PlayStation Now still isn’t good enough

PlayStation Now still isn’t good enough

Sony launched its subscription plans for PlayStation Now, a service that lets you download and stream games from an ever-growing library, on January 13th, 2015. Since then, a lot has changed. The company has added PS4 blockbusters and PS2 classics to its once PS3-only catalog. Meanwhile, Xbox Games Pass, Discord Nitro and others have emerged as competent pay-once, play-anything contenders on rival platforms. Many technology behemoths, including Google and, reportedly, Amazon and Verizon, are also experimenting with hardware-agnostic game streaming.

In 2019, is PlayStation Now worth $19.99 per month? Or a $100 annual subscription? For a narrow subset of PC and PlayStation 4 owners, yes.

Sony’s subscription service currently offers over 700 games. (I counted 646 on February 11th, 2019, in the UK.) The company’s marketing is quick to highlight its biggest and most-loved titles, including Red Dead Redemption, Steep and Mafia III. Scroll across to the ‘All Games’ tab, however, and you’ll find that the heavyweight pickings are slim. The bulk of the library is filled with forgettable titles such as Alien Spidy, Gem Smashers and Kung Fu Rabbit. There are four Formula 1 games — yes, four — ranging from F1 2014 to 2017. While a valuable form of game preservation, they feel like needless padding. How many people want to go back and play F1 2014?

The catalog does have some big hitters, however, including The Last of Us (the PS3 version, not the PS4 remaster), Fallout: New Vegas and BioShock Infinite. But as I started bookmarking titles, I quickly realized how many were already sitting in my library. Bloodborne, Until Dawn, For Honor, Mafia III, Journey, God of War III: Remastered — I had earned all of these through PlayStation Plus, an older subscription service that costs $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year and is required to play PS4 games online.

As I started bookmarking titles, I quickly realized how many were already sitting in my library.

You don’t need PS Plus to take out a PlayStation Now subscription. That means you could ditch PS Plus — which usually means forfeiting your library of ‘free’ games — and still have access to the titles I just mentioned.

So which, if any, should you choose? If you own a PS4 and play anything with an online multiplayer component, you obviously need PS Plus. PlayStation Now has a bigger and broader selection of ‘free’ games, though, in particular for people who are new to the ecosystem and haven’t accrued a decent library of PS Plus games.

If, like me, you’ve had PS Plus for some time (and religiously added the monthly games to your library), you’ll be underwhelmed by the selection of PS4 games in PlayStation Now. Instead, I found myself gravitating towards the grab-bag of PlayStation 2 and 3 titles, which include Ape Escape, Dark Cloud, Resistance 3 and the original Uncharted trilogy.

Seventeen years later, Ico is still a masterpiece.

The PlayStation 4 doesn’t support traditional backward compatibility. Shove a Fallout 3 disc into your PS4 Pro, for instance, and nothing will happen. This is due to the custom Cell processor that Sony used in the PS3. It was a capable but notoriously difficult chip for developers to work with, and the company wisely chose to switch to the more common x86 architecture for the PS4 in 2013. Sony has cracked PS2 emulation, however, and currently offers a small selection of classics in the PlayStation Store.

As a result, on the PS4, PlayStation Now only offers downloads for PS4 and PS2 games. Everything from the PS3 era has to be streamed over a Sony-controlled server. (If you’re on PC, the entire service is streaming only.) I tried the critically acclaimed Ico (the HD remaster that was released for the PS3 in 2011, not the PS2 original) over my admittedly ropey home broadband connection. PlayStation Now tested my setup, however, and deemed it acceptable for game streaming. In theory, then, my experience should have been as Sony and the participating developers intended.

Ico worked well enough, and I was immediately captivated by the atmospheric puzzler crafted by Fumito Ueda in 2001. It helped, of course, that the slow-paced adventure didn’t require precise platforming or ninja-like reactions to defeat its shadowy monsters. I did notice the occasional slow-down and dropped frame, but there was no perceptible input lag.

