Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Escape Machine City: Airborne

      • 2021
      • Point-and-click adventure puzzle game that has you exploring the once-vibrant Air City that has gone completely silent and now seems to be flying on its own
  • Epic Games

    • Creature in the Well

      • 2019
      • Pinball-inspired top-down hack-and-slash dungeon crawler where you need to venture deep into a desert mountain to restore power to an ancient facility

Apple has officially bent its rules for Russia, which could lead to a slippery slope as other countries take note

  • Way back in episode 283 we talked about legislation passed by Vladimir Putin that will ban the sale of devices that don’t have a list of Russian apps pre-installed
  • We didn’t hear much about it after the deadline passed in 2020, but starting in April iOS devices sold in Russia will include an extra setup step
    • While you set up your language preferences and enable Siri, you’ll also see a prompt to install a list of apps from Russian developers
      • The apps include browsers, messenger platforms, and even antivirus (which is kind of absurd when it comes to iPhones)
  • On the plus side the apps aren’t pre-installed, and users can choose not to install them, but this has opened the doors for preinstalls that Apple has until now kept closed since the iPhone was first introduced
    • Sure, it’s good to promote developers within your own country, but the apps on offer could also be compromised in specific ways to further the agenda of the Kremlin and the government
    • With this in place we’ll be relying more and more on the privacy and security protections and prompts built in to iOS, and hoping that the apps in question haven’t been compromised
  • Overall the situation is better than it could have been, since Apple could have completely folded and allowed Russia to preinstall whatever they wanted, but their middle-ground stance is disappointing and potentially dangerous when it comes to the free internet

Proton was making headlines this week as they accused Apple of blocking an important update to ProtonVPN, citing the internet crackdown in Myanmar

  • On March 17th the UN advised people to document the ongoing situation and protests in Myanmar as evidence for “crimes against humanity”, recommending services like ProtonMail and Signal
  • A few days later Proton released a blog post saying Apple was blocking updates for another of their privacy products, ProtonVPN
    • Apparently Apple took exception with part of ProtonVPN’s description, which included language about challenging governments, and said that apps can’t be promoted as workaround or violations of local laws
    • Proton claims that the description in question had been in place for months though, and continued to claim that this was directly related to the ongoing military coup
  • Odds are, though, that the cause is likely a lot less nefarious- App Store reviewers are human, and each apply policy according to their own judgement
  • Apple’s released a timeline of the update in question, saying that they requested the change in wording on March 18th (the day after the UN’s recommendation) and then approved it on the 19th. Proton then released the update on March 21st, and published the accusatory blog post on the 23rd
  • Unless there’s more information here yet to come out, it looks like Proton took a non-issue that could have delayed their oh-so-important update by two days and made it into a week-long debacle to hit the headlines and rack up the clickbait
  • Granted the App Store reviewer in question may have gotten overzealous, but to directly link that action with these kind of world events is a bit of a leap

Microsoft has decided to rebrand Xbox Live to the “Xbox network”

  • First seen in beta software updates, the change has been confirmed by a Microsoft spokesperson saying it’s “intended to distinguish the underlying service from Xbox Live Gold memberships”
  • Part of this includes plans to drop the subscription requirement from free-to-play games, so that games like Fortnite will no longer require a Gold membership to play online

This Week In Gaming History

March 20 – 2006 – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Windows, Xbox 360

  • Plot:
    • A lowly prisoner has been cast into the depths of the dungeon in the Imperial capital of the province Cyrodiil.
      • The fate of this prisoner suddenly changed when the Emperor Uriel Septim descended into the prison with his guards, fleeing from unknown assassins who have already slaughtered his children.
      • But even an emperor cannot escape his destiny.
      • Before the last assassin delivered the lethal strike, the old emperor entrusted the prisoner with the Amulet of Kings and asked him to find his illegitimate son, the last of the Septim bloodline.
      • The Septims and the Amulet are the last barrier between the continent Tamriel and the dark dimension of Oblivion, and the delicate balance is threatened by the Daedra Prince of Destruction, Mehrunes Dagon, the prisoner being Tamriel’s only hope.
  • Oblivion is the fourth title in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series.
    • The game sticks to the style of its predecessors featuring action-based combat, first-person and third-person views, and vast free-roaming environments.
    • The player’s chosen race and class determine the abilities the protagonist has in the beginning.
    • The game allows the player to develop multiple types of characters without being limited to a specific role.
  • The advancement system, as was the case in previous games, is based on skill usage.
    • When the player repeatedly use one of the skills, it improves.
    • NPCs offer training (for a price) to help in advancing to the next stage.
    • In time the protagonist can become an Apprentice, Journeyman, Expert and Master and gain certain bonuses for the skill.
    • The skills of the foes are “leveled” to be approximately equal to or slightly above those of the main character.
  • There are numerous side quests which help the hero advance thier abilities as well as gain fame.
    • The player is free to roam the world without a particular goal, exploring towns, forts, caves, mines, and old temple ruins.
    • Visiting shrines scattered around Tamriel grants the protagonist specialized skills, some permanent and some temporary.
  • Weapons and armor wear out with use and need to be repaired either with the help of special non-playable characters or by using an appropriately trained Armorer skill.
    • Enhanced items (weapons, armor, clothing, rings, amulets) abound in the game for protection, resistance, reflection and special activities like walking on water, exploring underwater, becoming invisible or lightening the load.
    • It is possible to open the gates to the Oblivion realm to grab their sigil stones, which can be used to make enhanced items.
    • Higher-level mages can create their own spells, and enchant weapons, armor and clothing using filled soul gems in addition to sigil stones.
  • As opposed to Morrowind, mana points gradually regenerate over time, without the need to rest to replenish them.
    • Active blocking has been added to melee combat.
    • The game features full voice acting for all the NPCs.
    • Dialogues typically contain less topics than in Morrowind, but more responses unique to different characters.
    • In addition, the so-called “radiant AI” system makes characters follow their own schedules, engage in various activities or talk to each other regardless of the player’s input.
    • The game features fast traveling, allowing the player to instantly visit Cyrodiil’s major cities or previously explored areas.
  • Extras:
    • A PSP version was in development and planned for release in the Spring of 2007, but it was eventually cancelled with no official word.
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

