Free Games

  • Twitch

    • The Academy: First Riddle

      • 2020
      • Adventure puzzle game along the lines of the Professor Layton series, with modernized Harry Potter style aesthetics
  • Epic Games

    • Sunless Sea

      • 2015
      • Survival / exploration RPG with roguelike elements that has you piloting an underwater steamship as a captain whose background, ambitions, and victory conditions are customizable, but you have to contend with procedurally generated maps and permadeath
  • Bonus round: Sony’s announced the return of their Play At Home program, kicking off four months of Playstation offers on March 1st

    • First introduced last April when they gave away Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey to everyone, not just PS+ members
    • This time around we’ll see Ratchet and Clank (PS4) for free during the month of March
      • 2016
      • Reimagining of the original PS2 game, a third person science fiction action adventure shooter with a lot of weird, over the top weapons, solid writing, and great gameplay
    • And then on March 25th they’ll be offering an extended free trial of the Funimation and Wakanim anime streaming services
    • Those are just the first couple of perks, so we’ll make sure to give you updates as we see them

Australia’s working on a law that would require any site linking to a news publication to pay for the privilege

  • Going pretty hard against the principles of the open internet, from what I understand the proposed law would require sites like Google and Facebook to pay news sites for the ability to host links to them
    • Keep in mind, this is just linking. Google’s AMP pages and other ways of getting around ad revenue aside, vanilla links are the backbone of the internet
  • The most bonkers part of this law is that news sites could create their own Facebook pages, link to their news sites, and then charge Facebook for the link
  • I can’t imagine this law getting passed in its current form, but Google has already started making deals to pay for the links and though Facebook initially fought back (yay Facebook, is a phrase I never thought I’d say), they walked their position back and started quietly making deals too

There’s a proposed class action lawsuit in play alleging that Google lied about Stadia’s capabilities in order to lock in subscribers

  • The suit claims that, when it was first announced in 2019 Google, Bungie, and id Software misled gamers by claiming that the cloud-based gaming service was more powerful than the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro combined, and that every game on Stadia would be playable at 4k resolutions
  • Directly prior to launch Google apparently quietly walked back those claims, particularly for people with slower internet connections
    • Apparently there was even a Twitter announcement about Red Dead Redemption 2 specifying that users didn’t need high speed internet for 4k/60fps, which was later deleted
    • The suit says that because of the earlier inflated specs Google was able to lock in a large customer base through preorders for its subscription service, essentially hooking gamers into being beta testers before the later free release in 2020
  • The plaintiff is seeking monetary damages for current and former Stadia subscribers, as well as a court order requiring Google to publicly display the resolution and FPS of each game they sell on Stadia

Sony’s announced some details on their next-generation VR headset, and it sounds pretty slick

  • They’ll be bringing features from their excellent DualSense controller to the new motion controllers
  • It will apparently connect to the PS5 using a single cord
  • They say it will have an enhanced field of view, tracking, input, and resolution
  • But it won’t be out any time this year
  • My thoughts
    • Haptic triggers would be really cool in VR, and better tracking would be a godsend for the platform after they used the old PS3 technology in the first gen, but the freedom of wireless VR is a hard perk to give up. They’re going to have to work hard to make it worthwhile

Everyone hoping for Anthem to join the ranks of No Man’s Sky and Final Fantasy XIV and rise from its ashes can now stop holding their breath- it’s officially cancelled

  • Bioware released a statement this week letting everyone know that they’ve stopped development work on Anthem NEXT, citing the additional pressures of 2020 impacting their productivity and preventing them from doing everything they had planned
    • Honestly though, it just seems like they bit off more than they could chew and they’re cutting their losses on Anthem. It had a ton of potential, but I’m sure their other titles are just a higher priority based on the amount of money they can pull in.
  • Anthem’s current live service is still up and running, but the improvements that have been teased won’t be released to the general public while the developers focus instead on the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect titles

This Week In Gaming History

February 20 – 2003 – Train Tracking – Windows

  • Train Tracking is a game about one of Britain’s more bizarre past-times, Trainspotting.
    • You start the game with only an overhead view of the station and a list of serial numbers.
    • The point of the game is to check them off as the matching train passes through.
    • For each Day (Day is the name for a level in this game, there’s totally 29) you play the number of serials and tracks to view increase.
    • There is a time limit for this and if you fail three times it’s game over.
  • There’s over 2500 random train stations, with five settings (Country, Town and City Stations, Industrial Depots and Express Bonus Rounds) meaning that each round will different from the other.
    • The game has the typical British weather condition of rain, snow and lightning.

