Mastering Sigma, the maestro of ‘Overwatch,’ according to two pros #SootinClaimon.Com

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Mastering Sigma, the maestro of ‘Overwatch,’ according to two pros

EntertainmentApr 14. 2021

By The Washington Post · Teddy Amenabar, Jhaan Elker

Sigma, “Overwatch’s” brooding astrophysicist, commands the gravity around him to dominate an opposing team. He’s a repressive off-tank with a well-rounded set of abilities that allow him to break off from his team and disrupt the tempo of a fight.

The Washington Post spoke with two of the Overwatch League’s best Sigma players, Indy “Space” Halpern of the Los Angeles Gladiators and Gi-Cheol “Cr0ng” Nam the Guangzhou Charge, about how to make the most of the tyrannical Overwatch hero – taking your competitive play to the next level. Here’s what they said.

– – –

Be aggressive. Better yet, be oppressive.

Players controlling Sigma have a tendency to stick with their main tank, but Sigma is intended to push the fight forward on his terms. Find your own angle on the enemy team, the pros said. Sigma is at his best when he separates from his team and fires at the enemy from another position, forcing the opponent to contend with two points of attack.

Sigma can deal serious damage, heal himself and shield against incoming fire. Use your independence to flank your opponents and disrupt the pace of the match.

“Sigma’s job is to shut down the other team, to be as oppressive as possible,” Space said. “You want to be the one taking control of the game.”

Crong said Sigma players have to be selfish. Sigma’s power comes from his ability to control, or conquer, a certain part of the map. Press forward, alternating between Sigma’s shield and kinetic grasp, to create space for your team or to push back an enemy advance.

– – –

Spam your hyperspheres. Play the angles.

Sigma floats around the map twirling around a pair of hyperspheres, like some twisted fidget-spinner. The little balls of gravity can bounce off walls and implode, providing the hero a reliable and endless medium-range burst fire.

Cr0ng and Space suggest sending Sigma’s pair of projectiles into a corner or a chokepoint to pressure opponents waiting just out of sight. It’s one of the few abilities in the game that can ricochet off the walls. So take advantage of it as you try to gain ground.

– – –

Don’t break your barrier. It’s one of many tools.

When Sigma charges into a team fight, he can propel his floating barrier forward and provide some cover. It’s a key part of Sigma’s aggressive playstyle, but don’t rely on his shield. Recall your barrier, and switch to kinetic grasp to take incoming fire and recharge the shield, the pros said. The two abilities work in tandem. Using one allows the other to recover.

You never want to use Sigma’s barrier until it breaks down. Or, as Space said: “You don’t ever want to get caught with your pants down.” Always have a trick up your sleeve and manage Sigma’s abilities wisely.

– – –

Make the most of ‘the rock’

Sigma’s accretion, known simply as “the rock,” compresses debris into a boulder hurtling toward the enemy. It has become Overwatch’s equivalent of a three-point shot, which has led to many a flashy combos built for the highlight reel.

Do not lob Sigma’s accretion for a cross-map catapult; the pros suggest using his ability for simple crowd control when the enemy is on top of you. Wait until your opponent runs out of abilities to dodge or parry and then let it rip. The best “rocks” don’t miss.

– – –

Throw a barrier before using Sigma’s ultimate

Sigma’s strongest ability, Gravitic Flux, launches enemies sky-high and slams them to the ground, but the move leaves him temporarily defenseless as he sets up his aim.

Space said to shoot a shield barrier into the sky shortly before using Gravitic Flux; it can protect against enemy fire. It’s not a surefire solution, but the shield could protect you against a quick draw from an enemy McCree or Widowmaker. “If you’re going to do anything, make sure you do that every time,” Space said.

Tencent bets billions on gamers with more fans than NBA stars #SootinClaimon.Com

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Tencent bets billions on gamers with more fans than NBA stars

EntertainmentApr 09. 2021A worker walks past an installation reading A worker walks past an installation reading “Follow Our Party Start Your Business” in front of the Tencent Holdings Ltd. headquarters in Shenzhen, China, on March 20, 2021. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Qilai Shen.

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Zheping Huang

At the height of the global pandemic in October, more than 6,000 people packed into a new 25-acre stadium in Shanghai to watch one of the world’s biggest sporting contests. Another 45 million tuned in online, about as many as watched the six games of the 2020 NBA Finals on TV. The matchup was the League of Legends world championship — a watershed moment for competitive gaming and its overseer Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Asia’s most valuable company has set its sights on a billion-dollar esports arena that already boasts more regular viewers than the National Basketball Association or the National Football League. Tencent has placed pro gaming at the heart of its ambition to dominate online entertainment, from mobile games and video streaming to social media. It’s betting that esports will entice and retain the internet audiences it needs and eventually grow to something approaching the $10-billion-plus NBA.

Key to realizing that vision is Tencent’s blockbuster League of Legends battle arena title and TJ Sports, the outfit it set up in 2019 to organize and promote the game’s competitive play in China. While total revenue in TJ’s first two years just surpassed 1 billion yuan ($152 million), the fledgling company intends to create original content such as reality shows and livestream channels around its star players and teams, and peddle merchandise.

“Esports is like the Super Bowl, which isn’t just a sport event but also a vehicle of art and entertainment,” said TJ co-Chief Executive Officer Leo Lin. “We are going for the direction of connecting esports with our games and wider entertainment business.”

Esports show how Tencent thinks about its long-term future. The world’s largest games publisher has invested billions of dollars in talent agencies, streaming sites and tournament organizers to create the infrastructure necessary to turn pro gaming from a niche into an instrumental part of its growth strategy. TJ expects to double overseas viewership as soon as this year and aims to do the same with media rights revenue from outside China.