March 21 – 2005 – TimeSplitters: Future Perfect – GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox

  • Plot:
    • In the year 2401 the space marine Sergeant Cortez is leaving the space station that he visited in the end of his previous journey.
    • He soon discovers that the crystals he has found can power up a time machine.
    • After having located traces of TimeSplitter activities in various time periods on the Earth, Cortez boards the time machine and travels to these periods, hoping to aid various characters in their battles against evil.
  • TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is a first-person shooter in which players battle their way through thirteen story missions spread across six time periods, either alone or cooperatively.
    • The protagonist’s arsenal varies depending on the time period he travels to: for example, traveling to 1924 will allow Cortez to wield World War I weapons; a Soviet setting in the 1960’s contains various local firearms of that time period; stages that take place in the future feature corresponding futuristic weaponry, etc.
    • In addition to fast-paced shooting gameplay there are also some stealth and vehicle-driving segments.
  • Like in the previous installments of the series, various multiplayer modes are included.
    • Players can take on computer-controlled opponents on any of the fifteen arcade maps, or make their own ones.
    • Players can also compete for awards in dozens of arcade league matches and challenges.
    • It is possible to choose from between 150 characters and challenge other players to a head-to-head battle, either with up to four-player split screen or online and LAN play.
  • Extras:
    • TimeSplitters: Future Perfect appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.
    • In Shaun of the Dead, the character Ed, is playing Time Splitters 2, which featured a zombie mode.

March 22 – 1996 – 3D Tetris – Virtual Boy

  • A 3D Tetris game with a supply of three modes:
    • A. A three dimensional well appears, large enough to hold five layers of Tetris blocks.
      • Every time you complete a layer with you falling blocks it will vanish and you will be rewarded by a hefty dose of points.
      • If you ever stack over the five layers you will lose one of your layers, once all five are lost your game is over.
    • B. In this mode you place blocks around the center of the well, any blocks placed in the center will vanish, unless the block completes a layer in which case it will vanish.
    • C. In this mode a shape will be shown before the game begins.
      • You will have to replicate this shape perfectly, even one block out of place and your game is over.
      • Succeed and after a short animation a new shape will be given.
  • 3-D Tetris was the last officially licensed game released on the Virtual Boy.

March 23 – 2010 – Just Cause 2 – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Plot:
    • Rico Rodriguez is back!
      • After liberating the small Island of San Esperito, the CIA-agent is on his way to the island paradise Panau to find a former colleague: Agent Tom Sheldon.
      • During an undercover-investigation, he vanishes and with him two million dollars.
      • Money, the Agency desperately wants back, especially as they believe that Tom changed sides.
      • So Rico has to infiltrate the criminal organisations of Panau as Scorpio to flush out Tom Sheldon and bring him to justice while plunging the country into chaos – but that’s more of a bonus than a real objective…
  • Like its predecessor Just Cause, the game drops the player on a huge island.
    • From the start, the whole island is open to be explored by the player in a third-person-shooter-fashion either on foot, by using several dozen different cars or even by using heavily armed helicopters and fast planes.
    • The player is totally free to do what he wants, although that mostly breaks down to wreaking havoc and causing chaos by destroying statues, fuel tanks and other military-owned stuff.
    • This way the player earns points which in turn progresses the story, unlocks missions and gives him access to additional stuff from the black market.
    • In addition all over the island crates are hidden containing both money and upgrade parts.
    • Once the black market helicopter has been called via a beacon, the player can order weapons, vehicles and even request a transfer to another location on the island for free.
    • Weapons and vehicles on the other hand cost money and are dropped right on the spot where Rico called.
    • They can also be improved using the upgrade parts the player collected.
  • In addition to his weapons, Rico’s two most useful tools are his parachute and his grappling hook.
    • The parachute can be activated at almost anytime, even if the player is driving at high speed along the road, and is very useful to make combo-stunts.
    • And this is where the grappling hook comes in: with it, the player can either pull enemies towards him, or pull himself towards a target – which can either be a house two streets away, or a moving car.
    • The latter allows for example high-speed carjacks which in some cases result in one of the two types of simple Quick-Time-Events in the game.
    • The other type pops up when Rico tries to unlock a gate or disarm a bomb or such.
    • Although the grappling hock was already featured in the first game, this time around it’s a dual-hook.
    • If the player has hit something with his hook, he can put the other end on another object – again no matter if it’s a solid or moving object or a random human who had the bad luck of being nearby.
    • This allows the player for example to hook a car to a helicopter, fly over an enemy base and drop the car onto the poor soldiers.
  • To keep the action focused even outside the main storyline, challenges like checkpoint-races and optional missions are scattered around the map and each settlement on the island can be cleared 100% by destroying all worthy targets and collecting all crates in the vicinity.

March 24 – 1998 – Die By The Sword – Windows

  • Die by the Sword is a third-person action game set a medieval fantasy world.
    • The player controls Enric, a knight whose sweetheart Maya was kidnapped by kobolds and who swears to bring her back.
    • The game’s distinguishing feature is its sword-fighting system, which allows detailed and precise control of the player character’s moves, giving it a fighting game flavor.
    • The game features a fairly complex and elaborate control system, with separate keys and button combinations assigned to moves such as running, jumping, slashing, stabbing, parrying, etc., which allows the player to execute these moves simultaneously in a variety of combinations.
  • A somewhat simpler control system, dubbed “arcade mode”, is also available.
    • This system limits the amount of combinations to three kinds of slashes and blocks – low, medium, and high.
    • The game also incorporates local damage system, in which wounding specific body parts will inflict different conditions on the enemies, including severing their limbs and even decapitation.
    • The game’s levels include, beside enemies, many hazardous traps that Enric will have to avoid.
  • In addition to the story mode, the game also features arena and tournament modes, which allow up to four players participate in free-for-all battles using the game’s sword-fighting system.
    • The player is also given the opportunity to create his own custom moves with a built-in editor.

