Nick Diamon

You’ll need a Microsoft account to play Minecraft’s Java version next year

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Mojang and Microsoft have announced that all versions of Minecraft will require a Microsoft account login by early next year. That will include the popular “Java Edition” preferred by the PC modding community. Mojang says the benefits of two-factor authentication and increased parental controls outweigh any inconvenience.

Now just to be clear, migrating from Mojang to Microsoft accounts is mandatory. If you don’t make the move, in several months you won’t be able to log in anymore – which means you won’t be able to play either.

New players of Mincraft’s Java version will need to create a Microsoft account login starting late this year. Current players will be migrated to the new system in batches in the first half of 2021.

The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game goes offline in a good way

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When Fantasy Flight Interactive shut down in January 2020, many people thought that the fledgling studio’s closure marked the end of The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game as well. After all, a games-as-a-service card game needs constant support, and if the studio that made it went under, filling in would be a tall order for a title that never found profitability. Publisher Asmodee Digital put Antihero Games onto the game, and they’re just releasing the first major content update for it. The patch features a much-wanted offline mode that pulls the title off its dependency on home servers. It also includes a user interface overhaul and mid-mission saves. Not bad for a game that seemed fated to die in January.

The Lord of the Rings: Adventure Card Game will also be getting a new free adventure pack, “The Fords of Isen,” sometime next year.

It’s been a decade, StarCraft II. Time to rest.

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Blizzard has announced that the studio is winding down StarCraft II’s active development. The game will continue to get technical support and will cycle through events, but new content updates and DLC creation will cease. According to Blizzard’s Rob Bridenbecker, they will also continue to support the esports community through their official partnerships with ESL Gaming and GSL.

We know some of our players have been looking forward to some of the things we’re moving away from, but the good news is this change will free us up to think about what’s next, not just with regard to StarCraft II, but for the StarCraft universe as a whole.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the first of three main campaign episodes for the game, launched in July of 2010. That campaign went free-to-play in November 2017.

The other Cyberpunk game is launching in November too

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Cyberpunk RED, the pen & paper sequel to Cyberpunk 2020, should hit bookshelves on November 19th. Publisher R. Talsorian Games announced the release date at the New York City Comic Con this past weekend. If you can’t wait, or just don’t care about the analog experience of gaming with a physical book, the digital version will launch a few days earlier. If you’re even more impatient, you can check out the Cyberpunk RED Jumpstart Kit that’s already been available for over a year.

If you’re confused about this game coming out when Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt RED will land on computers and consoles at the same time, you should know that they are connected. Cyberpunk RED’s lore begins just before the events depicted in the upcoming videogame. While you can play either without the other, those that do take part in both experiences will likely have a better understanding of Night City and how it all works. Those folks will also make creator and futurist Mike Pondsmith really happy.

They drew first blood in Mortal Kombat

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That’s John Rambo in Mortal Kombat 11. Sylvester Stallone even supplies the voice work, according to studio head Ed Boon. At this point, why not? The game already has The Joker, Robocop, Spawn, and Terminator, so why wouldn’t Rambo tie on his headband and join the fray? Thanks to time travel and alternate universe portals in the lore, you can add anyone to the roster and it fits. I remember a time when Mortal Kombat only had a couple of realms and timelines, and now it’s some unfathomable mess of kids fighting their own parents and future selves while dealing with comic characters.

John Rambo is part of Mortal Kombat 11’s Kombat Pack 2 which will also include fan-favorites Rain and Mileena. The DLC launches on November 17th.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a real pushover in early access

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That’s a shot of my new favorite gaming activity. I’m shoving someone into a puddle of blood, hopefully to make them slip and fall. I’m being a jerk in a single player game. Baldur’s Gate 3, from Larian Studios, is in early access so I can’t say whether or not this will get tweaked or excised right out of the final game, but for now it’s a pusher’s delight.

The game is based on the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition rules and shoving is a thing in there. It’s not easy to abuse when you have a human dungeon master and players ready to side-eye you for being a schmuck, but the computer has no such issues. Shove away! You can elbow people into lava. You can push them off cliffs. You can bump them into your teammates line of fire. I haven’t trolled this many in-game characters since I went around Skyrim putting buckets on people’s heads.

Minecraft’s Steve is coming to Smash Bros. Ultimate

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That’s blocky default Steve from Minecraft in Nintendo’s Smash Bros. Ultimate. Game director Masahiro Sakurai announced Steve’s addition to the game, along with Alex, zombie, and the enderman. Spooky! All the new Minecraft characters will have special moves like using a pickaxe or stacking blocks to create barriers and to reach higher areas of the game. According to Nintendo, all of the game’s existing levels had to be adjusted to accommodate the new Minecraft moves.

The Minecraft additions are part of Smash Bros. Ultimate’s second $30 fighter pass bundle.

FarmVille buys the farm

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FarmVille, one of the first games to hit it big on Facebook, is done. Zynga posted the bad news to its fans and informed them that although the game will remain playable until the end of the year, no in-app purchases will be allowed past November 17th. It marks an 11-year run for the game, a lifetime for social media web games, but with Adobe ceasing support for Flash, the time had come to sunset the title.

“We are also working on fun in-game activities to be announced soon that are designed to make your remaining time with FarmVille even more enjoyable.”

Farmville 2: Tropic Escape and Farmville 2: Country Escape are still available, and there’s a third installment on the way if you feel the urge to give Zynga more money.

The radio stations you enjoy in Grand Theft Auto almost didn’t happen

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One of the more satisfying parts of any open world game with a car is jamming to the licensed music, commercials, and DJ banter in the fake radio stations. Imagine how dull video game road trips and drive-by shootings would be without that mobile soundtrack. We have Grand Theft Auto to thank for that innovation. PC Gamer has a look back at what it took to get those radio stations into the series, and how it almost didn’t become a thing at all.

