Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Game Swap is a new series in which one person recommends another a game they might like. This week, Adam suggests that Alec plays wilderness survival roguelike UnReal World [official site], still in active development after a quarter of a century.

Adam: Everyone enjoys roguelikes these days, or at least they refer to some of the things they enjoy as roguelikes. There was a time when I felt protective of the term, initially not acknowledging anything as a roguelike unless it had ascii graphics, then allowing graphical tilesets but drawing the line at interfaces that didn’t use every key on the board at least twice, and then, eventually, accepting that, hey, maybe Metroidvanias are roguelikes too.

I still go back to the first roguelikes I played though and they’re still among my favourite games. Unreal World particularly is closest to my heart.

The original Rogue was never one of my favourites, but Nethack, Ancient Domains of Mystery and Stone Soup never leave my hard drive. Then there’s my new favourites Cogmind and Golden Krone Hotel. And Alphaman still lingers for some reason, probably because it was one of my first. And you can kill mutant Elvis with a raygun.

More than any of the dungeon-crawlers and baddie-killers, I love the life sims that have sprung out of the roguelike soup. Dwarf Fortress is the most famous – a game that simulates creation and centuries of history before you even start to play – but RimWorld takes up more of my time these days, thanks in part to its friendlier interface.

I will always come back to Unreal World, though. You only control a single character, but there’s a whole generated world to discover. It’s far from a traditional roguelike, set in the open air rather than in dungeons, and based in north Europe during the Iron Age. It is, primarily, a survival game. That’s a genre in and of itself these days and Unreal World does share some DNA with The Long Dark, my latest love, but nothing compares to the complexity and detail of Sami Maaranen’s game, which has been receiving updates for nearly a quarter of a century.

I recommend it to people all the time, never sure if they’ll get lost in it or be lost by its complicated interface and harsh demands. I’d hoped that Alec would appreciate its enormity, even if he didn’t feel compelled to spend a lifetime out in the cold.

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Alec:. My reaction when Unreal World came up wasn’t horror, but there was a sort of grim resignation. Oh, of course he’s going to give me something that’s incredibly hard work.

I knew roughly what it was already, and with it a sense that it would be almost aggressively obtuse. I don’t mind difficulty or having to figure mechanics out for myself, but I’m highly/over-sensitive to having my time wasted. There is a certain school of games which seems consciously opposed to user interface accessibility – that not kowtowing to the mouse’n’tooltip crowd (i.e. 99% of humanity) somehow makes them infinitely more noble. I think it’s holier-than-thou snobbery.

Of course, UnReal World has the excellent excuse that it’s been in development since 1992, a land before time when it comes to UI standardisation, but hell, if they can stick in new terrain generators and update it for modern operating systems and continually patch it for all that time, they could sure as hell update the interface and controls too. But that would be cowardice and selling out, right? Fie.

But, I know, all this reflects on me as much as it does UnReal World. I’m getting older and more time-starved, so the mere thought of having to slowly teach myself something that differs from the norm is probably more unappealing than it should be.

I am nonetheless keen to fix a blindspot, I’m increasingly taken with roleplaying games that broadly sidestep the fantastical, and I’m only filled with admiration for a game that’s been so single-minded in its focus for so long. I just hope its archaic, stubborn nature doesn’t keep me from getting to the good stuff.

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Adam: Let’s talk interface first. I used to argue long and hard about the need for the big complicated interface in games like this. If (Q)uaff was the way I had to drink a healing potion but (q)uit would dump me back to DOS without saving, SO BE IT. That was never so much because I didn’t question the complexity, I think it was more to do with the way playing games on a PC was back then. If I had to edit my autoexec.bat and config.sys to jiggle memory allocations so that X-COM would run, then writing out the keybindings for a game that seemed infinitely more complicated than the other RPGs in my life seemed perfectly reasonable.

And I did used to do that, write out all the keybindings. What a time to be alive.

I’ve lost my patience with the millions of inputs approach to UI though. Having never designed a UI in my life, I’m confident in saying that there’s nothing in Unreal World that wouldn’t fit in nested menus rather than on lower case and upper case keys, spread all over the place. It’s not just a learning problem, it’s that if things are hidden in the interface, or buried, then they might as well not exist. If you don’t know how to skin a man and eat him, then perhaps you never will.

Have you done any cannibalism yet?

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Alec: I didn’t do much 90s rogueing so, while I’m familiar with the control tropes from revisiting a few subsequently and obviously doing the mandatory Dwarf Fortress stint a few years ago, it simply isn’t second nature in the way I’m guessing it is for you. It feels as though someone’s swapped everything around for some twisted joke, rather than the straight-to-the-metal directness I imagine that veterans/die-hards feel it is.

