Although we’ve already gotten hands-on time with the traditional Black Ops 4 multiplayer, Treyarch has been cagey with details on the game’s brand new battle royale mode, Blackout. However, a new teaser dropped today tells us some key details for the last-man-standing romp.

“Solos. Duos. Quads,” the preview says, promising both free-for-all and team action in Blackout. Players who have pre-ordered the game will get access to a private Blackout Beta. The beta will start on September 10 for the PS4, and (presumably) shortly after for the PC and Xbox One.  

Bethesda’s Fallout previews, with an old-timey narrator and simple animations, are often both adorable and disturbing. The studio’s newest trailer for Fallout 76 exhibits both those traits, and shows off several potential situations for multiplayer parties to get themselves embroiled in.

Earlier this week, Bethesda dropped some details on how players would battle each other, but this sneak peek is focused squarely on tenuous cooperation. Though not gameplay footage, the video shows teams of vault-dwellers doing things that will most likely exist in-game. 

The activities shown include:

  • Battling monsters together (potentially using a team-based V.A.T.S system?)
  • Fending off hordes with automated defenses 
  • Eating and drinking together
  • Accidentally triggering traps
  • Taking your dead friends’ loot once you accidentally triggered the traps
  • Getting into fights with rival squads of players

The dark comedy and colorful look of this preview cartoon are unmistakably Fallout; Bethesda is making serious efforts to let players know that, even with the massive changes, this will still be the absurd post-apocalypse they know and love. 

For more on Fallout 76, check out our breakdown of the new class system and our details of the beta

Good news Souls fans, this fall you will be able to take Dark Souls with you wherever you go. The Switch version of Dark Souls Remastered finally has an official release date, after being delayed alongside the Solaire of Astora amiibo. The game will be out October 19, just in time to explore the dilapidated depths and cavernous catacombs for a bit before Halloween. 

Dark Souls Remastered originally released on May 25 on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One. The title received some visual enhancements alongside a resolution bump and a more stable framerate. In our review, Dan Tack called it an “incredible experience” and praised the framerate changes, making areas like Blighttown finally “playable” on console, and on PC without a third party fix. 

The Switch version will have a locked 30fps and 1080p resolution when docked, alongside a 720p resolution in handheld mode. The game will have all the same content as the other versions and will launch alongside the Solaire amiibo. 

So glad to finally see the game coming to the Nintendo Switch. The more Dark Souls out in the world, the better. 

Patrick Söderlund Leaving EA

Electronic Arts’ chief design officer, Patrick Söderlund, is leaving the company later this year after a transition period of three months.

Söderlund was CEO of Battlefield developer DICE when EA acquired it in 2006, and since then he has moved up the ladder at EA. In 2016 he went from EA studios vice president to being the executive VP in charge of the newly created EA Worldwide Studios. In April Söderlund was given his current position, making his last appointment a relatively short one.

While at EA one of Söderlund’s achievements was spreading DICE’s technology to the rest of the company. Currently DICE’s Frostbite engine is the anchor for a range of titles, from the Battlefield series to the company’s range of sports games.

On the flip side, Söderlund was front and center for EA’s controversial attempts to monetize Star Wars: Battlefront II at the game’s launch, as well as the closing of Visceral Games and subsequent re-design of that internal studio’s story-based Star Wars title.

EA is making some changes because of Söderlund’s departure, including merging the EA Originals and EA Partners teams into the company’s Strategic Growth Group.

EA has not announced a successor for Söderlund at the time of this writing.

[Source: Electronic Arts]

The Chinese Room, the developer behind Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, had to lay off its staff last year after “financial pressures and health issues.” While Co-founder Dan Pincheback didn’t come out and call it a studio closure, it sure seemed like one. However, it looks like The Chinese Room has returned.

Sumo Digital, the developer behind Team Sonic Racing and Little Big Planet 3, have acquired the studio. Sumo Digital told, that the reason behind the acquisition was so that The Chinese Room could “continue to create the unique, innovative games they are known and loved for.”

