Nick Diamon

After six years, the bets are finally placed in Grand Theft Auto V

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There’s a casino in Grand Theft Auto V. It’s been sitting just off the highway next to the racetrack in Los Santos since the game launched. You can be forgiven for missing it because despite the game’s dramatic heists, no crimes can occur in the Vinewood Casino. In fact, you can’t even go into it. It’s been a missed opportunity for six years.

The next update to Grand Theft Auto Online is adding a casino. The Diamond Casino & Resort will open its doors on July 23rd. It will have poker, roulette, blackjack, and slot machines for your gambling pleasure. The casino features a high-end lounge, luxury pool, and plenty of shopping for your entertainment. There will even be an ultra posh penthouse if you have a real surplus of virtual money to spend.

Will there be a casino heist in the game finally? The info from Rockstar hints at some new co-op missions, but they sound like players will be working for the casino owners, instead of robbing them. But a good heist can have twists and betrayals, so it wouldn’t be inconceivable that you end up stealing from The Diamond at some point. Besides, this is GTA. Just whip out a gun and stick up the joint if you get desperate. I’m sure everything will be fine.

There are too many princes in Total War: Three Kingdoms

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How many princes are too many in Jin dynasty China? Eight. Despite the old TV show saying it’s enough, eight is too much in the world of Total War: Three Kingdoms. The Eight Princes expansion is set 100 years after the base game’s time and the country is once again beset with would-be rulers fighting for control. Princes don’t care about public order or winning over the peons, instead they need to gather the support of the nobles by fulfilling their rarified needs.

The Eight Princes launches on August 8th. Now, it’s too many eights!

There will be no cigar-chomping or vaping in Gears 5

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Gears 5 is tobacco-free. Thanks to a partnership between Xbox Game Studios developer The Coalition, non-profit anti-tobacco organization Truth Initiative, and Turner Sports ELeague division, the upcoming Gears of War game will have no smoking, vaping, or any other tobacco references that “glorify” smoking. Gears 5 will still have chaingun beheadings and point-blank shotgun kills, so it still won’t be family-friendly. It will just not tempt teens into smoking while tearing enemies into puddles of eviscera.

Gears 5 will launch on Xbox One and Windows 10 on September 10th. The first public multiplayer “tech test” begins this Friday and will run until July 22nd.

Ubisoft pleads with players to stop cheating in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

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Ubisoft wants you all of you filthy cheaters to knock it off. You’re using the recently released Story Creator for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to circumvent the character leveling system they made to entertain you, and it’s just got to cease. The nerve! Using a creative mode to make easy boosts to XP in a single player game with 99+ character levels. Who do you think you are anyway? You think you know better than the designers what’s fun? You’re wrong, and they’re going to make sure you comply.

“We will be sanctioning those who continue to willingly and intentionally misuse the tool.”

First, Ubisoft is going to push these so-called farming missions off the automatic recommendation system. You can’t play what you can’t find. Second, the publisher is updating the terms of use so they can bind you in +2 chains of legality. Sue them! You’ll be playing the next four Assassin’s Creed games before you see a courtroom. Finally, a vaguely intimidating threat of sanctions should scare away any stragglers. Boo! Go cheat in a game where it won’t impact anyone else, like Battlefield V or something.

Relax and chill in Monster Hunter World’s Iceborne expansion

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You can have a spa day In Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. The expansion, set to launch in September for consoles and later for PC, offers more than additional beasts to hunt and goodies to craft. In the first developer diary, Capcom revealed some of the cool stuff coming for their best-selling game. Beyond the new hub of Seliana, the team announced player squads and the hierarchy within, more customization options in the personal rooms, and quick access to facilities via a streamlined menu so hunters can get to hunting faster. Capcom also promised a post-launch update that will allow players to invite their friends into their personal rooms to socialize. Will my friends be able to pet my palico? Just kidding. My palico hates that.

There’s finally a new Splinter Cell game coming, but it’s for Facebook’s Oculus VR

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Facebook is creating exclusive deals for Oculus VR versions of popular Ubisoft games. According to the report from The Information, Facebook has already signed agreements to get Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell on its VR platform. If there’s any game personality that’s a perfect mascot for VR, it’s the guy that’s been wearing a ridiculous glowing headset for his whole career.

