PS2J 322 News – Anarchy! Only If I Run It

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Kona

      • 2017
      • Adventure game set in the 1970 centred around a private investigator who arrives at a snowy town in northern Quebec only to find it deserted, except for some thing that’s lurking
    • Deadlight: Director’s Cut (previously free in October 2019)

      • 2016 rerelease of the 2012 title
      • Side-scrolling cinematic platforming survival horror game that has you attempting to traverse a zombie-infested Seattle to rejoin your family
  • Epic Games

    • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs

      • 2016
      • Survival horror game originally meant to be a mod of The Dark Descent, it instead became an indirect sequel set in the same universe with a new cast and in a new time. It has you exploring eerie locations and solving puzzles while trying to maintain a grip on your own sanity
      • Amnesia: Rebirth is out on October 20th
    • Kingdom: New Lands (previously free in June 2019)

      • 2016
      • 2D pixel survival game that has you playing as a shipwrecked monarch trying to establish a long-lasting kingdom while being attacked by otherworldly monsters
  • Sega

    • As part of their 60th anniversary they’re giving away NiGHTS into Dreams if you sign up for their newsletter on sega60th.com
      • 1996
      • Action game that has you flying through a fever-dream acid trip to stop the evil ruler Wizeman from destroying the dream world and consequently the real world too
      • The development team conducted research on dreaming and REM sleep, and was influenced by Freud and Jung
      • The HD remaster is playable on Steam, and even includes the original Sega Saturn version

Apple: Hi Speed

  • HomePod Mini
    • Little ball with a flat touch surface on top
    • Lots of fancy tech to support better audio in a smaller package
      • It’ll also automatically keep in sync with other HomePods and play stereo audio if two are in the same room
    • Siri has voice recognition to personalize responses according to who’s asking
    • New Intercom features let you send messages to HomePods in other rooms
    • $99 USD, preorder on November 6 and ships on November 16
  • iPhone
    • 5G is here, for what that’s worth with the infrastructure not fully rolled out
      • We also get Smart Data Mode, so if you don’t need the 5G speed it saves battery by switching back to 4G
      • Unfortunately mmWave 5G, the tech that they were really talking up with Verizon on stage, isn’t available outside of the US so we just get sub-6GHz 5G (a boost over the old 4G LTE and with better range than mmWave, but not as fast)
    • iPhone 12
      • Design is similar to the iPhone 5, or the iPad Pro, with flat edges and curved corners
      • Same screen size as the iPhone 11, but still 15% smaller and 11% thinner
      • Screens are made of a new ceramic shield material to improve toughness (4x better drop performance)
      • Blazing new A14 Bionic processor that enables console-quality games
        • Showed off League of Legends: Wild Rift quickly, which could become the next Fortnite if Epic doesn’t get their situation sorted
      • Better camera lenses, and improved computational photography
      • MagSafe is back (kind of)
        • Similar to the Apple Watch, the iPhone now has a magnet array in its back to automatically line up with supported wireless chargers and cases
      • They’re now no longer including wired headphones or power adaptors with new iPhones, ostensibly to reduce waste and minimize packaging
        • Apparently the changes cut the equivalent of 450,000 cars worth of carbon emissions annually
        • Unfortunately the phones are coming with Lightning to USBC cables, whereas most people probably have a ton of USBA bricks laying around
        • On the plus side, the wall adapters and EarPods both went down by about $10 each
    • iPhone 12 Mini
      • Smaller and lighter than the iPhone 8, but with a bigger screen and all the same features as the full-sized 12
      • Reportedly the smallest, thinnest, lightest 5G phone in the world
      • Mini starts at $699USD $979CAD, 12 starts at $799USD $1129CAD
      • One big asterisk on those prices, in the United States at least, is that those prices are if you buy the phone through AT&T or Verizon. Any other carrier, or an unlocked phone direct from Apple, costs $30 more
    • iPhone 12 Pro
      • Stainless steel edge instead of aluminum
      • 6.1” Pro, 6.7” Pro Max (slightly bigger screen than the 11 Pro Max)
      • Even better cameras than the 12, with an additional telephoto lens
      • They’ve combined RAW photo formats with their special sauce to make Apple ProRAW, which can be edited directly in Photos and other pro tools
      • First phone camera to record in Dolby Vision HDR
      • LiDAR
        • 3D sensing tech we’ve seen in the iPad Pro, which adds a lot of features for computational photography and augmented reality
        • And it improves the focus and light quality in low-light conditions
      • Pro starts at $999USD, $1399CAD with 128GB, Max starts at $1099USD, $1549CAD
    • 12 and Pro preorder on October 16, shipping October 23
    • Mini and Max preorder on November 6, shipping November 13
  • Unfortunately there was no mention at all of putting TouchID in the power button, which would have been a killer feature right now

Epic slApple fight

  • A federal judge in the United States has officially ruled that Apple can continue to block Fortnite from its app store as they fight Epic’s antitrust lawsuit
  • Judge Gonzalez also ruled that Apple must not punish Unreal Engine or Epic’s affiliates though, so the fight remains focused on Fortnite and Epic’s decision to bypass Apple’s App Store payment system
  • The suit is expected to go to trial in May 2021

The United States Department of Justice has officially issued a statement asking tech companies for back door access to encrypted systems

  • Ringing the gong of “exploited children”, multiple governments are now demanding that tech companies “embed the safety of the public in system designs”
    • Translation: add even more surveillance of all your users and give us access
  • In effect, the group is asking for access to encrypted data via some form of backdoor meant just for law enforcement, while still keeping it secure to prevent access by hackers and other online criminals.
  • It boils down to the same fight that’s been happening for years- technology has given people a locked box that the government can’t access and some people have used that box to do bad things, so they want to take that box and drill a hole in the side labelled “Hackers keep out plz”
  • That would be adding a hell of a weak link to the kind of chains people use not just to message their loved ones, but also do their banking and keep their homes secure

Spotify, while they bang the freedom drum and crusade against Apple for allegedly tyrannical practices, has decided to threaten third party services built to transfer playlists between streaming services

  • SongShift is a slick little utility you can use to move your playlists and library between Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more, but Spotify has decided that unless they remove the ability to transfer out of Spotify they’ll be completely blocked from the service
    • Transferring in to Spotify is, shockingly, unaffected

With the release of the Quest 2 VR headset, more reports are coming in of seemingly random Facebook bans bricking devices

  • The worst instance I’ve read about was a reddit user creating a brand new Facebook account after never using the service before
    • They then merged it with their 4 year old Oculus account
    • 10 minutes later, they were banned
    • After sending in their drivers license, which is an absurd requirement for any gaming service, the ban was updated to say “We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed.”
    • And just like that, all previous Oculus purchases were locked away by Facebook with little to no recourse
  • Another redditor in the comments reported that they had something similar, where they created a Facebook account for the first time to play with their new headset but didn’t add a phone number
    • 10 minutes later their account was disabled and required a phone number to verify
    • Then Facebook demanded a video of the user so they could verify that they’re a real person
  • Facebook’s invasive data requirements have really snuck up on a lot of people, but when you have to send your passport to a social network in order to play games you’ve already paid for it just highlights the absurdity of their data gathering

Sony’s released more specs for the upcoming PS5, and the new solid state drives look amazing

  • Load times in next-gen games will likely be all but eliminated now, with their specs showing double the data loading in about 1/8th the time
  • Footage posted from the PS5 version of Spider-Man: Miles Morales shows what used to be a loading screen between areas now just throwing you in immediately
  • And since they didn’t go the proprietary route like Microsoft, you can use any M2 drive that hits at least 5.5GB/s
    • Granted that’s not a lot at the moment, but as the market catches up they’ll get much more common and Sony will be releasing a list of specifically supported models
    • And a little extra salt for the console wars, the Xbox Series X is quoted as running at 2.4GB/s