Back when it was made by DMA Design, the first game almost didn’t have the stations we now take for granted. The game was going to have a simple MIDI-based soundtrack due to storage limitations on Nintendo 64 carts. Thankfully, that N64 version was canceled, allowing the audio team to get more adventurous for the PC and PlayStation.

Colin Anderson, a member of the audio team, explained that the first game’s original music was part of the design. The game took place in an alternate version of this world. Tunes were familiar-sounding, but not specific. It was only after their (at the time) publisher Rockstar had another studio create Grand Theft Auto: London 1961 and the 1969 expansion pack that licensed music was used and became part of the GTA series’ vocabulary.

“That essentially broke the purity of the creative vision,” says Anderson. “I was kind of upset about that at the time, because I didn’t know anything about those products. They appeared from nowhere.”

Rockstar heads Sam Houser and Terry Donovan pushed for more licensed music going forward, whereas Colin Anderson and others wanted to feature original music by relatively unknown artists. Discrete radio stations allowed a mix of both familiar tunes and new songs, but licensed music became the norm.

That in-car radio station feature would eventually give us one of the best moments in gaming: The Take On Me sing-along in Saints Row 2.

The blast of nostalgia in Chip’s Challenge is free

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Chip’s Challenge, the simple grid puzzle game that first appeared on the Atari Lynx in 1989, is now free for your PC gaming pleasure. The title gained fame and fans when it was ported to Windows as part of Microsoft’s Entertainment Pack 4 in 1992 and the Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack in 1995. PC players discovered how easy it was to create their own levels thanks to a simple text file that made modding possible. In fact, it proved so popular that creator Chuck Sommerville got to work on a sequel, Chip’s Challenge 2, which unfortunately wound up tangled in a legal battle that prevented a quick turnaround.

Sommerville eventually published both games on Steam in 2015 after beginning work on a legally unbound spiritual sequel called Chuck’s Challenge 3D. Now, Chip McCallahan’s adventure to woo Melinda is free for everyone to enjoy like it’s Windows ’95.

Left 4 Dead 2 isn’t dead

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The Last Stand Update, a collaborative PC community update for Left 4 Dead 2 officially sanctioned and created in cooperation with Valve, is coming. There’s even going to be a free weekend to celebrate the launch. The content will be released for Left 4 Dead 2 on September 24th and marks the first official content update for the game since 2012.

The content includes The Last Stand campaign, 26 new survival maps, 4 new scavenge maps, 30 new achievements, and 2 new melee weapons. There’s a whole list of other changes and improvements in the official trailer comments. It’s time to get back to zed-hunting with the game that popularized the zombie horde co-op genre.

This short for Star Wars Squadrons is exactly the right kind of Star Wars

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I have no idea if Star Wars Squadrons is going to be good. In my review for Star Wars Battlefront II, I mentioned that the space arcade combat was one of the positives, and it looks like Electronic Arts and Motive just pulled that right out, spruced it up, fleshed it out, and turned it into its own game. Speculation aside, this short to promote the game is almost a pitch-perfect representation of how I used to think about my time in Lucasart’s Star Wars: TIE Fighter. It’s almost as good as the 2015 fan-made anime short from Paul Johnson.

The space between marketing and an actual product can be pretty wide, but it seems like EA is making all the right moves so far. Between this and their commitment to supporting flight peripherals, it looks like we have fans making the game.

Scott Pilgrim can’t be kept down forever by licensing issues

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, the 2010 brawler based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s snazzy comic property, has been a long sought-after title since it was de-listed and removed from all sales in in 2014. Licensing issues, the boogeyman of all media with great soundtracks, caused the game to disappear seemingly forever, but Ubisoft is bringing it back. Was it because O’Malley started tweeting Ubisoft about it last month? Likely not, but who knows? Perhaps one guy can fight off seven evil lawyers to get a game reinstated.

The new Complete Edition will include the Knives Chau and Wallace Wells DLC as well as 4-person multiplayer. It will be available later this year.

It may be the smallest Xbox ever, but it’s still not cute

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That’s 2020 gaming’s worst kept secret. The Xbox Series S is the budget-friendly version of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. It’s existence has long been rumored, and Microsoft finally confirmed it after the promo video leaked earlier today. The big news for the little guy is the price. It’s $299, and supposedly there will be a $25-a-month payment plan option that comes with Xbox Game Pass. Not bad, if you’re content with mostly 1080p (with upscaled 1440p) and a tiny 512GB drive to go with your disc-less hardware.

The game of price chicken with Sony has just kicked off!

Do Flight Simulator fans have the stamina for Airplane Mode?

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While you’re all gaga for Microsoft Flight Simulator’s spectacular launch, there’s another game that offers the true flight experience. Airplane Mode from Bacronym features all the excitement of real flying as a passenger. In coach class seating. On a real-time six hour flight. There’s the possibility of turbulence. You’ll hear intercom announcements. Mostly, there’s boredom.

Obviously, it’s a gag stamina game, like Desert Bus, but it presents a scenario I can actually judge for verisimilitude. I’m probably never going to pilot a Boeing 747, like the one in Microsoft Flight Simulator, but I’ve sure as heck sat in one for an eternity, scrunched between other helpless passengers, trying not to spill my in-flight soda as it bounces on the seat tray. Do I know the stall characteristics of the Icon A5? I do not. Do I know the pain of flipping through the airline magazine for the third time, desperately trying to find something interesting to read. Yes.

More importantly, you can play Airplane Mode with no special equipment. Good luck finding a nice joystick or throttle setup now that everyone is playing Flight Simulator.