UI whingeing

I don’t mind a hotkey in and of itself, and indeed there are standards I demand from any game in that regard, but it’s that a button does something completely different depending on whether you’ve got capslock on or not that really killed me to start with. Granted, this was over-complicated further by the fact that my screenshotting app is bound to capslock, but even so, it just feels arbitrary cruelty to, for instance, have Drink Water and Quit bound to the same bloody button.

I’ve got the rudiments under my belt now, and even though I’m still ritually hitting the wrong buttons or becoming confused about, say, the rather pointless splitting into completely different menus for building lumber-based products and turning felled trees into different sorts of lumber, I no longer feel as though someone switched my car’s steering wheel for a keytar.

There is very obviously a very smart and magnificently possibility-packed game here, and I do feel sadness that it’s effectively deterring a huge amount of people from playing it in favour of what, from the outside, feels like zealous adherence to an imagined purity.

No cannibalism yet, but winter has only just begun. Given that my character tends to exhaust himself or near-freeze to death trying to catch even a single fish, it does rather seem as though clubbing and eating the next wandering traveller I meet is all but a forgone conclusion.

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Adam: A lot of the appeal, for me, is the setting – historical rather than fantastical. You touched on that earlier and it’s one of the things I hoped you’d enjoy. At the same time, I’ve been playing it for so long that I find it hard to say why I was drawn to it initially. Essentially, it’s a game about doing relatively mundane things. A camping simulator. I think part of what I enjoy about that is the small details that make me think about my character and his/her actions in a way that I don’t when I’m just bumping into monsters to make experience points fall out, but partly it’s just the change of pace.

Even though surviving is hard, there is a plateau that you reach and from there you can actually start living it up a little. Hunting and trading and even building your own cabin and creating a little farm, with livestock and pets. Do you reckon you’ll stick with it and see if you can make a home?

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Alec: I’d certainly like to, but I suspect life will get in the way. Also I just bought a second hand copy of FFXV because I’m so exhausted by childcare that drooling at something from the couch is the only thing I can manage to do in the evenings at the moment. UnReal World is hard work – not in a punishing way, but it’s a lot of effort for minor achievements.

Definitely digging the setting – I like a bit of Norsery at the best of times, and the extremely buttoned-down approach here entirely speaks to my tastes. I spent the first hour or two having a bit of a wobble about whether there was something bigger I should be doing, if I should be voyaging further out or looking for trouble, before settling into a happier groove of, as you say, camping.

Night in the woods

I had my little shelter and a little fire, setup near a river which yielded fish reasonably reliably, and I began to make some inroads into setting up a more permanent home. The sheer work it was obviously going to take became a bit galling however, so I did end up travelling elsewhere, finding a couple of villages and helping a lost guy reach safety (he taught me some herbalism to say thanks). I was very taken with the quiet amiability of it, that in the main people just calmly co-exist, all getting on with their own subsistence. Though I suspect things may kick off more in the depths of Winter, when survival is a more significant factor.

In terms of the interface, I’ve come around a little to the idea that the hard work of it is thematically appropriate. Where something like The Forest, with which this has a certain amount in common, makes the act of chopping down a tree a simple matter of hammering the mouse button a few times, this really wants to make it clear that, as in life, tree-felling is long, involved, exhausting work. As such, navigating all these keyboard commands to chop down a tree, chop the fallen trunks into blocks and boards then haul it all ‘home’ makes every single act of lumberjackery feel like a significant achievement. I’m all for that kind of escapism, even if I wish the menus weren’t quite so horrid.

There’s real mood here too. Clearly the old-fashioned appearance presented an initial shock to the system, but once I was past that I really felt the loneliness and the cold, believed entirely that this was a vast and wild world. It has flavour and it has spirit, in spades.

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Adam: There’s a karma system, which I think is still hidden (and some players dispute the existence of, or at least did back in the day), and it’s that rather than the onset of winter that can have the most dramatic impact on your wellbeing. At least in my experience. Actually, that’s not entirely true because winter is a terrible time, but the world becomes less friendly if you act like a dick. That goes for killing people, making sacrifices and doing other unpleasant things. Like the cannibalism.

There are occasional messages that pop up that seem to relate to that, either telling you that the world feels tranquil or that the forest seems hostile. Stuff like that. What I find really interesting is that I’ve never seen definite confirmation as to what that means – people reckon it might make fishing and hunting trickier, or that injuries fester for longer, or that you’re more likely to meet hostile humans. Others reckon it’s all confirmation bias.

