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 333 News – Alan’s Epic POTG

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • For The King

      • 2017
      • Strategic RPG with tabletop and roguelike elements and attractive polygonal visuals. Each playthrough is unique with procedural maps, quests, and events. Single player, local, or online co-op
    • Metro: Last Light Redux

      • 2015
      • The sequel to Metro: 2033, it’s a post-apocalyptic first person shooter following a young soldier living in the Moscow Metro after a devastating nuclear war has left the surface world uninhabitable
  • Twitch

    • Spinch

      • 2020
      • Side-scrolling psychedelic platformer from the mind of award-winning Canadian cartoonist Jesse Jacobs, that plays like a surreal Super Meat Boy as Spinch goes on a quest to rescue a litter of its missing offspring
    • Stealth Bastard Deluxe

      • 2012
      • Subtitled “Tactical Espionage Arsehole”, this 2D stealth platformer has you sneaking through a deadly facility that seems determined to get you
    • Monster Prom: Hotseat Edition

      • 2018
      • 2D narrative dating sim with both singleplayer and multiplayer modes with a randomized story that has you deciding how to spend your last six weeks before prom, going through different events and gaining stats while trying to improve relationships with whoever catches your eye
    • Swimsanity! – Couch Party Edition

      • 2020
      • Multiplayer 2D underwater shoot-em-up with co-op and versus game modes, and both online and local play. It’s like Gradius in the ocean with your friends
    • Table Manners

      • 2020
      • Physics-based dating simulator that puts the hand from Surgeon Simulator into a variety of venues for dates, from conveyor belt sushi to a plane going through a series of dives

Facebook has begun asking users to opt in to activity tracking ahead of Apple’s upcoming tracking transparency changes coming in iOS 14.5

  • Some iOS users have already begun seeing a new notification when launching the app, set to appear before Apple’s own notification and clarifying why they think you should let them track you
    • It basically says that if you let them use your app and website activity you get:
      • Personalized ads
      • “Support businesses that rely on ads to reach customers”
        • That one might carry more weight if the majority of Facebook ads didn’t seem to be knockoffs and scams
    • They also mention that it won’t give them access to new types of information, but that’s really just saying they’ve been gathering it without permission so far

Xiaomi has revealed true wireless charging technology with their ‘Mi Air Charge’, able to charge devices from across the room

  • With no cables or stands this new tech can send 5W of power to each device, using advanced spatial positioning and beamforming energy transmission
    • 5W isn’t much, but as a slow trickle-charge throughout the day it would definitely be a nice boost
  • Xiaomi has apparently developed a special charging unit that can accurately detect the location of a compatible smartphone, then use an array of 144 antennas to transmit millimeter-wide waves directly to the phone
  • And they say that physical objects don’t do anything to reduce efficiency, though I’d like to see the potential health impacts of getting electricity beamed through your body, especially long-term
  • Xiaomi has currently developed it with smartphones it mind, but they’re looking to expand the tech to smartwatches and other wearables, as well as smart speakers, desk lamps, and more
  • Disney Made a wireless powered room
    • https://www.iflscience.com/technology/disney-researchers-make-wireless-power-transfer-breakthrough/

Activision could be in some legal hot water after introducing a new character to their Call of Duty: Modern Warfare battlepass

  • Writer and photographer Clayton Haugen is alleging that the company intentionally modelled the new character, an operator named Mara, after his own character, Cade Janus, from a short story called November Renaissance
  • Hausen has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit saying that Activision Blizzard and Infinity Ward willfully intended to model Mara after Cade Janus, including hiring the same model, using the same makeup professional, and instructing her to style the model’s hair exactly as she had done for Haugen’s photographs, even using the same hair piece extension

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is coming on May 14th, with a lot of fanciness and lens flares

  • The collection includes world-building enhancements, improved interfaces and UI, and modernized controls for the first instalment, along with a ton of visual improvements and changes like pumping things up to 4K and HDR
  • They’ve also increased the options in the character creator and unified it across all three games
  • It all looks pretty good, but judging by the screenshots released so far they went a little ham sandwich with the lens flares and really brightening up some of the creepier scenes

Destruction AllStars is showing off the dark side of the PS5’s fancy controller

  • The colourful, vibrant destruction-derby style game has taken an interesting approach to voice chat, automatically using the Dualsense controller as a microphone and headset by default
  • This can be turned off for each match, but it will automatically turn it self back on again next time treating you once more to the audio hellscape that is online gaming

This Week In Gaming History

January 30 – 2001 – SimCoaster – Windows

  • SimCoaster is the third and final game in the Theme Park series.
    • It uses the same graphic engine as the previous game Theme Park World.
    • It is a theme park management game where players build their own theme park and attract as much visitors as possible.
    • This time there are also grandparents of the little visitors who need to be entertained.
  • This version focuses more on the management side of running a park.
    • It contains various types of business related to campaigns and objectives, such as bringing in a certain number of guests to a ride.
    • By completing these challenges, promotions can be gained. As with the previous game in the series, players can walk around in their park in a first-person mode and go on the rides.
  • The game had an appearance in the cool action movie “Cradle 2 the Grave” starring Jet Li and DMX.
    • In the movie released in 2003 by Warner Bros. a little daughter Vanessa of main protagonist played by DMX was very interested in playing this game and even several seconds of her playing were watched.
    • This action has defined the SimCoaster as an interesting game for smart girls with an art in their minds.
  • The title is SimCoaster only in the United States
    • Elsewhere, it is titles, Theme Park INC.

January 31 – 1999 – Silent Hill – PlayStation

  • You play Harry Mason, a normal man, with no powers or training of any kind.
    • You must search through the town of Silent Hill, looking for your daughter.
    • You will come across many people, some friendly, some not.
    • mYou must visit many different areas, such as the school, and the church.
    • Will Harry find his daughter and safely get out, or is there more to this town than a simple fog layer?
  • PS2J 162 and 168 are a two part Silent Hill history
    • Josh keeps insisting that he will go back through these and remake these as more entertaining content.
    • But the more dry example is available if people are interested.
  • The PS1 version of Silent Hill appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

February 1 – 1995 – Kirby’s Avalanche – SNES

  • The First Annual Dream Land’s Avalanche Competition is about to get under way, and as Kirby and a host of characters from the Kirby series, you can join the tournament and become Avalanche king.
  • Kirby’s Avalanche is a Puyo Puyo variant, and has you stacking colored blobs similar in a way to Tetris.
    • When a certain amount of one color is stacked, an explosion occurs and the screen clears of those blobs, which then appear in the other players screen (either the CPU or a second player).
    • When the other player’s screen is so full of blobs that they can’t make another move, you move onto the next round, and so on until the final boss.
    • The winner of that match is then crowned the Avalanche king.
  • This game is almost exactly the same as Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine for the Genesis.
    • Only the Robotnik/Sonic theme has been replaced by a Kirby theme.
    • That’s because both games were actually developed by Compile and are based on their Puyo Puyo games.
    • Thanks to Roedie on Moby Games to point that out

February 2 – 2009 – 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness – Windows

  • 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness is a game created for the Global Game Jam that tests the boundaries of what defines a game.
    • If the program runs for four minutes and 33 seconds—no further user input is needed—the player wins.
    • The catch is that it must be the only copy running in the entire world at that time—the program checks over the Internet to see if anyone else is running the game, and if someone is, the program will immediately shut itself down.
    • The only graphics are a white progress bar that inches across the screen as time passes.
  • The game is inspired by John Cage’s musical composition 4′33″, which is 4 minutes and 33 seconds of complete silence.
    • The uniqueness of the piece is established through the background sounds in the environment, which makes the experience different for each listener.

February 3 – 2015 – Poké Doll Grabber – Browser

  • Available through the Pokémon Global Link website, Poké Doll Grabber is a simple game in which the player guides the claw of a crane machine up to the top of the screen.
    • Along the way, they must guide the claw, which is clutching five Poké Dolls, past obstacles that could knock one of the dolls loose.
    • They can move it left and right, or rapidly move it upwards, though horizontal movements can cause the claw to swing and hit an obstacle anyway.
    • Upon reaching the top of the screen, the game ends, and the player will be given their score and will receive a random item that can be sent back to the player’s 3DS Pokémon RPG.
  • Playing the game costs Poké Miles, which are obtained by using multiplayer features in the 3DS Pokémon games and sent to the Global Link by syncing one’s save file to the internet.
    • Three different levels of the game are available, which cost the same number of miles but offer differing prizes.

February 4 – 2000 – The Sims – Windows

  • The simulation game that people, like Josh, started wasting days, weeks, months of their lives to perfecting the experience of digital lives.
  • The Sims was originally going to be called “Home Tactics,” and would have an entirely different focus.
    • Will Wright originally designed it to be completely about building houses.
    • When someone suggested a feature involving letting people move in to determine the quality of the house, the focus completely changed.
    • Developers were having more fun watching the people than building the house.
    • The design goals were directed towards Sims, and architecture was left as a side bonus.
  • Sims Trivia
    • You can put your own MP3s in the music folder in the game’s directory and they will be played on the radio.
    • After managing a household for 100 days you will be rewarded with information etc. about the creators of the game.
    • The game is listed in the 2008 Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition as the best selling PC game of all time, with 16 million sales worldwide since the original launch.
    • The PC version of The Sims appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Febuary 5 – 2008 – Devil May Cry 4 – PS3/XBox 360 (North America)

  • This time the player gets cast as Nero, a member of the Order of the Sword who worships Sparda, in addition to playing as the previous games’ protagonist, Dante.
    • The game follows the story of Nero in which witnesses the assassination of the leader of the Order of the Sword, Sanctus, by no other than Dante.
    • The murder causes chaos and Sanctus’ deputy, Credo, orders Nero to go after Dante, who is heading for Fortuna Castle.
  • Nero is equipped with a sword (Red Queen), a revolver (Blue Rose), and powers from his Devil Bringer arm that works like Dante’s Devil Trigger.
    • They also give Nero special abilities: pulling and pushing enemies, slamming them on the ground and zooming across areas.
    • Overall gameplay with Nero is still hack-and-slash but with fresh attack styles and techniques.
    • Dante joins later in the game for some levels of his own.
    • His gameplay stays mostly intact with the four attack styles: Trickster, Sword Master, Gunslinger, and Royal Guard.
  • Devil May Cry 4 appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Tidbits

  • Google has apparently shut down its internal game development studio that was tasked with making games for the Stadia, leaving many wondering if this is the beginning of the end
    • The service will stick around focused on third-party games, but time will tell if this gets added to the list of services that Google pumps up and then lets fall by the wayside
  • Apple’s upcoming iOS 14.5 update is in beta now, and it’s bringing some cool features like support for PS5 and Xbox Series controllers, as well as the ability to unlock your phone with your watch instead of your face if you’re wearing a mask
    • The unlock is pretty slick- if your Apple Watch is unlocked and on your wrist, and FaceID detects you’re wearing a mask, it will just unlock and send a notification to your watch. Best part, in case someone else has grabbed your phone, that notification has a big “Lock iPhone” button on it
  • God of War 2018’s enhanced performance patch for the PS5 is live now, cranking everything up to 11 with 60FPS and 4K resolutions

