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Your privacy concerns with Kinect were not foolish

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People were monitoring Kinect. Recently, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook had to admit that real live people sometimes listened in on the companys’ digital assistants. During that news cycle, Microsoft also admitted that they hired folks to monitor Skype and Cortana conversations, but Motherboard reports that contractors also listened to Kinect interactions. Their sources, ex-employees of the contracted company, say that while their monitoring was limited to audio only, children were frequently the subjects.

“The Xbox stuff was actually a bit of a welcome respite, honestly. It was frequently the same games. Same DLCs. Same types of commands.”

If you were one of the people that objected to Kinect because it was “creepy” and maybe invasive, well, congratulations! Being paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not listening. Microsoft has updated their general privacy policy to note that they use both “automated and manual (human)” methods of processing data.

The sequel to Groundhog Day sure as heckfire is a VR game

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If you’re a fan of the 1993 Groundhog Day movie starring Bill Murray as a weatherman caught in a time loop, you’ve probably always wondered what shenanigans his son would go through in an official sequel. No? Well, Sony and Tequila Works will show you anyway with the VR game on September 17th. Phil Connors Jr. goes to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and the player gets to guide him through VR time puzzles and “wacky” dialogue.

Groundhog Day: Like Father Like Son will launch on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and Vive. If you preorder, you’ll get a digital copy of the movie, presumably to see what a good story looks like.

Listen to the Prey you’ll never play

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Once upon a time, there was a Prey 2. It looked like this and it was being developed by Human Head Studios as a sequel to the original 2006 Prey. It was officially cancelled in 2014 by Bethesda Softworks, although there are numerous reports of Human Head and Bethesda parting ways as early as 2011. The franchise would eventually be rebooted with Arkane Studios’ Prey in 2017.

The new Prey is great, and the Mooncrash expansion added a terrific rogue-like experience to the game. But the ghost of Prey 2 remains. Andrew Borman of the Museum of Play has dug up some audio logs from that cancelled game. In them, the game’s protagonist, bounty hunter and displaced human Killian Samuels, muses on his encounters with Tommy Towadi, the hero of the first game. Even though Tommy was not seen in any of the released footage, it sounds like he had unfinished business with his alien kidnappers. Don’t fear the reaper, Tommy! At least you didn’t end up stuck on the Talos space station.

Destiny 2 players on PC need to get packing and prepare to move

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Bungie has released more details of Destiny 2’s planned move from Activision Blizzard’s service to Steam. Beginning August 20th, PC players will need to go to this site and follow the instructions to migrate their accounts. That move will transfer the player’s expansions, loot, characters, and stats to the new service permanently, and allow them to continue playing the game. After October 1st, Destiny 2 not be available on, and you’ll have to start over on Steam with a new account if you haven’t completed the move.

On August 21st, platform cross-saves come to Destiny 2. Players can designate an active account to play on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, or Google Stadia as they wish. Play for a few minutes in the morning on PC as you wait for your oatmeal to cook, hit up the break room Xbox One at work during lunch, then come home and unwind on your living room PlayStation 4. Cross-play won’t be supported, but logging in and playing from any valid platform is a convenience.

The Destiny 2: Shadowkeep expansion launches on October 1st.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare chirps at violence

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the soft reboot of the series, will feature an in-game “tamagunchi” that feeds on kills. According to Infinity Ward, the sick little digital pet started as an effort to get a working wristwatch onto player characters. Just like the tamagotchi fad you’re probably more familiar with, you feed it or it dies. In this case, it eats delicious murder.

“This little thing on your wrist, every time you get a string of kills, it goes, ‘Ya-ta!’ and it makes a little noise, then you look at it, and it evolved out of an egg.”

The tamagunchi is optional in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, so if you don’t want some digital pet chirping at you for more kills, you don’t need to use it. Despite this, I imagine tamagunchi variants will be a hot commodity in the game’s loot shop, along with the normal cosmetic gun skins and animated name tags.

This lighthearted news comes as the United States deals with the latest horror of two mass shootings within hours of each other. While there have been no credible studies linking real-world shootings to video game violence, political commentary has once again raised the debate further fueling the controversy.