Pincheback wrote up a new blog on The Chinese Room’s site, commenting on the acuqisition, urging readers to “watch this space” for news in the future:

And finally, but perhaps most importantly: yes, we are talking to a range of potential partners about a new title. Something bigger, something that joining Sumo enables us to pursue because all of a sudden, we’re part of a family of developers with a decade and a half of experience in making all kinds of games, and making them really well. Something that takes a more traditional game genre – no, you don’t get to know what just yet – and lets us spin our worlds and stories on top of that. It’s going to be very, very exciting.
So watch this space. We’re going to start gently adding new faces to the team as we push through prototyping, and I’m so happy to know we’ll be joining the amazing talent of both Sumo and our local network of studios in Brighton – where so many cool things are happening right now

For more on The Chinese Room, you can check out our review of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture.

Do you like turn-based strategy games? Do you like SPIES? Then boy oh boy, are you in luck today! We’ve got some recently declassified footage of Phantom Doctrine for your eyes only, which are all phrases that spies will recognize and appreciate. The ’80s-era strategy title from CreativeForge Games tasks players with managing their own international spy agency, from leading squads of spies on dangerous infiltration missions to balancing the organization’s budget. One of those things is a lot more exciting than the other.

Leo Vader and Ben Hanson join me for what turns out to be a truly impossible mission: To discuss Phantom Doctrine’s extremely deep and interlocking gameplay systems while also playing the game. Suffice it to say our attempt at taking down a Beholder terrorist cell doesn’t go very well (though Agent Burger totally had it coming!), but it will hopefully give you a decent idea of some of the options available to you during missions, and some of the base management you’ll be undertaking when you’re not out in the field. You can expect my official review of Phantom Doctrine sometime in the next few days, but it’s safe to say I’m enjoying my time with the game, so if you like turn-based strategy games, you’ll want to check this one out.

Phantom Doctrine hits PC and PlayStation 4 tomorrow, followed by Xbox One on August 24.

BlizzCon 2010 lives in infamy inside the walls of Blizzard. It’s the moment Ian Bates – “Red Shirt Guy” in World of Warcraft circles – sent the development team back to school.

Taking the microphone in a packed hall, Bates asked a question so unexpected, so specific that it stumped the assembled experts on the convention’s lore panel. His stilted, monotone delivery (which he later attributed to both nerves and a mild case of Asperger’s) led to the video of his cross-examination going viral.

“Hello, I have I just finished reading The Shattering [a 2010 Warcraft novel] yesterday, and I noticed something,” he began. “It said that Falstad Wildhammer was going to be on the Council of Three Hammers. But in the beta it’s Kurdran Wildhammer, and Falstad is not in the game at all. What happened to him?”

Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s story director, a man who had been writing Warcraft lore for 16 years at that point, responded: “Isn’t Falstad dead? From, uh, Day of the Dragon,” referring to the 2001 novel. Without missing a beat, Bates corrected him. “No, he survived, and, in fact, he was the leader of Aerie Peak in vanilla WoW and through Wrath of the Lich King.”

The crowd cheered. Alex Afrasiabi, World of Warcraft’s creative director, thanked Bates for pointing out the discrepancy and, somewhat sheepishly, promised that the team would “get that fixed.” They did.

By the time the Cataclysm expansion launched, Falstad, not Kurdran, was a member of the Council of Three Hammers. What’s more, a new character, Wildhammer Fact Checker, wearing a red shirt like the one that became synonymous with Bates, was added into the game.


To a certain degree it was a comical moment – shades of Homer Simpson fielding questions about escaping the dungeon without the Wizard Key in the Itchy & Scratchy CD-ROM. But when treated with the gravity with which Blizzard ultimately did, it highlights a difficulty facing many creators in 2018: this is an age of connected cinematic universes and weaponised nostalgia, of decades-old franchises and endless debates about what is and isn’t considered canon. No developer faces this problem to the same degree as Blizzard.