This Week in Gaming History

October 10 – 1994 – DOOM II – DOS

  • In this sequel to the original DOOM, the protagonist is still the same hero – the last remaining space marine.
  • DOOM II looks and plays very similarly to its predecessor, utilizing the same 3D graphical engine with 2D sprites for enemies.
    • The gameplay once again consists entirely of navigating the hero from first-person view through 3D environments and shooting at the demons while attempting to find the way out by flipping switches and looking for keys.
    • Unlike in DOOM, which is divided into three episodes, the 30 levels of this game (plus the 2 secret levels) form one long episode.
  • It took 24 years for someone to find the final secret for the first 100% completion, confirmed by series creator John Romero.
    • August 31st, 2018, Romero Tweeted:
    • CONGRATS, Zero Master! Finally, after 24 years! “To win the game you must get 100% on level 15 by John Romero.” Great trick getting to that secret!
    • and a follow up Tweet:
    • Secret explained: A secret teleporter is marked as a discoverable “secret”, but when you touch it, you never enter the sector. So you would never get inside the teleporter sector to trigger the secret. The only way to trigger this secret is to be pushed by an enemy into it!

October 11 – 2004 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door – GameCube

  • A thousand years ago there was a city.
    • One day the city was buried.
    • Another city was built on top, and all that remains of the previous city is a door.
    • This is where the title “the thousand-year door” comes from. It’s not known what could be behind this door, but everyone has different theories.
  • Mario can jump, run, hammer, talk to people, etc..
    • Mario finds many partners on his quest.
    • Battles play out on a stage in front of an audience.
    • In battle, Mario must keep his fans happy by executing action commands (hitting buttons at the right time during his attacks).
    • Occasionally, in battle, the crowd will throw things at Mario.
    • The player can attack the crowd at this time.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.
  • It also has rave reviews, from 4.5 to 5 out of 5.
    • From gamer’s I know of, this is the best of all the Paper Mario games.
    • Out of the 6 that have been released.

October 12 – 1999 – Jet Force Gemini – N64

  • Twins Juno and Vela, and their dog Lupus, are Jet Force Gemini, intergalactic police.
    • Their mission? Stop the evil space bug, Mizar, from his goal of galactic conquest with his seemingly-infinite army of Drones.
    • They’ll have to stop along multiple planets along the way, and assisting King Jeff and rescuing his subjects, the Tribals.
  • Jet Force Gemini is a third-person shooter which revels in making gigantic creepy bugs explode into dribbly mucousy bits.
    • The Jet Force team are given progressively more powerful weapons, from the Machine Gun, which rips through both enemies and ammo, the Plasma Shotgun, which you can charge up for some explosive fireworks, and the Tri-Rocket Launcher, which fires three rockets with every shot, sending explosive doom in the direction of your target.
    • There’s also the Fish Food, which, as the name implies, is used to feed fish.
  • Each member of the team has their own special abilities – Juno can walk through lava without any trouble, Vela can swim underwater, and Lupus can hover for short distances and travel through tight spaces.
    • These abilities are required to fully access areas that they previously couldn’t reach.
    • The team also get the help of Floyd the Droid, a hovering robot that can be controlled by player two as a floating gun with infinite ammo when he joins your team.
  • The game also includes three different multiplayer modes: Battle – featuring most options of an average First Person Shooter but with a third-person perspective, Target Shoot – a shooting gallery with a first-person view, and Racing, which includes some kart-like racing as well as old-school top down racing games.
  • I feel like this game gets forgotten a lot.
    • When people make lists of Rare Ware Titles for the N64, it rarely includes this bug stomping adventure.

October 13 – 2009 – Ju-on: The Grudge – Wii

  • When someone dies with a powerful grudge, a curse is born.
    • A series of Ju-On horror movies all by the same director have been popular since 2000 first in Japan and then remade in Hollywood first in 2004 as The Grudge.
    • This is a “haunted house simulator” adventure game where Erika Yamada comes into contact with a curse when looking for her dog in an abandoned warehouse.
    • Then when she returns home, all her family members who she meets also become cursed.
    • You play as each in first-person view encountering their own challenging episode.
  • The locations vary from a rundown factory to an empty hospital, an apartment building, a mannequin factory, and the cursed house from the movie.
    • The game is basically an interactive horror movie which tries to scare you as you explore the locations and attempt to survive against the supernatural forces.
    • The Wii remote controls the player’s flashlight and movement through the game.
    • If the player flinches at scare moments with the remote, their score goes down.
    • A person with a second remote can also trigger scary events for the main player.
    • The player must keep moving while finding keys to open doors and also find batteries to replenish the flashlight or else you will be attacked and die.

October 14 – 2014 – Duck Dynasty – PS3, PS4, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • Because
  • Hunt, race and prank to become a Robertson!
  • Take on the role of Willie’s son John Luke as he learns how to become one of the Robertson men!
    • Interact with Willie, Uncle Si, Jase and the rest of the family from the hit TV show Duck Dynasty®. Go duck hunting, varmint shooting, off-roading and play office pranks in the Robertson’s hometown of West Monroe, LA. Will you learn the way of the beards?
  • Call in ducks to your blind using a variety of calls and then fire away.
  • Hunt Louisiana wildlife including squirrels, frogs and fish for Miss Kay to cook her famous dishes.
  • Join Jase in duck call room antics as you sneak around the warehouse to trick Willie.
  • Race against Willie in an airboat as you drive across the Robertson family swampland.
  • Uncover Uncle Si’s bizarre “treasures” with a metal detector.
  • Track down pesky beavers with Phil to stop their damns from ruining the duck ponds.
  • Play through 3 game modes including the main story, duck shooting galleries and airboat racing.

October 15 – 2000 – Pokemon Gold and Silver – Gameboy Color

  • Pokémon Gold takes place several years after Red, Blue and Yellow, and puts the user into a brand new world, Johto.
    • The gameplay is very similar to the previous games, but with several improvements.
    • These include new functions for the player’s PokéGear, a Pokédex that can now be sorted by evolution type, and, of course, new Pokémon.
    • Once again, the objective of the game is to become the champion trainer, and try to complete the Pokédex.
    • To become the champion, the player battles Gym Leaders to obtain various badges.
    • Completing the Pokédex requires a different set of actions, and involves capturing wild Pokémon, battling various trainers to obtain money, and trading Pokémon with NPC’s and other owners of Pokémon games.
  • As many people our age, Pokemon was a big deal.
    • Pokemon Yellow was my first Pokemon game, but I would say Gold is my formative Pokemon game.
    • The IR mystery gift had me meeting with kids I barely knew, and forming new relationships.
    • And it was huge, literally having the new region Johto, to explore, while being able to revisit the previous region of Kanto.
    • This game has set me up for disappointment, as more powerful consoles have had Pokemon games, but never the ability to return to an old region.

October 16 – 1982 – Computer Operator – DOS

  • This BASIC game simulates the experience of running a large, multi-user mainframe system of its day.
    • As the operator, you first configure the system by choosing the memory size, the number of disk and tape drives, the maximum number of concurrent users, and the overall game speed.
    • These factors determine the difficulty of your job – which is to cope with user demands and keep the system running. If too many problems pile up, the system crashes and you lose.
  • After the system is booted, users begin to log in and do their work; you monitor the system’s status in real time, and carry out your maintenance tasks using text commands.
    • User jobs place demands on CPU time, on storage devices, and on the printer; you’ll need to balance the load, repair failed equipment, bring devices offline and online as needed, and meet the users’ storage requirements.
    • You can also force users offline, and even communicate back when they complain at you through the messaging system.

