Halo Infinite remains Battle Royale free, for now

, | News

343 Industries’ Frank O’Connor has responded to rumors that Halo Infinite might launch with a dedicated Battle Royale mode. MSPoweruser tracked down the statement made by O’Connor after speculation that a portion of the game’s budget was being used to create a dedicated mode copying Apex: Legends or even Fortnite. While not totally ruling it out as an option later, O’Connor denied any plans to launch with officially supported Battle Royale, and stated that the developers consider it something the community could make in the popular user-led Forge modification mode.

“But are we interested in big social modes with loads of organic shenanigans? Yes. Specifically A blimp full of survivors heading to an Island after a (metaphorical) lecture from Beat Takeshi? No.”

Halo Infinite still has no release date, but it will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10.

So, you got banned from Fortnite

, | News

Even as Fortnite gears up for another Avengers marketing event, Epic Games is dealing with rampant cheating. The company announced over 1,200 bans handed out to cheaters in the first week of the World Cup Online open tournament. Punishments were given to players sharing and boosting accounts, switching regions, teaming up to trade kills, and even using software modifications. In one strange case, a professional eSports player was tattled on by the person that sold him the cheating app. Cap would give you detention for that.

The Fortnite World Cup Online open tournament will continue until June 16th. The finals will occur on the 26th through the 28th of July.

Your PC has to be up to snuff to get the new stuff for Cuphead

, | News

Cuphead, that dastardly but charming cartoon side-scroller from Studio MDHR, just launched on Nintendo Switch and got a free update on other platforms. The 1.2 update brings older versions up to par with the Switch advancements like character selection right from the beginning of the game, fully animated cinematics, and updated art and effects for enemies.

The PC update comes with a caveat. The developers had to update the whole game to a new version of the Unity engine, leaving less capable systems behind. If you’re stuck on DirectX 9, you’ll need to play an old branch of the game, which means you won’t experience any of the new content. The good news is that this is perfect fodder for debating which version is actually harder and more a measure of your gaming skills.

What are the odds that the Quinault Indian Nation has a beef with Valve?

, | News

The Quinault Indian Nation, a federally recognized self-governing tribe in Washington state, is suing Valve over gambling rights. The lawsuit, filed in Grays Harbor Superior Court, alleges that Valve runs the equivalent of an unlicensed virtual gambling outfit through Steam via skin and loot box purchases. The nation’s lawyers further accuse Valve of benefiting from third-party trading sites and purposefully acting slowly and ineffectually to combat those sites’ exploitation of children. More pragmatically, the Quinault Indian Nation says Valve is cutting into their legal casino business.

“By providing Washington residents with an illegal, online form of gambling, Valve offers unlawful alternatives to gambling at the lawful and highly regulated Quinault Casino, which takes away revenue from both Quinault and local governments.”

The Quinault Indian Nation wants Valve to cease its online gambling business, and asks the Washington Gaming Commission to regulate the practice, or shut it down permanently. You can read a copy of the filing here.

Qt3 Boardgames Podcast: Ethnos; Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea; Gloom of Kilforth

, | Games podcasts

What does a dwarf do that a wizard or troll can’t do? Which of the 4 X’s is hardest to remember? How do you sneak past a volcano? These questions and more are answered in the latest podcast.

Ethnos at 2:36, Heroes of Land, Air, and Sea at 24:00, and Gloom of Kilforth at 46:52. Also, look for the videogame podcast to resume next week, alternating every other week with these boardgame episodes.

Play

Oh, no! There’s something missing on the new Xbox!

, | News

Microsoft has announced the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition console. It’s the same as the current Xbox One S, but with one big difference. There’s no physical media player. Just like the name implies, the budget console is meant for gamers willing to give up discs and go all-in on virtual consumption. Buyers of the new console will get $50 off the price of the regular Xbox One S, putting pre-orders at a svelte $249.99, in exchange for giving up their game resale rights. To sweeten the deal, the All-Digital comes bundled with Sea of Thieves, Minecraft, and Forza Horizon 3.

Gaming and technology have changed quite a bit since the first Xbox debuted in 2001.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition will be available starting on May 7th. Oh, for the bygone days, when gamers lost their minds at the idea of an Xbox that required an online connection!

The next PlayStation is going to be so baller

, | News

The next PlayStation console will feature premium specs, and will probably have a premium price. Wired got an exclusive sneak peek at what Sony is working on for the as-yet-unnamed console, and if the goal is met, the box is going to follow the trajectory of the previous PlayStation products. According to Mark Cerny, the system’s lead architect, the next PlayStation will have more powerful processors, higher-end graphics capability, faster storage, and crisper audio.

The announced specifications are a blend of old and new. A solid state drive will speed the console’s storage, but they are aiming to have it accept games on physical media, even as other companies gear up for an all streaming future. A variant of the Navi graphics processor will push graphics into 8K and ray-tracing (something no console has done yet) but the basic architecture will allow for backwards compatibility for playing PS4 games.

Sony says this console won’t be ready for 2019. In fact, the company has already bowed out of holding an E3 conference this year. They have no details on price or services as yet, but alleged leaks have set the initial retail ask at $499.

Everybody is really excited that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t evil

, | News

Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment announced Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on Saturday. It’s a single player action game centered on the story of a Jedi apprentice named Cal Kestis after the events of Revenge of the Sith, when the newly seated Emperor is purging the galaxy of his enemies. It’s a bad time to be a padawan still struggling with basic stuff like lifting rocks.