A little bit of low fantasy

The game does have this spiritual element to it though. You can perform rituals and improve your chances of having a successful hunt, or of making a fire. I like that. It’s both a way of giving players something to do, to manipulate the odds directly, and a way to teach a little about this little pocket of semi-fictional history.

It’s the superstitions about karma that I enjoy the most though. It’s kind of amazing to me that a game can exist and be in a state of change for so long – twenty four years! – and have a little belief system spring up around its mechanics. I’m sure someone has pulled the code apart, dug through its entrails and found the numbers that prove or disprove it all, and analyse precisely how it works, but I don’t want to know. There’s a mystery behind the mundanity of wood-cutting and fishing.

I’m not going to use this as another reason to defend the interface, but I do think some of the mystery is found in between all of those key presses. It’s true that if doing something necessary or entertaining is hard work, that is Not Good, but it’s also kind of brilliant when the pieces fall into place and you find something you never knew was possible.

Gameswap: UnReal World on collectionfifatips

Alec: I don’t disagree in principle, I just feel that the particular way it is done here is more a pain in the dangly bits than it needs to achieve that effect. Stuff like the lower case/upper case split, how some stuff is in the skills menu and some stuff has its own key – a sort of flab. Then again, if the alternative is Minecraft style guess the recipe structures, I’d probably be sighing too. Impossible to please, me.

I mentioned The Forest earlier, and I am fascinated by how much of UnReal World is in modern survivo-craft games. Quite possibly entirely unconsciously. But, essentially, this feels like the roots of the 21st century tree-punching game, yet its relative complexity and slow-down ensures that its basic acts of logging, hauling and building feel truly essential to the experience rather than numbing grind within an otherwise high-speed game.

If my life was slightly different, I’d definitely be up for long nights in UnReal World’s woods, gnawing on hard-won fishbones. I’m very glad that I know it now, and I think more people should know it too. I hope the dev isn’t entirely closed to doing more things to make that happen.

Adam: I totally agree on the proto-survival game thing. And it makes me hope that Steam will one day be flooded with more accessible versions of Dwarf Fortress’ big daft splendid box of tricks as well.

There’s positivity here, tempered by very fair criticism of the interface and the demands Unreal World makes on your time. But let’s hear it: Hit or Miss (Pip went with Hit-ish for her instalment of Game Swap earlier in the week so I’ll allow such shenanigans)?

Hit

Alec: Oh, hit. No qualms there. It knows exactly what it wants to be and works so hard to share that essential fantasy with the player that even an issue as significant as Nightmare Interface Designed By DOS Snobs Who Believe That Right Mouse Buttons Are A Betrayal Of The One True Way Of PC Gaming cannot truly undermine that. My hope is that UnReal World is still in active development when the time comes for me to retire, and then I shall happily sink long months of my fading life into it.

Adam: Give it another twenty four years and it might have a decent interface as well.

Hey dood: Disgaea 2 released on PC – collectionfifatips.com

Hey dood: Disgaea 2 released on PC - collectionfifatips.com

Like a little ‘J’ in your RPG? Tales of Berseria launched last week, if you fancy a zesty new bottling, or if you want something you might be interested in Disgaea 2 [official site]. Eleven years after its PlayStation 2 debut, Nippon Ichi Software’s RPG launched on PC today. Expect to meet leet-speaking penguins, deal nine digits of damage (numbers, not fingers), and gag-o-laff with a lot of silliness.

Here, I’ll turn you over to NIS to explain… something?

“Darkness is back. Overlord Zenon has cursed the land, and now, Veldime is transforming into a nasty Netherworld. Memories are sterilized, bodies demonized, the world is falling into chaos. The only one unaffected is a young man, Adell. He stands up to fight the curse, but things never go as planned. The haughty daughter of Zenon, a filthy little frog, lovable demon siblings and a washed-up rock star!? No one can ever predict what goes on in the world of Disgaea. And of course, other Overlords refuse to sit still watching…”

This PC release includes everything from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories on PS2 and the PSP version, Dark Hero Days, along with three characters never in any western release before. NIS boast of keyboard and mouse support and things too. The first Disgaea’s PC port was wonky but initial responses to the sequel seem better. As far as I’ve seen, anyway; I’ve not played it myself.

Disgaea 2 is now out on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux at £13.49/17,99€/$17.99, which includes a small launch discount available for the first week.

collectionfifatips – Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

Every Monday, we send Brendan into the early access hangar with only a spanner and some big ideas. This week, the build-your-own-spaceship battler Galactic Junk League [official site].

