Updated: Jan 23, 2018 7:10 pm Eastern Standard Time (GMT -05:00)
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Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018

Overwatch Adds New Map

Blizzard announces the new patch is live in Overwatch, adding the promised cosmetic update along with a launch of Blizzard World, a new Assault/Escort map for the multiplayer shooter. Though the new map is now live for Quick Play (and Custom) games, it won't enter the competitive rotation until the start of Season 9. Here are the highlights:

New Assault/Escort Map: Blizzard World
Relive where you took your first steps in Azeroth, where you confronted the Lord of Terror, and where you spawned your first zerg rush—all of these epic memories come together on Overwatch’s newest Assault/Escort hybrid map, Blizzard World! This theme park brings the magic of Blizzard’s many worlds into one place so your most epic memories can come to life as you attack and defend the payload across Azeroth, Tristram, and the Koprulu Sector.

The Blizzard World map will be disabled in Competitive Play until the start of Season 9. It will be available in Quick Play and Custom Games starting today.

Cosmetics Update
Starting now, loot boxes have been infused with over 100 cosmetics inspired by Blizzard World, Overwatch animated shorts, and more! Collect new legendary skins, including: Barbarian Zarya, Black Cat D.Va, Crusader Reinhardt, Ecopoint: Antarctica Mei, Kabuki Hanzo, and emotes such as Mercy’s Parasol, Sombra’s Marioneta, and Tracer’s Bomb Spin. Additionally, players will discover new highlight intros like Bastion’s Reconfigure, Soldier: 76’s Lights Out, Winston’s Roll, and many more.

Call of Duty: WWII Resistance Event Begins

Activision announces the Resistance community event is now live in Call of Duty: WWII. This blog post has all the details on what this will bring to the military shooter sequel over the next five weeks. Fans of How Not to Be Seen will enjoy the Prop Hunt that kicks things off:

Lots of things are coming to Call of Duty fans over the next five weeks in the Call of Duty: WWII The Resistance Community Event. Starting today, PROP HUNT is coming to Call of Duty: WWII! You’ll need to use your expert sleuthing skills to find players disguised as objects hiding out around the map. For props, stealth is crucial to survival.

SOS Early Access

Steam now offers early access to SOS, a battle royale game set within a reality TV show. There are three different levels of founder's packs for sale, ranging from $29.99 to $99.99, with all tree including content that will no longer be available once the game officially launches. Here's the launch trailer, and here's word:

Congratulations, contestant!
You’ve been chosen to participate in SOS. An interactive game show in which you and 15 other contestants will be dropped onto La Cuna Island with one simple goal – Get the hell off La Cuna Island.

How it works is simple: Find a hidden relic, signal for extraction, and escape on the chopper. How to do it is hard: You’ll have to use your personality to build alliances, out-scheme opponents, and entertain the audience. Oh, not to mention avoid hordes of bloodthirsty monsters.

If you’re lucky enough to survive, you’ll be greeted with fame and fortune. And more importantly, you’ll still be alive.

KEY FEATURES:

  • SURVIVE THE SHOW – Contestants only have 30 minutes to find a relic, signal for extraction, and grab one of three spots on the rescue chopper.
  • REAL-WORLD VOICE RESTRICTIONS – Players must find and interact with other contestants to survive, but like the real world, they can only communicate with those within shouting distance.
  • BECOME A STAR – Harken back to the days of 90’s reality shows by setting up alliances, stabbing your friends in the back, winning the affection of viewers and becoming the ultimate star.
  • COMMUNICATE AND WORK TOGETHER – In SOS, a player's voice and personality become their ultimate tools for survival. With limited resources and no long-range weapons, a player’s ability to buddy up with other contestants, share resources and know when to go it alone is key. Three people can escape the island, make sure it’s your group!
  • HERO PLATFORM INTEGRATION - Streamers have the ability to use Outpost Games’ Hero platform with SOS, giving them a new way to engage with viewers and grow their channels, while viewers can watch their favorite streamers play the game and become an interactive part of the experience like never before.

Continue here to read the full story.

