Google adds instant cloud-streaming button to web searches for games

A good Stadia idea finally comes to Google.

Enlarge / A good Stadia idea finally comes to Google. (credit: Google / Sam Machkovech)

The earliest sales pitch for Stadia, the Google streaming service that beams high-end video games to web browsers via the cloud, included the idea that it might work as simply as Googling your favorite game. You might search for a popular game to learn more about it, only to immediately see an option to start playing it inside your web browser, no additional hardware required—and perhaps no payment, either.

Nearly three years after Stadia’s official launch—and 18 months after the service’s massive internal downgrade—that scenario has finally begun to play out. What’s more, the feature appears to be streamer-agnostic, as multiple Stadia-like streaming services have started appearing in search results.

Oh, look, Stadia trials get a slightly spiffier font

This week, Google rolled out a limited launch of a “Play Now” tab that appears on searches for select video games on desktop browsers. (As of press time, out of three Google accounts tested, the search results shown in this article only appear on one of them.) This tab can be found in the right-hand “knowledge panel” that is otherwise automatically populated with user reviews, game details, and digital download purchase links.

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#amazon-luna, #cloud-gaming, #game-streaming, #gaming-culture, #google-stadia, #nvidia-geforce-now, #stadia, #xbox-cloud-gaming

Amazon studio plans lighthearted show of Ring surveillance footage

Amazon's combining its endless reach with its constant surveillance—but for laughs.

Enlarge / Amazon’s combining its endless reach with its constant surveillance—but for laughs. (credit: Getty Images)

For some people, the term “Ring Nation” might evoke a warrantless surveillance dystopia overseen by an omnipotent megacorp. To Amazon-owned MGM, Ring Nation is a clip show hosted by comedian Wanda Sykes, featuring dancing delivery people and adorable pets.

Deadline reports that the show, due to debut on September 26, is “the latest example of corporate synergy at Amazon.” Amazon owns household video security brand Ring, Hollywood studio MGM, and Big Fish, the producer of Ring Nation

Viral videos captured by doorbell cameras have been hot for a while now. You can catch them on late-night talk shows, the r/CaughtOnRing subreddit, and on millions of TikTok users’ For You page. Amazon’s media properties, perhaps sensing an opportunity to capitalize and soften Ring’s image, are sallying forth with an officially branded offering.

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#amazon, #gaming-culture, #mgm, #privacy, #ring, #surveillance, #tech

Disney-owned streaming trifecta unveils price hikes, ad-supported Disney+

Disney-owned streaming trifecta unveils price hikes, ad-supported Disney+

Enlarge (credit: Disney)

Since its launch in 2019, Disney+ has only slightly jumped in subscription costs for both monthly and annual fees. If active subscribers don’t check their account settings when a major Disney+ change goes live later this year, they won’t notice a difference in their bills, as the streaming service’s “base” price will remain $7.99 per month.

Starting in December, however, anyone who sticks to that Disney+ tier will see a new “feature” on the service: advertisements. Disney+ will follow the likes of Netflix and HBO Max, which announced post-launch pricing shake-ups to add advertisements to their programming as a way to offer lower-priced tiers while raising rates for other ad-free subscriptions.

That means Disney+ will also see its existing ad-free tier increase in price, starting on December 8, to $10.99 per month or $109.99 per year, a 37.5 percent increase. Technically, long-term Disney+ subscribers will see a price hike at the lowest tier, as well, as the existing $79.99 per year option ($6.66/mo) will be discontinued. If you want to pre-pay to save, you’ll have to do so at the no-advertisements tier.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #hulu, #video-streaming

Intel tests show its Arc A750 GPU beating an RTX 3060, if only you could buy one

Intel's as-yet-unreleased Arc A750 Limited Edition card. The "Limited Edition" GPUs appear to be reference models along the lines of Nvidia's Founder's Edition cards and AMD's first-party graphics cards.

Enlarge / Intel’s as-yet-unreleased Arc A750 Limited Edition card. The “Limited Edition” GPUs appear to be reference models along the lines of Nvidia’s Founder’s Edition cards and AMD’s first-party graphics cards. (credit: Intel)

Intel still hasn’t announced a release date for its Arc dedicated graphics cards, but the company has conducted a PR offensive over the last few weeks to set expectations and preview how the cards are stacking up. In a video and accompanying post today, company representatives Ryan Shrout and Tom Peterson compared the upcoming Arc A750 card to Nvidia’s RTX 3060 in a few dozen DirectX12 and Vulkan games They demonstrated that the card is usually able to keep up with the most popular member of the RTX 3000 GPU family.

In a series of tests at 1080p and 1440p, Intel’s tests show that the A750 usually comes within a few percent of the RTX 3060’s performance, sometimes overperforming (Cyberpunk 2077, FortniteMicrosoft Flight Simulator), sometimes underperforming (Assassin’s Creed ValhallaDeathloop), and sometimes roughly matching Nvidia’s average frame rates (DOTA 2Hitman 3Death Stranding). Average FPS is just one way to measure game performance—crucially, Intel didn’t provide any minimum or 1 percent low frame rates, which can have more of an impact on how smooth your game feels when you’re playing it. But if you take these tests at face value, the Arc A750 does at least appear to be a viable midrange GPU competitor.

Of course, there is one important metric in which Intel’s Arc GPU can’t compete with Nvidia’s: The RTX 3060 is a graphics card you can go out and buy and install in your PC today, and the Arc A750 isn’t. Rumors out of this year’s SIGGRAPH conference, where Intel has been giving technical demos of its GPUs and announcing a few workstation-oriented Arc Pro products, suggest that we could still see an Arc hardware launch by the end of the summer. But officially, the company still has no news to share about a concrete launch window.

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#gaming-culture, #intel-arc, #tech

PlayStation Plus’ highest tier slams to an apparent halt on classic games

PlayStation Plus’ highest tier slams to an apparent halt on classic games

Enlarge (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

As Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service continues racking up subscribers, its biggest competitor Sony recently swiped back with changes and upgrades to its PlayStation Plus service. The lead-up to PlayStation Plus’ relaunch required a few explainers, particularly its varying prices and absorption of the cloud-streaming PlayStation Now service.

The dust has since settled enough for us to see PlayStation Plus’ revision in action for more than two months, and as far as its bang-for-the-buck rating, Sony scores highly. Should you pre-pay for the “premium” tier, you can access hundreds of games from every PlayStation generation for $10 per month, including a good mix of hits and acclaimed indies (along with hundreds of games that neither set sales charts nor critics’ lists on fire).

However, Sony’s not ready to meet Microsoft in one key sales pitch: a subscription to first-party games available on launch day. Should you want to play new games in Sony-exclusive series like God of War or The Last of Us, those will continue to require payment of a full MSRP at launch; Xbox Game Pass is more generous with day-one access to all of its games, from Halo Infinite to Forza Motorsport. PlayStation Plus’ apparent counter to this came in a new “classics” library, exclusively on the service’s priciest tier, which would contain the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable game libraries.

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#gaming-culture, #playstation-4, #playstation-5, #playstation-plus, #xbox-game-pass

Were bones of Waterloo soldiers sold as fertilizer? It’s not yet case closed

<em>The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo</em>, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816.

Enlarge / The Morning after the Battle of Waterloo, by John Heaviside Clark, 1816. (credit: Public domain)

When Napoleon was infamously defeated at Waterloo in 1815, the conflict left a battlefield littered with thousands of corpses and the inevitable detritus of war. But what happened to all those dead bodies? Only one full skeleton has been found at the site, much to the bewilderment of archaeologists. Contemporary accounts tell of French bodies being burned by local peasants, with other bodies being dumped into mass graves. And some accounts describe how scattered bones were collected and ground up into meal to use as fertilizer.