Buoyed with confidence, I tried Sonic Generations, a blazing-fast mixture of 2D and 3D stages. I charged through the first couple of levels with a grimace, rather than a Cheshire cat grin on my face. Something about the platforming felt a tad off. A short delay, perhaps, between my thumb hitting the X button and watching the blue blur launching himself over a chasm of game-ending spikes. I was suddenly aware that my eyeballs were watching a feed, rather than a game running natively on the PS4.

Sonic Generations

I had a hard time playing Sonic Generations.

To verify these feelings, I downloaded two PS4 games through PlayStation Now: Steep, an extreme sports title that was recently given away as part of PS Plus, and Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion, a family-friendly game based on the Cartoon Network phenomenon. The process took considerably longer than starting a new stream, of course. But no longer than a game would normally take to download after purchasing it through the PlayStation Store. Unsurprisingly, both games ran beautifully. I quickly dumped more than a dozen hours into Steep, descending both Alaska and the Alps via snowboard, wingsuit and paraglider. Likewise, I was soon swept up in the colorful adventure featuring Finn, Jake and Marceline.

The flawless performance made me think of Xbox Games Pass, a subscription service that leverages the true backward compatibility of the Xbox One. There’s no way that Sony can match this, of course. But it could aim for a similar breadth and quality of current-gen titles. Xbox Games Pass offers every Microsoft exclusive on the same day that it hits store shelves. Meanwhile, I have no idea if the God of War reboot, Detroit: Become Human and Insomniac’s Spider-Man will ever come to PlayStation Now.

You can download any PS4 game included with PlayStation Now, including Steep.

I have a few other gripes with the service. Navigating to PlayStation Now through the PlayStation Store, for instance, is hugely inconvenient. If a shortcut doesn’t appear on your PlayStation 4 home screen (it didn’t on my system), adding it manually isn’t straightforward. I would also like the option to boot into PlayStation Now automatically — bypassing the traditional home screen altogether — if I decide that the service is my primary way of purchasing and playing games.

PlayStation Now will also end your stream if you’ve been inactive for too long. I discovered this after pausing Ico and eating dinner partway through a difficult puzzle. The PS2 classic doesn’t have an autosave feature, so I was forced to restart the stream and pick up from my last manual save. I understand why Sony does this — server management is crucial to maintain stream performance — but it’s still annoying.

Should you subscribe to PlayStation Now? If you have a ridiculously fast internet connection and don’t own many games, I think it’s worth considering. You can always subscribe for a month or two and blitz through the games that interest you the most. It’ll be cheaper than buying them individually through even the steepest sales on the PlayStation Store. If you already own some of the games, however, or have a backlog like me — just play those instead. You can download and enjoy them without any of the technical worries associated with streaming.

It’s cheaper for me to stream the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, for instance, than buy a second-hand PS3.

Similarly, if you spend a good chunk of time playing Fortnite, Apex Legends and other online titles, don’t bother. You’re already paying for PS Plus and don’t have the hours required to extract the true value of PlayStation Now. (You could, I suppose, make the argument for both if you have buckets of money and near-limitless free time.)

If you fully commit to the service, though, there are savings to be had. It’s cheaper for me to stream the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, for instance, than buy a second-hand PS3. You also never have to worry about buyer’s remorse or any sense of obligation to finish something you purchased. With a Netflix-style library, you can just put it down and try something else with zero financial repercussions. For PC players, too, it’s an affordable way of accessing PS4 exclusives like Bloodborne and Until Dawn.

Still, I wish the library was broader. Twenty bucks is hard to justify if you’re only mildly interested in the games it has to offer. I would pay a slightly higher fee, similar to EA’s Origin Access Premier, for immediate access to new PlayStation exclusives. Otherwise, I’m happy with my PS Plus subscription and trawling the PlayStation Store for great deals.

Images: Cartoon Network, Outright Games (Adventure Time); Sony (Ico); Sega (Sonic Generations); Ubisoft (Steep)

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High-tech Pictionary is more challenging than using a pen

High-tech Pictionary is more challenging than using a pen

Pictionary seems like one of those perfect games that doesn’t really need an upgrade. You draw on a piece of paper, and people guess what you’re trying to show them. Sure, you can put the game on a phone or tablet, but the basic concept remains the same no matter where you play. However, this weekend at Toy Fair Mattel is unveiling Pictionary Air, which takes away the paper — or any other drawing surface, really — and asks to you draw in the empty space in front of you.