February 21 – 2017 – Halo Wars 2 – Xbox One, Windows

  • Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game based on the Halo universe and it is the sequel to the 2009 Halo Wars.
    • Players use Spartans, Warthogs and other classic Halo units in order to battle the enemy.
    • A single-player campaign and online multiplayer battles are available.
    • The campaign consists of twelve missions and can also be played cooperatively.
    • Typical mission objectives include surviving waves of enemies, defending structuring and capturing specific targets.
    • There are also various side objectives.
    • Many missions involve leading Spartan supersoldier units as well.
  • The game once again relies on two factions and is now set in the year 2559.
    • On the one hand there is the human faction United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and on the other a new alien faction called the Banished, replacing the Covenant from the first game.
    • Both factions have leader units with special abilities tied to a cooldown period.
    • These abilities can mass heal or do a lot of damage in a short time.
    • In multiplayer there are multiple game modes for up to six players online or bots.

February 22 – 1996 – Johnny Bazookatone – PlayStation, Sega Saturn, 3DO, DOS

  • The original guitar hero with the Elvis attitude and purple hair pompadour, Johnny Bazookatone, has been imprisoned in the year 2050 in Sin Sin Prison by El Diablo, the Lord of the Underworld, who is jealous of his talent and kidnaps other musical legends as well in this 3D side-scrolling platformer.
    • Johnny’s guitar Anita has been taken from him and he sets out to escape and vanquish foes on his way to be reunited with Anita.
  • He can perform moves such as 360-degree spin jumps, and hover jumps among others, while using his bazooka guitar as a weapon.
    • When powered up, it can emit a special sonic blast that fries anything within hearing range.
    • As you make your way through the demonic levels such as Hotel Demonique, Hell’s Kitchen, and Mr. Diablo’s fiery Penthouse, you can acquire more weapons, power-ups and find secret passages that lead to bonus levels.
    • The game’s soundtrack includes the title track contributed by Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and Tico Torres.

February 23 – 1995 – Mario’s Game Gallery – DOS, Macintosh, Windows

  • The game is a collection of board games, in which you play with Mario.
    • The Mario, of Super Mario fame.
    • He talks to you, playing Checkers, Go Fish, Dominoes, Backgammon, Yacht.
    • Most of games can be played for Yoshis or Koopas – tribes of animals.

February 24 – 2015 – Dragon Ball: Xenoverse – PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • DRAGON BALL XENOVERSE revisits famous battles from the series through your custom Avatar, who fights alongside Trunks and many other characters.
    • Will the strength of this partnership be enough to intervene in fights and restore the Dragon Ball timeline we know?
    • New features include the mysterious Toki Toki City, new gameplay mechanics, new character animations and many other amazing features to be unveiled soon!

February 25 – 2002 – Circus Maximus – PS2, Xbox

  • Circus Maximus is a racing game that takes place in ancient Rome, and as such you’ll be racing chariots around various tracks, including the famed Colliseum.
  • You’ll be in control of both the driver and your partner, the warrior, whose job is to attack the other racers to make them fall over.
  • Chariots are controlled by whipping horses and trying to balance an on-screen meter that keeps your chariot balanced while taking turns fast.
  • There are four different race modes available; Training, which gives you the basics on how to play, Arcade, which is your standard race, Multiplayer, which lets you face off against three friends (or foes), and Career, which tracks your progress over a period of time.
  • There are seven different environments and 19 tracks, all set throughout the Roman Empire.
  • Each course is littered with obstacles, power ups, weapons, and special moves, designed to give you an edge in combat.

February 26 – 2008 – Turning Point: Fall of Liberty – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Winston Churchill was struck by a taxicab in 1931.
    • What if he had died and without his leadership, Britain fell to the Nazis along with the rest of Europe?
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is an alternate-history first-person shooter in which the player takes the role of a New York construction worker named Dan Carson in 1953, when the German Reich invades and occupies the American East Coast.
    • He joins the National Guard troops trying to put up a defensive perimeter around subway and railway systems so civilians can escape.
  • Many advanced WWII weapons appear, including some that were under research, and some that never appeared.
    • There are super-heavy tanks such as the Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus and Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte, and also the Nachteule troop-transport zeppelin, the Flugzeugträger aircraft-carrier zeppelin, as well as various advanced jet fighters and bombers, all used by the German invasion force.
    • Multiplayer is available in standard deathmatch and team deathmatch modes on 4 maps, with Nazi soldiers versus the American Resistance to a maximum of 8 players.

