Are you good enough to play the CIA’s games?

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Previously classified CIA tabletop games are now available for public play. Senior Collection Analyst David Clopper created games for the intelligence agency’s training programs, the existence of which Ars Technica wrote about last year. Thankfully, this prompted a Freedom of Information request which was granted, resulting in the games Collection, Collection Deck, and Kingpin: The Hunt for El Chapo being released to the general public.

If you’re curious, but don’t want to painstakingly create your own boards, tokens, and cards, the folks at Two Bats Gaming did the work and sat down to try out the games. Playing the games well is like passing an analog version of the test in The Last Starfighter except you’ll end up piloting a cubicle instead of the Gunstar One.

Flotilla 2 requires a funky set of goggles

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Blendo Games, creators of Quadrilateral Cowboy, Atom Zombie Smasher, and Flotilla have announced Flotilla 2. Unfortunately for fans of the first game looking for another streamlined but stylish turn-based space cruiser combat game to play while lounging in front of a mouse and keyboard, the sequel requires a Vive VR headset. Floaty controls and dizziness at least fits the theme of being in zero gravity.

A nine year old promise for StarCraft II finally made good

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StarCraft II will soon have an in-game marketplace to buy and sell user-made maps. This was a feature shown prior to the release of the original Wings of Liberty installment, but was deemed not ready for public use. Here we are, nine years later, and we’re finally getting the Premium Arcade in the game’s 4.3 update. Like other stores for user-made videogame content, the items sold will be curated by the developers. The initial offering will be the “high-quality premium” maps ARK Star and Direct Strike. Each will cost $4.99 and a portion of the sale will go to the respective creators.

StarCraft II’s Arcade features thousands of user-made maps and mods for free already. It is unknown how many of those authors have been contacted to work with Blizzard on the new marketplace.

The skate parks of death are going to look weird in the next Doom movie

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There’s a new Doom movie in the works. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is too busy making better paying video game films to repeat his performance as Sarge from 2005’s schlocky low-budget Doom movie from Universal Pictures, so this time around we’ll get Nina Bergman in a shlocky low-budget Doom movie from Universal 1440 Entertainment. That’s NBC/Universal’s label specializing in “non-theatrical productions directly for distribution” meaning we can expect the movie to come out on some streaming service or maybe released as web episodes someday. Universal has not said who the director or writer of the movie will be, but they’ll be in Bulgaria to begin production soon!

Coincidentally, Dwayne Johnson recently had a good-natured exchange about his star turn in that 2005 flick while celebrating Rampage’s success:

TheRock: Wow! Very cool RAMPAGE news! Not pointing to the scoreboard yet, but it seems we may have finally broken the dreaded video game curse. And remember, I starred in the stinker “Doom” so I have lived thy curse

DOOM: Replying to @TheRock – Dwayne.

Read about our assessment of Doom’s combat arena skate parks of death here.

Here’s your chance to buy another edition of Grand Theft Auto V

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Rockstar Games has announced Grand Theft Auto V: Premium Online Edition. It’s the same game that everyone has been playing since 2013, with all the free online updates, plus the Criminal Enterprise Starter Pack which gives new GTA Online players a boost of in-game money, vehicles, clothing, and property. You’ll be almost ready to battle the people that have been playing the game and amassing their criminal loot for almost five years.

Ubisoft’s compromising photographs of Jake Gylenhaal continue to pay off

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The movie adaptation of Ubisoft’s The Division has been in the notorious “troubled project” category for a while. But with today’s announcement that David Leitch is attached to direct, it pretty much moves into the “project” category. Leitch is a big deal these days, and officially attaching his name is a real vote of confidence. The co-director of John Wick went on to make Atomic Blonde, which got him the job directing Deadpool 2, which got him the job directing the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham Fast and Furious spin-off. Putting The Division at the end of that line-up is no mean feat. A movie based on The Division is now as likely as, say, a movie based on Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed.

However, Leitch has stressed that his main commitment is to the Fast and Furious spin-off. This means there’s still plenty of time for a Division movie to collapse. But the real mystery to me is Jake Gyllenhaal’s support. Did he not see Prince of Persia? He’s not only putting his name behind a Division movie as one of its stars, but he’s putting his money behind it as one of its producers. And according to whatever press release the Variety announcement is quoting, he’s determined to make sure it’s true to the source material:

Gyllenhaal and [Jessica] Chastain have been with the film project since its conception and have been persistent in making sure that it matches the tone of the video game, while also reaching audiences who appreciate the actors’ own past work.