Bound By The Past

Ion Hazzikostas is World of Warcraft’s game director. He’s in charge of a video game that is itself 14 years old, but contains lore that dates back even further. The Warcraft universe’s narrative seeds were planted in “the RTS games and literally the instruction manuals written by Chris Metzen in the mid-’90s,” he says.

That sprawling tale now stretches across 23 novels, 10 comic book series (the most successful running for 25 issues), three real-time strategy titles (and their two expansions), World of Warcraft and its expansions (of which Battle for Azeroth will be the seventh), a Hollywood movie (with two of its own spinoff novels), and oddities like Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone (with its nine expansions and four adventures).

Given that Blizzard has, for the most part, refused to jettison canon and wipe the slate selectively clean (à la Disney when it purchased LucasFilm), Warcraft’s lore dwarfs that of even Star Wars. It’s a complicated web of orcs and humans, magic and madness, dragons and druids, spread over generations of conflict.

So how do you make sense of such a long, confusing past? Naturally, you hire historians…

Ion Hazzikostas, World of Warcraft’s game director


The Lorewalkers

Within Blizzard, a team of three lore scholars handle the all-important (but admittedly bizarre) task of knowing where the keys to the kingdom were left all those years ago.

Sean Copeland, the historian supervisor of the team, sits atop the backstory throne – a role he describes as a “dream gig.”

“On any given day, our group is likely fielding lore and research requests made by our internal [dev] teams, reviewing publications and lore content for our publishing teams, hosting lore seminars for on-boarding and educational needs, and participating in story rooms and creative sessions,” he explains.

When a developer working on World of Warcraft has a query related to an in-development storyline, they turn to Copeland and his team. These questions can range from the intricacies of familial relations and the timeline of key historical events, to lists of foods that are known to exist canonically within a universe. Occasionally, they’re even weirder.

“One moment I’ll never forget comes from our time supporting the development of Wrath of the Lich King,” Copeland says.

“One of the resources we historians maintain is a language and pronunciation database for specific phrases and terms. Our Warcraft section covers numerous languages such as Eredun, Taur-ahe, Zandali, and even the language of the Old Gods, Shath’yar. While some of those languages are easy to teach, Shath’yar is one of the most difficult to not only read, but to speak aloud.

“So, when one of our writers called me up requesting the pronunciation for the phrase, ‘Ak’agthshi ma uhnish, ak’uq shg’cul vwahuhn,’ providing the answer left an impact.”

(In case you’re wondering that’s: “Our numbers are endless, our power beyond reckoning!”) 

“I’m pretty sure that my cubicle neighbours either thought I’d become possessed or had a minor stroke.”


Playing With Fire

With walking encyclopaedias like Ian Bates, fans who will notice even minor continuity errors, Copeland’s historians are a crucial part of the development team, especially when writing new quests.

“Alleria Windrunner made a return in patch 7.3,” Hazzikostas says. “The people who are the definitive authority track down every place we have mentioned her – references to her throughout older games, short stories, novels – to ensure that we don’t do anything inconsistent.”

Occasionally their research reveals an irreconcilable conflict between the past and the planned future, and the new storyline needs to be altered. “It’s most often small things – things where we realise we’d be setting ourselves up for that Red Shirt Guy moment,” Hazzikostas explains.

“Going back to the Cataclysm expansion, at the end of the first raid tier, the final boss was the black dragon Sinestra. We wanted a red dragon to come and join players in the fight and ultimately sacrifice himself in order to enable their victory.

“There was a well known red dragon named Krasus, who was the male companion of Alexstrasza, leader of the red dragons, and he would have had a real bone to pick with Sinestra. It would have made a lot of sense for him to be there. He was an important figure that people would definitely recognise, and his sacrifice would have been meaningful.

“We were going down that road but realised he actually died in a book! So we had to invent a new red dragon.”

Bound by the lore, the logical – possibly even the best – scenario had to be jettisoned to adhere to the story told thus far. Time, eventually, makes fools of us all.


Revisionist History

Blizzard, on rare occasions, does decide that an inconvenient fact is simply more trouble than it’s worth. In these instances, there’s no choice but to face the wrath of the forums and alter the past. 