Let’s see, we’ll strap on an uber cannon there… and another one there… paint this red and this bit black… plop another thruster or two back here… hide the shield generator in this alcove… plaster some armour plating here and here and, oh, here… yes! It looks like my new ship is ready to go. Sharkey the Shite is a giant destroyer-class cannon-platform. He’s not very fast and he turns slower than a bicycle wheel with a stick in it. But he’ll probably be better than my last ship, a rusting block of junk with ten missile batteries stuck to every side. I called that one the Barge of Rats.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

But when it comes down to it, Sharkey isn’t great in a fight either. He’s got the power and the range but he hasn’t got the speed to get to a fight in good time. I could go back to the menu and try to fix that with more thrusters and less armour… maybe swap out my blink drive for a speed boost? But then how will I warp away when I’m in trouble? These are the trade-offs and decisions you’ll be making in the hangar of Galactic Junk League. You come here to craft your ship and micromanage every little building block, from the lasers to the batteries to the special blocks that power your in-game abilities – damage absorbing shields, rays that freeze an enemy ship in place. When you’re finished, off you pop for a 7v7 deathmatch. First to 20 kills wins. That sounds great – it’s Minecraft’s creative freedom meets a small-scale EVE brawl.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

And yet, I’m not having that much fun. It’s odd, there seems to be a perfect mix of creation and destruction, and I am enjoying picky Sharkey apart and tinkering with his metal guts to see how I can optimise him in a fight. But there’s a couple of things nagging me about it all: the deathmatch itself and the shop.

Let’s start with the in-game shop. A few months ago we looked at a similar free-to-play game of vehicular mayhem called Crossout. You built your own Mad Max-style war car and then drove about dusty arenas trying to explode everything around you, watching chunks fall off your motor only to expose your weak and vulnerable engine. It was an excellent idea marred irrecoverably by the grindy, poor-value business model. Now, I’m floating into the spaceship-piloting equivalent, which I’ll admit is much better than Crossout in some ways, but just as bad in others.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

Firstly, the grind is not so bad. There’s no crafting bits out of other junked bits, or rolling the dice of battle to get a good shotgun. Your basic currency, junk, is awarded at an OK rate and once you unlock a piece it’s available to use whenever, wherever and however much you want. All the bits and bobs used by your opponent can soon be researched and used yourself. It’s only if you want to look better, or speed up that initial climb, that you’ll have to throw in money. This is where the usual psychological chicanery comes into play.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

$11 will get you a starter pack which will double your junk rewards from battle and provide you with XP boosting “whiskeys”. I want to talk about these because they are, from a vicious monetizer’s perspective wickedly clever, while also being psychologically vile. Whiskeys are horrible little items that you “drink” in the pre-match lobby (I got some to use from the press code – thanks!) They boost XP for everyone in the match and stack in a way that makes multiple people use them. For instance, if I drink the first whiskey, everyone gets a 25% boost to XP. I can’t drink another but don’t worry, because if someone else drinks a whiskey of their own, we all get a 50% XP boost. Yeeeeee-haw! But don’t stop there chums. Who has the third whiskey? The fourth whiskey? The fifth and sixth? Come on, I know you’ve all got some. There it is, the final slammer! A 225% XP boost.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

This is one of the crassest manipulations in a free-to-play game I’ve seen. It essentially peer-pressures players into consuming the things they have bought at a faster rate, and makes anything less than the full 225% increase feel like a wasted opportunity. “You’d better have your whiskeys ready boys!” says the game. “It’s good for everyone!”

Anyway, I wanted to get that out of the way before we consider the game itself, which is really composed of two sides – an interesting and fun kind of space LEGO, and a completely throwaway multiplayer arena fight. The creative side in the hangar lacks some visual variety without all the skins and decorative parts, but even with the junkiest pieces I have seen some fun designs. In fact, the best part of the game might be the pre-game lobby (bar the soaking of each other in whiskeys), because that’s the time you get to click on everybody’s name and see what they’ve made. There’s a lot of strange ships out there. Borg-like cubes covered in gatling guns…

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

Long and phallic glass cannons…

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

Terrifying threshing machines…

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

And, of course, Slave 1…

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

I had to up my game by making a frog-shaped ship which I christened Toady McGee.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

When this was not powerful enough, I bulked up with a mohawk-sporting block of death called Missiles What.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

When this was not agile enough, I stripped everything out but the bare essentials, put a huge thruster on the back, plugged in a ray that disrupted all of a single enemy’s movement, and painted this annoying harassment vessel yellow and black. It is called the Dick Hornet.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