“Tencent’s investing in esports for the long haul, because it breaks the boundaries between different businesses from licensing to sponsorships and ticket sales,” said Chundi Zhang, a gaming analyst with Ampere Analysis. “Especially with competition for attention intensifying and user acquisition costs growing in the gaming market itself, esports still has huge untapped potential.”

Shenzhen-based Tencent, which operates some of China’s largest Netflix-style and e-book services as well as producing tentpole films and games, already knows how to monetize popular content.

Competitive play in Tencent-published games like Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile enhances the longevity of the firm’s biggest cash cows and feeds its content divisions. That in turn helps portfolio companies like Huya Inc. and Bilibili Inc. Apart from reality shows and music festivals, Tencent last year debuted a drama series called CrossFire, which tells the story of a wheelchair-bound teenager trying to make it as a pro gamer in the online shoot-em-up by that name.

But esports is also a key gateway to tapping foreign audiences for Tencent, which hasn’t struck gold on any app quite like ByteDance’s video sensation TikTok. The company reaches most people outside China through games like PUBG Mobile — among the most popular mobile esports titles in Southeast Asia — and League of Legends, which is regularly played by tens of millions worldwide.

Under TJ’s helm, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China has become the world’s largest esports league by its sheer size: 17 teams compete in hundreds of face-offs every year, with the 2020 season garnering 100 billion views through live broadcasts and social content. The headline sponsor for the new season is Mercedes-Benz.

Each person attending the Shanghai spectacle was the winner of a 1-in-500 lottery. Producing the gathering took months of planning and TJ provided players with 100-page handbooks on virus prevention. When the clanging of digital swords wasn’t filling the air, Chinese rapper Lexie Liu and the League of Legends virtual K-Pop band rocked the stage in front of socially-distanced attendees. A 26-foot-tall dragon sculpture was lit up under the landmark Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

Broadcast rights for events like the one in Shanghai now bring in about 60% of TJ’s revenue, with the rest largely coming from sponsorship deals, said Lin, who also heads the China wing of Tencent-owned League of Legends maker Riot Games Inc. Much like Amazon.com’s Twitch, live streams of pro matches offer a revenue opportunity through virtual gift sales, and the goal is to also expand income from licensed merchandise, he added. Thinking along similar lines are e-commerce giants JD.com Inc. and Suning.com Co., both of which run teams competing in the LPL.

“We want to get closer to young people,” said JD Gaming manager Kong Lin. “JD has its roots in consumer electronics, so there’s a good synergy for us to do esports.”

Beijing has thus far shown a favorable attitude toward pro gaming, provided the games themselves have been approved and related content is free of excessive violence or political messaging. That’s allowed Tencent and its peers to explore multiple business avenues — including abroad.

In 2020, simultaneous viewership of the LPL outside China peaked at 310,000 on sites including YouTube and Twitch, which TJ intends to double before 2022’s end. Aiding that goal are the multi-language web shows it produces to capture the game’s memes and highlights, along with Tencent’s in-house streaming unit Trovo Live for the U.S. market. Much like real-world sports, all the action is visual and Tencent needs to only swap the commentary to localize League of Legends content.

Looking further ahead, TJ plans to organize the China league for other games in the same fantasy universe, Lin said. In February, the franchise’s mobile edition Wild Rift got the license for a commercial launch in China and the highly anticipated title recently became available for U.S. players to test. With most gaming now happening on mobile, that could prove to be the next big step in catalyzing interest and engagement.

“As a gamer myself, I’m always inspired when I see someone grow from a nobody to a big star,” Lin said. “I believe many fans love esports as a sport for that same reason.”

E3 says Nintendo, Xbox among those committed to its free June virtual event #SootinClaimon.Com

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E3 says Nintendo, Xbox among those committed to its free June virtual event

EntertainmentApr 07. 2021

By The Washington Post · Gene Park

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, returns June 12 as a virtual event, and its organizers say they’ve secured commitments from two of the three big platform holders, Nintendo and Xbox.

And after months of speculation whether the event would have an online paywall, the Entertainment Software Association said the event will be free to everyone. A press release also added the ESA will be “working with media partners globally to help amplify and make this content available.”

It’s not unlike the strategy employed by games industry emcee and personality Geoff Keighley, who last year during the height of the pandemic hosted the Summer Games Fest, which worked with enthusiast gaming sites like IGN.

Along with Nintendo and Microsoft, the ESA said it secured early commitments to participate from Capcom, Ubisoft, Konami, Take Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games and Koch Media, with “more to come.” Sony, the other major gaming company, has not yet announced its plans regarding participating in E3, but has not been a part of the event since 2018.

The event will now run June 12 through 15, a change from its originally announced dates.

For at least the last two decades, the E3 show had been the premiere promotional destination for the games. In recent years, companies have held their own promotional online digital “events,” notably Nintendo with its popular “Direct” format on YouTube and other streaming platforms. Even large publishers like Square Enix have jumped onto the trend, creating highly-produced video press reveals.

The ESA revealed no additional information on what kind of format this year’s show would take.

‘Outriders’ is a game too tasty, and too expensive, to stay online only #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Outriders’ is a game too tasty, and too expensive, to stay online only

EntertainmentApr 07. 2021After its launch Thursday, After its launch Thursday, “Outriders” was plagued with server problems so bad that the entire service went down for hours on Friday. MUST CREDIT: Image by Square Enix

By The Washington Post · Gene Park

“Outriders” is probably the most delicious looter game at launch to date.