Total War: WARHAMMER II Adds Free and Paid Content

SEGA announces the release of The Tomb Kings, a new premium campaign pack for Total War: WARHAMMER II. This is available for Windows on Steam, and is accompanied by the release of Skaven Legendary Lord Tretch Craventail, a new free character for all players. Tretch Craventail is also on Steam, and word is he is playable in both the Eye of the Vortex and Mortal Empires campaigns. There are more details in the Rise of the Tomb Kings FAQ and you can get a look at gameplay in this trailer. Here's more:

The Rise of the Tomb Kings Campaign Pack introduces an entirely fresh campaign experience with a raft of rac-specific gameplay mechanics, victory objectives, and lashings of authentic lore. In battle, the Tomb Kings field countless skeletal units, supported by towering stone constructs such as the Tomb Scorpion, Necrosphinx and the colossal Hierotitan.

Playable in both the Eye of the Vortex and Mortal Empires campaigns, the Tomb Kings have their own specific victory conditions that focus on collecting the Nine Books of Nagash. With their own skills, traits, quest-chains, legendary wargear and situational challenges, players may embark on Tomb Kings campaigns as Settra the Imperishable, Khalida, Khatep and Nagash's former lieutenant, the malignant Arkhan the Black.

Also released today as a free addition is Skaven Legendary Lord Tretch Craventail, who is playable in both the Eye of the Vortex campaign as well as the Mortal Empires campaign. Few Skaven possess the cunning and guile of Tretch, and he empowers his underlings to fight harder as they return from every rout. Tretch begins play in Naggaroth, and is available as a free download via his own Steam page under the WARHAMMER II free content listings.

Continue here to read the full story.

Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue Announced

Stardock announces an Intrigue expansion for Galactic Civilizations III that will bring politics and governing to their 4X space strategy game. Here's an announcement trailer, and here's the announcement with all the details:

Today, Stardock announced Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue, an all-new expansion that focuses on adding politics and government into the highly-rated 4X space strategy game.

"Our last expansion, Crusade, was hugely successful," said Stardock CEO Brad Wardell. "Players really responded to the added citizen system, and we're taking that to the next level with galactic politics and more with Intrigue."

This expansion introduces politics and galactic government. Players can assemble a cabinet of officials, then choose one of several different forms of government - theocracy, democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, and more - for their civilization.

"Hiring the best people for the job is critical in any enterprise," said Wardell. "Bringing these elements to Galactic Civilizations III adds a compelling new twist to the gameplay."

Galactic Civilizations III: Intrigue adds several new opportunities for exciting gameplay, including:

  • Form your government and hire your cabinet members. Each style of governing has its own advantages and disadvantages and affects the way the player will run their civilization. Your technology, species, and cultural ideology will determine what types of governments are available to choose from. Players will also have the opportunity to appoint a cabinet comprised of their citizens to help customize their civilization and how it will operate. Some forms of government require elections, which means that players will have to keep their populations happy in order to gain all the benefits and bonuses.
  • Establish a commonwealth. As the player's empire grows, worlds on the outskirts will want to become independent. By granting these worlds a status of commonwealth, they will be converted into an ally with a favorable disposition and will be inclined to implement player requests on the galactic scene. Thanks to the established AI, these civilizations will operate effectively without too much micromanagement or oversight required.
  • Buy, trade, and sell in the Galactic Market. Previously, resources could only be obtained by trading with other civilizations, some of which might have been unwilling to make a deal. Now, players will be able to purchase resources from a galactic market where the prices are determined completely by supply and demand.

Intrigue also adds the Galactic News Network, which will keep players informed of galactic events such as alliances, declarations of war, and more. A global tax rate system and new world types, among other smaller features, will also be added.

"In addition to new features, we're adding a slew of new technologies, planetary improvements, weapons, and ship modules," Wardell said. "The galactic market is important because there are so many new things to research and build."

The Intrigue expansion is available for a special pre-order price of $14.99 (regularly $19.99) through Stardock. The base game Galactic Civilizations III is required to play Intrigue and can be purchased through Stardock and Steam for $29.99.

For more information on Galactic Civilizations III or the Intrigue expansion, visit Stardock's forums or website. To stay up-to-date on this project and everything else that's happening at Stardock, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue here to read the full story.

OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes Released, Okay?

Cartoon Network announces the release of OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes for PC and consoles, offering a brawler based on the animated series. The Windows edition is available on Steam, where there's the option to also pick up the soundtrack. Here's the launch trailer, and here's word on the game:

Developed by Capybara Games in tandem with the televised series, OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes delivers an original storyline made in collaboration with series creator Ian Jones-Quartey. When the diabolical Lord Boxman resets the card levels of every hero in Lakewood Plaza Turbo, a mall for heroes, it’s up to young K.O. to help his friends, defeat Boxman’s robot army and save the day.

