PS2J News 317 – Next Gen Gaming OAC

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Vostok Inc

      • 2017
      • Billed as The Wolf of Wall Street with lasers, this clicker with added shoot ‘em up elements has you playing a newly appointed CEO with the goal of becoming the richest space-capitalist around
    • Shock Troopers

      • 1997
      • Top down run and gun arcade shooter that has you fighting through mountains, jungles, and valleys to rescue a scientist and his granddaughter from a terrorist group
    • Metal Slug 3

      • 2000
      • Run and gun sidescrolling shooter that added more weapons and vehicles to the Metal Slug series, as well as introducing branching paths
    • Garou: Mark of the Wolves

      • 1999
      • The ninth and final instalment of the Fatal Fury series, it brought in a new feature where if you get down to a certain area of your health bar you can perform special attacks and recover health
    • The Last Blade 2

      • 1998
      • Arcade style weapons-based fighting game originally for the Neo Geo
    • Samurai Shodown V Special

      • 2004
      • The ninth Samurai Shodown title, it’s an upgraded version of Samurai Shodown V and the last official game for the Neo Geo
    • The King of Fighters 97 Global Match

      • 2018 re-release of the 1997 game
      • The fourth King of Fighters game and the final chapter in the “Orochi Saga” story arc
    • The King of Fighters 98 Ultimate Match Final Edition

      • 2014 re-release of the 2008 re-release of the 1998 title
      • The fifth King of Fighters game with multiple releases bringing full balance overhauls, additional characters, and a new Ultimate mode
    • The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match

      • 2015
      • Ninth King of Fighters title that abandoned the newer 4v4 match format used in previous games and went back to the 3v3 fights previously seen in KoF 98
  • Epic Games

    • Railway Empire

      • 2018
      • A tycoon simulation game where you’ll create an elaborate and wide-ranging rail network with different trains, stations, factories, and attractions to stay ahead of your competitors
    • Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

      • 2018
      • Narrative-driven adventure game that has you exploring a Great Depression era United States, gathering and learning oral stories, and passing them along

Epic vs Apple

  • Epic Games is now asking the courts to force Apple to put Fortnite back on the App Store, saying that active users on iOS declined over 60% after removal
    • Their justification is that iOS is the biggest platform for Fortnite, with nearly a third of users having played on iOS and more than half of those using iOS exclusively
    • Now they’re saying that they may never see those users again, while playing their sad violin about how Fortnite is more than just a game and the social community is something that people rely on
    • End of the day, if the app is so important maybe you should just remove your direct payment option while the court case proceeds?
  • Apple has now counter-sued Epic Games for stealing the 30% commission with their direct payment option, accusing the company of “self-help and subterfuge” as it embarked on a plan of “commission-theft” by introducing the payment option that goes directly against App Store guidelines
    • With the legal term “self-help” meaning that Epic created the very circumstances that they started their lawsuit over, it kinda seems like an open and shut case

While we wait for any word on the PS5’s price, Microsoft has released that and more for their new consoles

  • The flagship Xbox Series X, the new mini-fridge of gaming, will cost $499USD with a $35/month Xbox All Access financing option from Microsoft
    • This thing is a solid rectangular obelisk that will run 4k 60fps, with some titles even hitting 120fps for buttery-smooth multiplayer in Halo Infinite
  • And the sleek little Xbox Series S has finally been officially announced, costing $299USD or $25/month with Xbox All Access
    • The S looks pretty cool, kind of resembling a flat speaker, but behind that speaker is a sizeable fan keeping the whole thing cool (and hopefully staying somewhat quiet while doing so)
    • It’s smaller than any other Xbox Microsoft has sold previously, but still packs in 500GB of storage and the performance apparently comparable to the Xbox One X
    • It’s also gone all-digital, meaning that there’s no disk drive for anyone still playing with physical game discs
  • Xbox All Access, for anyone not keeping up with Microsoft’s myriad memberships, is a two year financing program that gets you an Xbox with no upfront cost as well as Game Pass Ultimate (including Xbox Live Gold) for the contract period
    • With Game Pass Ultimate alone costing $15/month USD it actually seems like a decent deal, leaving your grand total for the Series S at $240 ($50 savings) and the Series X at $480 ($20 savings)
  • On top of that, EA Play is now included in Xbox Game Pass for PC at no additional cost*
    • The full library of 89 titles is available now for Game Pass PC and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers
    • Members will also get a 10 hour free trial for select games (most often the newest launches from EA Sports) and a 10% discount on EA DLC or microtransactions
    • At the same time, the standalone Xbox Game Pass for PC will be moving from $5USD to $10, but Game Pass Ultimate is unchanged so it’s just become a better deal since PC is included
  • On a related note, just a quick reminder for everyone- currently the best way to buy Game Pass Ultimate is to let it expire, load up your account with however much Xbox Live Gold time you can up to a max of three years, then upgrade that time to Game Pass Ultimate for a reduced fee (the first time you do it, it only costs $1)
    • The trick is you have to use the specific upgrade link for your region- https://www.xbox.com/en-CA/live/gold/upgrade
    • If you just buy Game Pass Ultimate it converts your Gold time but uses 4 months of Gold to equal one month of Ultimate, but using the upgrade link it’s currently 1:1
  • Now that Microsoft’s put all that information out there, we’ll see how long it takes Sony to undercut them (if they can, anyway)
  • Both Xbox Series consoles can be expanded with another terabyte of storage using an expansion card, and will launch this November 10th. Preorders open September 22nd

Apple’s officially announced their fall event, titled Time Flies, for September 15th, and we’ll have all the details in the next episode

  • People are expecting new Apple Watches and maybe iPad Airs, but iPhones seem less likely and may be delayed till October
  • We can also expect to hear some release dates on the upcoming iOS releases, but the new macOS (Big Sur) likely isn’t ready for primetime yet and will also wait for next month at minimum

Unfortunately it sounds like Apple may be delaying the privacy improvements to iOS that have Facebook and other advertisers concerned for their futures

  • The new privacy rules were slated to take effect with iOS 14, prompting users before allowing any kind of cross app tracking
  • Apple will instead give developers the option to use the prompt when it becomes available, including the ability to display why they’re asking for the permissions, but want to give developers time to implement the change before enforcing it early next year
  • Other new things like viewing which apps are accessing GPS, microphone, camera, and clipboard still remain on track for the initial iOS 14 release

The minds behind Hyrule Warriors, the Dynasty Warriors style brawler set in the Zelda universe, are making a fully canonical entry in the series

  • Titled Age of Calamity, it shows the story 100 years before Breath of the Wild and has you taking part in the original fight against Calamity Ganon
  • In some Halo Reach style story telling, we know where the story ends but playing through how it gets to that point should still be pretty dang fun
  • Best part here is that this time it’s not just Koei Tecmo doing their own thing, but it’s a full co-production with Nintendo’s Zelda team
  • The first Hyrule Warriors was fun but the story felt pretty disjointed, so getting them to work with the core Zelda team and having it link in smoothly to the rest of the universe should hopefully make things even better

This Week In Gaming History

September 5th – 2018 – Scythe: Digital Edition – PC/Mac

  • Scythe is a board game for 1 to 5 players designed by Jamey Stegmaier and published by Stonemaier Games in 2016. Set in an alternate history 1920s Europe, in Scythe players control factions which produce resources, build economic infrastructure, and use giant dieselpunk war machines called mechs to fight and control territory. Players take up to two actions per turn using unique player boards, with the game proceeding until one player has achieved six achievements, at which point the players receive coins for their achievements and territories controlled, with the player with the most coins winning.
  • The game was originally released via Kickstarter, raising over $1.8 million. Scythe received very positive reviews, with particularly strong praise for the game’s artwork, which was produced by Polish painter Jakub Różalski under the name World of 1920+. As of 2020, Scythe is ranked 11th among all board games on BoardGameGeek.
  • The 1920+ universe is also featured in the video game Iron Harvest planned for release in September 2020.

September 6th – 2008 – Chex Quest 3 – PC

  • Chex Quest is a non-violent first-person shooter video game created in 1996 by Digital Café as a Chex cereal promotion aimed at children aged 6–9 and up. It is a total conversion of the more violent video game Doom
  • Chex Quest 3 was developed and released as a service to fans by former Digital Café members Charles Jacobi (art director and lead artist) and Scott Holman (programmer). Former Digital Café sound design leader Andrew Benson, also contributed several songs for the game. Originally intended as a single standalone level, Jacobi announced the development of a full sequel at the Chex Quest Fan Page (Chexquest.org) in June 2008, and the full game was released in September.
  • Chex Quest 3 employs the ZDoom source port, and is considerably larger in size than the previous two games. Jacobi’s release of Chex Quest 3 also included ZDoom-based versions of Chex Quest and Chex Quest 2, with significant enhancements and noted problems redressed. Chex Quest 2 in particular had been remastered, with some levels significantly revised or completely overhauled.
  • Charles Jacobi credited the praise and compliments of fans, especially through fan-made projects such as one titled “The Ultimate Chex Quest”, as inspiration to complete this project.