 

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PS2J News 329 – 2020 New Game Plus

Free Games

  • Epic Games
    • Crying Suns
      • 2019
      • Story-rich tactical rogue-lite that puts you in the role of a space fleet commander as you explore a mysteriously fallen empire, uncovering the truth about it and yourself
  • Twitch
    • 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
    • Sword Legacy Omen
      • 2018
      • Turn-based tactical RPG in a re-imagined King Arthur mythos where you play a vengeful knight in search of the long-lost Excalibur
    • Bridge Constructor Playground
      • 2014
      • Classic physics-based bridge building puzzle gameplay, but now with no fixed budget and next to no limitations on building materials
    • Alt Frequencies
      • 2019
      • An audio mystery set in a time loop. Record, rewind time and broadcast snippets of radio shows to expose radio hosts, conspiracy theorists, and politicians.
    • Along the Edge
      • 2016
      • Interactive visual novel set in the European countryside, where your choices impact the main character’s personality and appearance.
    • When Ski Lifts Go Wrong
      • 2019
      • Physics-based construction puzzler similar to Bridge Constructor, but this time you’re building different contraptions to carry skiers up the slopes with added control over the riders
    • Void Bastards
      • 2019
      • Science-fiction roguelike first person shooter inspired by BioShock and System Shock 2. Can you lead the misfit prisoners of the Void Ark through the derelict spaceships and myriad dangers of the Sargasso Nebula?
  • Playstation
    • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
      • 2018
      • Action adventure game continuing the narrative from Rise of the Tomb Raider, following Lara Croft as she races to stop a Mayan apocalypse that she has unleashed
    • GreedFall
      • 2018
      • Action RPG set in a 17th-century style fantasy world where you explore a remote island alongside other settlers, mercenaries, treasure hunters, and invaders, with combat, diplomacy, and stealth
    • Maneater (PS5)
      • 2020
      • Open world action RPG where you start as a shark pup tasked with surviving the harsh world while eating your way up the ecosystem
      • People who recently purchased Maneater on either PS4 or PS5 have reportedly gotten automatic refunds from Sony, giving them free access to the PS4 version, but otherwise it’s only free on the PS5
  • Xbox
    • Little Nightmares
      • 2017
      • A dark, whimsical side-scrolling platformer that will confront you with childhood fears as you escape The Maw- a vast, mysterious vessel inhabited by corrupted souls looking for their next meal.
    • Bleed 2
      • 2017
      • Side-scrolling arcade action platformer featuring air-dodging, bullet-reflecting, and tons of bosses, like a 2D Bayonetta bullet-hell
    • The King of Fighters XIII

      • 2010
      • A significantly modified entry in the King of Fighters fighting game series that removed the guard attack, critical counter, and clash systems, as well as the dynamic zooming camera, in favour of new enhancements to super moves, Hyper Drive mode, and Drive Cancel.

 

Facebook and Twitter finally locked Trump’s accounts this week after his disinformation and incitement led to a riot that breached the US capitol building

  • After years of being complicit with Trump’s hate speech under the guise of public interest, all it took was armed police having to retake the US Senate, killing four and arresting 52, for these platforms to recognize that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, nor does it mean you are entitled to a platform or an audience
  • This is what you get when you have websites dedicated to driving engagement with extreme, polarizing content under the guise of news or social interaction

 

A couple of sizeable cyberattacks came to light involving software development and network management tools, impacting everyone using tools from Jetbrains and SolarWinds (including the US government)

  • Security researchers apparently told SolarWinds that anyone could access their update server using the password ‘solarwinds123’, but since no action was taken hackers used that to push malicious updates to their software
  • Among the targets were dozens of email accounts and government encryption keys, showing pretty definitively that we can’t trust them with the encryption backdoors that they’ve been demanding for years

 

Apple stealth-dropped the new AirPods Max, wireless over-ear headphones with all the bells and whistles including a premium price tag

  • The stainless steel headphones bring the AirPods Pro featureset to over-ear sound quality, and apparently they sound great, but they also cost $780 CAD
    • They make premium noise-cancelling headphones from Bose and Sony look downright affordable at half the price
  • They also come with a bizarre headphone-cozy to cover up the earcups and put them into sleep mode, but it’s a soft case that only covers the earcups with minimal protection
  • Also, if you want to use them wired instead of wireless you need to buy a separate lightning to 3.5mm cable specifically from Apple, and unlike competitors like Bose they won’t work wired if the battery is dead

 

US state and federal governments are suing Facebook in twin antitrust suits, looking to split up their monopoly over our digital lives including separating out Instagram and WhatsApp

  • Considering in the 6 years since purchasing WhatsApp the messaging went from “privacy is coded into our DNA” to “you can get some neat features if you let us connect your data” to now “if you want to use WhatsApp your data will be used for advertising and Facebook products”, I think they’ve got a pretty good shot
  • It would be great if they would pry Oculus out of there as well, but I haven’t seen mention of that anywhere

 

Cyberpunk 2077 had a rough launch, leading to refunds and even being pulled from digital stores after running abysmally on previous-generation consoles

  • And I do have to take back some of what I’ve said about the game- directors and marketing claimed the game was done months ago and the delays were caused by polish, but it just straight up wasn’t done. They needed more time, not more deadlines
    • Apparently even though the next-gen version won’t be released till later this year they never showed it running on the Xbox One or PS4 before launch (you know, the consoles that it was released for), leading to a lot of disappointment when people received the game and saw that it looked so much worse than they expected
    • CD Projekt Red released a statement apologizing for that, saying they should have spent more time making it run better
  • Hopefully they can continue to develop it into the game it should have been released as, leading up to its actual PS5/Xbox Series launch

 

Facebook’s begun using full-page newspaper ads to slam Apple’s upcoming privacy measures, claiming they’re standing up for small businesses, titled “Apple vs the free internet”

  • Taking the Epic Games approach, Facebook’s defending their practices by holding up a small-business strawman and saying that they just want to protect the little guy by getting to do whatever they want
  • The ads say that Apple’s changes will limit small and medium sized businesses ability to run personalized ads, leading to less bang for their buck, and that’s really all Facebook’s worried about. Not the fact that Facebook won’t have as much access to data they harvest on everyone to sell those very same ads. 
  • This is very much the same problem that law enforcement is having with encryption and privacy- they’ve had free access to look through peoples’ windows for so long, they can’t stand the idea of people installing blinds and being allowed to close them if they want to
  • The privacy measure that has them up in arms, by the way, is just a popup asking if you want to allow an app to track your activity across other apps and websites. There’s a spot where they can explain why they need it, and buttons to either “Ask App not to Track” or “Allow”. That’s it.
    • Maybe instead of wailing and tearing their shirts over this, crying to businesses that they have no choice but to comply with the tracking transparency features, Facebook should be convincing users why they should click Allow

 

Popular video conferencing app Zoom continues to be awful, now accused by the US Justice Department of suppressing calls about Tiananmen Square at China’s behest

  • According to the Washington Post, Zoom executives worked with Chinese law enforcement to monitor calls both within and outside of China for discussions of political and religious topics deemed unacceptable by China’s Communist Party
  • The monitoring lead to disrupting video calls, terminating accounts, and delivering personal information about identified users to government officials in China
  • This proves pretty definitively that they don’t use encryption, your calls are not private, and we as a global community need to stop using Zoom

 

These Weeks in Gaming History

December 8 – 1997 – Command & Conquer: Sole Survivor – Windows

  • This game is strictly multiplayer game.
    • It broke records with the fact that there can be 51 players playing it at the same time.
    • Every player has only one unit, and only one is to be the sole survivor.
    • Otherwise, the graphic is same as in original Command & Conquer DOS and GOLD version, with some extra units as a difference.

December 9 – 1995 – WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness – DOS

  • WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness is a fantasy themed real-time strategy game and sequel to WarCraft: Orcs & Humansset on the world of Azeroth.
    • With the conquest of the kingdom of Azeroth in the first war, the orcs are now preparing for an invasion of Lordaeron and conquer the remaining human, dwarven and elvisch realms.
    • In an effort to counter this invasion the humans, elves and dwarves formed an alliance in the hope to avert the same fate the kingdom of Azeroth met.
  • The game comes with many new features such as fighting not only over land but also over sea and air, SVGA 640×480 resolution graphics with many newly-rendered buildings and units, multiplayer-support with up to eight players, as well as a Red Book audio soundtrack, and a scenario editor that allows players to design and create their own scenarios.
    • The editor requires Windows 3.1 or greater, even though WarCraft II is a DOS-based game.

December 10 – 2020 – Cyberpunk 2077 – PS4, Xbox One, Windows

  • Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world, action-adventure story set in Night City, a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification.
    • You play as V, a mercenary outlaw going after a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality.
    • You can customize your character’s cyberware, skillset and playstyle, and explore a vast city where the choices you make shape the story and the world around you.
  • Become a cyberpunk, an urban mercenary equipped with cybernetic enhancements and build your legend on the streets of Night City.
  • Enter the massive open world of Night City, a place that sets new standards in terms of visuals, complexity and depth.
  • Take the riskiest job of your life and go after a prototype implant that is the key to immortality.

December 11 – 2001 – Shadow Hearts – Playstation 2 North America

  • Yuri Hyuga is a young harmonixer: a man who possesses the power of transforming into demons.
    • He meets Alice Elliot, a young British girl whose father was brutally murdered, and who is chased by a mysterious warlock who calls himself Roger Bacon.
    • Yuri and Alice travel through the pre-war China, dealing with demons, evil magicians, and Japanese occupation army.
    • The journey eventually takes them and their friends to Europe, where they have to confront their ultimate enemy, but also uncover the truth about their own pasts.
  • Shadow Hearts is a Japanese-style role-playing game set in a historical period (China and Europe of 1913, one year before the World War I) with plenty of supernatural elements mixed in.
    • The game shares plot-related and stylistic traits with Koudelka, to which it can be considered a sequel.
    • The player navigates a party of characters (up to three active combatants) over pre-rendered backgrounds.
    • Combat with regular enemies occurs randomly. During battles, characters use regular attacks or cast spells.
    • In addition to the regular health (HP) and magic points (MP), each character also has a special SP (“sanity points”) bar.
      • Sanity bar is gradually depleted in combat; when characters run out of SP, they become insane and hence uncontrollable, until their sanity is restored with items.
  • The game implements traditional turn-based combat style for the battles, adding to it a feature called Judgment Ring.
    • Every time a character performs an attack, a ring with a spinning arrow appears on the top of the screen.
    • If the player stops the arrow when it is over a critical area on the ring, the attack will be more powerful.
    • However, missing the larger hit area will cancel the attack completely.
    • Various types of attacks have rings of various difficulty; usually, the more powerful a spell is, the smaller the hit area is on the ring.
    • The Judgment Ring is also used for other purposes; it can help the player reduce prices in stores, and is needed to solve several puzzles.
  • All characters except Yuri learn new abilities automatically when leveling up.
    • Due to his demon-fusion abilities, Yuri can collect soul energy and use it to acquire various fusion forms.
    • When Yuri transforms into a demon he gains unique abilities, and continues fighting with the party as a controllable character.
    • He also has to travel to a graveyard in his own mental realm from time to time, in order to face his own inner demons and clear Malice, negative vengeful energy the party accumulates by killing enemies.

