Sony relists Cyberpunk 2077, includes new warning: Base PS4 “not recommended”

You can finally buy <em>CP77</em> on Sony's digital storefront. But depending on the console, Sony suggests you still might not want to.

Enlarge / You can finally buy CP77 on Sony’s digital storefront. But depending on the console, Sony suggests you still might not want to. (credit: CD Projekt Red / Sam Machkovech)

After facing arguably the biggest retail delisting yet on PlayStation consoles, Cyberpunk 2077 has returned to the PlayStation Network online store today—though even after months of patches, the game isn’t necessarily getting a red-carpet welcome.

The game’s December 2020 launch was marked largely by bugs and glitches on every single platform, with performance on “base” versions of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 suffering the worst. After seven days of bad press and CD Projekt Red launching a refund program, Sony went one step further by yanking the game entirely from its online shops and informing buyers that they were eligible for a refund if they were dissatisfied with their digital purchase.

At the time, neither Sony nor CDPR offered a road map for exactly when the game might go back for sale on Sony’s digital shops, even though the developer made clear that it would continue patching the game on all platforms. (The game was never delisted on Xbox.) Last week, CDPR confirmed in a regulatory statement that the game would return to PSN this week, and that came to pass on Monday. In conjunction, the game’s digital purchase price dropped $10 to $50 (possibly because the news coincided with Amazon Prime Day, where the game’s digital and disc versions are also discounted).

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#cyberpunk-2077, #gaming-culture

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Review: Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard amps up screwball factor for another fun ride

Ryan Reynolds, Samuel Jackson, and Salma Hayek reunite for more madcap hijinks in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.

It took a little while for Ryan Reynolds to find his true cinematic niche—one that makes good use of his rare combination of leading-man looks, self-deprecating amiability, and smartly sardonic sense of humor. He was sheer perfection in 2016’s raunchy, R-rated blockbuster, Deadpool. Reynolds is at his best when he has a strong co-star to play off of as a foil, and he has that in Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek, his co-stars in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Yes, it’s an awkward title for this sequel to 2017’s action/comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. But if you liked that movie (I thought it was a blast), chances are you’ll enjoy this latest flawed-but-fun outing.

(Spoilers for first film below. Only mild spoilers for new film; no major reveals.)

In the first film, Reynolds’ ambitious, tightly controlled, triple-A rated “executive protection agent,” Michael Bryce, finds his professional life in shambles after one of this clients is assassinated on his watch. Two years later, his ex-girlfriend (an Interpol agent) reluctantly hires him to protect hitman Darius Kinkaid (Jackson). Darius is a key witness in the trial of the ruthless dictator of Belarus (Gary Oldman), agreeing to testify in exchange for the release of his con-artist wide, Sonia (Hayek) from prison. Michael has to get Darius from London to the International Criminal Court while being pursued by all the crack assassins and firepower the Belarus dictator can muster. Do they ultimately succeed and save the day against nigh-impossible odds? Do you really need to ask?

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#entertainment, #film-review, #gaming-culture

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Sweet Tooth is hopeful post-apocalyptic fare—but beware its Walking Dead vibes

The trailer for Sweet Tooth.

Netflix’s new fantasy series, Sweet Tooth, first looks like a crudely fictionalized version of 2020. A disease colloquially referred to as The Sick spreads rapidly among humans while overwhelming infrastructure, grinding daily life to a halt, and racking up a body count. When this story begins, society tries to put itself together again. An unnamed narrator calls it “The Great Crumble.”

This disaster, however, can’t be contained even to the extent of COVID-19. No cure or vaccination has been discovered, so most humans opt to live in isolation either as individuals or as disease-free groups. This withdrawal has allowed nature to essentially step into the void—animals previously only seen in a zoo roam free, and landscapes grow out in full to replenish what society previously destroyed for resources.

Oh, and in Sweet Tooth, the next generation of kids appears to include half-animal/half-human individuals called Hybrids. The ratio of column A to column B varies—some talk, some don’t; many look like traditional kids with small animal features; all retain abilities like heightened hearing or smell—but no one seems to know anything for sure. Why did this evolution happen? How many are there? And, most pertinent, what makes Hybrids immune to The Sick? In the face of all that mystery, some portions of this new world look at Hybrids as a hopeful evolution of humanity, a group of individuals society should protect and help thrive. Others, though, see Hybrids as a hindrance to humanity getting past The Sick and returning to normalcy. In particular, Hybrids’ immunity to The Sick has swaths of this new world curious about whether their DNA can be harvested for treatment or prevention.

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#gaming-culture

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Test out next-gen space tech in Kerbal Space Program

Promotional image for video game Kerbal Space Program.

Enlarge (credit: Take-Two Interactive)

Most games lose relevance after a few years, but the indie rocket-building game Kerbal Space Program is a bit different. It’s a glitchy, 10-year-old underdog of a game with a cult following of programmers, engineers, astronaut candidates, and your typical lay explosion enthusiasts, and it has a unique and active community of modders who’ve been fixing bugs, adding new features, and generally keeping the game fresh for nearly a decade.

In the game, you are the omniscient director of a space program composed of literal little green men (and beloved little green woman Valentina Kerman—we see you, trailblazer) that you send skyward in spacecraft of your own design. It often feels like watching those blurry old videos of rockets launching only to come straight back down in an explosion of fiery schadenfreude: you feel a little bit frightened, a little bit sadistic, and you really want to try it again.

Art imitates life

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#gaming-culture, #kerbal-space-program, #rocketry, #simulators

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Archaeologists recreated three common kinds of Paleolithic cave lighting

Spanish archaeologists recreated three common types of Paleolithic lighting systems.

Enlarge / Spanish archaeologists recreated three common types of Paleolithic lighting systems. (credit: Medina-Alcaide et al, 2021, PLOS ONE)

In 1993, a media studies professor at Fordham University named Edward Wachtel visited several famous caves in southern France, including Lascaux, Font-de-Gaume, Les Combarelles, and La Mouthe. His purpose: to study the cave art that has justly made these caves famous.  Wachtel was puzzled by what he called “spaghetti lines” on the drawings, partially obscuring them. There were also images of, say, an ibex with two heads, a mammal with three trunks, or a bull drawing superimposed over the drawing of a deer.

His guide for the La Mouthe tour was a local farmer, and since there were no electric lights in this cave, the farmer brought along a gas lantern. When the farmer swung the lantern inside the cave, the color schemes shifted, and the engraved lines seemed to animate. “Suddenly, the head of one creature stood out clearly,” Wachtel recalled. “It lived for a second, then faded as another appeared.” As for those mysterious spaghetti lines, “they became a forest or a bramble patch that concealed and then reveled the animals within.”

Wachtel subsequently published a paper entitled, “The First Picture Show: Cinematic Aspects of Cave Art,” in which he concluded that the cave drawings were meant to be perceived in three dimensions—one of them being time. These could have been the first “protomovies,” he thought.

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#archaeology, #gaming-culture, #history, #paleolithic, #science

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Arcade1Up pinball cabinet review: Fine for families, interesting for modders

Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means.

Enlarge / Say hello to the Arcade1Up Attack From Mars physical pinball cabinet. The chassis is physical; its games are all virtual. Read below to understand what the heck that means. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

If you’re of a certain generation, chances are you have imagined (or, at this point in your adulthood, built) your own home arcade that resembles something out of the golden ’80s era. One useful path to making this a reality, especially in tighter quarters, is the “multicade,” an invention that squishes multiple games into a single cabinet.

But what if your old-school gaming dreams revolve around something bigger and bulkier, particularly pinball? Until recently, your options were either buying a bunch of original pinball cabinets or building your own ground-up emulation solution. And the latter is complicated by the realities of how pinball plays and feels.

I’ve wondered how long it would take for that to change in the gaming-nostalgia market, especially as companies like Arcade1Up produce and sell more multicade cabinets for home use. The time for change is now, evidently, thanks to a handful of manufacturers producing pinball multicades. Arcade1Up in particular launched three distinct pinball emulation cabinets this year, each revolving around a different license.

