm Reborn. This was especially true for Ardbert, who is just one of many examples where lore has been refined over the course of a title in a humanizing way that is both relatable and meaningful, and ties into forward-looking content created specifically for the expansion like Eulmore and Amaurot. “It’s something that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish with a single standalone game,” says Ishikawa of the creative process behind this expansion, and she’s right. Shadowbringers is not shy about embracing all the lore that came before; it has evolved the precepts that made old content and characters so enjoyable, and it tells the most compelling tale in Final Fantasy XIV’s history because of it.