The migration to Mixer faces some clothing challenges

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The big industry news last week wasn’t a new game reveal or a beloved studio closing down. It was popular Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins moving from Twitch to Microsoft’s competing Mixer service. Ninja made the announcement and said he was excited to get back to his “streaming roots” perhaps in a nod to his origins as a big Halo player. Whatever the deal entailed, Microsoft obviously hopes some portion of Ninja’s 14.7 million Twitch followers will do exactly that. And if enough of them come over to Mixer, perhaps other popular streamers will follow suit? It’s a gamble for both participants, since Twitch partner streamers cannot also play on competitor’s services, but some dress code rules are proving to be an hindrance in some cases.

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The next game subscription service fight will be between Google and Apple

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Apple and Google are exploring subscription passes for all-you-can-play mobile game services. Both will offer rotating selections of mobile games with no time limits and all in-app rigaramole covered by the membership fee.

Apple Arcade “coming this fall” will offer over 100 games at launch. Apple announced the service in March, but has yet to divulge pricing or issue public invitations for testing. It will boast some exclusive game titles, over those just native to Apple’s regular app store, and promises to disable tracking, ads, and in-app purchases.

Google Play Pass, although not yet officially announced, was confirmed by Google to Android Police after they obtained images of the service. The $4.99 monthly subscription will give players access to curated games and some productivity apps, also with ads and in-app purchases turned off.

The challenge for both services is that mobile game players in general are notoriously cheap. Apple gamers generate more revenue than Android users, but both rely on rare whales to fund their overwhelmingly more popular free-to-play markets. A less discussed, but possibly more immediate concern, is the probability that some games will turn out to be much less addictive when you turn off their free-to-play timer business model.

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You’ve killed The Butcher in Diablo before, but can you kill him in your browser?

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Diablo, the seminal hack and slash action roleplaying game from Blizzard is now playable in a regular browser. Go here and you can check out the work of RivSoft, the makers of other open-source projects like a Diablo III character planner and a Path of Exile passive skill tree planner. If you don’t have your original Diablo files, you can play the old shareware version. If you own Diablo, let’s say through GOG, then you can drop the main DIABDAT.MPQ file into the browser and play the whole darned game in it. there’s probably no practical use for this, but it’s cool to stay awhile and see Tristram living in your Internet Explorer or Chrome window.

A majority of pen & paper nerds nerd out with Dungeons & Dragons

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The folks behind Roll20, The Orr Group, have published their annual stats for usage. Roll20 is one of the most popular ways to play pen and paper roleplaying games over the internet with over 4 million regular users, so while the report isn’t a comprehensive look at the industry, it’s an interesting snapshot of a large part of the community.

The summary is that an overwhelming majority of the Roll20 players party up in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition games. In both campaign and account participation quantity, it’s over 50% to D&D5E, with everyone else making up the rest. Pathfinder, the system that for many years captured the hearts of older school D&D players, gets less than 10% in either category. Most surprisingly, Call of Cthulhu (any edition) tracked high on both measurements, even surpassing Pathfinder in the number of campaigns played. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

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You cannot play Doom on the Nintendo Switch without a Bethesda account

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That image is what you’ll see if you try to play the recently released Nintendo Switch port of Doom or Doom II without an internet connection. It’s also the dead end you’ll get if you don’t have a account. Bethesda says it’s a mistake and the login requirement should actually be optional. They’re working on a fix.

The internet community, being what it is, has already come up with some appropriate reactions.

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Cortana is almost gone from the Xbox One

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A new Xbox home design and update is rolling out to testers. The Home Experiment streamlines the first, and arguably most important, screen on the console. The new design eliminates clutter and speeds up navigation to the most used areas of the system. The other thing the beta does is remove Cortana functionality from headset users. The digital assistant can still be accessed via the separate Cortana app on many devices, which can in turn control a user’s console via the Xbox Skill feature.

It’s yet another step back for Cortana, which is going through a bit of a strategy change at Microsoft. The digital assistant was introduced on the Xbox One in the summer 2016 update, and the intent was for players to use their Kinect units to communicate with the search A.I. vocally. Kinect was discontinued in October 2017 and the company ceased making adapters in January 2018, making it virtually impossible for new Xbox One owners to use Cortana as originally intended. You could still talk to Cortana with your headset microphone, but this new update will remove that as well.

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!