It’s that last claim that particularly interests Tony Pollard, director of the Center for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow. He has examined historical source materials like memoirs and journals of early visitors, as well as artworks, to map the missing grave sites on the Waterloo battlefield in hopes of finding a definitive answer. He recently provided an update on his efforts thus far in a recent paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology.

Napoleon had initially been defeated and deposed as emperor of France in 1813, ending up in exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. He briefly returned to power in March 1815 for what is now known as the Hundred Days. Several states opposed to his rule formed the Seventh Coalition, including a British-led multinational army led by the Duke of Wellington, and a larger Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal von Blücher. Those were the armies that clashed with Napoleon’s Armée du Nord at Waterloo.

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#archaeology, #battle-of-waterloo, #forensic-archaeology, #forensics, #gaming-culture, #history, #military-history, #napoleon-bonaparte, #science

You can finally play Sony’s Spider-Man on PC—but it’s not all good news (yet)

All images in this review were personally captured by Sam Machkovech on various PCs, unless otherwise specified. (The game's handy "photo mode" helps on this front, though such images are still representative of real-time gameplay.)

Enlarge / All images in this review were personally captured by Sam Machkovech on various PCs, unless otherwise specified. (The game’s handy “photo mode” helps on this front, though such images are still representative of real-time gameplay.) (credit: Sony / Insomniac / Nixxes)

In two days, the 2018 hit game Marvel’s Spider-Man will break out of its console exclusivity and land on Windows (SteamEGS) as arguably Sony’s biggest PC port yet. We knew Sony was bullish about selling more games on PC in the current fiscal year, but we didn’t expect a critically acclaimed gem like Spider-Man, which previously drove console sales as a PlayStation exclusive, to make the transition.

The thing about PC ports, of course, is that they have to work on a wide range of machines. As of press time, the Spider-Man version we tested doesn’t necessarily surpass the mix of stability and impressive technical performance that developer Insomniac delivered on dated PlayStation 4 architecture.

Such complaints might be moot when Spider-Man launches on Friday, August 12—and we sure hope so. At its best, this game does whatever a PC rig can, delivering ultra-wide ratios, super-charged graphical settings, higher frame rates, and increased ray tracing depth. But while it looks great on a super-charged PC and impresses on hardware as weak as a Steam Deck, it’s tough for me to comfortably recommend Spider-Man on midrange gaming rigs.

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#gaming-culture, #insomniac, #insomniac-games, #marvels-spider-man, #sony-interactive-entertainment, #spider-man

28 years later, Super Punch-Out!!’s 2-player mode has been discovered

Up until today, Nintendo had never announced a two-player mode in a <em>Punch-Out!!</em> video game. As it turns out, one has hidden in plain sight for nearly 30 years.

Enlarge / Up until today, Nintendo had never announced a two-player mode in a Punch-Out!! video game. As it turns out, one has hidden in plain sight for nearly 30 years. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

While Punch-Out!! has been one of Nintendo’s most beloved “fighting” series since its 1984 debut in arcades, it has rarely featured something common in the genre: a two-player mode.

On Monday, however, that changed. The resulting discovery has been hiding in plain sight on the series’ Super Nintendo edition for nearly 30 years.

Should you own 1994’s Super Punch-Out!! in any capacity—an original SNES cartridge, a dumped ROM parsed by an emulator, on the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, or even as part of the paid Nintendo Switch Online collection of retro games—you can immediately access the feature, no hacking or ROM editing required. All you need is a pair of gamepads.

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#cheat-codes, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #punch-out, #super-nintendo, #super-punch-out

Crypto-driven GPU crash makes Nvidia miss Q2 projections by $1.4 billion

Crypto-driven GPU crash makes Nvidia miss Q2 projections by $1.4 billion

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Nvidia doesn’t officially announce its second-quarter financial results until the end of the month, but the company is trying to soften the blow by announcing preliminary results today. And as with so many other tech companies in the last month, the results are mixed at best. With $6.7 billion in revenue, Nvidia managed to eke out year-over-year growth, but the results are still bad news because that number is down from a previously forecasted $8.1 billion, a miss of $1.4 billion.

Nvidia blamed this shortfall on weaker-than-expected demand for its gaming products, including its GeForce graphics processors. Nvidia pointed to “a reduction in channel partner sales,” meaning that partners like Evga, MSI, Asus, Zotac, Gigabyte, and others were selling fewer new GPUs than anticipated. This drop can be attributed partly to a crash in the value of mining-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum—fewer miners are buying these cards, and miners looking to unload their GPUs on the secondhand market are also giving gamers a cheaper source for graphics cards.

“As we expect the macroeconomic conditions affecting sell-through to continue, we took actions with our Gaming partners to adjust channel prices and inventory,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. That means we may see further price drops for existing GeForce GPUs, which have already been dropping in price throughout the year. Some cards still haven’t reverted to their originally advertised prices, but they’re getting closer all the time.

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#biz-it, #gaming-culture, #nvidia, #tech

Excel esports on ESPN show world the pain of format errors

Ladies and gentlemen, let's get ready to modelllllllll!

Enlarge / Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to modelllllllll! (credit: FMWC)

If you watched ESPN2 during its stint last weekend as “ESPN8: The Ocho,” you may have seen some odd, meme-friendly competitions, including corgi racing, precision paper airplane tossing, and slippery stair climbing.

Or you might have seen “Excel Esports: All-Star Battle,” a tournament in which an unexpected full-column Flash Fill is announced like a 50-yard Hail Mary. It’s just the latest mainstream acknowledgment of Excel as a viable, if quirky, esport, complete with down-to-the-wire tension and surprising comebacks.

The full Excel Esports All-Star Battle.

The Financial Modeling World Cup (FMWC) hosts regular international competitions, both invitational and open to anyone, in which Excel pros strive to solve as many questions as possible from a complex task. You can download all three of the tasks used in last weekend’s battle for free.

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#biz-it, #espn, #esports, #excel, #fmwc, #gaming-culture, #microsoft-excel

Rumors, delays, and early testing suggest Intel’s Arc GPUs are on shaky ground

Arc is Intel's attempt to shake up the GPU market.

Enlarge / Arc is Intel’s attempt to shake up the GPU market.

Almost a year ago, Intel made a big announcement about its push into the dedicated graphics business. Intel Arc would be the brand name for a new batch of gaming GPUs, pushing far beyond the company’s previous efforts and competing directly with Nvidia’s GeForce and AMD’s Radeon GPUs.

Arc is the culmination of years of work, going back to at least 2017, when Intel poached AMD GPU architect Raja Koduri to run its own graphics division. And while Intel would be trying to break into an established and fiercely competitive market, it would benefit from the experience and gigantic install base that the company had cultivated with its integrated GPUs.

Intel sought to prove its commitment to Arc by showing off a years-long road map, with four separate named GPU architectures already in the pipeline. Sure, the GPUs wouldn’t compete with top-tier GeForce and Radeon cards, but they would address the crucial mainstream GPU market, and high-end cards would follow once the brand was more established.

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#gaming-culture, #intel-arc, #tech

Sonic the Hedgehog doesn’t need easily legible legends on his mechanical keyboard

Sonic the Hedgehog mechanical keyboard

Enlarge / Sonic the Hedgehog mechanical keyboard. (credit: Higround/Instagram)

When you’re a beloved blue eulipotyphla with the speed of a race car, all the golden rings, a pal like Tails, and even a pair of hit feature films, you start feeling like you can do anything. That includes typing on a truncated mechanical keyboard without letters, numbers, or any other legends written on the top of the keycaps.

Higround, known for gaming gear, is releasing today a trio of 65 percent mechanical keyboards made in collaboration with Sega, as spotted by Nintendo Wire, as well as other Sega-focused gear, including keycaps and mousepads.

