Tag Archives: gaming news

PlayStation Classic Is Down To $54 Right Now

The PlayStation Classic was pricier than some other retro consoles at $100, but bargain hunters who were waiting for the right price may want to take advantage of it now. The mini-console is down to just over $50 now, half off the original price.

Amazon has the system listed for $54, which is likely a temporary price. Other stores may be willing to price match depending on their policies, so check if another one could be more convenient for you. This is the lowest price we’ve seen yet on the mini-console, though just after the holidays it was marked down to $60 across the board.

The PlayStation Classic packages the mini-console with a controller and 20 games, including bona fide classics like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, and Final Fantasy VII. The library on the whole was marked as a disappointment in our review, and the emulation quality and UI presentation is uneven.

“I’d like nothing more than to tell you that the PS Classic is a pleasant surprise, that it will match your excitement and then some,” wrote critic Peter Brown. “This sadly isn’t the case, and short of Sony refreshing it, or the hacking community breaking it open and reconfiguring it, the PS Classic may never be more than a puny PlayStation with good looks.”

PlayStation Classic Full Game List

  • Battle Arena Toshinden
  • Cool Boarders 2
  • Destruction Derby
  • Final Fantasy VII
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Intelligent Qube
  • Jumping Flash
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Mr Driller
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Rayman
  • Resident Evil Director’s Cut
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Ridge Racer Type 4
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Syphon Filter
  • Tekken 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Twisted Metal
  • Wild Arms

Source: GameSpot.com

Final Fantasy-themed fried chicken now available in Japan

Hot LinksWe spend way too much time on the internet  

Absurdly popular RPG franchise Final Fantasy will unveil its long-awaited expansion Shadowbringers this summer. Regrettably, I have not followed the Final Fantasy series much these last 25 years, dropping off right around Final Fantasy III for the SNES which came out when I was 13. So I am indeed a lapsed fan, and a new campaign from the Final Fantasy team is strongly enticing me to jump back on.

The two selling points: First, Lawson. Lawson is a beloved convenience store chain throughout Japan, a sort of elevated 7-Eleven (added: at least American 7-Eleven’s), with exceptionally craveable late-night foods. (The Lawson backstory is worth a whole other post, but briefly: it was born near Akron, Ohio 80 years ago and now has more than 11,000 shops in Japan—and only two in the U.S.) Anthony Bourdain was a fan, and urged visitors to grab a meal from Lawson at least once while in Japan:

The second selling point: chicken karaage. I’m a bit of a fried chicken fiend, and I’m of the controversial belief that the Japanese method of frying chicken is superior to all others. Marinated boneless skin-on chicken thigh nuggets, deep fried in a lacy potato starch dredge—it’s really worth seeking out.

What does this have to do with Final Fantasy? Gaming site Twinfinite tells us that a Final Fantasy-themed fried chicken is available for a limited time at Lawson. My eyebrows raised and nose twitched upon hearing this news. The five-piece chicken karaage costs less than $2 USD, and is flavored with mayu, a sweet and intensely savory black garlic oil, commonly used to flavor ramen. One in 700 nuggets are even emblazoned with the franchise’s meteor logo, and according to the video below, when you buy this at Lawson you’re greeted with the victory fanfare from the game. Watch here:

This is all delightfully over-the-top, the chicken looks delicious, Lawson rules, and now I’m tempted to start digging a Final Fantasy rabbit hole.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Cut Facebook Out of My Life. Surprisingly, I Missed It

Goodbye Big FiveReporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting her money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened.  

Week 2: Facebook

After Facebook’s hell-year of scandal, and its unabating erosion of our privacy—a topic I’ve been covering for over 10 years—I never thought I’d miss the social network. But here I am, staring at my screen, feeling strangely alone.

In the second stage of my epic quest to thwart the world’s most powerful tech giants from getting my data, my money, and my attention, I’m taking on Big Blue. No Facebook. No Instagram. No WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Onavo, nor Oculus Rift. For one week, I’m cutting myself off from everything Facebook-related—not simply deleting apps from my phone, but using a custom tool that completely stops all my devices from communicating with Mark Zuckerberg’s enormous, needy baby.

Originally, I just planned to block myself from using Facebook the same way I’d blocked myself from using Amazon, by routing all my internet traffic through a virtual private network (VPN) controlled by the technologist Dhruv Mehrotra, who is prohibiting my devices from communicating with IP addresses controlled by Facebook. But I decide this experiment is an opportunity to do something additional, something more drastic.

