PS2J 307 News – Ransomware Quality Control

Free games

  • Twitch

    • Melbits World

      • 2018
      • Co-op puzzle platformer where you team up and use your phone as your controller to guide your characters through challenging, intricate levels
    • Kunai

      • 2020
      • Billed as a quirky, fast-paced action platformer, you play as Tabby, a tablet who joins the fight against a robot uprising using his kunai and ninja-parkour
    • Dear Esther: Landmark Edition

      • 2017 remaster first released in 2008 as a free-to-play mod for the Source engine, then later redeveloped into a commercial release in 2012
      • First person exploration and adventure game that is considered to have started the “walking simulator” genre, it has you exploring an unnamed island in Scotland, listening to a troubled man read a series of letters to his deceased wife
    • Dark Devotion

      • 2019
      • Action adventure game where you explore the secrets of a mysterious fallen temple and put your Templar’s faith to the test
    • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

      • 1998
      • First person shooter originally released on the N64, it follows Turok’s efforts to stop a powerful alien entity from escaping the confines of his Lightship
    • Reus

      • 2013
      • God game where you control giants that can modify the nature of the planet through terraforming, creating life, and altering genes
    • GRIP: Combat Racing

      • 2018
      • Originally a Kickstarter campaign that I backed in 2015, it raised $154K of its $657K goal before it was taken down, but it was still announced to be pushed into early access
      • High octane hardcore combat racer inspired by Rollcage, Wipeout, Motostorm, and Podracer with gravity-defying twists and heavy weaponry
  • Xbox

    • WRC 8 World Rally Championship

      • 2019
      • The official game of the 2019 World Rally Championship, it’s a simulation rally racing game with new physics for all surfaces and a redesigned career mode
    • Saints Row 2

      • 2008
      • Sandbox action-adventure game that has you leading the Third Street Saints gang against three rivals and the corrupt Ultor Corporation, with a more comedic tone to set the game apart from Grand Theft Auto
  • PS4

    • NBA 2k20

      • 2019
      • Basketball simulation game featuring current and past players and teams, along with up to six custom expansion teams and the ability to relocate and rebrand any time
      • It also included, for the first time, all 12 teams from the WNBA, though they can only be played in one-game exhibition and single-season modes, and the game drew criticism for its gambling-based minigames that overshadowed the basketball in early trailers
    • Rise Of The Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration

      • 2016 update to the 2015 release, with updates including coop play and classic outfits as well as combat-free exploration and zombie modes
      • Action-adventure sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, it has standard ruins exploration and bowplay but this time set in Siberia
    • Erica

      • Bonus for the 10th anniversary of PS Plus
      • 2019
      • Live-action interactive adventure thriller with multiple endings that feels Heavy Rain-esque, putting you in the role of Erica, a brave young lady who is plagued with nightmares of her father’s murder and has to unearth the truth behind the tragedy
  • Epic Games

    • Hue

      • 2016
      • Puzzle platformer where you explore a grey land while searching for your missing mother, and along the way you uncover coloured pieces that reveal new puzzles. The more colours you find, the more complex the puzzles become

Co-Founder of Cards Against Humanity Max Temkin has stepped down following accusations of racist and sexist office culture (courtesy of Polygon)

  • For anyone unaware, it’s like a lewd version of Apples to Apples with references to politics, pop culture, sex, and so on
  • It started as a DIY print your own game distributed for free, but after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign it became the focus of a multi-million dollar game company
  • In the past few weeks multiple former employees have shared stories of racist and sexist behaviours that largely affected Black employees, as well as some accusations of sexual assault by Temkin
  • Many people reporting these behaviours remained anonymous due to fear of retaliation, and that seems to have been well founded after several employees described being fired for confusing or unexpected reasons after raising concerns about discrimination at work
  • Cards Against Humanity’s official response is that “some of these accounts are true, others are not, and a few we are continuing to investigate”
  • It seems almost inevitable that a company trading on humour powered by shock and racial stereotypes, like all the variations on “A big, black dick” that exist in the game, would have some problems, but though they’ve tried to increase sensitivity and remove some cards deemed offensive, there are still many packs being sold today that include cards that marginalize vulnerable groups of people
  • There have also been stories shared from the writer’s room about how the head writers like Temkin would push for the inclusion of cards like “Saying the N-word”, despite the protests of the one Black employee on the team
  • A spokesperson pointed Polygon to 14 cards, out of the hundreds available for the game, that “reflect Black culture, history, and perspectives”. In a follow-up they clarified that the game has “well over 100” cards that do that, and the examples were merely a favourite sampling, but the gesture reeks of “I’m not racist, I have a Black friend”
  • Many former employees described their departure from the company as “escaping”, and since there was no real HR department to speak of they felt unheard and powerless even after leaving, for fear of lawsuits and reprisals. The Chief Operating Officer was the sole HR department, and was also in charge of finance, operations, and legal. His close working relationship with Temkin led to concerns about bringing issues forward.
  • Apparently Cards Against Humanity is hiring an independent third-party HR consultant to audit and improve its practices, but from the sounds of it a lot of damage has been done to a lot of lives
  • Former employees also spoke of Temkin yelling at employees, and said that people on staff often spoke on Slack about the most private places to cry after encounters with him, and that he exerted undue influence over not only people’s livelihood but also their personal lives- in one case, Temkin decided that an employee would have to stop seeing someone or they would get “kicked out”
  • And all of this from a company that has opposed Trump, donated money to charity, and given scholarships to women in STEM programs has left many with whiplash after experiencing what the company culture was like internally
  • As of June 9th Temkin has stepped down from the company and will have no staff interactions, and though he maintains 1/8th of the company’s shares he will not receive a salary.
  • With these reports becoming public and the employees gaining courage and support they’ve established the Cards Against Humanity Workers United union and begun to demand recognition from the company’s owners, looking to establish better collaboration and transparency between workers and management after the trust has been eroded so thoroughly already
  • In a statement provided to Polygon, the company’s leadership says that it intends to recognize the union, and that if the majority of their employees want a union they’re all for it

Reddit has officially, finally, banned the “The_Donald” subreddit

  • The ban was part of the site’s overhaul of its hate speech policies, and will affect the more than 790,000 users that used it to post memes, videos, and messages supportive of Trump
  • This came down because of the group’s consistent breaking of its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech
  • Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman said “Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people. ‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that”
  • At the same time, Twitch temporarily banned Trump from the service for hateful conduct, for things like video of his kickoff rally where he claimed that Mexico was sending rapists to the US
    • Twitch has apparently begun issuing permanent bans to other streamers because of hate speech, with long-time popular streamer Dr Disrespect receiving one without specific details on why
    • It sounds like Twitch is taking moderation a lot more seriously, and not just allowing racist or hateful language just because it’s newsworthy due to its source
  • In the words of the Daring Fireball, “It’s a race to get out of Dodge as the whole world gets its footing back on the rightful notion that bigotry is shameful and must be shunned.”