Tidbits

  • If you have an Apple TV+ subscription set to end or renew in November through January, Apple is reportedly extending them for free through February 2021 instead
  • Microsoft is working on a browser-based solution to bring xCloud to iOS early 2021, which could also mean it would run on macOS as well
  • People looking for Google alternatives will be happy to hear that DuckDuckGo, a popular privacy-first search engine, now has walking and driving directions through a partnership with Apple Maps
  • Sony announced that they’re revamping their web and mobile offerings with a brand new PlayStation Store
    • October 21st-28th we’ll no longer be able to use those systems to buy
      • PS3 games
      • PSP games
      • PS Vita games
      • Apps
      • Themes
      • Avatars
      • And the Wishlist feature is going away too
    • You can still access everything you already own, and you can buy new things through the PS Store directly on each device

Homework

  • Microsoft’s new “10 principles for the Microsoft Store on Windows”, with translation provided by the Daring Fireball
    • John Gruber: “Nothing is changing on Windows, which remains every bit as open as it always has been. Nothing is changing on Xbox, which remains every bit as closed as it always has been (which is actually quite a bit more closed than even iOS). But we’re sure hoping government regulators will force Apple to open up iOS and treat it more like a PC platform where third-party developers are free to do what they want, because we know Apple won’t do it of their own volition because we wouldn’t either if we were them.”

 

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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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PS2J 302 News – Aztec and Japanese

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Silence: The Whispered World 2

      • 2016
      • Point and click adventure game that won awards for its visuals and sound design, following a young girl lost in the magical realm between life and death, and her brother trying to bring her home
  • Epic Games

    • Civilization VI

      • 2016
      • Turn-based 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) strategy game in the Sid Meier’s Civilization series, where you develop a civilization from an early settlement through millennia to become a world power and achieve military domination, technological superiority, or cultural influence against human or computer-controlled opponents

Apple software updates

  • watchOS 6.2.5 has brought ECG functionality to Saudi Arabia, as well some new Pride watch faces to go with Apple’s new Pride-themed watchbands
  • iOS 13.5 has brought the ability to share your medical ID information during an emergency call, security fixes for Mail, mask-detection for FaceID so the password prompt appears more quickly, and most important the exposure notification API
    • Exposure notification settings are available under Settings, Privacy, Health once your region has been set up, including options to enable/disable it on demand, a list of active tracing apps on your phone, records of all requests to check your exposure log, and the ability to delete your exposure log altogether
    • Apple’s reported that several US States and 22 countries around the world have requested and received access to date, with more expected to join in the coming weeks
    • Now that this is available to the public I’m looking forward to contact tracing apps that handle privacy and device performance well, alongside giving people more tools to see if they may have been exposed to COVID-19
    • In the ABTraceTogether’s FAQ for the Alberta-based contact tracing app they mention updating once the API is released, so as soon as I see that I’ll definitely be installing it

The latest battle in iPhone encryption is already here, hidden behind NDA’s for the last year

  • Among more news of the FBI claiming Apple is willfully not decrypting the phones of suspected criminals and accusing them of aiding terrorists, and Apple replying that they seriously can’t decrypt those devices because they’re secure by design but they provided literally everything they have access to, we’re hearing more talk of the secret hacking tools that government agencies and law enforcement are spending tens of thousands of dollars on. Each.
  • Grayshift, the company behind the GrayKey iPhone brute-force cracking device we’ve talked about more than a few times over the years, apparently has an additional tool for passcodes that are too long to crack
    • Four to six digit pins can be cracked in less than a day, but adding the alphabet and increasing length can easily stretch that time to years
  • It’s a piece of software called Hide UI, and it’s basically spyware that the GrayKey box can install on devices to record passcodes as they are entered into the device
    • The idea is that basically law enforcement can try to crack the phone, then instead install the Hide UI spyware and give the phone back under the pretence of allowing a phonecall or other access to the data on the phone.
    • Then, even if the phone is locked again, the passcode will have been stored in a file that can be extracted the next time it’s plugged back in to the GrayKey device
      • According to a screenshot posted online, the GrayKey even snapshots the phone’s file system to prevent the deletion of any data, disables Airplane mode, and blocks attempts to wipe the phone
      • So now not only do we need to have long, alphanumeric passcodes for any semblance of security, but if your phone has been in the hand of law enforcement you can’t trust it enough to use it
  • One of the biggest problems with this is it’s another tool used by law enforcement, which needs to be accountable to the public in a democratic society
    • So far though GrayKey has been mentioned in court documents we haven’t seen any search warrants outlining the capabilities of Hide UI, and if it’s been in use that could be a problem when it comes to our rights and freedoms
    • Some civil liberties groups including the ACLU are concerned that, rather than disclose how the tech works and subjecting it to public scrutiny, prosecutors may be dropping cases when it comes up.
      • This previously happened with the use of stingray devices, which spoof a cell phone tower to intercept nearby phonecalls and text messages
  • And even though law enforcement sources say a warrant is required, it’s not clear whether the prosecutor or judge are aware of subterfuge and malware involved. It feels like this is moving from the territory of a search warrant and into surveillance or wire tapping
  • On top of all that, because Grayshift is using these NDA’s to prevent law enforcement from being transparent, defence attorneys may not get the same access to exculpatory data
    • One NDA from 2018 requires law enforcement to notify Grayshift if details of the tech are likely to be disclosed through something like a subpoena or court order, so that Grayshift has the opportunity to “obtain a protective order or otherwise oppose the disclosure”, so we officially have a company that could interfere with the courts and due process because they don’t want people to find out about the hacking tools they’re selling

id Software caught a lot of flak this week for the May 14th update of Doom Eternal, which added in anti-cheat software with dangerous implications

  • Separate from the Denuvo Anti-Tamper software, which is built to make it harder for pirates to crack the software through reverse-engineering, the new piece is Denuvo Anti-Cheat
    • DAC is a PC-only piece added to Doom for its multiplayer game modes, to ensure everyone’s on an even playing field, but the way it was added after the fact even for players not going in to multiplayer has many up in arms
  • The big problems with DAC?
    • It completely ruined Linux compatibility
    • It seems to have been causing blue-screen errors, performance degradation, as well as issues launching the game at all
    • It can be updated silently in the background, giving it even more access and control
    • And, because of the level of access it is set up with, it can collect information on everything your computer is doing and transmit/affect it however it pleases
      • Any security vulnerabilities found in DAC would immediately affect everyone with Doom Eternal installed, whether they wanted DAC or not
  • Things got so bad so quickly that, after a campaign of review-bombing on Steam, id has already announced plans to remove DAC in the next patch
    • They’re saying that, at the very minimum, they will consider giving campaign-only players a way to avoid anti-cheat software altogether while also re-evaluating what they use to prevent cheating in multiplayer
    • They’ve also stated that the performance issues are unrelated, and that other fixes are coming in the patch to address them, but with the way they worded it (“It’s also worth noting that our decision to remove the anti-cheat software is not based on the quality of the Denuvo Anti-Cheat solution.”) it almost seems like they’re trying to avoid a liability/defamation problem with Denuvo
  • Either way, anyone playing Doom Eternal on PC may want to uninstall the game while we wait for the next patch. Or at the very least, check your Uninstall Programs app on Windows and remove Denuvo Anti-Cheat and Denuvo Anti-Cheat Updater