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#arcade1up, #features, #gaming-culture, #pinball, #retro-gaming

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Game Boy Advance game gets split-screen multiplayer through new FPGA core

Developer Robert Peip shows off some split-screen Game Boy Advance multiplayer gaming through his new FPGA core.

Here at Ars, we’re big fans of situations where emulation creates a classic gaming experience that’s actually better than what you could get with original hardware in some way or another. In the past, that has meant upsampling rotated sprites in SNES’ “Mode 7” games or adding “widescreen” support to NES games or mitigating the controller lag that was built into certain older consoles or overclocking an emulated SNES to remove slowdown without ruining gameplay timing.

The latest emulation-powered retro-gaming upgrade to cross our paths greatly simplifies an oft-overlooked capability built in to many Game Boy Advance titles. Namely, it adds the ability to play multiplayer titles in split screen on a single display.

This upgrade is the work of Robert Peip, a developer who’s spent years working on field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These days, Peip works primarily on the MiSTer FPGA an open source project that recreates classic gaming hardware extremely accurately through emulation “cores” that replicate every single logic gate involved in the schematics of the original system (most of Analogue’s high-end retro hardware is similarly powered by FPGA cores). Such cores are currently available for consoles ranging from the Odyssey 2 through the Neo Geo era and more.

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#emulation, #fpga, #game-boy-advance, #gaming-culture, #multiplayer

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Peter Jackson’s 6-hour Beatles documentary confirmed for Disney+ this November

Peter Jackson’s next six-hour epic is finally coming out this year—and in a first for the acclaimed director, the film will launch directly to a streaming service. It will also be broken up into episodes.

The Beatles: Get Back, an expansive documentary originally announced for a theatrical run this August, has had its release strategy tweaked. On Thursday, Jackson and Disney confirmed that the entire project will launch exclusively on Disney+ during this year’s American Thanksgiving holiday. Each third of the documentary will launch on the streaming service on November 25, 26, and 27. As of press time, Disney hasn’t said how the film will reach audiences outside of Disney+’s supported territories. Neither Jackson nor Disney clarified how the original theatrical run might have worked or whether the global pandemic forced anyone’s hand.

Today’s news confirms that Jackson had an abundance of footage to work with. Roughly three years ago, the remaining Beatles handed him access to a musical holy grail: over 60 hours of previously unseen video recordings, mostly capturing the Beatles working on the album Let It Be and rehearsing for, and then performing, the band’s legendary 1969 rooftop concert in London.

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#disney, #disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #peter-jackson, #the-beatles

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Bethesda exec says he’s “sorry” for lack of PS5 Starfield

Bethesda Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Pete Hines talks to GameSpot about Starfield.

This week, Microsoft and Bethesda confirmed that Starfield will be coming exclusively to Xbox Series X/S and PC next year. And while that kind of exclusivity deal had been hinted at and heavily suspected by many since Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda’s parent company, the announcement still came as sad news for PlayStation 5 owners hoping to play the upcoming space epic.

Bethesda Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Pete Hines said he can certainly understand how PS5 owners must feel. In a video interview with GameSpot Wednesday, he offered his sympathy and an apology to PS5 owners upset about the move.

“I don’t know how to allay the concerns of consumer and PlayStation 5 fans other than to say I’m a PlayStation 5 player as well, and I’ve played games on that console, and there’s games I’m going to continue to play on it,” Hines said. “But if you want to play Starfield, [it’s] Xbox and PC. Sorry. All I can say is I apologize because I’m certain that that’s frustrating to folks, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it.”

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#bethesda, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #microsoft, #pete-hines, #starfield

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Facebook begins tying social media use to ads served inside its VR ecosystem

Doctored image of a young man in a VR headset being examined in a padded cell.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Everything we’ve feared about the Facebookening of Oculus and its virtual reality ecosystem is starting to come true.

A Wednesday blog post has confirmed that Oculus, the VR-specific arm of Facebook, is now displaying advertisements in select VR games and apps to their players. As Facebook has since emphasized in emails sent directly to the press, these ads will leverage “first-party info from Facebook to target these ads”—and FB has yet to announce any limitations for what Facebook account data may be leveraged. (Ars Technica was not briefed about this news ahead of the announcement, and we did not get the opportunity to request the comments that other members of the media received.)

FB’s additional clarifying statements about biometric and use data inside of VR are carefully worded to clarify that the company does examine specific use data as it sees fit, and for now, that data won’t apply to its new advertising platform. Facebook says it processes and keeps track of the following data, uploaded by users while connected to any Oculus services:

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#facebook, #facebookening, #gaming-culture, #oculus, #virtual-reality

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New Picard S2 teaser taunts us with return of Q, time shenanigans

Patrick Stewart returns as Jean-Luc Picard in the second season of Picard, coming to Paramount+ in 2022.

We aren’t getting a second season of Picard until next year due to the pandemic delaying production, but Paramount+ has been dribbling out images and short teasers in the meantime. The latest teaser gives us our first look at the return of fan-favorite Q (John de Lancie), an extradimensional being with power over time, space, the laws of physics, and reality itself.

(Spoilers for S1 below.)

As I wrote in my review last year, the series is set 20 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. The first season opened with Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) having retired to the family vineyard. His bucolic existence was interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious woman named Dahj (Isa Briones) who pleaded for his help. Alas, Picard failed to save her. She was killed in front of him by Romulan assassins belonging to a radical sect known as the Zhat Vash, who is dedicated to eradicating all artificial life forms. Picard discovered that Dahj was actually a synthetic, technically Data’s “daughter,” and she had a twin sister, Soji, who was also in danger.

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#entertainment, #gaming-culture, #jean-luc-picard, #paramount-plus, #picard, #star-trek-francise, #streaming-television, #trailers

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Forget trailers: The best upcoming games we played at this year’s E3

In another year, these weird games wouldn't necessarily rise to the top of our "best of E3" list. But when the biggest gaming companies focus almost exclusively on non-playable trailers, our picks have to go to the games we can personally test.

Enlarge / In another year, these weird games wouldn’t necessarily rise to the top of our “best of E3” list. But when the biggest gaming companies focus almost exclusively on non-playable trailers, our picks have to go to the games we can personally test. (credit: Chris Klimowski / Gamious / rose-engine)

As the dust begins to settle from another hype-filled series of gaming announcements, timed for what used to be known as “E3,” one thing stands out: folks in the press, like myself, have fewer ways to go hands-on with the biggest publishers’ wares and tell you what stands out. Carefully staging bluster is easy; getting Ars Technica staffers to agree that the games in question are fun or interesting to play is not.

While a post-pandemic landscape has led more gamemakers to begin to offer remote game demos, none of the industry’s current “triple-A” titans offered me a way to play their most-hyped titles, the ones typically slated to launch a few months after a big June showcase. Sorry, Metroid Dread and Age of Empires 4.

Even so, plenty of other gamemakers were happy to offer me 30-minute slices of their cherished games-to-be, whether via direct downloads or cloud-streamed demos on services like Parsec. No, these are not blockbusters by any stretch, but guess what, games companies? You had your chance. And the indies took it.

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#e3-2021, #features, #gaming-culture, #ogopogo

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Medieval people suffered for fashion with their extremely pointy shoes

Detail showing fashionable pointed shoes of two English courtiers of Richard II, 14th century. One has two different colored shoes and chains hanging from his knees. Hand-painted copy of 14th-century art (c. 1847).

Enlarge / Detail showing fashionable pointed shoes of two English courtiers of Richard II, 14th century. One has two different colored shoes and chains hanging from his knees. Hand-painted copy of 14th-century art (c. 1847). (credit: Culture Club / Getty Images)

As many as one in three Americans suffer from bunions, those painful bumps that form on the outside of the big toe. Wearing high heels or ill-fitting shoes that cramp the toes can make the pain even worse, since constrained spaces increase pressure on the big toe joint. That doesn’t deter people from wearing them, however. It’s a well-established maxim that sometimes one must suffer in order to be fashionable.