So you see, the process of both discovering the oddities of others and building your own is quite joyful. It’s only when you go into battle (even if you go in with a more serious build) that you discover the combat – the core game itself – isn’t anything special: a team deathmatch, first to twenty kills or until the time runs out. You spend most of it just trying to get in the right range, trying to pick off ships that are far from others, trying to avoid any ganged-up enemies, taking pot-shots, killing, dying, respawning, using your skills with their lengthy cooldowns to affect the battle in some unseen direction. But essentially, you’re just racing your foe’s kill count.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

I couldn’t help comparing the battles to those of Fractured Space – another free-to-play game which forgoes the creativity for set ships with MOBA rules of engagement across multiple 3D “lanes”. There’s none of that game’s tactical cohesion or teamplay here, no complimenting your ally ships. Tactically speaking, you just need to kill and kill fast. If you want to make an off-beat ship like the Dick Hornet, that nips around too fast to hit and slows enemies to a halt, but can’t do any damage itself, then it feels like a waste of all your creative efforts. That ship is just not viable. And many players seem to be realising this, because there are an obscene amount of long-range destroyers on these fields, sniping everything they can with huge cannons from afar.

collectionfifatips - Premature Evaluation: Galactic Junk League

That’s my biggest gripe with GalJunk. The whiskeys – horrible as they are – I maybe could have ignored as this game’s necessary free-to-play evil, an exception I couldn’t make for the gross and grindy Crossout. But if your “sport” is limited to a single rule (kill the enemy) it almost nullifies any creativity in the hangar. There’s no need for specialist vessels that do one thing really well and everything else poorly, for example. It’s better if as many people as possible focus on damage dealing. Other abilities will always take a back seat. The Dick Hornet may be my favourite vessel. But he’ll always lose a fight to the Barge of Rats.

Galactic Junk League is available on Steam as free-to-play

collectionfifatips | Isometric STASIS follow-up Cayne out now for free and Beautiful Desolation’s apocalyptic Africa on the way

collectionfifatips | Isometric STASIS follow-up Cayne out now for free and Beautiful Desolation’s apocalyptic Africa on the way

Whoopsie. I was at the beach last week and missed the release of Cayne, the short and free follow-up to isometric horror adventure STASIS [official site]. But I’m back to work today, so here I am to drop the freebie game bomb. Boom. I don’t know if it’s good or not, but Alec enjoyed the original in our STASIS review, even if it had the occasional daft puzzle. “STASIS is all about momentum rather than stop-start headscratching,” he said. “It flows.” This is just one half of my back-to-work newsing though. Creators, The Brotherhood, are also yodelling about a Kickstarter for their new game, Beautiful Desolation [official site], which is halfway to its funding target at this very mo, and has some new trailers to show off.

First, they’ve got a theatrical boyo showing what the gen vibe is, yeah?

You see, it’s an isometric adventure set in a post-apocalyptic Africa, where robots and giraffes walk the same dusty paths, passing rusty cars and generally being very attractive. More clickingly, there’s some gameplay tasters as well.

You’ll play as two brothers, Mark and Don Leslie, along with their four-legged robotic pal ‘Pooch’, who “find themselves in a dangerous world, fighting for their lives”. That sounds like a time-travel set up to me. I’m not a big man for the isometric clickwalks, but this does look very swish, a vibrant future-world that isn’t hardy-har Americana or cables and neon but rather filled with altered animals, tribal homesteads and weird, banjaxed desert landscapes. But it’ll be some time before we see it. They have the estimated delivery date on the Kickstarter as October 2019.

Meanwhile, Cayne is set in the STASIS universe and follows a mum-to-be called Hadley who wakes up in a strange medical facility after “what she thought was a routine procedure”. That’s about an hour and a half of free body horror for you.

collectionfifatips – Warner Brothers re-opens Avalanche Software for Cars 3

collectionfifatips - Warner Brothers re-opens Avalanche Software for Cars 3

Some dark cartoon necromancers have been at work. Avalanche Software, the developers who were shut down after Disney Infinity laid out its roadmap of slow death, marking an end for Disney as a games publisher, have been reopened under Warner Brothers. And they’re going to make the tie-in game for Cars 3. Why are Time Warner making Disney’s videogames for them? I don’t know. That’s just how the childhood dream barons work these days.

On the bright side, this means some jobs have been either saved or recreated (we’re not sure which), as Avalanche will now be working under Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment. They’re not alone under that bannerlord, joining LEGO magnates TT Games and Rocksteady Studios, the warlords in charge of the Batman Arkham fiefdom. It’s all very bloody and showbiz under there.