Users of the popular email app Edison Mail had a major privacy breach this week, with many reporting that they suddenly had access to other peoples’ email accounts

  • A new sync feature was recently rolled out to allow connected email accounts to show up across all your devices, but there are a lot of reports from users on sites like Twitter saying that they now had full access to complete strangers’ email accounts
    • They could also see in their settings that other peoples’ devices had access to their accounts as well
  • Edison has been replying to users saying they’re “urgently working to resolve this technical problem” and that they’ve reverted the change that introduced the problem for a “small percent of our users”
    • A followup blog post says that it exclusively affected iOS users, totalling about 6,500 accounts, and was fixed 30 hours after first being reported
    • They’re also saying that your credentials weren’t exposed, but that you should change your password just in case
  • Either way, this will likely lead many to reconsider using Edison Mail going forward

The BBC has launched a new online service to let users watch or listen to programs, podcasts, and radio together remotely

  • BBC Together is available now on Taster, the BBC’s experimental platform, and can be accessed with any web browser.
  • Once one user finds a link to something they want to watch with others, from iPlayer, Sounds, Bitesize, News, or Sports, and pastes it into BBC Together it creates a new group session with a link that can be sent to friends and family
  • Each session can be watched by up to 50 people, with the host able to control the content or choose something new to watch
  • Overall it seems pretty similar to Netflix Party, the Chrome extension that lets you watch Netflix shows simultaneously online, and it couldn’t have come at a better time

Dumb news item of the week- The US Department of Homeland Security has had to issue alerts to wireless telecom providers and law enforcement agencies about potential attacks on cell towers and telecom workers

  • Apparently coronavirus conspiracy theorists have decided that COVID-19 can be spread by the new 5G cellular frequency (it can’t), and that has led to dozens of cell tower burnings in the UK and mainland Europe

Overwatch Anniversary

  • May 19 to June 9th

    • Log in for a free Legendary Lootbox!
  • Each day features a seasonal brawl

    • It runs through this list, one a day and repeats when it ends:
    • Lucioball
    • Junkenstein’s Revenge
    • Mai’s Snowball Offensive
    • Yeti Hunter
    • Capture the Flag
    • Uprising
    • Retribution
    • Storm Rising
    • Archive Challenges
      • The harder effects added to Uprising, Retribution and Storm Rising
  • During the anniversary you are able to use your in game currency and purchase any cosmetic from events that you may have missed
  • This event brings 5 new legendary skins

    • Dragoon Mercy

      • Mercy’s armour is styles like a green dragon
    • Huitzilopotchli Zenyatta

      • Pronounced Weetsee-low-potched-li (Josh’s pronunciation breakdown)
      • Huitzilopotchli is a the Mesoamerican deity of war, sun, human sacrifice and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. (Ten-o-cheetch-lon) Which is now in Mexico City.
      • His body looks like ancient Aztec stone, has a statuesque face, some omnic flare for joints and lighting, and he is wearing a ceremonial headdress and skirt
    • Little Red Ashe

      • Ashe is dressed like an armed Little Red Riding Hood
      • And Bob is the bag bad wolf, dressed like granny
    • Masquerade Reaper

      • It is very similar to the masquerade outfit in the comic, big exceptions are:
        • the lack of fluffy collar
        • his mask is not a full skull, but a gold masquerade mask with a top jaw of a skull
        • and unlike the comic, he has a full cape
        • and his shotguns are styled like handcannons with writing on the bottom
          • “Beneath your dancing feet are the tombs of tortured men!”
          • Which is a quote from The Phantom of the Opera
    • Submarine Wrecking Ball

      • The mech is nautical themed like an old diving suit
      • Hammond has a captains outfit and a big moustache
  • And again, they are giving away Epic skins with a player icon and spray with 9 wins in Quick Play, Competitive Play, or the Arcade

    • Week 1

      • May 19th to 26th
      • Carbon Fiber Sigma
      • His armour is black carbon fiber
      • With extra details and visor that are yellow hexagonal glass or hardlight
    • Week 2

      • May 26th to June 2nd
      • Fleur de Lis Widowmaker
      • Her clothing is purple and gold
      • Parts look somewhat like armour, like shoulders and boots
    • Week 3

      • June 2nd to June 9th
      • Masked Man McCree
      • A recolour of McCree making him a teal with white trim and white hat
      • His poncho reads Ranger
      • His belt buckle is HYSA
        • Given the Lone Ranger flair its probably “Hi-Yo Silver Away!”

Tidbits

  • Chrome is taking aim at bad ads with new features to block advertisements that affect your computer’s performance through either bad or malicious code
    • The idea is that they’ll block ads that use more resources or network data than the other 99.9% of overall ads, to prevent things like surreptitious bitcoin mining
    • They’ll be experimenting with it over the next few months with an expected release by the end of August
  • Spotify is continuing their slow but hostile takeover of the podcast ecosystem, with Joe Rogan hitting the service in September and going Spotify-exclusive this January
    • I understand that the money is attractive, but at the end of the day podcasting is supposed to be an open standard. Once you start limiting things to specific apps and services you’re going to lose people, especially if you go to a service with as much user tracking as Spotify
  • Twitter has started testing new conversation options, letting people limit replies to their tweets to either everyone, people you follow, or only people you mention
    • It’s not a bad idea, but it will definitely increase the echo-chamber effect that Twitter already has issues with
  • HTC is working on their new U Ear earbuds that, according to photos in regulatory documents, took some design cues from the original AirPods
    • And by “took some design cues”, I mean “they took AirPods and spray-painted them black”
  • Facebook has acquired the GIF sharing website Giphy for $400M, and has announced plans to further integrate it into Instagram and other Facebook apps
    • This is really going to highlight which companies with Giphy integration care about your data- some, like Signal or Slack, will outright tell you how they protect your data and disassociate your information from the Giphy images you use, while others are going to be conspicuously silent
  • Apple Stores have begun reopening in Canada and the US this week, with safety precautions like required face coverings, temperature checks and screening questions at the door, and limited occupancy of the stores
    • I’ll have a first-hand account of their new safety precautions after I take my computer in on Saturday

 

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PS2J 291 News – Boring School Stuff Folder

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • GoNNER

      • 2016
      • A roguelike game often described as a shooter version of Spelunky- a procedurally generated 2D platformer that has you journeying in deep and dark places for a trinket to cheer up a giant landbound whale named Sally
    • Offworld Trading Company

      • 2016
      • A sci-fi RTS from the publishers of Sins of a Solar Empire that has you waging economic warfare on Mars, using anything from corporate takeovers to sabotage
  • Twitch

    • Bomber Crew

      • 2017
      • Strategic simulation game that has you picking the right crew to keep your Avro Lancaster bomber in tip top shape and complete your World War II era missions
    • Whispers of a Machine

      • 2019
      • A point and click sci-fi nordic noir that tells the story of a cybernetically augmented detective investigating a string of murders in a post-AI world
    • Mugsters

      • 2018
      • A physics-based sandbox puzzle game that has you outrunning, outmanoeuvring, and outsmarting the aliens that have taken over Earth and enslaved humanity
    • Furi

      • 2016
      • A twin-stick hack and slash shoot ’em up bullet hell consisting entirely of boss fights. The jailer is the key, kill him and you’ll be free.
    • Epistory – Typing Chronicles

      • 2016
      • An atmospheric action-adventure typing game following a girl riding a giant fox fighting insectile corruption in an origami world

With the COVID-19 coronavirus concerns in full swing, Google has cancelled their annual I/O developer conference and many are speculating that Apple may at the very least modify their own WWDC this spring