According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Paleopathology, people in the European Middle Ages also endured pain in the name of fashion—in this case, with shoes with exaggerated pointed toes. University of Cambridge archaeologists studied skeletal remains excavated from Cambridge and found evidence that bunions were far more prevalent in remains from the 14th and 15th centuries than in those from earlier centuries, when more pragmatic footwear was popular. This may have increased the risk of suffering fractures from falls.

“We were quite fortunate that we happened to be studying a time period where there was a clear change in shoe fashion somewhere in the middle of our sample,” co-author Piers Mitchell told The Guardian. “People really did wear ridiculously long, pointy shoes, just like they did in [the] Blackadder [TV series].” (You can see series star Rowan Atkinson sporting such shoes below and in this clip from the season 1 episode “Born to Be King.”)

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#gaming-culture, #hallux-valgus, #history, #medieval-fashion, #science

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Everything Nintendo announced in its E3 2021 “Direct” presentation

Nintendo rolled out dozens of game and feature announcements over the course of a nearly 40-minute Direct presentation today. If you don’t have the time or inclination to watch the entire video, we’ve gathered all of the relevant news in a convenient quick-access format below.

Upcoming Switch exclusives

  • Metroid Dread is the first completely new 2D Metroid game in about 19 years and focuses on “a new feel, showcasing a variety of threats.” It’s coming to Switch on October 8 as Nintendo continues work on Metroid Prime 4. Read more in our separate write-up.

 

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#e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #nintendo

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New trailer shows first gameplay footage for Breath of the Wild sequel

Nintendo has revealed the first gameplay footage from the highly anticipated sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild today, two years after the game was first revealed in a story-teasing trailer at E3 2019.

Zelda Producer Eiji Aonuma said that “development has been steadily progressing” on the game, which is now targeting a 2022 release window. This time around, the “setting has been expanded to include the skies above Hyrule,” a move highlighted by Link falling through the clouds to an island below at the trailer’s introduction (in a scene that brings Skyward Sword to mind a bit).

The brief trailer teases a few new and upgraded abilities, including a scene of Link phasing through solid rock to rise up through the bottom of a floating island and freezing a giant spiked cement ball to roll it back at the enemies that sent it. The trailer concludes with scenes of a castle being violently ripped from the ground and suspended mid-air in a field of wispy red miasma.

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#breath-of-the-qild, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #nintendo, #sequel, #zelda

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Metroid Dread brings Nintendo’s classic back as a 2D sequel on October 8

This year, Nintendo’s long-running Metroid series is getting an entirely new sequel—and not the previously announced Metroid Prime 4 first-person shooter.

Instead, we’re getting Metroid Dread, apparently dubbed Metroid 5 in its debut trailer, launching October 8 exclusively for Nintendo Switch. The funky game title has been hinted to in prior 2D games, and years later, Nintendo itself confirmed it was the name of an in-development 2D game that was eventually canceled. Thus, Dread‘s return today as an official game name makes it a particularly juicy Easter egg for anyone who’s been following the lore of space bounty hunter Samus Aran in her journey to eradicate the Metroid scourge.

As a fully 2D Metroid game, Metroid Dread resembles 2017’s Metroid: Samus Returns, a modern 2D remake of the Game Boy classic Return of Samus. Not just in perspective or aesthetics, either: This year’s new Metroid sequel includes that 2017 game’s melee-swipe ability—and in kind, Nintendo has confirmed that the 2017 game’s developers at MercurySteam are involved this time, as well. Unsurprisingly, as a Metroid series sequel, it also includes new and trippy abilities like a cloak shield—and a few entirely new alien foes.

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#e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #metroid, #metroid-dread, #nintendo, #nintendo-switch

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Todd Howard is finally ready to share some Starfield details

“Into the Starfield” promo video.

Over the weekend, Bethesda revealed the first pre-rendered trailer for Starfield, giving us a glimpse of a game that has existed publicly as nothing more than a title since 2018. While the atmospheric trailer effectively establishes mood and hints at the wider universe of Starfield, it offers few details of how that universe works or what the player’s role in it will be.

Luckily, Bethesda Director Todd Howard has offered additional details through interviews to The Washington Post and The Telegraph. In those interviews, Howard describes Starfield as being set “300-ish” years in the future, and he says the team has taken pains to map out a “what happens every decade” history that gets humanity from now to then.

That kind of attention to detail was a recurring theme in Howard’s new interviews. “We start with the world and questions like ‘What do they eat? What do they write with? How do they order their books?'” Howard told The Telegraph. He also noted that “we want to know what all the buttons do” on the complicated control panel shown in the trailer. “We model all the buttons… every button, I think, is labelled in the ship.” That doesn’t mean players will necessarily be responsible for flipping all those toggles, but it’s nice to know someone is thinking about them.

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#bethesda, #e3, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #starfield, #todd-howard

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Halo Infinite multiplayer news: Bots, split-screen, free-to-play clarified

After providing a sizzle-reel of Halo Infinite this weekend, developer 343 industries on Monday released a deep-dive video on the game’s upcoming multiplayer mode. The showcase explains what we should expect from the series’ first cross-platform, free-to-play shooter later this year. The best news echoes a 2017 Microsoft pronouncement: Split-screen gameplay is back.

Microsoft has tucked the split-screen news away as a single line of text in this week’s blog post on the video reveal. The post also confirms that Halo Infinite, like Halo 5, will support LAN play across all compatible platforms (Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S) via a dedicated “local server” app on PC. And it reaffirms 343 Industries’ promise that the series’ first-person games “will always have split-screen support going forward.” 343 Industries chief Bonnie Ross made that statement in 2017 after Halo 5 took considerable lumps from the community for cutting that support.

Today’s update only clarifies that split-screen support is available for “Xbox.” It does not clarify whether the feature may support fewer players on a single screen on weaker Xbox One consoles or whether such a feature will work via Xbox’s burgeoning cloud-gaming options. (Also, can we seriously toggle split-screen options on PC already? We plug computers into big-screen TVs now, 343.)

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#343-industries, #e3, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture, #halo, #halo-infinite, #xbox-series-x

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16 games to keep an eye on from Sunday’s E3 2021 trailer showcases

Between the more-than-three-hour combined running time of the PC Gaming Show and the Future Games Show Sunday evening, over 80 games were featured in the form of trailers, interviews, or just new feature announcements. We know because we sat through them all and counted as our butts got increasingly numb.

Rather than recapping every single one of those games, we’re chosen 16 titles that stood out from the crowd and have made it onto our radar for one reason or another. While it’s hard to fully judge these games based on a few minutes of slickly cut footage (and zero hands-on time), we’ll be watching out for them as they work their way towards release in the coming months.

  • Dodgeball Academia seems to mix the basic gameplay and perspective of NES gem Super Dodgeball with the progression of an RPG and the storyline of a schoolyard anime. This Humble Games production hits PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Windows in August.

 

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#e3, #e3-2021, #gaming-culture

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Raiders of the Lost Ark turns 40 and it’s still an unqualified masterpiece

I still remember the thrill of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time in the summer of 1981. I spilled my popcorn at the very first jump scare: our hero, Indiana Jones, triggered a booby trap while tracking a Peruvian fertility idol, and a skewered, decaying skeleton popped into the frame. From then on, it was a nonstop ride of thrills, chills, and more than a few spills, with enough humor, romance, and supernatural mysticism thrown in to capture anyone’s imagination. Snakes! Spiders! A Nazi monkey spy! Plus plenty of explosions and a gross-out melting face! Next to the first Star Wars movie, it was the best movie I had yet seen in my relatively young life.

I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm, despite a tepid trailer that captured none of the action/adventure flick’s enduring magic. Critics (mostly) raved, and audiences flocked to theaters to see Raiders again and again for several months after its release on June 12, 1981. It was the top-grossing film of that year and didn’t leave theaters until the following March, ultimately grossing $354 million globally.  Raiders was nominated for multiple Oscars, winning five (for film editing, art direction, sound, sound editing, and visual effects). The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry, and it is widely considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. Even director Steven Spielberg has said he considers it the most perfect film in the franchise.

