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Monday, Jan 07, 2019


Orcs Must Die! Unchained & Hero Academies Closing

Robot Entertainment announces they are closing down Orcs Must Die! Unchained, Hero Academy, and Hero Academy 2 as of April 8th, saying of the news "it's painful to even write this" (thanks VMatrix). The post includes a FAQ that explains that none of these games is any longer pulling its weight: "Orcs Must Die! Unchained and Hero Academy 2 have been unable to maintain a sufficient player base to cover the operational costs to keep the games running. The original Hero Academy has been technically obsolete for a long time now. We could not maintain the pace of operating system updates from Apple. It was actually removed from the App Store in early 2018." Here's more from CEO Patrick Hudson:

It's painful to even write this. We are sorry to say that we will be closing down Orcs Must Die! Unchained, Hero Academy, and Hero Academy 2.

Making and supporting a game is a long and challenging journey. Along the way, there are plenty of highs and plenty of lows. The communities who play our games join us on these journeys. We know this decision affects our players as much as it does us.

We've kept these games operating at a financial loss for many months. Unfortunately, it's no longer sustainable for us to do so. We must shift our focus to future games and make our investments there.

All three games will remain playable until Monday, April 8th, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. Central Time (UTC-05:00). Commencing immediately, all players logging into Orcs Must Die! Unchained and Hero Academy 2 will receive a substantial free grant of hard and soft currencies to enjoy the remaining weeks of live play. You may have to wait up to 24 hours for the currency grant to arrive in your account. We do not have a way to immediately make the grants upon first login.

All of us at Robot would like to thank everyone who has played one of these games. We've loved interacting with you in game, on our forums, and at places like PAX. We hope you give us the opportunity to join you again in our future games.

Valve Getting the Bans Back Together - Sets New Monthly VAC Ban Record

Gamasutra notes that Valve served up a record 600+K VAC bans in the month of December, saying this new record for bans comes right as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive went free-to-play. This was sparked by a tweet from Nors3 on the topic, and cross-referencing this with SteamDB indicates the December ban total covered a half-million more accounts than were banned in November. Here's a bit:

Data spotted by Nors3 on Twitter shows that Valve issued 609,373 VAC (Valve Anti-Cheat) bans in the month of December, a modest 500,000 increase from November’s numbers (according to the third-party tracker SteamDB) and what looks to be new all-time record.

SteamDB’s count for the month is a little bit higher at 611,497, but its week-by-week breakdown shows that the bans hit in 5 waves throughout December, with each giving between 56,000 and 85,000 accounts the ax.

Alien: Blackout a Mobile Game

The good news about the tease and its follow-up that surfaced over the weekend for an Aliens project is that this indeed turns out to be for Alien Blackout, a title discovered late last year through its trademark filing. The bad news, for PC gamers at least, is that this will be a mobile offering. A new Alien: Blackout website (thanks Variety) has the details, and here's a bit:

The terror of Alien is brought to life in Alien: Blackout. Try to stay alive while trapped aboard a crippled Weyland-Yutani space station carrying a deadly Xenomorph as it tirelessly hunts you and the crew. Outsmart the perfect hunter by making perilous choices. Players must rely on the damaged controls of the space station or risk sacrificing crew members to avoid deadly contact, permanently altering the outcome of the game.

Survive seven fear-inducing levels by remotely guiding Amanda Ripley’s crew through increasingly challenging tasks using only the station’s emergency systems. The uncertainty and unpredictability of both the alien and her crew can impose total defeat for Amanda and the entire station.

Alien: Blackout is a unique fear-inducing horror premium mobile game experience that will test the inner nerves of both Alien and horror fans alike, where life can end in an instant.

X4: Foundations Multiplayer Beta

EGOSOFT announces beta testing is now underway for X4: Foundations: Online Ventures, a new update for X4: Foundations that adds multiplayer support, a first for the space simulation. This is easy enough for owners of the game to check out, because although the feature is still in beta, it is now present in the normal edition of the game available through and Steam following the game's update to version 1.50. They offer this video with a further explanation of how this works along with a look at gameplay. Here are some details:

EGOSOFT announced today that the X franchise's first-ever online mode is now in BETA. X4: Foundations: Online Ventures lets players send a ship into other players' universes and allows visitors into their own. X4: Foundations: Online Ventures is the centerpiece of the game's first update, which also adds the ability to ask people for directions, reintroduces a more talkative Betty shipboard computer and fixes a list of issues.

X4: Foundations: Online Ventures Key Features:

  • Visitors to a universe can easily be identified in HUD and on the map. Players can assign a ship to a venture dock before sending it into a parallel universe. Additionally, after building a VENTURE PLATFORM and a VENTURE DOCK, they can send any S or M ship on a selected venture.
  • Each different venture unlocks different rewards and, FOR NOW, they are all safe! Ventures can take anywhere from one hour to several (real-time) days and will, with a bit of luck, unlock some exclusive rewards on success.
  • Every player can get one venture platform and one venture dock and build it on any station or on his or her player HQ.