Blending a dynamic beat-‘em-up with a story-driven adventure, the game lets players smash and bash their way through evil robots while learning more about the quirky citizens of the Plaza. K.O. will have to go on crazy quests and level up his stats to unlock powerful new fight moves. The core combat also uses special collectible POW cards that let K.O. call his favorite heroes into battle to assist him with weird and devastating abilities.

Continue here to read the full story.

Prism Queen Announced

Two-man development team Dahku Creations announces Prism Queen, a 2.5D action/platformer inspired by Mega Man. They've been working on this for over a year, and the announcement of the similar Mega Man 11 threw off their plans a bit. As they put it, "When you're making a spiritual successor to a game that no longer needs a spiritual successor, you naturally have to question whether you've wasted your time and should move on to something else." They have decided to soldier on, though, and they are eagerly soliciting feedback on what they've done, and where they should head as they polish the game for release. They offer this trailer showing off their game, and official website has more details on the game. Here's a bit more on where they find themselves:

Now we've reached a crossroads. Where does Prism Queen go from here? Ideally, we would love to maintain course and go head-to-head with Mega Man himself. Unfortunately, when a similar and beloved title already exists from a major publisher, the chances of raising essential development funds for Prism Queen on Kickstarter begin to look bleak. And so we are considering changes that will set our game apart on a more fundamental level. What kind of changes and how drastic are yet to be determined.

It feels like we've come a very long way on this project, but things have still felt rudimentary enough that we're only now announcing it in a widespread manner. Feedback is crucial to any indie endeavor, and with the present considerations it's more important to us than ever. We need to hear from as many gamers as possible, hardcore Mega Man fans and the uninitiated alike, so that we can consider all the angles while we take a step back to reexamine the future of Prism Queen.

Continue here to read the full story.

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Into the Black

John Cena to Star in Duke Nukem Movie?

The Hollywood Reporter reports that wrassler John Cena is being considered for the lead in a Duke Nukem movie. This seems like a reasonable choice for Duke, presuming Guy Fieri was unwilling to get into shape for the role. Most of Duke's lines in games are from other movies, so it will be interesting to see how a script for such a project would turn out. Here's word on where this project stands, none of which sounds like a done deal:

The wrestler-turned-actor is negotiations to star in Duke Nukem, a big-screen adaptation of the popular video game franchise featuring the politically incorrect action hero that is set up at Paramount.

Platinum Dunes, the company run by Michael Bay, Andrew Form and Brad Fuller, will produce the movie.

No director is on board at this stage. A search for a writer will begin soon to develop a script for what is intended to be a starring vehicle for Cena.

The Nukem video games follow muscular adventures of its titular protagonist, who initially was a mash-up of action-hero tropes. The muscular cigar-chomping figure has been fighting aliens in order to save planet Earth since 1991, when the first game was released.

The project was previously set up at Dimension Films, although the rights lapsed. Paramount picked up the movie rights from Gearbox Software, the company behind the game.

Laser League Open Beta Friday

Publisher 505 Games and developer Roll7 announce an open beta test weekend for Laser League will run from January 26-28, offering the chance to check out this futuristic multiplayer sports game. They illustrate the news with this short trailer where influencers exert their influence by yelling a lot, though the quick cuts don't really help understand why. Word is: "In the open beta, players will be able to gain XP and progress to the highest levels, unlocking customizable items, but progress will be wiped for the upcoming Early Access." There will be in-game rewards for testers, as this excerpt explains:

Indie publisher 505 Games and BAFTA award-winning development studio Roll7 today announced the upcoming open beta for Laser League, the arcade-style multiplayer action sport of the future. The open beta will begin on Friday, Jan. 26 at 9:00 a.m. PST and run through Sunday, Jan. 28 at 10:00 p.m. PST on Steam for PC. All players who participate will receive exclusive in-game bonus items, including the Al Shama OASIS 401 Limited Edition Kit, unique emojis and character portraits. Catch a glimpse of the fast-paced fun in a new video released today: https://youtu.be/bSeyicah6Y4

Three futuristic international stadiums will be available in the open beta, bringing players a variety of twelve maps, each with a different gameplay style, including:

  • Empire Campus Stadium (London, UK)
    • Gauntlet: Restrictive map that quickly escalates in complexity
    • Spin Cycle: Defensive map with perpetual long lasers
  • Geng Hao Megaplex (Tianjin, China)
    • Warzone: Multiple short firing nodes
    • Crusher: Short moving lasers trap players
  • Silvertip Arena (Detroit, USA)
    • Y-Control: Long central orbiting lasers and shorter rotating lasers
    • Prime: Interlocking lasers that allow players to expand control by owning the center of the map

International players can join the Laser League open beta by joining servers in North America, Europe, Russia and Singapore to experience this content and more, choosing from six classes – each with a unique ability – in their attempt to dominate the pitch and climb the leaderboards. Available classes include:

  • Blade: Offers a short-range attack to eliminate opponents
  • Smash: Provides a longer-range dash attack, to send opponents flying across the pitch
  • Snipe: Allows players to drop a marker and trace a line across the pitch, then teleport back, eliminating anyone in their path
  • Ghost: Gives players a few seconds of invincibility to safely grab laser nodes or revive teammates
  • Thief: Delivers opportunities to steal laser nodes that have been activated by the opposition
  • Shock: Lends powers of electricity to stun rivals

Like all great sports, Laser League is simple to pick up and play, but rewards dedication with deeply strategic possibilities as players learn the complexities of classes and maps.

Continue here to read the full story.

Golem Gates in March

Laser Guided Games announces March 28th is the official release date for Golem Gates, a Windows real-time strategy game with collectible card mechanics they say represents the first of its kind. This is currently working its way through Early Access on Steam. Here's a release date trailer along with more on the game and the pedigrees of its developers:

Laser Guided Games LLC — an independent developer made up of industry veterans from Epic Games — and Hollow Earth Inc., the studio responsible for character design in blockbuster Marvel films Spider-Man: Homecoming, Iron Man and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, are thrilled to announce March 28, 2018, as the formal Windows PC launch date of Golem Gates. This unique dark fantasy game blends elements of real-time strategy (RTS) and collectible card games (CCG).

In Golem Gates, players collect cards (called Glyphs) and strategically weave them into a deck to prepare for battle. Battles are fast-paced and highly tactical with streamlined resource management to keep the focus on the unrelenting action. Through Steam Early Access players can currently take their glyph decks online in various competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. At launch the game will also include a complete single-player story campaign. Golem Gates delivers both intense combat and strategy, blending multiple genres for a truly unique experience.

Continue here to read the full story.

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Interviews

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Morning Tech Bits

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Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Well, the writing was on the wall, but now the other shoe has dropped, to mix a couple of metaphors. MrsBlue has finally decided once and for all (at least for the moment) that she doesn't feel her new job is a good enough fit to justify moving to Pennsylvania. We're currently evaluating our options, and it's possible that moving will be our next move (so to speak), since we are already pretty well packed up, but things are a bit up in the air for the moment.

R.I.P.: Weather Channel Founder John Coleman Dies. Thanks Ant.
R.I.P.: The 'real' Rosie the Riveter dies at 96.

Stationary Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: Miners' Adventure.
Snow Blazers.
Links: The 2018 Razzie Awards Nominations.
Meet the richest person in every US state.
Owl and dog are friends forever.
Stories: The Razzies Somehow Snubbed the Worst Films of 2017.
Neil Diamond announces retirement following Parkinson's diagnosis.
Canadian Cops Duped By Life-Size Toyota Supra Snowman. Thanks The Flying Penguin.
Science: Tractor beam breakthrough could allow for levitating humans. Thanks Neutronbeam.
Here’s the key ingredient that lets a centipede’s bite take down prey. Thanks redEye9.
Positive Affirmations Are Basically Bullshit. "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"
Media: YouTuber makes side-scrolling recap of 'Breaking Bad'.
Drunk Eagles Fan Gets Absolutely Obliterated By A Subway Pole.
Watch a Vacuum Chamber Sublimate Snow Into Vapor. Thanks RedEye9.
Follow-up: Emanuel Zayas dies after doctors remove 10-pound tumor from Cuban boy’s face.