Tidbits

  • No Man’s Sky: Companions is yet another free update for the game, bringing us the ability to adopt, train, and breed creatures, on top of improvements to the UI and load times
  • Google’s finally started updating their iOS apps, updating the App Store listings with the new required privacy information
    • There aren’t any real surprises, but when you see in writing that your email client is gathering information about your purchases and location I can see people starting to look for alternatives
  • CD Projekt Red has officially delayed the release of the anticipated patch 1.2 for Cyberpunk 2077, after the cyber attack we reported on a couple weeks ago wreaked havoc on their infrastructure
    • The patch, set to include numerous fixes and quality improvements, is now being aimed at the second half of March

Mini-review

  • If you’re not watching WandaVision already, you should be
    • Starring Scarlet Witch and Vision from the MCU
  • Completely unexpected but the pilot was charming and the plot got its hooks into me early
  • If you like the MCU at all you need to be watching

 

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PS2J 318 News – OOPS! All Events

Free games

  • Twitch Prime

    • Q.U.B.E. 2

      • 2018
      • Sequel to the original Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, and a physics-based puzzle game, interacting with specific blocks in the world to solve puzzles and make it to the end of each level
    • Bridge Constructor

      • 2011
      • Physics-based simulation puzzle game that has you working with different gaps, materials, and cost limitations to make bridges that can support different combinations of traffic
  • Epic Games

    • Football Manager 2020

      • 2019
      • European football-management simulation game offering playable teams in 53 different countries across 5 continents
    • Stick It To The Man!

      • 2013
      • Indie adventure platformer that puts you in the role of Ray, a hard hat tester that suffered a bizarre accident and woke up with a giant pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his brain. With his awesome new powers he can read minds and change the world with stickers but he’s on the run for a crime he didn’t commit.
    • Watch Dogs 2

      • 2016
      • Action adventure open world game where you play a hacker trying to take down the city’s advanced surveillance system, completing missions in a variety of ways in increase the follower count of your group DedSec

Apple- Time Flies event

  • No iPhone announcement after all, so we can likely look forward to that in October

  • Apple Watch

    • New initiative from Mount Sinai health system, where researchers are using Watch data to research COVID
    • WatchOS 7 will track VO2 Max, the volume of oxygen you consume when exercising at max capacity, a good indicator of fitness and overall health
      • Notification if it drops to low levels
    • Series 6
      • Blue aluminum, gold stainless steel, graphite stainless steel, and PRODUCT(RED)
      • Blood oxygen
        • 15 seconds to measure, takes periodic readings including while you sleep
        • Helpful indicator of respiratory and cardiac health
      • Fancy dual-core processor
      • Improved always-on display
      • New always-on altimeter
      • New watchfaces
        • GMT shows multiple timezones
        • Count-up lets you track elapsed time
        • Chronograph pro has multiple time scales
        • Typograph give you custom styles focusing on large numbers
      • New stretchable one-piece loop band, in both solid and an attractive braided silicon
    • Family Setup
      • One iphone can set up multiple watches, for kids or other people without their own phone
      • Includes location notifications and movement tracking
    • Apple Watch SE
      • Uses slightly older chips (still twice as fast as the series 3) along with the fancy new display
      • Same accelerometer, gyro, compass, and altimeter as the 6, but no ECG or blood oxygen
    • New lineup starts at:
      • Series 3 $199
      • SE $279
      • Series 6 $399
  • Officially removing the USB wall adapter from the Apple Watch, marketing it as an environmental initiative

  • Apple Fitness +

    • Fitness service with trainers and music (integrated with Apple Music if you want to save a playlist)
    • Workout videos shown on your TV along with biometrics from your watch
    • Launching with yoga, cycling, dance, treadmill, strength, core, hiit, rowing, and meditation
    • New workouts every week, with different levels and recommended workouts
    • Three month free trial, and will be available before the end of the year
    • $9.99/month, $79.99/year
  • Apple One

    • iCloud storage
    • Music
    • TV+
    • Arcade
    • News+
    • Fitness+
    • Individual plan- $14.95
      • Includes Music, TV+, Arcade, 50GB storage
      • $19.95 for family access
    • Premier- $29.95
      • Adds News+ and Fitness+, along with 2TB storage
  • iPadOS 14

    • Better Pencil integration with automatic writing-to-text
    • Scribble lets you handwrite in any text field
  • iPad

    • New 8th gen base model is getting the A12 chip from the XS and the iPad Air
      • Also works with Apple Pencil
      • Smart connector for the fancy Apple smart and magic keyboards
      • Starts at $329 ($299 for education)
    • Air
      • Redesigned, more similar to the iPad Pro
      • USB-C, rounded corners, smaller bezels, and the smart connector
      • New colours including rose gold, green, and sky blue
      • TouchID integrated into the power button
      • No FaceID or TrueDepth camera
      • Brand new 6 core processor, 40% faster than the previous model
      • This all brings the Air ($599) close to parity with the Pro ($799), especially if you don’t want FaceID
  • New software for iPads, iPhones, Watches, and AppleTV’s all hit this week, with no mention of macOS

    • All kinds of fanciness that we’ve talked about previously including home screen widgets and better sleep tracking, along with picture-in-picture video
      • They’ve added an App Library, so iPhone users don’t need to have every app installed available on one of their homescreen pages
      • Not to mention additional options with Shortcuts and Automations that Reddit immediately took to to make their iPhones moan when power cords are plugged in
    • They’ve also released a new firmware for AirPods Pro that adds spatial audio and dynamic head tracking, so when paired with iOS14 supported audio will always sound like it’s anchored to your device