Pictures from the brand show a trio of keyboards coming to life with colorful details delivering nostalgic imagery anywhere from, depending on the keyboard, the loops and rings of the Green Hill Zone in 1991‘s Sonic the Hedgehog to the contrasting profiles of Sonic and Knuckles from 2001’s Sonic Adventure 2 to the rainbow-colored arrow keys mimicking console controller buttons in tribute to Sega’s last globally released console, the Dreamcast.

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#gaming-culture, #keyboards, #mechanical-keyboards, #sonic-the-hedgehog, #tech

Indie devs outraged by unlicensed game sales on GameStop’s NFT market

Indie devs outraged by unlicensed game sales on GameStop’s NFT market

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

In the first week of GameStop’s recently launched NFT marketplace, the NiFTy Arcade collection stood out from the pack. Instead of offering basic JPEGs, the collection provided “interactive NFTs” linked to HTML5 games that were fully playable from an owner’s crypto wallet (or from the GameStop Marketplace page itself).

There was only one problem: Many of those NFT games were being minted and sold without their creators’ permission, much less any arrangement for the creators to share in any crypto profits.

While the man behind NiFTy Arcade has since been suspended from GameStop’s NFT marketplace, he’s still holding on to the tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency he made by selling those NFTs before the suspension. And while the NFTs in question are no longer listed on the GameStop NFT marketplace, the unlicensed games themselves can still be accessed on GameStop’s servers and across a blockchain-based file storage system, where they may now be functionally impossible to remove.

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#features, #gaming-culture

Evo weekend is here: How to watch the fighting game event of the year

The crowds this year will be smaller, and masked, but offline is back in Vegas

Enlarge / The crowds this year will be smaller, and masked, but offline is back in Vegas (credit: Evo)

After a two-year pandemic-induced break the Evolution Championship Series (better known as just Evo), the annual celebration of all things fighting games, is back in Las Vegas this weekend. Thousands of fighting game players and fans will fill the halls and arena at the Mandalay Bay casino to make their attempts at a top 8 finish, get in casual games with people from around the globe, watch panels, browse Artist Alley, and just generally soak up a chance to be offline with the fighting game community again.

In a more normal year, I’d be there myself, maybe not trying for that top 8 finish, more like just trying not to go 0-2 in Street Fighter V or Third Strike. But despite a robust mask and vaccine policy I’m just not feeling like traveling or being in Vegas with the current state of the world. So I’m going to spend my weekend cozy at home streaming a ridiculous amount of content and trying not to feel like I’m missing out too much. If you’d like to join me here’s a quick guide to what the weekend has to offer.

An Evo overview

You may have heard of Evo before, perhaps from the infamous Evo Moment 37 video or from Sony’s acquisition of the tournament series in 2021. If you’re not already a fighting game tournament watcher, here are the basics of how Evo works. There are eight main games featured, which I’ll list below, as well as a huge amount of less official side tournaments. Each game has the same basic structure, you start in a pool of players, everyone on equal footing. Tournaments are double-elimination, meaning you have to lose twice to be out. If you can win several matches in your pool without being eliminated, you move up to the next one, eventually leading to a top 24 bracket, then a top 8, which leads to the grand finals.

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#evo, #gaming-culture, #street-fighter

Xbox’s latest dev tools add surprise boost for memory-strapped $299 Series S

The cheesy visual multiplying effect applied to this Series S isn't meant to imply that it's getting four times the memory boost in this week's Microsoft GDK update. The actual multiplication amount is impossible to confirm until Microsoft updates its public-facing documents on the matter.

Enlarge / The cheesy visual multiplying effect applied to this Series S isn’t meant to imply that it’s getting four times the memory boost in this week’s Microsoft GDK update. The actual multiplication amount is impossible to confirm until Microsoft updates its public-facing documents on the matter. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

The latest update to the Microsoft Game Development Kit (GDK), an official API that targets game development on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, seemed to be set in stone when it was announced in June. Two months later, however, that update has gone live with a surprise bonus that’s so new it hasn’t yet been detailed on the company’s Github repository.

The news instead comes from an official unlisted Microsoft video, first spotted by XboxERA reporter Jesse Norris, which included a tantalizing proclamation. The June GDK is currently live two months after its named month, and it now includes an increased memory allocation exclusively for the lower-priced $299 Xbox Series S console.

This video does not link to specific patch notes or announcements, and as of press time, searches through the publicly shared GDK do not clarify how this memory allocation boost was achieved. Microsoft representatives did not immediately answer Ars’ questions on this update’s technical breakdown.

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#gaming-culture, #microsoft-gdk, #xbox, #xbox-series-s, #xbox-series-x

WB Discovery merger strikes down “nearly finished” live-action Batgirl film

We hardly knew ye, feature-length live-action film version of <em>Batgirl</em>, and perhaps we never will.

Enlarge / We hardly knew ye, feature-length live-action film version of Batgirl, and perhaps we never will. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Warner Bros)

In response to mounting reports and rumors, the creative teams behind the upcoming straight-to-HBO-Max films Batgirl and Scoob 2: Holiday Haunt confirmed this week that both had been canceled and locked away to apparently never be released in any way, shape, or form.

The bizarre news began unfolding on Tuesday thanks to a report from the New York Post, which alleged that Batgirl, a feature-length, live-action reimagining of the DC Comics superhero that began production last year, would be outright shelved and hidden away in the wake of test screenings. The nearly complete film, which had a budget exceeding $70 million and co-starred Michael Keaton as the character of Batman for the first time in nearly 30 years, was reportedly “unspeakable” on a quality basis.

Two inevitabilities: Death (of possibly decent DC films) and taxes

Shortly after that report went live, well-placed industry rags blamed Batgirl‘s cancellation on a different issue: accounting and taxes. Deadline pointed to a limited-time opportunity for new WB corporate owners Discovery, which initiated its $108 billion acquisition of Warner in May 2021, to write off both Batgirl and the CGI animation feature Scoob 2: Holiday Haunt as a “purchase accounting maneuver.” The outright cancellation would have to happen by “mid-August,” according to Deadline; any other attempt to commercially release either film in any way (streaming, theatrical runs, VOD sales) would nix the accounting move.

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#batgirl, #dc-comics, #dc-films, #dc-universe, #gaming-culture, #hbo-max, #scooby-doo

DIY Tinycade aims to bring Alt Ctrl games to the masses

DIY Tinycade aims to bring Alt Ctrl games to the masses

Enlarge (credit: P. Gyory et al., 2022)

What’s a frustrated game designer to do when stuck at home during a global pandemic? If that designer is Peter Gyory, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, you figure out how to make a game out of the piles of discarded cardboard lying around the house.

The result is Tinycade, created by Gyory and several colleagues at UCB’s ATLAS Institute. All you need to make your own Tinycade game is some cardboard, a smartphone, two small mirrors, rubber bands, and toothpicks. “The restriction I gave myself was that if you couldn’t go to the grocery store and buy it, I couldn’t use it in Tinycade,” said Gyory. He and his collaborators presented their work in June at the Association for Computing Machinery on Creativity and Cognition in Venice, Italy, with a paper published in the conference proceedings.

Gyory is part of a growing community of game developers interested in building Alt Ctrl (alternative controller) games, which employ novel physical interfaces for players. Hot Swap, for example, involves steering and managing the sails of a ship with individual inputs that must be swapped while playing. Octopad will turn a Nintendo Entertainment System controller into eight distinct parts, turning any game played on the system into “a real-time co-op strategy game,” per the authors, while Cook Your Way “educates players on how the immigration process strips people of their culture with its faux kitchen controller, complete with a knife and pot.”

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#alt-ctrl-games, #arcade-games, #computing-machinery, #diy-science, #game-design, #gaming-culture, #science, #tinycade

How listening to uninterrupted noise helped millions to focus

How listening to uninterrupted noise helped millions to focus

Enlarge (credit: Juan Pablo Machado)

Who among us isn’t depressingly familiar with the constant tug of war between putting off tasks that require focus, and, like a moth to a flame, being drawn to distraction?