December 12 – 2000- Star Wars: Episode I – Obi-Wan’s Adventures – Game Boy Color

  • Play as Obi-Wan through many levels of battle droids, similar in style to Jedi Power Battles.
    • You can use your lightsaber, blaster or the force to defeat the enemy and advance to the final showdown with Darth Maul.

December 13 – 1996 – Sonic Blast – Game Gear (Japan)

  • Sonic Blast was released for Game Gear in conjunction with Sonic 3D Blast (aka Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island) for Genesis/MD and Saturn.
    • It boasted similarly rendered character sprites and colorful backgrounds.
    • The game was yet another addition to the series, plus Sega had hoped it would be a boost to the dying Game Gear’s title selection at the time.
    • Brazilian based TecToy re-released the game for Sega Master System in 1997, a year after the initial release (while many may think this is a pirated title, TecToy is indeed licensed to produce and release games under the Sega name).

December 14 – 2017 – Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory – PS4, PS Vita (Japan)

  • Brand new title from the “Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth”.
    • Set in the near future, the line between the real and digital worlds is blurred, become a hacker and utilize computer viruses called Digimon to tackle the incidents caused by hostile hackers other Digimons.
  • Scan, raise, train and battle Digimon in classic turn-based gameplay!
    • 「Adventure」…Take on the role of a hacker within the cyber space and resolve the digital woes! Command Digimons and utilize your hacking skills!
    • 「Training」…Seek out Digimons and put them through intensive training before evolving into stronger breeds!
    • 「Battle」…Form your very own Digimon team for battle! Take on fights effortless with mastery of Digimon skills and elements at your disposal!
      • A total of 320 Digimon variants available and a wide range of brand new support skills effectively expands your battle arsenal.
  • Team battle simulation & quests such as the ”Domination Battle”, ”Territory Contest” etc. along with enhanced online gameplay elements are added as well.
  • With just this title, you would have access to all the gameplay elements ”Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth“ world could ever offer!
  • Main story from the previous title ”Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth“ included with cross-save features and special bring-over bonus available as well!
  • New players could fully enjoy the ”Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth“ series like any existing players too!

December 15 – 1992 – Batman Returns – DOS

  • Frigid winter winds swept over an already chilled Gotham City.
    • Random street crimes were running at an all-time high, despite the holidays.
    • Down below, in the city’s frozen sewers, Oswald Cobblepot, known as The Penguin, planned more mayhem and schemed the take over of the frightened metropolis.
    • His loyal army of missile-packing Penguin Commandos and the bizarre Red Triangle Circus Gang are energized by the evil genius of the web-footed orphan.
    • A desperate call to Batman goes up.
  • Batman Returns is an adventure game with fighting sequences, based on the movie of the same name.
    • Control Batman’s combat style, and help conduct relentless interrogations of The Penguins many allies.
    • Use the Batcave computer to input clues, analyze evidence, and review enemy bios.
    • You’re in charge of weapons, too.
    • Stock Batman’s Utility belt with enough heat to match the diverse fighting styles of The Penguin and cold-blooded, sewer-dwelling minions.

December 16 – 2003 – The Sims: Bustin’ Out – GameCube, PS2, XBox

  • The Sims: Bustin’ Out is the console sequel to The Sims and the second Sims game to appear on the major consoles.
    • Sims can now leave their house and visit all different kinds of locations.
  • In the mission-based Bust Out mode, the player starts at Mom’s house learning that evil Malcolm Langrabb is repossessing items from all the Sims homes.
    • Your job is to make enough money to buy back all the goods and eventually evict him from his own mansion.
    • The game also features an open-ended Freeplay mode.
  • Bustin’ Out’s big new features are the ability to visit and move between houses through the single player progression as well as an online multi-player mode for 2 people on the PS2.
    • The servers for the online mode have since been shut down.

December 17 – 2002 – Super Bubble Pop – GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Xbox

  • A combination of Tetris and Bust-A-Move, Super Bubble Pop has you controlling a character along the bottom of the playfield, who you use to throw bubbles of different colours towards the other side of the playfield.
    • As you throw them down the line, they will stack up in piles of six.
    • Linking three bubbles together will pop them (remove them from the field), and if there is a stack of six, the bubbles on the way will form a new stack in front of it.
  • The aim of the game is to remove all bubbles from the field, but there is another way of completing a game.
    • Tokens will appear during play, and by collecting enough, you can move on to the next round regardless of what you have on the playfield.

December 18 – 1998 – Star Craft: Brood War – Windows

  • StarCraft: Brood War is an add-on for StarCraft (requiring the full version of StarCraft) and a direct continuation of its story.
  • Plot:
    • With the demise of the Overmind on the Protoss home world at the end of the original game, the Zerg are left leaderless.
      • In an attempt to regain control, a number of cerebrates merge to form a new Overmind. Kerrigan, a human/Zerg hybrid however wants to take control of the Zerg herself.
      • The Protoss are evacuating what is left of their people from their ruined home world.
      • Meanwhile the United Earth Directorate (UED) have learned of the recent developments in the sector.
      • Fearing for the safety of Earth they sent an expeditionary fleet there to secure it.
  • Brood War brings several changes to the game, altering some gameplay aspects of the game, the most important change being the addition of new units.
    • The Terrans receive the Valkyrie, a craft with air-to-air fighting capabilities.
      • They also obtain the Medic, which can heal all non-mechanic units and, through upgrades, can use the Restore (remove all ailments on a unit) and Optical Flare (reduce the sight range of an enemy unit to 1) powers.
    • The Zergs receive the Lurker, obtained after mutating an Hydralisk, which can, and actually must, burrow to attack.
      • They also gain the Devourer, after mutation of a Mutalisk, an air-to-air unit, whose acid shots have notably the specificity of temporarily lowering the enemy defense, allowing other units to do increased damage.
    • The Protoss receive the Corsair, an air-to-air unit, which has access to the Disruption Web power (which, once cast, prevents targeted enemy units from firing outside of the web).
      • The Dark Templars, already seen in the original StarCraft are now a producable unit.
      • Their main strength lies in their permanent cloaking, allowing them to deliver their strong close combat attacks unharmed.
      • Additionally, in the same manner as two Templars can be merged as an Archon in StarCraft, two Dark Templars can now be merged to obtain a Dark Archon.
        • A Dark Archon has access to several powerful powers: Mind Control (giving permanent control of the targeted unit), Maelstrom (temporarily rendering all non-mechanical units within the target area unable to do anything) and Feedback (removes from a target unit the amount of energy it has available for special powers and inflicts it this amount as physical damage).
  • Besides the new units, some units already featured in StarCraft can now be upgraded in certain areas.
    • For instance, the Terran Goliath can have the range of its ground-to-air missiles be tremendously increased. Similarly, the Zerg Ultralisk can now receive speed and armor upgrades.
  • Other changes include a better AI and some alterations of the cost of certain units.
  • Three new campaigns are available.
    • In order, a Protoss campaign featuring 8 missions, a Terran campaign also featuring 8 missions and a Zerg campaign comprising 10 missions (plus a bonus mission if some requirements are met in mission 9).
  • The add-on also comes with about 100 multiplayer maps.

December 19 – 1994 – Blackthorne – DOS

  • The planet Tuul was a peaceful place, until the evil warrior Sarlac used the power of the Darkstone to take control.
    • Blackthorne’s father, the good King Vlaros, sent him to Earth just as his kingdom crumbled around him.
    • Now, twenty years later, Blackthorne is grown and must return to Tuul to free it from the clutches of Sarlac.
  • Blackthorne is a platform action game played from a side-view with non-scrolling backgrounds.
    • It has certain similarities to Prince of Persia, being set in maze-like environments and focusing on exploration and occasional puzzle-solving.
    • Blackthorne fights enemies by shooting at them.
    • His default weapon, a pump action shotgun, can be upgraded throughout the course of the game.
    • Various types of bombs can be used to damage enemies, blow open doors, or destroy generations.
    • Keys must be often found to gain access to new areas.

December 20 – 2013 – TRIHAYWBFRFYH (The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home) – Browser, Mac, Windows

  • TRIHAYWBFRFYH is a short experimental game based on the theme of loneliness in the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
    • Set in a misty setting with fields, hills and forests, the protagonist experiences the last 20 minutes before rapture, the end of the world.
    • A large alien or celestial shape looms above while time counts down.
    • The player is free to explore the environment in any direction.
    • Four type of trails, marked by large vertical columns in a different colour, can be tracked.
    • When the character gets near one of them, part of a Lovecraft story is narrated and the coloured sphere appears somewhere else.
  • There are no clear goals in the game except to explore, listen to the stories and hear the electronic music drone on as the inevitable rapture gets near.
    • At regular intervals lightning may strike or an earthquake may occur.
    • Movement is done with four keys along with the mouse to look.
    • The secondary mouse button provides a zoomed-in view.

December 21 – 2000 – The Broken Land – Windows

  • An RPG game in the dungeon crawl style of Diablo.
    • The basic story involves you saving Heaven (not Earth) by re-combining the 5 pieces Heaven was split into by a battle with the gods and the forces of evil.
    • Game play is hack-and-slash with limited interaction with NPCs and merchants.
    • Characters have limited upgrades available to them as do the weapons and armor.
    • The game was released with no printed manual (it was included on the disk, but was inaccurate to the actual game play).

December 22 – 1998 – South Park – N64

  • A comet is heading toward South Park, causing many of the enemies from early seasons of the shows (including cows, aliens, and clones) to rise up and attack.
    • The player takes control of Kyle, Cartman, Kenny and Stan to fight through the town in a first-person perspective.
    • Features new dialogue from the original voice actors on the show.
  • Single player takes the form of a “Story” mode divided into five episodes and fifteen linear levels.
    • The player will face weak minions (which change based on the episode), plus occasional sub-bosses which will try to escape into town.
    • The final level is devoted to a unique boss fight.
    • Players use quirky weapons ranging from infinite yellow snowballs to cow launchers and toxic Terrance and Phillip dolls.
    • Every weapon has a secondary fire, and players switch between the four main characters when they switch weapons – each of the four kids shares a single life bar because of this.
    • The kids will comment on game actions as they occur, with heavier profanity censored with bleeps.
    • The kids will get angrier (and fouler) as their health depletes, until they finally give up on saving the town and go home.
  • A multiplayer mode lets players take characters and weapons they unlock in Story mode into small deathmatch arenas.
    • The PlayStation version supports 2 players, the N64 does 4, and the PC version allows players to go online to search for opponents through GameSpy.
    • Players can set standard victory options like knockouts or time limits.
    • Voice samples for multiplayer are also included, so the characters will make comments and taunts when hit.
  • Graphics are rendered in 3D, in a style approximating that of the show.
    • Draw distance is limited by a heavy fog, with varying severity based on the platform.
    • None of the environments are interactive, and only enemies respond to weapon hits.
    • The N64 version supports the Expansion Pak.