September 7th – 2008 – Spore – PC/Mac

  • Spore is a 2008 life simulation real-time strategy God game developed by Maxis, published by Electronic Arts and designed by Will Wright. Covering many genres including action, real-time strategy, and role-playing games, Spore allows a player to control the development of a species from its beginnings as a microscopic organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture.
    • It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation. Throughout each stage, players are able to use various creators to produce content for their games. These are then automatically uploaded to the online Sporepedia and are accessible by other players for download.
  • Spore was released after several delays to generally favorable reviews. Praise was given for the fact that the game allowed players to create customized creatures, vehicles and buildings. However, Spore was criticized for its gameplay which was seen as shallow by many reviewers; GameSpot remarked: “Individual gameplay elements are extremely simple”. Controversy surrounded Spore due to the inclusion of SecuROM, and its digital rights management software, which can potentially open the user’s computer to security risks.
  • I know Alan and I were really excited for this game, but it turns in to Galactic Babysitting Adventures.

September 8th – 2008 – Amnesia: The Dark Descent – PC/Mac/Linux

  • The game follows the amnesiac protagonist, Daniel, as he explores Brennenburg Castle while trying to solve various puzzles and avoiding monsters. Instead of fighting, Daniel’s main tools for survival include running and hiding.
    • The game was critically acclaimed upon release, and has gone on to spawn two sequels: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, and the yet to be released Amnesia: Rebirth.
  • Amnesia is an exploration-based horror adventure game played from a first-person perspective. The player is able to interact with the environment in a wide variety of ways, such as picking up and moving objects, opening doors, closets, and drawers, operating valves and levers and lighting up areas.
    • There are no weapons and no combat mechanics in the game, making the player unable to fight the different monsters that he encounters. Thus the only way to get past the creatures is by running away and hiding from them until they lose interest.
    • The player can hide from monsters in a variety of ways, such as staying in the shadows, hiding in closets, barricading doors, etc.
  • Separate from the player’s health bar is an indication of the character’s sanity. Being in darkness too long, witnessing unsettling events, or staring at monsters will reduce Daniel’s sanity, causing visual and auditory hallucinations and drawing the attention of monsters, as Daniel begins to whimper.
    • Light sources help restore sanity, and if none are available Daniel may use tinderboxes to ignite candles in wall sconces and candelabra or deploy an oil-burning lantern found near the beginning of the game.
    • However, the number of tinderboxes and the amount of oil available are both limited, and standing in a light source also makes the player more noticeable to monsters.
    • Sanity is fully restored once Daniel completes an objective or progresses the game’s story. It may also be restored by staying in the shadows until Daniel passes out, but this leaves him extremely vulnerable to any nearby monsters.

 

September 9th – 1995 – Ridge Racer – PS1

  • Ridge Racer is a racing game developed and published by Namco. It was released initially on the Namco System 22 arcade system board and ported to the PlayStation console in 1995 in North America. It is the first title in the Ridge Racer series released for arcades and home consoles. The aim is to finish in first place in a series of races. The PlayStation version supports Namco’s NeGcon controller.
  • This controller is something I found really interesting
    • The NeGcon, is a motion-based video game controller manufactured in 1995 by Namco for the PlayStation. One of the first third-party peripherals for the system, the controller is connected by a swivel joint, allowing the player to twist the halves relative to each other. The controller also replaces the “symbol” buttons on the original PlayStation controller with two “A” and “B” buttons, as well as “I” and “II” buttons that allowed for analogue control.
    • The NeGcon was created to replicate the analog-stick movement used in the arcade game Cyber Sled (1993); the name comes from the Japanese word “nejiru”, meaning “to twist”. The controller was intended for use in racing games, including Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo and Wipeout. Critical reception for the NeGcon was highly positive, being praised for its responsive control in games and unique design.

September 10th – 2001 – Advance Wars – Game Boy Advance

  • Advance Wars is a turn-based tactics game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo.
  • It was released in North America on September 10, 2001 with a later release date in Japan and Europe, but the game release was put on hold in both Japanese and European regions due to the following day’s September 11 attacks.
    • Although the game was released in Europe in January 2002, neither GBA game was released in Japan until the Game Boy Wars Advance 1+2 compilation on November 25, 2004.
  • The game was originally intended to remain exclusive to Japan, like the previous entries in the series, which were kept in Japan due to Nintendo feeling that consumers would not be interested in turn-based games, or in such complicated games.
    • In order to alleviate this, the developers made the mechanics easy to understand, adding in an in-depth tutorial that didn’t require players to read the manual.
    • Designer Kentaro Nishimura commented that “Advance Wars’ success shifted Nintendo’s attitude over western tastes.”

September 11th – 2015 – Super Mario Maker – WiiU

  • Super Mario Maker is a side-scrolling platform game and game creation system developed and published by Nintendo for the Wii U home video game console, which released worldwide in September 2015.
    • Players are able to create and play their own custom courses, based on Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. U, share them online, and download and play courses designed by other players.
  • Reviews for the game range between near perfect, and perfect scores.
    • Even though, a bulk of the content was made by other players with a passion to make Mario levels.
    • My favorite being Ross O’Donovan, streaming on twitch as RubberNinja. He was contender and frequently a top creator on Super Mario Maker. Now with Super Mario Maker 2, he is making levels to be played in his Super World. He does make some tricks in his levels, but he does focus on good game design and fun, interesting game play.

Tidbits

  • Suda51 has officially announced that No More Heroes 3 will be delayed to a 2021 release date
    • On the plus side they’ve also brought on Darick Robertson, graphic illustrator for the comic The Boys, to do illustrations for the game
  • CDProjektRed has been under fire this week thanks to microtransactions that don’t even exist
    • People were lining up their pitchforks thinking that the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, a single-player game, would have microtransactions included, despite CDProjektRed repeatedly saying that’s not the case
    • Turns out it was all sparked by some confusion- there will be a separate multiplayer Cyberpunk game released completely separately next year that will have microtransactions, but they’re reportedly aimed at not being too aggressive
  • The Witcher 3 Complete Edition is coming to the PS5 and Xbox Series X this fall with faster load times, a bunch of visual and technical improvements, and ray tracing fanciness
    • Best part is that though it will be a standalone purchase, it’s also a free update to everyone who owns the game on PC, Xbox One, or PS4

 

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PS2J 312 News – Domestic Spying Only

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • NeuroVoider

      • 2016
      • Twin-stick shooter RPG set in a futuristic world about brains shooting around evil robots with nuclear rocket launchers, where you can customize your brain with the smoking remains of your victims
    • Dead in Vinland

      • 2018
      • Survival management game mixed with RPG and adventure elements, about a viking family trying to survive after being exiled on a mysterious island
    • Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn

      • 2018
      • Fighting game featuring Shaquille O’Neal that has you fighting your way around the world, beating outlandish celebrity bosses, and listening to a new rap track from Shaq himself
    • WARSAW

      • 2019
      • Turn-based historical role playing game where you need to use everything at your disposal to help a team of accidental heroes survive on the streets of Warsaw in 1944
    • Treachery in Beatdown City

      • 2020
      • Retro-style beat ’em up with RPG tactics and wrestling mechanics that lets you build a custom character and go save the president
    • Blazing Chrome

      • 2019
      • Side-scrolling action run and gun that has you freeing human kind from a machine-ruled world with fast-paced single player or co-op gameplay
    • Chroma Squad

      • 2015
      • Turn based tactical RPG about five stunt actors who decide to quit their jobs and start their own Power Rangers inspired TV show, where you customize your studio, craft your giant cardboard mechas, and combine your heroes’ abilities with teamwork maneuvers
    • Baseball Stars 2

      • 1992
      • Two player sports arcade game for the Neo-Geo that also saw a home release on the NES, it was lauded as having unparalleled gameplay and “the best graphics, sound, and gameplay this side of ESPN”
    • Shock Troopers 2nd Squad

      • 1998
      • Top-down military themed action shooter arcade game on the Neo-Geo that actually has no connection to the first Shock Troopers game, you choose from four mercenaries with different abilities to take down a terrorist organization
    • Ironclad

      • 1996
      • Side-scrolling shoot ’em up that has you manoeuvring a warship and teaming up with the mighty Iron Clad in order to fight the Iron Mask Republic and save the Kingdom of Chop
    • King of the Monsters