Warning to all pirates running macOS, there’s a new ransomware making the rounds

  • The new EvilQuest ransomware variant is being spread through pirated Mac apps, according to Malwarebytes, and was initially found in a download for Little Snitch found on a Russion forum
  • The infected installation does install Little Snitch, a tool for monitoring network traffic on your computer, but also moves and installs files throughout your system to encrypt both system and personal files on your computer before prompting for a $50USD ransom
    • The malware apparently doesn’t work very well though, as the ransom instructions are often not displayed properly and you don’t actually get your files back if you pay it
  • Malwarebytes says their software can remove the infection, but any encrypted files will need to be restored from backups

Clone High is coming back!?!

  • For the multitude that missed it the first time around, it was an animated series about the teenage clones of historical figures going to high school together, that worked as an out-loud parody of teen soaps like Dawson’s Creek with things like every episode opening with “Tonight, on a very special episode of Clone High…”
  • It was cancelled after one season due in part to its depiction of the clone of Mahatma Ghandi and controversy outside of North America. Even the DVD release never made it outside of Canada
  • Well apparently Clone High’s creators went on to make a few films like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, and Spider-Verse
  • So it seems like now that they’ve got some pull after a few hits, they’re bringing the show into the era of Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars, and 13 Reasons Why, so maybe we’ll finally get some closure to the first season’s cliffhanger two decades later. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with this

Tidbits

  • Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has officially apologized for the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con drift issue, saying “Regarding the Joy-Con, we apologize for any trouble caused to our customers. We are continuing to aim to improve our products, but as the Joy-Con is the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the United States and this is still a pending issue, we would like to refrain from responding about any specific actions.”
    • Nintendo began offering free repairs for controllers afflicted with drift shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but with its built-in controllers the Switch Lite was also added to the class action suit a week after its September launch
  • Microsoft has updated their enforcement guidlelines for Forza Motorsport, banning players using the custom design feature to put confederate flags or swastikas on their cars
    • Some have raised issues with this, complaining that iconic cars like the Dukes of Hazard’s General Lee had nothing to do with race and featured a large depiction of the flag on its back, but just because an unproblematic show used the flag doesn’t mean it’s not a problematic symbol itself
    • Even the General Lee car itself, owned by pro golfer Bubba Watson, had its flags removed in 2015
  • According to rumours, Apple may be removing the charger and EarPods from new iPhone boxes, leaving just the phone and a USB cord
    • The switch would allow them to reduce packaging and waste, and for many long-time iPhone users it wouldn’t be a large issue, but it seems like the option should still be there to make sure you have everything you need if you’re buying for the first time
    • One idea I’ve seem on reddit is to either have two different versions, which could get confusing, or include a coupon for the value of the charger inside the box. Then you can get one for free or use the savings on another Apple device, though it’s still an additional step
  • Now through July 10th Apple is giving you an extra 10% bonus when adding funds to your AppleID
    • On your phone you can go to Settings, tap on your name, iTunes & App Store, tap on your AppleID, View AppleID, then tap Add Funds to Apple ID
  • After taking fire for reading iPhone clipboards every time users type a single character into the app, TikTok has promised to release an update to stop reading that information from devices
    • iOS 14 beta shows a notification each time an app reads your clipboard and so this was really highlighted in TikTok, but it’s also behaviour being seen in other apps like AccuWeather, Overstock, AliExpress, Call of Duty Mobile, Patreon, and Google News
    • TikTok claims it’s part of an anti-spam feature and they don’t actually read what you may have copied from another app, but there’s no way to verify that. With it being a Chinese company whose algorithm is a complete black box, you can assume that they’ve stored copies of whatever you had on your clipboard while using the app
  • Microsoft is officially shutting down their physical stores worldwide, except for four specific locations in the US, England, and Australia that will become “experience centers” that no longer sell products
    • The stores were originally inspired by Apple Stores both in concept and execution, but failed to really get a foothold in the market
    • verynicewebsite.net put it well – “I do enjoy their PR headline: “Microsoft Store announces new approach to retail.” The new approach: not doing retail.”

 

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PS2J 301 News – The Boy Who Cired YouTube

Free Games

  • Twitch

    • Anna’s Quest

      • 2015
      • Point-and-click adventure game following Anna as she attempts to escape an evil witch and save her dying grandfather by solving puzzles, collecting items, and talking to characters throughout the game
  • Epic Games

    • Grand Theft Auto 5

      • 2013
      • Action-adventure sandbox game by Rockstar following three criminals and their efforts to commit heists while under pressure from a government agency and powerful crime figures
      • It quickly became the highest selling entertainment product in history, earning $1B in its first three days, and still consistently sits on Steam’s list of most popular games
      • So popular that it’s singlehandedly taken down the Epic Games Store website, even causing issues with the Epic Games launcher and Fortnite
        • As of recording the site is still down

Utah’s joined the contact tracing game with their new Healthy Together app, aimed at letting people know if they’ve come into contact with someone later diagnosed with COVID-19

  • Unfortunately they decided not to use Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification API, and instead opted for a less private GPS and Bluetooth option
  • According to the Utah state website, they opted to use their own framework because they say Bluetooth alone “gives a less accurate picture” than the combination of Bluetooth and GPS
    • I can get how the extra location information could assist in identifying transmission areas, but at the end of the day this is a government app that logs not only who you’re in contact with but also everywhere you go
    • It’s also another case of needing to have the app open and active at all times on a iPhone in order to fully function, which can not only affect battery performance but also the overall longevity of your device
  • At the moment about 45,000 people have signed up for Healthy Together, amounting to about 2% of the state’s population, and some estimates have shown that in order to be effective the apps will need to be used by 60%.
    • Hopefully once the more secure and efficient apps come onto the market we’ll start to see the numbers rise

We’re seeing another dark side to the wild west that is exposure notification- spam and phishing attacks

  • Police in Maine are warning cell phone users of a text message scam in which people are sending things like
    • “Someone who came into contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested. More at <link>”
    • These are not official messages and are doing nothing but spread panic and, depending on where the link is pointed, could give hackers a way in to get your personal information
  • The Better Business Bureau has also said that scammers are targeting seniors with messages posing as the US Department of Health and telling them they need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test to receive their recently approved government stimulus payment
  • It’s tough to say exactly how to tell the scam messages from real ones, but one giveaway is if you aren’t running a contact tracing app then the government has no way to identify that you’ve been exposed, never mind text you about it
  • Once tracing apps start using the Apple/Google exposure notification features I think we’ll be in much better shape, as you’ll see proper system notifications from trusted government apps rather than a hodgepodge of whatever your area has put together themselves

Epic Games has unveiled the new Unreal Engine 5, and it’s very pretty

  • Unreal Engine is a game engine used by the developers of a lot of high-profile games from Yoshi’s Crafted World to the Batman: Arkham titles and Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • The new engine focuses on photorealism on par with movie CG and live-action video, and there’s a very pretty demo video online of it running on developer PS5 hardware
  • The coolest thing is that it’s not just for next-gen- the engine will support current consoles, computers, and even iOS and Android
  • As part of the same announcement Epic has also changed how its royalties work regarding use of the engine, retroactively taking 5% of sales only after a game has earned its first $1M in sales. And that 5% is waived for games published on the Epic Games Store
    • On top of that, any Oculus-exclusive games made with Unreal don’t start paying until they hit $5M in sales
    • So you can get access to triple-A game development tools for free and only start paying royalties if your game is a big success. Pretty solid deal!

