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Fortnite gets into Christmas mode with snow, planes and ziplines in season 7

Fortnite, the world’s most popular game, is getting into the festive period after it released its much-anticipated Season 7 update which includes lots of Christmasy touches.

The new season sees an iceberg smash into the island where the battle royale smash hit is located, that means there’s frozen terrain in the form of places like Frosty Flights and Polar Peak as well as falling snow, snow-covered trees and slippery ice.

The most notable update to the playing style is the arrival of X-4 Stormwing planes which you can take for a ride in the skies. Beyond helping you get around quicker, they’re also complete with weapons for shooting down other planes or taking aim at enemies on the ground. The game now also includes ziplines, another useful addition that’ll change how players get around the map.

The festive touches also include wrapping for weapons and vehicles, while there’s a Sergeant Santa skin that’s up for grabs.

Outside the regular battle mode, Epic Games has added a Minecraft-like ‘creative’ mode that gives each player their own island which can be customized. This, to me, is one of the best introductions to date since the new game mode gives players a new way to battle privately with friends.

Creative is initially limited to players who buy the season 7 battle pass, but it’ll be available to all Fortnite gamers after December 13.

Epic Games just gave a perk for folks to turn on 2FA; every other big company should, too

Let’s talk a bit about security.

Most internet users around the world are pretty crap at it, but there are basic tools that companies have, and users can enable, to make their accounts, and lives, a little bit more hacker-proof.

One of these — two-factor authentication — just got a big boost from Epic Games, the maker of what is currently The Most Popular Game In The World: Fortnite.

Epic is already getting a ton of great press for what amounts to very little effort.

Son: Do you know what two-factor authentication is?
Me: Uh, yeah?
Son: I get a free dance on @Fortnitegame if I enable two factor. Can we do that?

Incentives matter.

— Dennis (@DennisF) August 23, 2018

The company is giving users a new emote (the victory dance you’ve seen emulated in airports, playgrounds and parks by kids and tweens around the world) to anyone who turns on two-factor authentication. It’s one small (dance) step for Epic, but one giant leap for securing their users’ accounts.

The thing is any big company could do this (looking at you Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and any other company with a huge user base).

Apparently the perk of not getting hacked isn’t enough for most users, but if you give anyone the equivalent of a free dance, they’ll likely flock to turn on the feature.

It’s not that two-factor authentication is a panacea for all security woes, but it does make life harder for hackers. Two-factor authentication works on codes, basically tokens, that are either sent via text or through an over-the-air authenticator (OTA). Text messaging is a pretty crap way to secure things, because the codes can be intercepted, but OTAs — like Google Authenticator or Authy — are sent via https (pretty much bulletproof, but requiring an app to use).

So using SMS-based two-factor authentication is better than nothing, but it’s not Fort Knox (however, these days, even Fort Knox probably isn’t Fort Knox when it comes to security).

Still, anything that makes things harder for crimes of opportunity can help ease the security burden for companies large and small, and the consumers and customers that love them (or at least are forced to pay and use them).

I’m not sure what form the perk could or should take. Maybe it’s the promise of a free e-book or a free download or an opportunity to have a live chat with the celebrity, influencer or athlete of a user’s choice. Whatever it is, there’re clearly something that businesses could do to encourage greater adoption.

Self-preservation isn’t cutting it. Maybe an emote will do the trick.

Oh, the things I would do to get this cardboard-style Nintendo Switch

Nintendo is building on its strange but wonderful cardboard Labo platform with some sweet Mario Kart integration and a truly fabulous limited edition Switch with a faux-cardboard finish. It really is just the greatest thing and I would do terrible things to have it. Unfortunately some smart kid will probably get it, because you have to win it by designing something cool with Labo.

So, first the Mario Kart stuff. If you have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch, and you really should because it’s excellent, you can now use the Toy-Con (buildable with the Labo Variety Kit) as a sort of real-world controller. You twist the right “handlebar” to accelerate and rotate the whole thing to turn.

This is the first game to get its own special Labo support, but the company says more are on the way. Splatoon 2, perhaps?

