Battlefield V Firestorm gets one thing right that almost no one else does

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Battlefield V’s Firestorm mode is live now. It features all the stuff you’d expect from a battle royale game from DICE. You drop onto a battlefield sans any weapons or equipment, madly scramble to get kitted up, then kill other players as a circle of death forces everyone into an increasingly smaller play area until only the final survivor (or team) remains. The Battlefield V wrinkle is that there are tanks and other armored vehicles to fight in and over, and most of the structures are fully destructible, which is as it should be since we’re talking about a series built on “levelution” and squads of players riding on camels. It’s a fine interpretation of battle royale, but it remains to be seen how well this Johnny-come-lately does against the already established heavyweights that are either free-to-play or have been around for months. Regardless of how its received by the audience, there’s one thing Firestorm does perfectly that none of the other games do well.

Firestorm takes its name from the apocalyptic ring of fire that encircles the battlefield. In other battle royale games, the circle of death is a technobabble contrivance that lays bare the gamey nature of the mode. It often has no basis for existing in the in-game fiction except it must exist to make the mode work. It’s a blue crackling field of energy controlled by some sadistic arena AI. It’s a red circle of radiation that pulses inwards because of reasons. It’s artillery that blankets the countryside. It may as well just be a pair of giant game designer hands that pushes players together. It’s not even much motivation to move! There are well-known tactics that depend on staying just outside of the safe area during the final moments of the match to maximize a player’s distance from the action. None of this is true in Firestorm. It’s literally a flaming circle, the aftermath of overzealous incendiary bombing, that destroys everything. Nowhere is safe. Houses and barns are chewed into spectacular conflagrations. Trees burst into match-paper kindling. Fire races along the ground, melting roads and reducing grass to ash. The visual and sound design of the storm is panic-inducing. Even if you could keep calm, being overtaken by the fire is a death sentence measured in seconds. That’s the other thing. It’s fast, unlike most danger zones in battle royale. The safe circle contracts at a breakneck pace once it gets going. No dawdling here! You move, or you get covered in fire. Firestorm is terrifying.

In Koushun Takami’s 1999 Battle Royale novel, the island the students are forced to fight each other on is divided into a grid, and being in a grid sector after it’s been declared off-limits results in an explosive collar decapitating the offender. The zones change a few times during the book, pushing the surviving students around the island’s geography and forcing them to engage. It’s a great system in the story, but too complicated for videogames which would need some intelligent grid sectoring to chase players around and would require too much of the players’ attention. The constricting circle of death we’ve settled on works well because it’s simple to understand, can be parsed quickly on a minimap, and is relatively easy to program. Firestorm takes that concept and makes it more than a barely motivating gameplay mechanic.

Most Bone Tomahawk thing you’ll see all week: Dragged Across Concrete

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Craig Zahler has no one to blame but himself for what will probably be a career of making movies that aren’t as good as Bone Tomahawk.  He got off to a solid start with a formulaic, uneven, and ultimately forgettable prison yarn called Brawl in Cell Block 99. The whole thing felt like a build up to a special effect that wasn’t even that good.  That’s why I watched this movie? So you could do that? Dragged Across Concrete feels like a do-over. This is what I expect from the guy who made Bone Tomahawk.

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Garbage slot machine mobile games can still make money

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Two indie developers made over $50,000 in revenue from a 2013 game jam lark by developing a program that created and uploaded simple ad-supported slot machine games to Google Play. By working with Unity and other tools, Alex Schwarz and Ziba Scott knocked out a robo-studio that could upload 15 terrible mobile games a day to Google’s digital storefront.

With names like “3D Rough Elbow Slots” and “3D Inexperienced Great Horned Owl Slots” the titles served up the bare minimum of gameplay and differences between games to be considered separate products. The duo then left the program to do its thing and watched the ad money roll in for a couple of years. People downloaded the garbage apps and clicked the ads to the tune of about $200 a day. Users even left positive reviews in some cases.

“We were at a crossroads where the joke was similar to the origin story of a supervillain.”

The experiment ended when the developers finally got tired of dealing with the endless changes Google made to their app upload process. 3D Inexperienced Great Horned Owl Slots is unfortunately no longer available.

Sea of Thieves is almost done

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Microsoft is adding fishing to Sea of Thieves. That’s all you need to know. The upcoming anniversary update contains a bunch of stuff like new quests, two more companies, cooking activities, more cosmetics, and improved ship damage, but you don’t care about any of that. It’s all about the fishing. Once that feature is in, nothing else matters. The zen of casting and reeling. Admit it. You’d play a fishing game in Forza Horizon or Halo.

Using Google to find Carmen Sandiego seems like cheating

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If you were a kid or parent during the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, you might have fond memories of Carmen Sandiego, a globetrotting ne’er-do-well that was foiled only via the geographical knowledge possessed by elementary school children. The Broderbund classic series of games began with Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and spanned over a decade of cartoons, books, and other media. Her popularity has waned over the years, but there were sporadic sightings to keep her on 90’s kids’ minds. (She has a Netflix animated series, but her last game sighting was in 2015 when The Learning Company released Carmen Sandiego Returns.) Now, thanks to the magic of Google Earth, you can look for Carmen again! Just go to Google Earth, click the “Catch Carmen Sandiego” button and you’ll be transported on an edutainment adventure.