      • 1990
      • Isometric fighting game that pits pits kaiju against eachother and humanity to discover who is the strongest Super Monster of all
    • Sengoku 3

      • 2001
      • Side-scrolling beat ’em up that has you adventuring around the world to destroy evil spirits awoken by the red moon, with armed and unarmed combos and massive Ninja Art attacks
    • Metal Slug 2

      • 1998
      • Iconic run and gun action shooting game where you fight your way through a hail of bullets to thwart General Morden’s evil ambitions and uncover the secret of his new coup
    • SNK 40th Anniversary Collection

      • Video game compilation consisting of 24 different arcade and console games published by SNK between 1979 and 1990, from Ozma Wars to Crystalis
  • Epic Games

    • Wilmot’s Warehouse

      • 2019
      • Top-down puzzle game about keeping a warehouse running in tip-top shape. You’ll need to flex your organizational muscles in arranging and grouping items so you can retrieve requests as quickly as possible
    • 3 out of 10, Ep 1: Welcome To Shovelworks

      • 2020
      • Billed as the world’s first playable sitcom, it’s a fully animated and voiced free episodic series based in the world’s worst game studio, with narratively driven mini games taking you behind the scenes in a satirical look at game development

Health Canada has released a national COVID-19 contact tracing app, and it actually uses the proper exposure notification API

  • COVID Alert is available on iOS and Android, and takes full advantage of the Apple/Google Exposure Notification API
    • One thing to note here is that because the API is only available in iOS 13, you’ll need an iPhone from the last five years or so (6s or newer)
    • That lets your phone silently record randomized identifiers for anyone that comes within range of you for 15 minutes or more
    • Then, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they just have to enter a code given to them by health care workers and it will upload a list of everyone that was in range in the last 14 days
    • At set intervals your phone will check the uploaded lists and, if your identifier was included in one, let you know that you may have been exposed
    • No personal information is asked for or collected by the app- you’ll see a prompt asking to enable COVID-19 Exposure Logging and Notifications, and then another asking to enable notifications for the app. Other than that it just asks what province you live in
  • A lot of other apps, even some local ones like ABTraceTogether, have attempted something similar, but because they wanted to use their own systems they hit walls like your iPhone screen needing to be on and unlocked at all times
    • These apps are not only battery hogs, but also less secure as they could be accessing other identifying information while they run
  • There is a caveat here in that reporting is currently limited to a pilot program running in Ontario, but you can still download and run the app anywhere in Canada so that your contact tracing records are kept up to date. Then even on day one of reporting in your province you’ll be able to see if you came into contact with someone days or weeks ago
  • Estimates show that these apps become really effective after they reach 60% of an area’s population, and there’s literally no downside to running it, so I’d heartily recommend everyone take a moment and get that going on your smartphone

Xbox Game Streaming is going full Stadia on September 15th, but they might actually do it right

  • Based on Project xCloud, the new tech will allow Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play more than 100 games from the cloud on their Android devices
  • You’ll be able to play things like Minecraft Dungeons, Destiny 2, Gears 5, and Yakuza Kiwami 2, and they’ve announced they’ll be providing day-one access to new titles from Xbox Game Studios
  • Mobile users will have full access to the console experience, including friends lists, achievements, and saved game progress
  • And one of the best parts is that this isn’t limited to the States- September 15th will see the launch across 22 countries across North America and Europe
  • Unfortunately this is Android exclusive- Microsoft was running tests with iOS devices, but Apple’s App Store policies smacked the whole idea down
    • An Apple spokesperson told Business Insider that streaming services like these can’t be on the App Store because the company can’t review every single game included in the apps
    • They say that because games are interactive, unlike movies and music, they must be reviewed before being allowed to reach iPhone and iPad users
    • I think if that’s their concern they should just put the highest age-rating on the app and let it loose. There are a lot of interactive things on iPhones, like web browsers, where it’s just not feasible to review every single interaction

Samsung introduced a bunch of new tech with their Unpacked digital event this week

  • They introduced a fancy new Galaxy Z Fold 2 with a faster processor and redesigned hinge
    • The gap between the screens has been shrunk and the device is thinner than the first Fold, but the hinge also boasts improved dust elimination. We’ll see more details on September 1st when preorders open
  • The Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are the next flagships of the Galaxy line with 5G support
    • They’ve improved the S Pen and, for the Ultra model, set up a 120Hz screen for less latency when gaming
    • They’ve also partnered with Microsoft for three free months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate with Xbox Game Streaming, as well as a free controller to play with
  • New tablets are coming in the form of the Tab S7 and S7+, and are the first tablets that support 5G in the US (for what it’s worth)
    • Apparently they’ll have a lot of Microsoft integrations, including the ability to use it as a second screen with your Windows computer
  • Taking a note from Apple’s iPhone X, Samsung skipped right from the Galaxy Watch to the Galaxy Watch3, with a smaller, thinner, and lighter body that still houses a larger screen
    • The new model has a cool feature that can measure your blood oxygen levels, too, which is pretty handy when we have a lung-attacking pandemic on our hands
    • Recent rumours are saying that the next Apple watch will also include this feature
  • Galaxy Buds Live are Samsung’s latest wirefree earbuds, now with active noise cancelling
  • And they’ve announced the followup to their original folding smartphone, the Galaxy Z Fold2 5G
    • This one goes back to the book-style body of the Fold, but now when it’s closed you get a full 6.2” screen instead of the giant bezels and 4.6” screen of the original
    • They’ve also switched the display from using plastic to “ultra thin glass”, to improve strength and scratch-resistance, and improved the hinge to be not only stronger but also offer more varied angles
      • It still has a slight gap in the hinge, but Samsung says they’ve added bristles to keep dirt out

It’s been a weird week when it comes to TikTok

  • With such a popular app being owned by a Chinese company, many are concerned about the data that so many are willingly uploading to the service (along with whatever it may be grabbing behind our backs) ending up in the hands of a foreign government
    • Some are also concerned about how it could pave the road for some low-grade propoganda, given how the way videos are promoted to users is a complete mystery
  • Last Friday Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he would be banning the Chinese social media service from the United states, though given his track record who knows what he actually meant
    • He said he’d be signing the document the next day, but whether that was supposed to be an executive order or something else it never materialized
  • Then two days later Microsoft confirmed its intent to acquire TikTok in the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealond, saying they got a window from the president to have a deal in place by September 15th but is still threatening a ban if they can’t hash it out
  • On the political side, China’s communist party tabloid Global Times called a forced sale the “hunting and looting” of TikTok, and with Trump saying the US Government should get a “substantial portion” of the sale for “making it possible for this deal to happen”, you can start to wonder if they may be on to something

This Week In Gaming History:

August 1 – 1991 – F-Zero – SNES

  • The series is known for its high-speed racing, characters and settings, difficult gameplay, and original music, as well as for pushing technological limits to be one of the fastest racing games.
  • The original title inspired the creation of games such as Daytona USA and the Wipeout series.
  • And selfishly, I love this game for putting Captain Falcon into Smash bros, so he could be cloned to be my main Ganondorf.

August 2 – 1992 – Mortal Kombat – Arcades

  • Mortal Kombat was considered as one of the greatest video games of all time by critics and audiences in 21st century and became a best-selling game and remains one of the most popular fighting games in the genre’s history, spawning numerous sequels and spin-offs over the following years and decades, beginning with Mortal Kombat II in 1993, and together with the first sequel was the subject of a successful film adaptation in 1995.
  • However, it also sparked much controversy for its depiction of extreme violence and gore using realistic digitized graphics, and, along with the home release of Night Trap, prompted the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a U.S. government-backed organization that set descriptor ratings for video games.

August 3 – 2008 – The Angry Video Game Nerd in Pixel Land Blast – PC

  • In The Angry Video Game Nerd in Pixel Land Blast, you play the Angry Video Game Nerd from the web video series.
    • You are flying along wielding your NES Zapper, shooting NES cartridges that have been features on the Angry Video Game Nerd videos.
    • Do not touch a cartridge or get hit with a shot as this drains your life meter. If your life meter drops to zero, you lose a life. Hitting a spiked wall instantly loses you a life.
    • If you see a couple bottles of Rolling Rock beer, these will restore some of your life meter.
    • A six-pack is an extra life.
    • You can press a second fire button to call forth Shit Pickle, who will clear all enemies from the screen.
    • After a couple of levels, your progress will be saved so you don’t need to restart from the beginning, if you don’t want to.