The deals are reportedly part of a larger strategy of securing more exclusives for Facebook’s gaming divisions. Jason Rubin, formerly the Oculus VP of content, was promoted to the VP of “special gaming initiatives” in May.

The circle will soon be complete for Cuphead

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Cuphead is getting an animated show. The insidiously difficult Cuphead, based on a 1930’s cartoon that never existed, is going to be the basis for a real cartoon from Netflix Animation and King Features Syndicate. Studio MDHR broke the news today, and told IGN that The Cuphead Show! would feature hand-drawn animation, like their game, married to digital technology.

The Cuphead Show! will be executive produced by Dave Wasson, who’s been responsible for the throwback Mickey Mouse shorts Disney has recently released.

Teach kids to fear Shenzen I/O as much as you do for free

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Zachtronics is giving away its games to schools and educators. Studio founder, Zach Barth, has announced that teachers and learning institutions can apply for free licenses of Opus Magnum, Infinifactory, Exapunks, Shenzen I/O, and TIS-100 for their classrooms. If you want to teach kids logic, puzzle-solving, patience, and a crushing sense of frustration, there’s probably no better way to do it than making them sit in front of a Zachtronics game to face their inadequacies.

“Students may acquire an increased sense of the ridiculousness of modern capitalist society.”

Zachtronics has included some educator warnings about the games, such as Exapunks having some swear words and Infinifactory’s dead astronauts. Most worryingly, Zachtronics has rated each game 1 to 5 for its difficulty, and none of the games got a max rating. Please Zach, be merciful.

Choosing a game subscription is like choosing a lover

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With EA Access, PlayStation Now, Xbox Game Pass, Ubisoft’s Uplay Plus, and Google Stadia, it’s obvious that the next big thing in gaming is the idea of getting people to subscribe to a Netflix-style service. For $10 to $20 a month, you can play any game on their plan, for as much as you want. What’s not to like? If you’re a developer thinking about putting one of your titles on a service, there can be a few things to think about.

“Choose your development partner as carefully as you choose your love partner.”

Eurogamer rounded up the opinions of a few developers regarding their take on this industry trend during a discussion panel. While first-party publisher services aren’t far from traditional MMO subscriptions, the ones offering games from partners, like Paradox Interactive’s Imperator: Rome on Xbox Game Pass, are a paradigm shift. Concerns like how the developer will get paid, what it may do to the game’s perceived value, and where this could all end up weigh heavy on developers’ minds.

As an example, Paradox Interactive’s ex-CEO and current executive chairman, Fredrik Wester offered his opinion that for his company’s titles, a flat fee from the service owner is less desirable than a payment calculated on the player’s time spent in his game. To put it simply, he believes his games should make more money as hundred-hour grand strategy experiences compared to a typical eight-hour first-person shooter campaign.

Microsoft, at least for now, sees game subscriptions as another option to outright buying games. They believe the future offers both choices as a path to gaming.

Shenmue III’s launch is going to be a mess

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Shenmue III, the long-awaited finale to Yu Suzuki’s forklift operator, delivery service, karaoke, faff-about simulator, is launching on November 19th and the whole thing has turned into quite the drama. First, there was a Kickstarter in 2015 that raised over $6.3 million. Then, Deep Silver swooped in right after the crowdfunding campaign ended and snatched up the publishing rights, causing a ruckus with fans that feared developer Ys Net was giving up their independence. Last month, Ys Net announced the PC version of the game would launch as an Epic Store exclusive for a year, greatly angering fans that had expected a Steam key for their pledge on the release date. Today, the developers, Epic Games, and Deep Silver confirmed that refund requests would be honored – in most cases. Unfortunately for folks that pledged to tiers that included physical rewards, they won’t be getting full refunds since those tchotchkes are in production. PlayStation players remain unaffected by the commotion.

Although the original Kickstarter reached many stretch goals, Ys Net also clarified that some promised features were cut, while other goals that were never reached will be implemented. The biggest miss is an “Expanded Character Perspective” system, but players will get a much larger open-world structure for key areas of the game.