There’s a potato chip-like crunchiness to the audio design, from the click-clacking of your gun reloads to your boots sloshing through the mud. Gunfire crackles like popcorn, and enemies explode in a fizzy blue mist, leaving the arena stickier than the floor next to the McDonald’s soda machines. Maybe I should eat before long sessions of “Outriders,” but why eat when this game offers so much tasty brain candy?

It’s not all empty calories either. Far from it, this is probably the most smartly designed looter game at launch because it keeps it simple. It apes combat and movement mechanics from “Gears of War,” while cribbing the progression and game flow of the “Diablo” games. Basically, you move like a big beefy soldier, and throw yourself into hordes of enemies as your attacks heal you so you can keep attacking.

It’s too bad, then, that People Can Fly and Square Enix insisted that “Outriders” be an online-only game, despite being a complete product from beginning to end with a rewarding and complex loot system, a full story and a variety of enemies and levels. The developers have stated that in these ways, “Outriders” isn’t a live service game. And yet, after its launch last Thursday, the game was plagued with server problems so bad, the entire service had to be taken down for hours on Friday just to roll people back online.

So yes, this is yet another article asking why this game needs to be online only. It’s an important question, and we need to keep asking it, especially in light of recent discussion around Sony’s decision to discontinue its stores for its older PlayStation platforms.

I’ve been playing by myself for most of my run, because like most people, I’ve had trouble matchmaking with anyone, even when I removed the cross play option. (The developer advised to turn that feature off for now.) But this only speaks to the precariousness of the game’s online-only nature, especially when the game can be enjoyed completely and totally by yourself.

Franchises like “Destiny” seem to exist just fine in an online-only universe. But here’s the rub: “Destiny 2” is now a free-to-play game, so there’s no cover charge for mere “access to software.” A game like “Fortnite” can be online only because it’s free, and it’s a true live service with daily updates. It lives and dies by these updates, so always being connected makes sense. A game like “Fall Guys” make sense for connectivity since it’s primarily a multiplayer game, and it’s also half the price of a standard AAA title.

As it stands, when you pay for “Outriders,” you are only paying for a license to access software. That’s too bad, because even though I’m not quite done with its campaign, I can already tell that “Outriders” is a beefy experience worth owning outright. This isn’t an argument to make the game free-to-play; the studio has mostly delivered on the promise of a complete AAA package.

Square Enix and People Can Fly have worked hard to stabilize the game, and the developer has said it plans to explain in detail what happened last week. I hope that the studio also offers a clear explanation of why the game needs to always be online. If they’re collecting data, consumers have a right to know what’s being collected from our activities.

Despite all the issues, “Outriders” has enjoyed a surprisingly healthy playerbase with more than 100,000 concurrents on Steam at most times. The selling point definitely hasn’t been the game’s sense of style. It’s easy to dismiss “Outriders” as another generic, third-person cover shooter; nothing about its presentation will convince you otherwise. It’s completely derivative.

But People Can Fly keeps its ambitions grounded, and the gameplay runs as smooth as butter. (Again with the food metaphors; it can’t be helped. Every piece of this game goes down like a tasty morsel.) The prominence of chest-high wall covers belies the game’s real ambition as a true successor to “Diablo.” Unlike other looter games, “Outriders” has an expressed focus on dealing damage by using your abilities to heal yourself. Each player chooses three abilities among several to use with freely – save for some cool-downs.

“Outriders” clicks when it pairs this with some stunning level and audio design that give the impression of huge battlefields, even if you’re being funneled down corridors. Dozens of enemies can be firing upon me, moving to my left and right to ensure that I never stay in cover for more than a few seconds. But as the Trickster class, I’m able to target an enemy in an encampment, teleport behind him and punch the back of their head so it explodes in a bloody mess.

Immediately after the punch, I activate a force field that slows time all around me, stopping all incoming bullets like I’m Neo. I swipe toward a huge group of soldiers with a telekinetic knife from my hands, aging them with my time-warping abilities so quickly they turn into skeletons. Meanwhile, the brains of the guy I punched a few seconds ago are only beginning to settle on the ground as my slow-motion force field wanes. What a dynamic and beautiful experience, all packed into 15 seconds or less.

Each class comes with multiple skill trees, all of which can be reassigned at any time. It’s paired with a generous modding system that meaningfully boosts your abilities, enhancing your playstyle in power and sometimes even visual panache. These mods can later be reassigned to more powerful gear. The other classes offer less stylish methods of play, like Devastator which can predictably tank more damage and hit harder, or Technomancer, which becomes a powerful, long-distance soldier in later levels.

Looter games always struggle when it comes to story, and “Outriders” might appear to be a mixed bag. It has a strong, clear premise: Earth is destroyed, so humans run off to another faraway planet called Enoch, only to find that it’s ravaged by a reality-bending storm called the Anomaly. This Anomaly creates superpowered beings such as yourself, while also destroying the precious few resources rescued from Earth. This sparks – of course – a civil war on another planet. After 30 years, you are tasked with finding the source of a mysterious radio signal that was received when the humans first reach Enoch.

The tale unfolds like a buddy road trip across an alien world, complete with quirky memorable characters with distinctive personality traits like “young” and “old.” With inexplicable character motivations and sudden fades to black, the story presentation and writing can feel a bit like James Cameron’s “Avatar” adapted by Tommy Wiseau. Characters say non sequitur lines to each other, and we’re supposed to pretend it all makes sense.

