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Thursday, Jun 28, 2018

Next Up Hero Free Weekend

Next Up Hero is now officially launched on Steam, following an Early Access run for this Gauntlet-style dungeon-crawler. This post celebrates that news, announcing that this new phase of the game kicks off with a free-to-play weekend. Developer Digital Continue also shows a few skins based on characters transplanted from Valve games that they have added for the launch. Here's word:
We're super excited to announce that Next Up Hero has launched out of Early Access today!

To celebrate, we're currently in a Free Weekend on Steam! That's right, until Monday, July 2, you can be the next up Hero and test your might in the Spiral Shards.

But be warned, Heroes, this game is designed to be hard.

In fact, the game is so difficult that we've called in reinforcements from some of our favorite Valve games to fight back against the Ceaseless Dirge. Look familiar?

Overwatch Wrecking Ball Details

Blizzard follows up on their Overwatch rodent hero reveal with more details on the next character coming to the shooter, confirming that this is Hammond the hamster, Winston the Gorilla's friend from the moon (something we just had to type out to see how it feels, and it was not disappointing). They offer this page with a first look at the character and his abilities, along with this video where game director Jeff Kaplan tries to keep a straight face as he discusses the plan. It's not set when the new character is coming to the live game, but as these patch notes indicate, he's already playable on the PTR. Here's more on the Hammond, who, in spite of being a hamster, falls into the tank class:
Wrecking Ball’s tinkering capabilities and iron-clad mech make him a formidable tank hero, capable of bowling through the front line of the opposition and causing mayhem in the back line. His primary weapon, Quad Cannons, are two sets of twin machine guns that shred enemies caught in their crosshairs. No team is too much for Wrecking Ball to engage against with his Adaptive Shield, which generates more health based on the number of enemies nearby. This shield makes him incredibly difficult to kill when he bulldozes into the fray and, once he starts to get low on health, also provides him the endurance to escape. The Roll ability allows Wrecking Ball to withdraw the mech’s robotic limbs, transforming it into a ball with increased movement speed. No obstacle can stand in Wrecking Ball’s way when he uses Grappling Claw, a short-range ability that grips the environment, letting him swing across terrain gaps or around corners to smash enemies. Grappling Claw also allows Wrecking Ball to reach top speed and ram into foes, dealing destructive damage and knocking them back. While airborne, the mech’s Piledriver ability causes Wrecking Ball to slam down from the air and knock his enemies off their feet.

When Wrecking Ball is at his strongest, he can use Minefield which flings mines onto the ground that deal a considerable amount of damage to enemies unfortunate enough to trigger them.
Continue here to read the full story.

Heroes of the Storm Raynor and Azomodan Reworks Planned

Blizzard offers details on plans to rework two of the characters in Heroes of the Storm. This comes in the form of an Azmodan Rework Spotlight Video showing off changes to the this specialist from the Diablo universe, and a Raynor Rework Spotlight Video showing off the long-awaited changes coming to the StarCraft commander. In each case they show off changes intended to make these characters more fun and dynamic while not changing too much of what makes them what they are. They don't have an exact release schedule for these updates, but both videos indicate we should expect them sometime in July. Continue here to read the full story.

Shenmue 3 System Specs

Kickstarter update for Shenmue 3 offers system requirements for the RPG sequel (thanks GameWatcher via VG247). These are pretty modest except for a fairly large disk footprint:
System Requirements for PC Version

  • Minimum:OS: Windows 7x64, Windows 8x64, Windows 10x64 (64-bit OS Required)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-4460 (3.40 GHz) or better; Quad-core or better
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti or better (DirectX 11 card & VRAM 2GB Required)
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband internet connection
  • Storage: 100 GB available space
  • Sound card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional Info: Requires Steam Client to activate.

*Game is currently in development so system requirements may change without notice. We thank you for your understanding.