If you’re a creative type and you have a Labo set, you’re in luck. There are two new contests you can enter, and entry puts you in the running to win the amazing neutral-colored Switch shown up top. I really don’t know why I love it so much, but I do. And if you do too, you should enter. (If you’re in the U.S. or Canada. Sorry, world.)

The first challenge is to create a musical instrument with the Toy-Con pieces and “craft materials.” You’ll have to document its creation and show it working on video; it’ll be judged on “Quality, Creativity, Spirit, and Sound.” Caps Nintendo’s.

The second challenge is to create a game or game-like experience using Toy-Con Garage. Same judgment categories as before, minus Sound.

There will be one grand prize winner and four runners up per contest. Grand prize is that amazing Switch (approximate retail value $1,000?!), plus a cool (?) Labo jacket. Runners up get a pair of cardboard style Joy-Cons and a jacket. Respectable.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to pick up that Labo kit again or use some random pieces you never tried, this is surely that reason. Now get to work!

Singapore-based game studio Mighty Bear raises $2.5M ahead of debut release

Mighty Bear, a game studio startup that grew out of King.com’s former office in Singapore, has landed new funding as it readies its debut title for smartphones.

The startup was founded by four former King.com staffers — Simon Davis, Fadzuli Said, Benjamin Chevalier and Saurabh Shukul — after the gaming giant closed its Singapore office — inherited via the acquisition of Non Stop Games — following its $5.9 billion acquisition by Activision. Today, Mighty Bear’s team of 18 counts experience working with Ubisoft, EA, Lucasarts, Disney, Gameloft and others.

The startup previously raised $775,000 in a pre-seed round in early 2017, and this time around it has pulled in a seven-figure USD investment. The deal is officially undisclosed, but a source with knowledge of discussions told TechCrunch it is worth around $2.5 million.

The deal was led by U.S.-based Skycatcher, New York hedge fund banker Eric Mindich’s Everblue fund, and M Ventures from Los Angeles. Others in the round include Singapore’s Atlas Ventures, Lev Leviev — who is co-founder of VK.com among other things — and existing backer Global Founders Capital, which is affiliated with Rocket Internet.

“We’ve already got a good set of investors from Europe and Asia so we realized we needed networks in North America, too,” Mighty Bear CEO Simon Davis told TechCrunch in an interview.

Davis added that, beyond extending their reach for purposes like hiring, partnerships and more, they open up the potential for IP and media deals further down the road.

First thing first though: Mighty Bear is working to launch its first title, which Davis said will be an MMORPG. Right now, it is being secretly tested for scalability and technical capabilities among users in India and the Philippines with a view to a full launch on iOS and Android later this year. Davis said the company plans to launch another title, too, with both games managed concurrently.

“We’ve basically taken a genre that we know is monetized and engaged with hardcore users and tried to bring it to a large audience. Our goal is to take big desktop experiences and streamline them into five-minute bursts,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

You may not know it, but you may have run into Mighty Bear’s concepts already even though it hasn’t fully launched a title yet. That’s because part of the research and development process includes creating and disseminating videos and advertising for mock games through channels like Facebook.

That, Davis explained, can help Mighty Bear in all manner of ways, from basics such as figuring out what kind of visuals or advertising approach gets engagement from users, to broader purposes such as understanding the types of games that people want to play.

“The process helps witter down ideas to those that will get traction with users. If a game makes it through the various internal gates we have, and to soft launch, then we have the best potential for it to perform well,” Davis said.

Developing artwork and advertising for ‘fake’ games isn’t as obscure as it may sound. While it isn’t usual for smaller studios, it’s a practice that Davis said is common at huge game development companies — that in turn is a reflection in the experience that the team at Mighty Bear has under its belt.

‘Fallout: 76’ goes fully online in November

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Fallout is going online with Fallout: 76.

The world got an in-depth look at what to expect with Fallout: 76 during Bethesda’s E3 press conference on Sunday. The latest game from the Fallout franchise takes place entirely online, meaning you’ll be able to play with other players if you’d like for the first time and either team up to fight monsters or try to blow each other’s limbs off starting on Nov. 14.