Sony’s announced more details on the PS5, and we’ve got some highlights

  • Pricing of the disk-version of the PS5 matches the Xbox Series X at $499USD, and the diskless model is $399
    • That’s a good chunk more than the Series S’s $299, but considering you get the same specs rather than a pared down version it makes sense- the PS5 blows the Series S out of the water, spec-wise
    • You could even look at it like they’re coming in at $100 less than the Series X, with an optional upgrade to include a disk drive
  • Demon’s Souls Remake looks amazing, with everything rebuilt from the original art, sound, music, and feel along with fancy new haptic feedback
    • You can still see the trailer mirrored on other sites like IGN, but Sony had to pull the original because it mistakenly said it was coming to other consoles and PC
    • This alone might sell me a PS5
  • Spider-Man Miles Morales looks pretty solid
  • Hogwarts Legacy could be the open world Harry Potter game we’ve been waiting for
  • Deathloop looks like a lot of fun, especially for fans of the Groundhog Day genre
  • God of War Ragnarok was revealed, and after the last title in the series is yet another reason to buy a PS5
  • Playstation Plus Collection
    • It feels like conceptually they’re trying to compete with GamePass, and they might get there eventually, but right now it’s mainly a selection of excellent PS4 games that all PS+ subscribers can play on the PS5 at launch for no additional cost
      • God of War
      • Bloodborne
      • Monster Hunter World
      • Final Fantasy XV
      • Mortal Kombat X
      • Fallout 4
      • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
      • Ratchet & Clank
      • Days Gone
      • Until Dawn
      • Detroit: Become Human
      • Battlefield 1
      • Infamous: Second Son
      • Batman: Arkham Knight
      • The Last Guardian
      • The Last of Us: Remastered
      • Persona 5
      • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Pre-orders are available now, with launch on November 12th in North America, Japan, Australia, NZ, and SK, and the 19th everywhere else

Facebook has announced the Oculus Quest 2- the new king of VR, if you don’t mind Zuckerberg’s ever-tightening fist

  • It’s kind of ridiculous how good the headset is, especially for its price and the fact that it’s wireless
  • $299USD gets you a thinner, lighter Quest with higher resolution with 50% more pixels per eye
    • And for $100 more you can get 256GB of storage, which you might end up needing if games start really using the increased pixel-count. The base model only getting 64GB of storage is nearly criminal nowadays
    • It actually just edges out the Valve Index when it comes to resolution, and that one goes for $1000
    • It’s using LCD instead of OLED though, so expect blacks to look less black, and the field of view is a fair bit narrower than the Index so you’re locked to only 90 degrees
    • They’ve also increased the framerate from 72hz to 90hz, but currently that’s only supported on the main menus
  • Another change is the IPD adjustment, to set the distance between your eyes
    • The Quest had a slider for a range of measurements, but the Quest 2 only has three set positions that Facebook says accommodates between 68mm and 58mm
  • The base head strap is even more basic than the Quest’s, more matching the Oculus Go, but they’re handling it a lot better with first party peripherals
    • You can get alternate face linings, protective lenses, a higher-quality Elite Strap, and even better an amped up Elite Strap with an additional battery to help counterbalance
  • Facebook definitely hasn’t skimped on the processor though, going from one that was midrange even at launch to a top of the line Snapdragon XR2 that is more than twice as fast
  • They’ve also improved the battery life on the slightly redesigned controllers, while at the same time making them a little bigger to be almost a hybrid between the original Oculus controllers and the first gen Quest
  • But now where it gets ugly
    • The Quest 2 will be the first piece of Oculus hardware that requires a Facebook account to run
      • This combined with the low price reminds me of the adage “If you get something for free, you might be the product being sold”
    • And on top of that, Facebook has said that if you link your Oculus account to a Facebook account that violates their rules, like not using your real name or birthdate, your account could be completely disabled and you might lose access to any games or content you’ve already paid for
      • In many cases Facebook has asked for an unredacted picture of a user’s driver’s license to be sent in to verify that information, but it seems ridiculous that they have any business getting all that information just so I can play VR games. Beyond billing info they have no use for my personal info, besides to sell it to someone else
  • All that said, if you’re okay with what Facebook does and want what is unfortunately one of the best VR headsets available, you can pick yours up on October 13