Cars 3 will be the developers’ first game since their return (here’s a surprisingly serious trailer for the movie) but there’s no word of what subsequent games will be made by the studio. Will there be some ongoing deal to pump out licensed Disney trinkets, or will Warner Bros let the team go their own way? Given the Bros current license-heavy output, I’m going to predict the former, or some other plan. Again, it’s a bit odd to see two cinema giants, normally happy to savage each other for superheroes and comic book franchises, work together to make something. But stranger things have happened. The other day my cat ate a gecko. Yesterday a volcano went off 30 km from my house. Everything is covered in thin dust. I’m treating this as just another omen.

Gibraltar's history-making moment on collectionfifatips

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It was on 6 September 2016 that Gibraltar, a territory of 30,000 inhabitants, wrote their name into the football history books. In a 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier against Greece, Liam Walker netted his country’s first-ever goal in an official, FIFA-recognised competitive match.

Months have passed since he scored that equalising effort in the 26th minute at the Estadio Algarve in Faro, Portugal, but Walker is happy to reminisce. “I’ll never forget it,” he told FIFA.com. “I remember there was a corner that went all the way out to the back post. Our captain Roy Chipolina managed to retain the ball and play it back into the middle. Scott Wiseman got a touch on it and the ball came out to me. I was one-on-one with the left-back and when I saw a gap, I just went for it.” The rest, as they say, is history. “It was obviously a great achievement for me and the team, although unfortunately we conceded those goals before half-time.”

Impressed by Belgium
As Walker alludes to, Gibraltar’s joy would be short-lived, with Greece replying to score three times in the final three minutes of the first half. The UEFA EURO 2004 winners eventually won the game 4-1, but Walker retains fond memories of the occasion. “It was still a great experience and something new. It was like a dream come true for us, it was just amazing. Hopefully there are more to come in the future, but we need to work hard and keep improving.”

Gibraltar, who were only admitted as a FIFA member in May 2016, have since played three more qualifiers. They lost 4-0 and 3-1 to Estonia and Cyprus respectively and went down 6-0 at home to Belgium in what Walker looks back on as a major learning curve. “I think they’re the best side we’ve played,” said the man who plies his trade with Gibraltarian club Europa FC. “We’ve played against Germany and Poland, but Belgium just played brilliantly. Their movement, combined with the top class players they have, was extraordinary. Having said that, we conceded a lot of goals through mistakes of our own making. We need to work on that.”

Aiming for a point
In attempting to punch above their weight, the southern Europeans could do worse than to look at Iceland for inspiration. The Nordic team caused a sensation at UEFA EURO 2016 by reaching the quarter-finals, beating the likes of England and Austria and holding eventual champions Portugal to a draw along the way. In that spirit, Walker believes the expansion of the FIFA World Cup format to 48 teams, starting with the 2026 edition, presents a great chance for smaller nations to make an impression on the big stage, though he also says Gibraltar need to remain realistic. “It would obviously be unbelievable to be there one day, but we still need to develop. We’re such a small country, but anything’s possible.”

Walker began his career in the Spanish lower leagues, before gaining experience abroad with Portsmouth in England and Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv in Israel. Since 2014 he has been playing in Gibraltar’s top tier, moving to Europa in August 2016 following two years at rival club Lincoln Red Imps. He is yet to play in one of Europe’s top leagues, but the 28-year-old with the No10 on his back has not given up on the dream yet.

Any immediate thoughts about his club career must be put to the back of his mind, however, as another huge game for Gibraltar looms large on the horizon. At the end of March, Jeff Wood’s charges take on a Bosnia and Herzegovina outfit boasting the likes of world-class talents Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic. “We want to get better with every game and our goal in the campaign is to get at least one point,” said Walker. “If we can do that, we’ll have cause for celebration. That might sound strange that it’s only one point, but for us that would be another step in the right direction.”

collectionfifatips – LoL Cosplay As Radiant As The Dawn

Cosplay by Aoime | Photo by Thanior Pictures

Well. This is impressive.

This is Aoime as Leona (the Radiant Dawn) from League of Legends. It took her over a year to put this together, but its detail and heft looks 100% worth the trouble, especially when you see (below) how she had to move the thing around.

Cosplay by Aoime | Photo by REKAPH
Cosplay by Aoime | Photo by Thanior Pictures

League Of Legends Cosplay From All Corners Of The Globe on collectionfifatips

League of Legends’ Elementalist Lux has ten different forms. So of course there are now different cosplayers dressed as each one.

