Free Games

  • Twitch

    • The Academy: First Riddle

      • 2020
      • Adventure puzzle game along the lines of the Professor Layton series, with modernized Harry Potter style aesthetics
  • Epic Games

    • Sunless Sea

      • 2015
      • Survival / exploration RPG with roguelike elements that has you piloting an underwater steamship as a captain whose background, ambitions, and victory conditions are customizable, but you have to contend with procedurally generated maps and permadeath
  • Bonus round: Sony’s announced the return of their Play At Home program, kicking off four months of Playstation offers on March 1st

    • First introduced last April when they gave away Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey to everyone, not just PS+ members
    • This time around we’ll see Ratchet and Clank (PS4) for free during the month of March
      • 2016
      • Reimagining of the original PS2 game, a third person science fiction action adventure shooter with a lot of weird, over the top weapons, solid writing, and great gameplay
    • And then on March 25th they’ll be offering an extended free trial of the Funimation and Wakanim anime streaming services
    • Those are just the first couple of perks, so we’ll make sure to give you updates as we see them

Australia’s working on a law that would require any site linking to a news publication to pay for the privilege

  • Going pretty hard against the principles of the open internet, from what I understand the proposed law would require sites like Google and Facebook to pay news sites for the ability to host links to them
    • Keep in mind, this is just linking. Google’s AMP pages and other ways of getting around ad revenue aside, vanilla links are the backbone of the internet
  • The most bonkers part of this law is that news sites could create their own Facebook pages, link to their news sites, and then charge Facebook for the link
  • I can’t imagine this law getting passed in its current form, but Google has already started making deals to pay for the links and though Facebook initially fought back (yay Facebook, is a phrase I never thought I’d say), they walked their position back and started quietly making deals too

There’s a proposed class action lawsuit in play alleging that Google lied about Stadia’s capabilities in order to lock in subscribers

  • The suit claims that, when it was first announced in 2019 Google, Bungie, and id Software misled gamers by claiming that the cloud-based gaming service was more powerful than the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro combined, and that every game on Stadia would be playable at 4k resolutions
  • Directly prior to launch Google apparently quietly walked back those claims, particularly for people with slower internet connections
    • Apparently there was even a Twitter announcement about Red Dead Redemption 2 specifying that users didn’t need high speed internet for 4k/60fps, which was later deleted
    • The suit says that because of the earlier inflated specs Google was able to lock in a large customer base through preorders for its subscription service, essentially hooking gamers into being beta testers before the later free release in 2020
  • The plaintiff is seeking monetary damages for current and former Stadia subscribers, as well as a court order requiring Google to publicly display the resolution and FPS of each game they sell on Stadia

Sony’s announced some details on their next-generation VR headset, and it sounds pretty slick

  • They’ll be bringing features from their excellent DualSense controller to the new motion controllers
  • It will apparently connect to the PS5 using a single cord
  • They say it will have an enhanced field of view, tracking, input, and resolution
  • But it won’t be out any time this year
  • My thoughts
    • Haptic triggers would be really cool in VR, and better tracking would be a godsend for the platform after they used the old PS3 technology in the first gen, but the freedom of wireless VR is a hard perk to give up. They’re going to have to work hard to make it worthwhile

Everyone hoping for Anthem to join the ranks of No Man’s Sky and Final Fantasy XIV and rise from its ashes can now stop holding their breath- it’s officially cancelled

  • Bioware released a statement this week letting everyone know that they’ve stopped development work on Anthem NEXT, citing the additional pressures of 2020 impacting their productivity and preventing them from doing everything they had planned
    • Honestly though, it just seems like they bit off more than they could chew and they’re cutting their losses on Anthem. It had a ton of potential, but I’m sure their other titles are just a higher priority based on the amount of money they can pull in.
  • Anthem’s current live service is still up and running, but the improvements that have been teased won’t be released to the general public while the developers focus instead on the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect titles

This Week In Gaming History

February 20 – 2003 – Train Tracking – Windows

  • Train Tracking is a game about one of Britain’s more bizarre past-times, Trainspotting.
    • You start the game with only an overhead view of the station and a list of serial numbers.
    • The point of the game is to check them off as the matching train passes through.
    • For each Day (Day is the name for a level in this game, there’s totally 29) you play the number of serials and tracks to view increase.
    • There is a time limit for this and if you fail three times it’s game over.
  • There’s over 2500 random train stations, with five settings (Country, Town and City Stations, Industrial Depots and Express Bonus Rounds) meaning that each round will different from the other.
    • The game has the typical British weather condition of rain, snow and lightning.