Gallery: Pictionary Air | 8 Photos

I tried it out at the show, and it turns out a lot of the game is still the Pictionary we all know and love: You take a paper card with a list of things on it, and once the timer is started you draw those items, one at a time, moving on to the next as the other players successfully guess each one. But the timer has been moved to the app and the drawings will only appear on its screen. The game can be broadcasted to a nearby TV via Chromecast or Airplay, so the entire room can join in on the fun from the couch, rather than everyone crowding around a small tablet or phone display. One person will still need to hold the device to manage the timer and point the camera at the current artist.

Instead of a pencil, the artist has a wand they wave in the air, sketching out the card prompts as best they can without the ability to see what they’re drawing. It’s tough, but it turns out I’m pretty good at it — I managed to successfully sketch out a camel, a baseball and eyelashes, though I was a bit less successful with more complex ideas like “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s sort of weird to see the finished drawings at the end though: turns out I didn’t really attach a pair of wings too well on my fairy, and her wand looked more like a sparkler. You’re gonna need good spatial recognition for this, and people who are usually excellent at drawing may find it a real challenge.

It was a lot of fun to play, and will probably be a crowd pleaser at my next family gathering. Fortunately, it won’t be too long a wait — the $20 Pictionary Air set, which includes the wand and cards, will hit Target stores June 1 and other retailers a month later.

Check out the rest of our coverage from Toy Fair 2019 here.

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Ubisoft: Ditching Steam for Epic caused a surge in ‘Division 2’ sales

Ubisoft: Ditching Steam for Epic caused a surge in ‘Division 2’ sales


Ubisoft

Ubisoft recently became the latest big gun to challenge Stream’s status quo by jumping ship to the Epic Games Store. And it claims the decision has already paid off by diverting more players to its Uplay portal, where they purchased even more copies of The Division 2. Pre-orders for the sequel are higher than the original overall, and “six-times higher” on the Ubisoft store, noted Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in yesterday’s earnings call (per Rock, Paper, Shotgun).

“With this deal, we saw an opportunity to increase player exposure to our own store while at the same time supporting a partner that greatly values our games and provides better terms,” said Guillemot. “Early indications are supportive, as PC pre-orders are higher than for the first Division, and pre-orders on the Ubisoft store are six times higher. We believe this deal is a long-term positive for Ubisoft.”

It’s clear who Guillemot is subtweeting in that statement. And the spike in sales is a notable side-effect of its shift to Epic’s store that could cause more upheaval in the industry. Of course, Epic’s chief selling point is a higher revenue share than most of its competitors, which sees it take a 12 percent cut of sales, with devs pocketing 88 percent.

As part of its Ubisoft deal, Epic also promised to integrate “key components” of Uplay with its online services to offer smoother social features and interoperability. That mix of higher profits and a willingness to provide compatibility with third-party platforms was always going to be a big draw for publishers. And now that Ubisoft is touting a concrete sales boost, they may not need much more convincing to leave the safety of Steam.

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The ‘Fortnite’ dance lawsuits are close to falling apart

The ‘Fortnite’ dance lawsuits are close to falling apart

Epic Games has found itself slapped with a flurry of lawsuits, all alleging the company of stealing people’s dance moves and selling them on for a profit. These dances are incorporated into its world-conquering game Fortnite, which are bought by players for a quantity of in-game currency (costing real money). That’s angered a number of musicians and viral video stars, who feel that they’ve been ripped off, but in one high-profile case, the law might be on Epic’s side.

Alfonso Ribeiro, star of early ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, was one of the plaintiffs arguing for a slice of Epic’s cash. Ribeiro claimed to be the creator of the “Carlton Dance,” a goofy routine that Epic sold as a Fortnite emote — unsubtly named “Fresh” — inside the game. Sadly, documents uncovered by The Hollywood Reporter reveal that Ribeiro’s application to copyright his sway has been denied.

