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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Patreon is back at it again, ruining their perfectly good business model because investors are annoyed they’re not getting more money for less work

  • Under the existing setup they’re basically just a transaction processor, allowing creators to receive a little support from a lot of people more effectively than users could on their own
    • Creators currently get 90% of pledges, with 5% going to transaction fees and the other 5% padding Patreon’s pockets
    • Considering they just announced they’ve payed out over $1B in payments, that 5% is pretty sizeable
    • Especially because the business scales indefinitely- adding more users doesn’t really add to their overhead or staffing needs
      • Compare that to a service like YouTube where a channel could upload hours of video a day, taking up a ton of storage and processing, but if no one watches them then there’s no return on that investment
  • Unfortunately under the guise of “building a sustainable business”, aka their investors (who they didn’t need) want all of the money forever, they’re moving to creator membership tiers with higher costs and mucking with features that everyone uses
    • Keep in mind, their business is kind of the definition of sustainable
  • So, what does this mean for creators? Well the plus side is they say current accounts won’t see any changes (though they’ve sprung changes on us without warning before, so that could change)
  • New creators will get to choose between Patreon Lite, Patreon Pro, and Patreon Premium
    • Lite gets you a basic creator page with no membership tiers, and Patreon keeps 5%
    • Pro gets you basically what they’re offering now, with membership tiers, analytics, and promo tools. This is the one they’re grandfathering existing accounts into at no extra charge, but new accounts will pay Patreon 8%
    • Premium has all that plus a “dedicated partner manager”, team accounts, merch for membership, and the privilege of giving up 12% of their income with a minimum $300 fee
  • All in all they’re charging more for the same features, and adding on new features that, from what I’ve seen, current Patreon creators don’t care about
 

Nintendo’s Nindies Showcase was this week, and here are some of the highlights

  • Cuphead is coming to the Switch on April 18 with Xbox Live support (so presumably trophies?)
  • My Friend Pedro, a 2.5D run and gun you’ve probably seen gifs of on Reddit with its ridiculously stylish and acrobatic gunplay, it hitting the Switch this June
  • The creators of Crypt of the NecroDancer are bringing us a Zelda themed adventure this spring in Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda
    • Uses an art style reminiscent of portable Zelda games and features 25 remixed songs from the franchise
  • Those are some of the bigger ones announced, but it’s definitely worth your time to check out the other trailers as well
 

We also saw some details on Google’s new Stadia game streaming service, and it looks interesting

  • One of the biggest pieces to it is being able to play a game within seconds of seeing the trailer on YouTube
    • Official trailers could add a Play Now button, launching the game directly within your browser and letting you play immediately
    • They say as long as you have a stable internet connection, you can play modern games without hitches even on phones, tablets, or chromebooks
  • You can play with whatever you have connected to the device you’re streaming on- controller or mouse/keyboard, or you can use their fancy Stadia controller that actually connects directly to the cloud via wifi
    • Plus it’s got built-in integration with Google Assistant- with the press of a single button it will automatically detect where in the game you are and show you the most relevant YouTube video to help out
  • They also say that, because the processing is all done in the cloud, developers won’t have to worry about performance when it comes to couch co-op and dealing with rendering a split screen
  • id Software has even announced that Doom Eternal, the sequel to Doom’s 2016 reboot, will be playable on Stadia in 4K at 60fps
  • There are still a lot of questions, like latency and costs, not to mention how developers can expect to get paid, but if nothing else this will continue to push the cloud gaming conversation forward
  • Fingers crossed this doesn’t mark the beginning of the end of offline gaming, especially since I don’t really want me gaming completely controlled by Google
 

After Disney fired James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 over some decade-old tweets dug up by right-wing personalities, they’ve finally decided on a new director- James Gunn!

  • Apparently while the film was on hold they never started searching for a new director, and instead became convinced he should be given a second chance
  • He’s still making The Suicide Squad, so Guardians 3 won’t be coming out for a couple more years yet
  • As fellow APN member I Have Some Notes said on Twitter, “People who say terrible things should be admonished, people who say terrible things but apologize and learn should be encouraged”
 

Netflix is getting back in the interactive adventure game with You vs Wild

  • The show will star Bear Grylls across 8 episodes as he attempts to survive extreme conditions and climates, and ask viewers to decide what he does and whether he succeeds or fails
  • All 8 episodes are hitting Netflix on April 10
 

For more proof that we’re in the darkest timeline, NASA has issued a warning about space herpes after the virus was found reactivating in crew aboard the shuttle and ISS

  • Apparently spaceflight increases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can suppress the immune system
  • The worst parts are, the longer the mission the more it seemed the viruses were reactivating, and it can have lasting effects up to 60 days after landing
 

Tidbits

  • Apple’s released new second-gen AirPods with their usual speed improvements, plus they’ve added Hey Siri functionality and a fancy new optional wireless charging case
    • AirPower is still nowhere to be found, but apparently Apple just recently got their hands on that trademark so it could be here next year for gen3
    • Either way, the new ones have launched at exactly the same price as the old ones with some extra features so I’d call that a win
    • We also saw some low-key updated to the iMac and iPad lines, with the new iPad mini finally getting a retina display and Apple Pencil support
  • A fancy new Oculus headset, the Rift S, is coming this spring with higher-resolution screens and a PSVR-like headband
    • It also comes with Oculus Touch controllers and not require any external tracking sensors, all for $399 USD
  • Hello Games continues to revamp No Man’s Sky with this summer’s Beyond update, bringing “radical new” multiplayer components
    • The new No Man’s Sky Online will specifically avoid subscription fees and microtransactions, and will be free for all existing players
 
 
Recommend The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut series) by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Really interesting, entertaining, and human alternate history set in a world that a large scale disaster in 1952 has humanity accelerate space programs to create colonies on other planets
  • This is a series where I find myself really reading the acknowledgements, because it’s so cool how many scientists, astronauts, and pilots contributed to the accuracy
  • You don’t often see fiction novels with a bibliography

Literally Misleading

From our lovely Family member Scott.

Check out his twitter @scottybomb and his podcast The Read-Along, its a weekly book club for where you can follow along with Scott and Anita!

(Movie) “A father’s present to his son goes awry when the instructions aren’t correctly followed.”

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