December 23 – 2015 – Who’s Your Daddy – Linux, Mac, PC

  • Who’s Your Daddy is a two-player versus game in which one player controls a bumbling father, while the other takes the role of his infant son.
    • The father is responsible for the baby’s well-being, and as such needs to work to baby-proof the house.
    • He can also perform chores that will grant special abilities that help him keep an eye on the child and any hazards.
    • However, the player controlling the baby is given the goal of taking his own life through whatever means are available, such as drowning himself or ingesting poisonous chemicals.
    • The baby wins if he is able to commit suicide, while the father wins if he is able to keep his son alive until time runs out.

December 24 – 2009 – Tuper Tario Tros. – Browser

  • Tuper Tario Tros. is a mash-up of two classic games: Super Mario Bros. and Tetris.
    • Inspired by the puzzle platforming in Lucidity, this is the first in a series of deep water experiments by the developers to test experimental game prototypes.
    • The game starts like a traditional Super Mario Bros. platformer clone with the classic elements, enemies and power-ups, until Mario encounters a wall that cannot be passed.
    • From that point on, it is possible to switch to Tetris-style gameplay with the press of a key to move around and rotate falling blocks to redesign the level, creating lines to make blocks disappear or building bridges to cross gaps.
  • While in Tetris mode, Mario cannot be moved, but the gameplay is not paused.
    • Enemies continue to move around and the screen also moves forward at a steady pace.
    • Blocks can also be used to crush enemies.
    • At the end of the level, there is an additional section where both modes need to be used quickly in succession to complete a time-limited end sequence.

December 25 – 2010 – Coffee Forever – Mac, Windows

  • In Coffee Forever, you must find coffee!
    • You begin on a screen that is mostly hidden.
    • You must move about the screen, revealing more of the screen and finding and gathering cups of coffee.
    • Once the minimum number of them are found, the level is complete.
    • You must find the minimum number of cups before your coffee meter, a.k.a. the timer, runs out.
    • Also, be careful as there are spikes on the playing field. If the time runs out or you hit a spike, you lose a life.
    • Lose all your lives and the game is over.

December 26 – 2001 – Final Fantasy X – PS2

  • Tidus is a young athlete who lives in a futuristic city of Zanarkand – “the city that never sleeps”.
    • He plays blitzball, a ball game where players throw the ball while flying around.
    • Suddenly, a terrible disaster happens.
    • A huge dark wave engulfs the city, spawning monsters.
    • Tidus comes in contact with the mysterious creature, and as a result finds himself in a different world, a thousand years into the future.
    • The civilization he is used to doesn’t exist any more.
    • He learns that the world he knew was destroyed by Sin, a terrible being that is believed to be indestructible.
    • Tidus meets a young summoner named Yuna, and joins her as a guardian on her quest to put an end to Sin.
  • Final Fantasy X is Japanese-style role-playing game set in a world somewhat similar to South Asia.
    • Only individual locations can be physically explored; there is no “world map” in the game, and exploration is fairly linear.
    • Enemy encounters are random; the game abandons the series’ traditional ATB (active-time battle) combat in favor of a Conditional Turn-Based Battle system, in which the turns of the participants are determined by characters’ stats and actions, with turn order displayed in the upper corner of the screen.
  • The game also departs from the usual leveling up system.
    • There are no character levels in the game: instead, experience points received after battles can be allocated by the player directly to upgrade the characters’ parameters.
    • Each character has his or her special “sphere map”, with straight or branching paths containing spots that increase the character’s personal statistics, or teach him or her active and passive abilities.
    • The characters are given distinct class attributes, and it is possible top switch between all the party members during the same battle. Monster summons (called aeons in the game) now behave like playable characters, have their own hit points (HP), and can fight for the party until defeated.
  • Conversations that occur during cutscenes have voice overs, for the first time in the series.
    • The game features various mini-games, the most prominent of which are blitzball tournaments.

December 27 – 1995 – The Indian In The Cupboard – Mac, Windows

  • Inside of a young boy’s cupboard, the tiny toy figurine native american named Little Bear has come to life.
    • Letting the tiny man guide you through several activities will allow you to bring more toys to life and show your accomplishments on your wampum belt.
    • Some of the available activities include the bead pictures game, where you practice your artistry with carved Iroquois templates and colored beads.
    • There’s also the Music Mimicry game and the Symbols game and several more.
    • Completing all the activities successfully opens up a new area, the Bedroom 3-D environment and makes available six different quests.

December 28 – 2004 – MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf – Xbox

  • MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf takes place roughly one year after the original MechAssault game.
    • This is not a simple extension of the first game.
    • There are a lot of new missions, vehicles (mechs, tanks, and whatever else the player can find), and worlds to explore.
    • Jump in and let’s go for a ride.
  • The game adds new gameplay elements to the system used in MechAssault.
    • In the original game, the player was a Mech pilot and nothing else.
    • Here, the player is the only pilot in the game world.
    • This means that the player can now get out of a Mech and drive someone else’s Mech.
    • Want to drive a tank or some of the other vehicles?
    • Well, now it is possible.
    • Jump in many of the vehicles and take one for a ride
    • Of course, the Battlemech still rules the field.
  • Like the original game, Xbox Live is fully supported for multiplayer gaming.

December 29 – 2005 – Dead or Alive 4 – Xbox 360

  • The fourth installment in the Dead or Alive series (excluding Beach Volleyball) continues in a similar vein of fighting game.
    • Delivering another dose of combo heavy action set in a variety of highly interactive locations.
  • With Helena assuming control over DOATEC an eclectic cast of fighters from all corners of the world all battle each other for some personal goal. Each character has vastly different, and often unusual, motives.
  • In the main game’s story mode each character fights through a series of encounters, often with a bizarre context eg. taking exception to cruelty to a T-Rex and a fight over a fresh lettuce are both examples of the rather odd but still hilarious Japanese humour.
  • XBOX Live support allows players to watch fights while waiting for their turn in the arena.
    • VOIP is also supported, as with many Live games.
  • Featuring a graphical upgrade and an improved fighting system (tested by some top DOA players before release) Dead or Alive 4 is aimed not only at the older DOA players, but enticing new gamers due to the less intimidating control system, and giving slightly less advantage to the experienced.

December 30 – 2010 – Pong Solitare – Browser

  • Pong Solitaire is a joke game from the web comic artist Steve Napierski.
    • It is a mix between Pong and Solitaire.
    • The gameplay is similar to the classic Pong game, except that the opponent’s paddle occupies the entire height of the screen.
    • That way you can only lose, as you grow tired of bouncing it back to yourself all the time.

December 31 – 1996 – Diablo – Windows

  • Story:
    • Long ago a secret war raged between Heaven and Hell, each using humanity as its pawns.
      • While the Prime Evils of Hell were engaged in war their lesser lieutenants conspired to overthrow them.
      • They mutinied suddenly with the combined forces of Hell, overwhelming the three Primes.
      • Stripped of their power, they were banished to the mortal realm.
      • Human agents of Heaven, upon discovering this, found the three Primes and sealed them within gemstone prisons, each of them sent to a different corner of the earth and kept under guard to prevent them from escaping.
    • As years turns to centuries, however, the power of Heaven’s agents waned, until eventually not even the people of the town of Tristram knew that buried deep under their chapel was the soul of the Lord of Terror, Diablo.
      • As the strength of his prison waned Diablo reached out into the world, corrupting the dreams of the land’s good king, driving him to attack his neighbors.
      • The nation of Khanduras fought wars with no intention of winning, desiring only slaughter and suffering.
      • Now the lands lay scorched, home only to monsters and the dead.
      • Rumors spread of a way to stop the demons, as well as rumors of great wealth, and both draw adventurers from far to the small town of Tristram.
  • Players start by choosing their avatar’s class: either Warrior, Rogue, or Sorcerer.
    • Warriors have the highest maximum strength and can repair weapons and armor inside the dungeon, but this will lower the item’s maximum durability.
    • The Rogue has the highest maximum dexterity and can both see and disarm traps on treasure chests.
    • The Sorcerer has the highest maximum magic attribute and can recharge the charges on a spellcasting staff at the cost of his own mana.
  • Characters can equip armor, weapons, and accessories found in the chapel’s shifting dungeons, but strong equipment will have minimum attribute requirements to be worn.
    • Most equipment will have randomized stats, but some strong monsters will drop Unique weapons with set stats.
    • Magic can be learned by finding magic tomes, and leveled up by finding multiples of the same spell tome, but advanced spell levels can not be learned if the character’s magic stat is too low.
    • Upon destroying enough monsters to level up the player is rewarded with additional attribute points to distribute to whichever attributes they wish.
    • Occasionally the few people left in town will inform the player of a job they would like done, either an exceptionally strong monster that must be slain or a unique item found deep in the dungeon, and will reward the player in kind upon completion of the quest.
  • Diablo can be played cooperatively with 1 to 3 other players over LAN or BattleNet with the PC versions, or with 1 player locally on the PlayStation.
    • Players can team up to survive the depths of the dungeons, or turn on each other to steal one another’s items from their corpse.
    • The quest unique zones are removed from the online version of a dungeon, and instead quest monsters will be found wandering the level that would normally lead to their unique area.

January 1 – 1990 – Hugo’s House of Horrors – DOS

  • Hugo’s sweetheart Penelope has vanished after visiting a haunted house on a babysitting job.
    • In order to save her, Hugo must explore the area around, within, and beneath the house and solve its mysteries, while surviving its many perils.
  • Hugo’s House of Horrors is a graphic adventure game, controlled with a combination of the arrow keys for movement, and typed commands such as eat steak to interact with the environment.
    • Some challenges are puzzles which must be solved by clever use of items found in the house, while others require quick and careful movement, or test the player’s knowledge.
  • This game is the first game in the Hugo’s House of Horrors shareware trilogy.
    • This full game was released as a taster for the full trilogy which includes this game plus the titles Hugo’s Mystery Adventure, Hugo’s Amazon Adventure, a hint book and an automatic solver which plays the game like a movie.

