This is the end for Clementine in The Walking Dead

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When Telltale Games shuttered at the end of 2018, beyond the tragedy of people suddenly losing their jobs, one of the practical issues for fans was the potential for The Walking Dead: The Final Season abruptly ending in limbo. Two episodes were released when the studio announced its bankruptcy and closing, putting the game in serious trouble. Luckily, Skybound Games came to the rescue, and with the help of many of the Telltale team, they were able to see it through.

This is it. The final episode of a journey that began in 2012. It’s perhaps appropriate that the game series ends properly only thanks to a miraculous resurrection.

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.

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.

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.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 shows off the softer cousin of loot boxes

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Larian Studios is adding more free content to Divinity: Original Sin 2. Today, along with the latest patch, everyone is getting more visual customization options for the character creator. Larian calls it Gift Bag #1, (not to be confused with loot boxes, which the studio says are “hard and contain loot”) with another Gift Bag coming soon. Larian founder Swen Vincke says more free content will be released throughout the year with help from Fool’s Theory and Anshar Studios.

Don’t be fooled by the “new” Z1 Battle Royale. It’s just H1Z1 again.

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H1Z1 is now Z1 Battle Royale. It’s the third re-launch of the game since its 2015 early access launch as H1Z1 by Daybreak Game Company. In early 2016, it was split into H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Hill, then both projects were changed in 2017 to Just Survive and H1Z1 respectively. Now under development with NantG, Z1 Battle Royale supposedly reverses many changes that angered the core players during the last year, and adds all the free-to-play battle royale genre goodness one would expect like goofy cosmetics, loot crates, and seasonal play.

“Since taking over development of the game in September the team here at NantG has worked with a firey [sic] passion to bring back the feel that was lost with the Combat Update.”

The new Z1 Battle Royale roadmap is available here. Look out, Apex Legends! Your competitor has arrived.

Gwent vants to zuck your blood… And money!

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CD Projekt RED has announced the first card expansion for their free-to-play Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. The Crimson Curse set features cards themed around Dettlaff van der Eretein, the vampire from The Witcher 3’s Blood and Wine DLC. As you may already suspect, vampiric abilities, blood poisons, and bats figure heavily in the 100+ new cards. That’s enough new cards to make Sesame Street’s Count von Count (yes, that’s his real name) pause!

The Crimson Curse for Gwent will be available on March 28th.

Your window to buy a PS Vita is closing

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Sony has officially signaled the end of production for the PS Vita handheld console. The company has cancelled the two remaining PS Vita models on the product page, ending the manufacturing run. Pour one out for the little battery eater.

The Sony PS Vita launched in 2011 and despite strong initial sales, never cemented the case for handheld gaming outside of smartphone apps or Nintendo’s offerings. Sony has no plans for a follow-up handheld.

Kevin McCallister loves ToeJam & Earl

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Macauly Culkin is a retro gamer. The actor, probably best known for playing Michael Alig in Party Monster, is such a fan of retro gaming that he is helping to finance and hawk ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. Culkin is an executive producer on the new game from series creator Greg Johnson. (If you doubt his bona fides, here is Culkin tweeting about replaying the original game back in 2018.) The actor’s recent social media resurgence helped put him in contact with Johnson and his Kickstarter for the game, leading to the odd partnership.

“Me and my friend used to always – you’re supposed to cooperate with each other, you’re supposed to help each other find these ship pieces, but instead, we actually tried to really just screw each other over all the time. We’ve actually turned it into a competitive game. And as we’ve gotten older, now we have a drinking game attached to it, like we can totally screw each other over.”

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove will launch on Friday for the PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.