March 25 – 2014 – Smite: Battleground of the Gods – Windows

  • SMITE is a free-to-play MOBA with gameplay very similar to games like Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends and Dota 2.
    • In Smite, players control gods from all kinds of religions: Greek, Roman, Chinese, Egyptian, Norse, Hindu, Mayan, Japanese and Celtic gods.
  • SMITE is a typical MOBA where in the main mode Conquest, there are two teams of five players, both having a base on the corners of the map.
    • Each base has three paths leading to it, which must all be defended in order to halt the approaching enemies.
    • After a very short time, AI-controlled minions start spawning and following all three paths.
    • These minions serve as support for the players, mainly used as cannon fodder for pushing the enemy towers.
  • All three paths are defended by two towers and a phoenix, which must be destroyed in order to advance to the enemy base and let ally minions through.
    • After a team has pushed through one of more lanes, the enemy titan has to be killed in order to win the game.
    • Between these set paths is a so called jungle, where visibility is a lot lower and several buff camps are located.
    • These jungles can be used to quickly switch lanes and flank enemies.
    • Or help out teammates where needed.
  • Aside from Conquest, SMITE also has the modes: Arena, which features no lanes; Siege, which features two lanes; Clash, which features two lanes but with a much smaller jungle than Siege; Assault, which features one lane with randomly selected gods; Joust, with one lane but being able to choose a god yourself; and a Match of the Day which switches game type, gods and conditions daily.
    • Aside from this multiplayer modes, there’s also the tutorials, a practice mode with other players against bots, and the ability to start custom games.
    • In-game events called adventures mostly feature a new temporary mode.
    • In the past these were Mario-style racing with carts, Capture the Flag, an RPG like PVE mode, and a Corrupted Arena, the Arena game mode but with the map gradually changing during the game.
  • All players start with a base pool of gold, of which the amount varies per game mode.
    • This gold can be used for buying items for the current battle.
    • More gold is earned over time, and by killing enemies and enemy minions.
    • Players also gain exp with kills and destroying towers and phoenixes.
    • This exp is used to upgrade the four skills of the god.
    • As with all other MOBA’s, skill progression and bought items reset upon the end of the game.
    • So every new game you’d have to start from scratch.
  • Unlike most MOBA’s with their isometric views, this game uses a third-person view.
    • Also, instead of using the mouse to move the character, this game features the WASD keys for moving the character.
  • Extra:
    • Since Apple released their Catalina update on 7 October 2019 and dropped 32-bit support, Smite has been unplayable on Macintosh for Mac users that had updated their system.
      • In January 2020 (before Season 7) Hi-Rez decided to completely drop support for Smite on Macintosh and remove the platform from Steam.
      • Refunds for in-game purchases (not on Steam) were given, with restrictions, up until 18 February 2020.

March 26 – 1996 – Jumpstart 2nd Grade – Macintosh, Windows…

Or…

March 26 – 2013 – BioShock: Infinite – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • In BioShock Infinite the player becomes detective Booker DeWitt who is forced to find a young woman Elizabeth to pay off his debts.
    • She is held captive in the floating city of Columbia in alternate version of 1912.
    • During his travels Booker encounters different factions within the city who are battling one another.
    • The Founders want Columbia to remain a city only for pure Americans while the Vox Populi think the city should be available to anyone.
    • The setting is built around the idea of exceptionalism with a strong religious doctrine and open racism.
    • Elizabeth is a key piece within this conflict and has a mysterious origin including her powers to cause tears in the fabric of space-time, exposing parallel universes. Booker and Elizabeth remain together most of the game and she acts on her own.
    • She does not need to be defended, tosses ammo and silver eagle coins to Booker and can be asked to pick locks.
    • They are hunted down by the spiritual leader Comstock and his troops, along with the giant mechanical Songbird.
  • The game uses similar gameplay styles and mechanics found in previous BioShock games.
    • Vigors give the player super powers to do a variety of things such as sending a murder of crows to peck away enemies or charming enemies to defend you.
    • Another one is possession used to take over humans or machines to temporarily turn them into allies.
      • Once the effect wears off, the possessed humans will commit suicide.
    • Most vigors have multiple uses either as a direct attack or as a much stronger trap awaiting to be triggered.
    • Booker can also be upgraded through four types of gear with permanent bonuses similar to the gene tonics in the previous games.
    • Different types can be equipped according to the situation.
    • The typical FPS array of weapons can be found throughout the game like pistols, shotguns, and rifles.
    • One of the more notable weapons is the Sky Hook which can be used as a melee weapon to take down an enemy.
    • Money can be exchanged at vending machines for upgrades and consumables.
    • Items are found by looting barrels, desks and enemies.
    • Vigors can only be executed when a sufficient amount of salt has been collected.
    • The three main bars visible on the screen (health, salt and shield) can be extended by locating and using infusions.
    • The story is also furthered through optional voxophones (audio logs) and kinetoscopes (film projectors).
  • Skylines provide a unique way to move throughout the world.
    • Using the Sky Hook, the player can attached to these lines and quickly slide in one direction or another.
    • These can be used to escape overwhelming situations or used to reach higher ground to gain a combat edge.