Wink, a company that makes a smart home hub that links different smart home devices together, has decided to switch from a purchase model to subscriptions and completely screw over their current users

  • Previously Wink would work like most other smart home devices, you buy it once, set it up, and it works with no additional costs
  • Now, 5 years in, they’ve decided that hardware sales don’t cover their costs and you need to pay $5/month to continue using hardware you own
    • Even if you don’t use their cloud services, your access to the app, voice control, API, and automations all get deactivated if you don’t pay their ransom
    • Part of their justification is that they don’t make any extra money by selling your information, like other platforms might, but that’s less of a bonus and more of an essential feature
  • In response to backlash they went from a one-week notice period to two weeks, allowing an extra 7 days before users start being charged the monthly fee
  • I could see it if they introduced new devices reliant on a subscription, or maybe if they had a buy-back program for people that don’t want to subscribe and therefore no longer have any use for the product, but nothing like that has been announced
  • This seems like a fairly customer-hostile move, and I’ll be surprised if Wink manages to move forward without introducing something to justify the added cost

Apple has started reopening its retail stores and some of the safety measures it’s taking may violate EU privacy rules

  • One of the measures Apple’s taking to protect everyone includes temperature checks before customers are allowed to enter, using a non-contact forehead thermometer
  • However a data protection agency in Germany is concerned those checks violate EU privacy and data protection rules and has launched a probe, according to Bloomberg Law
  • Assuming they’re not storing the data or linking it to people in any way, I’m guessing this won’t amount to anything. It sounds comparable to nightclubs checking ID before allowing people to enter

New Paper Mario on Switch!

  • Paper Mario: The Origami King
    • Coming out July 17th!
  • Nintendo’s page is letting you know you can pre-order it now
    • If you pre-order it will install the data now
    • And at midnight for on the 17th you can play the game
  • A beautiful paper world to unfold
    • The devious King Olly has transformed Princess Peach into origami, uprooted her castle and sealed it shut with magical paper streamers.
    • Join Mario and his new companion Olivia on a comedic adventure that will take you to the far corners of a papercraft world
      • With the help of Olivia’s paper-folding powers, use the far-reaching 1,000 Fold Arms and other paper transformations to save those imprisoned by the Origami King’s henchmen, and help restore peace to the world.
    • Face off against the Origami King and his army of paper invaders, team up with some extraordinary companions and master magical powers on your quest to save the world.
    • Journey across the land – from scorching deserts to sailing the high seas – and recruit a revolving cast of wacky travel buddies, as you seek to sever these sinister streamers and save your paper pals from being turned into one of the Folded Soldiers!
    • Repair the damage done by the Folded Soldiers and rescue Toads trapped in all manner of wacky scrapes!
    • Put a stop to King Olly’s plans by engaging in battles which will put both your tactical thinking and puzzle solving skills to the test – against his origami army, as well as humongous bosses under his command!
  • From what I could tell from the video and screen shots
    • Paper Mario is teamed up with the origami Olivia for special powers
      • One featured has him with extended origami arms
      • It looks like the arms will be using joycon motions to work
      • Like pulling a cardboard tab along a perforated edge
    • It also looks like all the paper denizens are teamed up with Mario
      • Enemies pictured behind him facing the origami threat
      • Bowser looks like he got folded down to just his face to diminish his power
    • Game play looks very familiar
      • Traversing crafted 3D enviroments
      • RPG combat with bonuses for timing
      • Might have an over-world where travel is done not to scale
    • And it looks like some things are 3D papermache
      • Perhaps its different from the 2D paper but weaker than Origami?
        • The ending has a silly clip of Paper Mario with a giant papermache Samus helmet
          • He is running back and forth making a fist pretending his arm is a blaster
        • The scene also has a papermache DK head, adding more questions to how Paper Mario ties into the Nintendo franchises

Tidbits

  • The latest rumours for the expected over-ear AirPods Studio look very interesting with technology expected for head/neck detection (similar to ear detection in AirPods that pauses your media when you take one out), and automatic left-right side assignment
    • Analysts say that instead of having a specific left or right speaker, the headphones will detect which way they’re being worn and adjust accordingly
    • They’re expected to retail for about $349 USD
  • A remastered version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 was announced this week in text messages from the man himself
    • Apparently Tony has a text message service you can sign up for to receive messages from him throughout the year, and he took to it to announce that every skating level from the two PlayStation 1 games would return, along with every pro skater in the original games, and the custom skate park feature from Pro Skater 5
    • Activision says it will be coming to the Xbox One, PS4, and PC (via Epic Games) this September for $40 USD, $60 CAD
  • To promote learning from home, Ubisoft is making their Discovery Tour series completely free for anyone with a Uplay account
    • Discovery Tour: Ancient Greece and DT: Ancient Egypt are versions of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and AC: Origins that strip out the combat in favour of education
    • You can explore multiple regions, learn about daily life in the period, and hear about myths, legends, and philosophies of the cultures
  • In an effort to get around Trump’s ban on American companies from doing business with them, Huawei is re-releasing old phones that still support Google apps
    • Apparently the ban has worked is that any devices launched before the ban, and even some slightly afterward, can still be sold with Google apps installed
    • Since then though it’s been expected that Huawei will have a 20% drop is sales this year, and that may only be the initial impact as the Google-enabled Huawei phones become de-supported and fall off the market
    • So Huawei’s solution is to release “New Edition” versions of last year’s phones- new software and more memory, but otherwise the exact same phone
    • These can’t really take the place of their flagship line of devices, but it’s something they can put out there and see if people will buy, at least

 

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PS2J 297 News – Soylent Strikes Back

Free Games

  • Epic

    • Just Cause 4

      • 2018
      • Third-person action-adventure sandbox that throws you into the world with a wingsuit, grappling hook, hot air balloons, rocket boosters, and all kinds of weaponry, then asks you to liberate the land from its oppressive government
    • Wheels of Aurelia

      • 2016
      • A visual novel / adventure game that takes you on a road trip through the gritty western coast of Italy during the 1970’s. Playing as Lella, a bold, spunky woman, experience the sights and sounds of a tumultuous time in Italy’s history while uncovering events from Lella’s past through branching dialogue and multiple endings.
  • PS4 (without Plus!) until May 5th as part of Sony’s Play At Home initiative

    • Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection

      • 2015
      • Free for PSPlus members in January, remastered port of the first three Uncharted games from the PS3 era: Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception
      • Uncharted is known for its Tomb Raider style third-person action adventure gameplay including shooting, combat, and puzzle solving
    • German and Chinese gamers will get Knack 2 instead of Uncharted