January 2 – 2010 – Newton Adventure – Linux, Mac, Windows

  • Newton Adventure is a 2D platform game with a unique feature: in order to get through the 21 levels, the player has to rotate them and change gravity at 360°.
  • By using this special rotating power, the hero can jump to distant platforms, make enemies fall or move objects.
  • Divided in four themed worlds (arctic, jungle, Vatican and Egypt), the 20 levels have the same goals: find the door to exit and the key that open it.
    • The key is an object to be brought by pushing it or by making it fall using gravity change.
  • Aside from completing the levels, the goals is to make highest scores possible, by killing enemies, collecting items or accessing to special bonus zones.

January 3 – 2007 – Paws & Claws: Pet Vet – Nintendo DS

  • You Love Animals and They Love You!
  • Now you can pamper and rescue all of your favorite creatures at your own Paws & Claws Pet Vet.
    • Nurture and love the animals to grow your business and become every animal’s best friend!
  • Features:
    • Nurse all of your injured patients back to health through 20+ cases
    • Choose from 10+ different kinds of animals, from cockatoos and guinea pigs to dogs and horses
    • Visit the 3D clothing shop and choose from 9 cute outfits
    • Become the best vet and you’ll grow your business into the biggest pet clinic in town!

January 4 – 2001 – Thandor: The Invasion – Windows

  • After the defeat of the Golraths, the Alliance of Averes have collapsed and the allies have turned enemies.
    • But in the times of turmoil and despair, some faithful Alliance soldiers are planning for a return to the glorious Alliance…
  • Thandor is a 3D RTS game where you build units and battle other factions for control of resources (to build more units).

January 5 – 2004 – Sonic Battle – Game Boy Advance (North America)

  • Sonic Battle is a fast paced pseudo-fighting game, akin to Super Smash Brothers from Nintendo.
    • Rather than being 3D side-scrolling, this game employs a 3D isometric view- not a static, sprite-based field though, it is comprised of actual texture-mapped polygons.
    • The character sprites are 2D though, and while you think it wouldn’t work- it does 😛
  • You can have 9 characters to choose from, 5 modes of play; Story, Battle, Challenge, Training, and Mini Games; you can link up 4 GBA’s to fight your friends, each character has a bunch of moves you can use to beat the you-know-what out of whoever you’re fighting.
    • It has a system of selecting Aerial, Ground, and Guard based attacks, and depending on what type of attack you set for which area (aerial/ground/guard), you have a possibility of 9 total different special attacks to choose from (only 3 at a time in a match though) which you can change each time you lose 1 stock point.
  • Among the other many features, Sonic Team has also made the game more dynamic with the addition of a trainable character whose abilities and techniques you can raise and add to.
    • You get to pick and choose every aspect of the robot’s style (running, attacking, jumping, dashing, etc etc etc etc etc).
  • The game takes a moderate amount of time to play through as all the characters, and adds a longer lifespan to itself if you wish to play through and beat it completely (all characters, get all moves for the trainable robot, etc).

January 6 – 2010 – Born Into Darkness – Mac, Windows

  • Nathaniel Black joins the vampire Amber Blythe on a treasure hunt around the world, where they must follow the clues left on artifacts and ancient tombs to retrieve the lost Shroud of Lazarus.
  • Born Into Darkness is a hidden object game with adventure elements, where the main objective is to find all pieces of inventory items, to assemble and use them later.
    • The interface tray at the bottom shows the silhouettes of the required objects whose parts are scattered around the location.
    • As in most point-and-click titles, the player moves between scenes by clicking on obvious exit hotspots like doors and other openings.
    • The silhouettes can be selected to show the all the parts necessary to complete the object.
    • Once assembled, the item can be dragged and dropped from the inventory to a logical portion of the scenery to solve puzzles or perform certain actions.
  • The inventory is framed by blue and red hint jewels and medallions for each main character.
    • There are slots for six jewels that highlight the position of one of the required parts when activated, showing only pieces for silhouettes that match their colors.
    • Extra hints can be earned by selecting one of the medallions to play a mini-game.
    • On Nathaniel’s mini-game, the goal is to find and click on the words listed at the top of the medallion on a pile of juxtaposed text at the center.
    • On Amber’s mini-game, the player has to click on the flying ghost whose portrait appears on slots at the side of the medallion.

January 7 – 1998 – Sentry – Windows

  • Sentry is a freeware remake of Geoff Crammond’s all-time classic, The Sentinel.
    • Gameplay remains true to the original, in this battle for dominance via height.
    • Climb higher by building towers of boulders, gain energy by absorbing natural resources and teleport around the strange checkered landscape via robot shells.
    • Meanwhile, you must avoid the deadly gaze of The Sentinel, who looks out from the highest peak.
    • Get higher than him, then absorb him and take his place as ruler.
  • This Windows version includes texture mapping, dynamic lighting, music, an infinite supply of levels and a host of options.
    • There are even two different stereoscopic modes.

January 8 – 2016 – Punch Club – Linux, Mac, Windows

  • Punch Club is a sporting management simulation in which the player manages an upcoming boxer in training and preparation for a series of boxing matches at a local club, while searching for clues of who killed their father.
    • The game was developed as a humorous take on action films of the 1980s and 1990s.
  • The player controls an unnamed boxer whose father, who helped to train him, was murdered.
    • The boxer aims to continue his training and become the best boxer at a local league, while following clues to lead him to who killed his father.
    • The player manages the boxer around the clock through various locations in a city, including his home, the boxing gym, stores, and his work place.
    • Time progresses when the player is involved in any activity, including moving between these locations.

Tidbits

  • Apple launched their “Privacy Nutrition Labels” on the App Store, giving you a full breakdown of what information they’re collecting when you use the app
    • If you want a wake-up call just head over to Facebook’s or Instagram’s listing and scroll through the plethora of info they’re harvesting
  • It begins again- Samsung is deleting posts mocking Apple about not including USB wall adaptors with new iPhones amid plans to do the very same with their Galaxy S21
    • Xiaomi is in the exact same situation too, releasing ads for their Mi10 phone highlighting the included power adaptor and now removing it from the Mi11 citing the environment
  • Adobe Flash is officially dead, with support having ended on December 31st
    • But that which is dead may never die, and you can still see Peanut Butter Jelly Time over at the Internet Archive thanks to emulators
  • Watch Death to 2020 on Netflix
    • Hilarious mockumentary about the year we all just got through, with some great actors and excellent writing

A Smart Bird Feeder

  • Bird Buddy is a Wifi enabled bird feeder
    • Notifies you on bird visitors
    • Takes their photo
    • And organizes it into a collection which is easy to share
    • It will also track the species and catalog it in a collection for you
  • What features make it a Smart Feeder
    • There is a front facing camera, that is equipped with AI that can recognize over a 1000 bird species
    • The built in microphone will also identify birds by song as they approach or pass by.
    • The mobile app lets you access these features as well, wherever you are
  • The module is detachable and upgrade-able from the bird feeder itself.
  • Very much funded
    • A goal of 50,000 euro
    • At time of note taking, over 3 million euro
  • Add on’s:
    • Solar Roof
    • Wall Mount
    • Fence mount
    • Suet Ball holder
  • You are also helping bird conservation
    • Tracking info on bird species will help with migratory patterns and data will be accessible by experts
    • Every feeder also includes a guide to bird feeding

 

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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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Free games

  • Twitch

    • Truberbrook

      • 2019
      • A point-and-click sci-fi mystery adventure game with hand-made scenery and stop-motion elements married with 3D animation
  • Epic Games

    • Remnant: From the Ashes

      • 2019
      • Third person action RPG shooter that borrows mechanics from the Soulsborne games with the addition of more gunplay on top of melee combat, where the earth has been decimated and overrun by an interdimensional evil called the Root
    • The Alto Collection

      • Alto’s Adventure
        • Join Alto and his friends as they embark on an endless snowboarding odyssey. Journey across the beautiful alpine hills of their native wilderness, through neighbouring villages, ancient woodlands, and long-abandoned ruins.
      • Alto’s Odyssey
        • Join Alto and his friends and set off on an endless sandboarding journey to discover its secrets. Soar above windswept dunes, traverse thrilling canyons, and explore long-hidden temples in a fantastical place far from home.

Trump has apparently issued executive orders that will ban not only TikTok but also WeChat from operating in the US if they aren’t sold by their Chinese-owned companies by the end of September

  • As we’ve reported Microsoft is already looking at buying TikTok from its parent company ByteDance, but this is the first we’re hearing about anything to do with WeChat
    • WeChat started life as a popular chat platform, especially for communicating with people in China as other US messaging apps are banned by the Chinese government, but has grown with abilities like transferring money and shopping online
  • Trump’s order alleges that TikTok “automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users,” such as location data and browsing and search histories, which “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”
    • There’s some basis to these worries, since a Wall Street Journal report found that the app tracked Android users’ MAC addresses for over a year, as recently as November 2019
      • A MAC address is a globally-unique identifier for any device that connects to a network, and is normally blocked so they had to build a workaround to even get the information
    • The order also claims that the platform censors or disseminates content in keeping with the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda, citing “when TikTok videos spread debunked conspiracy theories about the origins of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”
  • And the one for WeChat is pretty similar, but also includes a ban on financial transactions with its owner Tencent
  • I can see where this is all coming from, but as TikTok said in a statement it sets a dangerous precedent in forcing foreign companies to sell to American ones if they want to operate in the US
  • And you have to wonder how much of this is fuelled by the stunt organized by many TikTok users which had them registering for thousands of tickets to the Trump campaign rally in Tulsa but not showing up, which likely contributed to the sparse attendance
    • As we’ve seen before, when something hits Trump’s ego he’s likely to lash out in toddlerific fashion
  • It’s gotten to the point where TikTok is apparently planning to sue the Trump administration, challenging the executive order and arguing that the action is unconstitutional as it does not give the company a chance to respond
    • They also state that the national security justification is baseless, according to a source talking to NPR, and that it’s built on pure speculation and conjecture

Epic Games has decided to take on Apple and their App Store in a calculated move regarding in-app purchases

