Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • Surviving Mars

      • 2018
      • City building simulation from the developers of the Tropico series modelled after real Martian data that has you building a colony on Mars by manufacturing resources and constructing buildings to ensure the survival of the colonists
      • This was given away by Epic back in October 2019, so you may already have it in your library

Security updates are available for Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches now

  • The updates aren’t flashy, and they haven’t released the fancy new watch-unlock for masks yet, but they fix a nasty vulnerability where attackers could use a malicious website to execute arbitrary code on your device, giving them the ability to hijack it
  • You’re safe if you’re running at least iOS 14.4.1, watchOS 7.3.2, and macOS 11.2.3

An estimated 60,000 US organizations, along with hundreds of thousands more worldwide, have been hacked recently thanks to holes in Microsoft’s Exchange mail software

  • A previously unidentified Chinese cyber espionage group that Microsoft dubbed Hafnium has apparently been using a combination of four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server to gain complete remote control over affected systems
  • This has allowed them to siphon email communications from targets ranging from small business and local governments to banks, police, infectious disease researchers, and defence contractors
  • According to security researchers these hacks have been going on since at least January, and though Microsoft released emergency security updates on March 2nd there are still many organizations that have not yet patched their systems, leading to the Hafnium group amping up their attacks and actively scanning the internet for vulnerable systems
  • The worst part is that even if you’ve installed the security updates, if you were already compromised there is still a high chance that the hacking group has installed remote access tools on your server
  • Microsoft has commented that they’re working closely with the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with other government agencies and security companies, to provide guidance and mitigation for its customers, and encourages anyone impacted to contact their support teams for help and resources
  • In the meantime the CISA has issued an emergency directive ordering all federal departments and agencies to either update the software or unplug the servers, and they’re urging scanning all Exchange Server logs with Microsoft’s detection tool to help determine if you’ve been compromised

Rumours of an upcoming Apple event are ramping up, with signs pointing to it occurring on March 23rd

  • We’re expecting more information about iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency, as well as the release of the now-essential Unlock With Apple Watch feature for times when FaceID fails because of a mask
  • Other rumours circling have the release of AirTags, Apple’s Tile-like tracker, popping up around this time
    • I’ve also seen a new beta feature called “Item Safety Features” that will alert you if there is a tracker following you that you don’t own, so that they can’t be used as easily for nefarious purposes
  • And there have been suggestions that new iPads will be coming with mini-LED displays and faster processors
    • This one seems especially likely after reddit user nanosplitter21 found an iPad case on a shelf in Target marked as being compatible with the “New iPad 11” (2021)”, and when they tried to purchase it the till said it could not be sold until April 6th

Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax Media is officially complete, and they’ve publicly welcomed Bethesda, id, Arkane, and more to the Xbox team

  • The announcement wrapped up by saying that more Bethesda games are coming to Game Pass later this week, adding more value to the juggernaut subscription service
  • As of March 12 we’ll be able to play the DIshonored and Doom series, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and 76, Prey, Rage 2, Elder Scrolls Morrowind, Skyrim, and Online, The Evil Within, and the new Wolfenstein series
  • It’s a good time to have an Xbox

You might have heard that Denuvo software has come to the PS5- well the good news is it’s not as bad as you may have feared

  • Denuvo anti-cheat software made a bad name for itself causing performance issues on PC games like Doom Eternal and demanding the ability to access a worrying amount of information on your computer
  • The Denuvo piece on PS5 is actually a pretty different beast- it’s a lot more like the anti-cheat and anti-piracy software that was available on the PS4 (which was also by Denuvo)
  • All that’s happening here is that code from the same company (but not the same code that caused problems on PC) is being made available in the PS5 tools library, making it easier for developers to prevent hacking and modding of their titles