No word on whether we can look forward to a Michael Fassbender Rabbids movie yet.

Cities Skylines heard you want a theme park builder in your city builder

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Parklife, the next DLC expansion for Cities Skylines, is like a miniature theme park tycoon game nestled in the middle of your sandbox city builder. Zone new park districts and Parklife will allow players to designate tourists’ sightseeing paths with stops at nearby attractions. Plop down some rides or points of interest, set pricing, and let those rubes spend their cash in your tourist trap. There’s no ride designing, so we wont get any Skylines versions of Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride, but we can always build the most unpleasant and dysfunctional cities possible to exercise our sadistic sides.

Cities Skylines Parklife will launch on May 24th.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 might have Battle Royale, and no single player campaign

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There may be no traditional single player story campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. Polygon, Kotaku, and CharlieIntel cite their own sources for these reports stating that publisher Activision halted development on the usual set piece extravaganza of celebrity likenesses and explosions in favor of more multiplayer modes, with rumors pointing to some version of Battle Royale filling out the package. These sources named Raven Software as the primary developer of this Call of Duty’s Battle Royale gameplay. Raven is the studio behind Call of Duty Online available in China which does offer a Battle Royale mode.

Earlier rumors had stated that like Infinite Warfare, this next Call of Duty might offer an HD remake of an earlier game in the franchise as an incentive – in this case, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. That rumor’s detail, that the Modern Warfare 2 remaster would not have a multiplayer component, now makes a lot of sense in light of this new information.

Google’s Semantris is associated with addictive

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Google has a new time-waster based on word association. Semantris, throws words at you and scores the speed and accuracy of your responses. (Accuracy as defined by popularity in the database.) For example, “mountain” in response to “lion” will get you beaucoup points, but “MGM” won’t score well at all because most people wouldn’t think about Leo, the poor MGM Studio’s mascot.

By playing, you’re becoming part of Google’s vast machine-learning system, but we’re all invested anyway. Besides, there’s a score to chase!

Find out first-hand whether Star Citizen is worth the ridicule!

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For the next few days, Star Citizen isn’t just a punchline! Over the Friday the 13th weekend, you can try it for free. Go here to satisfy your curiosity. Although it won’t cost you any money, you will have to register a Star Citizen account. This means you’ll be counted among the Starites, or Citizeners, or Crobots, or Whale Wanna-bes, or whatever Star Citizen players call themselves. Now you’ll be part of whatever number the developer rolls out to demonstrate the game’s popularity. But now you can say you’ve actually played it without people thinking you threw a bunch of dollars into a hole.

Will Star Wars Battlefront II include the Yub Nub song with its ewoks?

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Ewoks, those guerilla warfare teddy bears from Return of the Jedi, will soon be playable in Star Wars Battlefront II. The upcoming Night on Endor update features an Ewok Hunt mode that appears to be a Star Wars riff on the popular “infection” multiplayer versus modes in other games. Ewoks hunt stormtroopers using their woodland weapons, and each stormtrooper killed turns into another ewok hunter. Flip enough stormtroopers, and the ewoks win, allowing them to rock out on some helmet drums and dancing.

The Night on Endor update will also bring the long-awaited cosmetic skins for regular troopers and officers. Here comes the alien heads for rebels and a rainbow of stripe options for stormtroopers.

Why can’t mainstream media write a good article about videogames?

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“There have been 35 major Hollywood live-action films based on video games,” says Shelly Tan at the Washington Post, “and none of them have done better than 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes”. Her article, Why Can’t Hollywood Make a Good Videogame Movie?, is another one of those mainstream articles that assumes videogame movies are bad because they’re videogame movies, not because they’re bad. She says:

“Need for Speed” failed because studios scrambled to adopt something with strong brand recognition instead of something that actually screams out for a film adaptation. The original game’s story is purposefully empty so that the gameplay — car races — can shine. There simply wasn’t a story to adapt.