  • Other events like this year’s Game Developer’s Conference and Mobile World Congress events were previously postponed or cancelled due to concerns about the virus
  • With supply chains in China certainly being affected, it might just make sense to delay the product announcements as well and keep the developer portions of the presentations limited to online sessions
    • It’s gotten to the point where Apple Stores have been warned that replacement devices will be facing supply constraints for the next 2-4 weeks, so be warned if your phone needs a repair you might be caught with a loaner device in the meantime
  • Apple’s even sent care packages, called CareKits, to staff they have currently stranded overseas, that include things like coffee, tea, cookies, facemasks, and an iPad
  • If you’re interested in helping fight COVID-19, you can donate your unused computer resources by downloading the Folding@home client. That will add your computer to a pool that lets researchers farm out processing tasks to see how the virus attaches itself to human lungs, which they need to understand if they’re going to stop it
    • Similar efforts have contributed to research on diseases like cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s
    • Check out the full details at foldingathome.org
  • There’s also a similar piece of software available called Foldit, but instead of just using your extra processing power it’s actually a puzzle game that has you changing a protein’s shape to block how the virus infects people. According to PCGamer, Foldit helped researchers decode the AIDS virus back in 2011
    • If you want to take a crack at it, with no medical degree required, you can go to fold.it and give it a go

What do US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, Best Buy, Walmart, the RCMP, and a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates have in common? Well according to Buzzfeed News they, along with thousands of other organizations, have been using a controversial facial recognition startup that’s facing legal threats and violating App Store regulations left and right

  • Clearview AI is apparently on a quest to create a global biometric identification system by scraping social media and the internet at large, and it’s for sale to anyone who wants it
    • They have paid contracts with organizations like ICE, US Attorney’s offices, and Macy’s, and have users at the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Interpol, and the NBA
  • The New York based startup has claimed it’s tech is meant as a tool for North American law enforcement, but it’s been used by more than 2,200 government agencies and companies across 27 countries
    • So we have this product featuring a treasure trove of identifying information on a ton of people, accessible to anyone that can pay, oh and also they’ve been breached at least once so presumably a few people that haven’t paid as well
  • The hardest part here is that the US just doesn’t have any laws or regulatory framework for this kind of biometric tracking- there’s literally no accountability for their ability to gather up this information and sell it, leading to government agencies running literally thousands searches and most likely acting on the information received
    • We could have ICE agents walking into a supermarket, scanning people, and immediately deporting them without due process or investigation
    • And this is all based on the tech of a company that can’t even keep their client list confidential
    • It’s one thing to have a database of internally gathered mugshots, or even shared between agencies, but when you outsource it to a third party whose interests are purely monetary and scrapes the internet at large for information it gets really scary
  • All in all there’s a complete lack of transparency here- Clearview is providing free trials to anyone who wants them, even officers in police departments that have explicitly banned the app, and provided its software to private and public institutions all over the world
  • This stuff is so shady that they didn’t even want their iOS app distributed through Apple’s App Store- they abused the developer program, similar to Facebook’s Research app that paid users to spy on their information early last year, so that users could sideload the app without it being reviewed by Apple
    • In a response to Buzzfeed’s inquiry Apple investigated and suspended their developer account, effectively preventing the app from running

Overwatch Competitive Play Hero Rotation

  • To make competetive Overwatch more dynamic, Blizzard has implemented a Hero Rotation
  • First banned characters are
    • Orisa
    • Hanzo
    • Mei
    • Baptiste

Cool looking game: Nocturne

  • For free on Steam, try Nocturne: Prelude
  • The game caught my eye with a bright colour pallette
    • Cool high quality pixel graphics
    • and rhythm based combat
  • Here is the copy thy have on their Steam page:
    • Rich Narrative
      • The digital afterlife survived humanity’s extinction.
    • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of a story-driven RPG set within a digital afterlife. Millennia have passed since humanity’s extinction; but somehow you’ve only just arrived.
    • Your conscience was uploaded to a world where a sentient AI has taken control, twisted creatures roam the land, and a vast corruption spreads.
    • Rhythm Combat
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat with fierce battles and unexpected challenges. With multiple difficulty options, Nocturne: Prelude is a game suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Find equipment to unlock powerful combat buffs or special abilities. Defeat enemies to unlock them in Arcade mode, where you can challenge them again for highscores.
    • Classic RPG
    • Make friends, battle enemies, and traverse a beautiful world as it falls apart around you. The perfect balance of heart-pumping musical combat, magnificent worldbuilding and deep story.
    • Nocturne: Prelude was inspired by decades of traditional RPG’s that immerse you in fantasy worlds.
    • FEATURES
    • Meet a cast of unique characters who’ll challenge what it means to be alive.
    • Explore a vast and beautiful pixel art world.
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat system.
    • Fierce battles with unexpected twists.
    • Challenge your highscores in Arcade mode.
    • Multiple difficulty modes suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Original soundtrack composed with a mix of digital and live performances.
    • Befriend a giant orange fish.
  • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of Nocturne, released for free. The main story contains about 1-2 hours of gameplay.

Tidbits

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake’s demo of officially available now, ahead of its April 10th release
    • I specify ‘officially’ available, because there was already a sizeable leak at the end of last year, with many getting their hands on the full playable demo at the time
  • Apple has agreed to pay up to $500M to settle the class action lawsuit over throttling the performance of older phones
    • The whole issue came about when iOS 11 hit, when it had an undocumented feature that managed the battery life of older phones to prevent unexpected shutdowns- benchmarks took a hit, but the devices stayed reliable
    • The problem was that they didn’t give any feedback or options for this feature until iOS 13 came out late last year, so while they’re not admitting any wrongdoing they’re still willing to pay each affected user $25 if the settlement is approved
      • As MrMcLargeHuge said in the arstechnica comments section, “They were correct from a technical standpoint, but wrong from a PR standpoint.”
  • The director of MI5, Britain’s Security Service has called on tech companies to find a way to allow spy agencies “exceptional access” to encrypted messages, and that he finds it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies aren’t able to easily read secret messages of suspects they’re monitoring
    • While he refers to cyberspace as an unregulated “Wild West” that is largely inaccessible to authorities, it kind of seems like they’ve gotten lazy with how easy it’s been to spy on users up to this point. Now that we’re putting locks on our messages they want a copy of the keys

 

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Free game

  • Epic Games

    • The Bridge

      • 2013
      • Winner of the 2012 Indie Game Challenge awards for Achievement in Art Direction and Achievement in Gameplay
      • Billed as Isaac Newton meets M.C. Escher, The Bridge is a logic puzzle game that has you manipulating gravity and exploring impossible architectures

More details on the FBI/Apple encryption argument, courtesy of Daring Fireball

  • The GrayKey device doesn’t actually break an iPhone’s encryption, it just exploits software flaws to remove the password attempt limit and then brute-forces it
  • That does mean that it will depend on the passcode used on the devices
    • A four digit passcode would take about 7 minutes
    • Six digits takes on average 11 hours
    • Eight is 46 days
    • Ten would take 12.5 years
    • If the passcode uses numbers and letters, then a six character passcode would take about 72 years to guess
  • So it’s a little unfair of us to say that the FBI can definitely crack the devices involved in crimes. On the plus side, that means if you use a passcode with both numbers and letters your data remains safe while Apple refuses to hand over a back door

Early adopters of Google’s Stadia platform, that paid $170 plus a monthly subscription for the privilege of testing the service, are starting to get chapped with the lack of updates