You can pay for the next Apex Legends pass by grinding the first one

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Respawn and Electronic Arts have published details of the Season 1 Battle Pass for Apex Legends. For about $10 in real-world money, you can have the opportunity to grind through 100 levels of rewards. If you diligently kill your way to the end of the pass content, you’ll win enough in-game cash to purchase the next Battle Pass, assuming it costs the same 950 Apex coins. Will there be enough earnable coins in Season 2 to buy Season 3 as well? Maybe we will all be playing the next hot Battle Royale game by then.

Apex Legends Season 1 Battle Pass: Wild Frontier begins tomorrow. There is a free track for cheapskates that offers a few consolation prizes.

Snoop Dogg’s Gangsta Gaming League is a real trip

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Once you’ve redefined rap, worked with Dr. Dre, and cooked with Martha Stewart, what do you do next? You take your Madden NFL skills on the road and start a an eSports gaming league. Snoop Dogg is an avid gamer and he loves weed. He’s seen an opportunity for an eSports organization that covers that lifestyle. The Gangsta Gaming League promises to highlight his love of both activities. The first games of Snoop Dogg’s tournament happened overnight, and you can watch a recording of the stream here.

The truly eternal Empire of the Sun…is a wargame

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I recently said that you should pay attention to questions designers are asking. But what I didn’t say was that often, these are questions the players have given them. I’m pretty sure this is what has given us such a lackluster roster of Pacific theater wargames over the years. “How do these carriers fight??” “Where are the critical hits??” Reasonable questions to ask about a campaign marked by carrier battles by a generation brought up reading Walter Lord’s Incredible Victory. So designers chased mechanics that allowed players to recreate specific encounters with ships and planes, while not quite knowing how to integrate this into a larger context. The logistical considerations, huge distances, intermittent pace of fighting, and lack of clear front lines all conspired to stymie designers from the beginning of the hobby. SPI’s infamous U.S.N. showed how back in 1971 there just wasn’t the development skill and mechanics vocabulary to address such a complex design problem. John Prados, designer of the revolutionary Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, failed utterly to adapt his economic system to the Pacific with 1977’s Pearl Harbor. That same year, a game that focused almost entirely on the ships fighting came as close as anyone could for a long time. And no one calls Victory in the Pacific a realistic wargame.

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Best thing you’ll see all week: Prospect

, | Movie reviews

Movies are uniquely suited to building worlds by letting you listen and watch.  Traditional exposition is a crutch. Wasted time that could be spent showing me something, letting me catch something in the dialogue.  I’m already watching the movie, so I obviously want to be here. And if I’m watching, I’m listening. A movie should take advantage of my attention.  It should value it as much as I do. It should reward me. It should appreciate that I decided to be here.

There aren’t many movies that appreciate my attention as much as Prospect.

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After 17 years, Dwarf Fortress is ready for a retail release

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The unofficial community motto for Dwarf Fortress may be “Losing is Fun” but the game is finally going to win a sales spot in stores. Dwarf Fortress is coming to Steam and itchio. The granddaddy of minutiae will remain free in its original spartan form from Bay 12 Games, but the newfangled paid version created in partnership with Kitfox Games will feature entitled gamer junk like music and graphics. You haven’t seen hardcore gaming until your decades-old village of miners succumbs to a plague and flushes weeks of your time.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC is not an Epic Store exclusive

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The long-rumored, often hoaxed, PC version of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is finally on its way. In a surprising announcement, the title will be available on Steam as well as the Windows Store. The games will launch one at a time, to give developers 343 Industries, Splash Damage, and Ruffian the chance to make sure each releases in tip-top shape.

Our current plan is for this journey to begin with the launch of Halo: Reach – the fictional beginnings of Master Chief’s saga – with the rest of the titles following in chronological order thereafter. Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST (Campaign), and Halo 4 will each be available for individual purchase within MCC as they become available.

In related news, Halo: Reach is being added to the collection. It will be added to Xbox One players’ accounts as a free multiplayer extension, with the campaign and horde-mode gameplay available for a fee. Once completed, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will include six Halo games. That’s a ton of Flood-blasting, Arbiter-baiting, and Cortana-wooing.

Let me guess. Someone stole your doughnut in Fallout 76?

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Fallout 76 is getting its first seasonal event. The Fasnacht Parade is a repeatable week-long celebration in the town of Helvetia that will include gathering quests for party prep, robot marcher escorting, and dealing with uninvited guests that will culminate in a chance to win one of the cosmetic masks pictured above. Fasnacht for Fallout 76 begins on March 19th and ends on March 26th.

The “Fasnacht” in the game is likely based on the Fastnacht or Fasching Carnivals in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, a version of which has been transported to the United States via the Pennsylvania Dutch communities. A fasnacht is a type of pastry traditionally eaten during Carnival.