The App Store slapfight continues

  • Court documents in the Epic vs Apple lawsuit show Apple saying that Epic Games can’t re-apply to their developer program for at least one year
    • Epic is trying to overturn that ban, but assuming no changes it’s unlikely we’ll see Fortnite back on iOS before summer 2021
  • Apple also seems to be accusing Epic of using this whole situation as a publicity stunt
    • Apparently compared to October 2019, July 2020 had seen interest in Fortnite decrease by nearly 70%, and this mess that Epic Games has invented for themselves is an attempt to boost their own reputation
    • They also deny that Epic is losing huge amounts of money, saying that though Epic says iOS is their biggest platform based on number of users only 10% of consumers play regularly on iPhone, and that according to Epic’s own disclosures Apple is the smallest piece of the pie when it comes to revenue
    • An excellent quote from Apple’s filing:
      • Epic started a fire, and poured gasoline on it, and now asks this Court for emergency assistance in putting it out, even though Epic can do so itself in an instant by simply adhering to the contractual terms that have profitably governed its relationship with Apple for years. This Court was right when it previously ruled that “‘self-inflicted wounds are not irreparable injury.’”
  • In addition to that, a new filing today from Mark Grimm, a Game Developer Manager at Apple, highlighted the lengths to which Apple went to accommodate Epic in recent years
    • Apparently engineers on both sides remained in near-constant contact for the last two years to make sure Fortnite could run smoothly at all times and across a variety of devices, including substantial engineering support to help it to run on older iPhones
    • Grimm also wrote about the amount of hardware and software resources shared, saying that they’ve even coached Epic about unreleased iOS tech and even sent engineers to their HQ to help get them up to speed, on top of Apple optimizing their iOS and Mac systems to improve the performance of Unreal Engine
  • A separate filing from Mike Schmid, Apple’s Head of Games Business Development, added even more background
    • Apparently Epic threatened on multiple occasions to essentially hold Fortnite hostage, threatening to release updates on competing platforms first and even in some cases said they would terminate their relationship with Apple and remove their games from the App Store, if Apple didn’t comply with demands
    • This reportedly got to the point where Apple staff in Australia were brought in to the Epic relationship team, to provide 24 hour coverage
    • On top of all that, Schmid says they even worked closely with Epic to allow in-game features that were not previously allowed, such as gifting within apps, by amending App Store Guidelines
    • “This example,” Schmid writes, “demonstrates Apple’s attentiveness to the developer community, including the needs of developers like Epic, which in this instance made a request that Apple could accommodate on terms that would apply equally to all developers, large and small, and that would at the same time adequately ensure user safety and security.”
  • It almost seems like Epic got so used to Apple giving them whatever they demanded that they threw a tantrum when told they couldn’t have their own App Store on iPhone, but we’ll have to see how the Epic Games team responds to the latest filings
  • I agree that the App Store has some room to evolve, but Epic really shot themselves in the foot repeatedly here

In a new interview with IGN, Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald gave some more detail on the differences between the Series S and X

  • Apparently the core capabilities between the two consoles are basically the same, so the primary difference will be resolution- 1440p on the S and 4k on the X
    • Even though theoretically the Series S could have performance somewhat comparable to the One X, it will not apply any of the One X specific enhancements for better framerates or 4k resolutions
    • Backwards-compatible titles could benefit from improved texture filtering and other bits and bobs though, so the Series S isn’t completely left out in the cold
  • They’re leaving a lot up to developers though, like whether to allow ray tracing, increase the framerate, or even try for 4k on the S
  • The goal is apparently not to have exclusive titles on the X, but rather to get lower-res options for the S
  • And as an added bonus, game file sizes could be around 30% smaller for the S if developers stick to 1440p textures
  • It will likely still lead to some fragmentation but hopefully not as much as previously thought

Apple’s made some changes that are kind of good news for game streaming services, but with a BIIG asterisk

  • They’ve announced updates to their App Store review guidelines introducing new rules for things like Microsoft xCloud
    • They’re allowed, which is great, but apparently all of the games included in the subscription need to be downloaded directly from the App Store…?
    • From the looks of it, all 150+ xCloud games would need to hit the App Store separately, with updates going through the full review process and all in-app purchases going through Apple
    • They’re allowed to have a catalog app to help users sign up and find games, but all games must have their own App Store product page
  • All said and done, this feels like a PR move so Apple can say they’re not blocking streaming game services while at the same time making the way forward as torturous as possible, when really it should work as smoothly as Netflix or YouTube

Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: Sands of Time remake leaked, and it looked rough, so they released the reveal trailer, which also looks rough

  • With a high nostalgia factor you’d think this would be a priority, but it was seemingly shunted off to Ubisoft India
    • While I can understand that studio being excited to sink their teeth into potentially one of the biggest AAA games developed in the country, doing it for the first time with a remake of something this high-profile could have been a misstep
  • Honestly, I think they would have been better off just upscaling the original assets. It definitely doesn’t look like a game from 2020
    • Reddit user Bolt_995 put it well: “This is a PS2 game remade to look like a PS3 game on a PS4 and the release date is set during the launch window of the PS5”

The saga of TikTok continues, with Beijing opposing the sale that the US is dead set on forcing