Steep Season 2 Next Week

Ubisoft announces that Season 2 of live activities for Steep will begin on July 1st, which not unwelcome, since this is not the time of year one expects to be seeing snow in these parts. This trailer shows off what's coming to the wintersports game, and the announcement has a few details: "Ubisoft® today announced that Season 2 of Live Activities is coming soon to Steep. Season 2, called 'Victory Yama,' will land on all available platforms starting July 1 through September 29. Players can participate in monthly live activities and weekly community challenges to unlock exclusive rewards and items." Continue here to read the full story.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker Publishing Deal

Deep Silver announces they will be the publisher of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, the upcoming RPG based on the Pathfinder series which (fairly) recently completed its Kicksterter campaign. The announcement offers some details on the deal and the game:
My.com and Owlcat Games have partnered with Deep Silver to distribute the upcoming roleplaying game Pathfinder: Kingmaker. The game is the first isometric computer RPG in the popular Pathfinder universe, stemming from the incredibly successful Pathfinder role-playing game by Paizo Inc.

“We have ambitious plans for Pathfinder: Kingmaker. We want to reach out to the maximum number of players across the globe, making our brand easily accessible, maintaining quality and doing right by the fanbase. Working with Deep Silver ensures we can step up our retail marketing and benefit from the unique experience offered with KOCH,” said the head of Owlcat Games, Oleg Shpilchevsky.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker takes players on a tour through the infamous Stolen Lands, the dangerous and turbulent territories well known within Pathfinder fandom. The game will revisit familiar characters and well-known locations of the series’ lore as well as treat players to brand new adventures, deadly foes and unforeseen twists and turns. Fans of the fantasy pen-and-paper RPG will experience its epic, heroic universe in new ways while players will discover their favorite genre in a more contemporary light.

Challenging players as both adventurers and rulers, the gameplay heralds your leadership as you claim explored lands and carve your kingdom from the wilderness. Kingdom founding will go beyond simple stronghold-building to become a true reflection of the hero’s character and choices made throughout the game. Each kingdom will be a living thing shaped by alignment, choices, allies and the hero’s ability to lead his or her people.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker is coming this year to PC. Learn more at https://owlcatgames.com/.

Elite Dangerous: Beyond - Chapter Two Launches

This announcement on Steam covers the release of Elite Dangerous: Beyond - Chapter Two, a free version 3.1 update for Elite Dangerous, Frontier's space combat and exploration game. The news is accompanied by this trailer showing off some of what this brings and offering the following summary:
Elite Dangerous: Beyond – Chapter Two is OUT NOW as a FREE content update on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The third Elite Dangerous season continues with the release of its second chapter, featuring new ships, new Thargoid encounters and additional gameplay content. Chapter Three and Chapter Four will launch later this year. The Beyond season of game updates is FREE for all Elite Dangerous and Elite Dangerous: Horizons players.
Continue here to read the full story.

Pro Cycling Manager 2018 Released

Publisher Focus Home Interactive and developer Cyanide Studio announce the launch of the official games of Tour de France 2018 with the release of Pro Cycling Manager 2018 for Windows and Tour de France 2018 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. This website is home to both games, offering details, and Pro Cycling Manager 2018 for Windows is available on Steam. The launch of both games is celebrated in this launch trailer, and they share the following details:
In Pro Cycling Manager 2018 on PC, step into the shoes of a sports manager and lead your pro cycling team through a challenge-packed 2018 season where you’ll compete in more than 200 races and 500 stages around the world, including famous Tours such as La Vuelta and the iconic Tour de France. It’s up to you to make all decisions for your team: hiring the best cyclists and staff, contract negotiations, sponsoring, race scheduling, training… During the race, choose the finest tactics to lead your riders to victory. Play solo or online multiplayer in leagues or clans with up to 16 players and prove to everyone who is the best pro cycling manager!

Your Manager skills will be tested even more this year with advanced contract and new negotiation management in Career mode, thanks to new sponsors negotiations, in-depth transfer, and newly-added recruitment mechanics. A deeper progression system arrives this year in Pro Cyclist mode, with more possibilities than ever to personalize and build your cyclist, as riders now get a double specialization from the beginning of their career – one main and one secondary! Experience enhanced in-race immersion with many improvements, including bigger breakaways and more realistic and aggressive AI during sprints.
Continue here to read the full story.