According to the US Copyright Office, Ribeiro’s claim to copyright the “Carlton Dance” has failed because it is just a “simple dance routine.” That puts it beyond the protections of s102(4) Copyright Act 1976, which requires dances to be “a related series of dance movements and patterns organized into a coherent whole.” Not to mention that, if basic motions were copyrightable, nobody would be able to walk down the street without facing a potential lawsuit.

Ribeiro was always on shaky legal ground to begin with, given that he often admitted that the “Carlton Dance” was inspired by others. In 2015, he told HuffPost Live (amongst other news outlets) that he was inspired by both Eddie Murphy and Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video. Specifically, the moment when a pre-fame Courtney Cox is invited on stage to dance, which Ribiero says he adopted.

There was also the more nuanced legal fact that Ribeiro initially performed on a televised sitcom, his employer at the time. Which meant that, if the dance had been copyrightable (which it isn’t), NBC, rather than Ribiero, would be the owner. Now, while the lawsuit hasn’t been thrown out (yet), it doesn’t sound too good for the actor, or anyone else who’s trying to get a cut of Epic’s epic windfall.

This week has also seen Epic Games request for another lawsuit, brought by rapper 2 Milly, to be thrown out. Kotaku reports that the company says that the allegedly infringing emote is too short to be copyrighted, as above. And Epic adds that the Swipe It dance is different enough from the Milly Rock to avoid infringement, even though fans have said that they’re pretty similar. It remains for the courts to determine the validity of that position, but it’s interesting to see what new precedent will be created.

Via:
Eurogamer
Source:
THR

After training to be an intellectual property lawyer, Dan abandoned a promising career in financial services to sit at home and play with gadgets. He lives in Norwich, U.K., with his wife, his books and far too many opinions on British TV comedy. One day, if he’s very, very lucky, he’ll live out his dream to become the executive producer of Doctor Who before retiring to Radio 4.


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A pristine ‘Super Mario Bros.’ cartridge sold for over $100,000

A pristine ‘Super Mario Bros.’ cartridge sold for over $100,000


Wata Games

Despite classic video games now being readily available online and on throwback mini consoles, rare physical copies are still fetching big bucks. The latest record-breaking collector’s item is a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. that just sold for $100,150, according to Kotaku, which experts claim is the highest-price ever paid for a single game.

What makes it so valuable? A foil sticker on the top of the black box that indicates it’s among the very first run of 17 NES games produced in America. These were released in test markets across New York and Los Angeles between October, 1985 and March, 1986, back when the NES came bundled with Duck Hunt and Gyromite. Other titles in the esteemed lineup include Hogan’s Alley, Wild Gunman, and Baseball.

Due to its popularity, Super Mario Bros. would be reprinted in 11 different box variations from 1985 to 1994, according to gaming collectibles authenticator Wata Games. And as production began ramping up in 1986, Nintendo ditched the sticker seals and began shrink wrapping its games.

This copy of Super Mario Bros. is now jointly owned by three buyers: Jim Halperin, the founder and co-chairman of the collectibles auction company Heritage Auctions, game collector Rich Lecce, and video game store owner Zac Gieg. It marks a big leap over the previous record holder — another sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. that sold on eBay in 2017 for over $30,000.

“Not only are all…NES sticker sealed [games] extremely rare, but by their nature of not being sealed in shrink wrap they usually exhibit significant wear after more than 30 years,” said Kenneth Thrower, co-founder and chief grader of Wata Games. “This game may be the condition census of all sticker sealed NES games known to exist.”

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The puzzling chaos of ‘Human: Fall Flat’ is coming to phones

The puzzling chaos of ‘Human: Fall Flat’ is coming to phones


No Brakes Games

Soon it won’t just be Switch owners who get to play indie platform-puzzler Human: Fall Flat on the go. After shifting five million copies across PC, Mac and consoles, the game is heading to mobiles. For the uninitiated, Human stars a claymation-style character named Bob, who walks like he’s drunk. Your job is to steer him across a series of floating levels, each with increasingly difficult physics-based puzzles. But if you’re easily distracted, chances are you’ll use the props on-hand (think catapults, forklifts, and wrecking balls) to cause happy accidents.