It almost does. The game’s environmental storytelling does most of the heavy lifting. You’ll be taken on a kaleidoscopic journey through wide-open arenas, castles and mud huts. Unlike Square Enix’s other looter attempt in “Avengers,” “Outriders” comes packed at launch with more than a dozen beautiful and different levels to stomp through. Even if the story left me dumbfounded in its writing, I never shook the feeling that I was actually on a journey with a clear goal in mind. That’s something most loot games, even the venerated “Diablo,” have missed.

People Can Fly made something special here.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ marks covid-era box office breakthrough #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ marks covid-era box office breakthrough

EntertainmentApr 05. 2021

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Kelly Gilblom

“Godzilla vs. Kong,” the Warner Bros. and Legendary action film, is drawing the largest weekend crowds to movie theaters since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic more than a year ago.

The monster movie brought in ticket sales of about $32.2 million between Friday and Sunday in North America and $48.5 million over the five-day Good Friday holiday period, according to researcher Comscore Inc. The domestic sales were roughly double that of “Wonder Women 1984,” the previous best weekend opening in the pandemic era.

“This is the best news the theatrical side of the business has had in over a year,” said Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian, adding that the results proved that a big budget sci-fi action extravaganza like “Godzilla vs. Kong” is “tailor-made for the immersive and impactful experience that only the big screen can provide.”

The movie theaters badly needs the jolt. Ticket sales have fallen more than 85% from a year earlier, according to Comscore, and theaters are only reopening slowly, with more than half now back in business. They’re also imposing strict limits on how many customers may attend at one time.

Still the early returns — with audiences again willing to turn out for major-budget films — suggest there’s pent-up demand, even with studios making their best releases, including “Godzilla vs. Kong,” available online.

“We may not yet be talking about pre-pandemic box office levels, but for this film to come out of the gate swinging shows how eager audiences are to return to movie theaters,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice Pro. “This is one of the necessary inflection points the movie industry has been waiting and hoping for.”

The film, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Alexander Skarsgard, also had a large international premiere. It scored the biggest foreign opening in China in at least 15 months, generating about $137 million in ticket sales there. Its worldwide sales now have reached $285 million, Comscore said.

Analysts and industry insiders have been predicting this type of popcorn film would draw fans back to the big screen. Big-budget action movies, particularly those with recognizable characters like King Kong and Godzilla, tend to sit atop the box office. However, studios mostly held back those releases until more theaters reopened and more moviegoers could gather.

Now, cinemas have reopened in every major U.S. market. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the world’s largest theater chain, said Thursday it has reopened 99% of its locations. “Godzilla vs. Kong” will probably show about 80,000 times across the U.S. between Friday and Sunday, according to Boxoffice Pro.

By comparison, “Wonder Woman 1984” screened 50,000 times during its opening weekend over Christmas and brought in about $17 million in ticket sales over that span. Both movies were also available on HBO Max the same day they came out in theaters, at no additional cost to subscribers.

“The Unholy,” a horror film, took the No. 2 spot with $3.2 million, according to Comscore. “Nobody,” a thriller from Universal Pictures that debuted last weekend, came in the third. Walt Disney Co.’s “Raya and Last Dragon,” an animated film about a warrior girl, ranked No. 4 with ticket sales of $2 million.

‘League of Legends: Wild Rift’ is ‘League’ Lite, targeted at new players #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘League of Legends: Wild Rift’ is ‘League’ Lite, targeted at new players

EntertainmentApr 03. 2021Riot GamesRiot Games

By The Washington Post · Shannon Liao

When I asked my five-person “League of Legends” team, composed of strangers playing on PC, if anyone was trying out “Wild Rift,” one of them derisively replied, “Who would want to play ‘League’ on their phone?”

The answer, it turns out, is millions. The day of release, App Annie reported 6 million downloads of “League of Legends: Wild Rift” across the United States, Brazil and Mexico, growing the global total to 32 million downloads. The mobile game is already available in Southeast Asia and Europe, with other regions coming soon.

“Wild Rift” takes the gameplay of “League of Legends” – five players versus five players, fighting and strategizing to destroy the enemy’s nexus – and modifies it to make sense on mobile. “Wild Rift” moves at a faster pace than “League” on PC, games demand less time and the size of the map shrank to fit smaller screens.

The reluctance from some PC players is understandable, however. Since its inception in 2009, “League of Legends” has both captivated esports fans and induced a sense of inferiority in its more amateur players stuck in the lower competitive ranks of bronze, silver and gold. Few League players reach the highest tier of Challenger, and even fewer can appear on world championship stages each year in Beijing or Paris displaying their speedy reaction times.

“League” is a game well-informed by its competitive play and what it’s supposed to look like at the highest level – there is a valley of difference between a fun, messy game of All Random All Mid (ARAM) and professional plays. But for many League players, part of the fun is striving to get there. And to those hardcore fans, they might have a visceral reaction to hearing about “Wild Rift,” which runs on iOS and Android, with console support in the works. After all, mobile gaming understandably means having to play on a smaller screen, using touch controls to drag one’s champion around and other compromises to the full “League” experience.

But while those changes might be disliked by hardcore purists, “Wild Rift” adds up to a satisfying experience for many. The simpler version of “League” appears to be attracting a new set of players, those who quit “League” on PC, those who never had a gaming PC, those who never learned “League” because it was too information-dense, those who play other battle arena games similar to “League” and more.

In other words, “Wild Rift” seems to be injecting new life into a community that has grown pretty insular.