August 4 – 2013 – Pikmin 3 – WiiU

  • The game centers around controlling three new characters: Alph, Brittany, and Charlie. They travel to PNF-404 (the planet featured in the first two games) to save their home planet Koppai from famine by harvesting seeds from the planet’s fruit. Upon reaching the planet, they discover the Pikmin, a servile species that’s both plant and animal, which they use to collect the fruit and battle the planet’s many fierce creatures.
  • Pikmin are super cute, and I love Pikmin 2, but the loss of control in this was devastating to my enjoyment of the game.
    • You used to be able to control Pikmin with the right analog stick, but in this game it is a camera control, and the Pikmin mindlessly follow you to me devoured, stomped or somehow caught by anything that follows you.

August 5 – 2000 – Hot Chix ‘n’ Gear Stix – PC

  • Caught my eye with the ridiculous title
  • Behind the wheels of one of the 6 mid-70s American muscle cars your only aim is to show yourself as the hottest chix around in this arcade-style racing game.
  • Tried to get more info off the developers website, but their website looks like its no longer hosted

August 6 – 2001 – Mobile Suit Gundam: Journey to Jaburo – PS2

  • An action game based directly on the Mobile Suit Gundam films and series. The game begins at the start of the series and ends at the ending of the second film.
  • The game plays in an action game format with a standard third-person view. It features newly hand animated cutscenes that depict events from the original television series as well as a CGI opening depicting a space battle from the One Year War and then a scene of the Gundam destroying several Zaku IIs before being attacked by Char Aznable.
  • A sequel, Mobile Suit Gundam: Encounters in Space, was released in 2003.
    • Which has hard to learn controls that reflect space combat well.
  • The English dub of the video game features the voices of the actors who were cast for the Mobile Suit Gundam television series as with most games subsequent to the series’ dubbing, rather than the English cast of the films.

August 7 – 2018 – Dead Cells – XBox One/PS4

  • Dead Cells is a roguelike action platformer video game inspired by Metroidvania-style games
  • Absolutely love the art style, I have no idea how to play the game. And feel like I’m bad at it.

Tidbits

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons has officially sold more than double what New Leaf did, beating out Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros Ultimate to reach the number 2 spot for Switch game sales just under Mario Kart 8
  • Bethesda has announced that Doom Eternal and The Elder Scrolls Online will both be free on the PS5 or Xbox Series X for players that have them on PS4 or Xbone, respectively
  • A new brushing scam saw people in dozens of US states receive mystery seeds in the mail that they didn’t order
    • Governments are urging people not to plant them or throw them out, as they could introduce invasive species, but to contact your state plant regulatory official instead
    • Brushing scams, I learned this week, are a e-commerce trick where scammers will get ahold of people’s names and addresses and then send them some random, low-value item.
      • The idea is that once there’s a record of some kind of shipment, they can use that to legitimize fake positive product reviews that they attach your name to
  • Three teenagers were arrested this week for last month’s massive Twitter hack that had prominent users like Bill Gates and Elon Musk promoting a Bitcoin scam that earned over $100K
    • According to federal agents, they’d used their own driver’s licenses to open Bitcoin wallets that received some of the loot
    • The suspected leader is being charged with more than 30 felonies, including communications fraud and identity theft, but the hack could have been a lot worse if the goal had been to affect global policy rather than make a quick buck

 

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PS2J 303 News – Screws Not Included

Security alert

  • Microsoft Security is tracking a massive campaign that installs remote access tools on your computer using malicious Excel macros, embedded in a spreadsheet purporting to show COVID-19 stats
    • The emails in question pretend to be from Johns Hopkins Center about the “WHO COVID-19 SITUATION REPORT”
    • Steps to avoid:
      • Don’t open random emails
      • Don’t open unexpected attachments
      • And most importantly, definitely don’t run Excel macros on anything you don’t know the full provenance of

Free Games

  • PS4

    • Star Wars Battlefront II

      • 2017
      • Third and first person action shooter that, as you can tell from its name, is the fourth major release in the series and seventh overall, it caught a lot of flack early on for its predatory microtransactions to the point that EA completely revamped the system to avoid gameplay advantages
      • Content based on the Star Wars movies up to and including The Rise of Skywalker
    • Call of Duty: WWII

      • 2017
      • First-person shooter following a squad in the 1st infantry division and their battles during the events of the Battle of Normandy
  • Xbox One

    • Destroy all Humans!

      • 2005
      • Action adventure game set in the 1959 United States that has you playing an alien harvesting DNA from humans to continue the cloning process of his species
      • A remake is due for release in July
    • Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse

      • 2016
      • Metroidvania-style adventure platformer that has you playing the half-genie Shantae out to save Sequin Land from the Pirate Master
    • Sine Mora

      • 2012
      • 2.5D bullet hell shoot ’em up in a diesel punk inspired world filled with anthropomorphic characters
    • Coffee Talk

      • 2020
      • Visual novel that follows a barista working in a coffee shop in a fantasy version of Seattle, as they listen to the concerns of the shop’s patrons and prepare drinks
  • Epic Games

    • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

      • 2015
      • Improved versions of Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel, the popular action RPG sci-fi loot shooters with a good sense of humor, with all their DLC, enhanced local multiplayer, and the ability to transfer save data from the PS3/Xbox 360 versions
  • Twitch

    • The Last Tinker: City of Colors

      • 2014
      • Indie developer Mimimi’s take on action adventure like Jack and Daxter or Banjo-Kazooie, minus the jump button
    • Pulstar

      • 1995
      • Horizontal-scrolling shooter, similar to R-Type, that has you defeating a hostile race of aliens threatening mankind
    • Blazing Star

      • 1998
      • Shoot ’em up sequel to Pulstar with improved graphics and less challenging difficulty
    • Fighting games

      • Samurai Shodown II

        • 1994
        • One of the first games to incorporate parrying, where you can block at the last second to deflect the attack and leave your opponent vulnerable
      • The King of Fighters 2000

        • 2000
        • 7th entry in the KoF series for the NeoGeo and the last one produced by SNK before their bankruptcy
      • The King of Fighters 2002

        • 2002
        • Ninth game in the KoF series that discarded the previous titles’ 4-on-4 striker match format and returned to the 3-on-3 battles that KoF used until ’98
      • Fatal Fury Special

        • 1993
        • An updated version of Fatal Fury 2 with tweaks to the gameplay system and an expanded roster
      • Art of Fighting 2

        • 1994
        • Set as a prequel to the Fatal Fury series, it was the first fighting series to allow players to perform a “super attack”

Trump is up in arms after Twitter decided to flag some of his misinformation as false, though the rest of his bull is still coming through strong

  • With the current COVID-19 situation, Twitter has decided to make some improvements to their platform so that incorrect information gets flagged
    • So when Trump tweeted about mail-in voting, claiming that there’s no way that they’ll be anything less than substantially fraudulent, Twitter threw a link at the bottom so that readers could “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”, and directs them to articles about his unsubstantiated claim
    • Trump’s response was to claim that they’re interfering in the 2020 election, and that Twitter is now stifling free speech. Even though that really only applies to the government, and companies are not required to give you a platform to say whatever you want
    • Then the Trump administration took to Fox News to single out Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, after digging up some tweets he had posted that were critical of the current US government
      • Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway called on listeners to go after him, causing a flood of abuse, harassment, and death threats online
    • So this is the government of a world power having a tantrum against a social media website because the president posted verifiably false information online
  • Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Twitter is enforcing these policies strongly enough
    • Another of Trump’s tweets has invented a conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murder
      • Trump basically said that the former congressman killed a staff member in 2001 even though he was 800 miles away at the time and her death was ruled an accident (she suffered a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk)
      • Trump then doubled down on the accusation even after her widower pleaded unsuccessfully with Twitter to take down the posts about his late wife in an open letter, saying that they’re causing her family a lot of emotional pain
        • He went on to say that the president is perverting the memory of his dead wife for perceived political gain, and if an ordinary user was throwing around these kinds of lies they would get banned from Twitter altogether
      • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s usual insistence that they’re sticking to the letter of their terms of use, commonly gamed by internet trolls and the president of the US, can’t even be used as armour in this case because they’re so solidly in the wrong- even by their own terms of use these posts should be removed and the account should be flagged if not banned altogether
    • This isn’t even new behaviour, after Trump used deluded conspiracy theories in 2016 against Ted Cruz, saying his father was involved in the JFK assassination, when going for the republican nomination in the presidential election

According to US courts, just turning on your phone’s lock screen may count as a search by law enforcement and require a warrant

  • While police can run a search without a warrant under special circumstances, if the phone is currently in police custody the device cannot be turned on even to take a screenshot of the lock screen. As soon as a physical intrusion is made, even just to press a button to wake up the screen, even though the lock screen is something somewhat publicly accessible, it counts as a intruding on a constitutionally protected area