“We’re trying to build epic worlds, epic experiences,” Hazzikostas explains. “And yes, we do find ourselves fettered by something that was a small piece of a campaign in an RTS game when no one ever imagined for a moment this was going to be taken and built into a world of this scale – and it gets in the way of telling the story we need to tell.” When that happens, things are “flexible.”

“It’s something that we do very sparingly and only as a last resort,” he adds. “It’s almost always possible to make the facts fit or write in between the lines. Like, ‘Well yes, this was said, but there’s this whole other piece of the story that’s never been covered. Let us tell it to you!’”

There’s also an established pecking order that limits the need for the dreaded retcon.

“Hearthstone definitely doesn’t count. Heroes of the Storm definitely doesn’t count. World of Warcraft is the anchor, and then it’s expanded upon by related books and other pieces,” Hazzikostas explains.

Every now and then, however, something from lower in the hierarchy necessitates changes up top. It’s easier to patch an online game than it is to reprint a novel, after all.

“Khadgar, who was prominent during the Hollywood movie, was much younger in the film than we had imagined him being at that point in time,” Hazzikostas says.

“When we depicted him in The Burning Crusade expansion he was actually much older and had a long grey beard. So we went back, and made a new [younger] Khadgar model in WoW, which initially perplexed people because they hadn’t seen the movie yet… [Now] the Khadgar that you see, you are to assume, feels like a continuation of the one from the movie.”



Book worms


The Alliance

Just as historians celebrate humanity’s achievements and shine a light on our darkest moments, Blizzard’s historians make sense of a complicated world. Without an understanding of Azeroth’s past, finding meaning in the future is impossible amid the chaos. 

“My team believes that continuity exists to enhance a story, not to tie the hands of creators,” says Copeland. “That really keeps me going, the simple fact that there might be someone each day that’s struggling with a piece of history that I can help with, and my support can help them overcome their challenge and inspire them to create something amazing.”

For Hazzikostas, the weight of history is both blessing and burden. He was in the hall the day Ian “Red Shirt Guy” Bates made Blizzard lore of his own, and he reflects on the moment fondly (perhaps, in part, because he wasn’t sitting on the panel).

That passion for the past, a history he helped create, makes shaping Warcraft’s future all the more worthwhile, he says.   

“It’s a game that has brought people together and touched lives in a way I don’t think any other game has. At BlizzCon every year, tens of thousands of Blizzard fans from all around the world converge. You see couples, you see families, children. Someone will come up and say, ‘This is my seven-year-old son. He just started looking over my shoulder and showing curiosity in the game, and my wife and I met in our guilds 10 years ago. Thank you so much for everything.’

“What can I even say to that? It’s humbling, and I think I see it as a challenge and a burden and a joy to continue that legacy going forward. I think we’re under a bit of pressure there, but it’s something that I relish. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

When Diablo III launched in 2012, it was plagued with issues, including server problems, an in-game auction house, a stingy legendary drop-rate, and no real endgame other than repeating the same short campaign. Fans were unhappy, despite the game receiving critical acclaim.

It wasn’t until 2014, with the release of the first and only expansion, Reaper of Souls, that Blizzard made major changes to Diablo III. The loot and paragon system was completely reworked, the endgame was improved, and a fifth act was added as well as the new crusader class. Game Informer said it was “one of the most significant turnarounds in gaming” and praised the myriad changes Blizzard brought. They have been dedicated to updating Diablo frequently since the expansion and the developer has delivered a steady stream of seasonal updates that add new challenges and loot. On top of this the popular Necromancer class from Diablo II returned and Blizzard rebuilt the first 16 levels of the original game within Diablo III for a limited time anniversary event.

Recently, Blizzard announced it has multiple Diablo projects in the works. One is likely to be a Nintendo Switch port of Diablo III, but a Diablo IV or some kind of living sequel seems like an inevitability. With Gamescom coming up and Blizzcon happening in early November, we have compiled what we want to see in the next iteration of Blizzard’s next dungeon crawler, whatever form it may take.