This Week In Gaming History

March 6 – 1996 – Ripper – DOS, Macintosh

  • Ripper is an interactive FMV adventure that is played out in the New York of 2040.
    • Brutal killings reminiscent of Jack the Ripper soon get personal and you, crime reporter Jake Quinlan, must solve the mystery.
  • The game plays much like other Take 2 Interactive works, such as Black Dahlia.
    • Solve puzzles and react quickly in combat settings to survive. There are 4 possible endings, and 3 hours of video footage.
  • Thank you to Jeanne and J. Jones for this interesting trivia I found on the Moby Games site.
    • Your CD-Rom drive may not be recognized if it is not designated as Drive D.
      • In addition, it appears that Ripper was not made as a Windows “native” game.
      • While it will run within a DOS window when started in Windows, problems with stuttering sound and lagging graphics are common. The game plays best from the DOS prompt using a Boot Disk.
    • If at the command prompt you accidentally type RIPER (one P) instead of RIPPER (two P’s), instead of going into the game you are greeted with a movie of a rotting apple!
    • Features an all-star cast including Christopher Walken, Burgess Meredith, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Paul Giamatti, Jimmie JJ Walker and Scott Cohen.
      • Ripper also features music from the Blue Oyster Cult.

 

March 7 – 2000 – ChuChu Rocket! – Dreamcast (North America)

  • ChuChu Rocket is an action puzzler, designed predominantly as a multi-player game.
    • You have indirect control over mice, and must guide them to the safety of a rocket, and away from a cat.
    • You do this by placing arrows on the ground, which they will follow.
    • The multi-player game is a frantic all-against-all duel, in which each player’s mice will only follow instructions of their own colour.
    • You can play this mode on your own against CPU opponents, or take on a series of predefined puzzles
  • After closing their hardware development branch, ChuChu Rocket! became the first video game released by SEGA on another console, namely the Game Boy Advance, in 2001.
  • The Dreamcast and Game Boy Advance versions of ChuChu Rocket appear in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

March 8 – 2011 – Dragon Age II – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Plot:
    • One of the key events early in the first game was the destruction of the village Lothering by the Darkspawn.
    • However, we weren’t told that there was at least one person who survived the onslaught: a human named Hawke.
    • Having become a refugee, Hawke travels to an area known as the Free Marches – more specifically, the city of Kirkwall. Hawke’s family shares the fate with many other Ferelden refugees; the authorities of Kirkwall are suspicious of the newcomers, and the path to financial stability is anything but easy.
    • Meanwhile, the appearance of the mysterious race of Qunari heralds more trouble to the inhabitants of Kirkwall, as does the growing tension between the Templars and the mages.
    • Hawke is caught in the middle of these political and social conflicts – what shall be the hero’s own path?..
  • Dragon Age II uses a “framed narrative” format: the story is narrated over a decade later by one of Hawke’s companions.
    • Similarly to Alpha Protocol, the narrative is rather flexible; motivations and events vary depending on the player’s moral choices during the game.
    • The game also adopts the “wheel-based” dialogue system from Mass Effect games: short responses that reflect different tones and attitudes the player wishes to choose for Hawke.
    • Also similarly to Mass Effect, the main character’s race and name cannot be changed; however, everything else (appearance, gender, classes) can be freely customized.
  • The combat system is quite similar to the one used in the previous Dragon Age game (which, in its turn, dates back to the combat style used in Baldur’s Gate), though it has been noticeably sped up.
    • Hawke can only be human, but the player can customize his or her physical appearance and character class (warrior, mage, or rogue).
    • The player controls Hawke and up to three active party members, either “programming” their actions by assigning actions that should be taken under certain conditions (for example, healing a party member if his HP drops below 20%), or issuing commands to each character manually.
    • The ability tree is also similar, the player being able to learn new abilities as the characters level up. Many abilities from the first game return, but some are absent or replaced with new ones.
    • The abilities are divided into various disciplines, which correspond to the fighting style of the character.
  • Cancelled expansion
    • An expansion to Dragon Age II, named Exalted March, was planned, but cancelled before announcement.
    • Bioware’s reasoning was that other opportunities for the franchises came up, and that there was no room for it because Bioware’s team sizes are fixed and all of them were busy with projects.