As we learned with Fallout: 76‘s reveal a couple weeks ago, the game takes place in West Virginia where players are some of the first people to emerge from the country’s vaults on the tricentennial: 2076. Read more…

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Facebook launches gaming video hub to take on Twitch

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Facebook is going after those eyeballs on Twitch.

The social network has launched fb.gg, a hub which makes it easier for people to find gaming content that’s been streamed on the platform.

Front and centre in the hub are primarily popular titles such as Fortnite, PUBG and FIFA 18, as well as a selection of recommended streams. 

If you’re already following a streamer, they’ll appear on the sidebar, and you can also view streams that your friends on Facebook have recently watched too.

Image: facebook

Facebook is also making its monetisation scheme a fixture in its Level Up Program, which it trialled earlier this year. Read more…

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Ariana Grande, Jimmy Fallon play ‘No Tears Left to Cry’ on a Nintendo Labo

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Yes, they’re really playing music on Nintendo’s Labo.

Specifically Jimmy Fallon and The Roots, who joined Ariana Grande to play her newest single “No Tears Left To Cry” on The Tonight Show Monday night.

Fallon told IGN he and the band worked with Nintendo to create guitars and other instruments out of cardboard.

“It was totally bizarre and such a gamble,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was going to sound good, but Ariana is always down to try something fun and different. Anyone can do what we did really, it just takes time. Whatever you dream of, you can make it.” Read more…

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Nintendo’s $20 charging stand finally fixes the Switch’s kickstand problem

Versatility has also been on of the Switch’s best features. The latest Nintendo system is a fascinating hybrid device that skirts the line between home and portable gaming. Still, there are some in-between scenarios the console didn’t get quite right out of the box.

The kickstand problem has plagued the otherwise well-received device since its earliest days. It falls over often, it’s puts the device at a weird angle, and worst of all, the charging port is on the bottom, so you can’t play the system in table top mode while it’s plugged it.

Just ahead of E3, the company’s showing off a $20 solution. The simply named Adjustable Charging Stand props the system, while keeping it plugged in, via an AC adapter port on the side.

An adjustable kickstand on the back, meanwhile, means you can change the viewing angle, depending on the height of the surface it’s on. That’s good news for those times when you don’t have a TV set to plug into, but still want to pull out the Joy-Cons to get the full experience — be it on a desk or an airport tray table. 

The peripheral hits stores July 13.

Chinese authorities dish out $5M in fines for developers of PUBG hack software

There has long been speculation and evidence of cheating software for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), but action is being taken to stamp it out. The makers of the smash-hit game have confirmed that they have worked with authorities in China who have dished out over $5 million in fines to at least 15 people caught developing hacks that help players cheat.

PUBG, in case you missed it, is one of the top-grossing games in the world this year. A shoot-up battle royale game that sees players battle to survive to the end, PUBG grossed $700 million in revenue via PC sales last year and that’s only increased in 2018 as the title landed on mobile. It’s particularly big in China where internet giant Tencent is the publishing partner.

That Tencent link might have proved useful, as Bluehole — the company behind PUBG — revealed in a statement that Chinese authorities have helped it clamp down on hacking programs, handing out the huge number of fines in the process:

Here’s some translated information from the local authorities we worked with on this case:

“15 major suspects including “OMG”, “FL”, “火狐”, “须弥” and “炎黄” were arrested for developing hack programs, hosting marketplaces for hack programs, and brokering transactions. Currently the suspects have been fined approximately 30mil RNB ($5.1mil USD). Other suspects related to this case are still being investigated.

While the programs were being developed in China and there were users there too, it isn’t clear whether that reach extended to gamers in the U.S. and other countries.

Beyond just cheating, there is also a significant risk for those who use the hacked software.

Bluehole said it found evidence that the programs were used by their developers to infect host PCs in order to “control users’ PC, scan their data, and extract information illegally.” Some, it is said, used Trojan Horse software to steal user information — that could mean information from when they shop online (like credit card numbers), the content of emails, and more.