Online play, meanwhile, lets you conduct even more mayhem with up to seven extra players. And if you thought the game was hard to control with a keyboard or pad, just imagine what it will be like on touchscreens.

Though it was created by a lone developer — Tomas Sakalauskas of one-man studio No Brakes Games — Human‘s mobile port is being overseen by a bunch of indie stalwarts, including developer Codeglue and publisher 505 Games, who previously teamed up to port Terraria to mobiles, and Britain’s Curve Digital (Stealth Inc 2). There’s no word on a release date, but we do know that Human is heading to smartphones and tablets.

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‘Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’ is finally coming this summer

‘Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’ is finally coming this summer


505 Games

You’ll finally be able to play Castlevania’s spiritual successor this year. Both Nintendo and Sony have announced that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is coming out this summer for the Switch and the PS4. The game started as a Kickstarter project headed by Koji Igarashi, lead producer of the Castlevania series, which raised over $5.5 million back in 2015.

Since it managed to blow way past its crowdfunding target, the team had to take on quite a lengthy list of stretch goals, leading to multiple delays. Bloodstained was even supposed to be released for the Wii U, but it’s taking the team such a long time that Igarashi chose to shift its development to the Switch platform in 2017. Igarashi and team had to scrap their plans to release the game for the Vita and to include support for Mac and Linux, as well.

Last time its release was delayed, the team said they needed more time to “raise the quality level, especially after all the very valuable feedback from the Beta Backer Demo.” Hopefully, that means we’re getting a polished kick-ass game in the coming months.

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‘Fortnite’ players can get the next Battle Pass for free

‘Fortnite’ players can get the next Battle Pass for free


Epic Games

For the best part of a year, Fortnite has been king of the battle royale genre, both in terms of players and revenue. PUBG and Blackout have attempted to usurp the free-to-play shooter but Epic Games has successfully managed fend off its competition with the promise of addictive gameplay and regular updates. However, there’s a new pretender to the throne. In the space of two weeks, Respawn’s Apex Legends has amassed 25 million players and become streamers’ battle royale of choice. Epic Games knows it has a battle on its hands and has begun employing the clever tactic of giving away stuff for free in order to keep its player base loyal.

As part of Fortnite’s v7.40 update, Epic Games has told players that if they’re willing to complete 13 “Overtime” challenges, they’ll get the Season 8 Battle Pass for free. The Battle Pass typically costs 950 V-Bucks — around $10 — and provides players with 100 in-game rewards, including skins, emotes, weapon customizations and more. Players have until February 27th to complete all of the challenges, and save some cash in the process.

It’s a clever idea: Fortnite is currently in a post-season lull. The Season 7 Battle Pass is no longer offering any new weekly challenges and gamers are waiting for the arrival of new season content in two weeks. The Overtime challenges not only offer some new in-game items, but it will keep people significantly engaged as Apex Legends prepares to welcome its own loyalty bonuses.

While the offer of a free Battle Pass is the most notable inclusion in today’s patch notes, Epic Games has also made some much-needed tweaks to the game. There’s a new weapon, a semi-automatic Infantry Rifle, while both the Rocket Launcher and Hand Cannon have been subtly nerfed. Planes can no longer ruin people’s day by crashing through structures and ziplines are now require interaction to use.

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‘Astral Chain’ brings Platinum-flavored action to Switch this August

‘Astral Chain’ brings Platinum-flavored action to Switch this August


Platinum Games

Astral Chain is the latest neon-infused, over-the-top action title from Platinum Games, and it’s due to hit the Nintendo Switch on August 30th. Platinum Games is best known for developing the Bayonetta series and 2017’s acclaimed RPG Nier: Automata.

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UK bans gambling ads from sites and games that target kids

UK bans gambling ads from sites and games that target kids


s0ulsurfing – Jason Swain via Getty Images

The UK will prohibit child-friendly websites and video games from running gambling ads, a move that poses potential ramifications for app developers, soccer stars and social media influencers alike. Starting April 1st, gambling companies will be banned from targeting ads at under-18s on social media and across the web. Bookmakers will also be forced to restrict their ads from sections of sites that are youth-oriented — for instance, web pages dedicated to younger supporters on a soccer club’s website.