March 9 – 1998 – Yoshi’s Story – Nintendo 64

  • Loosely based on the Super Famicom/SNES game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi’s Story follows the adventures of six Yoshis as they search through sunny woods, dark caves, soaring mountains, steaming jungles, vast oceans, and gloomy castles for the Super Happy Tree, which has been stolen by the dreaded Baby Bowser.
    • Yoshi can walk, run, swim, leap, flutter, and fire his payload of eggs. The action takes place in storybook “pages” made up of bookmaking materials and other familiar textures, including cut-paper forests, denim clouds, inflatable plastic islands, and stacks of colored spools.
  • The game pioneers use of the Rumble Pak as a key element of the gameplay experience, the player being able to feel invisible but treacherous currents when Yoshi swims through oceanic depths.
    • The Rumble Pak can also help the player locate hidden fruit or other objects by rumbling when Yoshi smells something.
    • With a light touch of the Control Stick it becomes possible to float on a leaf, ride a friendly dragon, and tiptoe past a swarm of angry bees.
  • Cancelled GBA Port
    • One of the first Game Boy Advance demos was a level from Yoshi’s Story.
    • However, it was eventually decided that the downgrades would be too significant, so it wasn’t made into a full game.

March 10 – 2009 – MadWorld – Wii

  • MadWorld is a stylish action beat-em up game, that puts player in the role of a police detective gone rogue and taking part in a violent TV show, in which contestants are encouraged to mutilate each other in increasingly violent and gruesome ways.
  • The game’s unique presentation is achieved through a three-colour palette scheme.
    • All the environments, objects and characters are rendered in black and white, as if drawn in a comic book.
    • The only other colour present is red, which accounts for the gallons of blood flowing from the victims of Jack, the game’s protagonist.
    • Aside from being inspired by comic books, MadWorld’s presentation is also taking hints from the competitive TV shows, with two over-enthusiastic hosts commenting every event happening in the game.
  • The core of the MadWorld experience is a series of challenges, player must take part in.
    • Each challenge presents a confined arena, in which player should score points by defeating his enemies in the most elaborate way possible and take part in the so-called Bloodbath-Challenges, which present additional rules and timed mini-games (like ManDarts or ManGolf) for racking up the points.
    • Once a sufficient amount of points was met, players must fight a unique boss enemy for the current challenge.
    • When boss is defeated, the player will be free to proceed to the next challenge.
  • The game also features a heavy use of quick time events in conjuncture with Wii motion-sensitive controls for the finishing moves, mini-games and general tasks, such as avoiding being hit by the enemy.