  • Earlier this week, Epic introduced a new direct payment option in the Fortnite app for iPhone and iPad, allowing players to purchase in-game currency at a discount by bypassing Apple’s in-app payment framework and giving the money directly to Epic Games
  • The problem with that is Apple’s App Store guidelines are specifically against that, saying that not only do purchases of in-game currencies need to go through the App Store, but also that you’re not even allowed to tell someone about other purchasing options
    • This makes sense to a point, because Apple generally gets 30% of App Store sales and if someone could say “Hey, pay on our website and it’s cheaper!” then that revenue would drop significantly
  • Epic Games knows exactly what they’re doing in flouting these regulations though, and in an FAQ they described not only Apple’s but also Google’s 30% commission as “exorbitant”, leading them to introduce an alternate payment system to offer 20% discounts
    • If you’re doing the math at home, I guess they’re grabbing that extra 10% for themselves
  • So just hours after the new payment option was brought online, Apple pulled the Fortnite app from the App Store
    • In a statement provided to MacRumors, Apple said that Epic Games knowingly violated the App Store guidelines, and just because they want to push for a special arrangement doesn’t change the fact that the same set of rules should apply to everyone
    • One thing to note, this doesn’t stop anyone from playing the game if they’ve already downloaded it, it just stops new downloads
  • Shortly afterward, Epic announced a new Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite short riffing on Apple’s 1984 ad and likening Apple to Big Brother
    • The fact that they had this ready in the chamber shows they knew exactly what they were doing when breaking those rules and how Apple would react
    • And they’re definitely going guns-blazing, claiming at the end of the video that “Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices”, even though as we previously said anyone that already downloaded it can still play
  • Then Epic Games filed a pre-prepared lawsuit against Apple for pulling Fortnite, accusing Apple of being “the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation”, imposing “anti-competitive restraints” and using “monopolistic practices in markets” against developers
    • It’s a little hard to justify this though, since Apple basically built a walled garden and made it attractive enough for people to want to play in it. Just because you break the rules and get kicked out doesn’t mean they owe you a spot inside.
  • Epic says it’s not looking for a cash payout, but instead wants to secure relief in the iOS app distribution and payment processing market for consumers and developers
    • Digging in to the lawsuit, it looks like they’re using this situation as a wedge to argue that iOS should be as open to third-party software as the Mac is. In fact, they’re almost saying it’s illegal not to be
  • At this point is feels like Epic Games is jumping on the antitrust bandwagon, protesting that Apple’s not making enough space for them to thrive, but I wonder how it would feel if this kind of thing was applied globally.
    • Look at Fortnite- it has a huge audience and I have no way of making money off of it. If I draw a gun skin and want to sell it inside of Fortnite there’s no way for me to do so. Because Epic is stifling my innovation and imposing anti-competitive restraints by forcing people to use its own currency inside the game instead of giving players a chance to give me money for my work.

Microsoft’s rumoured Xbox Series S has been confirmed by leaked controller packaging, and the controller’s pretty nice too

  • The new Xbox controller has slight design tweaks all over the place, with a redesigned d-pad, textured triggers, a new share button, and a slightly smoothed out shape
    • It reportedly even works on the current generation Xbox One, with onscreen graphics matching the updated controller
  • The packaging specifies that the controller works with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. The Series X has already been announced, but this is the first official word we’re hearing of the Series S
    • The S is expected to run the same CPU as the Series X, but with less RAM and a slower GPU
  • Twitter user @zakk_exe managed to buy the controller from someone on the online classifieds app OfferUp who “got it from a homie”

Facebook is facing yet another lawsuit over how the company uses the personal information of its users, this time because of Instagram

  • Last month Facebook offered a $650M settlement for illegally collecting biometric data via its photo tagging feature
    • If approved, affected users could be paid up to $400 each
  • Now a new case has been filed in California, accusing Facebook of collecting, storing, and profiting from the biometric data of over 100M Instagram users.
    • The biggest problem is that there was no consent involved, and users weren’t even made away of the data harvesting.
    • Instagram apparently let people know at the start of this year, but it’s believed to have occurred for some time before that
    • The lawsuit states that the unauthorized collection of this info would be a violation of Illinois privacy law, in which case Facebook could be forced to pay up to $5000 per violation

This Week In Gaming History

August 8 – 2013 – Cookie Clicker – Browser

  • Cookie Clicker is an endless game where the entire point is to gather cookies, then use them to buy items and upgrades which do nothing but gather cookies even faster.
  • It is highly regarded as the first, at least, the most influential incremental clicker game.

August 9 – 2018 – Discord Nitro Beta Releases

  • On the Discord Blog, this was posted “Today, we’re slowly rolling out a beta test to about 50,000 of our Canadian players and will be expanding to more over time. These players will see an upgraded version of Discord Nitro that has access to a curated selection of games along with the current subscription perks. They’ll also see a new Discord Store tab in the home screen with individual games for purchase.”
  • Released on the Beta, the following games for Windows:
    • Bridge Constructor
    • Dandara
    • Darksiders: Warmastered Collection
    • Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition
    • GoNNER
    • Kathy Rain
    • Kingdom: New Lands
    • Metro: Last Night – Redux
    • Slime-san: Superslime Edition
    • Super Meat Boy
    • System Shock: Enhanced Edition
    • Tormentor X Punisher
    • de Blob

August 10 – 2004 – Ben’s Game – Windows

  • A special 3d game designed by Ben Duskin and LucasArts. Ben is a 9 year old with Leukemia. Ben worked with the Make-A-Wish foundation to find a developer for Ben’s game. Ben wanted to make a game that would help kids battle cancer.
  • The game involves a changeable character riding a skateboard over an imaginary playing field, made of red blood cells and cartoon representations of viral infections. The character collects innoculents to shoot at his enemies. The player pivots his character in order to steer around objects and collect bonus shots.

August 11 – 1993 – Samurai Shodown – Neo Geo

  • In early feudal Japan, a man named Shiro Tokisada Amakusa preaches a heretic religion. Little does anyone know that Amakusa is really a servant of the evil Ambrosia, who had possessed and taken over Amakusa’s body, as Ambrosia wishes to shroud the world into eternal darkness. Now, the player must select from out of 12 fierce warriors and plus 3 bonus characters in order to fight for the honor of defeating Amakusa once and for all, while fulfilling a specific mission for each and every warrior in the game.
  • The Genesis version of the game does not however include the Earthquake which has been removed due to its 16-bit memory capacity and technical size limitations.

August 12 – 1981 – PC-DOS Included Game – DOS

  • Included with IBM’s PC-DOS was Microsoft’s BASICA (Advanced BASIC) interpreter and several programs, one of which was a game and hence is of interest to us: DONKEY.BAS.
  • Directing a sports car on a stretch of rural road, the player must beware of donkeys roaming its picturesque lanes. Spot a donkey ahead and the player must quickly determine whether to switch lanes with the space bar before the car’s course brings it into a messy head-on collision. With each burro successfully traversed, the car moves a little higher on the road — closer to earning a point for the player (after passing eleven mules) but also giving less response time between the appearance of the titular donkey and its potential impact.
  • The game credits two people for coding the game
    • Neil Kozen, whose other credit is for designing Forza Motorsport
    • Bill Gates

August 13 – 2013 – Papers, Please – Steam

  • Papers Please is a simulation game based on the life of a immigration inspector charged with checking passports at the border of a fictional communist state, Arztoska.
    • The game is set after the conclusion of a six year war with neighboring Kolechia, the war has moved the combatants boarded and left the city of Greznin split.
    • Kolechia controls the west and Arztoska the east. The game begins with the player being selected for border duty in Arztoska’s monthly labor lottery. He (the player character is unnamed) and his family are relocated to the city of Greznin.
  • A powerful game paralleling the Cold War in Europe.

August 14 – 1989 – Altered Beast – Sega Genesis, North America

  • You are a hero raised from the dead by the god Zeus to rescue his daughter Athena.
    • With scenery inspired by Ancient Greece, you have to fight hordes of undead and demons, with a boss at the end of each level until you meet the god Neff, who holds the girl captive.
  • Made by Team Shinobi, creators of the first Shinobi game, as well as Golden Axe
  • Fun podcast fact, the bit crushed audio from this game “Rise From Your Grave” is used as a bumper on the Last Podcast On The Left.

Tidbits

  • Researchers are rejoicing over changes to the names of human genetics, all because of Excel
    • Apparently there were genes with names like “Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1”, which was abbreviated to MARCH1. The problem was that Excel would automatically format that as the date 1-Mar and confuse data with no way to turn the feature off
    • There are manual options to prevent this, but they need to be applied to each spreadsheet and for many people that aren’t necessarily power users the data would just end up corrupted each time it was exported
  • Control is taking fire for how it’s unveiling the new Ultimate edition as part of the release of its second expansion
    • The Ultimate Edition will come with all updates and content, including both expansions, and see a Steam release for the first time
    • The problem is that only people who buy the Ultimate Edition will get an upgrade to the next-gen version when it comes out for the Series X and PS5
      • People who bought the game day one, or even those who purchased the season pass, will not get the free upgrade on next-gen consoles and would need to buy the game all over again
  • MIcrosoft’s new Surface Duo Android tablet finally answers the burning question “Hey, how much would it cost to slap a hinge on two 6” tablets?”.
    • The answer is apparently $1400 USD
  • Halo Infinite has officially been delayed until 2021, citing COVID-related impacts and other development challenges and saying the extra time will help them deliver the most ambitious Halo game ever
    • I’d quote Miyamoto about this, but as we’ve seen over the years with No Man’s Sky and Duke Nukem Forever development time doesn’t necessarily equate to quality

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

Thank you Renée, and check out her podcast that Josh works on, Ravage Love.

And thanks to the rest of our ‘fanily’ that support us.
And if you want to support us too, its as easy as clicking this link!
And talk to us in the comments!

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • Killing Floor 2

      • 2016
      • First person wave-based shooter than can be played solo or with up to 6 players cooperatively, it has you descending into continental Europe after it’s been overrun by murderous clones called Zeds
      • They also added an asymmetrical PVP mode that has one or more players taking on the role of the Zeds to kill the mercenaries
    • Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition

      • 2014
      • Adventure puzzle platformer that has you exploring an alien planet where you stumble upon a derelict Soviet Union science outpost and try to piece together how they got there and where they’ve gone now
      • The Premier Edition brings new content, improved graphics, new original music, and additional voice-acting
    • The Escapists 2

      • 2017
      • Top-down strategy RPG that has you playing an inmate in a prison, following daily routines, completing quests for fellow inmates, and seeking opportunities to escape
      • It also includes local and online multiplayer, either cooperative where two players help eachother break out or competitive where two teams see who can break out the fastest
  • Ubisoft is hosting their first all-digital conference streaming live on July 12, and if you log on to ubisoft.com/forward during the event you can get a free copy of Watch Dogs 2

Surprising completely no one, Google-backed groups are criticizing Apple’s warnings about user tracking

  • The next batch of updates coming to Apple software this fall have a lot to do with user tracking- specifically, giving you prompts when websites or apps are trying to track you across multiple services
  • Well a group of 16 marketing associations, many backed by Facebook and Google, are getting mad at Apple for not sticking to the existing ad-industry standard for getting user consent under European privacy rules, complaining that between the current adding a second layer of permissions increases the risk that users will refuse
  • Apple defended the move, and I believe rightfully so, by saying that the new feature is aimed at giving users greater transparency over how their info is being used and monetized
  • And really, if the best argument against giving users more opportunities to say no is that they might take them, you might have some predatory practices that need to be looked at

After allegations have been made about wildly inappropriate, unethical, and immoral behaviour in competitive Smash Bros communities, Nintendo has made a statement saying that they “condemn all acts of violence, harassment, and exploitation against anyone and that we stand with the victims.”