Sometimes we blame ourselves, cursing our tendency to procrastinate. But we should give ourselves a break. We’re living in an unprecedented age where billions of dollars have been made by machines designed to tempt us away from doing what we had planned to do.

These thoughts are hardly new. But something happened recently, which—ironically—has captured no small amount of attention and provided me with a glimmer of hope that the Internet that has rewired our minds could also be used to untangle them.

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#gaming-culture, #lofi-beats, #lofi-girl, #policy, #streaming

Review: Beavis & Butt-Head reclaim their thrones of the reaction video genre

Look at how happy they are to be back on their TV-watching couch. Based on what we've seen, the new run of <em>Beavis & Butt-Head</em> has attached some kind of streaming box to their setup.

Enlarge / Look at how happy they are to be back on their TV-watching couch. Based on what we’ve seen, the new run of Beavis & Butt-Head has attached some kind of streaming box to their setup. (credit: Paramount / Comedy Central)

The easiest review of this week’s new Beavis & Butt-Head TV series revival could probably be written as:

Huh-huh-huh, heh-heh-heh, huh-huh-huh. He said “easiest.”

If you still fondly recall the ’90s pastiche of the world’s two stupidest teens’ giggling, moronic hijinks, with “TV” interruptions between scenes, Beavis & Butt-Head‘s newest episodes, debuting Thursday, August 4, exclusively on Paramount+, will do it for you. Yet crucially, the series has been taken over by a new generation of writers and directors who grew up on creator Mike Judge’s original version.

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#ars-shopping, #beavis-and-butt-head, #gaming-culture, #paramount, #paramount-plus, #tv-review

3 years after launch, Apple Arcade loses 15 games

Art from <em>Various Daylife</em>, one of the games that left Apple Arcade in August 2022.

Enlarge / Art from Various Daylife, one of the games that left Apple Arcade in August 2022. (credit: https://variousdaylife.square-enix-games.com)

Several games that were previously available as part of the Apple Arcade subscription service have been removed.

Fifteen titles have been dropped, and all of them are games that were introduced in the early days of the service. Since mid-July, these games had appeared in a “Leaving Arcade Soon” section of the Apple Arcade tab in the App Store. That section is now gone, suggesting that these are the only games that will be removed in the immediate future.

Apple revealed that these games would be leaving Arcade within that section, so subscribers had a little over two weeks’ notice. But there’s a little more time for those currently playing the games.

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#apple, #apple-app-store, #apple-arcade, #gaming-culture, #mobile-games, #tech

EA cracks down on modders selling their custom Sims 4 content

Look, we had to see this shot from a <em>Sims 4</em> "male pregnancy" mod while researching this story, so now you do, too!

Enlarge / Look, we had to see this shot from a Sims 4 “male pregnancy” mod while researching this story, so now you do, too!

Last month, EA published an update formalizing its policy that mods for The Sims 4 “cannot be sold, licensed, or rented for a fee.” But the publisher tells Ars that there is still one important exception that should ensure many Sims modders can continue to make significant income from their game-expanding creations.

EA’s new modding policy, first published July 21, is pretty direct in saying that Sims 4 mods “must be non-commercial and distributed free-of-charge” and that they can’t “contain features that would support monetary transactions of any type.” According to the published policy, those who want to monetize their Sims modding work are limited to indirect methods like “passive advertisements and requests for donations” on their own websites (but not within the mods themselves).

Despite this recent formalization, this policy isn’t entirely new. In late 2017, former EA Community Manager Amanda Drake wrote on the game’s forums that mod creators “cannot lock content they make using our game behind a paywall.” But that post also carved out a specific loophole for creators who wanted to offer an incentive to encourage donations via sites like Patreon:

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#business, #ea, #gaming-culture, #modding, #money, #rights, #sims

Raspberry Pi 4 expands 3D potential with Vulkan update

3D racing game screenshot

Enlarge / Real Racing running on a Vulkan-powered Raspberry Pi 4. (credit: Raspberry Pi)

The Raspberry Pi 4 has hit a major graphics milestone, adding support for a more modern Vulkan 3D API. While that doesn’t mean a smooth Doom (2016) experience on the single-board wonder, it does help Pis running Android and points to some future powers.

Raspberry Pi CEO Eben Upton announced the Pi 4’s Vulkan 1.2 conformance on Monday. Support isn’t available yet in downloadable Pi-friendly operating systems but should be coming soon.

For most people using their Pi as a server, a DIY controller, or a light desktop, Vulkan 1.2 conformance won’t be noticeable. Desktop graphics on the standard Raspberry Pi OS are powered by OpenGL, the older graphics API that Vulkan is meant to replace. There is one group that benefits, says Upton: games and other 3D Android applications. Android uses Vulkan as its low-overhead graphics API.

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#3d-graphics, #gaming-culture, #raspberry-pi, #raspberry-pi-4, #tech, #vulkan

Analogue Pocket’s 1.1 update already paying dividends: jailbreak, Neo Geo core

No, we did not have "Neo Geo as the first community development for Analogue Pocket" on our FPGA bingo board.

No, we did not have “Neo Geo as the first community development for Analogue Pocket” on our FPGA bingo board. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

A major update to the portable, retro-minded Analogue Pocket gaming system landed on Friday, and its new “OpenFPGA” features are the highlight. Thanks to last week’s “1.1” patch, anyone in the open source development community can build hardware-emulation “cores” to make Pocket mimic nearly any gaming and computer system up until the early ’90s, if not newer than that.

Our chat with Analogue’s CEO left us wondering exactly how OpenFPGA would work, but we didn’t have to wait long to find out. By the end of Friday, the system was essentially “jailbroken” as far as its support of “Game Boy”-branded games was concerned. And things got even spicier on Monday morning with the surprise emergence of a core that supports a system far more powerful than either the Game Boy or Game Boy Advance.

Ladies and gentlemen… Pocket is floating in space

The physical cartridge slot on Analogue Pocket supports any game with Nintendo’s Game Boy branding, up to the Game Boy Advance, and that’s the obvious selling point for the system compared to something like an emulation box. If you’re the kind of gamer who prefers physical media but wants modern hardware perks, Analogue Pocket is arguably the system for you.

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#analogue, #analogue-pocket, #fpga, #gaming-culture, #neo-geo

Bungie shuts Destiny 2 text chat to stop malicious exploit

A screenshot of a character in Destiny 2

Enlarge / It’s quiet… too quiet…

Over the weekend, players in the Destiny 2 community started to notice a game-breaking bug that could be activated just by sending in-game chat messages to other players. Bungie responded on Saturday by temporarily disabling all in-game chat while it investigates the issue.

“The team is aware of the exploit right now that is causing some players to be kicked and are actively working on identifying what’s causing the issue and addressing it,” Destiny 2 Community Manager Liana Rupert wrote on Twitter just before chat was disabled across the game.

Scrub those inputs

The damaging exploit involved a string over 200 characters long, composed mostly of Chinese characters, according to multiple players who came across it over the weekend (and who shared the forbidden text with Ars Technica). The specific way those Chinese characters are encoded in Unicode means each one can take up more memory space than a single-byte ASCII character.

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#bungie, #chat, #destiny-2, #exploit, #gaming-culture, #text

Official Andor trailer shows us what the birth of a revolution looks like

Diego Luna reprises his role as Cassian Andor in the new Disney+ prequel series Andor.

Disney+ has released an action-packed trailer for Andor, the forthcoming 12-episode prequel series set five years before the events of Rogue One, starring Diego Luna as Cassian Andor.

As we’ve reported previously, our first look at the series came from a behind-the-scenes teaser in December 2020 during Disney’s Investors Day. We got a short teaser earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration. Andor has been described as a “tense, nail-biting spy thriller,” with Tony Gilroy, who co-wrote Rogue One, serving as showrunner.