      • 2017
      • Action platforming game that has you punching, kicking, and changing size to fight enemies, solve puzzles, and find upgrades. It also has local drop-in-drop-out multiplayer co-op
    • Journey

      • 2015
      • A lovely indie adventure game that originally hit the PS3 in 2012, you control a robed figure in a vast desert, travelling toward a mountain in the distance. Along the way you may encounter another player and assist each other for a while, but there’s no chat or communication other than a musical chime you use to activate strange pieces of cloth and affect the world. You don’t even see each other’s names until after the credits

Thanks to an indirect data breach, there are over 500K Zoom accounts being sold on the dark web and in hacker forums

  • Cybersecurity firm Cyble was able to purchase 530K zoom credentials for about 1/5 of a cent each this month, verifying the legitimacy of the leak
  • With the credentials, hackers can access your account information like your name, email address, password, personal meeting URL, and your account’s HostKey
  • The twist here is that Zoom didn’t actually have a data breach themselves- I said ‘indirect’ because from the sounds of it these login details were the results of “credential stuffing attacks”, where hackers attempt to log in to a service using accounts previously leaked
    • That means that if you’ve re-used a password that has been compromised, especially if you’re using the same email address, there’s a good chance that you may be affected.

Apple and Google announced a joint effort this week that will see them using Bluetooth to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 around the world

  • Starting in May, both Apple and Google will release functionality that will let Android and iOS devices help track potential exposure using apps from public health authorities (like the Canadian government COVID-19 app)
  • Then in the coming months they’ll work to enable broader Bluetooth-based tracing built directly into their platforms, allowing interaction with a wider variety of apps and government health authorities
    • The initial idea for this piece is that everyone who opts in will get a random, rotating identifier that changes every 15 minutes
      • The list of identifiers you’ve been in contact with doesn’t leave your phone unless you explicitly share it
    • This ID will get transmitted to other nearby devices via Bluetooth automatically
    • The idea is that, locally on your device, you can see a 14 day window of whether your phone has been near the device of someone self-identifying that they’ve tested positive for COVID-19
      • The trick here being that users testing positive aren’t identified to Apple, Google, or other users. It’s all anonymized.
  • Of course, this is going to need some major security, as privacy and consent are going to be very important to this kind of endeavour
    • Having both Apple and Google working on it will be good, as they can keep each other in check (thought I feel like Apple will have to be the main privacy watchdog here)
  • The tool isn’t meant to track locations, but rather personal contact, so it’s not as bad as it could be. But it’s going to have to be locked down airtight or a lot of information could potentially be reverse-engineered from this

Telus’s Babylon Health app is being promoted in Alberta via a deal with Premier Kenney and could be dangerous to women’s health

  • The Babylon app is meant to allow people to check symptoms and contact doctors remotely through text or video chats, which you’d think was a great idea in the current situation
  • It’s even currently covered by BC’s provincial health care, and Alberta’s premier Jason Kenny and our minister of health Tyler Shandro made a deal with Telus to distribute it in Alberta
  • Unfortunately they didn’t consult a single doctor before-hand to verify the app’s effectiveness
  • Doctors have found that the built in symptom checker is deeply flawed- with the exact same symptoms and history (60 years old, 20/day smoker, sudden chest pain and nausea), a male is diagnosed with a heart attack and told to visit emergency services, but a woman is told it’s a panic attack and that some symptoms may need to be checked out by a GP within 6 hours
  • This is another great example of not only health care’s gender-bias, which is appalling, but also our government’s messed up priorities
  • The president of the Alberta Medical Association has gone on record saying that the way the app and its physicians are put together, the fact that they don’t actually have access to your medical records, and how they don’t coordinate your care at all beyond faxing your family doctor if you specifically request it, leads to fragmented and potentially dangerous medical care
  • At this point we have our government effectively advertising a handicapped, pseudo-privatized health care
    • But then again, we also live in the province that spent between $14-20K buying Facebook ads to promote Kenney donating PPE and ventilators to BC, Ontario, and Quebec

Apple announced their new iPhone SE this week, and though the name hasn’t changed everything else has

  • The new device is using the iPhone 8 body and comes in three colours- white, black, and Product(Red) that has proceeds going toward COVID-19 aid instead of HIV/AIDS this time around
  • Specs-wise it has a 4.7” LCD display, the same processor as the flagship iPhone 11, TouchID 2 and Haptic Touch, the same camera as the XR and XS, and dual/eSIM support
    • So with this device replacing the iPhone 8, 3D Touch is officially dead and Haptic Touch (aka press and hold) unfortunately is the victor
  • That means you’ll see some fantastic performance for years to come as long as you don’t mind not having FaceID and using a slightly more basic screen
  • All that starts at $399 USD ($599 CAD) for the 64GB, up to $549 USD ($809 CAD) for the 256GB version

Final Fantasy VII Remake mini-review

  • Really good, a ton of fun for fans of both the old and new styles of Final Fantasy game
  • I really like the world they’ve built out of the first chunk of the original, and I’m looking forward to more

Soylent is back baby!

  • Soylent.ca is where to get it

  • Not following our Soylent coverage and you’re confused why we’re ecxited
  • Here is their copy
    • Soylent is a complete meal — affordable, sustainable, and satisfying.
    • We engineer our ever-evolving products to deliver convenient nutrition when you need it.
    • If you’ve ever missed a meal, eaten something regrettable in the throes of hangry, or had no time to eat, Soylent is for you.
    • In a world with a rapidly growing population, and rapidly diminishing resources, we all need access to nutrition that is cost-effective and easy to consume. We’re pro-GMO, pro-sustainability, and ready to change how the world thinks about food.
  • What can we buy in Canada right now?

    • Soylent Drinks
      • A ready-to-drink meal offering 400 kcal, 28 vitamins and minerals, and 20g of plant-based protein.
      • Ordering is at a case at a time
        • 12 Bottles a case
        • One time purchase at $4.75 a bottle
          • $57 a case
        • Subscription rate is $4.28 a bottle
          • $51.30
          • Frequency at 15, 30, 45 and 60 days
      • Original
        • The flavor that started it all
        • Light, sweet, and velvety smooth
      • Chocolate
        • Rich, chocolatey flavor with real cacao powder.
      • Cafe Mocha
        • The chocolatey, robust coffee drink of your dreams.
        • Same ready-to-drink meal with an added caffeine boost to start your day.
        • When I had the drink back when it was called Coffiest, it tasted like black coffee in Soylent, which was good in my opinion
    • Soylent Powder
      • 450 grams in a bag
      • 20g of protein and 28 vitamins and minerals per serving.
        • Recommended serving is 60 grams of powder
        • And each case has 35 meals worth of pwder
        • One time purchase at $2.51 per meal
          • $88 an order
        • Subscription at $2.09 a meal
          • $73.04 per order
          • Frequency at 15, 30, 45 and 60 days
        • Original
          • The complete-meal powder that started it all.
          • A light, sweet taste.
          • Mix Original into your favorite smoothie to create your own flavor profile or enjoy it on its own for a velvety-smooth meal.
        • Chocolate
          • Ideal for smoothies
    • Accessories
      • First subscription gives you a pitcher and scoop
        • Which I no longer have
      • And there is a Soylent branded blender bottle
        • Our 20oz Soylent Blender Bottles are perfect for all your meal replacement powder needs.
        • Shake up 200 kcal or 400 kcal servings on the go, wherever you go.
        • For a limited time only, Soylent Blender Bottles ship with a 200 kcal scoop — perfect for easy measuring.
        • $11