February 21 – 2017 – Halo Wars 2 – Xbox One, Windows

  • Halo Wars 2 is a real-time strategy game based on the Halo universe and it is the sequel to the 2009 Halo Wars.
    • Players use Spartans, Warthogs and other classic Halo units in order to battle the enemy.
    • A single-player campaign and online multiplayer battles are available.
    • The campaign consists of twelve missions and can also be played cooperatively.
    • Typical mission objectives include surviving waves of enemies, defending structuring and capturing specific targets.
    • There are also various side objectives.
    • Many missions involve leading Spartan supersoldier units as well.
  • The game once again relies on two factions and is now set in the year 2559.
    • On the one hand there is the human faction United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and on the other a new alien faction called the Banished, replacing the Covenant from the first game.
    • Both factions have leader units with special abilities tied to a cooldown period.
    • These abilities can mass heal or do a lot of damage in a short time.
    • In multiplayer there are multiple game modes for up to six players online or bots.

February 22 – 1996 – Johnny Bazookatone – PlayStation, Sega Saturn, 3DO, DOS

  • The original guitar hero with the Elvis attitude and purple hair pompadour, Johnny Bazookatone, has been imprisoned in the year 2050 in Sin Sin Prison by El Diablo, the Lord of the Underworld, who is jealous of his talent and kidnaps other musical legends as well in this 3D side-scrolling platformer.
    • Johnny’s guitar Anita has been taken from him and he sets out to escape and vanquish foes on his way to be reunited with Anita.
  • He can perform moves such as 360-degree spin jumps, and hover jumps among others, while using his bazooka guitar as a weapon.
    • When powered up, it can emit a special sonic blast that fries anything within hearing range.
    • As you make your way through the demonic levels such as Hotel Demonique, Hell’s Kitchen, and Mr. Diablo’s fiery Penthouse, you can acquire more weapons, power-ups and find secret passages that lead to bonus levels.
    • The game’s soundtrack includes the title track contributed by Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora and Tico Torres.

February 23 – 1995 – Mario’s Game Gallery – DOS, Macintosh, Windows

  • The game is a collection of board games, in which you play with Mario.
    • The Mario, of Super Mario fame.
    • He talks to you, playing Checkers, Go Fish, Dominoes, Backgammon, Yacht.
    • Most of games can be played for Yoshis or Koopas – tribes of animals.

February 24 – 2015 – Dragon Ball: Xenoverse – PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • DRAGON BALL XENOVERSE revisits famous battles from the series through your custom Avatar, who fights alongside Trunks and many other characters.
    • Will the strength of this partnership be enough to intervene in fights and restore the Dragon Ball timeline we know?
    • New features include the mysterious Toki Toki City, new gameplay mechanics, new character animations and many other amazing features to be unveiled soon!

February 25 – 2002 – Circus Maximus – PS2, Xbox

  • Circus Maximus is a racing game that takes place in ancient Rome, and as such you’ll be racing chariots around various tracks, including the famed Colliseum.
  • You’ll be in control of both the driver and your partner, the warrior, whose job is to attack the other racers to make them fall over.
  • Chariots are controlled by whipping horses and trying to balance an on-screen meter that keeps your chariot balanced while taking turns fast.
  • There are four different race modes available; Training, which gives you the basics on how to play, Arcade, which is your standard race, Multiplayer, which lets you face off against three friends (or foes), and Career, which tracks your progress over a period of time.
  • There are seven different environments and 19 tracks, all set throughout the Roman Empire.
  • Each course is littered with obstacles, power ups, weapons, and special moves, designed to give you an edge in combat.

