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 games

  • Microsoft

    • Inside

      • 2016
      • The spiritual successor to Limbo, Inside is another deceptively simple platformer where you control a small boy in a big, very dangerous world
    • Big Crown: Showdown

      • 2019
      • Four player action/fighting/party game with one-button combat that has you dodging obstacles and slamming into your friends on an auto-scrolling level
    • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

      • 2007 re-release of the 1997 title
      • Platform adventure action that introduced non-linear levels and RPG elements to the series, following four years after the events of Rondo of Blood, and featuring Dracula’s son Alucard exploring his father’s castle
    • Meet the Robinsons

      • 2007
      • Video game tie-in to the Disney animated film, it has you helping Wilbur Robinson save the future by travelling to the past and putting things back in order.
  • Epic Games

    • Overcooked

      • 2016
      • A co-op party game where you and up to three friends work together in a kitchen to prepare meals, working around fires, shifting floors, and other obstacles
 

China is forcing tourists to install malware on their phones to enter the country

  • Foreigners crossing some borders into the Xinjiang region are having their phones seized by border guards and being forced to install a piece of Android malware that gives a ton of data to the authorities
    • Analysis of the app shows it gathering all of the phone’s calendar entries, phone contacts, call logs, and text messages, then uploading them to a server
  • The malware also scans the device for a specific set of files, including extremist Islamic content, academic books on Islam by leading researchers, PDFs related to the Dalai Lama and even music from a Japanese metal band Unholy Grave (who have a song called “Taiwan: Another China”)
  • Apple users aren’t safe either- it also appears that there are machines for searching iPhones at the border, since iOS doesn’t give the same access to apps that Android can, but that hasn’t been confirmed
  • This is yet another piece of oppression against populations in the region that are already subject to physical searches and CCTV facial recognition. Be careful out there
 

Samsung is being hit with a lawsuit from Australian consumer watchdogs

  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suing them for ads showing a swimmer using the device while sitting at the bottom of a pool or while in the ocean
  • According to the lawsuit, the ACCC says they did not know or test the effects of pool or saltwater exposure
    • One thing to note here, if you’ve ever tried to use a wet touchscreen phone you’ll know that it’s inaccurate at best and impossible at worst with that conductivity all over the place
  • Either way, Samsung’s Galaxy phones are marketed as being resistant to water 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes, but the ACCC contends that does not cover all types of water so they might have a case
 

Researchers have shown a proof-of-concept attack that involves using a drone to project fake street signs on the side of a building

  • In a video posted online they successfully tricked a Mobileye driver assist system into thinking the speed limit jumped from the actual 30km/h to 90
  • Mobileye says they don’t believe this counts as spoofing because a human would not be tricked, but once we get into self-driving cars any time a computer accepts illegitimate input that’s going to be a problem
    • Even if the system relies on other sources like GPS to verify the speed limit, this is one more safeguard removed
  • I could almost see this happening in the next Mission Impossible, where an AI driven vehicle is redirected by fake signs and a spoofed GPS signal projected from a drone tailing it
 

The Google exec in charge of the new Stadia game streaming service says he thinks data caps won’t be a problem, proving that humans can function normally with their head lodged firmly in the sand

  • When pressed he said that he expects data caps would be raised because “ISPs are smart [and] they understand that they’re in the business of keeping customers happy and keeping customers with them for a long time,”
  • With the service taking up to 16GB per hour, using up 1TB within 65 hours of gameplay, the rules might be a little different than he’s expecting even before looking at internet providers’ history of nickel and diming consumers into the ground
 

Good news for Shenmue III backers disappointed at the move from Steam to Epic- you can now get a refund

  • During the 2015 Kickstarter campaign fans were told that it would be coming to Steam (and also that it would arrive December 2017, but that’s Kickstarter for you)
  • Then during this year’s E3 the developer and publisher revealed that the PC version would be exclusive to Epic Games
  • At first all the refund requests were being denied, leading to many angry comments on the campaign’s page, but now apparently they’ve reversed that decision thanks to Epic covering the refunds so that the development funding isn’t affected
  • All in all it’s a classy move from Epic, but highlights the problems with these kind of storefronts locking consumers in. These are the new console wars
 