While the online venture gameplay is now available to all with the normal version of X4: Foundations on Steam and GOG, the online feature itself is still in BETA. There is no risk to your saved games or to stability, but the ventures themselves might go wrong.

Participation in this new online mode is entirely optional and only possible with one unmodified saved game at a time!

Continue here to read the full story.

New HTC Vive Hardware and Viveport Subscription Announcements

GameSpot has word that a new Viveport Infinity option is being added to the mix which goes beyond previous limitations to allow unlimited access to the entire Viveport catalog of virtual reality games. As for the Vive hardware these run on, Ars Technica has word on a pair of new VR headsets announced by HTC at CES. These are the HTC Vive Pro Eye, a standalone virtual reality headset with eye-tracking for PCs, and the HTC Cosmos, an untethered VR headset that will work with PCs and smartphones. Release dates and specs for the new hardware are noticeably absent, but they do have some details:

HTC kicked off its CES 2019 presence with two significant product reveals: the HTC Vive Pro Eye, a new, standalone virtual reality headset for PCs, and the HTC Cosmos, an untethered VR headset that will work with smartphones or PCs.

While specs and price for the Vive Pro Eye headset are currently unknown, its biggest upgrade is a rarity in the PC VR space: built-in eye tracking, so that a users' eye direction and movement can be measured for the sake of better VR performance. To that aim, HTC used its CES press conference on Monday to confirm that the headset will ship with foveated rendering support. As in, a VR game or app can render fewer pixels in the parts of the VR display that aren't being looked at by a user. This implies, but doesn't confirm, that HTC will make tools available for developers to marry the Vive Pro Eye's eye-tracking sensors with 3D rendering engines.

The Elder Scrolls Online Announcement Announced

The Elder Scrolls Online Website urges us to "get ready for ESO's next big announcement," which is coming for Bethesda's MMORPG a week from tomorrow. Word is: "The cat's out of bag! Ready yourself, adventurer. A massive announcement for The Elder Scrolls Online is on the way! Find out how you can learn about the upcoming ESO Chapter and what's coming to the game in 2019." In order to insure this all goes off as bigly as planned, they are promising freebies, swag, and punitive tattoos based on viewership. Here's more:

Tune in to on Tuesday, January 15 at 5:00PM EST to be one of the first to learn about the next exciting adventure in The Elder Scrolls Online. Join us as Creative Director Rich Lambert announces what is coming to ESO in 2019 live to the world from the Twitch studio in San Francisco.

Want to earn some amazing goodies? In addition to Twitch Drops (PC/Mac only), you and your fellow viewers could unlock amazing rewards for all, simply by watching the stream. As the show hits certain peak concurrent viewer count milestones, the following rewards will be unlocked:

  • 55k concurrent viewers: A unique Wallpaper based on the next Chapter’s concept art
  • 70k concurrent viewers: A Hot Pepper Bantam Guar pet for all ESO players across all platforms
  • 90k concurrent viewers: Rich will commit to getting an ESO tattoo somewhere (SFW) on his body!

However, that’s not all! Drop in early to check out the ESO pre-stream show (full details coming soon), and be sure to stick around after the show as special community guests discuss the latest news with Rich and ESO Community Managers Jessica Folsom and Gina Bruno!

Anthem Video

NVIDIA offers the official CES 2019 trailer for Anthem, BioWare's upcoming mechanized action/RPG. Here's word:

Check out the latest exclusive 4K Anthem gameplay revealed at our CES 2019 keynote! It features never-before seen Javelin, enemies, and environments.

The team is happy to announce that DLSS is coming to Anthem thanks to the hard work of Bioware and NVIDIA. Be ready for the PC launch on February 22nd, 2019!

Continue here to read the full story.

Double Cross This Week

Double Cross launches on Thursday on Steam and Switch, offering an action/adventure from 13AM Games that features what they call a special sling mechanic that allows you to throw objects at your enemies. This sounds a little futile in light of your opposition including robots and dinosaurs, but we'll assume you throw like a baseball pitcher. This trailer shows off the game's platforming action as well as some slinging in action. Here's more:

Double Cross involves fireballs, karate chop master combat, massive dinosaur enemies and a unique proton slinging mechanic that allows you to grab objects and throw them, as well as get you past difficult platforming challenges.

The game is Mega Man-like and features a depth of gameplay, including the following. Codes are available.