Facebook’s misdeeds with our data have been news cycle fodder for at least a decade, but the past year has been particularly bad. The only explanation for why most of us are still members is Stockholm Syndrome. Like many people, I feel invested in Facebook: I’ve been building my profile since 2007. I have party and vacation photos galore there and over 1,000 connections, including dear friends, acquaintances, colleagues, loved ones, and quite a few randos whom I added for reasons that I no longer remember. I’ve written that people who aren’t on Facebook “may not actually exist” and are “suspicious.” I use Facebook to log in to other services that I use a ton such as Airbnb, Words with Friends, and Spotify.

I couldn’t quit Facebook, could I? And if I did, would I miss it? Would the world I’ve built there miss me?

Facebook has steamrolled almost the entire planet into joining its platform, so it’s amazing how damn thirsty it seems much of the time. To prepare for the Faceblock week, I sign into Facebook one last time and discover 36 notifications waiting for me.

“Damn! Must be some big things happening,” I think, but when I click on the white bell, I discover 35 notifications about one friend’s comment on a link I had shared earlier in the week. Facebook had been adding a new notification every few hours since the last time I had signed in, in what must have been a desperate attempt to get me to open its app. I’m not alone in getting countless irrelevant notifications on Facebook.

I feel about quitting Facebook the same way I feel about deleting my tweets, something I also don’t do that I probably should: I’m concerned there could be unanticipated downsides. But this is as good a time as any to find out, so I click the “delete” button.

To my great surprise, my account is instantly gone. I thought Facebook would tempt me to stay with profile photos of friends who would be “sad” without me, but my account just winks out of existence immediately with a message that I can have it back if I sign into Facebook within 30 days. (I put a reminder in my Google Calendar to reconsider this decision in 29 days, and hope that Google Calendar is not blocked when the time comes.)

Of course, while I can “delete” my Facebook, that doesn’t delete all my information from its servers, even after 30 days. It still knows what other people share about me, from photos of me and my family, to my contact information if others upload it.

The first thing I do after the big deletion is visit Airbnb. My biggest concern is that I’ll be locked out and lose years of building up a good reputation as a renter, but I soon discover to my vast relief that I can regain access by saying I forgot my password and supplying my email address. I still have my Airbnb account; it is just untethered from Facebook. Spotify too lets me back in, though my profile photo is gone and my name is replaced with an eight-digit string of numbers. I can also get into Words With Friends, my favorite time-wasting app. It looks like all these companies are planning for the eventual obsolescence of Facebook, thank god for me.

The Amazon block took out whole websites and services for me, but that’s not the case with Facebook, because it doesn’t control the building blocks of the internet. That’s not for want of trying: Facebook has attempted to bring “universal internet” to India and other countries with internet.org, but it has faced resistance.

Dhruv built a counter that tells me in real time how many data packets are trying to get a tech giant; it was spinning like crazy when I was blocking Amazon, but advances far more slowly with Facebook. (Over the course of the week, my devices try to communicate with Facebook over 15,000 times compared to nearly 300,000 times for Amazon the week before.)

The vast majority of Facebook’s requests are likely its attempts to track my movements around the web, via Like and Share buttons, Facebook Analytics, Facebook Ads, and Facebook Pixel. Facebook Pixel, if you haven’t heard of it, is a little piece of code that a company can put on its website—say, on a particular sneaker page that you look at while signed into Facebook on your work computer. Once the pixel captures you looking at the sneaker page, the shoe company can retarget you through Facebook, so you later see an ad for the same shoe when you’re scrolling through Instagram on your personal phone. 

In an email, a Facebook spokesperson just “wanted to point out” that “your experience seeing advertising across devices is common and not new to online advertising.” True, but unlike Pixel, not every web tracker is on over 2 million websites.

Cutting Facebook out of my life is easy technically; Dhruv’s IP address block works well. His only challenge is WhatsApp, which has been designed to circumvent blocks in repressive countries, and so rapidly tries to reach different servers when it detects an inability to connect. (Dhruv compares blocking that one to playing whack-a-mole.)

But psychologically, it’s hard: I miss Instagram as the thing I do to waste time on my phone and to keep up with friends. I also miss, to my surprise, Facebook itself.