Fans rejoice, you’re finally getting the Snyder Cut of Justice League

  • Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film after Zack Snyder left the film’s production due to family tragedy, but he drastically changed the tone of Snyder’s unfinished version
  • Synder’s personal cut of the Justice League will be a long-form series coming to HBO Max in 2021, and is expected to cost over $30M in development and reshoots

More than half of Apple Stores worldwide have reopened now, and their precautions are pretty solid

  • Multiple staff are stationed around the store’s entrance to direct people to different lineups either for shopping, walk-in repair work, or genius bar appointments
  • They also have guards doing screening, temperature checks, handing out masks, and directing the use of hand sanitizer
  • In store they’re keeping physical distancing in effect by helping people across tables and continually cleaning things with sanitizing wipes
  • All in it was quite a good experience, and I felt like the store was really taking the pandemic seriously while still taking care of my laptop repair
    • If you have a MacBook with USB-C ports that just aren’t holding on to cords like it used to, you should definitely get it checked out. Just make sure they put the screws back in
    • Anecdotally, keep in mind that the Apple Store isn’t a free mask dispensary. I saw one argument while in line with a couple maintaining that, because they bought an iPad yesterday, they should get a free mask from Apple even though they weren’t entering the store at all

Fallout 76 Tips and Tricks from Foam Forge Cosplay

  • Some lessons I’ve learned about FO76 in the past 2 weeks for anyone looking to optimize their end game.
  • Start building early.
    • Pick what weapon kit out you want and start engineering yourself towards it.
    • An endgame respec right now can cost up to 50 levels of points. (ask me how I know.)
  • Auto Rifles are still viable but you need a good back pack.
    • You won’t be using power armor.
    • Charisma is a dump stat.
    • Get ready to abandon it down to 3 points once you hit 50.
    • It’s only useful for dialogue checks.
    • Grape mentats help with that.
    • The perk Glow Sight is a must have.
      • At max rank it gives +60% damage to glowing enemies.
  • A good 1  Legendary > Decent 3  Anything with armor piercing is a god send.
    • Enemies in FO4 and FO76 don’t get more health.
    • They stack “armor”.
    • This is Bethesda’s way of dealing with game balancing.
      • IE: it’s broken too.
    • VATS kills fusion cores so build your Power armor build to avoid Vats.
    • Getting a targeting hud makes enemies glow in the dark
      • Much easier to kill them when you can see them without having to “ping” them with VATS
      • Physical Damage Resistance > Any Other Kind.
  • Best end game armor is T-51B or the much coveted Ultracite armor for base game.
    • The Strangler Heart is better than both but you gotta run Vault 94 for that.
    • The total difference is almost negligible so if you want (Like me) the X-01 is still a solid set of armor to run around in.
  • Staggering opponents makes them useless and unable to fight you.
    • If you hit hard enough and frequently enough they sort of just stun lock.
    • Heavy guns and shotguns are great for that.
    • Best end game guns come from Wastelanders.
  • Farm lots of rep for both factions to get you one of the new Gauss weapon types.
    • Shotgun or Minigun. They melt enemies.
    • If you’re heavy weapon specced Becket just gives you a fantastic .50 CAL at the end of his quest chain.
    • No spoilers for his quests though. Enjoy them.

Tidbits

  • It looks like Apple has been re-issuing many app updates this week, with some users reporting 100+ apps flagged for updates over the course of a couple days
    • There’s no solid info on why, but this may have been the fix to a problem causing some apps to stop opening properly, showing an error saying “This app is no longer shared with you”
  • macOS 10.15.5 is out now, including new battery health management features to extend the overall lifespan of a Mac’s battery, especially when you keep a laptop plugged in all the time
    • It also brings options to turn off Facetime video resizing to show the active speaker, issues with Finder freezing during large file transfers and a bunch of other bugs
  • With the iOS 13.5 release last week Alberta’s ABTraceTogether contact tracing app is apparently getting an update to support the secure Apple/Google exposure notification API, but there’s still no solid word on when that’s happening
    • Unfortunately many can’t even use it in its current state, with some devices purchased brand-new even three years ago unable to run the version of Android it requires
      • The app requires Android 8 or newer, leaving about 2/5 of Android phones unable to download it
      • To contrast, more than 95% of all active iPhones support the minimum iOS 11 required
  • The new Unc0ver jailbreak for iPhones is now available, and can hack anything from iOS 11 to the latest 13.5 that was just released
    • Apparently this is the first time a jailbreak has worked on all devices on launch day since iOS 10, according to the security researcher who discovered the vulnerability
  • Facebook is reportedly planning to allow its staff to work from home on a permanent basis even after the current crisis is over
    • Zuckerberg is expecting about half of his workforce to take advantage of the new program, though salaries will be adjusted according to living costs in their location
    • Apparently they’ll be verifying employee home addresses by monitoring their access to company systems
  • Due to pandemic concerns, Blizzcon 2020 has officially been cancelled
    • The convention’s executive producer, Saralyn Smith, released a statement saying that they still want to connect with fans online but, because this is new-ish territory with a lot of factors involved like their esports competitions, rather than having anything this fall it will likely be sometime early next year

Alan finished Network Effect, the first full-length Murderbot Diaries novel, this week, and it was damn good

  • Martha Wells does a fantastic job of showing a future that is equal parts exciting, promising, and bleak, with a very realistic balance of utopian and dystopian worlds
  • For not being interested in being at all human, Murderbot is such a good example of our foibles and fallacies while also being basically super-human at times
  • If you liked the novellas you’ll love this book, and if you’re interested in solid sci-fi you’ll be in for a good time

 

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PS2J 291 News – Boring School Stuff Folder

Free Games

  • Epic Games

    • GoNNER

      • 2016
      • A roguelike game often described as a shooter version of Spelunky- a procedurally generated 2D platformer that has you journeying in deep and dark places for a trinket to cheer up a giant landbound whale named Sally
    • Offworld Trading Company

      • 2016
      • A sci-fi RTS from the publishers of Sins of a Solar Empire that has you waging economic warfare on Mars, using anything from corporate takeovers to sabotage
  • Twitch

    • Bomber Crew

      • 2017
      • Strategic simulation game that has you picking the right crew to keep your Avro Lancaster bomber in tip top shape and complete your World War II era missions
    • Whispers of a Machine

      • 2019
      • A point and click sci-fi nordic noir that tells the story of a cybernetically augmented detective investigating a string of murders in a post-AI world
    • Mugsters

      • 2018
      • A physics-based sandbox puzzle game that has you outrunning, outmanoeuvring, and outsmarting the aliens that have taken over Earth and enslaved humanity
    • Furi

      • 2016
      • A twin-stick hack and slash shoot ’em up bullet hell consisting entirely of boss fights. The jailer is the key, kill him and you’ll be free.
    • Epistory – Typing Chronicles

      • 2016
      • An atmospheric action-adventure typing game following a girl riding a giant fox fighting insectile corruption in an origami world

With the COVID-19 coronavirus concerns in full swing, Google has cancelled their annual I/O developer conference and many are speculating that Apple may at the very least modify their own WWDC this spring

  • Other events like this year’s Game Developer’s Conference and Mobile World Congress events were previously postponed or cancelled due to concerns about the virus
  • With supply chains in China certainly being affected, it might just make sense to delay the product announcements as well and keep the developer portions of the presentations limited to online sessions
    • It’s gotten to the point where Apple Stores have been warned that replacement devices will be facing supply constraints for the next 2-4 weeks, so be warned if your phone needs a repair you might be caught with a loaner device in the meantime
  • Apple’s even sent care packages, called CareKits, to staff they have currently stranded overseas, that include things like coffee, tea, cookies, facemasks, and an iPad
  • If you’re interested in helping fight COVID-19, you can donate your unused computer resources by downloading the Folding@home client. That will add your computer to a pool that lets researchers farm out processing tasks to see how the virus attaches itself to human lungs, which they need to understand if they’re going to stop it
    • Similar efforts have contributed to research on diseases like cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s
    • Check out the full details at foldingathome.org
  • There’s also a similar piece of software available called Foldit, but instead of just using your extra processing power it’s actually a puzzle game that has you changing a protein’s shape to block how the virus infects people. According to PCGamer, Foldit helped researchers decode the AIDS virus back in 2011
    • If you want to take a crack at it, with no medical degree required, you can go to fold.it and give it a go

What do US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, Best Buy, Walmart, the RCMP, and a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates have in common? Well according to Buzzfeed News they, along with thousands of other organizations, have been using a controversial facial recognition startup that’s facing legal threats and violating App Store regulations left and right

