Unreal fans of baseball aren’t just in your video games

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It’s no secret that Epic’s Unreal Engine is being used for all sorts of things outside of gaming. From commercials, to architectural schematics, to bringing the galaxy around The Mandalorian to life, the game system has got a lot of life outside of Fortnite. Now that some live in-stadium sports are coming back, Unreal is also being used to fill empty venues with enthusiastic crowds of virtual people. With on-cue waves and idle animations that wouldn’t look out of place in the stands of MLB The Show or a Forza game, we’re quickly approaching the point where sports will be a recognized part of gaming.

Forget Master Chief. Craig is the biggest star of Halo Infinite so far.

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We were so close. We almost made it through an E3 season without any gamer memes. With all the normal E3 live stage shows cancelled this year due to the global pandemic, it seemed a foregone conclusion that we wouldn’t have any good fodder for viral sensations. The virtual briefings were safe from mishap and impromptu dorkiness. No giant enemy crabs. No Ravi Drums. No families clumsily gyrating though motion controller routines. Alas, Microsoft and 343 Industries showed up at the last minute with their Halo Infinite gameplay demo that featured the serene space ape now known as Craig the Brute. At about 4 minutes into the video, Master Chief smacks this charging Brute, and a legend is born.

Even though Craig was born from the complaint that Halo Infinite’s graphics don’t look all that “next-gen” yet, 343 Industries Brian Jarrod is joining in the fun. It’s a sound strategy to disarm the comments, but Craig’s woeful face is a throwback to the similar “Tired Face” meme that dominated all conversations about Mass Effect Andromeda. Beware, Chief! A nonplussed budget Thanos may end up being your biggest enemy this go around.

There’s about to be a lot of fresh meat in Rocket League

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Rocket League is going free-to-play. The car soccer arena (otherwise known as “lorry footy pitch” in Europe) title just celebrated its five-year anniversary, so it’s a perfect time to shake things up by shifting from Steam to Epic Games Store on PC, and by reducing the price to zero. What does this mean for current players? They get a bunch of free stuff like all previous DLC and a bunch of loyalty swag like the gold rims in the image above. They’ll also have five years of practicing 360 back-flip turbo ball kicks that will crush new players.

Current Steam players can continue to play Rocket league via Valve’s client. The developer says they will update and support it, while cross-play will ease any population worries. New PC players will have to go to the Epic Games Store once the game relaunches.

Even as a DLC, Hellraid is missing another release date

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Techland has delayed the Hellraid DLC for Dying Light. Originally intended to be a full separate game in 2014, then put on “indefinite hold” in 2015, and finally announced as a DLC project for Dying Light in June of this year, Hellraid moves the undead smashing to a medieval dungeon. As a DLC, you’re just doing it as your normal Dying Light protagonist and with a lot less of the planned features, like the procedurally generated environments, it would’ve had as a full game.

Hellraid is just missing it’s originally planned launch date of July 23rd and shifting back to August 13th.

The latest expansion for The Sims 4 should appeal to the crafty crowd

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Nifty Knitting is the second DLC for The Sims 4 that was suggested by the community of players. (The first was 2018’s Laundry Day pack.) Obviously, with the knitting focus and ability to make an in-game profit on “Plopsy” the DLC should appeal to the DIY and Etsy folks.

Full disclosure: The only reason for this post is to get that awful earworm music into as many heads as possible. Good luck getting that out of your noggin.

The Sims Spark’d is a reality show about using the game that’s like a reality show

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How many contestant runs will end in a panicky kitchen fire? That’s the question for The Sims Spark’d, an upcoming cable show about using The Sims to create stories that will get judged by a panel of c-list entertainers. Also, there’s a guy with a fez, which… Look, I’m not the audience for this. I admit that. But maybe one of you can tune in and let us know who wins?

The Sims Spark’d will air on July 17th on TBS.

After killing your Star Wars dreams, Rian Johnson likes to unwind with Pokemon Go

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That’s a pretty straightforward commercial for the upcoming Pokemon Go Fest 2020. No subverting expectations there, unless you look behind the lens. The ad was directed by Rian Johnson, previously seen upending the locked room mystery genre in Knives Out and making old Luke Skywalker aggressively milk a space walrus in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“As a longtime Pokemon trainer, it was a real pleasure working with Niantic on this spot.”

Pokemon Go Fest 2020 is a virtual affair this year. It begins on July 25th.

Skins are coming to Halo: Combat Evolved

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When Halo 3 is added to the Master Chief Collection on PC, cosmetic skins will be added to it as well as to Halo: Combat Evolved. For Halo: CE, this will include weapon skins, visor colors, and vehicle skins. The June update from 343 Industries lays it all out, including a deep dive into how audio works in the legacy Halo titles and why it’s taken so long to get that pesky audio glitch in Halo: Reach corrected. But we’re not here for sound! We want to know about the Master Chief with a pink visor.

“We wanted to bring a greater level of customization to the games that didn’t have as many customization options for armor sets so players can have their uniqueness in each game.”

Fret not, purists! There will be an option to toggle them off so you don’t have to see the hot rod paint jobs on Warthogs or “squirt” rifle decals. Ominously, the studio is looking at further ways to spice things up.

“This season will have some content that’s available for any title, like nameplates, but the customization items will be focused on Halo CE, and we are looking in the future seasons to add customization items to other titles as well.”

Who knows what’s next for the game? Emotes? Sprays? Victory poses? Celebrity voice announcers? Combat evolved!