  • The service has been out for two months and still falls short of many of Google’s promises
  • The idea was that you could pay a subscription to play triple-A games in your browser, but at the moment the only access is available by buying the Premiere Edition which uses a special controller and a Chromecast Ultra
  • Meanwhile Google has gone largely silent, giving no word on when people can expect some of the promised features or highly anticipated releases
    • The Stadia doesn’t have voice chat, which even the Switch has an attempt at
    • Games promising 4K resolutions still aren’t hitting that target
    • Integration with YouTube doesn’t have a date for release
    • No word on when players can expect cross-platform gaming, either
    • And the big one, the promised free base version of the service, is still completely uncertain
      • This is the big sore spot, with a lot of people saying that the service could work really well for demo or trial versions if they didn’t have to pay a premium for access
  • So far it’s a subscription-based digital storefront with 26 games, only one of which is an exclusive- the other 25 are already available for other consoles, in many cases for less money
  • It really hammers home the Google philosophy- release services in beta, let them simmer for a few years, and then see if you still have a userbase. Then flip a coin on whether or not to shut it down anyway

Sony’s quietly launched a $40 controller attachment that turns any Dualshock 4 into a pro controller

  • The DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment plugs in to the bottom of the controller and, adding only a little weight, gives you two paddles on the back sitting naturally under your middle or ring fingers, so that you can press buttons without having your thumbs leave the analog sticks
  • One really nice thing about the added device is it works with no extra configuration or drivers- on your PS4, PC, wherever, the controller just now has two extra programmable buttons that can act as any of the other buttons on the controller
  • And the easiest part is that it actually has an OLED touchscreen on the back of the device where you can assign the buttons and save up to three profiles, all configurable on the device itself
  • Unfortunately it’s proven to be very popular- it was released the day of recording and it’s already sold out at multiple stores, with Amazon’s only remaining offering being sold at an extra $10 premium
  • All in all it sounds like a pretty slick device, and though it’s coming kind of late in the PS4’s lifespan there’s speculation that the DualShock 5 will have extra buttons and Sony has said the PS5 will be backward-compatible with all the PS4’s accessories

According to their latest app updates, EA is fully retiring their Tetris apps for iOS and Android

  • As of April 21, 2020, they’re shutting things down so that, from the sounds of it, even people who have kept the apps installed won’t be able to run them
  • People looking for their Tetris fix won’t have to look far though- The Tetris Co. announced that they have a new version available as a free download on both the App Store and Google Play
    • It’s pretty bare bones, with one game mode and control scheme compared to EA’s three modes and two methods of control, but they promise that this is just a foundation for much more to come
    • They also have plans to bring Tetris Royale, a mobile adaptation of the Switch’s Tetris 99, out of beta and into full release
    • Unfortunately at the moment the new core game developed by N3twork is pretty choked with ads, and the in-app purchase to remove them is $7, so with all that working against it the reviews are looking grim- 1 star in the app store, and the Google Play store has reviews complaining of bad controls and required internet connectivity.
      • It sounds playable, but a large step back from EA’s mobile Tetris games

Last week we asked:

With Byleth, being the final character to the first DLC Fighters Pack, who do you want to see in the next one?
Looking for a realistic answer, and a fantasy pick.
Let us guess which is which!
Listening to Remember The Game, Adam Blank’s retro gaming podcast
  • Dovahkiin
    • The Dragonborn from Skyrim
    • Would made a neat level and great soundtrack addition
  • With the addition of the Altair costume for Mii Fighters, is Ezio on the horizon?

Tidbits

  • Designers of the Jaws Board Game and Disney’s Villainous are working on a horror board game based on The Shining
  • Adobe Flash’s days continue to be numbered, with the latest Safari browser beta explicitly ending support for the web plugin
    • At the moment it’s disabled by default, but can still be installed and manually activated. Soon that won’t be the case for the built-in macOS browser and you may need to download Firefox or Chrome to do so
  • Beginning this February, new installs and updates of Office365 Pro Plus will include a Chrome extension that forcibly changes the default search engine from Google to Bing
    • The worst part is how purpose-built that extension is- if you already use Bing, it won’t even be installed.
    • If you want to change it back you’ll need to either find a new toggle that the extension adds to Chrome or remove the whole extension itself
    • From users to sysadmins, many are calling the change invasive and uncalled for. And I’m hard-pressed to disagree
  • Black Mesa, the glorious remaster/remix/love letter from fans to the original Half Life, has officially released their reimagined Xen chapters and is due for a full release early this year
    • Black Mesa has been around for years now but didn’t include the Xen portion of the game due to the sheer amount of work the developers wanted to put into it- the original chapters didn’t really feel like the same game, and they wanted to put even more polish into them than they did with the improved and expanded Earth chapters
    • In related news, in the ramp up to Half Life: Alyx Valve has made every previous official Half-Life game free to play until it comes out this March

We want to know:

With all these games being remastered and released on modern consoles, is there something you feel slipped through the cracks and could use a remaster?

 

For more content, Patreon supports get access to upcoming ideas and more!

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Free Games

  • Epic

    • Horace

      • 2019
      • 2D pixel platformer with a surprisingly long single player narrative that includes puzzles and minigames, touted as a contender for Indie Game of 2019

Things are continuing to heat up between the FBI and Apple over the latest iPhone unlock demands related to the Pensacola shooting have gained more publicity

  • Every time this hits the public eye government institutions and anti-encryption advocates use these examples as reasons for installing backdoors, while at the same time claiming that’s not the exact thing they’re asking for
    • They say they’re not trying to weaken encryption, and that they come up against this problem frequently, but there’s no magic way to let law enforcement in without allowing everyone else to use the same path. Daring Fireball put it really well: “Mathematics doesn’t discern between “good guys” and “bad guys””
    • We’ve even seen classic Trump rant-tweets on the subject, saying ‘they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements’, and the US Attorney General claims that Apple has provided no substantive assistance
    • This is even after they’ve successfully used devices like the GrayKey box we’ve talked about previously to access locked devices regardless of their passcodes, and the phones in question are even older, less-secure models (a 5 and a 7), so it really begs the question why are they so bound and determined to weaken encryption for everyone else
      • The iPhone 5 doesn’t even have the extra encryption hardware, called the Secure Enclave, of newer devices!
  • Law enforcement is even slowly shifting the language from “terrorism” to “pedophiles” in an attempt to work from the moral high-ground
    • It’s not that these aren’t serious crimes, but strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security.
    • Not only that, but law enforcement has other avenues for investigation than eavesdropping on communications and poring through stored devices. There’s a great example where people unravelled a dark-web site and arrested hundreds by analyzing Bitcoin transactions. Or another involving the arrests of members of a WhatsApp group.
      • But then we get people like New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance testifying before Congress with: “In fact, we were never able to view the contents of his phone because of this gift to sex traffickers that came, not from God, but from Apple. As a result, our investigation of sex trafficking was blocked by encryption.”
  • Apple’s stance remains clear- in a statement released this week they’ve said that they responded to each request from the FBI, often within hours, resulting in many gigabytes of information turned over. They’re giving everything they can
    • This hasn’t stopped people from demanding that Apple unlock the iPhone itself, but that just isn’t possible
      • It also doesn’t help that the FBI didn’t even request the device be unlocked until almost a month into the investigation, well after anything other than the full passcode could be used to unlock it
    • By design, if you use a passcode on your iPhone it should keep everything private from everyone. That’s the security and peace of mind that every single person should have.