(Major spoilers below because it’s been 40 years, and who even are you if you haven’t seen this movie yet?)

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#film, #film-franchises, #gaming-culture, #harrison-ford, #indiana-jones, #lucasfilm, #raiders-of-the-lost-ark, #steven-spielberg

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Every trailer and announcement from Microsoft and Bethesda’s E3 showcase

Microsoft packed 30 different games into its hour-and-a-half-long presentation at this year’s completely virtual E3 show. Most of those games will be available on Game Pass and many will be Xbox console exclusives.

If you didn’t have a chance to sit through the lengthy, bombastic presentation live, here’s a quick recap of every trailer and announcement that graced the streaming “stage.”

Upcoming games

 

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#gaming-culture

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Starfield reveal: Coming November 11, 2022, exclusively to PC, Xbox Series X/S

Half an hour before Sunday’s Xbox and Bethesda game-reveal event, one major announcement found its way out of the bag: the cinematic reveal for the upcoming space-exploration adventure game Starfield.

“Cinematic” should be in scare quotes, because Bethesda Game Studios has advertised that this trailer, as released by The Washington Post ahead of schedule, runs on the studio’s brand-new Creation Engine 2 and is “in-game alpha footage.” Content rendered inside a game engine isn’t necessarily the same as live gameplay. Plus, this trailer mostly consists of slow pans over a single planet’s exterior and the inside of our apparent hero’s spaceship, set to blast off.

Still, what we’re seeing looks less like an artificially sweetened trailer full of rapid camera pans and detailed zooms on faces (cough, cough, Halo Infinite‘s earliest trailer) and more like a true look at Bethesda Game Studios’ first bonafide adventure since 2015’s Fallout 4. Its emphasis on curved surface reflections, vast view distances, geometrically intense rocky plains, and at least one highly detailed human face imply a demanding game—which explains why the trailer ends with confirmation that this is an Xbox Series X/S and PC game, not base Xbox One, launching on November 11, 2022. (And, tellingly, not on any PlayStation consoles—a post-acquisition reality for Bethesda and Xbox that the deal’s players have loudly hinted to in recent months.)

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#bethesda, #gaming-culture, #starfield, #xbox

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Ubisoft at E3: Mario Rabbids sequel, Rainbow Six: Extraction, more

On Saturday, Ubisoft joined the E3-timed announcement fray with its latest Ubisoft Forward video presentation, complete with a mix of familiar and brand-new game announcements.

The showcase kicked off with Rainbow Six: Extraction, a three-player co-op battling game that drops an alien invasion on top of Tom Clancy’s tactical-combat universe. (Did I miss that particular subgenre of Clancy books? No matter.) The game will launch on PC and most consoles on September 16.

A meaty gameplay preview video showed a three-player squad moving through one of the game’s combat levels, which will combine bespoke architecture with random alien placements—and Ubisoft’s reps hinted to the aliens being able to create walls, gates, and restrictions to randomly redefine your descent into each level’s belly.  The resulting gameplay resembles Left 4 Dead, with a mix of weak and superpowered aliens (dubbed “Archies”) potentially splitting squads up as they battle and survive.

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#avatar, #avatar-2, #gaming-culture, #mario-rabbids-kingdom-battle, #ubisoft

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Kena: Bridge of Spirits hands-on premiere: As good as “Legend of Pikmin” sounds

Until I played Kena: Bridge of Spirits this week, I wondered why I would carve time out of my gaming schedule to play yet another third-person adventure game. Sure, the game looked cute, but who the heck is this new studio, Ember Lab? And why should I assume this upstart has anything to add to a crowded genre beyond a stylish mystical-forest aesthetic?

One Parsec demo session later, my tune changed entirely.

I was invited to test the new game, slated to launch August 24 on PC, PS5, and PS4, as part of its inclusion in this week’s first-ever Tribeca Games Festival. The title is a serious coup for the fest (especially in a month full of online game reveal “events”). My hands-on hour with the game’s opening quests suggests that Ember Labs may indeed deliver on its promise of presenting a refreshing Zelda-like adventure with a tasteful sprinkling of Pikmin‘s minion-control systems.

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#ember-labs, #gaming-culture, #kena-bridge-of-spirits, #tribeca-games-festival

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Review: Our favorite trickster god is charismatic as ever in Loki premiere

Tom Hiddleston stars in the latest MCU series, <em>Loki</em>, which premiered last night on Disney+.

Enlarge / Tom Hiddleston stars in the latest MCU series, Loki, which premiered last night on Disney+. (credit: Marvel Studios)

It’s hard to write a killer TV pilot that compels viewers to come back for more. You have to establish a fictional world, introduce the main characters and core premise, and set up a compelling trigger for the subsequent chain of events—all without making things seem frenetic or incoherent and without employing labored explanatory riffs. That’s true even in the case of a well-established fictional universe like the MCU. Fortunately, the first episode of Loki, Marvel’s new series reviving Tom Hiddleston’s beloved Asgardian trickster god, mostly gets it right—even if it does occasionally lapse into lecturing narrator mode (“talky, talky”).

(Only mild spoilers below, with a bit of spoiler-y speculation below the gallery.)

We all remember that scene in Avengers: Endgame when a 2012 version of Loki snags the tesseract containing the Space Stone and vanishes through a portal. That’s where the series opens, with our trickster materializing in the middle of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, much to the bemusement of a gaggle of locals. It’s not long before another portal opens to bring forth a team of armed guards who “arrest” Loki on behalf of an entity known as the Time Variance Authority (TVA). TVA agents are the so-called “custodians of chronology” in the MCU, monitoring violations to the timeline. Catch their attention by trying to change history, and you just might meet the wrong end of the Retroactive Cannon (Ret Con) and have your entire history deleted from the historical timeline.

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#disney-plus, #gaming-culture, #loki, #marvel-studios, #mcu, #mcu-phase-four, #streaming-television

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Elden Ring shows off first gameplay footage, confirmed for Jan. 2022

Over two years have passed since From Software first shared a prerendered tease for Elden Ring at Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference. During a streaming Summer Game Fest event on Thursday, publisher Bandai Namco showed the first gameplay footage from this collaboration between Dark Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin and announced a release date of January 21, 2022, for “next-gen and current-gen” consoles.

The trailer below (and the screenshots above) speak for themselves, and the Dark Souls vibes are apparent throughout. That means a lot of dodge-rolling out of the way of some massive attacks from beasts many times the player’s size, including a prominent dragon. It also means lots of dramatic magical effects, including telekensis, fire, and thrown stone amid the vaguely medieval setting.

A voiceover gives some hints about the “tarnished” protagonist, who has returned “in search of the Elden Ring, emboldened by the flame of ambition.” The protagonist is shown summoning a ghostly horse and fighting against mounted enemies. At one point, the mount leaps straight up a sheer cliffside. It looks like you can also summon a ghostly companion to fight alongside you to attack from multiple angles.

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#gaming-culture

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The Anacrusis: Left 4 Dead + sci-fi + persistent AI, coming to PC, Xbox this fall

SEATTLE—The makers of new game The Anacrusis, as revealed during today’s Summer Games Fest presentation, are happy for you to mistake it for something like Left 4 Dead, only transported to a ’70s sci-fi universe. The new game’s co-creator, former Valve designer and writer Chet Faliszek, is banking on it.

“I was the project lead on Left 4 Dead 1 and Left 4 Dead 2, and those are two of my favorite games ever made,” Faliszek says from his home office in Seattle. “Clearly they’re influential to me in deciding what does and doesn’t work in co-op games. Having done those, and having worked on Portal 2‘s co-op mode, I have a good understanding of how players interact and talk, and mistakes we made, in ensuring that people work together. If you like those games, I had a close seat on them, and we’re taking that to the next level.”

The resulting project, which Faliszek is leading alongside Kimberly Voll (Riot Games, Fantastic Contraption) at their indie studio Stray Bombay, is slated to launch “this fall” on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Steam, Windows Store, and Epic Games Store. All versions will be connected with cross-play. In a conversation ahead of today’s reveal, Faliszek emphasized the game’s social thrust, along with a new AI “director” that expands on a similar concept from the L4D series. The director’s goals are to satisfy players and scale to various play styles.