Video games are also being drawn into the Advertising Standard Authority’s safety net, designed to stop irresponsible gambling. According to the watchdog, real-money gambling ads will be banned from gambling-like games that are popular with children. Elsewhere, gambling companies will have to ensure that ads appearing in video games don’t contain imagery that targets kids. Earlier this year, the regulator banned three ads from a leading UK bookmaker for featuring animated images of a rainbow, a pot of gold and a leprechaun, because they were likely to appeal to children, reports The Guardian.

What’s more, gambling companies will be required to stop using celebrities that look under 25 from appearing in their adverts. This change, in particular, could cut off a major revenue source for younger soccer stars in an industry that’s essentially funded by bookmakers. Many Premier League teams have gambling companies as a kit sponsor and their ads flood every commercial break.

On top of the age limit, the rules also dictate that social media influencers that draw younger viewers won’t be able to appear in gambling ads either. It’s a step that inadvertently raises questions about the feasibility of the new standards. For example, what happens if a YouTuber who does baked-in advertising suddenly grows a huge youth audience? Will they have to remove or re-edit the videos they uploaded in the past? Ultimately, this suggests that policing internet adverts could require a lot more grunt work than banning TV or billboard ads.

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THQ Nordic buys developer of ‘Kingdom Come: Deliverance’

THQ Nordic buys developer of ‘Kingdom Come: Deliverance’


Warhorse Studios

THQ Nordic, the games publisher that’s made a name for itself picking up long-forgotten games studios, has added Warhorse Studios to its fold in a €33.2 million acquisition. The deal comes exactly a year after Warhorse launched controversial title Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which sparked a heated debate about the issue of whitewashing in video games. Despite this narrative, though — and the fact that the game was born of a Kickstarter project — the game has since sold some two million units across all platforms. So THQ Nordic has evidently made a smart addition to its motley catalogue of studios.

In fact, the company’s interim financial data shows that its net sales rose 713% to $447.6m in 2018. Much of its success can be attributed to its merger with of Koch Media/Deep Silver last February, but an increased cult appetite for otherwise defunct titles is undoubtedly helping to push the company forward. Its efforts have breathed new life into a number of now-popular franchises, including Darksiders, Red Faction and Desperados, and it’s reportedly got 77 games in development, including 48 unannounced projects. The company has also just announced its acquisition of Australian publishing partner 18point2, which will give it the ability to publish its own games Down Under, thus opening up its curiously-hungry market for downtrodden titles even further.

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‘Red Dead Online’ will turn the tables on griefers

‘Red Dead Online’ will turn the tables on griefers


Rockstar Games

Red Dead Online fans have been fairly vocal about their issues with the game since its launch in November. The in-game economy, lack of missions and griefing are just some of the more commonly cited problems, but Rockstar Games is taking steps to address this. On February 26th Red Dead Online will be getting a big update which, Rockstar hopes, will improve things.

First on the agenda: steps to minimize griefing — or as Rockstar calls it in its news post about the update, “certain types of destructive player behavior.” The update will reduce the visibility of blips over long distances, so your map position won’t be visible to other players unless you’re within 150 meters. If you’re slightly further away, you’ll only be visible if you’re firing your weapon. This should stop players from being repeatedly targeted across the map at long distances.

The update also brings a new system that highlights especially aggressive players. The more hostile you are, the more visible you will become to other players on the map with an increasingly darkening dot. Your visibility will increase in line with bad deeds such as attacking players and their horses outside of a structured mode, free roam mission or event. But, start behaving, and your visibility will fade over time. Rockstar is also introducing the ability to parlay with an entire posse, rather than individual players, which should also help to reduce how often players are killed by trolls.

The update will also see the arrival of bounties. Any player that’s overly aggressive and consistently breaks the law with have a bounty placed on their head, and once it’s high enough NPC bounty hunters will get on your tail. Another mechanism to dissuade griefing but perhaps a missed opportunity to allow players to become temporary bounty hunters and enact some sweet vengeance on the players that keep ruining their gameplay.