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Monday, Jan 22, 2018

Rust Leaving Early Access in February

The Rust Website announces that Rust is leaving Early Access on February 8th, getting its official release after a four year run (thanks Polygon). Though as developer Garry Newman explains, this doesn't actually mean they are as complete as all that. "Please try not to compare the game to some other finished game or some idealised version you have in your head. Compare the game now to how it was when we entered Early Access. That's the delta that we feel qualifies us to leave Early Access," he explains. "Think of it more like we're leaving Prototyping and entering Alpha." Here's more on what a not big deal they are making of this:

We plan to leave Early Access on the 8th February 2018. We're not planning any big reveals, launch parties, around the world tours or cash prize giveaways for this event. We're not going to move staff onto other projects. It's very much going to happen without much fuss. It's business as usual.

Rocket League Cross-Platform Party Plans [Updated]

In response to a question on the topic, Rocket League tweets they are working on cross-platform party support for the motorized sports game (thanks VideoGamer). The window for this is pretty wide, but they say it's due this year. Update: Added the missing word "party" to clarify a bit. Here's the tweet:

Hey there! We’re actively working on cross-platform party support for a 2018 release. :)

Far Cry 5 System Specs

UbiBlog now offers system specifications for Far Cry 5, discussing PC-specific features in the upcoming shooter sequel. Word is the game can optionally auto-detect your system and manage settings for you: "the Benchmark feature and video memory usage meter will help you analyze your system and calibrate the myriad visual options, including variant aspect ratio support, FOV adjustment, optional FPS locking, and resolution scaling." Here's word on the specs:

MINIMUM CONFIGURATION:
OS:
Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.1 GHz or AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5 GHz or equivalent
VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 or AMD R9 270 (2GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)
SYSTEM RAM: 8GB
Resolution: 720p
Video Preset: Low

RECOMMENDED CONFIGURATION (60 FPS):
OS:
Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-4770 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 1600 @ 3.2 GHz or equivalent
VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD R9 290X (4GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)
SYSTEM RAM: 8GB
Resolution: 1080p
Video Preset: High

4K 30 FPS CONFIGURATION:
OS:
Windows 10 (64-bit version only)
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 1600X @ 3.6 GHz or equivalent
VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 or AMD RX Vega 56 (8GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)
SYSTEM RAM: 16GB
Resolution: 2160p
Video Preset: High

4K 60 FPS CONFIGURATION:
OS:
Windows 10 (64-bit version only)
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-6700K @ 4.0 GHz or AMD Ryzen 7 1700X @ 3.4 GHz or equivalent
VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 SLI or AMD RX Vega 56 CFX (8GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)
SYSTEM RAM: 16GB
Resolution: 2160p
Video Preset: High/Ultra

*Supported NVIDIA cards at time of release:

  • GeForce GTX600 series: GeForce GTX670 or better
  • GeForce GTX700 series: GeForce GTX760 or better
  • GeForce GTX900 series: GeForce GTX950 or better
  • GeForce GTX10-Series: GeForce GTX1050 or better

**Supported AMD cards at time of release:

  • Radeon 200 series: Radeon R9 270 or better
  • Radeon 300/Fury X series: Radeon R7 370 or better
  • Radeon 400 series: Radeon RX 460 or better
  • Radeon Vega series: any Radeon Vega series

Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones Trailer

Ubisoft offers a new trailer showing off Assassin's Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones, the DLC that's coming tomorrow to the stealth/action game. Here's the accompanying update:

Today, Ubisoft has released the launch trailer for Assassin’s Creed Origins: The Hidden Ones DLC, which comes out tomorrow, January 23rd, 2018.

This story-driven expansion builds upon the growth of the Brotherhood, taking players four years after the events of Assassin’s Creed Origins, as they clash with an occupying Roman force in a new region of the world, the Sinai.

This expansion will increase the level cap to 45, allowing players to continue to upgrade and customise their character. Players will have access to four new Legendary weapons, a new outfit, two new mounts and multiple new weapons, as well as two new levels for all crafted gear. The Hidden Ones DLC is available for all season pass owners or can be purchased separately.

For more information about Assassin’s Creed Origins, please visit assassinscreed.ubisoft.com.

Continue here to read the full story.

The Red Strings Club Released

Devolver Digital announces the release of The Red Strings Club, a new cyberpunk point-and-click adventure for Windows, macOS, and Linux. This is available GOG.com, Humble Store, and Steam with no red strings attached. Here's the launch trailer and here's the announcement:

Independent developer Deconstructeam and pottery enthusiasts Devolver Digital have released The Red Strings Club on Steam, GOG, and Humble with a 15 percent off launch discount through Jan. 30.