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#gaming-culture, #left-4-dead, #stray-bombay, #the-anacrusis

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GameStop stock falls sharply amid 5M-share sales plan, SEC investigation

Benjamin Franklin continues to be bemused by the seemingly irrational movements of GameStop's stock price.

Enlarge / Benjamin Franklin continues to be bemused by the seemingly irrational movements of GameStop’s stock price. (credit: Flickr / wuestenigel)

GameStop’s quarterly earnings report, released last night, contained relatively good news for the embattled retailer, including a smaller-than-expected operating loss and the company’s first year-over-year increase in quarterly revenues in years. But GameStop’s heavily inflated stock price is down significantly in morning trading on news that the company plans to sell more shares and the announcement that it is cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the “meme stock” phenomenon.

In what CEO George Sherman called a “strong start to the year,” GameStop’s net sales were up over 25 percent to $1.3 billion in the fiscal quarter ending on April 30. That’s despite “a roughly 12 percent reduction in the global store fleet due to our strategic de-densification efforts and the continued store closures in Europe during the quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The increased sales weren’t enough to make GameStop profitable again, but they were enough to reduce quarterly losses to $66.8 million (or $29.4 million if you take out one-time payments), down from $108 million a year ago.

If they want to buy, we want to sell

More than that, the last quarter saw GameStop’s bottom line buoyed by the sale of 3.5 million shares of additional stock—$551 million worth—to a rabid market willing to pay an average of nearly $160 per share (compared to the sub-$20 share price at the beginning of the year). Thanks largely to that infusion of cash, GameStop has eliminated $504 million in long-term debts it had on its balance sheet a year ago, and it is now sitting on $770.8 million in cash on hand, up from $583.9 million a year ago.

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#gaming-culture

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Xbox unveils cloud-centric strategy: New hardware, servers, regional plans

Promotional image of multiple Microsoft devices against a white background.

Enlarge / If you want to play Xbox Game Pass titles on a weaker device, you’ll need to sync to the subscription service’s cloud library—and Microsoft is bullish that people will do just that from here on out. (credit: Microsoft)

Ahead of Xbox’s next major game-reveal event, slated to air online this Sunday, the console-maker’s leadership team hosted an hour-long press briefing about how its business has been doing alongside hints of what to expect beyond specific games. Though the presentation was the kind of ham-fisted, Xbox-biased stuff you’d expect from an internal production, it still included a few compelling reveals and statements—and I’m saving you an hour of your life by breaking them out from the rest of the Xbox-and-pony show, now that the embargo has lifted.

Most of the event’s biggest announcements, unsurprisingly, revolve around the wildly successful Xbox Game Pass subscription service—and new ways to access its wealth of over 200 games, particularly via the Azure-powered cloud-gaming library (available as part of Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions). That’s assuming your bandwidth and monthly caps are up to snuff, at least.

Microsoft’s execs confirmed plans to roll out a smart TV app for Xbox cloud gaming, which will allow interested Game Pass subscribers to access Xbox’s cloud-hosted games using nothing more than their Internet connection and a compatible gamepad. The presentation didn’t confirm which “global TV manufacturers” will support the app or whether these efforts would lead to more streamlined ways to install the service’s TV-specific app on existing streaming sticks. (And we have no idea when those apps will roll out; MS didn’t offer even a vague estimate like “this year,” which means Google Stadia will likely beat Xbox on this TV-specific front.)

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#game-pass, #gaming-culture, #project-xcloud, #xbox, #xbox-game-pass, #xbox-series-x

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Don’t look now, but GameStop stock is approaching record highs again

Q-Bert can't tell what the @!#?! is going on with GameStop stock, either...

Enlarge / Q-Bert can’t tell what the @!#?! is going on with GameStop stock, either… (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

GameStop’s stock price is approaching the historic highs it reached during the zenith of its meme-stock volatility in January. The stock’s steady increase over the last months comes as the company prepares to announce its quarterly earnings after the market closed Wednesday evening. Shareholders, meanwhile, officially elected Chewy co-founder Ryan Cohen as chairman of the board.

As of Wednesday afternoon, GameStop stock is trading at around $325 per share, up nearly 10 percent from a Tuesday closing price of $300. That number is off slightly from the stock’s all-time high closing price of $347.51 on January 27 (though the stock spiked very briefly at an all-time high of $483 in intra-day trading on January 28). Today’s close could easily approach or surpass the January 29 closing price of $325, which was the stock’s second-highest in history.

After the historic highs of January, GameStop stock plummeted to under $60 per share by the time February rolled around, and it sank as low as $40.59 by February 19, just after it was a central subject in a House Committee on Financial Services hearing. By early March, though, enthusiastic retail investors had once again bid the price up to around $260, after which it slowly sank back down to a recent minimum of $143.20 just a month ago.

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#gamestop, #gaming-culture, #ryan-cohen, #short-squeeze, #stock

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The world is rocked by the arrival of aliens in Invasion teaser trailer

Sci-fi drama Invasion follows multiple storylines across different continents, providing “a global look at how one alien invasion would affect us all.”

Apple TV+ has a solid hit with its alternative-history sci-fi drama For All Mankind, which just wrapped its second season, and the streaming platform clearly hopes to repeat that success with a new forthcoming sci-fi drama Invasion.

Don’t confuse this ambitious project with the 2005 ABC series of the same name about water-based creatures taking over the bodies of people living in a small Texas town after a severe hurricane (basically an aquatic riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Apple TV+’s Invasion is more of a 21st-century riff on War of the Worlds. Shot on four locations on four different continents—New York, Manchester, Morocco, and Japan—the series is intended to “make you question what you would do under extraterrestrial threat,” per the official premise, and “takes a global look at how one alien invasion would affect us all.”

Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Peaky Blinders) plays Sheriff John Bell Tyson, described as “a weathered rural lawman on the verge of retirement.” Shamier Anderson (Awake, Wynonna Earp) plays Trevante Ward, a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Golshifteh Farahani (Extraction) plays Aneesha Malik, a first-generation Syrian immigrant living in Long Island, while Firas Nassar (Fauda) plays her Syrian immigrant husband Ahmed Malik, a successful businessman. Shioli Kutsuna (Deadpool 2, The Outsider) rounds out the main cast as Mitsuki, who works in mission control in Japan’s space program, JAXA.

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#apple-tv-plus, #entertainment, #gaming-culture, #invasion, #streaming-television, #trailers, #tv-trailers

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Battlefield 2042 will host 128-player combat on PC, next-gen consoles Oct. 22

As part of this week’s E3-like slew of game news and reveals, EA has taken the wraps off one of its most unsurprising games of the year: Battlefield 2042. But don’t get too excited. The word “reveal” should be taken with a grain of salt, as we really don’t know a ton about how the game will work—and expect that EA will play fans like fiddles via a slow news trickle until the game’s launch on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation on October 22.

For now, the game’s developers at DICE have confirmed that this is indeed a recognizable Battlefield game, complete with massive team combat, the return of popular objective-based modes, and aspirations to deliver the series’ biggest battle arenas yet. I’ve been at Ars long enough to hear that very promise three times, and to its credit, DICE’s staff tends to deliver on increased battling scope with every major installment.

The biggest change this time is finally—fiiiiinally—cranking the maximum player count up to 128 combatants on a single, super-sized map in the game’s PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 versions. The series has famously maxed out at 64 players since its very first entry, and over the years, DICE reps have explained away the limitation by saying more players doesn’t always mean more fun. But those statements largely came before a certain 100-player genre changed everything, and last week, DICE showed high-level pans of a few upcoming maps to prove out its design philosophy: discrete zones that teams can divide-and-conquer throughout, instead of lumping that many players into hallways of death.