Overwatch Hero, err, Champion Revealed

A tweet from Overwatch announces "The champion revealed," as Blizzard follows up on their recent tease. It looks like the rolling ball seen in the teaser is a vehicle for a gun-toting rodent coming to Blizzard's multiplayer shooter. Kotaku puts together some previous clues to suggest this is a hamster in a robotic travel ball named Hammond, an outgrowth of the experiments involving Winston on the moon. The reaction to this news on Twitter seems to be... mixed. Presumably we'll learn more soon.

Facebook's Oculus Penalty Halved

Facebook won a pair of legal victories yesterday in a follow-up to the ruling last year that called for them to pay Zenimax $500 million in damages for copyright infringement over virtual reality technology. Bloomberg reports a that this penalty will be cut in half to $250 million, and you know the old saying: A quarter billion here, a quarter billion there... after a while it starts to add up to real money. They also report that a U.S. District Court judge has ruled against Zenimax's demand that sale of Oculus Rift headsets be banned. Here's word:
Kinkeade affirmed the jury’s February 2017 award of $200 million for breach of contract and $50 million for copyright infringement. He wiped out the other $250 million awarded by jurors, including the damages against Oculus co-founders Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey.

A ZeniMax lawyer argued at a hearing a year ago that the Facebook unit was continuing to infringe its copyrights and “a permanent injunction is the only way to stop it.” Oculus argued that a sales ban would place an unfair hardship on the company, its business partners and customers. The judge sided with Oculus.

Oculus contended that the copyright infringement wasn’t “substantial” and that damages should be thrown out. The company said just seven lines of computer code in Oculus software were copied literally from ZeniMax “out of approximately 42 billion lines” introduced as evidence at trial.

ZeniMax said it’s pleased to have won $250 million -- plus $54 million in interest -- and disappointed that the jury verdict was cut in half.

Ultimate Custom Night - New Free Five Nights At Freddy's Mashup

Ultimate Custom Night is now available on Steam, offering a new free game called the ultimate Five Nights At Freddy's mashup (thanks USgamer). Here's word on what you get in return for your nothing:
Welcome to the ultimate FNAF mashup, where you will once again be trapped alone in an office fending off killer animatronics! Featuring 50 selectable animatronic characters spanning seven Five Nights at Freddy's games, the options for customization are nearly endless. Mix and match any assortment of characters that you like, set their difficulty from 0-20, then jump right into the action! From your office desk, you will need to manage two side doors, two vents, as well as two air hoses, all of which lead directly into your office.

This time you will have to master other tools as well if you want to complete the ultimate challenges, tools such as the heater, A/C, a global music box, a power generator, and more. As if all of that weren't enough, you'll also need to set up laser traps in the vents, collect Faz-Coins, purchase items from the prize counter, and as always, keep a close eye on not one, but two, Pirate Cove curtains!

Other features include:

  • Challenge menu including sixteen themed challenges.
  • Voice acting from returning favorites as well as from new arrivals to the franchise!
  • Unlockable office skins!
  • Unlockable cutscenes!

MapleStory 2 Closed Beta Includes Battle Royale

Those interested in MapleStory 2 may want to head over to the Official MapleStory 2 Website, where Nexon America is now accepting signups to beta test the upcoming MMORPG sequel. The plan for closed beta testing to run for two weeks starting on July 18th, and they are offering a couple of additional ways to secure an invitation between now and then. Testing will also include a crack at the game's new battle royale mode, since no game these days is complete without one. Here are the details:
Nexon America today announced Closed Beta 2 for MapleStory 2 running from July 18 through August 1, 2018. New players and fans of the franchise can register now at http://maplestory2.nexon.net/en/signup/.

As fine-tuning of MapleStory 2 continues, Closed Beta 2 will feature new content updates, control improvements and new World Quests for Maplers who need more RPG in their life!