Amazon’s Crucible is going back to the warehouse

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You probably don’t remember Crucible, the free-to-play team shooter from Amazon Game Studios, that came out on May 20th. It’s okay. Amazon wishes everyone would forget. By the few reviews available of it, the game was pretty bad. Even though it officially launched as a 1.0 release, and not as an early access title, most accounts characterized the game as a buggy, sloppy, unfinished mess that wasn’t all that interesting to play.

“For the most part, your experience as a Crucible player will stay pretty much the same while we’re in beta.”

Amazon is pulling the game from the public eye and putting it back into closed beta. If you’re interested in checking out what’s there, you have until tomorrow at 9AM Pacific to download the client. After that, the game will disappear from Steam‘s store and only people that played it prior to the cutoff will be able to continue playing, at least until the developers are ready to put it back in the harsh light of day. It’s all part of a previously announced plan to right a ship that came out of dry dock already listing to one side.

I just set a new record for time-to-uninstall in Civilization VI

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I saw a blurb on Steam about a new zombie faction in Civilization VI as part of Red Death, which is some sort of battle royale mode. The zombies have unique horde powers, which sounds about right. So, I figured it was time to reinstall Civilization VI again and see how it’s coming along. And it turns out that, yep, it’s just a battle royale mode in which units walk around and punch each other. The godawful one-unit-per-tile tactical combat jammed into a last-man-standing match, and each faction has some sort of jokey special ability. Civilization VI, which arguably works as a city-builder, stripped of the part that works. Why is this even in here?

While Googling how to set it up as single-player game, I came across a Red Death Wiki entry, which begins:

“Originally conceived as an April Fools’ joke…”

You don’t say. 

I did notice a variety of different “rulesets” for multiplayer games. A two player duel over the Nile, a Cold War arms race with nuclear weapons, Vikings trying to amass the most wealth, that sort of thing. They looked intriguing, and I was briefly tempted to try one of them before I came to my senses and realized that would mean playing Civilization VI.

A new member of the family joins Children of Morta

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That’s Apan on the left. She just rode into Children of Morta on a dragon and added herself as a new playable character. When she’s not partaking in the game’s seriously good pixelated action RPG action, she sets up an ornate backdrop in the Bergson household’s main foyer and dances around in front of it, recreating myths and legends from the far north. Sort of like when your favorite crazy aunt comes to visit.

Movie streaming in Fortnite is going to be a thing

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Get used to it, Gramps. The kids love Fortnite and it’s the hub of their entertainment world. Back in the good old days, the youngsters would watch videos on YouTube, but that’s long gone. Fortnite is the place to go if you want to capture the youth market. A pre-movie event for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker was only available in Fortnite. Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Tenet trailer debuted in Fortnite. Celebrities play Fortnite to show how hip and cool they are.

Now, Fortnite will stream three movies in its Party Royale island. Depending on where you live, you’ll get one of three Christopher Nolan films streamed in your region on June 26th. The movies are The Prestige, Batman Begins, and Inception. Unfortunately, US residents get Inception, while Canada gets the superior The Prestige. The event will mark the first time a full movie is played in Fortnite. Attend so you can tell your grandchildren you were there too.

Throw aside your prejudices against orcs and dark elves in Dungeons & Dragons

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Wizards of the Coast is revamping the way races are depicted in Dungeons & Dragons. Take orcs, for example. An evil homogeneous race of humanoid green-skinned barbarians no more, according to the blog post. Orcs have feelings and motivations. In fact, they are as complex and diverse as humans. It’s all part of a strategy to be more racially and culturally sensitive throughout the game system.

“We will continue that approach in future books, portraying all the peoples of D&D in relatable ways and making it clear that they are as free as humans to decide who they are and what they do.”

Wizards of the Coast is dedicated to more diverse hiring, and they’re working with consultants to vet their products and make sure they’re not inadvertently perpetuating harmful stereotypes. The studio is committing to correcting past misdeeds by updating long-time favorite publications.

The studio acknowledged that the Curse of Strahd and Tomb of Annihilation adventures contained unfortunate depictions of people that have been corrected in upcoming reprints. Kobolds, of course, are still dog-faced little twerps.

Dozens of Mixer fans are about to get Facebook Gaming accounts

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Microsoft is closing down Mixer. Beginning today, Microsoft will transition the hundreds of Mixer accounts left to Facebook Gaming, with the absolute switch occurring on July 22nd. It’s a radical move meant to support Microsoft’s Project xCloud system which is integral to the Xbox Series X and Xbox Game Pass strategies moving into the next generation.

Microsoft acquired Mixer in 2016, and integrated it into the Xbox ecosystem shortly afterwards. Despite a concerted marketing push, people just weren’t into Mixer. The big money exclusivity deals Microsoft cut with top tier streamers like Ninja and Shroud just last year ended up as nice paydays for those talents, but the audience did not come with them from competing sites. While the Twitch and Facebook Gaming streaming services saw audience numbers and hours viewed rise significantly during the COVID-19 crisis, Mixer has remained relatively flat.

Who cares about the Force when Star Wars: Squadrons has bobbleheads?

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I’m a sucker for tchotchkes in cockpits. The idea of customizing the console of my long-haul truck or P-51 Mustang with stickers, fuzzy dice, or pictures makes me warm all over. The king of useless dashboard toys is the bobblehead, and I love slapping one down in a high-performance vehicle. Put one in a No Man’s Sky spaceship? Sure. Put one in an Incom T-65B X-Wing Space Superiority Fighter? Oh, it’s on.

Electronic Arts’ Star Wars: Squadrons may end up being a boondoggle with a subpar single player campaign and it might launch stuffed to the brim with microtransactions, but look at the cockpit customization! I can forgive almost anything with a good bobblehead.