February 26 – 2008 – Turning Point: Fall of Liberty – PS3, Windows, Xbox 360

  • Winston Churchill was struck by a taxicab in 1931.
    • What if he had died and without his leadership, Britain fell to the Nazis along with the rest of Europe?
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty is an alternate-history first-person shooter in which the player takes the role of a New York construction worker named Dan Carson in 1953, when the German Reich invades and occupies the American East Coast.
    • He joins the National Guard troops trying to put up a defensive perimeter around subway and railway systems so civilians can escape.
  • Many advanced WWII weapons appear, including some that were under research, and some that never appeared.
    • There are super-heavy tanks such as the Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus and Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte, and also the Nachteule troop-transport zeppelin, the Flugzeugträger aircraft-carrier zeppelin, as well as various advanced jet fighters and bombers, all used by the German invasion force.
    • Multiplayer is available in standard deathmatch and team deathmatch modes on 4 maps, with Nazi soldiers versus the American Resistance to a maximum of 8 players.

Tidbits

  • No Man’s Sky: Companions is yet another free update for the game, bringing us the ability to adopt, train, and breed creatures, on top of improvements to the UI and load times
  • Google’s finally started updating their iOS apps, updating the App Store listings with the new required privacy information
    • There aren’t any real surprises, but when you see in writing that your email client is gathering information about your purchases and location I can see people starting to look for alternatives
  • CD Projekt Red has officially delayed the release of the anticipated patch 1.2 for Cyberpunk 2077, after the cyber attack we reported on a couple weeks ago wreaked havoc on their infrastructure
    • The patch, set to include numerous fixes and quality improvements, is now being aimed at the second half of March

Mini-review

  • If you’re not watching WandaVision already, you should be
    • Starring Scarlet Witch and Vision from the MCU
  • Completely unexpected but the pilot was charming and the plot got its hooks into me early
  • If you like the MCU at all you need to be watching

 

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Free games

  • Epic games

    • Bad North: Jotunn Edition

      • 2018
      • A real-time roguelite strategy game where you must defend the kingdom from the Viking invaders who killed the king, and guide the procedurally generated island’s people to evacuate

Motorola’s bringing their Razr back, and as an Apple user I’m kinda envious

  • The resurrected Razr is what I’ve been dreaming of for over a decade- a modern smart flip-phone
  • At its core it’s an Android phone with a 6.2″ screen that folds down like the flip-phones of old, and the media they’ve released so far is gorgeous
  • Apparently they’ve got a special hinge that allows the display to expand into a round curve instead of folding into a crease, allowing the full display to stay completely smooth while it’s open
  • On the downside it looks like there have been some compromises to get us there- the processor is a bit slower than what you’ll find on most flagship phones nowadays, but you get a lot of RAM and 128GB of storage.
    • It also only runs Android 9 at the moment, instead of the current version 10
  • The front of the phone also has a smaller 2.7″ OLED for notifications, music controls, selfies, and such
  • The device is expected to launch sometime this January for $1500 USD, which is pretty steep for a smartphone though damn economical for the folding devices we’ve seen thusfar
  • It’s also launching in the States as a Verizon exclusive, with no unlocked version available at release, so the potential user-base is cut down a fair bit
  • Still, it’s another step forward with tech that I’d love to see Apple’s take on
  • If it catches your fancy, preorders open on December 26th

A weird bug hit households this week with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield causing Roku devices to crash

  • The streaming content set-top boxes and, in some cases, TV’s themselves would hit a hard shutdown if the new Pokemon games were played while connected to the same network
  • Apparently the problem was caused by the games continuously sending out wireless signals looking for other Switches playing the games, which Roku attempts to interpret. When it couldn’t process the info the software would then crash
    • From the sounds of it the problem is that Pokemon is communicating on the same port that Roku uses to share update information with other local devices
  • If you’re seeing this issue Roku released a patch yesterday that should fix the issue, so you should go to Settings, System, and Update to pull the latest version
    • Though please don’t be tempted to continue your Pokemon adventure while the device is updating, or at least put the Switch in airplane mode first

Apple has replaced the controversial 15” MacBook Pro, with its problematic butterfly keyboard and tricky to get used to Touch Bar, with a fancy 16” version that fixes pretty much everything

  • The recent versions of the MacBook Pro have had a lot of vocal people complain about the low-travel keyboard that seems to get jammed up or break fairly easily (it’s so bad that there’s a free repair program at Apple Stores) and the Touch Bar, which replaced the F and Escape keys with a touchscreen
  • Enter the new 16” Macbook Pro: it replaces the 15” pretty much dollar for dollar with a larger Retina display, while also bringing back the more familiar keyboard switches from the Magic Keyboard and a physical escape key to the left of the Touch Bar, and adding in some impressively improved speakers with an extra hour of battery life
  • It can be maxed out with a ridiculous processor, 64GB of RAM, an 8TB SSD, and an 8GB AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card