Enhanced Co-op Features

One of the areas where Diablo III excels is in its co-op functionality. The ability to drop in and out, the freedom to play with up to four players locally on console, and the speed at which characters catch up in level if there is disparity keeps it satisfying and smooth as an experience. Despite this great feature set, the game could use some quality of life tweaks. The menus are still somewhat cumbersome and the fact that two players cannot interact with vendors or open their menus at the same time on console feels dated. It adheres to the games avoidance of splitting the screen but making an exception for menus feels like a no brainer.

While the game plays best in Co-op, the actual experience and options for the more social players are relatively limited. You can clear harder content more easily, but there really aren’t any co-op only dungeons or any challenging endgame content based around having a squad of endgame dungeon delvers. Events focusing on new areas or co-op challenges would spice up the seasons, and having rewards feels more curated based on your level of play as opposed to random for everyone would be a satisfying reward for skilled players. Large, challenging, and instanced dungeons for events that mirror raids with a Diablo sheen would go a long way toward keeping co-op enthusiasts happy and satiated. These events could contain specific loot, cosmetics, and items for those with a willing team.

To make co-op even easier, Blizzard could introduce cross-play features, with players teaming up over consoles and PC. There would have to be some changes, like either removing or adding the dodge from console over to PC, but ultimately a cross-play feature would make building and maintaining a raid ready crew much easier. On top of that, the ability to transfer characters with your account through cross-play would provide incentive to main PC and play on Switch on the go or on console with friends for local, all while maintaining your build and making progress.

Better Single Player Endgame

Blizzard shouldn’t leave single-player enthusiasts in the dust. For every person who loves to raid and play with friends, there are also those who prefer to turn on a podcast and grind in peace. With the solo players, we have myriad ideas on how to make life easier, more satisfying, and more profitable for the misanthrope in us.

Followers could use an overhaul, with more varied and useful options. The ability to fully create and customize a follower, from choosing a class to their appearance and gear, would help endear solo players to their A.I. partner and offer more ways to play. Followers could have more classes, weapon options, and builds, effectively doubling the ways solo players could mix up their play style.

Pets could benefit from a revamp as well. As they currently stand, they are relatively useless. If pets picked up and sold loot that was useless, had more attack options, and could provide more buffs, they would be much more useful and exciting.

Another way to battle endgame grind is to have more rift variety, more objectives, boss-types, and curated content within the randomly generated rifts. Curation could make them more satisfying and engaging alongside giving players new goals to overcome. Rifts are fun and satisfying, but a rush to the finish is the main way to engage with them. Adding other challenging objectives or a boss rush could also alleviate the grind.

More Customization

So much of the grind in loot-based games revolves around killing better and looking good doing it. Diablo III has some seriously intense gear sets, but the fashion and character customization is lacking compared to its more recent contemporaries. Offering the ability to create your character after picking your class would go a long way, on top of having more varied sets leading up the endgame.

Transmogrifying gear was a great addition to the home base, but there are still only so many options to choose from, and the art of Diablo can be a bit maximalist. Not every level 70 hero needs bloody spikes and a dozen skulls hanging from their armor.

Having more cosmetic options in a game full of them is a nitpick, but one that would help players find something to grind for outside of just faster ways to smash. Having a system in place telling players where they could find sets or a way to have a collection would be a great step towards providing a carrot for those fashion-forward players.

Allow For Community Creation

Blizzard will most likely never support mods, so in place of that, it could provide a level editor or creation suite. Players could design high-level dungeons or quest lines, allowing them to infinitely expand the games curated content. These handmade community dungeons could be ranked and highlighted based on popularity and quality, and the same loot could apply. Players could create horde modes, or Blizzard could have a director system that allows players to make a level and the enemies would be automatically populated within it.

Allowing progress and loot to carry over would be a boon to those who use multiple consoles, especially since Diablo is both a co-op and single-player experience. These players aren’t breaking the game by getting great gear or making arenas to grind in.