Tidbits

  • After campaigning heavily against Apple’s new tracking transparency rules, Mark Zuckerberg is now saying that Facebook could actually benefit from the change
    • He claims that it could drive more commerce to the Facebook platform by making it harder to track users without those tools, which honestly just makes me suspicious that they’ve got some kind of loophole in the works
  • Facebook is reportedly working on an Instagram for kids under 13
    • It’s a whole new demographic for them to monetize, but it sounds like a terrible idea for your children’s privacy and sanity, not to mention it could expose them to a ton of predators and danger
  • Apple’s already pushing back against the “China Advertising ID” we talked about in the last episode, sending warnings to at least two Chinese app developers using methods to track app usage without permissions
    • Many developers from independents to large companies, were experimenting with the tracking workaround but it sounds like Apple’s threats of removal from the App Store may stop this additional fingerprinting in its tracks (or at least begin a cat-and-mouse game of hacks and patches)
  • Niantic is apparently working with Nintendo on a new AR Pikmin game for mobile
  • The lead gameplay designer of Cyberpunk 2077 has left CD Projekt Red after nearly 8 years with the studio
    • Time will tell how this affects the game going forward, but considering the state the game is in currently I feel like it may not necessarily be a bad thing

Doug Hallett Graduate Scholarship in Medicine

 

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PS2J News 332 – Track or Not To Track

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Algo Bot

      • 2018
      • Puzzle game that has you maintaining a pan-galactic colony ship by managing a cute robot through a visual programming language
    • Little Big Workshop

      • 2019
      • Management sim with an open-ended sandbox experience where you start with a small tabletop workshop and expand to a desk-filling factory, running multiple production lines and managing your cute workers
  • Epic Games

    • Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition

      • 2018
      • 2D platformer and Metroidvania based on the Afro-Brazilian warrior of the same name that has you traversing the world by warping between white surfaces
      • Trials of Fear Edition adds a bunch of things like new areas, a new boss, new powers, and a new secret ending
  • Sony

    • Concrete Genie

      • 2019
      • Action-adventure game where you discover a paint brush that can bring your art to life, infusing them with different personalities and powers depending on how you draw them
    • Control Ultimate Edition

      • 2020 bundle version of the 2019 release, including the Foundation and AWE expansions, brand new to the PS5 and Xbox Series in February
      • Action-adventure game that revolves around the Federal Bureau of Control, a secret US government agency tasked with containing and studying phenomena that violate the laws of reality. You play as the new director and use your powerful abilities to defeat the deadly Hiss
      • This is a messy one- the developers set it up so that only people that own the Ultimate edition can get a free upgrade to the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles, so players that bought it in the first year of release are left out in the cold
        • They also stated that save files could be brought forward to the latest consoles from the original release if you bought Ultimate Edition on the last-generation consoles, but just yesterday they announced that there is actually no way to bring your old save file to the next-gen consoles
        • Now Ultimate Edition is being made free on PS4 and PS5 two weeks after it was just on sale, but unlike ManEater they aren’t offering any refunds for people that jumped on the deal, even if they haven’t booted it up yet while waiting for the PS5 release
    • Destruction AllStars

      • Brand new 2021
      • Vehicular combat game billed as a “global sports entertainment event where stars & cars collide”, where each hero vehicle has different abilities and once your car has been destroyed you need to survive on foot
  • Microsoft

    • Gears 5

      • 2019 optimized for the Xbox Series
      • Third-person shooter that takes place months after the events of Gears of War 4 that has you uncovering the origins of the Locust and the truth behind your family history
    • Resident Evil

      • 2015 HD remaster of the 1996 release
      • Survival horror game that helped define the genre, where you play a member of the elite task force S.T.A.R.S as they investigate the outskirts of Raccoon City following the disappearance of your team members
    • Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition (also on Epic)

      • 2018
      • 2D platformer and Metroidvania based on the Afro-Brazilian warrior of the same name that has you traversing the world by warping between white surfaces
      • Trials of Fear Edition adds a bunch of things like new areas, a new boss, new powers, and a new secret ending
    • Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb

      • 2003
      • Action-adventure game that has you taking the role of Indy as he travels to 1935 China to prevent a powerful artifact from falling into evil hands, pitting you against evil Nazis and the Asian underworld
    • Lost Planet 2

      • 2010
      • Third-person shooter set 10 years after Lost Planet: Extreme Condition where terraforming efforts have started to change the face of the planet but mankind is still locked in a civil war for thermal energy

Apple’s released updates for pretty much all of their devices except for Mac, including bug fixes, security updates for vulnerabilities that may have been exploited in the wild, and a new Unity watchface inspired by the Pan-African flag

  • Some people online think the security updates may be related to the GreyKey iPhone hacking device, but we have yet to see any solid reports
  • Related to the new watchface, as part of Black History Month Apple has also introduced a limited-edition “Black Unity” Apple Watch and sport band, using the colours of the Pan-African flag and inscribed with messages like “Black Unity”, and “Truth. Power. Solidarity.”
    • They also have plans to use their apps like Maps and Music to spotlight Black businesses, musicians, developers, writers, influencers, and news stories

Facebook is apparently preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for an unfair approach to privacy and default apps

  • Facebook is claiming that the App Tracking Transparency features, allowing users to opt-out of being tracked, are unfair because they don’t appear for Apple’s built-in apps
    • The problem here is that Apple doesn’t track users or share data for advertising purposes, so it doesn’t really apply
  • Facebook will apparently also be focusing on Apple’s refusal to allow other messaging apps to be set as the system default, claiming that limitation is an effort to prevent people from switching to competing brands
    • I’m sure this has nothing to do with them lobbying Apple in September to allow Facebook Messenger to be the default messaging app and being soundly rejected
  • The big bullet point here seems to be that Facebook’s accusing Apple of making changes to line their own pockets, while the reality seems to be that all Apple’s doing here is giving us control over how Facebook monetizes us
  • We’ll have to see if these actions actually get filed, but a lot of it just seems like an tantrum because Facebook will have to start asking permission before harvesting data from iPhone users