The shots were put together by Riot, and feature cosplayers from all over the world, from China to Turkey to Australia to Costa Rica.

Cosplay by Hagane
Cosplay by Susana | Photo by Booki
Cosplay by Ribbons Cosplay | Photo by Catberry Photography
Cosplay by Angela Bermúdez | Photos by Andrés Herrera
Cosplay by Onnies | Photo by ButterFile Artist 

You can see the full gallery of all ten forms (which actually feautres 14 cosplayers) here.

collectionfifatips | League of Legends Lands Seven-Year, $300 Million Streaming Deal

Today, League of Legends publisher Riot announced an unprecedented $300 million deal with Major League Baseball spin-off streaming company BAMTech, who will handle LoL broadcasting. Among other things, BAMTech will release a streaming app for the esport and oversee tournament streams on Twitch, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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BAMTech, in which Disney recently bought a $1 billion stake, will pay out that hefty sum before 2023. In return, they’ll receive exclusive rights to stream League of Legends to an international audience and monetize the game. BAMTech-facilitated sponsorships and ad sales will help grow Riot’s revenue.

For context, in 2014, the NBA announced a $24 billion, nine-year deal with ESPN.

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The specifics of the deal are unclear right now. Riot announced its interest in long-term investments in September so esports teams and players could enjoy some much-needed financial stability. Hopefully, some of the new money flowing through Riot’s coffers will find its way into the pockets of professional LoL players.

collectionfifatips – The Best Esports Plays Of 2016

In 2016, esports experienced even more highs and lows than the previous year. That’s what it means to be growing. But while the industry surrounding competitive gaming continues to expand on the backs of enthusiastic investors and hype-men, it’s important not to forget why anyone actually watches it in the first place: the people playing are really damn good.

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Beyond the pageantry and rivalries, the shout-casters and sponsors, the reason esports exist at all is because putting top talent into tense situations where it feels like everything is on the line turns out to be a magnificent way to bring out the best in competitive games. Unexpected triumphs, brilliantly orchestrated defeats, all combine to add an extra layer of drama and artistry to games that would otherwise feel hollow and incomplete.

With that in mind, here’s our selection for some of the best plays in professional gaming we witnessed in 2016.


Hearthstone

Blizzard’s collectible card game has always been criticized for the outsized roll that RNG (random number generation) can sometimes seem to play in pivotal games. But those moments of unexpected good fortune (or bad if you’re on the receiving end) are also part of what make the game so exciting to watch. Without that added bit of surprise, Hearthstone wouldn’t quite be a card game anymore. One of those moments occurred during the quarterfinals of the Hearthstone World Championship. Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov, who would go on to win the tournament, seemed to be spinning his wheels against William “Amnesiac” Barton in the latter part of game six. But just when his opponent seemed ready to send Pavel packing, a scene straight out of Maverick occurred.

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He drew Babbling Book, a card that summons a random spell, and one which in this case just happened to grant Pavel the perfect spell to completely turn the game around: Polymorph. With it, the young Russian was able to neutralize the biggest threat on the board and effectively reset the game in his favor. The kicker? Babbling Brook was one card in particular that Amnesiac had decided not to include in his own otherwise very similar deck build, meaning it took some foresight and planning on Pavel’s part to induce fortune to smile upon him.

Rocket League

In only the second ever Rocket League World Championship, FlipSid3 Tactics placed first after a series of great plays from both sides. But nothing they pulled off managed to come anywhere close to some of NRG’s finer moments. In a two-strike combination play that left many people’s jaws on the floor, SadJunior and Jacob connected for a moment of pure brilliance during the first game between the two teams. What looks like one player coming up to block the other’s shot is actually a coordinated effort by one teammate to redirect the other’s shot at the last second to make it practically impossible to block.

Overwatch

While the teams for the Overwatch World Cup were mixed between pro players and popular streamers, the event was still one of the game’s biggest to-date, taking place at BlizzCon 2016 in a year that has in many respects belonged to Blizzard’s latest hero-based FPS. And South Korea, the team that went on to win the tournament, did not disappoint. Their dominance culminated in a lopsided grand finals that left Russia choking on their opponents’ fumes. Even among champions, however, it was Won Hyoup “ArHaN” Jeong’s Genji who was star of the show. In perhaps his most stunning play of the tournament, ArHaN linked up with an ultimate from his teamamate’s Zarya to completely obliterate the U.S. in match two of the quarterfinals. Beyond just individual skill and strategic awareness, Overwatch is a game about linking up with teammates to unleash deadly combos, something that’s hard enough in 2D mobas like Dota 2 and League of Legends, let alone the complex 3D environments perceived in limited first-person views.