  • Apparently dozens of high-profile figures in the community have been accused of sexual misconduct, like harassment, assault, and grooming minors

In the latest of what I’m sure will be a long line of ass-coverings, LinkedIn says that their app reading iPhone clipboards after every keystroke is a bug and will be fixed soon

  • They’re blaming it on code that compares your clipboard contents with what has been typed in a textbox, which seems weird even on its own
  • iOS 14, now in beta, alerts users every time data they’ve copied is read by an app, and we’ve seen this catch out apps like TikTok, Twitter, Starbucks, and many more reading this information for no good reason
  • The Weather Network, also caught out by this, says that they only used the info if a user wished to share diagnostic information for troubleshooting and that they’ve reached out to Apple for guidance

Infinity Ward has quietly removed the OK gesture from Modern Warfare and Warzone

  • There hasn’t been any official statement about why, but this was likely in continuing support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • A while back 4Chan decided to help white supremacists appropriate the symbol (some claimed as a joke), saying that the three upraised fingers made a W and the circle made a P when you take the forearm into account
  • Regardless of their possible intentions, they have actually succeeded to the point that racists and terrorists have been sincerely using the symbol in dog-whistling photos and acts of terror against minorities and people of colour
  • The Anti-Defamation League even had to add it to their list of hate symbols in September of last year

SUPERHOT – MIND, CONTROL, DELETE is leaving Early access on July 16th after four years of development, and being given away free to anyone that purchased the original beforehand (free giveaways don’t count, though Kickstarter does)

  • The third game in the franchise, it’s bringing more immersion, more story, more characters, and more gameplay to the original SUPERHOT ‘first person shooter where time only moves when you do’ formula
  • The original is currently 60% off at get.superhotgame.com, so it’s a great time to get into it

Randonautica

  • Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Creepy findings

  • Randonaut Responsibly!

    • #1 Never, ever trespass onto private property.
      • We. Are. SERIOUS. Get as close to the point as you are comfortable without trespassing onto private property. Never enter someone’s backyard without permission. Never enter privately marked wooded or commercial areas. Trespassing onto private property is a direct violation of the user agreement for Randonautica. Owners and law enforcement will see the user as liable for trespassing or damages, not Randonautica. DO NOT TRESPASS.
    • #2 Stay totally clear of dangerous areas.
      • Never go near train tracks, railways or restricted electrical/power zones. Additionally, old structures, houses and buildings should be avoided entirely. The structural integrity could be jeopardized due to deterioration.
    • #3 Only adventure during the day.
      • The human mind is not trained for uncertainty and traveling to a totally randomized set of coordinates requires you to over-observe your surroundings and practice situational awareness. This is much easier to do while it is light outside. Randonauting at night is highly discouraged.
    • #4 Leave the environment better off than when you arrived.
      • Since the very beginning of the Randonaut community we’ve always said, Bring A Trashbag! Not only will you help mother nature by picking up litter, sometimes the trash can have unique and meaningful information to you!
    • #5 Always Randonaut with a charged phone.
      • Be smart and charge your phone or bring a car charger. GPS can drain your battery and you are very likely to be in an unfamiliar area.
    • #6 Keep a positive mindset!
      • What you think, you observe! Negative intentions are HIGHLY discouraged. The Randonautica app was created to bring joy, peace and love to curious explorers all over the world.
    • #7 Go on the journey with a friend or small group.
      • While Randonauting alone is entirely acceptable, beginners should start in a small group or with a friend. Uncertainty of where you are going (the randomness!) can cause a fear factor response and having a buddy helps!
    • #8 Do not venture into areas outside your comfort zone.
      • Only make the trip to areas and places you are comfortable exploring. If you feel unsafe, do not leave your vehicle or retreat from the point. Randonautica does not know anything about the area you live in. Use common sense.
    • #9 Always use common sense when it comes to your personal physical limitations.
      • Sometimes a point might be in an area that is inaccessible without climbing, hiking, etc. Know your limits. Always hydrate and do not overextend yourself.
    • #10 Enjoy the whole journey, not just the point!
      • Get as close to the point as you are comfortable with but know the journey is sometimes the more meaningful experience!

99% Invisible

Freedom House Ambulance Service

Tidbits

  • Twitch has managed to put their collective foot in their mouth twice, first with a video that included the line “The G in LGBTQIA+ also stands for gamer”, and then with a Black Lives Matter video that barely featured any non-white creators
    • Both videos have since been pulled down and Twitch has stated that though their goal was to demonstrate the importance of allyship, they didn’t make it clear.
  • Ireland has launched their contact tracing app this week, taking advantage of the Apple/Google exposure notification API
    • The app downloads a list of anonymous IDs every two hours from those who have tested positive for COVID, letting users get alerts a lot faster than with a manual phone interview system
    • It also have features for those that have tested positive to track their symptoms and how they’re feeling, and for those that aren’t it shows facts and figures for the virus inside Ireland
  • iPhone users have taken to support forums and reddit to report battery drain issues related to the Music app, citing large amounts of background activity even on new devices that haven’t launched the Music app before
    • People have reported things like the app using 95% of their device’s battery across 18 hours of background activity when they weren’t even listening to music
    • The only consistent fix has been to remove the Music app, but for many that’s not really an option
  • Epic Games has launched their new Live Link Face app that lets game developers using the Unreal Engine use their iPhones’ TrueDepth camera for facial motion capture
    • I’ve tried it out and it’s pretty slick from a recording and facial mesh perspective, but to actually see it in action and applying the movements to a 3D model you need to connect it to a computer or full motion capture rig
    • It will definitely open up motion capture prospects to many who wouldn’t otherwise have the tech for it
  • Halo 3 is finally coming to the Master Chief Collection for PC on July 14th, and with it many redditors are excited for all the custom game types they know and love from the Xbox

Homework

 

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

Thank you Breanne, our podcast friend and someone we don’t want to miss out on! 😉

And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
And if you want to support us too, its as easy as clicking this link!
And talk to us in the comments!

PS2J 286 News – One Click Debt, No Refunds

Free Games

  • PS4

    • BioShock: The Collection

      • 2016
      • Remastered, 1080p ports of all three plot-driven first-person shooter games (BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite), taking you from the depths of Rapture to the skies of Columbia in some great stories in dystopias freed of “petty morality” summed up by “No gods or kings, only man”
    • The Sims 4

      • 2017
      • A reportedly decent port of the classic life simulation series that has you creating characters and households, then living their lives
    • Firewall Zero Hour

      • 2018
      • 4v4 tactical VR shooter developed exclusively for the PSVR that has you seizing or protecting sensitive information from opposing teams
  • Xbox One

    • TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge

      • 2018
      • Motorcycle racing game that has you challenging the deadly Snaefell Mountain course that has you taking on 38 miles of roads at over 180 mph
    • Call of Cthulhu

      • 2018
      • A role-playing psychological horror game inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, while also being an adaptation of the 1981 RPG of the same title
    • Fable Heroes

      • 2012
      • A beat ’em up spinoff of the Fable series, with a toy-like aesthetic and mixed reviews, it’s at least the first family friendly Fable title
    • Star Wars Battlefront

      • 2004
      • The original Battlefront game for the first Xbox, it’s a first and third person shooter that primarily plays as a conquest game with limited respawns for each team and also has a Galactic Conquest mode with some strategy elements
  • Epic Games

    • Farming Simulator 19

      • 2018
      • Pretty much what it says on the tin- it’s a full farming simulator with huge American and European environments, over 300 vehicles and machines, online co-op play, and a surprisingly large mod community
    • Next week we can look forward to PC ports of some popular board games

Apparently Ring isn’t just a product that lets people surveil their neighbours and gives police access to a network of cameras, it also tracks its customers through its app

  • We talked about the Ring camera doorbells and Amazon’s shady agreements with local police to promote the products and get access to recorded footage last summer back in episodes 263 and 268
  • Well now the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put together an investigation of the associated Android app and found it packed with third-party trackers sending out a plethora of personally identifiable information on its customers
    • This stuff includes names, IP addresses, mobile network carriers, persistent identifiers, and sensor data from the devices themselves
  • All of that info comes together to form a detailed fingerprint of the user that can be sold or used to see what people are doing in their digital lives, and most damning of all is that there is no notification, consent, or ways to mitigate the damage done
  • Ring is taking this information and delivering it to organizations like:
    • Facebook
    • Branch
      • a “deep linking” platform that builds those exact kind of digital fingerprints and associates them with other marketing and analytics data
    • AppsFlyer
      • another marketing data firm that’s now getting their hands on sensor data from all those devices
    • And Mixpanel
      • yet another business analytics service, but this one deserves special mention since Ring is sending them people’s full names, email address, details on your phone’s OS and hardware model, bluetooth settings, and how many locations you have Ring devices installed in
    • Of those services only Mixpanel is on Ring’s list of third-party services they say they work with, but they don’t make it clear just how much information they share
  • All that is to say, for being a company based around securing your home they sure don’t seem to have any consideration for your personal information. If you use a Ring device, it may be time to rethink that

Tesla’s taking heat this week because of their fairly predatory practices when it comes to buying upgrades

  • In a pretty suspicious move, about a week and a half before the end of their financial year Tesla rolled out a new feature in their phone app allowing people to buy software upgrades for their cars to enable full autopilot
  • Shortly afterward, they were hit with a lot of users complaining about unintended purchases and a terrible refund policy
    • In one case someone broke down exactly what happened- they essentially butt dialled the purchase, contacted support as soon as they could afterward and then a week later were told that there are no refunds for software purchases.
      • The support staff even compared it to “paying for an addition to a house, deciding you don’t like it, then requesting a refund from the contractor”
      • There are even some staff claiming that the upgrade can’t be removed from the car, when it’s basically just an enable/disable flag with no major download or installation involved
    • Eventually someone high-profile enough complained on Twitter and Elon Musk said that the refund situation would be addressed, but who knows if that will roll out to all the little people affected
  • The kicker here is how easy Tesla made it to accidentally make the purchase- it’s harder to download a free app
    • If you’re logged in to the Tesla app and go to the upgrades screen, the $4000 autopilot upgrade is automatically selected, added to your cart, and the payment prompt is immediately displayed
    • You then have two buttons- ApplePay, which would prompt for TouchID, FaceID, or your password, or Pay With Credit Card
      • One thing to note here is that they do have their refund denial policy shown at this point. On a black or very dark grey screen, below those buttons in slightly lighter grey text. All the other text is bright white.
      • Another interesting tidbit is that the refund policy was actually photoshopped off of the screen when it was shown in an investor presentation
    • If you do hit Pay With Credit Card it takes you to a confirmation screen with everything filled out- they don’t even ask for your card’s security code to verify, you just tap Pay at the bottom.
    • So if you’re in the Tesla app and put your phone in your pocket without locking it, whether by mistake or not, you’re three taps away from dropping $4000 without even knowing it
    • There are even some reports that the confirmation screen is new- some users last year just wanted to see the total with tax and were immediately charged
  • In investigating this I also stumbled upon some of the skeezy strategies Tesla has used on their website- when you look at the price of a car they default to showing it adjusted for “potential savings”
    • You might see that and expect some kind of rebates or sales, but in fact they bundle in the estimated savings from not buying gas for the life of the car, making a difference of thousands of dollars between the expected price and what Tesla actually charges for their vehicles.
  • All of this just really goes to show how Tesla seems to be trying to trick people into spending money, and the fact that it’s right before their fiscal year end makes it even more suspicious