Tidbits

  • After the revelations about Amazon employees storing and reviewing recordings of Alexa conversations we covered in 246 and 249, it’s come out that Amazon keeps recordings of Alexa commands “until the customer chooses to delete them”
    • You can delete them under the Alexa Privacy section of your Amazon account, but if they’re relying on users to tell them when to delete them then they should really tell us
  • A random new quality of life feature called FaceTime Attention Correction is hitting this fall in iOS 13, which makes on the fly adjustments while using the video chat to make it look like you’re making eye contact
  • Exciting news- After more than a couple false starts trying to hit the big screen, Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel is officially being adapted into a streaming series on Netflix
  • Everyone needs to go check out the ridiculously unusable website userinyerface.com
    • Made by a design firm, it puts you through a gauntlet that breaks every web form common practice in the worst ways
 

Alan recommends

Shopping at your local farmer’s market

 

Literally Misleading

Game – With little information, and being a little special, the protagonist chases after their son’s captors, after warming up to the world.
 
If you have a Literally Misleading Description, message Josh directly on our Discord, or Twitter @fushigiyami
 

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And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
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Netflix has a fun update that flew under our radar. Bungie breaks free from EA. This week’s bad description, might be too easy. Alan gave a movie a shot when he expected the worst.

I want to not have to use ‘fans’. Cause they are the friends we haven’t met yet, and friends are just the family you aren’t born to. That logic, I’m going to refer to our listeners as ‘fanily’

Netflix has a cool little update!

Bojack twitter posted an update

  • Unflattering pic

You can change your profile pic to be a character from many other Netflix exclusives

  • Bojack
  • Big Mouth
  • Stranger Things
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Defenders
  • Total of 25 different categories
    • Including “The Classics” which is the updated original pics

Choose Your Own Adventure publisher suing Netflix over Bandersnatch 

  • Bandersnatch is really interesting! 
    • Choose your own adventure show
    • Part of the Black Mirror universe/collection? 
  • Thanks to Alaina for telling me to check it out!

Sonic Crash Course Board Game 

BoardGameGook Details

  • 2 – 4 Players
  • 30 – 45 min playtime
  • Weight 2/5
  • Designed by Sean Mcdonald
    • Train Heist (2013) 6.7 on BGG
  • Published by IDW
    • Machi Koro

Best review is based on the Kotaku Review

  • Review written by Luke Plunkett
  • Pick your miniature!
    • Sonic
    • Tails
    • Knuckles
    • or Eggman
  • Gameplay has players building the track as they move forward
    • Items appear to give players a boost
    • Almost like Mario Kart
    • Spikes and enemies can also pop up on the track
  • I am interesting in playing it at a cafe
    • The theme looks on point
  • The concern is variety
    • The variety of track pieces seem lacking
    • Luke suggests a board game called Battle Racers, for a more in-depth race experience

Reminder- The Wii Shop Channel is closing on January 30th!

  • Make sure you’ve purchased and downloaded anything you wanted and put it on the consoles you like, because everything from re-downloading to the Wii System Transfer Tool will be shut down

Update: The Twitter account for the Westworld mobile game we talked about last week has announced that it has been removed from app stores effective immediately, and it will officially be closed on April 16th. In-app purchases have been disabled, and any users with in-game currency left over should spend it before things are shut down

  • It looks like the “amicable solution” here was for WB to completely bail on the entire product

Big news from Bungie- after 8 years they’ve officially cut ties with Activision

  • It seems like things came to a head after Activision expressed disappointment with the new Destiny expansion during an earnings call, basically complaining that it was too focused on end-game players and how they want to “drive stronger engagement and in-game revenue generation”
    • Many were worried that this was a signal the micro-transactions would go back to how bad they were when Destiny 2 first launched, with a lot of content locked away behind dollar signs
  • Bungie released a statement thanking Activision for their partnership, and announced that the publishing rights to Destiny will go with Bungie when they leave
  • Looks like even though they’re working on new projects the Destiny community can still look forward to content and support while Bungie self-publishes their content
  • That said, it’ll be interesting to see how the game evolves- Activision likely wasn’t behind all of the problems with Destiny, but if nothing else this will mean the game stays more true to a single company’s vision. Time will tell what that vision is like

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is in the news this week after its director apologized for forcing characters into a heterosexual marriage