 

  • Now this looks like a lot
    • I am very grateful they put a foot back into Canada
    • However, we are missing some products that are available to the United States
      • Soylent Drinks
        • Vanilla
          • Classic vanilla flavor with a sweet, subtle taste and no added caffeine
        • Strawberry
          • Our sweet strawberry flavor with a fruity finish.
        • Mint Chocolate
          • Minty chocolate deliciousness. Twist the cap and dive into our brand new flavor.
        • Brand New Soylent STACKED
          • Soylent Stacked is the first of its kind. This 11 oz complete energy drink is packed with 15g of plant protein and 36 essential nutrients, plus nootropics which improve focus, increases mental output, and gives you the nutrients your body needs.
        • And a variety pack to get 4 of each Cacao, Strawberry and Vanilla
      • Soylent Eats
        • These are little snack bars
          • 100 calorie mini meal serves up 5g of plant protein, 36 essential nutrients and probiotics.
        • They come in boxes of 30 squares
          • Chocolate Brownie
          • Salted Caramel
          • Citrus Berry
          • Variety Pack
          • And a sampler pack of 9 bars

Tidbits

  • Apple’s introduced a Mac Pro Wheels kit for everyone that bought a Mac Pro and were disappointed when it didn’t roll around wildly with no way to lock it down
    • The kit goes for $700 USD, compared to the $300 static feet option, leading many to wonder- why are my computer’s wheels more expensive than my car’s tires?
  • With physical distancing expected to be in effect for the foreseeable future, Polygon’s gathered a bunch of really sweet stories from people going on blind island dates
    • Animal Crossing has apparently become the latest great Tinder first date destination
  • Nintendo’s latest Switch system update has brought a bunch of quality-of-life improvements this week
    • Changes include the ability to transfer games and DLC from the system’s memory to and from an SD card (though you still can’t move save data over), and the option to remap controller buttons at a global level (a big win for accessibility)
  • Nevada Gaming Control has approved gambling on three eSports events, so with physical sports being cancelled you can now bet on the 2020 League of Legends European Championship, the North American League of Legends Championship Series, and the Overwatch League
  • The official Star Wars website has announced that Episode I: Racer will be released on the Switch and PS4 on May 12th

 

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Free games

  • Epic Games

    • Kingdom Come: Deliverance

      • 2018
      • Story-driven open world action RPG with immersive, branching quest lines set in the kingdom of Bohemia, an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire, with a focus on historically accurate content
    • Aztez

      • 2017
      • Hybrid side-scrolling brawler and turn-based strategy game set in the world of the Aztec Empire, developed by a two-person team and designed to play like an arcade game with the action of God of War or Devil May Cry

Security warning- if you have an Android device running either 8 or 9 you’ll need to be wary of using Bluetooth

  • A critical bug was found recently that allows anyone within bluetooth range to gain access to your phone’s storage, letting them lift personal files and install malware without any input from you
  • The February 2020 security patch includes a fix for this bug, so you’ll want to make sure you’re up to date as soon as possible by going to System > Advanced > System update
  • If you’re unable to get that patch for whatever reason, like your device is too old, you should consider turning off your device’s bluetooth entirely. You won’t be able to use your wireless accessories, but you’ll also be safe from the hack

FYI, if you’re playing the BioShock collection you’re going to need to manage your save files effectively

  • Apparently if you use all 10 available save slots in one of the games, it won’t let you save at all in the others- save space is shared between all games in the collection
  • This has been an issue since the collection was first released back in 2016, but there hasn’t been any patch or fix to either increase the save space available or separate storage for each game

The Pokémon Home cloud service for transferring Pokémon between games is now available, and Nintendo continues to baffle with their choices regarding connectivity

  • The app exists on the Switch, Android and iOS, and the idea is that you can transfer Pokémon from one game into another by linking your Nintendo account on each device
  • At the moment it’s a little one-sided though- you can take Pokémon from Bank for the 3DS, the Let’s Go games, and eventually Pokémon Go, but you can’t put them back
    • The only way to get Pokémon back out is into the new Sword and Shield games- those support bi-directional travel for Pokémon in Home
  • There are a couple of cool pieces though
    • The app supports trading via Wonder Box, the GTS, opening a Room Trade event with up to 20 people, or just one-to-one trading with a friend
    • You can also register Pokémon in Home in your National Pokédex, and get info on abilities and moves
  • But, since this is Nintendo and a mobile app, there’s a premium plan involved
    • With a Basic (free) plan you can’t remove any Pokémon from Pokémon Bank, you’re limited to 30 Pokémon in Home, and you can’t host room trades
    • If you want to pay $16USD a year you can get those missing features and hold up to 6,000 Pokémon, though it’s a tough sell for a recurring cost

E-cigarette maker Juul is being sued by the Massachusetts Attorney General for predatory advertising targeting children

  • The company’s early marketing used young, cool-looking models, recruited teen influencers, and bought advertisements on CartoonNetwork.com, Nick.com and NickJr.com
    • They also hit sites like allfreekidscrafts.com, dailydressupgames.com… places that are pretty specifically frequented by children
    • They even gave out advice over email on how to get around age restrictions to buy Juul products online
  • They even held presentations in schools by going in to mental health / addiction seminars and saying their products are “totally safe”, with no teachers present or parental consent
    • When approached afterward and asked about struggles with nicotine addiction, the Juul rep advised that people should switch from cigarettes to Juul
  • All-in, the company seems bent on singlehandedly reversing decades of progress combatting tobacco and nicotine use, especially in minors

Hitting a bit of whiplash, Nvidia’s announced that all Activision Blizzard games are going to be removed from GeForce Now at the publisher’s request

  • This will impact everything like Overwatch, WoW, Starcraft 2, and Call of Duty, though Destiny 2 is still streamable since Bungie split with Activision previously
  • Blizzard hasn’t publicly commented on the reason, but last month they entered into a partnership with Google Cloud to provide infrastructure for its games as well as switching their Overwatch League streams to YouTube, so there could be something in the works over at Stadia HQ
  • The worst part is that the games had been playable through the beta and after launch, so there could very well be people that bought them with the sole expectation of playing them on GeForce Now
    • This serves as another reminder that though subscription gaming is convenient it also means you’re giving up full ownership of the ability to use things that you’ve paid for. Access to your games only lasts as long as companies are willing to provide it

Games to play with your Valentine

Play Together!

