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!

Click here to join the forum discussion.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 isn’t as good as it should be, but it’s just what I wanted

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I was crestfallen when Marvel Heroes, an online action RPG that ran for nearly five years, shut down in 2017.  Not necessarily because I played it a lot. I didn’t, really. I indulged in fits and starts. Bursts of colorful nonsense now and then, here and there.  Whenever I wanted I could drop in and make some little Wolverine or Iron Man punch things and shoot lasers. A colorful swirl of whooshing effects, leveling up, and loot scooping.  I even learned things. Did you know there’s a superhero named Squirrel Girl? She was to squirrels what Willard was to rats, except with the chipper demeanor of an Eisenhower-era sorority girl on her way to the malt shop.  Oh, Marvel.

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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 Bethesda.net 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.

Click here to join the forum discussion.

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!

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.

Sea of Solitude carries a copy of The Bell Jar wherever it goes

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It’s probably not a good sign that some girl is reading from her diary about how her boyfriend is all moody and stuff, but I’m distracted by the fact that her footprints aren’t lining up with her feet.  Whenever she puts a foot down, the footprint appears about two inches to the outside side and a full foot-length behind her. Is she phase-shifted? Is this a metaphor for being out of sorts with yourself?  Or is this just what you get with indie games like Sea of Solitude? A heap of emotional poetry spackled over some half-baked attempt at a game, where lining up footprints doesn’t really matter because the real reason we’re all here is to hear someone hold forth about the life lessons she learned when she was in high school.

I’m guessing the latter.

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