  • The game has previously been hailed as a step forward, in which you can play as a man or a woman (a series first) and, though you’re presented with a potential partner of the opposite sex, you can choose to pursue same-sex romance options (or just run around and not romance anybody, as you prefer)
  • Unfortunately the latest DLC pack, Legacy of the First Blade, breaks that thread and has your character getting married and pumping out a kid
  • It may seem like it’s not a big deal but these kinds of games have players building up a personal story for the characters and how they interact, and this kind of sudden jarring change removes a whole layer of immersion for many players
    • A lot of fans feel that it’s entirely at odds with how the main character is developed leading up to that point, with little to no motivation for the sudden personality switch
  • According to creative director Jonathan Dumont the intention was that it was a child to carry on your bloodline to the lineage of assassins shown elsewhere in the series, and to let players choose between a utilitarian view of continuing your legacy or forming an actual romantic relationship, but the clarity and motivation was poorly executed
    • There are no plans to change the current DLC, but he’s said that future chapters will be mindful of how they missed the mark

Apparently EA just can’t get enough hate as it is, so they’ve gone ahead and cancelled yet another Star Wars game

  • This one has a bit of a history- it started at Visceral Games, and would have been a linear action-adventure game directed by Amy Hennig, the same woman that directed the Uncharted franchise
  • Then EA closed Visceral back in 2017, and rebooted the game at EA Vancouver into something open-world with the excuse that single-player linear games are dead
    • Thank you Spider-Man and God of War for proving them oh so very wrong
  • There are rumours that this one (where you would play as a scoundrel or bounty hunter exploring various open-world planets and working with different factions) was cancelled because it wouldn’t come out soon enough, which seems like a weird reason to keep rebooting projects
    • Apparently they might be starting work on another smaller-scale Star Wars title, but people aren’t holding on to much hope that it will amount to anything
    • For me, hope for a good SW game from EA died with 1313
  • On the plus side, Respawn’s Jedi: Fallen Order is still slated for a fall 2019 release. So that’s something

Interesting legal news from the US- federal judge Kanis Westmore has ruled that FaceID and TouchID can’t be compelled by law enforcement

  • Ruling basically applies the same rights against self-incrimination to biometrics that previously applied only to passcodes
  • Westmore wrote: “If a person cannot be compelled to provide a passcode because it is testimonial communication, a person cannot be compelled to provide one’s finger, thumb, iris, face, or other biometric feature to unlock that same device. The undersigned finds that a biometric feature is analogous to the 20 nonverbal, physiological responses elicited during a polygraph test, which are used to determine guilt or innocence, and are considered testimonial.”
  • This could still be overturned, and there are already cases where judges have allowed authorities to compel biometric phone unlocks in the past, but it shows that the legal system is slowly catching up with modern tech
  • In the meantime, just a quick reminder since I’m a paranoid guy, if you restart your phone or bring up the emergency screen on an iPhone by hitting the power button 5 times quickly it will disable TouchID and FaceID, and force a passcode unlock which has always been protected

Tidbits

  • Netflix is being sued over their interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
    • Apparently they’ve been in negotiations with Chooseco, a publishing company specializing in children’s books, over the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark for years but never actually gained permission to use it
    • Chooseco is suing for $25M in damages, saying Bandersnatch benefits from association with the Choose Your Own Adventure series without actually getting the license to use the name
  • The final season of Game of Thrones will be coming on April 14th, and they released a teaser on YouTube to get the hype-train rolling!
  • PlayStation VR has released its third digital “demo disc”, featuring superstars like Moss, Thumper, Superhot VR, and Astro Bot Rescue Mission
  • There’s an interesting theory going around that Facebook’s ’10 Year Challenge’ could be a way to train facial recognition on age progression
    • Rather than having to comb through user photos, they’re having clean, simple, helpfully labelled sets of photos that they could use to teach computers what people are likely to look like as they get older

Titans mini-review

  • Pretty solid, once they got “fuck Batman” out of their system
  • Took the characters in interesting directions, and gets you invested right before the evil season finale cliffhanger

Recommend Venom (2018)

  • I was expecting some mindless action, but I found myself caring about the plot and characters
  • The symbiote’s characterization is a little sudden, but it felt fresh and interesting
  • Solid superhero movie even for people that don’t like Spider-Man