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Join the Fortnite Crew to give Epic recurring revenue

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Epic Games has announced a subscription service for Fortnite. For $12 a month, the Fortnite Crew offer will give players access to each new battle pass for as long as they keep their subscription going. Along with that pass, members will net 1,000 units of in-game funny money and an exclusive outfit so everyone knows you’re one of the cool (rich) kids.

Epic had previously surveyed players a few weeks ago about whether or not they wanted such an offer, and it seems the responses were positive. At the very least, the survey results must not have put Epic off their track. Although the battle pass model is sometimes seen as a “soft” version of a subscription, an actual recurring credit charge is more coveted by most businesses.

The Fortnite Crew begins on December 2nd.

The Pro Bowl will be a Madden NFL 21 event

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The NFL announced that the annual Pro Bowl will not take place in an empty stadium like every other official football game this season. Instead, the 2021 NFL Pro Bowl will take place in the gaming world. Taking a page from NASCAR’s recent foray into the gaming space to maintain an audience during Covid-19 crowd bans, the gridiron showdown will be hosted in a video game. In this case, Madden NFL 21. Thanks to a partnership with EA Sports and Verizon, a gaggle of real life football players, celebrities, popular streamers, and anyone else the NFL believes will hook the kids will play in matchups during a week-long series on ABC and ESPN.

“Even amidst unparalleled change across the sports industry, we are excited to transition many of the signature components of the Pro Bowl.”

Fans can go now to the official site to vote for their favorite players.

Here’s why you won’t get any achievements in the PC version of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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Ubisoft may be dropping achievements from its PC games. Astute cheevo-hunters noticed that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is missing achievements in the PC version. According to Ubisoft, this is an intended feature of the game. Instead of achievements, Ubisoft is shifting their focus to the challenges integrated into their recently launched Ubisoft Connect platform (the rebranded version of Uplay) that gives players XP and other rewards exclusive to Ubisoft’s system. Console players still get achievements and trophies.

“We know that this is a big change for a lot of you, and we appreciate your understanding in the matter.”

As you may imagine, there has thus far been a boisterous lack of understanding regarding the change. Achievement unlocked!

There’s a lot more to hear in Half-Life: Alyx now

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Valve has updated Half-Life: Alyx with three hours of in-game developer commentary. This is a free update for all owners of the game. Players can have all the disembodied hand VR gameplay they had before, but they can now take little time-outs to enjoy the developers’ insights on the creation of the game.

Enabling commentary mode will allow 147 points of interest to appear in the game. Just grab the floating radio headset and place it on your in-game head to listen to the track. Valve warns that it was all recorded during quarantine, so participants had to make do with their home setups. Some of it is not consistently crisp sounding due to these circumstances, but if you listened to the commentary in previous Valve games like Portal 2, you’ll know that the quality of the content is what matters.

You can visit Four Seasons Total Landscaping too thanks to VRChat

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One of the craziest bits of news that came out of the U.S. presidential election last week was the debacle that happened at Four Seasons in Philadelphia. Not the luxury hotel. Four Seasons Total Landscaping got to host an official press event about the outcome of the vote. Of course, everyone involved now claims that the venue was purposefully chosen, but did they really decide to hold this meeting in the parking lot of a landscaping company, right next door to a porn shop? Really? They didn’t just accidentally mistake this place for the considerably more upscale Four Seasons Hotel? Whatever the reason, VRChat, that meme-generating gaming hangout, has the Four Seasons lot now available for your virtual shenanigans. May we suggest holding your own event there and giving it all the pomp and circumstance the venue deserves?

One of the people in Watch Dogs: Legion is going away ironically thanks to social media

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One of the rare bits of humorous content in Watch Dogs: Legion that actually sticks the landing are the in-game podcasts and radio shows featuring dry British hosts commenting on the state of dystopian London. Unfortunately for Helen Lewis, a real-life writer for The Atlantic who lends her voice talent to a couple of those in-game audio files, her statements on gender are prompting Ubisoft to remove her from the game. In 2017, Lewis wrote an opinion piece for The Times that was criticized for being transphobic, and her subsequent posts on The New Statesman and Twitter continued in that vein, all of which created a dust-up on social media at the time and when it was learned that she would be in the latest Watch Dogs. Ubisoft claims that they were unaware of the writer’s controversial history.

“The development team worked with an external producer to select speaker profiles for these podcasts and were not aware of the controversy at the time of booking or recording. While the in-game podcasters are following a pre-approved script and are not speaking in their own name or with their own opinions, we understand this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused.”

Helen Lewis performs in two installments of Watch Dogs: Legion’s BuccanEar podcast, which will be removed from the game shortly.