StarCraft II

This year ByuN Hyun Woo became the first team-less player to win the South Korean StarCraft league. He did so against a series of great opponents, including across five matches in the grand finals vs. Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin. StarCraft is not nearly as prone to big moments as other esports. Known for champions who excel in part by being able to out-click and out micro-manage their opponents, Blizzard’s long-running real-time strategy game is about accumulating small advantages over time and then combining them to overwhelm the opponent. However, in a series of four spectacular games after conceding the first to SoS, ByuN showed early-game skirmishes around the edges of players’ bases could be as tense as any other competitive video game. By game four, after scarecly five minutes had passed, ByuN was already imposing himself upon SoS with a Liberator that managed to wrack up eight kills before being shutdown, all while repelling his opponent’s attempt at a counter-attack.

Smash Bros. Melee

Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma, arguably the best Melee player in the world for 2016, almost didn’t win this year’s EVO. His Swedish rival, Adam “Armada” Lindgren, looked to be on his way to maintaining his status as #1. But then Hungrybox came from behind to win the first set in a dramatic finish that paved the way for his eventual victory. Nintendo’s Melee is quick and technical, but moments like the one at the end of the first set’s fifth match show just how elegant it can appear when all the pieces fall into place. On the brink of death, Hungrbox manages to land a six-hit combo in the span of a few seconds that sends Armada flying off the stage. You can see from his reaction immediately afterwards that even Hungrybox can’t believe what he just managed to pull off.

Watch the health meter in the top right.

World of WarCraft

Competetive World of Warcraft PVP doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but the grand finals at this year’s BlizzCon were really something to see. In a stellar seven game series that could have seen either team go on to win it all, it ended up being Splyce who took home the trophy. That was thanks to tremendous plays, including healer Simon “Boetar” Heink who manged to escape death more than once. Positioning obstacles between himself and the enemy team, Boetar managed to hold on for dear life thanks to slim margins that, after all the numbers were crunched, went ever so slightly in his favor, allowing Splyce to rally and counter-attack for the win.

Street Fighter V

Before Du “NuckleDu” Dang become the first American to win the Capcom Cup tournament for Street Fighter, he was fighting his heart out in the Capcom Pro Tour’s North America Regional Finals. His determination and recent form carried him all the way to the tournament’s grand finals to face one of the “five gods” in the Japanese Street Fighter scene: Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi. NuckleDu seemed to have Tokido’s number the entire series, but especially in the fourth game of the first set, the young American appeared to be playing the game a split second ahead of his opponent. NuckleDu closed out match with grace, nearly breaking Tokido’s guard in the process. Moments later, desperate to create something, Tokido attempted to go on the offensive only to be countered with a jump uppercut into a Guile’s Special Attack.

League of Legends

There were a lot of great games at this year’s Worlds Championship, but nothing that quite that the simplicity of Kim “PraY” Jong-in’s arrow in the semifinals on the side of ROX Tigers against the eventual champions, SK Telecom T1. A blind Ashe Arrow fired at 32:37 somehow finds SKT’s Duke, striking the player and preventing him from teleporting back to defend his team’s base. ROX won the game, and despite losing the series, managed one of the most stunning (literally) wins in the entire tournament.

Dota 2

This year had a lot of great Dota 2 matches, but nothing can overshadow what occurred at the end of game three of the grand finals of Ad Finum vs. OG. In a marathon of a game that went on for over 75 minutes, it was a few seconds of daring, in a match full of gutsy moves, that helped the all Greek team stop the grand finals from being a blow-out. The match ended when one of AD Finem’s players traipsed into the enemy base using an invisibility buff to evade detection. Thanks to Earthshaker’s attack bonuses, it was just enough to secure victory for the underdogs. While it was not the best Dota 2 play this year in terms of technical execution or skill, it was hands-down the most breathtaking.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Olkesandr “S1mple” Kostyliev is one of CS:GO’s best players, and even if he hadn’t gone and gotten it tattooed on his body, S1mple’s stunning no-scope double-kill against Fnatic during the ESL One Cologne major would have been an easy choice. Falling down from a platform on de_Cache like Neo straight out of the Matrix, the young Ukrainian managed to drop his opponents with casual ease, as if he’d Groundhog Day-ed the entire moment a million times before. It was on the back of clutch plays like this one that Team Liquid was able to survive the Swedish opposition and go on to become the first North American team to make it to the finals of a major CS:GO tournament.


This list is long but could have been even longer. Be sure to add your picks for esports plays of the year in the comments below.