“League of Legends” averaged 8 million daily users in 2019, and that number remains flat this year. Without “Wild Rift,” “Teamfight Tactics” and the other games that Riot has added to its recent portfolio, “League” might have continued to plateau. But Riot specializes in attracting fans to new intellectual property and supporting those games as esports. It has competitive plans for “Wild Rift” too, with tournaments already popping up in Southeast Asia and Europe. And the game maintains key features that pro players could excel at: killing minions to get power-ups, complicated champions like Vayne who rolls around and turns invisible, and three stages of the game, including a final stage for teams to face off.

Still, with limited support for controllers (I tried connecting a PS5, PS4 and an Xbox Series X controller to my iPhone and my Android phone, and none of them worked except for the share button on the PS4, which allowed me to capture footage and screenshots), “Wild Rift” is dependent on players learning its touch controls. It took me a good 10 games to get the hang of dragging to move my champion, aiming skill shots and attacking in the right direction. In early games, I would drag my champion backwards by accident and get caught in enemy attacks and die, which was frustrating, knowing that I would’ve survived if I just had a little more control.

After practice, however, I’ve started to play “Wild Rift’s” competitive ranked mode and found it’s easy to be consistent in games, push objectives forward and have a positive impact on the team. Double kills and even triple kills are sometimes simple to pull off, when enemy players are still trying to figure out how to run away. With the smaller map, ganks, the act of popping into a different lane to help kill the enemy, are a lot easier to execute. A common strategy in effective rank games is to group up and start deleting enemy champions one at a time. It’s a plan that works well on PC too, but it feels even more oppressive on mobile, if one team is always sticking together and the other is scattered and uncoordinated.

“Wild Rift” also cleans up one of the more annoying reoccurrences in “League”: online harassment. While I’ve seen players still curse each other out over taking a role someone else wanted, those instances are rare, as it’s pretty tough to type while playing. “Wild Rift” requires a lot of hands-on tapping, and that means less time to say something mean in chat. There are pings players can use to signal that an enemy is missing, to retreat, that the player is on their way, or to engage in a fight. The game’s narrator helpfully calls out “On my way!” repeatedly when the ping is pressed, and even though players tend to spam these pings, I haven’t seen anyone complain that it’s annoying.

With reduced online harassment, “Wild Rift” is a much more beginner-friendly game. In the games where I was trying out off-roles and champions I don’t usually play, like Master Yi in jungle, I died multiple times and was a hindrance to my team – nobody said anything. On PC, it’s common to see a player who has died 10 times get insulted by various teammates for being “useless” or intentionally losing.

Meanwhile, voice chat in game sounds crisp and smooth, but I had to switch to headphones to talk to my teammate, as my hand placement on the controls naturally blocked my phone mic and I sounded muffled and far away.

At the same time, “Wild Rift” still lacks a few features that could be helpful for newbies. Champion skills don’t have descriptions once a game starts, so a new player can’t read up on what each skill is while playing on the fly. Players aren’t taught in the tutorial which champions are best for certain roles, nor what they should do after they destroy the enemy’s first turret.

Ranked mode also opens up to players at level 10, which is fairly early, compared to League on PC where people unlock ranked mode after level 30 and owning 20 champions. The result is that the current ranked mode for “Wild Rift” includes a chaotic mix of people of all skill levels from beginner to advanced, even some people who are still learning the game’s basics.

“Wild Rift” takes the same approach to free-to-play as PC “League” does: Players can earn in-game cosmetics through time spent on the game, and they can avoid spending real money if they’d like. There are no ads and no constant reminders to spend money on the game. There’s no way to pay to win, and spending real money only has benefits such as better looking outfits and unlocking champions faster. I spent around $20 on the game, $13 to buy my champion a nice Lunar New Year themed skin and $7 to skip ahead and get Miss Fortune, my favorite champion.

That separates “Wild Rift” from many rival free-to-play mobile games, which often lure players to sink money with the promise of better lottery rewards and sometimes even run ads on top of that for additional revenue. In fact, Wild Rift’s approach to mobile gaming feels more like a premium, paid product, such as a $4 app in the store, but without the paywall.

And it’s that slick combination of a seemingly premium product that’s also free-to-play that is drawing in new fans to “League of Legends,” a nearly 12-year-old game and now a robust, growing franchise.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’: Which of our big boys has the power to win? #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’: Which of our big boys has the power to win?

EntertainmentApr 01. 2021Godzilla battles Kong in Godzilla battles Kong in “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the latest MonsterVerse film. MUST CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

By The Washington Post · Hau Chu, Sonia Rao

Part of the beauty of cinema lies in how it allows us to reflect on the most vital questions of our time – namely, if a nuclear-radiated sea monster could pummel a big gorilla, or whether that massive ape might just be the true prehistoric god-king of the earth.

Godzilla! MUST CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Godzilla! MUST CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures

Such weighty questions require careful thought, the sort that inspired the Renaissance greats to carve thinking men out of stone. One might recall these chiseled figures upon watching Alexander Skarsgard emphatically state in the “Godzilla vs. Kong” trailer, “This is our only chance. We have to take it. We need Kong. The world needs him.”

But does the world truly need Kong? Does he stand a chance against Godzilla? Before we “let them fight,” as Ken Watanabe so dramatically uttered in 2014′s “Godzilla,” join us in admiring (and scorning) these two big boys as we make the case for which gargantuan creature should reign supreme. Their epic brawl premieres Wednesday in theaters and on HBO Max.

– – –

– Godzilla, our nuclear breath-firing destroyer

Off the bat, you have to acknowledge that Godzilla looks cooler and meaner.

But what is he? Or she?Is it a big lizard? A dinosaur-human hybrid? Well, technically it’s a kaiju,which translates from Japanese as “strange beast.”