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#battlefield-2042, #gaming-culture

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RTX 3070 Ti review: Nvidia leaves the GPU fast lane (for now)

In a normal GPU marketplace, Nvidia’s new GPU—the RTX 3070 Ti—would land either as a welcome jump or a power-per-watt disappointment. In the chip-shortage squeeze of 2021, however, both its biggest successes and shortcomings may slip by without much fanfare.

The company’s RTX 3070 launched eight months ago at an MSRP of $499, and it did so at an incredibly efficient power-to-performance ratio. There’s simply no better 220 W GPU on the market, as the RTX 3070 noticeably pulled ahead of the 200 W RTX 3060 Ti and AMD’s 230 W RX 6700XT. That efficiency, unsurprisingly, isn’t repeated with the new model released this week: the RTX 3070 Ti. This device’s MSRP jumps 20 percent (to “$599,” but mind the scare quotes), and its TDP screams ahead at 32 percent. We’ve been here before, of course. “Ti”-branded Nvidia cards aren’t usually as power-efficient as their namesakes, and that’s fine, especially if a mild $100 price jump yields a solid increase in performance.

But the RTX 3070 Ti spec sheet doesn’t see Nvidia charge ahead in ways that might match the jump in wattage. And while the 3070 Ti’s performance mostly increases across the board, the gains aren’t in any way a revolution. That may be less about Nvidia’s design prowess and more about squeezing this thing between the impressive duo of the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 ($699) on an MSRP basis.

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#features, #gaming-culture, #nvidia, #nvidia-rtx, #nvidia-rtx-3070-ti, #rtx-3000-series, #tech

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Apple TV’s summer preview includes tantalizing glimpses of Foundation series

Last summer, we got our first glimpse of Apple TV’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels when Apple released a teaser trailer during the 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference. Production on the new show, which stars Jared Harris and Lee Pace, shut down last March due to the pandemic, but filming resumed last October. No official air date besides “late 2021” has surfaced, but there are a few tantalizing extra glimpses in the streaming platform’s new summer (and beyond) preview trailer, per the eagle eye of The Spaceshipper on Twitter.

Mild spoilers for the first book in the Foundation series below.)

The series started as eight short stories by Asimov that appeared in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and early 1950. Those stories were inspired in part by Edward Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the first four were collected, along with a new introductory story, and published as Foundation in 1951. The next pair of stories became Foundation and Empire (1952), and the final two stories appeared in 1953’s Second Foundation. Asimov’s publishers eventually convinced him to continue the series, starting with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986). Next came a pair of prequels: Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993), the latter published posthumously (Asimov died in 1992).

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#apple-tv, #entertainment, #foundation-tv-series, #gaming-culture, #isaac-asimov, #streaming-television, #uncategorized

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Playdate, the console with a crank, gets July preorder for $179, game details

On Tuesday, Playdate, the portable, one-bit gaming system with an analog crank as a primary control option, took one more step toward being a bonafide thing you can buy.

The diminutive portable system’s creators at Panic (publishers of games like Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game) hosted their first-ever Playdate Update video today (embedded below) and confirmed that the hardware will launch to paying customers “later this year,” with preorders beginning “in July,” starting at $179.

That price will include the system’s complete “first season” of Playdate-exclusive games, and Panic had originally pledged to include 12 games in all with the purchase price. Today’s presentation included a welcome surprise: double the included games. Now, Playdate owners can expect to get two games a week as free downloads over a span of 12 weeks (which, if my calculator is correct, means 24 games in all).

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#gaming-culture, #playdate

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Review: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart doesn’t reinvent the franchise—and that’s OK

No, it's not fan-fiction. It's just Rivet.

Enlarge / No, it’s not fan-fiction. It’s just Rivet.

In the run-up to the launch of the PlayStation 5, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart was placed front and center as a game that would embody the promise and potential of the new console hardware and its high-speed SSD storage. Early gameplay footage focused on the titular heroes flying through portal-like holes torn in the sky to be transported seamlessly to completely new environments. Those sequences packed in new scenery and enemies loaded nearly instantaneously from storage.

Playing through Rift Apart more than nine months after that first reveal, the overwhelming “wow factor” of those through-the-rift transitions still holds up. But after the novelty wears off, the rifts start to feel like a flashy gimmick that’s not really necessary to sell an otherwise solid entry in this time-tested run-and-gun franchise.

Rivet and Clank?

(Note: This section contains some significant spoilers for characters and locations that are revealed partway through the game. Skip ahead to the next section if you want to go into the story fresh.)

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#features, #gaming-culture, #insomniac, #playstation-5, #ps5

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Nvidia and Valve are bringing DLSS to Linux gaming… sort of

Three different logos, including a cartoon penguin, have been photoshopped together.

Enlarge / Tux looks a lot more comfortable sitting on that logo than he probably should—Nvidia’s drivers are still proprietary, and DLSS support isn’t available for native Linux apps—only Windows apps running under Proton. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Jim Salter / Larry Ewing / Nvidia)

Linux gamers, rejoice—we’re getting Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling on our favorite platform! But don’t rejoice too hard; the new support only comes on a few games, and it’s only on Windows versions of those games played via Proton.

At Computex 2021, Nvidia announced a collaboration with Valve to bring DLSS support to Windows games played on Linux systems. This is good news, since DLSS can radically improve frame rates without perceptibly altering graphics quality. Unfortunately, as of this month, fewer than 60 games support DLSS in the first place; of those, roughly half work reasonably well in Proton, with or without DLSS.

What’s a DLSS, anyway?

Nvidia's own benchmarking shows well over double the frame rate in <em><a href="https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/02/metro-exodus-a-good-single-player-game-to-usher-in-the-pc-ray-tracing-era/">Metro Exodus</a>.</em> Most third-party benchmarks "only" show an improvement of 50 to 75 percent. Note the DLSS image actually looks sharper and cleaner than the non-DLSS in this case!

Nvidia’s own benchmarking shows well over double the frame rate in Metro Exodus. Most third-party benchmarks “only” show an improvement of 50 to 75 percent. Note the DLSS image actually looks sharper and cleaner than the non-DLSS in this case! (credit: nvidia)

If you’re not up on all the gaming graphics jargon, DLSS is an acronym for Deep Learning Super Sampling. Effectively, DLSS takes a low-resolution image and uses deep learning to upsample it to a higher resolution on the fly. The impact of DLSS can be astonishing in games that support the tech—in some cases more than doubling non-DLSS frame rates, usually with little or no visual impact.

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#dlss, #gaming-culture, #linux, #linux-gaming, #nvidia, #proton, #steam, #tech

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These forged 17th-century music books went undetected for a century

Considered as a set, the three books Penn State musicologist Marica Tacconi found to be forgeries nonetheless preserve 61 genuine compositions by 26 Italian composers, all written during the period from 1600 to 1678.

Enlarge / Considered as a set, the three books Penn State musicologist Marica Tacconi found to be forgeries nonetheless preserve 61 genuine compositions by 26 Italian composers, all written during the period from 1600 to 1678. (credit: Michel Garrett, Penn State)

Penn State musicologist Marica Tacconi wasn’t planning on discovering forged music books when she started her sabbatical research at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice in 2018. But when she encountered an embellished, leather-bound music book ostensibly from the 17th century, something about it struck her as off. Subsequent analysis showed that her instincts had been right: the book was an early 20th-century forgery, as were two other music books, supposedly from the same period, that she examined in the collection. Tacconi gives a full account of her investigations in a recent paper published in the Journal of Seventeenth Century Music.

The Marciana Library acquired the music books—catalogued as MSS 740, 742, and 743—in 1916 and 1917 from a musician and book dealer named Giovanni Concina. But before Tacconi undertook her analysis, the books had neither received much scholarly attention nor been studied as a set.

At first glance, the books appear genuine enough. Per Tacconi, the worn leather and the paper look and feel authentic, as does the music calligraphy. They exhibit the mild deterioration and occasional wormhole one would expect with 17th-century tomes. MS 740 bears the coat of arms of the influential Contarini family in the bottom margin and again at the end of the manuscript. MS 742 is a bit smaller, with richly decorated pages, including illuminated initial capital letters for each composition. There is a bookplate on the first flyleaf for Caterina Dolfin, a prominent late-18th-century figure in Venice who hosted salons and intellectual soirees. MS 743’s binding and ornate style are nearly identical to MS 742, and the first page also features the Contarini coat of arms.