  • According to Reuters the Chinese government would rather see the video app shut down in the US instead
  • Oracle is trying to get around that by becoming their “trusted tech partner”, not their owner, but the exact details have yet to be hashed out
    • From the sounds of it Oracle would house data from US TikTok users on its own servers, to hopefully alleviate security concerns
  • The US Treasury Secretary also floated the idea of them opening a TikTok Global HQ in the US and creating 20,000 jobs, but who knows what kind of basis that has in reality if any
  • Yet to be seen is:
    • If this deal will satisfy Trump’s government
    • If it will satisfy the Chinese government
    • What will happen to TikTok’s fancy algorithm, likely the driving force behind any offer, with China saying it’s off the table

This Week In Gaming History

September 12 – 2002 – Battlefield 1942 – Windows

  • Battlefield 1942 is a massive online multiplayer shooter roughly based on World War II, but with emphasis on balance and fun.
    • Join armed forces of United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany or Russia, and battle up to 63 of your friends online.
    • Have access to up to twenty different authentic weapons. Control any of the 30+ vehicles over land, on water, or in air.
    • Combat takes place in four theaters; South Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern and Western Europe.
    • Have epic battles with up to 64 players on the same map, or hone your skills in single-player mode against AI bots.

September 13 – 2003 – Star Trek: The Neutral Zone – Windows

  • Star Trek: The Neutral Zone is a free, simple deathmatch game where players (and bots, named after characters from the Star Trek series, but unlicensed) choose a ship to destroy others in order to reach the frag limit.
    • There is a variety of ships available with their graphics taken from Star Trek: Bridge Commander and possibly a few of its mods.
    • But apart from the visuals, they do not differ in any way. All of them are armed with phasers and photon torpedoes, with the colour of phasers chosen by the player in the options menu.
    • Occasionally, certain power-ups appear on the map.
  • Up to two players can play on the same computer, and a TCP/IP multiplayer mode is available.
  • On Moby Games, the site I reference, this was the only game released this day on 2003.

September 14 – 1994 – Math Blaster: In Search of Spot – Genesis

  • The Genesis release was the one release that was confirmed to a firm date
  • A follow-up to the original Math Blaster! games, Math Blaster: In Search of Spot is an educational title with arcade elements designed to help students learn maths while having fun.
  • The game allows students to practice basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills in addition to fractions, decimals, percents, estimation, and number patterns.
    • The subjects can be practiced separately or together in review. Six levels of difficulty are provided.
    • Like the previous titles, the game also includes an editor to create new problem sets (present in the PC version only).
  • Math Blaster’s friend and assistant, Spot, is kidnapped by the evil Trash Alien at the beginning of the game.
    • The Galactic Commander gives Math Blaster the mission to follow the Trash Alien to his home planet and rescue Spot.
  • The game starts with a complete mission (story mode).
    • The mission consists of a series of four (three in the console versions) math activities (mini-games) strung together with cut-scenes. The activities can also be played separately, for practice or for score.
  • The activities you can do are:
    • Trash Zapper – Solve equations to gain tractor beam power, then use the tractor beam to collect space trash.
    • Number Recycler (PC version only) – Create equations by pushing around columns of numbers and operators. Correct equations allow you to turn the trash you collected into fuel.
    • Cave Runner – Use Math Blaster’s jet pack to fly through a cave. He has a number on his chest, and it must be arithmetically between the numbers on each side of an opening in order for him to pass through. Droplets of water falling from above can change this number by performing an operation on it. There are also gems which can be collected for bonus points, and in higher levels, monsters appear that can knock Math Blaster down.
    • Math Blaster – The Trash Alien’s spaceship displays an equation, and the four portholes serve as multiple-choice answers. Use the jet pack to fly into the correct portholes while avoiding floating trash and energy blasts from the ship. Bonus gems also appear at random, and after five problems a bonus round occurs where players get a chance to collect as many gems as they can within a time limit.
  • Upon finishing the complete mission, the player is presented with a certificate that can be printed out (PC version only). Their final score is also added to a high score board for their account.

September 15 – 1990 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – DOS

  • A good example of the difference a little multimedia can do, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes plays like a textmode proof-of-concept of the better-known Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.
    • The basic investigative elements remain the same: managing time dashing to various locations around Olde London Towne in search of clues, but here instead of successfully receiving them as video clips you often get cryptic encoded messages in “fill-in-the-blank” form, intended in total to spell out, some directly and some through phonetic wordplay, the name of the killer, the method they used, and their motive for committing the crime.
    • Characters from the original tales including Dr. Watson, Mrs. Baker and Inspector Lestrade help to establish the flavour of literary canon as you investigate all-new crimes (some user-contributed!)

