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

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And talk to us in the comments!
Free games
  • Epic Games
    • Thimbleweed Park
      • 2017
      • A haunted hotel, an abandoned circus, a burnt-out pillow factory, a dead body pixelating under the bridge, toilets that run on vacuum tubes… you’ve never visited a place like this before.
      • In Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems. Switch between five playable characters to uncover the surreal secrets of this strange town in a modern mystery adventure game from the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The deeper you go, the weirder it gets.
Top story this week, Reggie Fils-Aime is stepping down as president of Nintendo of America effective this April
  • After being with the company for 16 years, and leading it for 13 of them, he’s moving on to spend more time with family and friends
  • The reins will be passed to Doug Bowser, the current head of sales and marketing, who has been working with Reggie for the past four years
    • They’re already leaning into the memes, with Bowser posting a photo thanking everyone for the warm welcome that has plushes of Mario and Luigi tied up together on a shelf
  • Reggie’s posted a heart-felt goodbye on the Nintendo of America Twitter account, thanking fans for their never-ending support and passion
In a bit of a roller coaster, some large Pokemon Go YouTube channels were deleted, then restored, this week
  • Apparently they had some innocuous videos flagged, and according to YouTube they were reviewed and given strikes for sexual content, specifically involving minors
    • This process even had one user’s GMail account completely disabled, leaving them unable to contact YouTube through normal means
  • Once the channels got in touch with YouTube to argue their case though, they were reinstated before the end of the day, saying that the YouTubers were taken down mistakenly
  • The root of the mistake seems to be the titles of the videos, referring to combat power as CP
    • It’s a common term in the Pokemon Go community, but it’s also unfortunately used as shorthand for child pornography
  • In the end it’s good that YouTube is making these kinds of efforts, but considering Google’s pockets I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a human to look at cases once they’ve been flagged for review
Niantic is bringing some quality of life improvements for everyone not playing Pokemon Go, to settle the class-action lawsuit from annoyed homeowners
  • The app will delivery courtesy reminders whenever 10 or more people are playing in the same location
  • They’ll also work with public parks to remind users of a location’s hours and make the associated stops inaccessible when closed, open a complaints reporting site, and grant removals for Pokestops within 40m of a single-family property
  • The named plaintiffs are also getting $1000 each, while the lawyers are requesting over $8M in fees and expenses
Samsung unveiled a bunch of new tech at their Unpacked event this week, and we’ve got a quick overview
  • Folding phones are finally here, and they’re absurdly expensive and unnecessary!
    • Samsung has announced the Galaxy Fold, launching April 26th and starting at $1980 USD
    • It strikes me as the worst of both worlds- when unfolded it looks like a typical Android tablet, which have generally been lacking, and when folded it’s a really thick phone with gigantic bezels (seems like almost a full inch each on the top and bottom)
    • It feels like this is basically a folding tablet, with the exterior screen kind of tacked on to make it also a phone
    • If nothing else it will bring the foldable display technology some more popularity and inspire others to innovate further with the tech
  • They announced the new Galaxy S10 with an interesting ultrasonic fingerprint scanner hidden behind the somewhat excessive 6.7” edge-to-edge display
  • It’s also 5G ready, which is jumping the gun a bit because the networks sure aren’t
  • Samsung also announced Galaxy Buds, an Airpods competitor that can wirelessly charge from the S10 using PowerShare, and a fancy new batch of smartwatches to complete their matching set
Samsung Washer Video  *Josh referenced this
Facebook may be facing multi-billion dollar fines after their role on the Cambridge Analytica user information scandal
  • The root of the investigation is whether Facebook violated the terms of a 2011 settlement with the FTC, prohibiting Facebook from misrepresenting the privacy or security of user info and requiring consent before overriding privacy settings, after they were found to have “deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”
  • The current investigation started in March of last year, after 87 million users’ info was given to a political consulting firm that did work with the Trump campaign
    • I’d be surprised if they weren’t also taking into account some of the more recent revelations, like making the posts of 14 million users public despite privacy settings set otherwise and giving away private information and photos left and right
  • If they fight the fines, which is sounds like they may based on their usual denials and non-statements, they could face a massive privacy lawsuit from the FTC and the US Government
Speaking of Facebook and bad data policies, a bunch of apps have come under fire for sending personal information to Facebook without user consent or controls
  • Among some of the worst offenders tested by the Wall Street Journal are
    • Realtor.com sends info on the listings that a user views, including location, price, and if they’re marked as a favourite
      Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor, the most popular heart-rate app on iOS, sends a user’s heart rate to Facebook immediately after it’s recorded
    • Flo Period & Ovulation Tracker tells Facebook when a user is having their period, or if they’re trying to get pregnant
Tidbits
  • Razer is closing down their game store after being open only 10 months
    • They were just reselling Steam and Uplay games, so as long as you make sure to activate your codes before Feb 28 you’ll be safe
    • They’ll also apparently still honour any existing preorders
  • Pokemon Go is now allowing players to switch teams, with a couple asterisks
    • It costs 1000 coins (earnable in gyms or by spending money), and can only be done once per year
  • The Netflix/Marvel partnership is officially over, with no more seasons of The Punisher and Jessica Jones, the last two Marvel series being made on the platform, being produced
    • The third season of Jessica Jones will still air sometime this year, but that’ll be the end
    • Time will tell if the eventual Marvel streaming service will continue the existing Netflix stories, or if they’ll need to reboot things
  • The final pieces of Shovel Knight, initially set to release on April 9th, have been delayed by “several months”
    • Originally revealed with a 2018 launch date, Shovel Knight: King of Cards, Shovel Knight Showdown, and the physical release of Treasure Trove have all been pushed back to an unspecified date this year, along with the associated amiibo three-pack
Recommend the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne
  • It’s an urban fantasy series that feels like a blend of The Dresden Files and American Gods, creating a world with people, monsters, gods, and goddesses from a wide array of mythologies and pantheons
  • It all comes together really well and sucks you in, with the books feeding in to eachother pretty directly
  • Including novellas I’ve devoured 17 books in the last three weeks, and I can’t wait to read the last few and see how it ends