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#baroque, #gaming-culture, #history, #illuminated-manuscripts, #music, #music-history, #musicology, #science

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Schumacher, Senna, and co-op multiplayer are new additions for F1 2021

This year's installment of the official Formula 1 game, <em>F1 2021</em>, arrives on PCs and consoles on July 16.

Enlarge / This year’s installment of the official Formula 1 game, F1 2021, arrives on PCs and consoles on July 16. (credit: Codemasters)

If you’ve ever wanted to race with Formula 1 legends like Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna, your wish could come true later this summer—sort of. The iconic drivers and their driving styles have been put into F1 2021, which arrives on consoles and PCs in July.

“We’ve always spoken about ‘wouldn’t it be cool to have as your teammate the drivers that we all remember?’ And that’s exactly what we’ve done,” said Lee Mather, franchise game director at Codemasters, who briefed Ars on the new game recently.

Mather’s team started programming the game’s AI to race like the sport’s current stars in last year’s F1 2020. “We put so much time and effort and science into how you do driver ratings [for F1 2020] and how you manage those on a race-by-race basis. So we built the data [ranking different attributes for each of the current F1 drivers] and then we updated every three or four grands prix,” Mather explained.

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#cars, #codemasters, #ea-sports, #electronic-arts, #f1, #f1-2021, #formula-1, #gaming-culture, #michael-schumacher, #racing-game

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Woman in Motion tells story of how Star Trek’s Uhura changed NASA forever

Actress Nichelle Nichols’ role as a NASA ambassador to bring diversity to the space program is the subject of the documentary Woman in Motion, now streaming on Paramount+.

Actress Nichelle Nichols will forever be remembered for playing Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series—one of the first Black women to play a prominent role on television—as well as engaging in the first interracial kiss on scripted television in the US. Less known is her equally seminal role as an ambassador for NASA  in the 1970s, working tirelessly to bring more diversity to the agency’s recruitment efforts. That work is highlighted in Woman in Motion, a new documentary directed by Todd Thompson that is now streaming on Paramount+.

Thompson himself was not a hardcore Star Trek fan growing up, although he had seen most of the movies and was certainly familiar with Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura. His producing partners were fans, however, and when they told him about Nichol’s contributions to NASA, he decided it was a story that had to be told. Over the course of production, he interviewed dozens of people about how Nichols inspired them, and also spent a considerable amount of time with the actress herself, now 88.

“She’s the definition of Hollywood royalty for me,” Thompson told Ars. “How she carries herself, how she treats others, how she engages with you—she’s so incredibly magnetic. What she did was so paramount to giving us a blueprint of where we need to go, how we need to be, if we’re going to make any sort of progress here on Earth and beyond the stars. I was very humbled by the responsibility to tell her story and tell it the right way.”

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#documentary, #film, #gaming-culture, #nasa, #nichelle-nichols, #paramount-plus, #science, #space, #star-trek-tos, #uhura

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There’s hope for American movie theaters after all

Screenshot from A Quiet Place II trailer

Enlarge / Don’t make a sound. (credit: YouTube/Paramount)

A year ago it would’ve seemed unfathomable: Over the Memorial Day holiday, a single film had a good opening weekend at the North American box office. After 15 months of COVID-19 theater closures, delayed release dates, and general anxiety about the future of moviegoing, A Quiet Place Part II is projected to bring in north of $57 million. That’s the most any movie has made during the pandemic and far outpaces the last record holder: Godzilla vs. Kong, which snagged $32 million in March.

To be clear, $57 million isn’t what Hollywood insiders would definitely call “boffo”—previous Memorial Day weekends have seen openings that top $100 million. But for the past year and change, as theater chains have faced bankruptcy and scores of movie lovers have hunkered down with a buffet of streaming services to fill their needs, there has been genuine concern about whether theater-going, as it has existed for a century, would survive. A Quiet Place Part II’s opening shows that it might.

The sequel to 2018’s A Quiet Place isn’t the only bright spot. Disney’s Cruella de Vil origin story, Cruella, is projected to rake in more than $26 million for the four-day weekend—a total that comes despite the film also being available to Disney+ subscribers for an additional $30 fee. (For comparison, Disney’s live-action Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which was released in theaters only, brought in $37 million domestically during its pre-pandemic opening weekend.) As the coronavirus pandemic stretched through 2020, and many studios opted to put their big releases on streaming platforms, many wondered if audiences would return to theaters when they could watch the same films at home. Cruella’s modest, but strong, opening illustrates that they will.

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#films, #gaming-culture

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“Deleted” Nintendo floppy recovered 26 years later, full of Earthbound secrets

Amazing what can be found on decades-old disks full of "deleted" files.

Enlarge / Amazing what can be found on decades-old disks full of “deleted” files. (credit: Video Game History Foundation)

The golden-age rebirth of console gaming, largely spurned by Nintendo’s mega-success, has remained a lucrative era for conservationists. There’s a whole community out there rushing to find documents, disks, and hard drives from the ’80s and ’90s before they’re savaged by time and bit rot. Yet sometimes, those old storage standards’ limitations can work out in game historians’ favor.

On Friday, the Video Game History Foundation announced its restoration of a single Nintendo-related, 3.5-inch floppy disk, as discovered by original Earthbound translator Marcus Lindblom in 2018. The story sounds a lot like ones we’ve heard in the past, where someone from the gaming industry cleans out an attic or a storage unit only to find disks that they think are lost to time.

In Lindblom’s case, he thought the Earthbound disk he’d discovered was lost to his own younger stupidity. At one point he learned, after putting it into an older computer, that he’d deleted the disk’s contents to save other work on it. He donated the disk to VGHF with fingers crossed that they could work their magic, which they apparently did. As it turns out, only one small file had been saved to the disk after its “deletion,” thus leaving most of the original magnetic tape untouched. Forensic recovery tools managed to recover every single disk sector, revealing the SNES RPG’s “complete” scripting files for English and Japanese text, along with related code for event triggers in the game.

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#earthbound, #gaming-culture, #mother

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Warner Bros. releases trailer for noir-esque sci-fi thriller Reminiscence

Hugh Jackman stars as a man who helps clients recover lost memories in the sci-fi thriller Reminiscence.

A solitary man living in a dystopian near-future helps people recover lost memories and ends up uncovering a violent conspiracy in Reminiscence, a sci-fi thriller that feels like a cross between classic film noir and ambitiously heady fare like Memento and Inception. That’s no surprise, as it’s the feature film directorial debut of Lisa Joy, co-creator (with husband Jonathan Nolan) of HBO’s critically acclaimed series Westworld.

Per the official premise:

Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?

During a virtual event on Wednesday, Joy said she was inspired to make Reminiscence after finding an old photograph among her grandfather’s belongings. The picture was of an unknown woman her grandfather had never mentioned to anyone in the family. “It made me start to think about memory and our lives in general,” she said. “And the moments that maybe pass by, and maybe disappear—they don’t stay with us, those connections necessarily—but that meant something, that changed us and touched us. And how nice it would be able to go back to these memories fully for a moment, to live that life and feel the way you felt when you experienced them.”

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#entertainment, #film-trailers, #gaming-culture, #hbo-max, #hugh-jackman, #lisa-joy, #warner-bros

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Sony’s “generations matter” mantra crumbles: Gran Turismo 7 will be cross-gen

We've since touched up <EM>GT7</eM>'s last significant advertisement, as per this week's platform update.

Enlarge / We’ve since touched up GT7‘s last significant advertisement, as per this week’s platform update. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Aurich Lawson)

On Wednesday, Sony published a wide-ranging interview with the head of its PlayStation Studios division, arguably to set expectations ahead of the usual barrage of mid-June game announcements and reveals. But in Sony’s case, setting expectations now requires telling fans which console to expect future games to land on—especially in a world where chip shortages have made it tough to purchase the company’s new and very popular PlayStation 5.