Nexon will be offering multiple ways to enter Closed Beta 2, including:

  • Monster Invasion Retweet Events: Social media events hosted on the official @PlayMaple2 Twitter channel where players will be able to win beta keys;
  • Tria’s Tournament: A website event is running from July 2 to July 12 with special in-game rewards for participants who vote for their favorite class and share their results. Select participants from this tournament will receive access to Closed Beta 2;
  • Razer Partnership: Razer, a world leader in connected devices and software for gamers, will provide fans with beta code giveaways.

Maplestory 2 will also showcase a new battle royale mode called Mushking Royale! Mushking Royale will be available during Closed Beta 2 one weekend only, running from July 20 through July 22, 2018. This new mode will let up to 50 players battle against each other until only one winner survives. Unique features of this mode will include the ability to climb on walls, jump through obstacles, hide in bushes and raise a characters strength by defeating monsters. Benefits of playing Mushking Royale during Closed Beta 2 will include cosmetic rewards for the official launch.

The Slater Announced

Laina Interactive announces The Slater, a stealth/action game coming to Steam later this year. This trailer offers a first look at the concept, and we're still coping with the disappointment that this has nothing to do with Christian Slater (the original Shia LaBeouf). What it does involve is some Death Wish-style vigilante activity, as you play a former cop on a murderous quest for revenge. Here's word:
The Slater puts the players in the shoes of a former cop Mark Slater and sends them on a revenge mission as they seek the source behind the new designer drug D-Pain.

Using stealth tactics, disguises, distractions, and without getting caught, players need to assassinate their targets to avenge their murdered father.

The Slater will give players an opportunity to kill drug dealers and crime bosses in its 6 unique levels it has to offer, each level with its own dark atmosphere.

“At the beginning of each level, players are given a briefing of their next targets and objectives. Players start by exploring their environments, locating their targets and figuring out how to kill the targets without anyone noticing it.” said Alessandro Laina, developer of The Slater.

“Gameplay is mostly nonlinear and players must find their own way to kill the targets.

Some areas are guarded and players need to get past the guards. The game offers multiple ways to approach these situations from simply crawling through a ventilation shaft to killing another guard, putting on their clothes and walking past the guards undetected.”

The Slater encourages players to explore their environments and to think, who should they kill next and how? “Simply shooting everyone with your handgun will get you killed most likely in seconds.” said Alessandro Laina.
Continue here to read the full story.

New Steam Login Tracking Tools

More new tools are available from Valve to allow Steam users to keep better tabs on their accounts, which is likely further fallout from the recent GDPR ruling. There is now a page where you can track recent third-party site logins, a page detailing your recent login history, and a page tracking recently viewed broadcasts. Thanks Steam Database via PCGamesN.

Morning Crowdfunding Roundup

Morning Previews

Morning Mobilization

Hardware Reviews

Out of the Blue

The weather has been pretty mild around here lately, but that's set to change, as they say a heat wave may be beginning tomorrow. Today is to be a transition day, much warmer than yesterday, but not quite sweltering yet. In the meantime we got to experience a bit of the transition in the wee hours of this morning when we were hit with a tumultuous thunderstorm that literally shook the BlueTower to its foundations. We may not be done with that yet, as there are more storms in the forecast, and the humidity is over 90%, so we're really getting into summer here now. I'm just going to try and stay cool using schadenfreude, as we currently have friends staying in Oklahoma, and my pal MrKawfy is heading down to Dallas for the weekend, and unsurprisingly, it should be even hotter in both those locales.

Warm Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: 3D Air Hockey.
Golf Wars.
Science: This novel, one-and-done flu drug could be available soon in the US.
"Find your passion" is bad advice, say Yale and Stanford psychologists.
Media: Maps reveal hidden truths of the world's cities.
The first underwater film is stranger than fiction.
Road Rager Fist Fights With SUV In Florida.
Follow-up: Disney Scores Approval To Acquire Fox.