The story begins with the Empire’s destruction of Cassian Andor’s homeworld and will depict his transformation from a “revolution-averse” cynic to a major player in the nascent rebellion who is willing to sacrifice himself to save the galaxy. According to Deadline Hollywood, Luna described Andor as “the journey of a migrant. That feeling of having to move is behind this story—that shapes you as a person. It defines you in many ways, and what you are willing to do.”

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#andor, #ars-shopping, #disney-plus, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #star-wars, #streaming-television

Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols dead at 89

Nichelle Nichols made TV history with her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in <em>Star Trek: the Original Series</em>.

Nichelle Nichols made TV history with her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: the Original Series. (credit: CBS)

Actress Nichelle Nichols—who made history with her portrayal of Nyota Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series—died Saturday, July 30, at the age of 89. Her son Kyle Johnson announced Nichols’ passing on her official Instagram account, saying his mother had died of natural causes. Deadline Hollywood confirmed her passing with Gilbert Bell, her talent manager and business partner of 15 years. Nichols suffered a mild stroke in 2015 and was diagnosed with dementia in 2018. She rarely appeared in public after that.

(Last year we wrote about Woman in Motion, a new documentary about Nichols and her recruitment work for NASA, directed by Todd Thompson (streaming on Paramount+). Much of the following is adapted from that text.) 

Nichols started her career as a dancer and singer. She had wanted to become the first Black ballerina, and by age 14 landed her first gig at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago. She subsequently toured the US, Canada, and Europe with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before settling in Los Angeles in 1960 to pursue acting.

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#gaming-culture, #nichelle-nichols, #obituary, #star-trek, #star-trek-tos

Sega Genesis Mini 2 will be in much shorter supply than original

The Sega Genesis Mini 2 will not be sold at traditional brick-and-mortar stores, so this is instead an artistic approximation of the system's apparent scarcity.

Enlarge / The Sega Genesis Mini 2 will not be sold at traditional brick-and-mortar stores, so this is instead an artistic approximation of the system’s apparent scarcity. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

The miniature console fad has abated since its NES Classic and SNES Classic peak, with fewer companies giving the concept a shot. Sega remains an exception, however, as it’s launching not one but two new retro-minded machines by year’s end.

Only one of those, the Sega Genesis Mini 2, is coming to the United States. And Sega confirmed to Ars Technica that the system in question would be in incredibly limited supply: “around one-tenth” the count of the 2019 Sega Genesis Mini.

Mini production run for Mini 2

The news came as a surprising answer to a completely different question. Ars reached out to Sega shortly after the Genesis Mini 2 was announced, because we wanted clarity on exactly who was producing and shipping the system.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #mini-consoles, #miniature-computers, #sega, #sega-genesis, #sega-genesis-mini

Despite $100 price increase, Meta Quest 2 still offers historically cheap VR

Screenshot of promotional video for VR equipment.

Enlarge / You could be this gleeful, too, if you were in the Meta Quest 2! (credit: Facebook)

If there’s one rule about computer and video game hardware, it’s that prices always come down after launch. The Meta Quest 2 became the exception that proves the rule this week, as Meta announced a coming $100 price increase for the popular standalone VR headset, to $400.

The increase, which Meta blamed on “rising costs,” suggests the company may be trying to rein in subsidized hardware pricing that has contributed to nearly $1 billion in monthly losses for its virtual reality division in the most recent quarter.

But when you look at the short history of consumer-grade home virtual reality headsets, the Meta Quest 2 is still a historically cheap VR entry point, even after the price increase. That’s especially true when you account for inflation and the extra hardware needed to power most other comparable headsets on the market.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #meta, #oculus, #virtual-reality, #vr

Blazepods are interesting training gear, but they’re overkill for casual users

One of my better data traces.

Enlarge / One of my better data traces. (credit: Blazepod)

Fans of Formula 1 may have noticed that many drivers engage in reaction training before getting into their cars at the start of a race. For some, this is as simple as working with a trainer and some tennis balls. But you might have noticed 2021 champion Max Verstappen slapping some illuminated pods, like a wireless version of the old Simon game from the late 1970s.

They’re called Blazepods, and they’re Bluetooth-linked training lights that have their roots in an interactive playground in Israel. Blazepod’s founder developed a series of exercises for the system, like capture the flag and relay races. “It was such a success, they knew they needed to make this wireless,” explained Brian Farber, Blazepod’s director of business development. “And then they started implementing [them] and understanding what the benefits were—everything from the cognitive to connecting the brain and the body together, decision-making, reaction time, and then actual analytics. It just kind of took off from there.”

Max Verstappen might be Blazepod's highest-profile user.

Max Verstappen might be Blazepod’s highest-profile user. (credit: Blazepod)

Blazepod offered to send Ars a set to test, and since I’ve been in the middle of a fitness kick, and some distant part of my brain still thinks it can be a racing driver, I took the company up on the offer.

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#blazepod, #cars, #fitness-tech, #formula-1, #gaming-culture, #reaction-time

Analogue comes out swinging with Pocket 1.1 update: “We’re not f-ing around”

Every Analogue Pocket system will function as a "dev kit," but this special developer version of the portable system will be sent to interested FPGA "core" developers starting this week as a freebie to encourage their contributions to Analogue's new, not-quite-open OpenFPGA standard.

Enlarge / Every Analogue Pocket system will function as a “dev kit,” but this special developer version of the portable system will be sent to interested FPGA “core” developers starting this week as a freebie to encourage their contributions to Analogue’s new, not-quite-open OpenFPGA standard. (credit: Analogue)

Upon its launch in December, the portable Analogue Pocket system immediately stood out as a supercharged way to play classic portable cartridges from Game Boys. While its design borrows heavily from the Gunpei Yokoi original, its physical makeup is attractive and modern, and its mix of FPGA hardware and overkill, high-resolution IPS screen do wonders for old-school games.

But Analogue dropped the ball on part of its sales pitch: a sweeping “1.1” system update that was supposed to launch in “January 2022.” Analogue never said why this patch was delayed. Was it a matter of its developers struggling to deliver? Was Analogue biding its time while shipments of the $199 Pocket hardware, and its companion $99 Analogue Dock for TVs, remained scarce, partly due to a global chip shortage?

Whatever the reason, the 1.1 update finally arrives today as a free download—and it sees Analogue taking its boldest steps yet into new territory. In a conversation with Ars Technica, Analogue CEO Christopher Taber suggested that the company’s prior emphasis on console-specific FPGA systems (like the Super Nt and Mega Sg) may give way to a more open, MiSTer-like approach.

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#analogue, #analogue-pocket, #features, #fpga, #gaming-culture

The players are the problem: Community managers complain of excessive harassment

I'll show that know-it-all community manager who's boss...

I’ll show that know-it-all community manager who’s boss…

In video games, community management is all about listening to the concerns of the fans and communicating with them in a way that makes them feel that their concerns are being heard. But what happens when some of the concerned players become a cause for concern themselves?

That’s the question two major gaming companies have faced in recent days, with community managers saying that harassment from customers is making it harder for them to do their jobs.

The first example comes from the Destiny 2 community on Reddit, where one member posted Wednesday lamenting the shrinking number of threads that receive an official reply from Bungie. Destiny 2 Community Manager Dylan “dmg04” Gafner responded to explain that he has taken some time off due to “some serious harassment towards me and my family,” which has led to “an amount of reduced communications as the team plans future protections / strategies to help avoid these sorts of things.”

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#gaming-culture

FTC says Meta’s Supernatural purchase could ruin the VR fitness market

Artist's conception of the FTC fighting back against Meta's latest proposed acquisition.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of the FTC fighting back against Meta’s latest proposed acquisition.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Meta in an attempt to stop the Facebook parent company from purchasing Within, which makes the popular virtual reality fitness app Supernatural.