The news that has everybody buzzing is that EA has committed to not having microtransactions or loot boxes in Fallen Order. It’s like The New Republic after the evil Empire of Battlefront II. No crazy revenue scheme? What’s going on? Will there be a First Order Starkiller base of a season pass hiding somewhere? Whatever the plan, it’s amazing to see such a basic promise celebrated. Tell people “we won’t cripple this game with horrible free-to-play mechanics” and they dance in the streets as if this wasn’t the norm for decades before. “Let the past die,” seems appropriate.

Elite Dangerous’ new baby area may be just the thing you’ve been waiting for

, | News

Frontier Developments is adding a beginner’s zone to Elite Dangerous. The April update, besides including some quality-of-life features such as an easier to use docking computer and a better autopilot during supercruise, will come with enhancements to the new player experience. For freshman pilots, Elite Dangerous can be a bit of a bear, and it’s hoped that changes like a safe beginner’s zone and an in-game handbook will allow newbies the opportunity to get a better grip on the game before being thrown in with the space wolves. The safety area will give players time to earn their first rank before pushing them out to open space.

The baby play zone update will launch on April 23rd for all platforms.

Champions of Hara is, at last, the Mage Knight we deserve

, | Game reviews

Vlaada Chvatil is a brilliant game designer.  But he’s not much of a storyteller. Like a lot of renowned Eurogame designers, his genius is mechanical instead of imaginative.  Nowhere is this more apparent than Mage Knight, a mercilessly Teutonic exercise in optimization. Bone dry, personality free, almost completely non-interactive when played with others, challenging only for the clock counting down to an inevitable failstate.  Mage Knight demands that you hurry up and optimize faster. That is its core gameplay. Take your time and you lose. Quickly optimize its clockwork interactions and you might win.

It fares a bit better when someone comes along to apply the imagination part.  For instance, Andrew Parks and the Star Trek license. Parks’ Star Trek: Frontiers, an official Mage Knight game, applies a splashy coat of Star Trek paint.  The hand management now represents tuning your starship’s performance. The cards are your crew members. The cities you’re supposed to conquer are mighty Borg Cubes.  The diplomacy is actually diplomacy. Now the cardboard isn’t so bland. Design by Chvatil, flavor by Parks.

But no one has done more for Mage Knight than Walter Barber.

Continue reading →

Damien and Ethan will be fine in The Division 2

, | News

Kit Harrington was the guest host of the most recent Saturday Night Live, and while he gave an underwhelming performance as the main bad guy in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, he did fine as a needy NPC in the above sketch. The “new game” he’s supposed to be in isn’t specifically The Division 2 (there’s a zombie towards the end of the gag) but that hasn’t stopped Ubisoft from commenting.

“You’ll be happy to know that Damien and Ethan are now less chatty with our Invasion update. All hashed out!”

The Division 2 doesn’t actually have a Damien or Ethan that I know of, but I’d play a few missions like that in the middle of gathering widgets for the various bases. I assume a real effort to reconstruct a plague-ridden Washington D.C. would be filled with juggling drama queen personalities.

So you want to be a wargamer? Skip the plinky-dinky and go with Gettysburg

, | Game reviews

Ask a wargamer for a list of “introductory” wargames, and you’ll inevitably get a list of games that look remarkably like the games that person first played when starting in the hobby. Regardless of release date, these games have hexes, a limited number of units, and simple combat results tables, usually odds-based but sometimes just using differentials. The idea seems to be that if you just peel off all the special movement and overrun and supply rules, the simplest things for a new player to master are simply a bunch of hex-based combinatorial exercises.

The problem is that this looks at introductory wargaming from the perspective of a veteran, who has already assimilated the whole wargaming paradigm of force concentration and plinky-dinky factor counting, so stripping off all the “chrome” leaves a simply math puzzle that any grognard can immediately recognize. Unfortunately, for most normal people, the idea of arranging a bunch of chits so that exactly 21 “combat factors” are adjacent to that hex while another 14 are adjacent to that hex, while having to stay within the limits of a different “movement factor” printed on each unit seems like an impossible (and unpalatable) cardboard combat crossword, never mind trying to figure out what it all means. The Battle of the Bulge? What does that have to do with fitting two or three units in a hex that have numbers adding up to twelve?

If you ask Mark Herman what an introductory wargame is, you get a very concise and coherent answer.

Continue reading →

Best thing you’ll see while waiting for Netflix to screw up The Witcher: The Head Hunter

, | Movie reviews

The Head Hunter is pretty modest. But within the confines of what it’s trying to do, it’s entirely competent and even a bit haunting. It’s certainly better than director Jordan Downey’s Thankskilling movies, which were pranks on anyone dumb enough to watch them. Including myself, naturally.

But The Head Hunter is a sedate mood piece good enough to take itself seriously. Just be aware that you’re watching a short film given room to breathe. Room to sprawl toward feature-length. It’s a bit small for its 72-minute running time. But it uses the time wisely, dwelling lovingly on the production design for its homestead in a medieval countryside. When the call is sounded from a nearby castle, a monster somewhere needs killing. The things are everywhere. Flying overhead. Nosing about the window at night. The dude who lives here does the dirty work of keeping them contained.

The secret ingredient in The Head Hunter is the stately and hirsute Christopher Rygh. He cuts a fine figure under all that armor, and especially out from under it. As a dual class monster hunter slash apothecary who put a few points into necromancy, he’s not fooling around and he’s got the biceps to prove it. He is as somber and muted as the cinematography and no matter how silly that helmet looks, he plays it straight-faced and wild-eyed. Frankly, he deserves a bigger movie. Until then, he’s one hell of a way to fill out 72 minutes.