The Red Strings Club is a cyberpunk narrative experience about fate and happiness featuring the extensive use of pottery, bartending and impersonating people on the phone to take down a corporate conspiracy. The professed altruistic corporation Supercontinent Ltd is on the verge of releasing Social Psyche Welfare: a system which will eliminate depression, anger and fear from society. However, the bartender of a clandestine club and a freelance hacker don't regard this evolution as an improvement but as brainwashing. Alongside unwitting company employees and a rogue empathy android, the duo will pull all the strings they can to bring down this scheme.

Deconstructeam first splashed on the indie game scene with 2014’s Gods Will Be Watching, a game jam project turned debut release with partner Devolver Digital. The team’s first effort went on to gain critical acclaim for its bold narrative and unorthodox approach to the point and click adventure genre. The team has continued their work with notable entries in the world’s largest game jam competitions, with a few of these experiments coming together to assemble The Red Strings Club.

Continue here to read the full story.

Overwatch Cosmetics Update Countdown

After teasing some Epic skins, Blizzard offers a Cosmetics Update Countdown for Overwatch with a complete rundown of everything coming in tomorrow's patch. There are images of all the new player icons, emotes, sprays, skins, and highlight intros. Here's word, which seems to contradictorily indicate the patch is due tomorrow and next week:

We're expanding our core cosmetics collection to include over 100 new items—including skins, sprays, player icons, emotes, and more—for all 26 heroes. And, starting January 23, you’ll be able to earn these cosmetics in standard Loot Boxes as well as unlock them via the Hero Gallery all year round.

We've already announced a few of the items included in this update at BlizzCon 2017, but there's so much more to share! Leading up to the official release next week, we'll be unveiling new cosmetics each day for the next six days. Check out the galleries below to see what's already been revealed, and be sure to visit this page daily for a first look at some of the newest collectibles coming soon.

World of Warcraft Recruit-A-Friend Changes Live

Blizzard announces the promised changes are now in place for the Recruit-A-Friend program in World of Warcraft:

  • The XP boost has been reduced from 200% bonus to 50% bonus*, effective today, January 22, 2018.
  • If you’re already actively participating in the program, fear not! If you either sent or received an invite before the change went into effect today, once the invite is accepted you and your friend will still receive triple XP* (200% XP bonus) until the link between your accounts expires (90 days from the date the new recruit’s account was first created). Please note: RAF invites expire after seven days.
  • Heirloom gear XP bonuses will no longer stack with the RAF boost (i.e., the maximum XP boost you will see from today onwards is 50%). If you were already on the program, Heirloom gear will still stack.
  • All other rewards are unchanged and yours to enjoy:
    • Summon your friend once every 30 minutes.
    • 10% bonus reputation from kills that grant reputation.*
    • Level granting: for every two levels your friend gains while the accounts are linked, they can grant one level to one of your characters.
    • Recruiter rewards, including game time and epic mounts.

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Into the Black

Sea of Thieves Beta This Week

Closed beta testing of Sea of Thieves gets underway on Wednesday, offering Windows 10 and Xbox One players a sample of Rare's upcoming seafaring RPG (thanks VG247). This will be available to all who joined the Sea of Thieves Insider Program before December 1, 2017 and all pre-ordered customers. The Sea of Thieves Closed Beta FAQ has details on when and how this is to be made available:

[Q]: When will the Closed Beta be running?

[A]: The Closed Beta will open at 12pm GMT on Wednesday 24th January and will run until 8am GMT on Monday 29th January. For those in other time zones, this works out as:

  • Eastern Standard Time (EST):
    7am on Wednesday 24th January to 3am on Monday 29th January
  • Central Standard Time (CST):
    6am on Wednesday 24th January to 2am on Monday 29th January
  • Pacific Standard Time (PST):
    4am on Wednesday 24th January to 12am on Monday 29th January
  • Central European Time (CET):
    1pm on Wednesday 24th January to 9am on Monday 29th January

[Q]: How can I get access to the Closed Beta?

[A]: The Closed Beta will be accessible to eligible players who joined the Sea of Thieves Insider Programme before December 1st 2017 or who have pre-ordered the game.

If you pre-ordered the game through the Xbox or Windows Store, the game will appear in your games library 24 hours before the Closed Beta begins. You will need to download and install it.