Introduce Class Creation

With the next Diablo, offering more classes is an obvious choice, and hopefully Blizzard revamps and keeps the current slate while also adding new ones. On top of this, incorporating a system from something like Dragon’s Dogma or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, where the players style of play affected which classes they had access to or wanted to partake in, would offer more agency. Players could mix and match two classes, choosing to be a battle mage as opposed to just a wizard or barbarian.

Not only could a player select the classic classes and go all in with a glass-canon wizard build, but they could also split skills, making themselves a melee focused character who slung spells at opportunistic times. Blizzard dabbled with this when they allowed players to constantly change skills and runes with their class at any time, but it made everyone feel similar. Locking a player to choosing a full class or a hybrid and then letting them manipulate skills within that parameter could allow for more varied builds that feel personal.

Tying stats to classes, like dexterity to monks or strength to barbarians, makes builds feel limited. Blizzard could allow players the option to mix their stats more freely, with dexterous demon hunters and strength-based monks who hit like freight trains. To make classes feel even more different, a ton more class-specific gear and weapons would add variety and more significance to your class choice. Playing with friends and knowing you have some incredible tools at your disposal specific to your class makes you feel specialized and worthwhile, and knowing your friend has exclusive gear makes you envious and more likely to start another character.

More Story Or Less, Just Make It Better

Blizzard tends to underplay its stories and leave much of it to be discovered by players, but Diablo III was mired by bad dialogue, odd twists, and undeserved character deaths. Telling their story through isometric scenes and in tiny dialogue windows didn’t help, with the only major cutscenes gracing us between acts.

For the next entry, Blizzard’s efforts on making the campaign have a fulfilling and interesting story should either be the focus, or it should take a complete backseat to looting and grinding through dungeons. Having a half measure of a campaign that ended up being thrown away with the inclusion of the post-game shouldn’t be the fate of the next game’s story. Diablo III’s story is a barrier to entry, a mandatory rite of passage to level up a character to start the good stuff. While it only takes a day or two to get through, Emperor Hakan II is always as annoying, the boss fights are almost always tedious and simple, and the loot feels pointless. Making the campaign fun, replayable, and narratively fulfilling would alleviate the slog of starting a new character.

If you are new to Diablo, check out our look at the necromancer. For more more from Blizzard, here are eight reasons to be excited for the Battle for Azeroth World of Warcraft expansion.

One-Punch Man, the anime about a superhero who defeats his enemies in or around a single punch, is getting its second season next April.

The trailer, which you can see below, starts off with footage covering the first season of the anime by showing pivotal characters and action scenes from its 2015 airing. The teaser also confirms the April 2019 target date.

The anime is based on a manga by writer ONE, who writes and illustrates the comic. It was noticed by Yusuke Murata, the artist behind manga like Eyeshield 21, who convinced ONE to let him redraw it because he loved the story so much. Murata took the idea to magazine Shonen Jump, which ran the redrawn series in their web version. It took off and the anime became especially successful overseas for its high-octane action scenes.

As a small piece of trivia, Murata also won two contests at the age of 12 for designing Mega Man robot masters, submitting Dust Man from Mega Man 4 and Crystal Man from Mega Man 5.

Viz Media has acquired the license for the second season in America, meaning that an eventual western release is inevitable.

Crystal Dynamics, developers of the past two major Tomb Raider titles, is opening a satellite location in Bellevue, Washington. 

Although the studio is not leading work on Shadow of the Tomb Raider (that game is helmed by Eidos Montreal), the upcoming Avengers Project and other unannounced projects are labor-intensive enough that Crystal Dynamics has decided to aggressively scale up. 

In both the new location and the team’s base in Redwood Shores, California, Crystal Dynamics are gathering industry veterans. Among their new hires are Vincent Napoli (combat designer for God of War), and Ben Wanat (co-founder of Dead Space). 

Our Take
We’ve only seen a brief teaser for Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers Project, and it sounds like that’s only one of the many games being worked on there. Obviously, the studio feels that it can afford to plan for future success; I hope it’ll be proven right.