You’ll look ridiculous playing Snapchat’s new AR games, and maybe that’s OK

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When the iPad first came out, people looked kinda ridiculous using it out and about. 

That doesn’t quite compare to Snapchat’s new AR games feature, “Snappables,” which consists of games that let you control what’s happening using your face.

As witnessed in the Snappables trailer, you can fight aliens in an Space Invaders-style game by moving your head around, or pump iron at the gym with your eyebrows. You can also invite friends on Snapchat to play along in multiplayer games.

There are very few of us with the confidence to play Snappables in public, but at least Snap is encouraging you to try. Read more…

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Tribe combines arcade games with group video chat

Sick of chatting but want to stay connected? Tribe‘s app lets you play clones of Space Invaders, Flappy Bird, Fruit Ninja, Name That Tune and more while video chatting with up to seven friends or strangers. Originally a video messaging app, Tribe failed to gain traction in the face of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. But thanks to a $3 million funding round led by Kleiner Perkins in June, Tribe had the runway to pivot into video chat gaming that could prove popular, even if not in its app.

“As we all know, Messaging is a super-crowded area,” says Tribe co-founder Cyril Paglino. “If you look closely, very few communication products have been blowing up in the past three years.” Now, he says “we’re building a ‘Social Game Boy.’”

A former breakdancer, Paglino formed his team in France before renting a “hacker house” and moving to San Francisco. They saw traction in late 2016, hitting 500,000 downloads. Tribe’s most innovative feature was speech recognition that could turn a mention of “coffee” into a pre-made calendar request, a celebrity’s name into a link to their social media accounts, locations into maps and even offer Spotify links to songs playing in the background.

The promise of being the next hit teen app secured Tribe a $500,000 pre-seed from Kima and Ludlow Ventures in 2015, a $2.5 million seed in 2016 led by prestigious fund Sequoia Capital and then the June 2017 $3 million bridge from KPCB and others. But that $6 million couldn’t change the fact that people didn’t want to sign up for a new chat app when their friends were already established on others.

Luckily, Tribe saw a new trend emerging. Between HQ Trivia’s rise, the Apple App Store adding a Gaming tab, celebrities like Drake streaming their gameplay and Snapchat acquiring 3D gaming engine PlayCanvas, the Tribe team believed there was demand for a new way to play.

Tribe’s rebuilt iOS and Android apps let you rally a crew of friends or join in with strangers to play one of its old-school games. You’ll hear their voices and see their faces in the corner of the screen as everyone in your squad vies for first place. It’s like Houseparty’s group video chat, but with something to do. Facebook Messenger has its own gaming platform, but the games are largely asynchronous. That means you play separately and merely compare scores. That’s a lot less fun than laughing it up together as one of your buddies runs their race car off the road or gets attacked by an alien.

The only problem is that since your friends probably aren’t on Tribe already, the app is vulnerable to cloning by its bigger competitors. Paglino cited technical challenges his team has overcome, its young demographic and lessons learned from 18 months of iterations as what could keep Tribe from being easily co-opted. But as even public companies like Snapchat have learned, it can be tough to stay ahead of tech giants like Facebook with huge development teams, plenty of cash and apps that are already popular.
Tribe’s games are legitimately fun, and the video chat makes them feel a lot more like hanging out with friends and less like a waste of time. Even if Tribe isn’t the one to make mobile group video chat gaming ubiquitous, it could see its idea entertain millions… just in someone else’s app.

Trump’s take on gaming and violence was wrong in the ’90s and it’s twice as wrong now

 A cobbled-together meeting at the White House is the latest chapter in the long, misguided crusade against video games. It would be comical if the country were not in a bitter ongoing debate about gun control and the safety of children; but since we are, it’s frustrating that time is still being spent on this long-settled “debate” instead of on practical matters. Read More

Chat app Kakao’s games business lands $130M from Tencent and others ahead of IPO

 Korea’s dominant messaging firm Kakao is back raising funds after its games business, a standalone unit that is headed for an IPO, pulled in $130 million (140 billion KRW) from Tencent and a range of other strategic investors. The company, which owns Korea’s top mobile messaging app and one of the country’s largest internet portals, operates a sprawl of business that… Read More

Guy discovers cheeky easter egg on a PS2 disc 14 years after it was released

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We doubt anyone pays attention to what’s on a gaming disc, unless the thing is scratched.