  • Clearview AI is apparently on a quest to create a global biometric identification system by scraping social media and the internet at large, and it’s for sale to anyone who wants it
    • They have paid contracts with organizations like ICE, US Attorney’s offices, and Macy’s, and have users at the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, Interpol, and the NBA
  • The New York based startup has claimed it’s tech is meant as a tool for North American law enforcement, but it’s been used by more than 2,200 government agencies and companies across 27 countries
    • So we have this product featuring a treasure trove of identifying information on a ton of people, accessible to anyone that can pay, oh and also they’ve been breached at least once so presumably a few people that haven’t paid as well
  • The hardest part here is that the US just doesn’t have any laws or regulatory framework for this kind of biometric tracking- there’s literally no accountability for their ability to gather up this information and sell it, leading to government agencies running literally thousands searches and most likely acting on the information received
    • We could have ICE agents walking into a supermarket, scanning people, and immediately deporting them without due process or investigation
    • And this is all based on the tech of a company that can’t even keep their client list confidential
    • It’s one thing to have a database of internally gathered mugshots, or even shared between agencies, but when you outsource it to a third party whose interests are purely monetary and scrapes the internet at large for information it gets really scary
  • All in all there’s a complete lack of transparency here- Clearview is providing free trials to anyone who wants them, even officers in police departments that have explicitly banned the app, and provided its software to private and public institutions all over the world
  • This stuff is so shady that they didn’t even want their iOS app distributed through Apple’s App Store- they abused the developer program, similar to Facebook’s Research app that paid users to spy on their information early last year, so that users could sideload the app without it being reviewed by Apple
    • In a response to Buzzfeed’s inquiry Apple investigated and suspended their developer account, effectively preventing the app from running

Overwatch Competitive Play Hero Rotation

  • To make competetive Overwatch more dynamic, Blizzard has implemented a Hero Rotation
  • First banned characters are
    • Orisa
    • Hanzo
    • Mei
    • Baptiste

Cool looking game: Nocturne

  • For free on Steam, try Nocturne: Prelude
  • The game caught my eye with a bright colour pallette
    • Cool high quality pixel graphics
    • and rhythm based combat
  • Here is the copy thy have on their Steam page:
    • Rich Narrative
      • The digital afterlife survived humanity’s extinction.
    • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of a story-driven RPG set within a digital afterlife. Millennia have passed since humanity’s extinction; but somehow you’ve only just arrived.
    • Your conscience was uploaded to a world where a sentient AI has taken control, twisted creatures roam the land, and a vast corruption spreads.
    • Rhythm Combat
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat with fierce battles and unexpected challenges. With multiple difficulty options, Nocturne: Prelude is a game suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Find equipment to unlock powerful combat buffs or special abilities. Defeat enemies to unlock them in Arcade mode, where you can challenge them again for highscores.
    • Classic RPG
    • Make friends, battle enemies, and traverse a beautiful world as it falls apart around you. The perfect balance of heart-pumping musical combat, magnificent worldbuilding and deep story.
    • Nocturne: Prelude was inspired by decades of traditional RPG’s that immerse you in fantasy worlds.
    • FEATURES
    • Meet a cast of unique characters who’ll challenge what it means to be alive.
    • Explore a vast and beautiful pixel art world.
    • Master an entirely skill based rhythm combat system.
    • Fierce battles with unexpected twists.
    • Challenge your highscores in Arcade mode.
    • Multiple difficulty modes suitable for beginners and veterans of the rhythm genre.
    • Original soundtrack composed with a mix of digital and live performances.
    • Befriend a giant orange fish.
  • Nocturne: Prelude is the first chapter of Nocturne, released for free. The main story contains about 1-2 hours of gameplay.

Tidbits

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake’s demo of officially available now, ahead of its April 10th release
    • I specify ‘officially’ available, because there was already a sizeable leak at the end of last year, with many getting their hands on the full playable demo at the time
  • Apple has agreed to pay up to $500M to settle the class action lawsuit over throttling the performance of older phones
    • The whole issue came about when iOS 11 hit, when it had an undocumented feature that managed the battery life of older phones to prevent unexpected shutdowns- benchmarks took a hit, but the devices stayed reliable
    • The problem was that they didn’t give any feedback or options for this feature until iOS 13 came out late last year, so while they’re not admitting any wrongdoing they’re still willing to pay each affected user $25 if the settlement is approved
      • As MrMcLargeHuge said in the arstechnica comments section, “They were correct from a technical standpoint, but wrong from a PR standpoint.”
  • The director of MI5, Britain’s Security Service has called on tech companies to find a way to allow spy agencies “exceptional access” to encrypted messages, and that he finds it “increasingly mystifying” that intelligence agencies aren’t able to easily read secret messages of suspects they’re monitoring
    • While he refers to cyberspace as an unregulated “Wild West” that is largely inaccessible to authorities, it kind of seems like they’ve gotten lazy with how easy it’s been to spy on users up to this point. Now that we’re putting locks on our messages they want a copy of the keys

 

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PS2J 287 News – Who Knows What We’ll Name It

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Desert Child

      • 2018
      • An indie racing RPG that throws you into the role of a hungry, young hoverbike racer who needs to get off Earth before it explodes- hunt bounties, throw races, get to Mars, and win the Grand Prix
    • American Fugitive

      • 2019
      • Top-down open world sandbox that has you framed for your father’s murder, you’ll need to do whatever it takes to unveil the real culprit while evading the police at every turn
    • Steredenn

      • 2015
      • Side-scrolling rogue-like shoot-em-up in space, with sharp pixel graphics and chaotic boss battles in a never-ending combat for survival
    • Narcos: Rise of the Cartels

      • 2019
      • Turn-based action strategy based on the Netflix TV series, it has you exploring the first season from two sides with two unique stories
      • Unfortunately it seems to take the XCOM formula and water it way down, so while it seems tactical you can only move one person on each turn
    • White Night

      • 2015
      • Survival horror puzzle game where you explore the past of an old mansion in the 1930’s and solve puzzles of light and shadows in an entirely black and white setting.
  • Epic

    • Carcassonne

      • 2017
      • A competitive tile placement game of creating landscapes, claiming areas, and gaining points, with online play and a ton of replayability
    • Ticket to Ride

      • 2008
      • Another classic European-style board game that has you racing other players to build up your rail routes and reach your destinations
    • Pandemic was initially supposed to be included as well, but has actually been completely pulled from the Epic Games store. A statement from Epic said only that they’re shifting it to be free at a later date

Russia’s law against Apple devices seems to be proceeding according to plan, with the July 2020 deadline looming ever-closer

  • Back in episode 283 we talked about the new legislation passed in Russia by Vladimir Putin that would ban the sale of devices that don’t have a specific list of Russian apps pre-installed
  • This soon became known online as Russia’s law against Apple, as Apple has historically never allowed carrier bloatware or other apps to be bundled onto their devices- you get the same iOS experience regardless of where you buy your device
  • Well the list of required apps has finally been released and among them are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines, as well as some banking, navigation, and social medial platforms with links to official government bodies
    • All of these apps have the potential to collect and send data related to finances, location, communications, and more, all without direct user permission
  • All in, it seems like a terrible idea for the privacy of any citizen of the world, and especially when Russia is behind it. If we see tech companies allowing this to go through I’m sure China won’t be too far behind
    • While Apple could leave the $3B market in Russia, and I’m sure a healthy grey or black market would crop up in the meantime, the $13B China would be a tougher proposition. We’ll just have to hope that companies don’t put a price tag on our privacy

Blizzard’s new Warcraft 3 remaster is so unpopular that they’re now offering instant refunds, but that’s still not enough for many players

  • The remastered Warcraft 3: Reforged launched late last week, meant to be a remake of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne expansion, introducing a revamped user interface and enhanced cutscenes, along with more dialogue and tweaks to the campaign to align it with the lore of WoW
  • Unfortunately the plans seem to have changed, with the UI almost identical to the old version, and though some voice lines have been tweaked there aren’t any massive changes. Even the cutscene updates are lackluster
  • Basically the only real update are the graphics- the visuals are sharper, more detailed, and more fluidly animated, but most of the improvements don’t make much difference unless you zoom too far in to be useful in an RTS setting
  • The biggest problem is that they didn’t introduce the game as a new version, but rather replaced the old version with a new client and game whether you own Reforged or not, just presenting a toggle in the settings to switch between the two
    • This wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for all the issues that come with the new client- connectivity problems, trouble getting into custom games, and a complete lack of competitive ranked game modes
    • Not to mention that the download now includes a ton of extra resources, totalling 27GB compared to the original sitting at just over 1GB, even if you don’t own Reforged
    • They even implemented a live public chat room that you get dumped in to at launch, similar to Overwatch, but with no option to report or mute users
      • Loading up custom maps just merges its chat in with the main open channel, so good luck coordinating with anyone
      • There’s also no native LAN support, so you’re stuck online even if you’re in the same room
    • Speaking of custom, custom campaigns are entirely gone
    • Oh, and if the game can’t get an online connection to Blizzard you can play single player, but it won’t save your progress even though the save files are all local anyway
  • The backlash has gotten to the point where, instead of the normal process of Blizzard looking in to what was wrong with your purchase and denying the refund if you’ve had the game for a while and been playing it, refunds are now being automatically and immediately approved
  • This doesn’t help users unable to get back to the old client through official means, but it at least offers players dissatisfied with Reforged a way to get their money back
    • For really dedicated players that want their old client back  there are a bunch of guides and videos details steps online, and they even support internet connectivity, but in the meantime they’ve actively removed features and made unwanted changes to an 18 year old game with no way to officially opt out