Meta’s plans to spend a reported $400 million on Within have reportedly been under FTC scrutiny after the proposed acquisition was announced last October. That proposed deal, according to the suit, “would substantially lessen competition, or tend to create a monopoly, in the relevant market for VR dedicated fitness apps and the broader relevant market for VR fitness apps.”

Cornering the VR fitness market?

Meta has been on something of a VR acquisition spree in the last two years, scooping up game developers including Sanzaru Games (Asgard’s Wrath), Ready at Dawn (Lone Echo), Twisted Pixel (Wilson’s Heart), Downpour Interactive (Onward) and BigBox VR (Population: One). But the planned purchase of Within seems to be setting off antitrust alarm bells at the FTC because of the overlap with Beat Saber maker Beat Games, which Meta purchased in 2019.

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#facebook, #ftc, #gaming-culture, #meta, #policy, #virtual-reality, #vr

Sylvester Stallone is a grizzled, disillusioned superhero in Samaritan trailer

Sylvester Stallone stars as an aging superhero long believed to be dead, in Samaritan.

Action legend Sylvester Stallone has dabbled in the superhero genre before, most notably as Judge Dredd (1995), the Ravager Stakar Ogord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (2017), and the voice of King Shark in The Suicide Squad (2021). (He’s reprising his Ravager role for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.) With his new film Samaritan, Stallone gets to play an aging superhero living anonymously as a garbage man, tormented by his past. Judging by the official trailer, it’s the perfect role for the 73-year-old action star, combining all the best elements of his long, illustrious career.

Samaritan is the brainchild of screenwriter Bragi Schut, best known for Escape Room (2019) and 2011’s Season of the Witch. He first penned a spec script for the film about 10 years ago. But spec scripts can meander through the Hollywood studio ecosystem for years before even being optioned, never mind going into development. So in the meantime, Schut adapted his screenplay into a series of graphic novels for Mythos Comics—the opposite of the usual process these days, with studios competing for recognizable IP to adapt into blockbuster films.

First published in 2014, the comic book version upends the genre’s typical setting of a superhero arriving at a crime-ridden cesspool of a city to take on the bad guys and clean things up. This version depicts the gradual degradation of fictional city of Acropolis after its superhero, Samaritan, is presumably killed in battle against the aptly named superhuman Nemesis inside a burning warehouse. (Nemesis is also killed).

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#entertainment, #film, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #mythos-comics, #prime-video, #samaritan, #streaming-television, #sylvester-stallone, #trailers, #united-artists

Meta Quest 2 VR headset price jumps $100 to $399, gets zero new features

This week for Meta and its Quest 2 VR system, it's all about the Benjamins. One Benjamin more, to be specific.

Enlarge / This week for Meta and its Quest 2 VR system, it’s all about the Benjamins. One Benjamin more, to be specific. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images | Meta)

Many categories in consumer tech have seen substantial jumps in cost over the past two years due to a strained supply chain, chip shortages, and other economic factors. But honestly, we didn’t see this one coming.

Starting “in August,” the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality system (formerly known as Oculus Quest 2) will receive a substantial change in MSRP, jumping from a base model cost of $299 to $399. That version includes 128GB of onboard storage, while the pricier Quest 2 headset with 256GB will jump from $399 to $499.

A $30 game for $100, then

Meta’s Tuesday announcement struggles to clarify exactly why the hardware is jumping $100 across the board (33 percent for the base model, 25 percent for the higher-capacity version). Should you take the announcement at face value, its flat declaration might sound logical: “The costs to make and ship our products have been on the rise.”

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture, #meta-quest, #meta-quest-2, #oculus-quest, #oculus-quest-2, #virtual-reality, #vr

PSVR 2 gets some new improvements over Sony’s original headset

You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset.

Enlarge / You, too, can look this cool while streaming from the PSVR 2 headset. (credit: PlayStation Blog)

Users of the original PlayStation VR headset quickly got used to sliding the display away from their faces when they needed to get a quick look at their surroundings. That won’t be necessary on the PSVR 2, which will use a passthrough camera to provide a black-and-white view of the real-world environment.

In a PlayStation Blog post Tuesday, Sony discussed how PSVR 2 users could activate this passthrough function using a dedicated button on the headset or through a Control Center menu while using the device. The passthrough image—powered by four mounted cameras that also provide positional tracking without any external devices—is similar to those offered by competing headsets like the Oculus Quest.

Players will not be able to record the passthrough view using the PS5’s built-in recording options, Sony said. But players who have a PS5 HD camera will be able to film themselves while in VR and overlay that image on a gameplay view for streaming purposes.

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#gaming-culture, #psvr2, #sony, #virtual-reality, #vr

2K relents to fans, turns servers back on for abandoned “4v1” online game

<em>Evolve</em>'s unique 4v1 battling is now back online—and while access is limited, we still count this as a victory for game history preservation.

Enlarge / Evolve‘s unique 4v1 battling is now back online—and while access is limited, we still count this as a victory for game history preservation. (credit: 2K Games / Turtle Rock)

From a preservation standpoint, the modern shift to “always-online” video games has been a disaster. We’ve seen it repeatedly: A developer stops “supporting” an online game, and then the rug is pulled out from fans who might try to hack their way into playing the game among friends, leaving all access in tatters.

In the case of the four-on-one online shooter Evolve, however, the reverse has been true—and in a surprise twist, this 2K-published, Turtle Rock-developed game has been given more life this week than in the four years since its support was shut down.

Stage 2… part 2

Before I explain, I should clarify the worst news. This previously free-to-play game is now all but impossible to access if you didn’t previously own or claim it, and there’s no clear path to playing it due to the game’s delisting from online retailers in September 2018. Apparently, working download “keys” for the game’s free-to-play (F2P) version, which went live in 2016, may still be floating around.

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#delisting, #evolve, #gaming-culture, #turtle-rock

Blockchain, blocked from Minecraft, blocks out new block game path

An example of an NFT world token that the NFT Worlds team says will be playable in their own <em>Minecraft</em> clone in the future.

Enlarge / An example of an NFT world token that the NFT Worlds team says will be playable in their own Minecraft clone in the future. (credit: OpenSea)

Last Wednesday, Microsoft-owned Mojang announced that NFTs and blockchain technology would no longer be allowed to “integrate” with Minecraft. That was bad news for NFT Worlds, which has spent months building an entire crypto-economy on top of a collection of the randomized seeds needed to make specific Minecraft maps.

Now, the team behind NFT Worlds announced it will create a new game that’s “based on many of the core mechanics of Minecraft” but which will be “completely untethered from the policy enforcement Microsoft and Mojang have over Minecraft.” NFT Worlds promises its new Minecraft-style game will be built “from the ground up” to be familiar to Minecraft players, but now with “the modernization and active development Minecraft has been missing for years.”

Don’t worry, everything’s gonna work out just fine

NFT Worlds’ game itself will always be free to play, the team says, and users won’t need a credit card to purchase any additional content. That content will presumably be purchased instead with the NFT Worlds token, whose value has plummeted over 60 percent in a week following Mojang’s announcement.

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#crypto, #gaming-culture, #minecraft, #nft-worlds, #nfts, #web3

Helen Mirren is a vengeful goddess in Shazam! Fury of the Gods trailer

Official trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

The DC panel at San Diego Comic-Con highlighted the first official trailer for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the sequel to 2019’s Shazam!, both starring Zachary Levi. As a bonus, Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) wowed the crowd by making a grand entrance in full costume to introduce exclusive new teaser footage from his (related) upcoming film Black Adam.