In related news, Google is actually pulling the tracking features from their iOS apps

  • Many of Google’s apps still have yet to submit their data privacy labels to the App Store, which will show what data they’re gathering, but in the meantime they’ve announced that rather than ask users to allow themselves to be tracked Google will instead remove tracking altogether
  • Google’s warned that app developers may see a “significant impact” to their Google ad revenue on iOS after the new policy takes effect, but if tracking is so important to their business then they could always leave it in and use the permissions prompt to justify it to their users
  • The fact that they’d rather stop than ask permission is pretty dang telling

Microsoft revealed plans to double the price of Xbox Live Gold this week, drawing so much fire that they reversed course 15 hours later

  • In their planned rollout their cheapest option would have stayed at $60, but cut down to 6 months instead of the current 12
  • The prevailing theory is that this change would have been to push more people toward Game Pass Ultimate, which offers the benefits of Gold with the Game Pass subscription service that’s pretty solid but not necessarily for everyone
  • On the plus side, now instead of doubling the price of Gold they’re keeping prices as-is and also making changes for free-to-play games to allow them online without a Gold membership
  • So it at least shows that they’re open to criticism and willing to make their services a little better instead of much worse

Disney’s making changes to its Disney+ lineup as part of their Stories Matter initiative, an effort to reckon with the company’s history of racist stereotypes and negative depictions

  • Several titles with problematic content like Peter Pan, Aristocats, The Lady and the Tramp, and Dumbo, have been removed from profiles set up for children, though they can still be viewed from regular accounts
  • When watched they also display a strong condemnation of their contents, saying that the stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now, acknowledging the harmful impact, and saying they want to learn from it and spark conversation so that parents can make sure their children have a good mental framework in which to place these movies
  • Conversations about race and stereotypes aren’t easy to have with kids, but you can’t just throw those types of racist caricatures at impressionable minds willy-nilly without doing some harm in the process

This Week In Gaming History 2000’s Edition!

January 23 – 2001 – The Typing Of The Dead – Sega Dreamcast (North America)

  • This is essentially the same game as the arcade light-gun rail-shooter House of the Dead 2, except they’ve turned it into a edu-tainment typing trainer.
    • Instead of guns, your characters have keyboards strapped to them, and instead of shooting the zombies that constantly jump out at you you’ll need to type out the words attached to the zombies in order to kill them before they crack open your head and feast upon the goo inside.
    • The game ranks you on your typing speed and provides various tutorials and other edu-tainment sundries.
  • Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game as House of the Dead 2.
    • Much like the Resident Evil series, the zombie hordes have gone from infesting a vaguely gothic creepy old mansion to infesting a vaguely gothic decaying city, and its your job to stop them and save the human race (as usual).

January 24 – 2000 – Crazy Taxi – Sega Dreamcast (United States)

  • Crazy Taxi is an arcade-like racer where the player takes the role of a taxi driver who weaves his way through crowded streets, across sidewalks, and even underwater, in a wild and frantic race to deliver passengers on time.
    • The courses are largely set inside cities crowded with general traffic and pedestrians (which can’t be run over, they dive away).
    • The main goal is to bring as many customers as possible to their destination in time.
    • Available customers are marked through circles and the color represents the distance and the fare they offer.
    • Green means long rides with plenty of money, and red ones are very short.
  • In the main Arcade mode, there is a timer that quickly runs down.
    • It can be replenished by picking up customers.
    • While driving reckless maneuvers are encouraged.
    • Players can disregard all traffic rules and customers give extra tips for speedy and dangerous driving, but these can only be cashed when the customer arrives at his destination in time.
    • By the same token, the reward at the end of a ride is based on the amount of time left, as each customer also has a personal timer.
    • The city is filled with slopes and jumps, and the game uses a very loose driving model.
    • No damage can be done to the car, so driving as fast as possible is encouraged.
    • While driving players can toy with the gears to perform two special tricks: a crazy drift and a crazy boost to speed up more quickly.
  • Next to the Arcade mode, there is an Original mode and Crazy Box where specific goals need to be met on closed down courses.
    • In the regular modes, it is possible to disregard the usual timer and play for a fixed amount of minutes.
    • At the end of the race, the player is rewarded with a license, either D, C, B or A, with S for outstanding performance.
    • Next to the interactive courses from the arcade version, there is a new course for home consoles.
    • There are four cabs and drivers to choose from.
    • The cars have different statistics and the drivers’ different attitudes while racing.
    • The game has a soundtrack featuring The Offspring and Bad Religion (not for the Xbox 360 version).

January 25 – 2005 – Playboy: The Mansion – PS2, Windows, Xbox

  • Live the life of Hugh Hefner in this “Virtual Hef” simulation.
  • As a young Hugh Hefner, it is the player’s goal to build the Playboy empire through sexy parties and putting together Playboy magazine every month.
    • Build friendships and business contacts with celebrities, political figures, musicians, sports stars and more through hosting events and charming over people.
  • On the business side, Hef has to hire a staff to take photos and write articles for the magazine.
    • The “Playboy Photoshoot” mode allows the player to take the role of photographer.
    • On the personal side, invite friends into your inner circle, and find a girlfriend… or two…. or more.
    • The better the parties Hef throws, the more fame he gets, as well as more interesting people to fill the magazine.
    • More money means a larger staff, and more items (toys and furniture) for Hef to display in the Mansion.
  • Doing well in the game earns Hef points which can be used to purchase extra features, such as cheats and archive photos of Hef and past issue covers.