  • Lego Games
    • You can play your favorite universe with your number 2!
    • Weather its Star Wars, DC, Marvel, Indiana Jones or whatever you have, its a fun casual collect-a-thon with low stakes.
  • Overcooked
    • Work together to make food for the hungry masses!
    • It requires communication and crisis management with your partner.
  • Portal 2
    • The Co-Op campaign has an interesting story and progression makes you feel smrt!
    • Since 2011 this puzzle game has been making pairs figure out complicated puzzles, with portals!m
  • Mario Kart
    • Everyone’s favorite arcade racer already
    • If you’re not into sabotaging each-other, compete in VS races on the same team!
  • Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime
    • Alan and I played this a while ago
    • The two of you take stations on a cute spaceship in this 2D adventure
  • Minecraft
    • Why not have fun in arguably the biggest sandbox game ever made
    • Go on an epic quest or settle down and build your dream castle
  • Borderlands
    • A game that only gets better with more people
    • Make it a digital double date and shoot and loot the night away!

Collaborate together

  • Kings Quest
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • The Station
  • Gone Home

Tidbits

  • Microsoft’s planned changes to Office 365 that we talked about in episode 285, involving installing a browser extension forcing people to use the Bing search engine, has officially been rolled back a bit
    • The option still exists but now it’s actually an option, and it defaults to Off
    • If your organization’s administrators turn it on though, keep in mind you’ll still need to go into the extension settings to change your search engine instead of your browser’s normal settings
  • Almost a year later, it looks like BioWare is aiming to resurrect Anthem with a “more substantial reinvention than an update or expansion”
    • General Manager Casey Hudson says the team will be halting new seasonal updates as it focuses on the overhaul, giving themselves time to test and iterate while focusing on gameplay
    • My favourite bit is how they want to “reinvent the core gameplay loop with clear goals, motivating challenges and progression with meaningful rewards.”
  • The one and only Nintendo PlayStation is up for auction until early March, currently sitting on Heritage Auctions with a bid of $48,000 USD
    • The device was the final collaboration between Nintendo and Sony before plans for a Super Nintendo CD-ROM system fell through over licensing, and hopefully it ends up in a museum rather than collecting dust in a basement somewhere

 

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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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PS2J 286 News – One Click Debt, No Refunds

Free Games

  • PS4

    • BioShock: The Collection

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

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

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

    • TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge

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

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

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

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

    • Farming Simulator 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tidbits

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

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

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

Josh’s Top 10

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

Alan’s Top 10

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

 

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Thank you to Renee, thank you for believing in us!

And thanks to all our ‘fanily’ that support us.
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And talk to us in the comments!

Free Games

  • Epic

    • Horace

      • 2019
      • 2D pixel platformer with a surprisingly long single player narrative that includes puzzles and minigames, touted as a contender for Indie Game of 2019

Things are continuing to heat up between the FBI and Apple over the latest iPhone unlock demands related to the Pensacola shooting have gained more publicity

  • Every time this hits the public eye government institutions and anti-encryption advocates use these examples as reasons for installing backdoors, while at the same time claiming that’s not the exact thing they’re asking for
    • They say they’re not trying to weaken encryption, and that they come up against this problem frequently, but there’s no magic way to let law enforcement in without allowing everyone else to use the same path. Daring Fireball put it really well: “Mathematics doesn’t discern between “good guys” and “bad guys””
    • We’ve even seen classic Trump rant-tweets on the subject, saying ‘they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements’, and the US Attorney General claims that Apple has provided no substantive assistance
    • This is even after they’ve successfully used devices like the GrayKey box we’ve talked about previously to access locked devices regardless of their passcodes, and the phones in question are even older, less-secure models (a 5 and a 7), so it really begs the question why are they so bound and determined to weaken encryption for everyone else
      • The iPhone 5 doesn’t even have the extra encryption hardware, called the Secure Enclave, of newer devices!
  • Law enforcement is even slowly shifting the language from “terrorism” to “pedophiles” in an attempt to work from the moral high-ground
    • It’s not that these aren’t serious crimes, but strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security.
    • Not only that, but law enforcement has other avenues for investigation than eavesdropping on communications and poring through stored devices. There’s a great example where people unravelled a dark-web site and arrested hundreds by analyzing Bitcoin transactions. Or another involving the arrests of members of a WhatsApp group.
      • But then we get people like New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance testifying before Congress with: “In fact, we were never able to view the contents of his phone because of this gift to sex traffickers that came, not from God, but from Apple. As a result, our investigation of sex trafficking was blocked by encryption.”
  • Apple’s stance remains clear- in a statement released this week they’ve said that they responded to each request from the FBI, often within hours, resulting in many gigabytes of information turned over. They’re giving everything they can
    • This hasn’t stopped people from demanding that Apple unlock the iPhone itself, but that just isn’t possible
      • It also doesn’t help that the FBI didn’t even request the device be unlocked until almost a month into the investigation, well after anything other than the full passcode could be used to unlock it
    • By design, if you use a passcode on your iPhone it should keep everything private from everyone. That’s the security and peace of mind that every single person should have.

Players Are Pushing Their Bodies to the Limit Speedrunning Nintendo’s Fitness Game

Article by Patrick Klepek, Published on VICE

  • On December 15, a player in Tokyo, Japan calling themselves Sakinyan turned on their Switch and started playing Ring Fit Adventure, Nintendo’s terrific exercise game hybrid from last year.
    • For most people, a session with Ring Fit Adventure lasts somewhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on when you collapse into a pool of sweat.
    • Sakinyan was not engaging in some light exercise, however, but attempting to pull off the first world record run for playing through all of Ring Fit Adventure’s surprisingly long story mode.
  • Ring Fit Adventure asks if you want to stop every few minutes. This staggering feat took Sakinyan a little over 18 hours, nearly a complete day of nonstop exercise.
    • At times, they took a moment to snack. Other times, they sipped water. There was even time for a bathroom break, though so far as I could tell while scrubbing through the speedrun, Sakinyan only headed to the bathroom once during the marathon.
    • And because Ring Fit Adventure can’t take a hint, they’re also forced to tell the game they don’t want to take a break over and over.
  • At 18 hours and 55 seconds, Sakinyan defeated the game’s final boss, walked over to their timer, and clicked stop.
    • After dabbing their face with no doubt a completely soaked t-shirt, they performed a few stretches as the game’s credits rolled. There was no big celebration, no fist pump.
    • Instead, Sakinyan sat on the ground and started scrolling through their phone.
  • Most of us play games in chunks at a time, a few hours at most.
    • Though the term “speedrun” suggests one is going fast, lots of games take a long time to speedrun, requiring dozens of hours of careful and deliberate play.
    • Speedrunning is a test of skill and endurance, and while tapping buttons and analog sticks is physically draining in its own right, it’s hardly on the same level as, say, having to perform a plank over and over again.
  • It’s what makes the slowly growing world of Ring Fit Adventure speedrunning so fascinating. In its early days, it’s not one defined by glitching through in the world in weird ways because no one’s discovered anything like that yet.
    • The only “shortcuts” are to scroll the menus faster—a staple of speedrunning JRPGs—and to manage your stamina.
    • A workout that might be more effective at taking out a group of enemies might be more personally draining, forcing you to take a costly break while your energy returns. It’s a very different way to play.