Sure, the atomic-breather of old was nothing more than an actor in a rubber body suit. But the lore of what Godzilla stands for means more than any large gorilla.

The mythical monster was created as a stand-in for the fear and terror of the nuclear weapons that devastated Japanese society. Since appearing in 1954, the creature has inspired tales ranging from 1968′s monster tag-teaming “Destroy All Monsters” to the brilliant 2016 political satire “Shin Godzilla,” which brought the threat of nuclear peril to the modern day with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Godzilla’s depictions have spanned the globe for decades, from novels to video games. But let’s get down to the tale of the tape.

In this film canon – which began seven years ago and includes 2017′s “Kong: Skull Island” and 2019′s “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” – we’ve seen our large lad vanquish its enemy by prying open its mouth and spitting pure nuclear energy down its throat and disintegrate two of Ghidorah’s three heads while chewing on the third like a squeaky toy before obliterating it for fun. And that’s just for starters.

So for this newest round, in one corner, there is a prehistoric monster that roams the land and sea who can fire off beams of nuclear energy from its mouth and has regenerative powers that allow it to swat away human weaponry like flies. Cloaked in scales, it also has an unmistakable, anguishing roar that lets you know it’s about to go down.

In the other corner, you have a big, chest-thumping gorilla who gets very easily distracted by a pretty lady.

No contest.

– Hau Chu

– – –

– Kong, the primate to rule them all

If “Tom and Jerry” taught us anything – the cartoon, not that ridiculous new movie with Colin Jost – it’s that size doesn’t count for everything. Speed and agility are underrated players here. If Jerry the mouse can trip Tom by tying his legs together with a string, what’s to stop Kong from doing the same with a vine from stinky Skull Island?

For those who believe size does matter, consider that Kong appears to now be the same height as Godzilla. It’s unclear what led to his practically tripling in size – perhaps it’s that he was an “adolescent” the last time we saw him, per “Godzilla vs. Kong” writer Michael Dougherty – but facts are facts, and our boy could make a killing hawking monster PediaSure.

To address the obvious: Yes, Godzilla can blast atomic breath. But Kong is showing up to the ring with his very own Mjolnir: an ax that seems able to harness the nuclear fire as Thor’s hammer does lightning (or, at the very least, that can deflect it). We’ve established Kong’s agility, but it must also be said that he has the smarts to strategize. Godzilla, on the other hand, is quite literally operating with a lizard brain.

Not to crib from Jay-Z’s heinous verse on “Monster,” but an appeal for Kong is also an appeal for love. He simply does not get enough of it. We saw the kindness in his eyes when Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson’s characters encountered him up close in “Skull Island,” and the latest MonsterVerse film embraces that trait. It introduces a story line where Kong essentially joins Rebecca Hall’s anthropological linguist character in bonding with and vowing to protect her adopted daughter, the last surviving member of the indigenous tribe that shared the island with him.

Kong is the more empathetic figure, and that goes a long way in Hollywood. He bows to no one, nor should he.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is a clash of the titans – and mismatched storytelling styles #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is a clash of the titans – and mismatched storytelling styles

EntertainmentMar 31. 2021Godzilla, left, battles King Kong in Godzilla, left, battles King Kong in “Godzilla vs. Kong.” MUST CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures

By The Washington Post · Michael O’Sullivan

If “Godzilla vs. Kong” sounds like the billing in a prize fight, the movie – a creature-feature sequel to 2017’s witty, stylish “Kong: Skull Island” and 2019’s more flat-footed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” – lives up to that rock-’em, sock-’em dynamic, in more ways than one. In a literal sense, it’s a multi-round matchup between the reptilian behemoth, an atomic blast-breathing kaiju, and the big ape, who’s looking a little worse for wear and gray in the muzzle as the film begins, several decades after the Vietnam War-era setting of “Skull Island.” In a stylistic sense, it’s also a battle between storytelling with an emotional connection and monster-moviemaking at its most reductive: loud, effects-laden stimulation for the retina, but not much brain or heart.

As Kong awakens from a peaceful night’s sleep at the start of the film, he’s almost cuddly, even when he uproots a massive tree with his bare hands, strips it of leaves and branches and hurls it skyward like a javelin. Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the little deaf girl who is watching him from nearby, unafraid, seems to sense this. The last surviving member of the indigenous tribe that once shared the island with Kong, Jia has a strange rapport with the beast – and vice versa. (It’s more than a rapport, really, as we’ll learn later in the film’s most touching and provocative scene. But “Godzilla vs. Kong” doesn’t seem to know how to take full advantage of Jia and Kong’s surprising bond, which, while a significant plot point, is underutilized.)

It’s always a bad idea to weigh a film against the one you wish you’d seen, and not simply by what you’re given. With “Godzilla vs. Kong,” we’re given two antagonists, but only one of them – the titanic primate, a cousin of Man, however overgrown the big lug may be – is easy to love. The coldblooded Godzilla, despite efforts to find motivation for the mayhem he wreaks, will never be especially relatable.

But, oh, how the film does try.

As things get underway, two parallel plots start to fall into place: Godzilla, in his first attack in three years, emerges from the seas to wreak havoc in Florida. (His arrival, like an inanimate storm, is referred to as making “landfall.” But hurricanes have more personality.) That story line involves a “Scooby-Doo”-esque investigation of Godzilla’s motives – and, naturally, the discovery of a secret plot engineered by a shady corporation – uncovered by a trio of meddling, conspiracy-minded misfits (Millie Bobby Brown, Julian Dennison and Brian Tyree Henry). The human protagonists skew young here, which tells you something about the film’s target demographic.