January 26 – 2003 – Devil May Cry 2 – PlayStation 2

  • Devil May Cry 2 is the sequel to Devil May Cry and once again casts you as Dante, the demon slayer.
  • You control Dante as you battle demons through various levels, ultimately reaching the conclusion and to find out just why these demons are trying to kill everyone.
    • To aid you in your quest, you once again have your trusty sword and various attributes, as well as new moves, like running on walls, aerial kicks, and multi-directional shooting.
  • This time around, Dante is not alone, as you have a partner, named Lucia.
    • Just as much of an asskicker as Dante, Lucia utilizes a kind of knife which she can rapidly throw at her enemies.
  • All the special skills from the first game are here, again activated by your Devil Trigger, which has been improved for the sequel’s release.

January 27 – 2004 – Cops 2170: The Power of Law – Windows

  • COPS 2170 is a tactical strategy game of squad combat with RPG elements set in a futuristic cyberpunk world.
    • It is a prequel to Paradise Cracked, an earlier game by the same company.
  • In the game you control Katy, a new officer fresh from the academy that aims to make a solid career in the police force.
    • You will control her as your main character and recruit additional partners to undertake several missions, which usually involve combat across the urban sprawls of the future against several factions and gangs in the city.
    • As the game progresses a plot starts to surface involving a deranged criminal who aims to bring the city to its knees.
  • You can control up to 6 characters and additional backup NPCs, each with their own stats and equipment and issue orders to them on squad-based turns.
    • Since you are part of the police force there’s no resource management and instead the equipment availability is decided by your rank, which depends on the conditions in which you complete each mission.
    • The game uses a fully polygonal engine and features branching mission objectives and different outcomes based on your in-game actions.

January 28 – 2003 – Black & Bruised – GameCube, PlayStation 2

  • Black & Bruised is a cartoonish take on boxing with 18 different boxers, each with their own personality and fighting style.
    • There are five different modes including multi-player, exhibition, and a story mode told with CG with each boxer’s life story is played out in story mode.
    • Each boxer has a different special attack and power-ups can be picked up to use in matches.
    • There are 30 different facial expressions for each boxer reacting to punches and misses giving them a life-like appearance.

January 29 – 2001 – Oni – Windows, Macintosh, PlayStation 2

  • Plot:
    • It’s 2032.
    • The planet is now ruled by the World Coalition Government which annexed 80% of the countries, with the remaining quickly dragged into the WCG.
    • While their official goal was to solve humankind’s problems, it was about money.
    • Massive spending bankrupted poorer countries, and soon all traces of individual government disappeared.
    • For those who were poor, the situation didn’t improved one bit, and for the richer, maintaining the status was done at the expense of their privacy and personal freedoms.
    • To make things worse, life outside the major cities, far from the atmosphere processors is nearly impossible, as the so-called “Wilderness Preserves” are poisoned, and those who venture into them risk a painful death.
    • Konoko, fresh out from TCTF (Technology Crimes Task Force, a secret police to take cyber drugs and weapons from the streets, as well as explore the induced technophobia to operate and investigate on a blank check permission) academy is placed under the command of Terrance Griffin and Dr. Kerr and linked to a SLD – an android – called Shinatama, who is neurally linked to her.
    • However, Konoko knows next to nothing about her past, other that she was orphaned at the age of three and felt “different” to other people while was being brought up under the wing of TCTF.
    • After many years in training, she has finally the chance to prove herself to Griffin and the TCTF, and so, heads for a warehouse rumoured to be under the control of the Syndicate, a criminal organization which grew exponentially after a young man called “Boss Muro” climbed to the top of the organization.
  • Inspired by the classic Anime series Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune, gameplay is a mix between generic third-person shooter and a classic beat’em up.
    • While Konoko has at her disposal several hand-to-hand acrobatic moves (with more unlocked as the player advances), she can also find weapons in the levels, and the decision to go armed or bare-fisted is only up to the player.
    • Each weapon either draws from ballistic or energy cell clips, the number of rounds in each clip depending on the weapon: a Black Adder (a short, one-hand machine gun like an Uzi) can get 30 rounds from a ballistic clip, while a Mercury Bow (a sniper railgun sans scope) only two.
    • Combined with the limited availability of clips, this adds a strategic element to the game, as the player can only carry a weapon at a time, so if a powerful weapons runs out of ammo, the player must choose between keeping the weapon and fight hand to hand with the enemies until Konoko finds fresh ammo clips, or discard it for a lesser gun that uses different ammo.
    • However, if the player runs out of ammo completely when facing a tough challenge, Konoko can “overdose” on hypo sprays (used to heal damage) by using them over her natural health bar, which provides her with faster movement and tougher blows.

Tidbits

  • Reddit took to the stock market this week to inflate the price of stocks like GameStop in order to stick it to hedge funds that have been banking on the prices dropping soon
    • It got to the point where trading had to be frozen multiple times, and the popular trading app RobinHood took the potentially illegal position that their users are now no longer allowed to buy those stocks, only sell
    • Because of this multiple government officials from both sides of the aisle, including AOC and Ted Cruz, have called for an investigation and potential sanctions against RobinHood
  • CDPR has released modding support tools for Cyberpunk 2077, with promises to keep them up to date as patches continue being developed, so we should hopefully see some interesting things added to Night City as time goes on
  • In local news, Edmonton has a new Smash Bros inspired burger joint called Burger Brawl, that has two chefs pitting burgers against each other elimination-style each weekend with new challengers announced each Thursday. Check them out at burgerbrawl.ca