But if you have a copy of 2004’s The Bard’s Tale, the rather funny RPG has an easter egg printed on the disc certain fans might be aware of.

For the rest of us underlings, we’ve only just discovered the joke via a tweet posted by @ajelansolo on Saturday. Here he’s posted a picture of the PlayStation 2 disc, which has the message “really disturbing image… flip disc over.” 

The disc, of course, is reflective.

This PS2 game just flat out gave me the most devastating burnpic.twitter.com/exyaOXRzDL

— A$AP BLOCK ME (@alejansolo) February 9, 2018 Read more…

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Nintendo is bringing Mario Kart to mobile

 In news that will excite every Nintendo fan on the planet, the Japanese gaming giant just announced that it will bring its hugely popular Mario Kart series to mobile. Nintendo teased the upcoming development of ‘Mario Kart Tour’ which it said will be released sometime before March 2019. A long wait, indeed, and for now we have no additional details. But, for most enthusiasts,… Read More

Ford the river with kombucha and craft beer in the millennial version of ‘The Oregon Trail’

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Played The Oregon Trail in school? The classic classroom frontier game has had a modern day makeover.

An ambitious promotional tool from Travel Oregon, a “semi-independent” agency created by the Oregon Legislature, Travel Oregon: The Game is an homage to the educational staple, allowing you to explore all seven regions of the state. 

The game isn’t produced by the original team, according to Munchies, but it has the same 8-bit look and addictive nature. The game’s goal, as tradition stipulates, is to keep morale high, while playing different activities — or you’ll be writing tombstones.  Read more…

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‘Paperbark,’ the game that’s a love letter to unspoilt Australian nature

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While Australia’s renowned natural beauty is often plastered on postcards and featured in the occasional film, it’s something yet to be represented in the gaming world.

Paperbark, set to release early next year initially on iOS, will change all that. The game focuses on the life of a sleepy wombat exploring Australian bushland, discovering all kinds of flora and fauna along the way.

The game was originally the final year project of RMIT game design students Ryan Boulton, Nina Bennett and Terry Burdak. All three grew up in regional Victoria, and wanted to focus on creating a game that looked like an Australia they knew. Read more…

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Cult game Football Manager 2018 is adding support for gay players

 Cult soccer football simulation game Football Manager has taken an historic step with the introduction of support for gay players in its next launch. The upcoming 2018 version of the franchise, which typically generates over one million sales per year, will for the first time see players to come out in the game. Sports Interactive, the company behind the hit, said the feature will only apply… Read More

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Pro ‘League of Legends’ player fired after he abuses girlfriend during livestream

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Warning: This story is about an incident that is distressing.

A professional League of Legends player has fired from his team, after he beat up his girlfriend and inadvertently livestreamed the incident.

Chinese player Li Wei Jun, better known as “Vasilii” in the gaming world, was on Thursday livestreaming his gameplay of a match, which he proceeded to lose.

His girlfriend is heard in the background telling him not to lose his temper, especially during a livestream where many fans would be watching him.

“I told you not to speak in such a manner. You have a problem you know, you keep losing your temper,” she says. Read more…

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21-year-old woman loses her eyesight after staring at her smartphone game for days

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A woman from China has gone partially blind, after spending an entire day playing a game on her smartphone.

The 21-year-old, who goes under the pseudonym Wu Xiaojing, was a hardcore fan of popular multiplayer smartphone game Honour of Kings.

Wu, who works in finance, was said to have been playing the game for several hours when she suddenly lost her sight in her right eye.

She was taken to several hospitals and was diagnosed with Retinal Artery Occlusion (RAO) in her right eye.

Read more…

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