The other plot involves a team of commandos (Alexander Skarsgard; Rebecca Hall, who plays Jia’s adoptive mother; and Eiza González). They have been tasked with recruiting Kong as an escort on a mission to the center of the Earth. There, in a deep cavity that is believed to be the ancestral home of all the monsters plaguing mankind – and there are a lot – is a power source that the film’s villain (Demián Bichir) needs to combat Godzilla.

Kong, groggy from sedation and strapped to the deck of an aircraft carrier en route to the “Hollow Earth” access point in Antarctica, meets the lizard king in the middle of the Tasman Sea for Round 1. And so begins what might be called the Thrilla with Godzilla. It actually is pretty thrilling, as CGI pugilism goes. (So, for that matter, are some of the effects used to render the Hollow Earth, where gravity is said to be “inverted,” whatever that means.)

Their epic faceoff will include other battles, in Hong Kong, and with additional adversaries. You might guess who – or, rather, what – one of them turns out to be, simply by looking up some of the best-loved Japanese movie monsters.

Is love too much to ask for? In one corner, we have Kong: a soulful-eyed galoot who, as has been true since the original film, is just looking for a little tenderness. In the other corner: Godzilla, a scaly, albeit misunderstood, misanthrope. One half of “Godzilla vs. Kong” wants to tell a human story. Believe it or not, it partly succeeds. The other half just wants to break stuff.

I’d call it a draw.

– – –

Two and one-half stars. Rated PG-13. Also available on HBO Max. Contains intense sequences of creature violence, destruction and brief coarse language. 113 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

‘Monster Hunter Rise’ is a grand Japanese homecoming, made by a more confident team #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Monster Hunter Rise’ is a grand Japanese homecoming, made by a more confident team

EntertainmentMar 31. 2021The shell and armor for the flagship monster in The shell and armor for the flagship monster in “Rise,” Magnamalo, are inspired by traditional samurai armor. MUST CREDIT: Image by Capcom

By The Washington Post · Gene Park

In platform and premise, “Monster Hunter Rise” may seem like a bit of a risk.

2017’s “Monster Hunter World” became the best-selling game in publisher Capcom’s history, no small feat with an oeuvre that includes the Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Mega Man brands. But that game came with a lot of aesthetic changes that enabled its success. It was the first game to release with high-budget graphics and effects, debuting on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before a PC release that pushed sales and broke Capcom records. Although the series always featured out-of-the-box eclectic monster designs, the ones in “World” focused on dinosaurs, globally recognized but creatively a bit stale.

“Monster Hunter Rise” is a thematic and technological return home. Even though the series debuted in 2004 on PlayStation 2, it did not take off until it arrived on the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo 3DS mobile platforms. And although “World” was a global hit, fans in Asia probably were waiting for a return to mobile platforms. Now that it’s here, the game’s embrace and love of Japanese culture feels like a celebration.

Still, there were concerns that the team was swinging too hard by focusing the entire game on Japan and its culture. Director Yasunori Ichinose admitted as much last month, saying he was “a bit worried” over the response to the Japanese themes. But producer Ryozo Tsujimoto said Monster Hunter’s return to Japan was always in the cards sooner or later.

“Director Ichinose-san likes the Japanese and Asian aesthetic in general, but we’d only incorporate Japanese/Asian design in ‘Monster Hunter Portable 3rd,’ which was only in Japan,” Tsujimoto told The Washington Post. “We thought we’d come back to revisit those aesthetics after a few titles, now that there’s more that can be done from a technical perspective.”

The Japanese focus also allowed the team to get creative with its monster designs, drawing from the team’s own culture and childhood folklore to create art that feels culturally authentic and full of native passion. Tsujimoto said the focus really came from a desire to create a mainline game that stands apart from the rest.

“We thought by connecting the monster ecology and the yokai lore together, we could come up with new designs, so we shared a lot of monster ideas and then selected what works with gameplay,” Tsujimoto said. Tsujimoto is the son of Capcom’s founder Kenzo Tsujimoto and has been the public face of the series for more than a decade.

Yokai folklore depicts a class of supernatural beings, monsters and ghosts. In “Rise,” the most recognizable creature is likely the Tetranadon, based on the frog-like demon that also inspired Sanrio cutie megabrand Keroppi. The flagship monster in “Rise,” Magnamalo, isn’t yokai, but his shell and armor is inspired by traditional samurai armor.

Some were surprised that “Rise” would be a Nintendo Switch exclusive for at least a year. But given that Capcom recently announced that it shipped 4 million copies of the game in three days, the company probably is not second-guessing the decision. “World” shipped 5 million in the same time period, but across PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.

Mobile gaming in Asia does not carry the same stigma it does in the U.S. People of all ages play video games on their phones or handheld devices, and oftentimes it was “Monster Hunter.” And the Nintendo Switch was only just released in China, where console gaming is a niche market, and has already dwarfed sales of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.

YouTuber GaijinHunter, who lives in Japan and has covered the series for years, said last year that given the lopsided global success of “World,” Japan was craving a mobile game, and he correctly predicted a Switch release. He tweeted charts showing how past titles and “World” performed in Japan.

But Monster Hunter games are almost always about looking forward, not back. Many features added in past games endure and survive in all subsequent titles, except the third game’s ill-advised underwater hunts. “World” was such a graphically intensive game, but Tsujimoto said the team was not worried about the limitations because they focused keenly on creating for the Switch hardware.