The 2019 Shazam! introduced a teen foster kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who has landed in a group home after running away from another one to hunt for his birth mother. He saves his new foster brother, Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), from bullies, and when they chase him into the subway, he’s transported to the Rock of Eternity. There, the ancient wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) chooses Billy to be his new champion. When Billy says “Shazam!” he transforms into an adult superhero (Levi); repeating the word returns him to his Billy form. Billy/Shazam defeats a supervillain and shares his power with all his foster siblings, making his own family of superheroes.

The film grossed $366 worldwide and received mostly positive reviews. In his 2019 review of Shazam!, Ars Tech Culture Editor Sam Machkovech concluded, “It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s fine,” despite a few nitpicky flaws. “The end result is a superhero film that leans brazenly into an Indiana Jones vibe (complete with a John Williams-caliber score) along with a healthy dollop of Deadpool-for-kids gags about the wider DC Comics universe.”

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#black-adam, #dc-films, #dceu, #entertainment, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #san-diego-comic-con, #shazam, #shazam-fury-of-the-gods

New trailer makes LoTR: Rings of Power finally look like a Tolkien-worthy epic

Morfydd Clark is Galadriel in <em>The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power</em>.

Enlarge / Morfydd Clark is Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (credit: Amazon Studios)

With roughly six weeks to go before its premiere on Amazon Video, the upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel TV series, The Rings of Power, took advantage of a massive San Diego Comic-Con stage to debut its most enticing trailer yet.

Based on notes and lore penned by J.R.R. Tolkien, the new TV series will revolve around his series’ “Second Age” era—as in, thousands of years before characters like Frodo and Sam existed. This week’s trailer begins to truly set the stage of epic battle between the recovered populations of men, dwarves, and elves, and a dreaded evil rising once more from Middle-earth—which goes by “many names” but is clearly personified by Sauron.

“Have you heard of Sauron?”

The character of Galadriel, previously played by Cate Blanchett but now entrusted to Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials), is the first in the trailer to see a vision of a newly rising evil, while Prince Durin IV (played by Owain Arthur) is warned directly that Sauron’s forces are planning to “bury us all beneath the mountain” (that being Khazad-dûm). We also finally see the new series’ previously teased “Stranger” character, played by Daniel Weyman, who accosts Theo, the son of Bronwyn, in a shared prison cell and grimly asks, “Have you heard of Sauron?”

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#gaming-culture, #lord-of-the-rings, #the-lord-of-the-rings, #the-lord-of-the-rings-the-rings-of-power

Chris Pine is a wise-cracking bard in D&D: Honor Among Thieves trailer

The beloved tabletop RPG comes (back) to the silver screen with Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

Paramount Pictures delighted D&D fans at Comic-Con with a panel and official trailer for its upcoming feature film, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

The film is a reboot of the film trilogy that launched with Dungeons & Dragons (2000). That film bombed at the box office, earning just over $33 million globally against its $45 million budget. Plus it was savaged by critics for its poor quality especially the cheap special effects), subpar performances, and inept direction. That film still spawned D&D: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005), a made-for-TV standalone sequel; and D&D 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012), which had a direct-to-DVD release.

The current reboot was first proposed by Warner Bros. in 2013, but the project’s announcement quickly drew Hasbro’s ire, because Hasbro was developing its own D&D film with Universal Pictures. Hasbro sued and eventually settled, giving Warner Bros. the green light to continue. Eventually, Hasbro moved the project to Paramount, shooting for a July 2021 release, and hired John Francis Daley and Jonathon Goldstein to write and direct. The release was delayed twice, but Honor Among Thieves will finally see the light of day on March 3, 2023.

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#chris-pine, #dungeons-and-dragons, #entertainment, #film, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #paramount-pictures, #san-diego-comic-con, #trailers

The new Formula 1 cars are pigs to drive: F1 22 reviewed

F1 22 splash screen showing Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, and George Russell.

Enlarge / F1’s young guns stare out from the cover of F1 22 (credit: EA Sports)

Earlier in July saw the release of F1 22, the latest installment of the official Formula 1 racing game franchise. Unlike in years past, a lot has changed in the year since F1 2021: radical new technical rules mean the cars are very different from the ones we’ve seen for several decades, several tracks have been revised, new tracks have been added, and the race format now includes the occasional shorter sprint race alongside the main feature race. All of this is faithfully reflected in F1 22, and for some die-hard F1 fans, that will be sufficient to pick up a copy.

For everyone else, I’m not so sure. Some of that is down to the game itself. For the first time since EA Sports bought the Codemasters studio at the end of 2020, we can see the influence of the behemoth games publisher at work, and it’s not particularly positive. For example, the sheer frequency of exhortations to spend XP or purchase microtransactions will probably be enough for most Ars readers to dislike F1 22.

But my frustration is not just with the game itself—at its core are still wonderful physics that translate to engaging handling, whether that’s with a steering wheel or a controller. No, it’s F1’s new cars, which are larger and heavier than they’ve ever been, and, frankly, somewhat of a pig to drive.

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#ars-shopping, #code-masters, #ea-sports, #f1-22, #formula-1, #gaming-culture, #racing-game

Activision employees walk off the job seeking abortion, LGBTQ support

Some of the reported 450 employees that walked off the job at Activision Blizzard Thursday.

Enlarge / Some of the reported 450 employees that walked off the job at Activision Blizzard Thursday. (credit: CWA / Twitter)

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees walked off the job on Thursday in an effort to get company support for employees living in “locations which are passing anti-abortion, anti lgbtq+, or any other discriminatory legislation,” a note from the group said.

Participants in the “Walkout to End Gender Inequity” were demanding that Activision Blizzard provide assistance to employees who want to avoid such legislation by moving to and working from “safe states,” organizers said. That would mean the company allowing fully remote work for nearly all employees and paying for relocation costs and cost-of-living adjustments for employees who move to such “safe states,” among other changes.

The walkout—which had been publicly planned for weeks and was supported by a donation-based strike fund—was joined by 450 employees, according to a Washington Post report. Participants came from multiple Activision Blizzard offices, including the Irvine, California, headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Publishing offices in Austin, Texas, among others.

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#gaming-culture

The Terraforming Mars card game is as good as we’d hoped it would be

The 2016 board game Terraforming Mars is an amazing title.

As evidence, I present the following image:

If a game this ugly can capture the hearts, minds, and continued attention of the devotees of the overcrowded board game market to become a modern classic, you know it’s something special.

And if a board game becomes popular, you can be sure of one thing: A card game version will eventually arrive. If that’s a hit, get ready for the dice version. And then, market willing, comes the roll-and-write version. That may sound like cynical resignation to cash-grabby companies endlessly returning to the same well, but these reimagined versions aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some of my favorite games are card or dice versions of “bigger” board games.

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#ars-shopping, #gaming-culture

Ubisoft’s big day of delays, cancellations: Avatar open-world game moves to FY24

Ubisoft insists that its first video game based on the film series <em>Avatar</em> is still on the way—but will now miss its original "2022" launch window.

Enlarge / Ubisoft insists that its first video game based on the film series Avatar is still on the way—but will now miss its original “2022” launch window. (credit: Ubisoft)

Fans of gaming mega-publisher Ubisoft may have held out hope that an upcoming presentation, slated to stream online in September, might contain a few surprises or confirmations for more big games coming in 2022. The company’s latest financial disclosure presentation popped that balloon, however, in a massive way.

A Thursday disclosure to investors was paired with an audio presentation hosted by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, and its first nine minutes contained mostly doom and gloom. After confirming previously announced plans to launch a Mario + Rabbids sequel and the long-delayed Skull & Bones pirate-battling game, Guillemot confirmed two lengthy game delays and four game cancellations—while remaining mum about at least two games in apparent development limbo.

More like “The Way of the Wait”

The arguably biggest news concerns a delay to Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, an open-world adventure game based on James Cameron’s Avatar film series. The game is now slated to launch in Ubisoft’s “fiscal year 24,” which could mean any time between April 2023 and March 2024. That’s a substantial bump from its original “2022” launch window—which could have put it near the December 16 launch of that film series’ first sequel in 13 years, Avatar: The Way of the Water.