The Wawa chain of American convenience stores was targeted by credit card skimming malware last month, resulting in as many as 30M cards going up for sale on the dark web this week

  • Apparently the malware began rolling out on March 4th and wasn’t discovered until December 10th, so it had gathered about nine full months worth of numbers, names, and expiration dates
  • Anyone who used a payment card at a Wawa location last year should definitely check your bills closely. Wawa is reportedly offering affected customers one year of credit monitoring but those services may not be very effective, so if you’re concerned you may want to consider putting a security freeze on your file instead

Tidbits

  • Activision Blizzard makes exclusive streaming deal with YouTube, Overwatch League and Call of Duty will be streaming on YouTube
  • 343 Industries is looking to ban Halo: Reach players abusing the experience system by frequently joining games and not actually playing
    • Apparently the new release of Reach involves a new experience progression system to unlock customizations, rather than the old system where you could just buy whatever you have enough credits for, and going AFK is one strategy players are using to grind for more experience
    • Another has been dubbed “sword lining”, where two Griffball teams line up and take turns killing each other with swords
  • Bethesda has finally fully addressed the inventory hack in Fallout 76 that we talked about last year, wherein hackers could use your inventory like a lootable chest to steal everything from your character in seconds
    • Reportedly the company is creating clones of the affected characters with their entire inventory as of December 20th, as well as about $66 worth of their premium ‘atoms’ currency.
    • Players can then make a secure trade from the clone to their original character via a private server, and Bethesda is providing support agents to help with that process
  • Zuckerberg has gone on record that Facebook’s goal for the next decade “isn’t to be liked, but to be understood”, saying they didn’t always communicate their views clearly because they worried about offending people
    • The Daring Fireball says it best: “The more you understand Facebook, the less you like or trust them. So: mission accomplished.”
  • Nintendo’s Switch has officially become their third best-selling home console of all time, behind the Wii and the NES (and almost quadrupling the WiiU)
    • Fun fact, estimates show they surpassed the Xbox One during the 2019 holiday season despite the XBone being out for more than three years before the Switch’s release
    • And just to tack on to the end of this, The Outer Worlds is officially coming to the Switch on March 6th
  • Lastly, in a little bit of heartwarming news to close things out, professional Fortnite player and streamer Aydan Conrad went on Twitch last week to stream himself calling his mom and paying off her student debt
    • He gave full credit to his viewers, saying that everyone watching made the whole thing possible

Based on this tweet, I want to know what ten games our Fanily like. See how much crossover we all have.

And I can see some cool games to check out as well
I like top tens with no order, it all depends on mood.

Josh’s Top 10

  • Rollercoaster Tycoon
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Psyconauts
  • Overwatch
  • Slay The Spire
  • Fallout 4
  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate
  • Stardew Valley
  • Minecraft
  • The Sims

Alan’s Top 10

  • Eternal Darkness Sanity’s Requiem
  • Shovel Knight Treasure Trove
  • Kirby Superstar (honourable mention to Planet Robobot)
  • Pokemon Trading Card Game
  • God of War (2019)
  • Beat Saber
  • Titanfall 2
  • Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (honourable mention to A Link to the Past)
  • Superhot
  • Black Mesa

 

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Free games

  • Epic games

    • Bad North: Jotunn Edition

      • 2018
      • A real-time roguelite strategy game where you must defend the kingdom from the Viking invaders who killed the king, and guide the procedurally generated island’s people to evacuate

Motorola’s bringing their Razr back, and as an Apple user I’m kinda envious

  • The resurrected Razr is what I’ve been dreaming of for over a decade- a modern smart flip-phone
  • At its core it’s an Android phone with a 6.2″ screen that folds down like the flip-phones of old, and the media they’ve released so far is gorgeous
  • Apparently they’ve got a special hinge that allows the display to expand into a round curve instead of folding into a crease, allowing the full display to stay completely smooth while it’s open
  • On the downside it looks like there have been some compromises to get us there- the processor is a bit slower than what you’ll find on most flagship phones nowadays, but you get a lot of RAM and 128GB of storage.
    • It also only runs Android 9 at the moment, instead of the current version 10
  • The front of the phone also has a smaller 2.7″ OLED for notifications, music controls, selfies, and such
  • The device is expected to launch sometime this January for $1500 USD, which is pretty steep for a smartphone though damn economical for the folding devices we’ve seen thusfar
  • It’s also launching in the States as a Verizon exclusive, with no unlocked version available at release, so the potential user-base is cut down a fair bit
  • Still, it’s another step forward with tech that I’d love to see Apple’s take on
  • If it catches your fancy, preorders open on December 26th

A weird bug hit households this week with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield causing Roku devices to crash

  • The streaming content set-top boxes and, in some cases, TV’s themselves would hit a hard shutdown if the new Pokemon games were played while connected to the same network
  • Apparently the problem was caused by the games continuously sending out wireless signals looking for other Switches playing the games, which Roku attempts to interpret. When it couldn’t process the info the software would then crash
    • From the sounds of it the problem is that Pokemon is communicating on the same port that Roku uses to share update information with other local devices
  • If you’re seeing this issue Roku released a patch yesterday that should fix the issue, so you should go to Settings, System, and Update to pull the latest version
    • Though please don’t be tempted to continue your Pokemon adventure while the device is updating, or at least put the Switch in airplane mode first

Apple has replaced the controversial 15” MacBook Pro, with its problematic butterfly keyboard and tricky to get used to Touch Bar, with a fancy 16” version that fixes pretty much everything

  • The recent versions of the MacBook Pro have had a lot of vocal people complain about the low-travel keyboard that seems to get jammed up or break fairly easily (it’s so bad that there’s a free repair program at Apple Stores) and the Touch Bar, which replaced the F and Escape keys with a touchscreen
  • Enter the new 16” Macbook Pro: it replaces the 15” pretty much dollar for dollar with a larger Retina display, while also bringing back the more familiar keyboard switches from the Magic Keyboard and a physical escape key to the left of the Touch Bar, and adding in some impressively improved speakers with an extra hour of battery life
  • It can be maxed out with a ridiculous processor, 64GB of RAM, an 8TB SSD, and an 8GB AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card

Stanford Medicine has published further results from the Apple Heart Study that kicked off in 2017, confirming that the Apple Watch accurately notify users of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) 84% of the time

  • It also showed that it detected some problems in early stages of development that didn’t happen frequently enough for medical ECG patches to detect, specifically in younger participants
  • Two of the coolest parts of this is that a) since the study started before Apple Watches came equipped with ECG technology this just relied on the basic heart rate monitor, and b) it was all done completely remotely through an iPhone app

In accordance with new App Store guidlines, Apple has removed 181 vape-related apps and is outright banning them from its platform

  • This change seems to have been brought on by CDC reports that vaping as resulted in at least 2,172 cases of respiratory illness/injury, though many of these cases may have been related to the inclusion of vitamin E acetate in the oils used in some third-party or black market cartridges
  • One manufacturer, PAX, who relies heavily on their app to add features and change settings on their devices, is now calling on Apple to rethink its decision, saying that the ban prevents consumers from having access to important info and the ability to better control their cannabis experience
    • Apparently though the temperature can be set using the device alone, the app includes information on branded vape pods including strain information and access to state-regulated test results

Disney+ is taking fire for not providing the first 20 seasons of Simpsons in their original 4:3 “fullscreen” format until 2020

  • All the episodes currently on the service are only shown in their “remastered” state, with colours tweaked and the top and bottom of the screen chopped off
  • In some cases this might not make a big difference, but many of the 429 affected episodes including visual gags that are just gone, like when Homer takes a tour of the Duff factory and it shows Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry all coming out of the same pipe
  • On the plus side, they’re finally fixing it- weeks after the launch of Disney+, they finally released a statement saying that the episodes will be made available in their original format sometime in early 2020

And lastly some great news for people looking at the Xbox Accessibility Controller- Logitech is now selling their Adaptive Gaming Kit with special buttons to take advantage of the flexibility of the controller

  • Retailing for $100 USD, It includes 12 individual buttons
    • 3 2.6” and 3 1.4” buttons with mechanical switches, four “light touch” buttons that require low force to operate, and two variable triggers similar to modern controllers
      • The kit also includes full-colour sticker labels for the buttons in all the sizes, so that you can get a full controller experience with the different customized options
      • The triggers are a big win, since pressure-sensitive controls are apparently rare when it comes to this kind of accessibility
    • It also includes two velcro-style boards you can mount them all on in different configurations, whatever is most comfortable to you

Tidbits

  • Just in case you thought capitalism wasn’t completely broken, Amazon is apparently paying $0 in taxes in the US for 2018 after reporting more than $11.2B in profits
  • Heliogen, a clean energy company backed by Bill Gates, has apparently found a way to use AI and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that they generate heats over 1000 degrees C
    • This means that, for the first time, solar energy can be used for high-energy industrial applications like manufacturing cement, steel, and glass
  • Continuing the constant update train, Apple’s released iOS and iPadOS 13.2.3 this week, including fixes for Mail, Files, and Notes search, viewing attachments in Messages, and downloading new emails and content from Exchange accounts
  • Good news for Origin launcher users, your account wasn’t (probably) hacked this week
    • Many people online received an email saying they’ve redeemed an Origin Access membership code, even if they haven’t, but apparently that was just EA’s way of gifting a month of Origin Access Basic to users opted in to its two-factor authentication
  • Half-Life is back! (kind of)
    • Valve went to Twitter this week to announce Half-Life: Alyx, their flagship VR game, that’ll be unveiled later this week.
    • So far it looks like this is a prequel set between Half-Lifes 1 and 2, further confirming Valve can’t count to three
    • We’ll have all the details in our next episode once they’ve been released

Alan recommends Evolution – Learning Creatures

  • More of a simulation than game, conceptually it kind of strikes me like Kerbal Space Program
  • Use joints, bones, and muscles to build any kind of 2D creature you can imagine
  • Machine learning and neural network fuel adaptation to different scenarios
  • You can even look at the source code and see how the actions are being determine

 

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

Reddit User – WyngZero
A goat teaches the progeny of incest to kill things effectively
Hecules

This Week:

Reddit User – red_4
An ex-con makes it big.

 

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A huge thanks to Dalton, for supporting us for so long.

And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
And if you want to support us too, its as easy as clicking this link!
We are a proud member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB
And talk to us in the comments!