All the news has resulted in the usual griping and Steam discussion flurry with some players vowing to never trust Deep Silver or Ys Net again, others opining on Epic’s business practices, and everyone proclaiming support for their favorite flavor of digital store. It’s a microcosm of the Epic Games Store debate. It’s a gloriously divisive and emotional mess that Shenmue fans should appreciate.

You can thank Battleborn for Borderlands 3

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Battleborn, Gearbox Software’s doomed hero shooter, was instrumental in the development of Borderlands 3. Art director Scott Kester told Metro UK that coming off Borderlands 2, the development team needed a change, and Battleborn provided that opportunity, even if the general audience wasn’t keen on the result.

“By the grace of the beautiful 2K they allowed us to say, ‘Hey, we want to try this Battleborn thing, we just want to kind of reset our palette, we’re gonna try this thing’. And we did it and… you know, if we didn’t make that game Borderlands 3 wouldn’t be as good as it is now. It made us think about things a little different.”

Scott Kester also revealed that Gearbox doesn’t consider Borderlands 3 a Games-as-a-Service (GaaS) title. At least, they don’t call it that, but they do plan on making “meaty” expansions and supporting it with substantive endgame content.

New developers take a whack at Prison Architect

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Prison Architect is getting its first update from Double Eleven, the studio that’s taken over the game since Introversion sold it to Paradox Interactive in January of this year. The Clink adds some new walls and floors as well as a couple of interface changes. It’s basic maintenance more than a feature drop, but that’s to be expected with a new developer setting the cadence.

One of the worries many Prison Architect fans have regarding the buyout, is that Paradox might push a DLC-heavy revenue model onto customers. So far, it hasn’t happened, and this first update shows a light touch.

Dozens said PUBG needed a plot, so they’re getting one

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A new game with a narrative in the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds setting is in development. You might’ve thought the story of PUBG was simply “I got shot by someone I didn’t even see while fumbling with my inventory,” but PUBG Corporation and Striking Distance think differently. In fact, the companies think the time is right for an “original narrative experience” in the PUBG universe. We could learn the secret drama behind the frying pan, or the tragic irony of the chicken dinner.

“As a creative, the freedom to explore the PUBG universe has me excited about the possibilities, which I view as beyond the battle royale genre.”

Striking Distance is a new studio from Glen Schofield, one of the original co-founders of Sledgehammer Games. He also served as vice president and general manager at Visceral where he oversaw the development of Dead Space.

Magic: The Gathering is Turing complete

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Magic: The Gathering, Richard Garfield’s 1993 brainchild, is as computationally complex as its reputation suggests. A physics paper written by longtime player Alex Churchill, Stella Biderman of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Austin Herrick of the University of Pennsylvania argues that Magic is so mathematically complex that it is capable of recreating any computational function. The game is “Turing complete” in the parlance of computational theorists. Simply, the mechanics are complex enough, and there exists enough card variety that it’s possible (although statistically unlikely) to create a game in which the players have no options but to follow instructions to the end state. The equivalent of a cardboard handheld Turing Machine.

“It’s quite possible that Magic is the only tabletop game that’s Turing complete.”

It’s all a lot of math and hoo-haw that Ars Technica does a decent job of explaining to laypeople, but the summary is that Magic players can really lord it over Netrunner fans. Their game is scientifically better.

Imperator: Rome prepares to carpe diem cras

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Imperator: Rome, the sequel to Europa Universalis: Rome, has been having a tough time. Since its launch in April, fans have taken the game to task for having some unfulfilling mechanics, unfair opponents, and a monarch power system that’s been derisively nicknamed “mana” due to the way it magically works. It’s the only Paradox Interactive grand strategy game with a negative average of user ratings on Steam. While the game’s initial sales exceeded the developer’s expectations, the player response has been disappointing. So much so, that the roadmap Paradox published includes multiple steps to get back on course. In a new interview with PC Gamer, designer Johan Andersson revealed how he took the criticism to heart.

“I don’t understand why people want to buy a game that has major core features that they don’t like. Well, if the customers want something different, we’ll just have to change the game to do that.”

The first big improvement update For Imperator: Rome comes on June 26th. It will revamp naval action to give fleets more to do.