Players Are Pushing Their Bodies to the Limit Speedrunning Nintendo’s Fitness Game

Article by Patrick Klepek, Published on VICE

  • On December 15, a player in Tokyo, Japan calling themselves Sakinyan turned on their Switch and started playing Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s terrific exercise game hybrid from last year.
    • For most people, a session with Ring Fit Adventure lasts somewhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on when you collapse into a pool of sweat.
    • Sakinyan was not engaging in some light exercise, however, but attempting to pull off the first world record run for playing through all of Ring Fit Adventure’s surprisingly long story mode.
  • Ring Fit Adventure asks if you want to stop every few minutes. This staggering feat took Sakinyan a little over 18 hours, nearly a complete day of nonstop exercise.
    • At times, they took a moment to snack. Other times, they sipped water. There was even time for a bathroom break, though so far as I could tell while scrubbing through the speedrun, Sakinyan only headed to the bathroom once during the marathon.
    • And because Ring Fit Adventure can’t take a hint, they’re also forced to tell the game they don’t want to take a break over and over.
  • At 18 hours and 55 seconds, Sakinyan defeated the game’s final boss, walked over to their timer, and clicked stop.
    • After dabbing their face with no doubt a completely soaked t-shirt, they performed a few stretches as the game’s credits rolled. There was no big celebration, no fist pump.
    • Instead, Sakinyan sat on the ground and started scrolling through their phone.
  • Most of us play games in chunks at a time, a few hours at most.
    • Though the term “speedrun” suggests one is going fast, lots of games take a long time to speedrun, requiring dozens of hours of careful and deliberate play.
    • Speedrunning is a test of skill and endurance, and while tapping buttons and analog sticks is physically draining in its own right, it’s hardly on the same level as, say, having to perform a plank over and over again.
  • It’s what makes the slowly growing world of Ring Fit Adventure speedrunning so fascinating. In its early days, it’s not one defined by glitching through in the world in weird ways because no one’s discovered anything like that yet.
    • The only “shortcuts” are to scroll the menus faster—a staple of speedrunning JRPGs—and to manage your stamina.
    • A workout that might be more effective at taking out a group of enemies might be more personally draining, forcing you to take a costly break while your energy returns. It’s a very different way to play.

Indie game dev sees big boost in sales after he uploads it to The Pirate Bay

Article By Andy Chalk, Published on PC Gamer

  • My default position on piracy is that it’s bad and you shouldn’t do it.
    • Entertainment has value, and if you are entertained then you should be willing to pay for it.
    • That said, I also acknowledge that it’s not always a simple, black-and-white situation.
    • Which brings us to the story of Danger Gazers, “a post-apocalyptic roguelite top-down shooter” released earlier this month that saw a big boost in sales after its developer uploaded it to The Pirate Bay.
  • Danger Gazers is $10 on Steam, but if you don’t feel like dropping a tenner, that’s okay too. “This torrent was officially brought to you by ShotX.
    • This is the latest DRM-free version of Danger Gazers (1.1.0), there’s no catch here, no Steam only features, just the fully functional game,” the torrent description says.
    • “As a developer, my only request would be to consider supporting and buying in case you like Danger Gazers and want more indie games in the future.”
  • The developer, Shota Bobokhidze, went deeper into his reasons for sharing the game on TPB last week on Reddit.
    • “There are people who can’t afford the game, some want to play the game before buying, some that never buy games. Just trying to help those people out and make the best of the situation,” he wrote.
    • “There are a lot of ways to show support if you want to without buying the game, such as spreading the word about DG, sharing the torrent, feedback, whatever it is you can come up with. And finally, I hope you have fun and enjoy the game!”
  • The TPB release wasn’t a “planned PR move,” Shota told TorrentFreak, and he didn’t promote it on social media or his studio website, as he wanted to reach out to the pirate community specifically.
    • Nonetheless, the response so far has been “amazing,” There’s also been “a noticeable boost in sales,” which he specified to Polygon as a 400 percent increase in sales over launch day.
    • “And it didn’t stop there, some kind individuals went out of their way to donate more than twice as much (as the $10 purchase price) and I received countless emails from all the people who showed their support,” he said. “I’m thankful that my message was clear and thankful for all the support.”
  • The Steam numbers are still dire: Steam Charts indicates that Danger Gazers’ all-time peak concurrent player count is 7, which isn’t great. But it’s also available (and currently on sale) on Itch.io, which is apparently where supporters ponied up extra cash. (Itch.io enables purchasers to pay more than the list price for games if they want to.)
  • Shota said in his Discord server that he’s also planning on setting up a Patreon so fans can support ShotX’s work more easily.

SpaceX is nearing the next milestone towards sending a human crew up to the International Space Station, by blowing up one of their rockets

  • As part of the safety requirements from NASA, they need run an in-flight abort test to prove that they’re prepared in the case of a rocket malfunction during launch
  • What will happen is partway through the test launch the crew module will fire a set of escape engines and separate from the booster, going off to land in the ocean
  • The Falcon 9 booster will fall back to Earth, being torn apart as it descends into the water
  • It should be a pretty interesting show for anyone watching at 8AM ET on January 18th

 

Overwatch Lunar New Year starts!

The Year of the Rat hits Overwatch from day of recording, January 16th, and goes all the way to February 5th.
The announcement was followed by a clip of the Sombra skin. It is called Face Changer Sombra. She has a headdress an the mask changes periodically. It is based on someone performing Bian Lian, which translated to ‘Face-Changing’, an ancient Chinese dramatic art that is part of the more general Chinese opera. Performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music. They also wear vividly colored masks, typically depicting well known characters from the opera, which they change from one face to another almost instantaneously with the swipe of a fan, a movement of the head, or wave of the hand.
Doomfist’s Epic skin is called Monk, and his Doom Fist is gold with purple highlights. It also has the chinese character, Jingang, which is a Buddhist monastery in Kangding, Sichuan, China. He has a shaved head, white eyes, and his clothes have the style of being held on with bindings.
Winston’s Epic skin is called Ancient Bronze. The metal looks like an old patinaed bronze with Jade decoration in it.
Hammond’s Epic skin is called paper cutting. It looks as if the red paint was cut away to reveal a white floral pattern. Paper-cutting is an old art form that has roots all over the world, but is popular decoration during Chinese New Year.
Brigitte has a Legendary skin called Opera. She appears to be dressed as if she were performing in a Chinese Opera. Her shield is very ornate, with a fine China like border, and a large flower in the center.
Lucio’s Legendary skin is called Samul Nori. Samul nori is a traditional Korean style of music. Samul means for objects, and nori is To Play. It involves performers playing music on: a kkwaenggwari which is small gong; a Jing which is a larger gong;  Janggu which is an hourglass-shaped drum; and a Buk, and a barrel drum similar to the bass drum. This music is commonly played for traditional festivals, which Lucio looks dressed for. And his gun, looks like a drum.
Moira has a Legendary Skin called Mask Dancer. It is in the same vein as Orisa’s skin last year, where they are both Mask Dancer performers. Her belt has a mask look at the buckle. And she wears a red mask that has a yellow fire effect coming from the eyes.
Other event unlocks:
  • Bastion Emote: Kite Flying
    • Bastion flies a rectangular Korean style kite, and it flies away on him
  • Hanzo Emote: Sky Lantern
    • Hanzo pulls out and lights a paper lantern that flies gently into the sky
  • Bastion Victory Pose: Hot Soup
  • Pharah Victory Pose: Lion Mask
  • Torbjorn Vistory Pose: Fire Work
  • And a Junkrat gets a new Highlight Intro: Feast
    • It is Junkrat, suffed full of dumplings, and is a mirror of Road Hog’s Highlight Intro where he eats all the steam buns.
  • And a handful of sprays and voice lines