Looking forward to playing The Medium this weekend

  • The Medium is a psychological horror game played in third-person as Marianne, a medium who can travel into the spirit realm.
    • Being able to inhabit both worlds aids puzzle solving.
    • Her psychic abilities may also be used against hostile forces and are recharged by interacting with energy spots called spirit wells.
  • The Medium is developed by Bloober Team, who came up with the idea in 2012.
    • Bloober meant to enhance the immersion by changing their traditional perspective from first- to third-person and taking advantage of Xbox Series X/S’s background streaming.
    • They modelled the supernatural setting after Zdzisław Beksiński’s dystopian surrealist artwork.
    • Lead designer Wojciech Piejko said The Medium imparts the message that “there is no universal truth”.
    • Composers Arkadiusz Reikowski and Akira Yamaoka were tasked with scoring the physical and spiritual plane, respectively.
    • Using synthesiser and analogue sounds, Reikowski likened his approach to that of Stranger Things and Chernobyl.
    • Yamaoka worked on the Silent Hill franchise, which inspired the game, including its fixed camera angles.
    • He was persuaded to take on the music when Piejko gave him a gameplay demonstration. Singer Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, also of Silent Hill fame, will contribute vocals.
    • Troy Baker voices the primary antagonist, known as the Maw, for whom another actor performed the motion capture on stilts.
  • The Medium was originally announced for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U in 2012, but for want of better technology, reappeared in May 2020 as a Microsoft Windows and Xbox Series X/S title.
    • Originally scheduled for 10 December 2020, the release was eventually delayed to 28 January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic

 

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PS2J 304 News – eScooters-19

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

      • 2014
      • Puzzle platforming game where, in a Labyrinth-esque plot, Max accidentally sends his little brother away with a magic spell he finds online and has to go rescue him
    • >observer_

      • 2017
      • First-person psychological horror game following a detective that can hack people’s minds as a form of interrogation
    • Project Warlock

      • 2018
      • First-person shooter that takes inspiration from games like Blood, Doom, and Heretic, featuring non-linear levels, keys, power-ups, and secret areas as well as some light RPG mechanics
    • Forsaken Remastered

      • 2018 remaster of the 1998 release
      • Single or multiplayer first-person shooter that has you playing a mercenary looting the post-apocalyptic husk of Earth
    • Dream Daddy

      • 2017
      • Visual novel developed by Game Grumps where you can choose between seven different fathers to date, with a customizable appearance and multiple endings
    • The Flame in the Flood

      • 2016
      • Roguelike survival adventure game where you play a young girl using a raft to navigate an apocalyptic flood that has turned the world into a series of islands
    • Steel Rats

      • 2018
      • Touted as a ground-breaking evolution of the 2.5D action arcade genre, it puts you into a retro-futuristic world with a wide array of skills and physics-based motorcycle combat
  • Epic Games

    • ARK: Survival Evolved

      • 2017 release of the 2014 early-access title
      • Action adventure open world survival game that has you using firearms and improvised crafted weapons to defend yourself and your base against hostile humans and creatures
    • Samurai Shodown Neogeo Collection

      • 2020
      • The classic weapon-based 2D fighting games known to its fans as SamSho
      • SAMURAI SHODOWN was originally released on the NEOGEO in 1993, followed by its sequel SAMURAI SHODOWN II in 1994. The series became a trilogy in 1995 with SAMURAI SHODOWN III, followed soon after SAMURAI SHODOWN IV AMAKUSA’S REVENGE released in 1996. Seven years later the series returned with 2003’s SAMURAI SHODOWN V, and SAMURAI SHODOWN V SPECIAL released the following year on the NEOGEO… The new SAMURAI SHODOWN NEOGEO COLLECTION also includes a title never before released to the public. SAMURAI SHODOWN V PERFECT is a mysterious final version of SAMURAI SHODOWN V SPECIAL.
      • Also includes online fights and a museum mode with over 2,000 development documents and images, and hours of interviews with the developers
  • As part of the Black Lives Matter movement, itch.io has released the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, looking to raise $5M in an even split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Community Bail Fund

    • Over 1500 different works from almost 1200 creators, worth thousands of dollars, all for a minimum donation of $5 USD
    • Includes popular games like Nuclear Throne, Night in the Woods, A Short Hike, Minit, and Celeste
    • Also has a lot of other things like comics,  assets you can use to make your own games, tabletop RPG or LARP rulesets and scenarios, and more
    • It’s enough content that they actually updated their game library pages to include a search function, since anyone that buys it will immediately have a very full library

BLM Updates from the tech and gaming world

  • Infinity Ward updated the Modern Warfare and Warzone loading screens to show a message in support of Black Lives Matter
    • This has led to some complaining about getting politics shoved in their face, but as KingOfTheYetis said on reddit “My feeling on it is that if this screen bothers you, then you’re the problem.”
    • They’ve also made an official statement saying there is no place for racist content in their game, and they’re adding additional resources to monitor, ID, and ban racist content
  • John Boyega, the actor who plays Finn in the latest Star Wars trilogy, made an excellent speech that was captured online and quoted by the official Star Wars Twitter account, calling for an end to racism and reminding us that black lives have always mattered
    • Some on Twitter pointed out the hypocrisy though, after Disney edited the The Force Awakens movie posters in China to make him smaller than BB-8
  • Rockstar Games shut down access to Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online for two hours on June 4th to honour the legacy of George Floyd during his memorial service
  • Tim Cook released a statement on Apple.com titled ‘Speaking up on racism’, calling on everyone to look past a return to comfortable normalcy and aim for a higher future that lives up to the ideals of equality and justice
    • They’ve also put their money where their mouth is, or at least a very small fraction of it, with their new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative backed by a $100M commitment
  • Many music and streaming services around the world went dark for Black Out Tuesday on June 2nd, with Apple music calling on everyone to speak and act out against racism and injustice of all kinds
  • Sony delayed their PlayStation 5 event that was scheduled for June 4th, saying they didn’t feel that it was the time for a celebration, and that they wanted to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard

Sony’s livestreaming PlayStation 5 announcements today, and we’ve got some highlights