The template for the Need for Speed movie wasn’t any videogame. Instead, it was The Fast and Furious, a competing movie studio’s hugely successful racing series. Disney wanted a piece of that pie. The videogame label was just a branding deal. As a movie, Need for Speed was typical car culture silliness, with a hint of 70s cross-country counterculture. There were some bright spots in the cast — Imogen Poots, Rami Malek, Dominic Cooper, and a ridiculous Michael Keaton performance as a DJ — and the car sequences were adroitly staged and shot. Which is what you’d expect from a longtime stuntman. Need for Speed’s director had just done a movie called Act of Valor, which was little more than a string of action sequences that would have fit snugly under a Call of Duty brand. If the Need for Speed movie failed (I, uh, actually liked it) there’s no reason to blame the source material, because its connection to the source material was threadbare.

On the other hand, mythology-rich games like “Warcraft” suffer when adapted into movies, too. Trying to stuff over 100 hours of gameplay into a two-hour movie is a doomed effort…

There is zero gameplay stuffed into the World of Warcraft movie. Or inserted in any fashion whatsoever. It is a fantasy movie with lore and visuals inspired by Blizzard’s Warcraft license. The problem is weird cartoony CG, a director out of his element, and a confused script from an inherently ridiculous genre. It could have just as easily been based on Elfstones of Shanarra, Dragonlance, or The Witcher. It’s the same with the recent Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed, and Tomb Raider movies. Their problems have very little to do with the medium of their subject matter and everything to do with bad filmmaking. Consider the Resident Evil movies, which aren’t really Resident Evil movies; they’re Paul W.S. Anderson movies that he makes with Milla Jovovich. They are the Kurosawa and Mifune of movies that happen to have videogame licenses in the title.

Tan suggests “a better game to adapt would be something like “Oxenfree,” which has an eerie coming-of-age story that can be finished in about five hours.” There are two problems with this premise. The first is that the Oxenfree license will put zero butts in seats, and that’s the whole purpose of a licensing deal: it guarantees an audience. The second problem is that Oxenfree’s eerie coming-of-age story has already been done as a movie, may times over. Donnie Darko, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Super Dark, River’s Edge, and so on. But Tan then goes on to say that Last of Us wouldn’t make a good movie because changing it to live action “wouldn’t add much more”.

The problem with this article, and the many articles like it, is the writer’s lack of familiarity with videogames. If you don’t understand videogames, you don’t understand how little of them actually make it into movie adaptations. Movies are an established medium and when they’re bad, it has very little to do with the lack of story in a racing game, or the way games rely on interactivity, or the playing time of a videogame compared to the length of a movie, or the amount of lore in a Blizzard series that dates back to 1994. Tam concludes that there must be something uniquely difficult about adapting a videogame:

…filmmakers have that much more work when it comes to adapting video game material. It isn’t enough to rely on brand recognition or reuse the exact same story; something original and creative has to be added. The tough part is figuring out just what that original thing is.

It’s not tough at all. That original thing is good filmmaking.

(By the way, Shelly Tan does a great job with cleverly designed visual presentations at the Washington Post. Any Game of Thrones fan needs to check out this wonderful thing she made.)

Ghost Recon Wildlands lets Sam Fisher say goodbye to a friendly rival

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Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher is in Ghost Recon Wildlands. It’s a free one-and-done special mission that you can play solo or cooperatively that tasks the Ghosts with assisting Sam while he infiltrates and neutralizes a threat in virtual Bolivia. It’s okay as these sorts of things go. If you played the Predator special operation, you’ll know what to expect.

This mission marks the return of Michael Ironside to the Sam Fisher role. If you’re a fan of the gravelly low rumble that Ironside has made his trademark, then you’ll be in heaven here. Hearing him use that bass to say a sly goodbye to a fellow videogame badass is worth more than any unlockable cosmetic tchotchke you can get as a reward for completing the quest.

Cultist Simulator poses the question, “What if Fallen London had been a card game?”

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At any point, pause this trailer for Cultist Simulator, the upcoming game from Alexis Kennedy, one of the writers behind Fallen London. Now admire the snippets of evocative text the way you’d admire a screenshot from a less imaginative game.

Morland’s Shop. Inspector Wakefield. Glimmering. Enid, an acquaintance. A Red Secret. Paradoxical Curio. I am afraid, sometimes, that they can see what I am, as one sees ink coiling under glass. These are the Dead who do not descend or ascend, but who remain in the Mansus and dream of Winter. It’s eyes are avid, looking, looking. My new body is smooth without and red within like a sweet fruit.

Now imagine piecing these shreds of prose together to make things happen. Now dismay that you won’t be able to do it until May 31st.