September 16 – 1998 – Fuck Quest – DOS

  • This is a parody of the Sierra-style games like Space Quest, King’s Quest, etc. Similar interface, sounds, and graphics.
  • This is a small game that’ll make people who have played the Sierra games laugh, although I don’t think anybody else will understand the point.
    • Probably R-Rated because of not-so-subtle sexual content. Can be finished quickly.
  • The art appears to be done in a single pass on MS Paint
    • Includes level design, like The House Of Porn, which is a pair of breasts.
  • Has an average score of 1.4 out of 5

September 17 – 2002 – Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer – GameCube, PS2, XBox

  • You know Tony Hawk, Matt Hoffman but now it’s Kelly Slater’s Pro sport game
  • Do you like to surf? Have you ever imagined surfing at different remote locations around the world? Well, Kelly Slater takes you around the world on his boat to surf some of the more famous beaches. With a control scheme similar to all the other Activision O2 brand games, it’s easy to jump into the game and surf.
  • Game Play Modes:
    • Infinite Time – With no clock, no objectives, and nobody around, this gives you the best opportunity to just enjoy the surf.
    • High Score – With 3 minutes, how high of a score can you get?
    • Icon Challenge – See how many icons you can collect and how high of a score you can get before time runs out.
    • Career Mode – Select a surfer and journey around the world to surf the best waves on the best beaches. As you progress you will unlock new beaches, new surf boards, and new tricks which will be usable in all the other modes of play.
    • Multiplayer Modes:
    • Push – Two players surf simultaneously in an attempt to “push” the split screen towards their opponent’s half of the screen. As you score points the screen gets pushed more. The winner is decided once one player is pushed from the screen.
    • Head to Head – Similar to Push but the screen is stationary and the winner is the person with the highest points when the time runs out.
    • Time Attack – Players take turns to achieve the most points possible. The more points you get the less time is alloted to your opponent.
  • The Pros in the game: Kelly Slater, Lisa Andersen, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren, Nathan Fletcher, Donavon Frankenreiter, Bruce Irons, Rob Machado, Kalani Robb, and some other secret characters.
    • Secret characters which I looked up!
      • Tony Hawk
      • Travis Pastrana – A extreme Motorsport athlete
      • “Tiki God”
      • “Surfreak”
  • The beaches in the game: Sebastian, Trestles, Mavericks, Antarctica, Jaws, Pipeline, Teahupoo, Bells, Curren’s Point, Kirra, G-Land, J-Bay, Mundaka, Cortez Bank, and perhaps some other tucked-away hide-aways.
  • The PS2 version of the game also includes a playable demo of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4.

September 18 – 2018 – Nintendo Switch Online service – Switch

  • The Nintendo Switch was formally announced in January 2017, with its release on March 3, 2017.
    • Nintendo stated in its pre-release announcements that the system would eventually require purchase of a paid “online service”, but that they would be available to all users at no charge until the service launched.
    • Features announced included a companion smartphone app, as well as access to a free Nintendo Entertainment System game per-month. The service was initially planned for late 2017.
    • By June 2017, Nintendo pushed back the service’s release until 2018, but did establish the pricing plans for the service, with an average annual price of US$20, depending on region.
    • Then-Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé explained that the delays were to ensure that the service was “world-class”, and had enough of its announced functionality available on-launch to justify its cost.
    • Nintendo aimed for a lower price point in comparison to PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold, as the service does not include the same range of features as these subscription services provide.
    • Then-Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima stated that the price point was a subject of importance in designing the Switch’s online services, and that regardless of what competitors were doing, “it’s a matter of getting our content to the consumer at a price point that would make them happy, and then we’re willing to look at what else we can do going forward.”
  • A Nintendo Direct two days before the release detailed the full set of features that would be part of the Online service, including a larger and persistent library of NES games for subscribers, as well as cloud save support.
  • The 20 games at launch were:
    • Balloon Fight
    • Baseball
    • Donkey Kong
    • Double Dragon
    • Dr. Mario
    • Excitebike
    • Ghosts’n Goblins
    • Gradius
    • Ice Climber
    • Ice Hockey
    • The Legend of Zelda
    • Mario Bros.
    • Pro Wrestling
    • River City Ransom
    • Soccer
    • Super Mario Bros.
    • Super Mario Bros. 3
    • Tecmo Bowl
    • Tennis
    • Yoshi, A puzzle game

Tidbits

  • Borderlands 3 has joined the growing number of games that are releasing free updates to next-gen consoles for anyone playing it on the current generation
    • They’re also adding 3 and 4 player split screen, as well as 4k 60fps single player
  • Super Mario 3D All Stars has leaked onto the internet, showing that all the games are just emulated and upsampled versions with no real tweaks
    • On the plus side, the fact that there are now internal Nintendo emulators for Wii, GameCube, and N64 games on the Switch could mean there are more classics coming
  • Fall Guys has released a mid-season update increasing the chaos and the fun
    • They’ve amped up the anti-cheat, added extra random obstacles to familiar levels, and thrown in Big Yeetus- a large hammer that can launch you to victory or hilarious defeat