  • We’ll be seeing a sequel to the wildly popular Marvel’s Spider-Man on the new console, starring Miles Morales from Ultimate Spider-Man and Into the Spider-Verse
  • Gran Turismo 7 will bring us more shiny cars, beautiful landscapes, and an interesting new campaign mode that lets players unlock and customize cars by winning races
  • An expanded and enhanced Grand Theft Auto 5 will hit sometime in 2021, bringing the 6.5 year old title to yet another generation
  • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart will have the titular duo transported through multiple dimensions with full detailed game worlds loading instantly
  • Returnal is a sci-fi third person shooter where you play a pilot stranded on a mysterious world where, somehow, each time she dies she resurrects but somehow changed
  • Square Enix showed off the very pretty Project Athia, which we don’t have much detail on but is from the studio that worked on Final Fantasy 15
  • Stray is finally bringing us the full release of what was previously known as HK Project, a cat adventure game with you wandering a city as an actual housecat that I’ve been following updates since 2015
  • Another Little Big Planet title is on its way, called Sackboy: A Big Adventure, with full 3D movement and a ton of new gameplay mechanics
  • Oddworld is back with a return to its cinematic 2D platforming roots in Oddworld Soulstorm
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo looks like a first-person action adventure game from the developers of The Evil Within that has you saving the city from all sorts of yokai from Japanese mythology
  • Demon’s Souls, the original Soulsborne game from 2009 that spawned Dark Souls and Bloodborne, is getting a fancy new remake for the PS5
  • Deathloop has you playing as a Dishonored-style assassin stuck on an island filled with people trying to kill you over and over, and you need to break out of the time loop by killing the 8 bosses before midnight
  • Horizon Forbidden West is bringing us back to the world of Aloy from Zero Dawn, and it looks like a lot of fun. It might finally motivate me to play the first one
  • And the PS5 itself was shown off, and it’s pretty… well, pretty. They’ve kind of gone the opposite way from Microsoft- the Xbox Series X is like a blank computer tower or other appliance, whereas the PS5 has white curves holding a tall, thin black rectangle, kind of reminiscent of an awards trophy
    • Also has two versions, one with and one without the 4K bluray drive
    • The one without looks a lot smoother and sleeker, but I have a bunch of PS4 discs still laying around that I wouldn’t mind being able to continue playing, so it’s a tricky choice
  • The console itself will be launching this holiday season, and the games they showed will be coming in the next year or two

There’s a $5B lawsuit in the mix accusing Google of violating US federal wiretap laws by tracking the activities of users in Incognito mode

  • The class action argues that Google is surreptitiously gathering info about what people view online and where they browse while in Incognito, and deceiving customers into believing that they’re controlling what information is shared
  • A Google spokesperson said that Incognito mode isn’t built for that, but rather to prevent activity from being saved to your browser or device. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity.”
  • Some may have thought that Google themselves wouldn’t be one of those websites, but considering their business model for many years has been in large part giving away services for free and monetizing usage data, if people don’t want to be tracked they might have to try a little harder
  • The plaintiffs say the lawsuit likely covers millions of Google users who, since June 2016, have browsed the internet using Incognito mode. So with the class action seeking $5,000 each in damages for violation of wiretapping and privacy laws, the lawsuit will amount to at least $5B

Tidbits

  • eScooters from Lime and Bird are back in Edmonton, and their COVID-19 precautions seem to be putting everything on the riders
    • While they mention cleaning them when they’re put out, they’re expecting people using the scooters to use hand sanitizer before and after riding, and also mention that people should wear masks when out and about
  • Apple has recently been awarded a patent for “synthetic selfies”, allowing people to coordinate a live composite shot of multiple people that aren’t physically near each other
    • Apparently they applied for the patent back in 2018, but this is some pretty solid timing for a feature like this
  • According to the latest leaks, the upcoming iOS 14 expected to be announced this month at WWDC 2020 will be compatible with all devices currently running iOS 13, including the 5 year old iPhone 6S
  • Trump has signed a new executive order aimed at social media and how they police content, with many asking if what he’s doing is even legal
    • The new directive is looking to change a federal law that has prevented tech companies from being sued or held liable for most posts, photos, and videos shared by users on their sites
    • This was, of course, soon after Twitter called out the US president for making false and inflammatory statements about mail-in voting
    • It’s not all black and white though, as changing this law could also impact third-party counterfeit items sold on Amazon and force Uber to be responsible for sexual assaults that take place in the company’s rides
  • Zoom is developing a new end-to-end encryption service, but only for their corporate clients
    • According to CEO Eric Yuan “Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose”
  • A quick reminder, I’m still keeping my eye on ABTraceTogether and once they start using the proper exposure notification tech I’ll start using the contact tracing app and let everyone know

Upload on Amazon Prime

  • A sci-fi comedy series created by Greg Daniels, of The Office and Parks and Rec, that feels like Black Mirror meets The Good Place
  • Futuristic time when you can choose to have your consciousness uploaded to the one of a number of proprietary afterlives before you die, combining life after death with some good old fashioned capitalistic dystopia
  • Solid series, with good writing and pacing, though it sometimes feels like the writing team couldn’t decide on how to best use some of their story beats
  • The first season is definitely worth checking out, and another one is already on the books.

 

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A local video game jazz cover band releases their album. Facebook is giving away information you though was secure. Josh is an old man and talks about his oatmeal while Alan has a young hip webcomic to recommend.

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Hype trailers for hockey, for whatever reason, and YouTube disrespecting their content creators. And more in this Wednesday variety show.

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Air Pods had a secret release, Josh talks about some neat holiday gaming updates.



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Internet of things made a Bot Net, Bethesda doesn’t want people to review their games, Josh has a game recommendation for relaxation and Alan suggests a movie from a great writer director.

 

 

Extra Life 2016

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For the $1000 for PS2J Goal
Josh plays Batman: Arkham Asylum – Max Difficulty
Alan plays Dark Souls 3 – Deprived run

 

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Spotify is mad at Apple for agreeing to their terms. Game Theorist gives the Pope a video game.

Alan suggests an audio book for you to check out and Josh explains why you should play Halo 5’s Firefight.

 

 

 

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