Thus, this week’s big PlayStation surprise marks a change for multiple games that had been previously advertised as PlayStation 5 titles. We have now learned that God of War: Ragnarok and Gran Turismo 7 are officially coming to both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. The news follows last week’s confirmation that Horizon: Forbidden West will also launch as a cross-gen game.

While the God of War sequel’s platform status was previously left open to interpretation, Gran Turismo 7 is a bigger surprise, since it was revealed to the world in June 2020 with a loud “get ready for next gen” tagline, followed by an outright declaration that the game would be a “PlayStation 5 exclusive” six months later. Both video advertisements for the anticipated racing game revolved around intense reflection effects that take material properties and car surface warping into account. While Sony Interactive Entertainment has yet to detail exactly how the game’s tech works, what we’ve seen so far will likely hinge on next-gen processing power, perhaps by tracing light rays or double-rendering geometry.

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#cross-gen, #gaming-culture, #gran-turismo, #gran-turismo-7, #playstation-5

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No Man’s Sky gets the world’s first VR-DLSS performance boost—let’s test it

Promotional image for VR game No Man's Sky.

Enlarge / No Man’s Sky added a bunch of trippy stuff this week, including rideable mounts. We love mounts. But we also love frames, so hence, we’re analyzing the game’s newfound use of DLSS, specifically in its punishing VR mode. (credit: Hello Games)

Over the past few years, Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super-Sampling (DLSS) standard has largely delivered on its magical promise: smoother gaming performance and crisper imagery, all based off of zillions of machine-farm computations to predict 3D game visuals. (You can see comprehensive DLSS breakdowns in my reviews of the RTX 3060 and RTX 3080 Ti.) The catch remains that your computer needs a compatible Nvidia “RTX” GPU to tap into the proprietary standard, which has become an ever-tougher pill to swallow in a chip-shortage world.

Still, if you run a DLSS-compatible game on an Nvidia RTX GPU, the performance gains can range from a solid 25 percent to an astonishing 90 percent—usually with greater returns coming from higher resolutions. Up until this week, one demanding PC-gaming use case has somehow not been a part of the DLSS ecosystem: virtual reality.

The default pixel resolution on popular headsets like Oculus Quest 2, Valve Index, and HP Reverb G2 often surpasses an average 4K display, and those headsets also demand higher frame rates for the sake of comfort. Thus, the DLSS promise seems particularly intriguing there. When DLSS works as advertised, a given game renders fewer pixels. This is when Nvidia’s RTX GPUs leverage their “tensor” processing cores to fill in the missing details in ways that, theoretically, look better than standard temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) methods.

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#dlss, #gaming-culture, #no-mans-sky, #nvidia-dlss, #steamvr, #tech

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Physicists unlock multispectral secrets of earliest color photographs

French physicist Gabriel Lippmann pioneered color photography and snagged the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physics for his efforts. But according to a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lippmann’s technique distorted the colors of the scenes being photographed. Physicists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland were able to determine the nature of that distortion and developed a means of reconstructing the original spectrum that created the plates.

“These are the earliest multi-spectral light measurements on record so we wondered whether it would be possible to accurately recreate the original light of these historical scenes,” said co-author Gilles Baechler. “But the way the photographs were constructed was very particular, so we were also really interested in whether we could create digital copies and understand how the technique worked.”

A physics professor at the Sorbonne, Lippmann became interested in developing a means of fixing the colors of the solar spectrum onto a photographic plate in 1886, “whereby the image remains fixed and can remain in daylight without deterioration.” He achieved that goal in 1891, producing color images of a stained-glass window, a bowl of oranges, and a colorful parrot, as well as landscapes and portraits—including a self-portrait. (Fun fact: Lippmann’s laboratory protégés included a promising Polish physics student named Marie Skłodowska, who went on to marry Pierre Curie and win two Nobel Prizes of her own.)

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#chemistry, #color-photography, #gabriel-lippmann, #gaming-culture, #history-of-science, #optics, #physics, #science

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Months later, Dream admits suspect Minecraft speedruns used illegal mods

The bartering Piglin that were at the heart of Dream's <em>Minecraft</em> cheating drama.

Enlarge / The bartering Piglin that were at the heart of Dream’s Minecraft cheating drama.

For months now, popular Minecraft streamer Dream has insisted there was nothing fishy about six “Any% Random Seed” speedruns he streamed last October, despite evidence to the contrary presented by the moderators of clearinghouse Speedrun.com. Over the weekend, though, Dream said in a message posted to Pastebin that he had “actually been using a disallowed modification during ~6 of my live streams on Twitch,” while maintaining that he “didn’t have any intention of cheating.”

The admission seems to finally put to rest months of drama and dueling accusations between Dream and the mods, settling an argument that relied on complex mathematics to prove that Dream’s runs were vanishingly unlikely to be the result of random chance alone.

The math

To understand the accusations at play here, first you have to understand just how much of a role luck plays in a top-level Any% speedrun of Minecraft and how ridiculously lucky Dream was in the streamed runs in question.

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#cheating, #gaming-culture, #minecraft, #speedrunning

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Review: Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti is a powerhouse—but good luck finding it at $1,199 MSRP

Nearly nine months ago, the RTX 3000 series of Nvidia graphics cards launched in a beleaguered world as a seeming ray of hope. The series’ first two GPUs, the RTX 3080 and 3070, were nearly all things to all graphics hounds. Nvidia built these cards upon the proprietary successes of the RTX 2000 series and added sheer, every-API-imaginable rasterization power on top.

An “RTX”-optimized game ran great on the line’s opening salvo of the RTX 3080, sure, but even without streamlined ray tracing or the impressive upsampling of DLSS, it tera’ed a lot of FLOPs. Talk about a fun potential purchase for nerds trapped in the house.

Even better, that power came along with more modest MSRPs compared to what we saw in the RTX 2000 series. As I wrote in September 2020:

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#amd, #amd-radeon, #features, #gaming-culture, #nvidia, #nvidia-rtx, #rtx-3080, #rtx-3080-ti, #tech

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Months from the release of Dune 2021, the 1984 version gets a 4K release

The controversial yet memorable 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal 1965 science fiction novel Dune will be released in 4K and HDR for the first time on August 31, thanks to a new 4K UltraHD Blu-ray set from distributor Arrow Films.

According to Arrow Films, the upcoming release was mastered from the original camera negative in 4K and Dolby Vision HDR, though playback in the HDR-10 format is also supported. The set offers two audio options: uncompressed stereo and DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound.

There’s one thing genre cinephiles might be hoping for that they won’t get here, though: commentary from filmmaker David Lynch, who directed the film and became famous for later works like Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. Those familiar with the film’s history won’t be surprised by that omission though; Lynch disowned Dune when it was released, saying that it did not represent his creative vision due to interference from the studio.

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#4k, #blu-ray, #david-lynch, #dolby-dts, #dune, #film, #gaming-culture, #hdr, #movie, #movies, #science-fiction, #tech, #ultrahd

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ROM site owner made $30,000 a year—now owes Nintendo $2.1M

Artist's conception of Nintendo's reaction to the summary judgment.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of Nintendo’s reaction to the summary judgment.

The now-unemployed owner of a shuttered ROM distribution site has been ordered to pay $2.1 million in damages to Nintendo after trying and failing to defend himself in the case.

In September 2019, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles resident Matthew Storman over his operation of RomUniverse.com, which offered prominent downloads of “Nintendo Switch Scene Roms” and other copyrighted game files. At the time, Nintendo said that the site had been “among the most visited and notorious online hubs for pirated Nintendo video games” for “over a decade.”

Storman has admitted that, in 2019, the site made up the bulk of his $30,000 to $36,000 a year in income. This included direct revenue from the sale of “premium unlimited accounts” for $30 per year that provided users with faster downloads and no limits. By the time Storman signed a September 2020 agreement with Nintendo to shut the site down, he said he was deriving $800 a month from the site. According to court documents, Storman’s income is now derived primarily from “unemployment and food stamps.”

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#gaming-culture, #legal, #nintendo, #roms

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