This feat was largely achieved by using Capcom’s internal RE Engine, which has powered its most recent Resident Evil games. A lower-tech, large-scale Switch game was an interesting test of the engine’s scalability, one that it largely passed. But the jump back to portable meant the team had to redo many of the game’s menu systems, which will take up a good portion of any monster hunter’s time.

“For ‘Rise,’ we developed the game with visibility in mind,” Tsujimoto said. “For example, we changed the colors and the shapes of the item icons for the consumables. Also, when the weapon sharpness goes down, we added sound effects and visual effects on the screen to make it more noticeable.”

Longtime monster hunters will also recognize the crunchiness of the user interface audio, and the large bold colors for status effects. The subtitles are also huge and easy to read.

There was also some fan concern over how the game might play online, given the Switch’s history of poor service. But Nintendo recently updated its aging servers just in time for “Monster Hunter Rise.” The Post asked Tsujimoto whether the team had concerns, or whether it made special requests or entreaties to Nintendo to upgrade its servers.

“Throughout the development process, [Nintendo] have been very supportive in responding to all our questions and requests,” Tsujimoto said without specifying. “We were able to develop this game because we were able to work closely together with Nintendo.”

The Monster Hunter series has always been a sleeping giant in the games industry. “World” was a wake-up call for the world. With strong sales and a stronger identity, “Rise” seems to declare that Monster Hunter has finally risen.

‘Nier Replicant’ is for anyone who regrets playing ‘Automata’ first #SootinClaimon.Com

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‘Nier Replicant’ is for anyone who regrets playing ‘Automata’ first

EntertainmentMar 30. 2021“Nier Replicant” is a remake and a remaster of the 2010 action role-playing game “Nier.” MUST CREDIT: Image by Square Enix

By The Washington Post · Gene Park

Anyone who’s played it knows that “Nier Automata” is one of the most fascinating video games ever created, but so many missed its prequel, simply named “Nier.”

Enter “Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 . . . ,” or simply “Nier Replicant.” Developed by Toylogic, it’s both a remake and remaster of the overlooked 2010 action role-playing game that sets up the existential dread in “Automata.” Creator Yoko Taro’s writing finally got the attention it deserved, both from a growing audience and a development team that could properly bring his vision into a trippy, thrilling experience.

“Replicant” is scheduled to be released April 23 for PC, Xbox One and PS4, so it’s still a ways off. But I’ve been playing the final build of the game for the past week, and it’s been a nostalgic trip back. I finished the original “Nier” for the Xbox 360 in 2010, but I did not return to it for a few reasons. For one, it’s a tragic, sad story, but anyone who’s played “Automata” could’ve guessed that. It’s hard to endure emotionally. For “Automata,” I spent three real-life therapy sessions unpacking what I had learned about myself from the game. But the other reason that kept me away is that the gameplay was also a bit rough. Its level designs were extremely flat, and the combat was not enough to make up for the same-old, same-old temple rooms and ruins.

That’s why “Nier” and Yoko Taro fans cheered when “Replicant” was announced, bringing the same “Bayonetta”-inspired combat to the older story. For veterans, it’s the greatest excuse to return to a story that could arguably be better than “Automata.” For those who only jumped on with “Automata,” it’s going to be a bizarre and surreal trip.

Both games have a fixation with philosophical themes. “Automata” could not exist without the themes and plot established in “Nier,” and the message of “Nier” is enriched and further clarified by what happens in “Automata.” Many of the game design concepts of “Automata,” including its abrupt changes in genre, as well as camera style and setting, hail from the original prequel. And if you think “Automata” had some wild changes, the original game takes a sharp turn into genres you might not expect.

“Replicant” feels great. The eponymous hero Nier moves with the same agility as androids 2B and 9S, with your standard light and heavy attacks. Your mysterious floating book companion, Grimoire Weiss or “Weissy” for short, basically acts as your gun and attack modifier. He works just like the robotic pods of “Automata,” and he can turn the game from a “Devil May Cry” character-action title to a bullet-hell third-person hybrid.

The game starts with Nier as a young child, but as the story wears on, his ability to swing weapons and wield magic through Weissy becomes exponentially more powerful. The original “Nier” is a satire of and homage to “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” complete with a nagging floating companion and a midgame jump in skills, abilities and story stakes.

This comparison will be all the more clear with “Nier Replicant,” which is a retelling of the original Japanese release of “Nier” that never made it to the West. Yoko Taro wrote two versions of the story for Japan, one of which depicted Nier as a brother in search of his sister, which is what we get in the upcoming “Replicant” rerelease. The West only received the version where Nier was a father searching for his daughter. At the time, this was a striking relationship in video games, right at the genesis of the now-worn-out trope of “daddening” video games. Before Kratos or Joel Miller, Papa Nier was a granddaddy of the genre.

By 2021’s standards, the brother-sister dynamic is now the more unique and original of the two, and it’s better for it. You can now see with greater clarity how Yoko Taro uses “Ocarina” to critique and deconstruct video game design and storytelling formulas. The staid level design I spoke of earlier? It now feels wholly coherent to the story’s longing for any kind of self-identity.

I dare not spoil any of the plot twists. “Automata”-only veterans may predict some of them, but that will not matter, not when the acting and music and cinematography push to make this a uniquely raw and emotional experience. Unlike the androids of “Automata,” “Nier Replicant” immediately feels more grounded and connected to humanity. It helps that much of the game is inspired by Japanese high-fantasy tropes of roaming monsters in grasslands, townships and temples. It’s like playing an old-school “Final Fantasy” game before it went cyberpunk, while retaining all the drama and passion of its later stories, held together by the kind of character action we only see in games like “Devil May Cry.”