March 11 – 2014 – Titanfall – Windows, Xbox One

  • Titanfall is a first-person multiplayer shooter for up to twelve players simultaneously.
    • Set on a war-torn planet with two factions (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation (IMC) and the Militia), it features battles between pilots on foot or boarding large mech-style Titans.
    • The game can be played in six game modes: Attrition (team deathmatch with hostage rescuers against kidnappers), Capture the Flag, Hardpoint (capture and hold three locations), Last Titan Standing (last player alive wins, all players start in a Titan), Pilot Hunter (score for the team by killing pilots, not Titans – at the end of the match there is an epilogue where respawns are disabled and the losing team needs to reach an evacuation point/dropship for additional experience points), and Variety Pack (mix of all game modes).
    • There is also a Campaign mode for each faction with a mix of different game modes and bits of story between each mission.
  • The game is fast-paced and while on foot pilots are able to wall jump and link jumps in a parkour style using a jet-boosted belt.
    • In a general game players start by choosing a pilot type.
    • Some of the available weapons include assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, sniper rifles and smart pistols.
    • During the match a timer counts down (generally three minutes) until a Titan can be deployed.
    • The timer countdown can be shortened by killing other players.
    • When a Titan drops down from the sky a pilot can board it. Playing as a Titan has completely different movement, but it is still agile.
    • The pilot’s double jump is for instance replaced by a dash as a Titan cannot jump, crouch or seek cover.
    • A Titan has very different weapons and is much stronger to take on other Titans.
    • It can be ejected at any time when under attack and it is possible to issue commands to have it follow or guard you.
    • Other players can attempt to board and throw out a player.
    • These can be repelled by activating electric smoke and a Titan has also distinct abilities such as the vortex blocker to stop incoming projectiles, gather them and return them in midair.
    • It is also possible to crush pilots.
    • When a Titan is destroyed a new countdown timer is started.
  • Other game elements include burn cards (up to three per match) for temporary power-ups and AI-controlled minions with three types: grunts, marvins and spectres.
    • The game has a persistent experience system and pilots can level up.
    • This influences for instance the loadouts for both pilots and Titans prior to each match.
    • The available slots for pilots offer room a primary weapon with mod and/or attachment, an anti-Titan weapon, sidearm, tactical ability (for instance cloak, stim or active radar pulse) and kits with specific abilities for different tiers.
    • For a Titan the loadout consists of the chassis, primary weapon with mod, tactical ability, ordinance weapon and different kits.

March 12 – 2018 – Oedipus Dating Sim – Windows

  • “Thousands of years ago, lived a man named Oedipus, king of Thebes and slayer of The Sphinx.
    • A man whose fate was to kill his father, Laius, and then marry his own mother, Jocasta.
    • But what if he could have gamed the system and cheated his own fate?”
  • With the generous help of three fates and Dionysus, the Olympian god with his own TV show, your task is to find a date for Oedipus
    • But it won’t be as straightforward as it seems. At first, you won’t know their true identities.
    • Once you romance each character to a certain level, their true identity will be revealed to you.
    • After that, you must avoid pairing Oedipus with Jocasta.
    • A piece of cake, right? Well, other complications will certainly arise and maybe, with a little ingenuity, you can even end up with Jocasta and not be punished for it. But how?
  • This game was designed with replayability in mind.
    • That means that there are many different choices to make, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
    • While the overall structure of having 15 days with 4 time periods each remains the same every time you play, each character’s American name, location in the Casino Hotel and alcoholic beverage of choice will change.
    • If you have additional questions not answered by the dialog trees, you can also try typing the question directly to the character.

Tidbits

  • Tesla has admitted to California that their ‘Full Self Driving’ mode is not actually capable of being fully self driving
    • The feature costs Tesla owners up to $10,000 to unlock on top of the original purchase price of their car, but according to correspondence between Tesla’s general counsel and the California DMV it is not an autonomous system, and currently no features on the car make their vehicles autonomous
  • Utah legislature has passed a bill mandating a default “porn filter” on any electronic devices sold in the state starting in 2022
    • What exactly that might entail is anyone’s guess, and how they plan on enforcing it is an even better question
  • T-Mobile announced that, starting April 26, they’ll be selling their customers’ web and mobile app data to advertisers unless they specifically opt out
    • A spokesperson said “We’ve heard many say they prefer more relevant ads so we’re defaulting to this setting,”, and I’m sure this has nothing to do with advertising companies paying top dollar for tracking information going forward
  • Apex Legends hit the Nintendo Switch on Tuesday, and early reactions are that is just isn’t very good, running at both lower resolutions and frame rates than other platforms and leaving its players at a competitive disadvantage
    • Worst part is that, though you can opt to only play with other people on Switch, by default you’re thrown into the wild with all the players on other consoles that can see and react better than you can
  • Daylight savings is coming up this Sunday, and since it happens twice a year it’s a good reminder to do general maintenance like clean your gutters, change the batteries in your smoke alarms, and rate/review us!

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Heroes of the Storm’s new event is out and we chat about it. Youtube is taking less control away from its users. Josh suggests a game we talked about a while ago, Alan recommends a movie thats out in theatres.

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