Stanford Medicine has published further results from the Apple Heart Study that kicked off in 2017, confirming that the Apple Watch accurately notify users of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) 84% of the time

  • It also showed that it detected some problems in early stages of development that didn’t happen frequently enough for medical ECG patches to detect, specifically in younger participants
  • Two of the coolest parts of this is that a) since the study started before Apple Watches came equipped with ECG technology this just relied on the basic heart rate monitor, and b) it was all done completely remotely through an iPhone app

In accordance with new App Store guidlines, Apple has removed 181 vape-related apps and is outright banning them from its platform

  • This change seems to have been brought on by CDC reports that vaping as resulted in at least 2,172 cases of respiratory illness/injury, though many of these cases may have been related to the inclusion of vitamin E acetate in the oils used in some third-party or black market cartridges
  • One manufacturer, PAX, who relies heavily on their app to add features and change settings on their devices, is now calling on Apple to rethink its decision, saying that the ban prevents consumers from having access to important info and the ability to better control their cannabis experience
    • Apparently though the temperature can be set using the device alone, the app includes information on branded vape pods including strain information and access to state-regulated test results

Disney+ is taking fire for not providing the first 20 seasons of Simpsons in their original 4:3 “fullscreen” format until 2020

  • All the episodes currently on the service are only shown in their “remastered” state, with colours tweaked and the top and bottom of the screen chopped off
  • In some cases this might not make a big difference, but many of the 429 affected episodes including visual gags that are just gone, like when Homer takes a tour of the Duff factory and it shows Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry all coming out of the same pipe
  • On the plus side, they’re finally fixing it- weeks after the launch of Disney+, they finally released a statement saying that the episodes will be made available in their original format sometime in early 2020

And lastly some great news for people looking at the Xbox Accessibility Controller- Logitech is now selling their Adaptive Gaming Kit with special buttons to take advantage of the flexibility of the controller

  • Retailing for $100 USD, It includes 12 individual buttons
    • 3 2.6” and 3 1.4” buttons with mechanical switches, four “light touch” buttons that require low force to operate, and two variable triggers similar to modern controllers
      • The kit also includes full-colour sticker labels for the buttons in all the sizes, so that you can get a full controller experience with the different customized options
      • The triggers are a big win, since pressure-sensitive controls are apparently rare when it comes to this kind of accessibility
    • It also includes two velcro-style boards you can mount them all on in different configurations, whatever is most comfortable to you

Tidbits

  • Just in case you thought capitalism wasn’t completely broken, Amazon is apparently paying $0 in taxes in the US for 2018 after reporting more than $11.2B in profits
  • Heliogen, a clean energy company backed by Bill Gates, has apparently found a way to use AI and a field of mirrors to reflect so much sunlight that they generate heats over 1000 degrees C
    • This means that, for the first time, solar energy can be used for high-energy industrial applications like manufacturing cement, steel, and glass
  • Continuing the constant update train, Apple’s released iOS and iPadOS 13.2.3 this week, including fixes for Mail, Files, and Notes search, viewing attachments in Messages, and downloading new emails and content from Exchange accounts
  • Good news for Origin launcher users, your account wasn’t (probably) hacked this week
    • Many people online received an email saying they’ve redeemed an Origin Access membership code, even if they haven’t, but apparently that was just EA’s way of gifting a month of Origin Access Basic to users opted in to its two-factor authentication
  • Half-Life is back! (kind of)
    • Valve went to Twitter this week to announce Half-Life: Alyx, their flagship VR game, that’ll be unveiled later this week.
    • So far it looks like this is a prequel set between Half-Lifes 1 and 2, further confirming Valve can’t count to three
    • We’ll have all the details in our next episode once they’ve been released

Alan recommends Evolution – Learning Creatures

  • More of a simulation than game, conceptually it kind of strikes me like Kerbal Space Program
  • Use joints, bones, and muscles to build any kind of 2D creature you can imagine
  • Machine learning and neural network fuel adaptation to different scenarios
  • You can even look at the source code and see how the actions are being determine

 

Literally Misleading

Last Week:

Reddit User – WyngZero
A goat teaches the progeny of incest to kill things effectively
Hecules

This Week:

Reddit User – red_4
An ex-con makes it big.

 

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