Jeff Kaplan talked about Role Queue changes they have been testing

On the Overwatch Forums, Jeff dropped a huge comment about changes they have tested internally. These are his words.
  • In early December, we were brainstorming ways to shorten DPS queue times and the idea was proposed to try changing the role queue team composition to be 1 Tank, 3 Damage, and 2 Support.
    • Our matchmaking engineers did some modeling around queue times, expected behaviors etc. and all indications pointed to an overall positive improvement to all queue times under a scenario like that.
  • From a design perspective we were reluctant for a number of reasons. Before implementing 2/2/2 role queue, we had done experiments with the team compositions being 1 Tank, 1 Support and 4 damage.
    • The playtests under a 4-1-1 comp were terrible. The problem was the solo support.
    • As a solo support, you felt unable to keep the rest of the team alive.
    • Added to that, at all times, you had 5 very aggressive players prioritizing you as the target every time.
    • As soon as the support player on one side died, the entire team would fall like a house of cards.
  • So when the idea of trying 3-2-1 came up, we were hesitant because of our poor playtests with 4-1-1. But we did something interesting in December and I am really proud of the team for sticking with it.
  • Internally, for the past two months, we changed the game to be based on 3-2-1 composition.
    • When we queue for our playtests, we only get 1 Tank per team for each match. We decided to “live with it” for December and January because we felt like the easy and natural thing for us all to do, is just say, “hey this is different and here are all the problems with it” and dismiss the system.
    • But by forcing the team to try it out and live with it for so long, it’s challenged us to try to solve some of the problems that have surfaced.
  • And there are a number of challenges.
    • First, there is the issue of what players have come to call “off tanks”. The biggest issues center around D.Va, Zarya and Roadhog. The current playstyle of those tanks (if you’re adhering to various metas that have existed) is to pair them with other “main tanks”.
    • Roadhog is a great example.
      • Is the correct thing to do for Roadhog under that design to try to make him more “main tanky” or is the correct thing to do to simply move him to the Damage role and balance him as a damage character?
      • We’ve tried both in our months of testing.
      • If you were to come and play Roadhog today with us in our 3-2-1 experiment, he’s moved from the Tank to the Damage category, he only has 400 health, Take a Breather only heals and does not do damage reduction and there were a bunch of DPS changes to his scrap gun.
      • Now, don’t freak out. We’re not doing this for 2-2-2… I am only sharing the design experiment that’s going on here. Maybe a better direction for Roadhog under 3-2-1 is some sort of team damage reduction ability?
      • How do you take what is essentially an “off tank” and make him a “main tank”? That is what we would have to explore with any of these tank characters.
      • Since the Tank roster is already one of the more limited character selections, we’re obviously not crazy about removing choice from Tank players. And if our stated goal is to improve queue times, did going to 1 tank actually remove a bunch of otherwise tank players from the queue?
      • Or were some of these “tank” players actually damage players who wanted a faster queue time so they picked Roadhog? Obviously, complicated questions and it is even more complicated to be confident in an answer.
  • The other fear around a 3-2-1 comp is the importance it places on the Tank player.
    • In our playtesting, this has manifested itself in two notable ways.
      • 1) Some players feel a lot of pressure to choose the “correct” tank. If there is only one tank, the team has a very strong opinion about who that tank should be. Another fear around this issue is that metas will be even more limited as players tend to take the “path of least resistance” towards their hero choices. If Reinhardt is deemed meta, do we only see Rein from now on? Are we all mad at our tank player if they play the hamster?
      • 2) Some tank players felt a tremendous anxiety about their performance in the match. They felt like being the lone tank put a lot of pressure on them and if they died, it was a really big deal.
    • Some of our tank/support players who would occasionally play tank stopped playing tank during 3-2-1 and only gravitated toward support because they felt intimidated to be “the main tank” and have so much focus on their play. Conversely, there are a number of main tank players on the team who actually enjoy the added spotlight.
    • Traditionally in video games there are different personas that are attracted to roles in games: Tank, Support, Damage etc. We saw this in WoW and we see it in OW.
    • While these are stereotypes (and you have to be really careful assuming too much here), there are many Tank players who love being the “lone tank” and carrying the team to glory. Watching this play out in our weird, internal experiment has been fascinating.
  • Our support players have given mixed feedback on the experiment as well.
    • On the negative side, people feel bad when the lone tank dies.
    • On the positive side, many support mains have commented that they feel like they have more freedom to focus on other players and not just “try to keep the big bags of hitpoints alive all match”.
    • In general, these matches are more chaotic and (I’ll touch on this later) feel “more FPS-y”.
    • The result is good or bad, depending on the type of player you are. For some of our support players, this makes matches more exciting.
    • EVERYONE is taking a lot more damage under 3-2-1. for some support players, the chaos causes negative anxiety and they prefer just healing tanks.
  • Speaking of Teamplay, one of our testers who did not like the experiment made a comment that he felt like 3-2-1 detracted from teamplay too much.
    • I found this fascinating because in 2013/2014 every decision we made was to embrace/encourage/force teamplay at all costs. We put so much effort into putting the focus on team victory/defeat rather than individual performance.
    • But in 2020, I feel like the over-emphasis on teamplay (while great for hyper competitive players and situations such as OWL), causes a lot of psychological pressure for your average player just looking to blow off steam in a video game.
    • I guess what I am saying is, that in 2020, feeling like you can deviate from teamplay a little bit in OW and have some success feels like a good thing, not a bad thing to me. The other analogy I’ve used (and I know you all hate my sports analogies) is that OW – in it’s current evolved form – feels like a football game (American) to me where every match is 4th down on the goal line.
    • The amount of team synergy and execution required to pull off a victory is exciting… but also a little intense.
    • There is something nice about a more loose/skirmishy version of the game – but again, it’s all opinion and perspective. Not everyone on my team agrees with me and that’s a good thing.

 

Tidbits

  • It sounds like Apple’s latest AirPods Pro firmware has improved audio performance, but at the cost of noise cancelling quality
    • It’s so bad that Apple has since pulled the update, but many users likely already have it installed as the update is automatic with no way to opt out or even be notified
    • If you go to Settings > General > About > AirPods Pro, and see firmware 2C54, then you’re unfortunately already affected and there’s no way to roll back- you’re stuck until Apple releases a fixed version
  • Apple has launched a replacement program for their iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR Smart Battery Cases
    • Apparently cases manufactured between January and October 2019 are experiencing charging issues, including problems with the case itself charging or it not charging the iPhone properly, so if you’re seeing similar issues you should go to an Apple Store for a free replacement
  • Lawmakers in the EU are debating standardized portable device ports this week, after their relatively weak encouragement toward micro-USB back in 2014
    • This might even be a good time for it as well, with USB-C becoming the de-facto standard for a lot of phones, tablets, and even laptops already
  • Cyberpunk 2077, originally slated to be released on April 16th, has been pushed back to the 17th. Of September.
    • CD Projekt Red released a statement saying the game is playable but needs more testing and polish

Smash Bros Update

  • Smash director Masahiro Sakurai has announced that Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses will be the 5th DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros Ultimate!
  • Both male and female versions will be in the game. Byleth wields 4 weapons from the game including the Sword of the Creator.
  • Byleth comes with the Garreg Mach Monastery stage and several Fire Emblem: Three Houses tracks.

Who is Byleth?

  • Byleth is a playable character and the main protagonist in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
  • As an Avatar, their name, gender, and birthday are customizable.
  • Byleth serves as a professor at Garreg Mach Monastery.
  • They possess the mysterious Crest of Flames and can wield the Sword of the Creator.

With Fighter Pack 2 on the horizon

Who would you love to see in Smash Ultimate?
Both realistically and fantasy?

 

 

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