Indie game dev sees big boost in sales after he uploads it to The Pirate Bay

Article By Andy Chalk, Published on PC Gamer

  • My default position on piracy is that it’s bad and you shouldn’t do it.
    • Entertainment has value, and if you are entertained then you should be willing to pay for it.
    • That said, I also acknowledge that it’s not always a simple, black-and-white situation.
    • Which brings us to the story of Danger Gazers, “a post-apocalyptic roguelite top-down shooter” released earlier this month that saw a big boost in sales after its developer uploaded it to The Pirate Bay.
  • Danger Gazers is $10 on Steam, but if you don’t feel like dropping a tenner, that’s okay too. “This torrent was officially brought to you by ShotX.
    • This is the latest DRM-free version of Danger Gazers (1.1.0), there’s no catch here, no Steam only features, just the fully functional game,” the torrent description says.
    • “As a developer, my only request would be to consider supporting and buying in case you like Danger Gazers and want more indie games in the future.”
  • The developer, Shota Bobokhidze, went deeper into his reasons for sharing the game on TPB last week on Reddit.
    • “There are people who can’t afford the game, some want to play the game before buying, some that never buy games. Just trying to help those people out and make the best of the situation,” he wrote.
    • “There are a lot of ways to show support if you want to without buying the game, such as spreading the word about DG, sharing the torrent, feedback, whatever it is you can come up with. And finally, I hope you have fun and enjoy the game!”
  • The TPB release wasn’t a “planned PR move,” Shota told TorrentFreak, and he didn’t promote it on social media or his studio website, as he wanted to reach out to the pirate community specifically.
    • Nonetheless, the response so far has been “amazing,” There’s also been “a noticeable boost in sales,” which he specified to Polygon as a 400 percent increase in sales over launch day.
    • “And it didn’t stop there, some kind individuals went out of their way to donate more than twice as much (as the $10 purchase price) and I received countless emails from all the people who showed their support,” he said. “I’m thankful that my message was clear and thankful for all the support.”
  • The Steam numbers are still dire: Steam Charts indicates that Danger Gazers’ all-time peak concurrent player count is 7, which isn’t great. But it’s also available (and currently on sale) on Itch.io, which is apparently where supporters ponied up extra cash. (Itch.io enables purchasers to pay more than the list price for games if they want to.)
  • Shota said in his Discord server that he’s also planning on setting up a Patreon so fans can support ShotX’s work more easily.

SpaceX is nearing the next milestone towards sending a human crew up to the International Space Station, by blowing up one of their rockets

  • As part of the safety requirements from NASA, they need run an in-flight abort test to prove that they’re prepared in the case of a rocket malfunction during launch
  • What will happen is partway through the test launch the crew module will fire a set of escape engines and separate from the booster, going off to land in the ocean
  • The Falcon 9 booster will fall back to Earth, being torn apart as it descends into the water
  • It should be a pretty interesting show for anyone watching at 8AM ET on January 18th

 

Overwatch Lunar New Year starts!

The Year of the Rat hits Overwatch from day of recording, January 16th, and goes all the way to February 5th.
The announcement was followed by a clip of the Sombra skin. It is called Face Changer Sombra. She has a headdress an the mask changes periodically. It is based on someone performing Bian Lian, which translated to ‘Face-Changing’, an ancient Chinese dramatic art that is part of the more general Chinese opera. Performers wear brightly colored costumes and move to quick, dramatic music. They also wear vividly colored masks, typically depicting well known characters from the opera, which they change from one face to another almost instantaneously with the swipe of a fan, a movement of the head, or wave of the hand.
Doomfist’s Epic skin is called Monk, and his Doom Fist is gold with purple highlights. It also has the chinese character, Jingang, which is a Buddhist monastery in Kangding, Sichuan, China. He has a shaved head, white eyes, and his clothes have the style of being held on with bindings.
Winston’s Epic skin is called Ancient Bronze. The metal looks like an old patinaed bronze with Jade decoration in it.
Hammond’s Epic skin is called paper cutting. It looks as if the red paint was cut away to reveal a white floral pattern. Paper-cutting is an old art form that has roots all over the world, but is popular decoration during Chinese New Year.
Brigitte has a Legendary skin called Opera. She appears to be dressed as if she were performing in a Chinese Opera. Her shield is very ornate, with a fine China like border, and a large flower in the center.
Lucio’s Legendary skin is called Samul Nori. Samul nori is a traditional Korean style of music. Samul means for objects, and nori is To Play. It involves performers playing music on: a kkwaenggwari which is small gong; a Jing which is a larger gong;  Janggu which is an hourglass-shaped drum; and a Buk, and a barrel drum similar to the bass drum. This music is commonly played for traditional festivals, which Lucio looks dressed for. And his gun, looks like a drum.
Moira has a Legendary Skin called Mask Dancer. It is in the same vein as Orisa’s skin last year, where they are both Mask Dancer performers. Her belt has a mask look at the buckle. And she wears a red mask that has a yellow fire effect coming from the eyes.
Other event unlocks:
  • Bastion Emote: Kite Flying
    • Bastion flies a rectangular Korean style kite, and it flies away on him
  • Hanzo Emote: Sky Lantern
    • Hanzo pulls out and lights a paper lantern that flies gently into the sky
  • Bastion Victory Pose: Hot Soup
  • Pharah Victory Pose: Lion Mask
  • Torbjorn Vistory Pose: Fire Work
  • And a Junkrat gets a new Highlight Intro: Feast
    • It is Junkrat, suffed full of dumplings, and is a mirror of Road Hog’s Highlight Intro where he eats all the steam buns.
  • And a handful of sprays and voice lines