  • A unique sling fighting mechanic
  • Brawling combat
  • Interdimensional levels where a different gameplay mechanic is used to complete each level
  • Character customization (upgrade your character's skills how you see fit)
  • Nonlinear storytelling so you can pick what levels you want to play and in which order
  • A robust investigation system where you need to find clues and take them to the correct characters

Continue here to read the full story.

On Sale

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Into the Black

Link of the Day: Best TV News Bloopers Fails #2. Not new, but includes some amazing moments.

G-SYNC Expands to Some FreeSync Monitors

At CES NVIDIA announced it is expanding the availability of G-SYNC to some monitors not specifically designed for this frame-syncing technology. A new driver release on January 15th will add GYSNC support to 10- and 20-series graphics cards for a dozen monitors "capable of variable refresh rates (VRR) using the VESA DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync protocol." They don't mention FreeSync at all, but the "G-SYNC Compatible" monitors are listed on this page advertize native FreeSync support. FreeSync was developed by AMD as a competitor to G-SYNC, and both are ways of providing high framerates and tear-free graphics without requiring the use of Vsynch, and since it doesn't carry the same licensing costs as GSYNC, supporting it is less expensive to manufacturers and consumers. They say they tested 400 monitors to come up with the 12 on their compatible list, so this is more on a case-by-case basis than is universal support, but they do say they will continue to test monitors and update the list. Along the way they also announce new Big Format screens for living rooms with G-SYNC HDR support and a range of new G-SYNC monitors, but there's no word on whether they are dropping G-SYNC licensing fees for manufacturing partners. Here are more details:

G-SYNC Compatible tests will identify monitors that deliver a baseline VRR experience on GeForce RTX 20-series and GeForce GTX 10-series graphics cards, and activate their VRR features automatically.

Support for G-SYNC Compatible monitors will begin Jan. 15 with the launch of our first 2019 Game Ready driver. Already, 12 monitors have been validated as G-SYNC Compatible (from the 400 we have tested so far). We’ll continue to test monitors and update our support list. For gamers who have monitors that we have not yet tested, or that have failed validation, we’ll give you an option to manually enable VRR, too.

For the most demanding gamers, G-SYNC and G-SYNC Ultimate HDR displays featuring an NVIDIA G-SYNC processor will represent the very highest image quality, performance and experience. These displays will benefit from an end-to-end certification process that includes more than 300 tests for image quality.

They’ll feature a full refresh rate range from 1 Hz to the display panel’s maximum rate, plus other advantages like variable overdrive, refresh rate overclocking, ultra-low motion blur display modes and industry-leading HDR with 1,000 nits, full matrix backlight and DCI-P3 color.

Battlefield V and Anthem NVIDIA Bundles

NVIDIA announces the addition of DLSS to Battlefield V and Anthem, saying each game will support their new high-speed anti-aliasing scheme. Word is: "With RTX ON in Battlefield V, gamers will get the best of both worlds; beautiful real-time ray tracing and smooth frame rates with DLSS. Get RTX ON with performance similar to RTX OFF." They also announce new RTX benchmarks and demos as more ways to show off the power of their newest hardware. And to fully get the chocolate and peanut butter together, they announce the GeForce RTX Game On Bundle offers a free copy of either Anthem or Battlefield V with the purchase of an eligible RTX 2070 or (newly announced) RTX 2060 graphics card or free copies of both games for those who buy an eligible 2080 or 2080 Ti card. This page has a list of cards and systems that carry these offers.

U.K. Sales Charts

GFK Chart-Track announces the first results of the new year in their accounting of weekly game sales in the U.K. Word is: "2019 kicks off with ‘FIFA 19’ returning to No1 in the All Formats Chart, overturning ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’s grip on top spot by only a small margin. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ has to settle for No2 and with no new releases due until next week there is very little movement elsewhere." Here's that all platforms chart for the week ending January 5th, and here is the PC top 30. The following are the first 10 entries on the PC list:


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Out of the Blue

MrsBlue and I are off to the doctor to give blood in advance of our annual checkups. The timing of this helps illustrate how overworked the medical system is, as we used to go in November and because of that burden, make our next appointments a year in advance. Even with that, availability is so touchy our visits progressed through December and are now into January. I wonder if we'll be able to get new appointments before next February? Either way, all of this became less of a hardship once my doctor told me the fasting they require before these tests does not require that I skip my morning coffee, so I can roll with about any other aspect of this that comes up.

Links: Thanks Ant.
Play: Gears.
Stories: Snubs, surprises and a Satanic shout-out? Key Globes moments.
Science: I lost 13 stone – now I know the truth about obesity. Thanks JDreyer.
Media: The Soft Lies Advertisers Are Legally Allowed To Tell You.
"Watchmen," "Thrones" Clips In HBO 2019 Trailer.
Follow-up: Daniel Craig and Idris Elba spark Bond rumors.

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