If you pre-ordered the game through a retailer, you will need to redeem the code for the Black Dog cosmetic pack. Once you have done this, the game will appear in your games library 24 hours before the Closed Beta begins. You will need to download and install the game.

If you haven’t pre-ordered the game yet but you want to get into the Closed Beta, you can pre-order Sea of Thieves here.

Hunt: Showdown Closed Alpha Next Week

The Hunt: Showdown Website is now accepting signups for closed alpha testing of Crytek's upcoming survival game. This post says testing will commence on January 31st, and explains there's still a chance to take part by signing up on the official website:

Starting on January 31st, a select group of PC gamers will be able to play Hunt: Showdown regularly as part of the game's Closed Alpha testing phase, via Steam. During Closed Alpha, the Hunt team will be testing gameplay, balancing, and backend functionality, as well as collecting feedback from the community. Closed Alpha testers will be randomly chosen from the sign-up list, and those chosen will receive an email invite.

Hunt: Showdown is a competitive multiplayer bounty hunting game that mixes PvP with PvE elements in a handcrafted sandbox environment. During each match up to ten players, hunting solo or in teams of two, track and kill gruesome monsters for a bounty—when they aren't tracking and killing each other in order to steal it. During Hunt's Closed Alpha phase new content—in the form of new weapons, equipment, traits, and ranks—will be continuously released and tested.

Invitations for the Hunt Closed Alpha will be sent out in multiple waves, and it is still possible to sign up at https://www.huntshowdown.com/. Watch the Hunt trailer on YouTube.

Overwatch Epic Skins Revealed

A tweet from Blizzard reveals the epic skins coming to Overwatch as part of tomorrow's cosmetic update for the multiplayer shooter. New skins are shown for McCree, Reaper, Junkrat, Symmetra, and Zenyatta. This post from last week outlines plans for the update. Word is: "'re expanding our core cosmetics collection to include over 100 new items—including skins, sprays, player icons, emotes, and more—for all 26 heroes. And, starting January 23, you’ll be able to earn these cosmetics in standard Loot Boxes as well as unlock them via the Hero Gallery all year round."

Op Ed

VG247 - Rainbow Six Siege hates new players.
"How exactly is a new player supposed to know the best Siege version they should go for? We’ve already established that the $15 one seems like a scam, but not everyone is going to know that. Even the various editions’ description is misleading. To someone new to the game, some of the perks of getting a season pass like early access, and the VIP membership will be of little to no benefit.

Eden’s Gate is coming for you. About two hours into my hands on with Far Cry 5, I spot a prepper who’s sequestered himse…

And beyond that, someone interested in Siege shouldn’t have to read up on what the different years signify, or wonder about the contents of each version. No other game today demands this. In games with a similar reliance on heroes, older content either becomes part of the base version or gets heavily discounted.

It’s inconceivable how anyone can look at this and see a fair or simple system, let alone one that encourages enough new players to jump in and help the game grow every year.

And these are just the monetisation problems, Siege’s gameplay creates design problems worth talking about."

Gatherings & Competitions

Morning Interviews

Morning Consolidation

Morning Mobilization

Morning Metaverse

Morning Tech Bits

Morning Safety Dance

Morning Legal Briefs

Game Reviews

Hardware Reviews

etc.

Out of the Blue

Here are some spoiler-free congratulations to the Super Bowl participants and their fans, and I'm looking forward to what they like to call the big game. I also have my usual misgivings about the two week gap between now and when it's played, but I guess by now the old theory is debunked that this contributed to blowouts by putting the teams off their normal schedules. Here's hoping that's correct and we get a good game.

R.I.P.: Acclaimed video game cover artist Bob Wakelin dies.
R.I.P.: Jim Rodford, bassist with The Kinks and The Zombies, dies after fall. Thanks RedEye9.

Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: Speed Racing Pro 2.
Airport Sim.
Stories: Driving a Car in Manhattan Could Cost $11.52 Under Congestion Plan.
Oxfam says world’s richest 1% get 82% of the wealth.
Science: Let’s talk about the big scary asteroid that’s NOT going to hit Earth.
MilliDelta robot surgeon is the size of a one cent coin.
Media: New "Ready Player One" Featurette & TV Spot.
Jack Septiceye VS. Cuphead. NSFW.
ELDERS REACT TO UGANDAN KNUCKLES MEMES.
The Funnies: Brevity.
Calvin and Hobbes.



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