You’ve got until the end of the year to avenge me in Shadow of Mordor

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the 2014 game from Monolith and Warner Bros. Games, is losing a few features on December 31st. The Nemesis Forge, Vendetta missions, and WBPlay stuff is going away, according to the publisher’s notice on the main Steam page. Nemesis Forge was the system that let players bring their named enemies from Shadow of Mordor into the 2017 sequel, Shadow of War. Vendetta missions gave players the chance to avenge online friends’ deaths by putting the baddies that killed them into other people’s games. WBPlay account linking offered players a couple of special runes, but the publisher will just give those to everyone in an update to make up for it.

None of the bits being removed are essential to enjoying the game. It’s likely most people would never notice anything missing if not for the official warning, so get out there and kill Snazgul Rathammer before time runs out.

Battle Royale is exactly what Age of Empires II has always needed

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The one-year anniversary update for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition includes a Battle Royale mode. No, really. The update will include some UI and balance changes and a quickplay option to get you into a game faster, but you don’t care about any of that nonsense! You want to know about Battle Royale because no multiplayer game can escape the gravitational pull of chicken dinners.

Eight players start in random locations with a small cluster of troops that can capture buildings and resources to add to their armies. They must then crush all enemies before the slowly dwindling circle of fog kills them. The only things missing are cast iron skillets and dance emotes.

The anniversary update for Age of Empires II: DE is coming this November.

Will Assassin’s Creed on Netflix require you to leave the Animus to stop streaming?

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A live-action Assassin’s Creed series is coming to Netflix. All we have is the teaser tweet and the fact that Ubisoft’s Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik will be executive producing, but it makes sense that Netflix would take on the popular video game. Netflix found success with The Witcher show and Ubisoft has been wanting a live-action series since they first announced the 2016 movie starring Michael Fassbender.

The dozen Assassin’s Creed lore nerds out there will tell you that the events of the critically panned movie is canon, by the way. Will the show also add to the convoluted and increasingly inconsequential modern-day narrative? If it gives us more Jeremy Irons chewing scenery, then it’s worth it.

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.

Pinball FX3 is on the verge of its 100th table

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On October 20, Pinball FX3 will get the Williams Pinball: Volume 6 DLC, which adds three new tables.  This will bring the total available tables to 99.  At which point, Zen Studios can’t very well stop, because what sort of failed pinball collection gets this close to a hundred tables without reaching the milestone of 100 tables?  I mean, think about it.  100 tables.  That’s crazy.  If you were to take 100 pinball tables and lay them out end to end, they would circle the globe four times.  If you spaced them 1000 miles apart.  That’s crazy!

So what’s next after Williams Volume 6?  What table is going to tip Pinball FX3 over the 100-table threshold?  Technically, this latest Williams set will include their 100th table. At some point, a soccer table and a skateboarding table were mysteriously disappeared. I think there was even a ninja table, and of course that one would have mysteriously disappeared. But in terms of what’s available, Williams Volume 6 will bring them to 99, and whatever’s announced next will be the 100-table milestone.

Three years ago, I gave Zen Studios some ideas.  I hope they were listening.  Alternatively, I don’t see how anyone can have the Williams license long enough to implement 21 tables, and not a one of them is Pinbot or Bride of Pinbot.

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.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall finally launches into space on November 10

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No one who’s actually spent time with Age of Wonders: Planetfall would accuse it of being a sci-fi skin draped over an Age of Wonders fantasy skeleton. There are just too many differences since Age of Wonders was about hobbits and elves and fireball spells. But it is one of those space-faring sci-fi games that has to conveniently omit the actual space-faring. Blame the success of Civilization for codifying how 4Xs work. One planet at a time, please. This isn’t Masters of Orion!

But the idea of amassing a galactic empire composed of multiple planets is finally coming to Planetfall with the Star Kings DLC on November 10th. Accompanying the DLC will be a free update that includes something called the “galactic empire system”. You won’t actually play multiple planets in one game; instead, you’ll play multiple planets in all your games. Paradox describes the galactic empire system as a “meta-layer where each planet you complete gets added to your own Galactic Empire”. According to the initial developer diary:

The planets you conquer in Galactic Empire Mode have special traits, such as having the oceans replaced with impassable void, or being covered in nuclear fallout. These traits are paired with extra secondary objectives for you to clear in order to earn more XP for your empire. Some secondary objectives even grant you the victory upon completion, allowing you to claim planets for your Galactic Empire faster than regular planetary domination! With nearly 60 traits in the update and up to 4 traits per planet, each planet you conquer feels like a new and unique challenge!

As your empire accumulates planets, each one gives you special bonuses you can carry forward to conquer the next planet. And with the experience point system, it sounds like Planetfall is getting a new risk/reward structure to encourage playing harder set ups on different kinds of planets.