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#avatar, #gaming-culture, #splinter-cell, #ubisoft

Dragons are front and center in latest House of the Dragon trailer

Trailer for HBO Max’s new Game of Thrones prequel spinoff series, House of the Dragon.

It’s time for San Diego Comic-Con, and among the many TV shows expected to feature prominently is HBO Max’s House of the Dragon, a spinoff prequel to HBO’s hugely popular Game of Thrones. We had our share of disappointments with that series’ later seasons (especially the series finale) like everyone else, but this new House of the Dragon trailer seems to capture the original tone and spirit that we loved so much about its predecessor.

As I’ve written previously, House of the Dragon is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and chronicles the beginning of the end of House Targaryen’s reign. Those events culminated in a civil war and the extinction of the dragons—at least until Daenerys Targaryen came along two centuries later. Miguel Sapochnik—who filmed some of the most eye-popping, complicated battles on Game of Thrones—serves as co-showrunner with series co-creators Martin and Ryan J. Condal. Sapochnik directed the pilot and several other episodes.

Fire and Blood, a fictional history of the Targaryen kings written by George R.R. Martin, begins with Aegon I’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, thanks to the family’s advanced weaponry in the form of dragons. This is followed by a period of relative peace before the inevitable succession crisis. The final two sections of Fire and Blood deal with the fallout of that crisis and serve as the primary source material for House of the Dragon.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #hbo-max, #house-of-the-dragon, #streaming-television, #trailers

Minecraft blocks the blockchain from its block game

Crypto projects built on top of <em>Minecraft</em>, like NFT Worlds, have been left scrambling by Mojang's decision.

Enlarge / Crypto projects built on top of Minecraft, like NFT Worlds, have been left scrambling by Mojang’s decision. (credit: NFT Worlds)

Minecraft will continue to be about blocks and not about the blockchain. That’s according to a new official blog post from Microsoft subsidiary Mojang stressing that “integrations of NFTs with Minecraft are generally not something we will support or allow.”

While players have long been able to charge for access to private Minecraft servers they control, the company’s usage guidelines stress that “all players should have access to the same functionality” in those servers. That’s in conflict with the main point of NFTs, which Mojang characterizes as “digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together.”

Aside from those kinds of philosophical problems, Mojang also expresses concerns about “instances where NFTs were sold at artificially or fraudulently inflated prices” and situations where NFT assets “may require an asset manager who might disappear without notice.” These kinds of issues mean that “some third-party NFTs may not be reliable and may end up costing players who buy them,” Mojang warns.

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#blockchain, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #mojang, #nfts

Preview: How Volition Created a Saints Row for the side-hustle generation

When all you have is a sledgehammer, everything looks like a sledgenail.

Enlarge / When all you have is a sledgehammer, everything looks like a sledgenail.

In the late aughts and early 2010s, the Saints Row series offered gamers an even more over-the-top take on the open-world third-person action-adventure genre dominated by Grand Theft Auto. This zany approach reached its apex with 2013’s Saints Row IV, in which the player took the role of the president of the United States (who also happened to be a superhero).

Aside from a standalone expansion released in 2015, the Saints have been quiet for nearly a decade since then. But that’s about to change with a “reimagined” Saints Row due out in August.

And a lot can change in a decade, as the developers at Volition are well aware—parent company THQ declared bankruptcy during the development of Saints Row IV, and Volition was acquired by Deep Silver in 2013. Despite the tumultuous events of the last few years, though, Saints Row remains a core part of Volition’s DNA, according to Creative Director Brian Traficante. “Saints Row has been such a major contributor to Volition,” he told me during an interview at a Las Vegas preview event last week.

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It’s getting too hot to play the Steam Deck or Switch outside, makers warn

Even the shade may not be enough to save your Nintendo Switch in extreme temperatures.

Enlarge / Even the shade may not be enough to save your Nintendo Switch in extreme temperatures. (credit: Nintendo UK / YouTube)

One of the main perks of portable consoles is the ability to play them outside the house, a use we’ve seen emphasized in multiple marketing campaigns over the years. But as countries around the world have suffered through record-breaking heat waves in recent weeks, two major portable console makers are warning players that their products don’t function well in ambient temperatures in excess of 35° C (95° F).

Nintendo of Japan led off the warnings last week, tweeting that “if you use the Nintendo Switch in a hot place, the temperature of the main unit may become high,” according to a machine translation. “If the temperature of the main unit becomes too high, it may sleep automatically to protect the main unit.” The company also urged players to make sure the vents on the console and docking unit are not blocked by dust or debris, and to install that dock “in a location that does not retain heat.”

Valve joined in with a public heat warning yesterday, tweeting a reminder that the Steam Deck “may start to throttle performance to protect itself” in high ambient temperatures. The Steam Deck’s internal APU starts scaling back performance when the chip itself hits a temperature of 100° C (212° F), and will shut down if it tops 105° C (221° F), Valve said. After that, the system can limit battery charging rates, download speeds, and even SSD speeds to keep the GPU running as steadily as possible.

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#gaming-culture, #global-warming, #heat, #nintendo, #steam-deck, #switch, #temperature, #valve, #warning

Xbox becomes first game console to formally support Discord voice chat

Discord and Xbox, seen here getting chummy by way of cute cartoon avatars attached to Discord iconography.

Enlarge / Discord and Xbox, seen here getting chummy by way of cute cartoon avatars attached to Discord iconography. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Discord)

After trying, and failing, to acquire the popular chat platform Discord for $10 billion, Microsoft has opted for the next-best thing: directly integrating Discord’s voice-chat capabilities into Xbox consoles.

The news arrived on Wednesday on Xbox Blog, and it clarified that for the time being, Discord access would be exclusive to the optional “Xbox Insider” tier of early, beta, and preview console OS updates. That update is already going live in waves to Xbox Insiders today, and it adds a new tooltip to the system’s “chat” sidebar: “Try Discord Voice on Xbox today!”

Simplifying your Discord life adds a few complications

Since its debut in 2015, Discord has exploded in popularity as a gaming-friendly chat platform on computers and smartphones. One major differentiator over a service like Slack, which looks and operates similarly, is Discord’s clever ties into existing gaming networks. The idea being, wherever you’re playing a game, Discord can broadcast that status to friends via ties to other platforms’ APIs (“playing Stray on PlayStation,” “LFP in World of WarCraft,” “streaming a session of Peggle 2 on Twitch”). Users can switch between direct messages, game-specific text chat rooms, real-time voice channels, and even video-sharing services to coordinate their next online gaming sessions.

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#discord, #gaming-culture, #voice-chat, #xbox

Judge dismisses lawsuit over alleged “monopoly pricing” on PlayStation Store

Judge dismisses lawsuit over alleged “monopoly pricing” on PlayStation Store

A judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit that argued Sony was abusing its monopoly power in the digital PlayStation games market. But the dismissal leaves room for an amended complaint with additional factual context to move forward with the same “viable” antitrust arguments.

The lawsuit, originally filed last May, hinged on Sony’s 2019 decision to stop allowing physical and online retailers from selling digital download codes for games on the PSN store (as Nintendo and Microsoft still allow). That decision was “specifically intended to and did eliminate price competition from other digital video game retailers,” the lawsuit alleged, forcing players “to pay a higher price for digital PlayStation games than they would in a free and unrestrained competitive retail market.”

But in a ruling filed last week (as noted by Bloomberg Law), Northern California District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote that the class action plaintiffs didn’t provide “sufficient factual detail” that Sony “voluntarily terminated a profitable practice” in removing the retail download codes.

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#gaming-culture, #lawsuit, #monopoly, #sony