 

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Top story this week, two college students stand accused of costing Apple nearly $900,000 in losses with their creative counterfeiting scheme

  • The scam had the students ordering large amounts of fake, unusable iPhones from China, and then sending them in to Apple while claiming they were under warranty
  • All the claims indicated “No power/wired charging issues” as the reason, to explain why they wouldn’t start up, and then they just needed to get lucky and have Apple employees send a replacement before the fakes were found out
  • All told they sent in over 3000 warranty claims, and while about half of them were rejected the other 1500 phones were replaced by Apple no questions asked
  • The real phones were then sent back to China and sold to bargain-hunting consumers
  • The worst part here is if they’d operated on a smaller scale they might not have even gotten caught- Apple seemed content with sending hundreds of warranty replacements to a random person’s home address, and the only reason they were caught was because Hong Kong customs officials seized several shipments of the fake iPhones after noticing the shipping methods and packaging didn’t match Apple’s usual standards
 

The Switch is getting VR support on some major titles this month

  • You might recall us talking about Nintendo’s Labo VR headset back in episode 240
  • First, Super Mario Odyssey is getting a bite-sized bonus experience with mini missions set in the Cap, Seaside, and Luncheon Kingdoms
  • Then, from what I’ve read, Breath of the Wild is getting full VR support!
    • It doesn’t convert the game into first person, but rather makes your head the camera for more fine-tuned control and immersion
    • According to Nintendo, “turning the feature on and off is a snap”
  • It’ll be interesting to see how the graphics change in these modes to get the framerates that VR really needs, plus there aren’t any details yet on how exactly the cardboard headset will strap on, or if you have to just hold it the whole time
  • Both experiences require free software updates, coming on April 25th
 

Sony’s PlayStation Network ID change system is finally live this week, but it hasn’t really improved much since we talked about the beta release back in episode 221

  • The name change is only supported by games originally published on or after April 1, 2018
  • At least 10 games have known “critical issues” , including Everbody’s Golf and Little Big Planet 3, that can have users losing ingame progress, progress toward trophies, and in-game currency either earned or paid
  • There are also a bunch of games like Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, GTA V, The Last of Us, and Warframe that have problems ranging from just displaying your old ID to reverting all settings back to their defaults
  • There’s a list of games that Sony has tested available on the PlayStation website, and if that all sounds good you can get your first name change for free and then future changes are $10 (or $5 for PS+ subscribers)
 

Third party controller company PDP is bringing a basic missing feature to the Switch

  • Their new wired controller coming in June will include a headset port for any games using Vivox in-game chat (like Fortnite)
    • Currently the Switch has very limited voice chat support, so games like Splatoon require you run a separate app on your phone and use a splitter to combine the audio manually
  • Potentially the hardware could work with any in-game chat, but it will be up to game developers to decide how they want to proceed with support
 

Amazon’s coming under fire this week after Bloomberg reported on their Alexa Improvement facilities, where thousands of employees listen to voice recordings captured whenever Alexa thinks it hears a trigger word

  • Even more damning, rather than scrambling identifiers and distorting audio, they actually link your first name, account number, and serial number to the recording
  • There is a way to turn off the feature, but it’s on by default and not immediately apparent when you’re setting up a new device
  • If you’re concerned about privacy you should absolutely go through your Alexa settings and review exactly what’s getting sent where
 
 

Design and Game Awards

 

Tidbits

  • Netflix has removed the ability to AirPlay videos from your phone to other devices, which has been a feature for the last 6 years, citing technical limitations
    • A spokesperson provided some more details later, saying that because AirPlay support is rolling out for third-party devices they’re taking their ball and going home
      • I mean, they’re saying there isn’t a way to tell what device is being streamed to or to certify the experiences, which is kind of a non-answer considering they already couldn’t tell what TV you’re using so…
  • A new ad for Smash Bros Ultimate on Nintendo’s YouTube channel may have accidentally spoiled a Stage Builder mode coming soon
    • Within the first couple seconds of the video you can see the Smash Ultimate menu including an icon for Stage Builder in the bottom corner, so it’ll be interesting to see if they announce that update in the next Nintendo Direct
  • Using 10 radio telescopes working in parallel to act as a giant telescope the size of Earth, astronomers have put together the first-ever picture of a black hole
    • It’s an amazing feat of technology and programming years in the making, and we’ve gotten our first good look at this super massive black hole that’s 55M light-years away and about the size of our entire solar system
 

Recommend The Academy by Bentley Little

  • It’s an paranormal horror/thriller that’s centred around a high school that suddenly starts going through some unsettling changes
  • It does a great job of building an atmosphere of dread and unease
  • If you’re looking for a creepy slow burn with moments of solid wtf, you’ll probably like it

 

Literally Misleading

MOVIE – Brothers party their way all the way to success!

 

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