Amazon’s Ring home surveillance equipment is getting an update this week to address some, but not all, privacy concerns

  • The update creates a new control center in the app, adding options for two-factor authentication (which it now prompts for by default) and letting you see a list of all devices connected to your account
  • It also lets you opt out of receiving any requests from police for camera footage as a blanket setting, instead of having to refuse each request individually
    • This is a solid win for privacy with 897 police and sheriff departments listed as Ring partners with the ability to request those files
  • Unfortunately this still doesn’t fix everything, as footage uploaded to the Neighbors app has geographic info that lets you pinpoint a camera to the square inch, and they haven’t addressed the EFF report we talked about two weeks ago wherein they share a ton of information with marketing and analytics companies

Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service has left beta this week, and seems to actually fulfill many of the promises Google’s Stadia didn’t

  • All you have to do is download the app on a supported device, hook up your preferred controls, and connect to the servers. Then you can connect to a PC on the cloud and play one of hundreds of supported games from Steam, Epic Games, Battle.net, uPlay, Bethesda, and Origin (including many free to play titles)
    • The best part? They actually have a free tier right at launch!
  • Reporters at arsTechnica saw solid performance with minimal latency, to the point where they could play Sonic Mania without missing a jump or dash.
  • Whats more, because they basically just give you a virtual gaming PC you can go into a game’s full settings and tweak whatever settings you want to optimize the look and performance to wherever you want them
  • It’s never going to beat owning a gaming PC, but the ability to play these high-end PC games on a low-end Mac laptop is kind of bananas
    • It also supports Windows, mobile, and some smart TV’s, with eventual support for Chromebook coming later this year
  • Right now they’re offering two tiers:
    • Free, which gives you standard access and maximum one hour sessions (though you can immediately reconnect, you just might hit a queue depending on activity)
    • Founders, which is $5/month ($6.50 CAD) for priority access, extended sessions, ray-tracing gorgeousness, and a free three-month intro period
    • General streaming performance and game selection are the same between the two tiers, but the priority access will skip you to the head of the queue if the servers fill up
  • One big note on the game selection though is you don’t just load your existing game libraries to the service and to go town- you need to connect your other game store account, manually search for the game you want to play in GeoForce Now’s library tab, and add it to your account. Then you can launch those supported games through the GeForce Now app
    • There are also some loopholes where you can launch their Steam app and try starting games they don’t officially support, but for many games will hit errors when trying to run
    • There are even a bunch of supported games available through both Steam and Epic that can’t run from your Epic license, only Steam
  • All in all this is a pretty exciting time in gaming, with unparalleled access to this sort of thing as long as you have the internet connection to support it
    • Nvidia says that playing games will use about 15GB/hour, so be wary of your data caps!

Square Enix is releasing a brand new bundle-game this March called Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package to bring together every game in the series up to KH3

  • The release history of this series is bonkers though. The All-in-One Package is pretty much just KH3 bundled with Kingdom Hearts: The Story So far
    • Which was Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix
    • Which is made up of Final Mix, Re: Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, 2 FInal Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and Re:code
  • It also includes 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, which itself is
    • Dream Drop Distance HD
    • 0.2 Birth by Sleep – a fragmentary passage
    • X Back Cover
  • But even with all that it’s still not a complete version, with the DLC for the third game, Re:Mind, still being sold separately

Here is a response to our call out for peoples Top 10 Games
I am going to try for the rest of the year to get everyone’s list!

Adam Blank (Remember the Game and Wrestling with Wrestling podcasts)
  • Super Mario World
  • Link to the Past
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Shovel Knight
  • Tetris
  • Donkey Kong County
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy IV
  • Last of Us
  • Super Punch Out

Fake Magic card

  • Posted by Owner of Stony Plain Games & Collectibles, Lance
  • Lesson of the day!
    • You got to get up pretty early to fool this gaming shop owner!
  • Guy called me last night, want’s to know if I’ll trade in some expensive Magic the Gathering cards?
    • I ask him to come see me about it.
  • So today, said dude and his friend came in, looking to trade two MtG revised edition duel lands for shop credit?
    • (red flag-cash is king)
  • Right the way I could tell the cards looked ‘wrong’ in some way? I thought “these are proxies!” in my head.
    • (‘homemade’ copy of original version of an actual Magic card, used for gaming when one can’t afford the real thing. The guys that do proxies are getting VERY GOOD at it!)
  • They were pretty well done as the ‘rosette’ effect on the cards print when looked at under a x20 magnifier wasn’t far off an original, though of course there were differences enough even then to indicate it was a proxie.
    • (red flag 2)
      • A rosette effect is when in print, an image magnified looks like coloured dots in a flower pattern, and when observed nomally, look like a normal image. Its so the print colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, are printed in grids at different screen angles.
  • The print was too dark and that was the first thing to alert me as I first checked them out but one has to be sure!
    • (red flag 3)
  • Some incredible proxy cards come in from China that are quite hard to tell the difference unless, you know what you’re looking for! If you have old MtG cards you need verifying, bring them into me!
    • Nothing worse having a fraud version of an expensive card. In this instance the real version of this card was $375! Each! Did the dude know they were fake? IMO I’d say so.
    • He listed off the good stores in the city to buy singles, with their owners names, as well as the formats he played of the game, some of which are very expensive to play! (unless you use proxies lol!) So he had some pretty good knowledge of the game and community around Edmonton and surrounding area. When I eventually said these are proxies pal, he was ready with a slack apology but really didn’t seem surprised at all?
  • Which if you just lost $750 bucks worth of cards, you’d be a little more pissed than anything else. Wouldn’t you? Just be aware that there is an industry for printing proxy cards that are very close to the real thing except,….they are not! Fraud is fraud so don’t get ripped off if you happen to be in the market for some high end MtG cards!

     

Surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites

  • Article by Brave
  • A new report from Brave reveals that people seeking help for addiction, disability, and poverty on council websites are profiled by private companies in the UK
    • What is a council?
    • Councils provide a wide variety of services to their municipalities and enforce various federal, state and local laws for their communities. These services include public health, traffic, parking and animal management
  • Brave has uncovered widespread surveillance of UK citizens by private companies embedded on UK council websites.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
  • These are the Quick Facts, that Brave provides:
    • Nearly all councils in the UK permit at least one company to learn about the behaviour of people visiting their websites.
    • People seeking information about disability, poverty, drugs and alcoholism services are profiled by data brokers on some council websites.
    • 198 council websites in the UK use the “real-time bidding” (RTB) form of advertising. Real-time bidding is the biggest data breach ever recorded in the UK. Though illegality is not in dispute, the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has failed to act.
    • Google owns all five of the top embedded elements loaded by UK council websites, giving it the power to know what virtually anyone in the UK views on council sites.
    • Over of a quarter of the UK population is served by councils that embed Twitter, Facebook, and others on their websites, leaking data about what sensitive issues people read about to these companies.
    • 6.9 million people are served by councils that allow data broker LiveRamp to track people on their sites. Until recently, LiveRamp was part of the Acxiom Group, which sold data to Cambridge Analytica.
    • None of the data collecting companies recorded in this study had received consent from the website visitor to lawfully process data.
    • This report should spur Elizabeth Denham, the UK Information Commissioner, to finally enforce the GDPR. It is 17 months since formal evidence from Brave and complaints about breaches of data protection laws were filed before the ICO.
  • About Brave:

    • Brave is a new, private web browser. It has unmatched speed and battery life. And it also blocks data-grabbing ads and trackers.
    • 10 million people use Brave to make the web quicker and safer. You can download it for your phone or computer and browse the web with confidence.
    • Brave’s CEO is Brendan Eich, inventor of JavaScript, and co-founder of Mozilla/Firefox.