Bad Description of Movies and Games

War veteran trys to radicalize a young man to assassinate key members of the government. (Movie)

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Were back and there is free games of the month! Josh talks about some new things for the future. Alan recommends something for your health. Josh has his first Bad Description challenge.

Today’s bad description:
“After his girlfriend is abducted by the stubborn antagonist. Tradesmen is forced to pursue through a dangerous construction site.”

A new year means a new list of the top 50 worst passwords of the year!

  • Bad news, #49 is joshua
  • Then we have some classics, like #43- letmein
  • New ones, like #39- harley
  • A new twist on qwerty at #26- zxcvbnm
  • The double-devil at 1#4- 666666
  • Down from #4 last year to #9 this year- qwerty
  • And for the 5th consecutive year:
    • Exactly what it says on the tin at #2- password
    • And continuing its reign as the #1 worst password- 123456

Bethesda just keeps shooting themselves in the foot over Fallout 76 – and I’m not even talking about the game itself!

  • First there was the Power Armor Edition of the game that came with a functional power armor helmet (which was pretty cool) and a bag to carry it that was supposed to be durable canvas, but was instead cheap, flimsy nylon
    • Even after shipping the product listing showed the original canvas bag that was advertised
    • Eventually the listing was updated to say nylon, but the picture still has not been updated
    • The initial response from Bethesda support? “We are sorry that you aren’t happy with the bag. The bag shown in the media was a prototype and was too expensive to make.”
    • They then offered 500 Atoms (about $5 worth of their in-game currency) to people that contacted support with proof of purchase
    • Then a week later they finally announced plans to make things right and manufacture proper canvas replacement bags
      • If you bought the Power Armor Edition you have until January 31st to submit a ticket at beth.games/2QDropM to get the replacement when they’re ready
    • But wait, there’s more!
      • Many users, after submitting tickets for the replacement, were shown all of the other users’ replacement tickets including addresses, emails, and partial credit card info
      • The problem was fixed in about 45 minutes, but they confirmed that 65 tickets containing personal information were exposed in that time
      • Apparently they’re contacting customers that were affected, but that’s not really a genie you can put back in the bottle
  • Then, to cap it all off, Nuka Dark Rum brought us a whole new fiasco
    • The idea here was that it would be a dark rum in the iconic Nuka Cola rocket bottle- pretty cool, right? Maybe even worth the $80 they were charging
    • Well after they started shipping, a note appeared at the tail end of the website talking about “the story of the intentional and complex design of the Nuka Dark Rum product”
      • Because you know any time you have to tell people something was intentional that really inspires confidence
    • It goes on to say how no corners were cut, and “it cost over 2X what it would have if we would have simply cast a glass mold”
      • Concerned yet?
    • They apparently decided that a glass bottle alone wouldn’t be dramatic enough, even though I think a glass rocket bottle would be pretty great all on its own
    • Which brings us to my favourite line- “Over 100 hours were spent just writing the code to create the 3D-printed prototype of the shells”
    • So they 3D printed a giant novelty plastic shell for a standard bottle- 13 inches tall and 6 inches wide
    • The cap is kind of neat, where instead of a screw-top it’s an integrated cork, but I’ve seen some videos of people trying to pour the rum and the plastic shell definitely doesn’t play nice with the glass bottle inside

Tidbits

  • According to the New York Times, Facebook is selling even more of your personal info than we thought!
    • Not only did they give companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Sony access to data on all your friends, but they also gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read your private messages
  • The FCC in the US has reclassified text messages as an “information service” instead of a telecom service
    • What does this mean? They basically just repealed net neutrality for your text messages
    • Masked as a way to allow telecom companies to block spam messages, it also dismantles protective regulations and gives them the ability to censor or favour speech as they choose, potentially blocking or editing your message if they feel like it