Jeff Kaplan talked about Role Queue changes they have been testing

On the Overwatch Forums, Jeff dropped a huge comment about changes they have tested internally. These are his words.
  • In early December, we were brainstorming ways to shorten DPS queue times and the idea was proposed to try changing the role queue team composition to be 1 Tank, 3 Damage, and 2 Support.
    • Our matchmaking engineers did some modeling around queue times, expected behaviors etc. and all indications pointed to an overall positive improvement to all queue times under a scenario like that.
  • From a design perspective we were reluctant for a number of reasons. Before implementing 2/2/2 role queue, we had done experiments with the team compositions being 1 Tank, 1 Support and 4 damage.
    • The playtests under a 4-1-1 comp were terrible. The problem was the solo support.
    • As a solo support, you felt unable to keep the rest of the team alive.
    • Added to that, at all times, you had 5 very aggressive players prioritizing you as the target every time.
    • As soon as the support player on one side died, the entire team would fall like a house of cards.
  • So when the idea of trying 3-2-1 came up, we were hesitant because of our poor playtests with 4-1-1. But we did something interesting in December and I am really proud of the team for sticking with it.
  • Internally, for the past two months, we changed the game to be based on 3-2-1 composition.
    • When we queue for our playtests, we only get 1 Tank per team for each match. We decided to “live with it” for December and January because we felt like the easy and natural thing for us all to do, is just say, “hey this is different and here are all the problems with it” and dismiss the system.
    • But by forcing the team to try it out and live with it for so long, it’s challenged us to try to solve some of the problems that have surfaced.
  • And there are a number of challenges.
    • First, there is the issue of what players have come to call “off tanks”. The biggest issues center around D.Va, Zarya and Roadhog. The current playstyle of those tanks (if you’re adhering to various metas that have existed) is to pair them with other “main tanks”.
    • Roadhog is a great example.
      • Is the correct thing to do for Roadhog under that design to try to make him more “main tanky” or is the correct thing to do to simply move him to the Damage role and balance him as a damage character?
      • We’ve tried both in our months of testing.
      • If you were to come and play Roadhog today with us in our 3-2-1 experiment, he’s moved from the Tank to the Damage category, he only has 400 health, Take a Breather only heals and does not do damage reduction and there were a bunch of DPS changes to his scrap gun.
      • Now, don’t freak out. We’re not doing this for 2-2-2… I am only sharing the design experiment that’s going on here. Maybe a better direction for Roadhog under 3-2-1 is some sort of team damage reduction ability?
      • How do you take what is essentially an “off tank” and make him a “main tank”? That is what we would have to explore with any of these tank characters.
      • Since the Tank roster is already one of the more limited character selections, we’re obviously not crazy about removing choice from Tank players. And if our stated goal is to improve queue times, did going to 1 tank actually remove a bunch of otherwise tank players from the queue?
      • Or were some of these “tank” players actually damage players who wanted a faster queue time so they picked Roadhog? Obviously, complicated questions and it is even more complicated to be confident in an answer.
  • The other fear around a 3-2-1 comp is the importance it places on the Tank player.
    • In our playtesting, this has manifested itself in two notable ways.
      • 1) Some players feel a lot of pressure to choose the “correct” tank. If there is only one tank, the team has a very strong opinion about who that tank should be. Another fear around this issue is that metas will be even more limited as players tend to take the “path of least resistance” towards their hero choices. If Reinhardt is deemed meta, do we only see Rein from now on? Are we all mad at our tank player if they play the hamster?
      • 2) Some tank players felt a tremendous anxiety about their performance in the match. They felt like being the lone tank put a lot of pressure on them and if they died, it was a really big deal.
    • Some of our tank/support players who would occasionally play tank stopped playing tank during 3-2-1 and only gravitated toward support because they felt intimidated to be “the main tank” and have so much focus on their play. Conversely, there are a number of main tank players on the team who actually enjoy the added spotlight.
    • Traditionally in video games there are different personas that are attracted to roles in games: Tank, Support, Damage etc. We saw this in WoW and we see it in OW.
    • While these are stereotypes (and you have to be really careful assuming too much here), there are many Tank players who love being the “lone tank” and carrying the team to glory. Watching this play out in our weird, internal experiment has been fascinating.
  • Our support players have given mixed feedback on the experiment as well.
    • On the negative side, people feel bad when the lone tank dies.
    • On the positive side, many support mains have commented that they feel like they have more freedom to focus on other players and not just “try to keep the big bags of hitpoints alive all match”.
    • In general, these matches are more chaotic and (I’ll touch on this later) feel “more FPS-y”.
    • The result is good or bad, depending on the type of player you are. For some of our support players, this makes matches more exciting.
    • EVERYONE is taking a lot more damage under 3-2-1. for some support players, the chaos causes negative anxiety and they prefer just healing tanks.
  • Speaking of Teamplay, one of our testers who did not like the experiment made a comment that he felt like 3-2-1 detracted from teamplay too much.
    • I found this fascinating because in 2013/2014 every decision we made was to embrace/encourage/force teamplay at all costs. We put so much effort into putting the focus on team victory/defeat rather than individual performance.
    • But in 2020, I feel like the over-emphasis on teamplay (while great for hyper competitive players and situations such as OWL), causes a lot of psychological pressure for your average player just looking to blow off steam in a video game.
    • I guess what I am saying is, that in 2020, feeling like you can deviate from teamplay a little bit in OW and have some success feels like a good thing, not a bad thing to me. The other analogy I’ve used (and I know you all hate my sports analogies) is that OW – in it’s current evolved form – feels like a football game (American) to me where every match is 4th down on the goal line.
    • The amount of team synergy and execution required to pull off a victory is exciting… but also a little intense.
    • There is something nice about a more loose/skirmishy version of the game – but again, it’s all opinion and perspective. Not everyone on my team agrees with me and that’s a good thing.

 

Tidbits

  • It sounds like Apple’s latest AirPods Pro firmware has improved audio performance, but at the cost of noise cancelling quality
    • It’s so bad that Apple has since pulled the update, but many users likely already have it installed as the update is automatic with no way to opt out or even be notified
    • If you go to Settings > General > About > AirPods Pro, and see firmware 2C54, then you’re unfortunately already affected and there’s no way to roll back- you’re stuck until Apple releases a fixed version
  • Apple has launched a replacement program for their iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR Smart Battery Cases
    • Apparently cases manufactured between January and October 2019 are experiencing charging issues, including problems with the case itself charging or it not charging the iPhone properly, so if you’re seeing similar issues you should go to an Apple Store for a free replacement
  • Lawmakers in the EU are debating standardized portable device ports this week, after their relatively weak encouragement toward micro-USB back in 2014
    • This might even be a good time for it as well, with USB-C becoming the de-facto standard for a lot of phones, tablets, and even laptops already
  • Cyberpunk 2077, originally slated to be released on April 16th, has been pushed back to the 17th. Of September.
    • CD Projekt Red released a statement saying the game is playable but needs more testing and polish

Smash Bros Update

  • Smash director Masahiro Sakurai has announced that Byleth from Fire Emblem: Three Houses will be the 5th DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros Ultimate!
  • Both male and female versions will be in the game. Byleth wields 4 weapons from the game including the Sword of the Creator.
  • Byleth comes with the Garreg Mach Monastery stage and several Fire Emblem: Three Houses tracks.

Who is Byleth?

  • Byleth is a playable character and the main protagonist in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
  • As an Avatar, their name, gender, and birthday are customizable.
  • Byleth serves as a professor at Garreg Mach Monastery.
  • They possess the mysterious Crest of Flames and can wield the Sword of the Creator.

With Fighter Pack 2 on the horizon

Who would you love to see in Smash Ultimate?
Both realistically and fantasy?

 

 

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A huge thanks to Dalton, for supporting us for so long. We really appreciate his support over the years.

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