Finally, in addition to a few bug fixes and gear improvements, Red Dead Online beta will also be getting a variety of daily challenges giving players the chance to earn gold nuggets and XP. Challenges will range from foraging for herbs and clearing hideouts, to hunting animals and selling items at a fence. Rockstar says these challenges will “continue to expand and evolve over time.”

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A bunch of BioWare classics are coming to console this year

A bunch of BioWare classics are coming to console this year


Beamdog

Game developers and publishers Skybound Games and Beamdog announced today that they will be working together to bring a collection of classic PC roleplaying games to consoles. The companies will be breathing new life into a number of titles set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe.

The selection of titles that will be making the move to console includes several originally published by BioWare. Games from the Baldur’s Gate series including Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate ll and Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear will all come to consoles. Neverwinter Nights will also make the jump. Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment, two games that originally used BioWare’s Infinity Engine, will arrive on a new platform this year, as well.

There is no set release date for any of the titles and no official word on which consoles will get the times, but Skybound and Beamdog said they plan on releasing the titles over the course of 2019. The games will be available in both physical and digital formats. Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights both received enhanced editions for PC before, but this will be the first time these games will be available on console.

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The first Angry Birds VR game puts the slingshot in your hand

The first Angry Birds VR game puts the slingshot in your hand

In the ten years since the game’s original release in 2009, Angry Birds has become both a pop icon and marketing juggernaut, spawning countless sequels, spinoffs, merchandising tie-ins and even feature-length movies. Now, the feathered flock of pig-popping fliers is coming to the Vive and Oculus Rift in Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs.

Rovio, the company behind the Angry Birds IP, teamed with Resolution Games around May of last year to develop the VR title, which will be available starting today. “We felt that the IP itself lended extremely well to using your hands,” Tommy Palm, CEO of Resolution Games, told Engadget during a recent press demo, “being able to intuitively know what to do and have this 3D version of an old classic.”

Angry Birds VR

After donning a VR headset and controllers, players are greeted by the familiar Angry Birds homescreen where they can choose from more than 50 levels spread among four large worlds.

The original flock — Red, Chuck, Bomb, and Blue — are at your disposal as are their unique demolition skills. The rules of the game are the same as when you played it on your mobile device: launch a set of birds at a series of shoddily constructed towers protecting those porcene villains to bring the entire structure tumbling down like the Walls of Jericho.

But in VR, you’re doing much more than swiping across a phone screen. Players “hold” the slingshot in their left hand, enabling them to roughly aim at their intended target. The player’s right hand loads birds into the launcher and draws the rubber band taught. The amount of draw determines the arc of the shot and can easily be judged thanks to the trajectory dots that appear when you do.

Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs

What’s more, since players are firing upon a 3D structure in VR, they’ll be able to transport around the buildings to specific vantage points, allowing them to take advantage of otherwise hidden weak points and inflict maximum damage with each shot. Unfortunately, you’re rooted to each vantage point and can’t walk around the structures at will. This adds an entirely new dimension of strategy to the game. It also allows for some cute easter eggs as well. For example, you can turn the slingshot around to face you and watch as the the facial expressions of the birds change the further back you draw the band.

I was afforded some time with the game during a demo on Monday and came away mildly entertained. The first person perspective adds a unique twist to the traditionally side-scrolling action and definitely increases the challenge of properly timing shots and the use of special abilities. At the same point, one of the draws of the original was that it was only as far away as your phone. It required virtually no prep work other than unlocking your homescreen, but with this, you’ve got to boot up a computer, put on the VR helmet, and go through that whole shebang. It’s a lot of work to shoot avian missiles at porcene protections. Still, if you’re enough of a fan of the franchise to have shelled out for the movie, this game could spawn a 3-star love affair.

Angry Birds VR

Overall, Isle of Pigs looks and feels just the way you remember the 2D version, down to the schmaltzy music and sound effects from the original. The difference here is that the VR edition is not free-to-play and will instead set you back $15. The app is currently available on the Oculus Store, Steam, and Viveport. The team is already planning to expand to other platforms, including PSVR, in the coming months.

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