Google Maps Fooled by Man Who Used 99 Smartphones to Create a Fake Traffic Jam: Video

  • Article on Gadgets 360
  • Simon Weckert, a Berlin-based artist, used 99 smartphones and a hand cart to create ‘fake’ traffic jams in the German capital.
  • The slow pace of the hand cart and the fact that 99 phones were used caused Google Maps to believe that there were a lot of vehicles using a street that was actually empty.
    • Google uses this method to crowdsource traffic data the world over; smartphones in cars provide information to Google, including the speed at which they are moving, and how many smartphones are on that particular street.
  • If the pace is low and number is high, Google would show that segment of the street as red or maroon, suggesting that there is a traffic jam.
    • The video, that will be in the show notes on our website,  shows the streets on Google Maps gradually turning from green to maroon, suggesting that there was a traffic pileup on those streets.
    • Google’s navigation suggestions would then recommend that users avoid those streets, even though they were actually clear to drive on, apart from having to watch out for Weckert and his handcart.
  • Weckert hasn’t shared any further details, so it’s possible that this could have been faked entirely.
    • If it is authentic, Google should ideally be looking at ways to prevent such an exploit from being used, since this could have very real and physical implications on traffic movement.
    • In any case, don’t stop trusting Google Maps entirely; it’s not often that you have artists with 99 smartphones on a hand cart wandering around.

Tidbits

  • In an interesting prank / hack of Google Maps and their traffic data, Simon Weckert carted a wagon filled with 99 phones around simulating a traffic jam in the navigation app
    • One neat thing to note is the filtering Google uses for the data- if the phones all stopped moving entirely the traffic jam wouldn’t appear, and once a car using Google Maps drove past Google would see there was no jam and set it back to normal
  • Software engineer and blogger Robert Heaton took a trip down the rabbit hole recently and discovered that Wacom tablet drivers send a ton of identifying data when you use them, including details about every application you use and when you use them
    • Apparently the data is gathered for development purposes, but if you’re concerned about privacy and want to disable that you’ll need to open up the Wacom Desktop Center and disable the Wacom Experience Program
  • Allegedly leaked footage of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Flip hit Twitter this week, showing the clamshell device in action for the first time
    • Size-wise it reminds me of the Gameboy Advance SP, though flatter and wider, and fits better with what we’re expecting a folding screen on a smart phone to do- close and protect the screen
    • It also is rumoured to use special ultra-thin glass instead of the plastic used by the Galaxy Fold, which could prevent some of the display issues the Fold saw
  • Nintendo has announced that there won’t be any new Switch systems coming this year, quashing some rumours of the hoped for Switch Pro with increased power and improved performance
    • This is just going to widen the power gap already existing between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, and perhaps prevent ports of newer titles to the Switch, with the PS5 and Xbox Series X due out later this year

We want to know

What video game soundtrack would you like to soundtrack your life?

 

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Free Games of February 2019

Free Games of the Month!

Security

  • There was a big FaceTime bug discovered this week that lets you listen to audio from the person you’re calling before they pick up
    • If you try to FaceTime someone, then while it’s ringing use the Add Person button to add your own phone number, it will start a group call that includes the person you originally dialled even if they haven’t accepted it- allowing you to eavesdrop on whatever they’re doing
    • Added on to that, if the person on the receiving end hits the power button (turning off the screen and silencing the ringtone without rejecting the call itself) their device will start to send video as well
    • Class action lawsuits about the privacy implications are already in progress in the US and Canada, citing reports that people contacted Apple about this back on January 20th but didn’t receive a response
    • Two things to note here are that:
      • This only works while the device is ringing, so if you reject the call it breaks the connection
      • And some good news- Apple has actually taken the Group FaceTime functionality offline, preventing people from exploiting this bug, until they release an update next week fixing the issue

News

Battlestate Games, the makers of the tactical first-person shooter Escape from Tarkov, is making headlines after abusing DMCA takedowns against two separate YouTube channels

  • Back in December Polygon reported on the nearly 50 DMCA claims against YouTuber Eroktic, wherein rather than claim piracy or unfair use, Battlestate posted the takedowns because of allegedly incorrect info and overall negativity about their game
    • They stated that while only a few of the videos had the misinformation, “negative hype” was present in all of them so they feel justified in their takedown claims
  • Shortly after this article went up on Polygon’s site, they were contacted by another YouTuber that goes by EL_Dee, saying that they too had received 47 DMCA claims
    • The cause of these was apparently because they had Battlestate’s watermark and logo, as shown on Tarkov’s title screen, but many other YouTubers use the same images
    • EL_Dee believes they were also singled out because of “negative hype”
  • Battlestate tried to push blame for the claims on to what they claimed was a subcontractor, but in actuality seems to be a company with many close ties to them and their staff
  • Even more damning is that prior to the claims being filed Tarkov’s project leader and producer, Nikita Buyanov, had requested that the videos be taken down and sent privately. Buyanov said that EL_Dee had the attention of the devs “so it is no reason for all of us to go hostile”
  • Regardless of who authorized the claims they appear to be a clear form of censorship, and they’ve had serious and lasting impacts on the livelihoods of both Eroktic and EL_Dee, losing hundreds of Twitch subscribers and thousands of YouTube views. All over some videos that just weren’t 100% positive about the game

Bandai Namco and CyberConnect2 have announced an upcoming game called Dragon Ball Project Z, releasing sometime this year

  • Billed as an action role playing game, it’s looking to be “the most dramatic and epic telling of the Dragon Ball Z story”
  • There aren’t a lot of details yet, but apparently you’ll be experiencing the story from Goku’s perspective
  • From the looks of their teaser it’s going to be tackling a large part if not all the series’ story, so it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out

You know those shady Android free TV boxes? Turns out they’re illegal! Who woulda thought?

  • The maker of the Dragon Box, build to let users watch video without cable or streaming subscription, has agreed to shut down and pay $14.5M in damages to the plaintiffs
    • Their lawyer initially said the lawsuit would backfire, but when you being sued by a group including Netflix, Amazon, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros their lawyers might know what they’re doing

Piranha Plant

  • Neutral special
    • Ptooie 14% (held), 18% (thrown, early), 13% (thrown, late)
      • The Piranha Plant spits up a metal spiky ball, keeping it suspended by blowing air upwards. The spiky ball can then be blown either in front or behind the Piranha Plant. The spiky ball has transcendent priority, and the move stalls Piranha Plant’s descent if used in the air, making it a very deadly edgeguarding tool. Based on the Ptooie enemy introduced in Super Mario Bros. 3.
  • Side special
    • Poison Breath 1.2% (uncharged, center loop), 0.6% (uncharged, edge loop), 2.7% (fully charged, center loop), 1.6% (fully charged, edge loop)
      • The Piranha Plant spews a damaging cloud of poison in front of it. If all hits connect, it will deal a great amount of damage. The cloud itself has no knockback, and deals no hitstun, but it can be countered/reflected. If an opponent attempts to shield against this attack, it will do detrimental damage to the shield itself. The move is chargable, and it can be saved for later use. During execution, Piranha Plant changes its color to match the Putrid Piranha enemy from the Paper Mario series.
  • Up special
    • Piranhacopter 1.2% (hits 1-8), 4% (hit 9)
      • The Piranha Plant spins its leaves in a fashion akin to a propeller, causing it to rise upward. It can be angled to the left and right during the ascent. Based on the Jumping Piranha Plants from Super Mario World.
  • Down special
    • Long-Stem Strike 8.4% (uncharged, close), 12% (uncharged, far), 18.2% (fully charged, close), 26% (fully charged, far)
      • The Piranha Plant retreats into its pot/pipe, and extends outward to bite opponents in the direction aimed. This also extends the character’s hutbox. Piranha Plant gains super armor during the charge, and intangibility on its head during the bite. Likely a reference to Elasto-Piranhas or Stalking Piranha Plants.
  • Final Smash
    • Petey Piranha 49% total
      • The Piranha Plant summons Petey Piranha, who stomps around the stage with his cages from his boss fight in The Subspace Emissary. Opponents that get too close will get trapped in his cages. When the Final Smash is nearly over, Petey Piranha will breathe fire at both of the cages, then slam both of the cages to the ground, dealing heavy damage and knockback to the opponents who were trapped in the cages. It is possible for Petey Piranha to fall off stage, taking any trapped opponents with him, though is not a guaranteed KO if the opponent has leftover jumps, a strong recovery or both.

Tidbits

  • Google+ is shutting down this April due to low use
    • All the accounts , pages, and photos will be deleted starting April 2nd, and rolling out over a few months
    • If you’ve got anything you want to keep, make sure to download it asap
  • The Dragon Ball FighterZ roster is growing again this year with the creatively named FighterZ Pass 2
    • Confirmed are Jiren, Videl (and the Great Saiyaman), Broly, and SSB Gogeta

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