The first day of the Facebook block is Halloween, which is particularly hard because I can’t post cute photos of my 1-year-old, Ellev, dressed up as Boo from Monsters Inc. (I ordered the costume on Amazon, of course, pre-block.) And I can’t find out what my friends are dressed as unless I individually text or email them, which is weird. The only people who get to see my family as Boo, James P. Sullivan (me), and Mike Wazowski (my husband) are the members of my extended family with whom we trick-or-treat, the strangers we pass IRL, my in-laws due to a photo sent on a group text thread, and a couple of friends to whom I text photos apologizing for the “bespoke sharing.” I have to admit that the enjoyment of a holiday dedicated to dressing up is somewhat degraded when not using Facebook’s apps.

Where we trick-or-treat, kids get candy and parents get wine
Photo: Trevor Timm

The week of the block also includes the runup to Election Day. One morning, as I talk to my husband, Trevor, about filling in our mail-in ballots, I ask how he is going to vote on the proposition to end daylight saving time in California. He says his cousin wrote a convincing post about it on Facebook (we talk in links even IRL!) and I say I’ll check it out before I remember I can’t. Trevor summarizes it for me: The time change sucks for parents who have to force their kids to wake up an hour earlier. This is a point I wouldn’t have thought of and a conversation we might not have had without Facebook, and it helps swing my vote.

I know. It’s crazy, right? Even with all the news about how terrible information is around elections on Facebook, I still want it as a resource! This is a shocking discovery for me. Did I turn off Facebook during the one week it actually matters to me, or do I use Facebook more than I realize?

I try to fill the social media hole in my life by joining Mastodon, an open-source, decentralized Twitter-like social network. (You “toot” instead of “tweet,” a term chosen by someone who either doesn’t know the standard definition or who believes most of what people write online is noxious hot air.) I try a toot or two, but honestly, I find the idea of building yet another online social network exhausting. So after signing in a couple of times, I abandon it. Network effects are real and powerful.

Sarah Jeong summed up the problem well in Vice soon after Mastodon’s October 2016 launch:

You aren’t on Mastodon because your friends aren’t on Mastodon. Your friends aren’t on Mastodon because you’re not on Mastodon. And I wouldn’t be on Mastodon, either, if I hadn’t promised my editor to write an article about it.

This is the hold Facebook has on us: We built our networks there, and we are loathed to leave them or to start again.

With the purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook has a stranglehold on social news and photo-sharing. By blocking them, I lose the ability to mass communicate with my social circle; I can’t brag that I won a journalism award on Facebook or post a video of Ellev feeding a giraffe at the zoo on Instagram.

I also lose my ability to receive news from my social circle. Spoiler: When I give in and re-enable my Facebook account weeks later, I see at the top of my Newsfeed that one of my closest friends recently gave birth. I call her to congratulate her and tell her I wouldn’t have found out if I hadn’t re-joined the social network. “I just assume that if I post something on Facebook, everyone will know about it,” she tells me.

If you give up Facebook and all the companies it owns, you’re cut off from participating in your community, whatever your community may be.

“Facebook has too much market power,” Sarah Miller tells me. “It should never have been allowed to acquire Instagram in the first place.”

Miller is the deputy director of the Open Markets Institute, which has spent the last year loudly calling for the tech giants to be heavily regulated if not broken up. Miller is also the spokesperson for Freedom From Facebook, an advocacy group composed of members of other advocacy groups, like an activist turducken, that has done cute stunts like fly a plane over Facebook’s shareholder meeting with the sign, “You broke democracy.”

Miller thinks the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s notable missteps around disinformation and genocide, are symptomatic of a company run amok without serious competitors to force it to be a better gatekeeper of people’s information.

Freedom From Facebook has been pushing the Federal Trade Commission to treat Facebook like a monopoly and break it up. On that count, they scored a meeting with an FTC commissioner, Joe Simons, and have filed a complaint with the agency, though it’s unclear how serious the FTC is about investigating Facebook. A top official there who would otherwise be in charge of such an investigation is conflicted out, but the Washington Post reports that the agency is currently considering hitting the company with a “record-setting fine,” that is, if the government shutdown ever ends.

Though Miller doesn’t think a fine is enough, even a historic one; she argues that the FTC should force Facebook to spin off WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger into their own companies, because together Facebook’s companies account for “77 percent of mobile social networking traffic in America.”

“If a company doesn’t have competitors, it’s not incentivized to protect consumers,” Miller tells me during a phone call. “It’s more than just privacy violations. We’re trying to tie everything together. Will our democratic institutions stand up to these companies or let themselves be corrupted?”

Facebook, of course, disputes any notion that it’s a monopoly. “We operate in a fiercely competitive market for services which help people connect, discover, communicate and share,” a Facebook spokesperson told me. “For every service offered on Facebook and our family of apps, you can find at least three or four competing services with hundreds of millions, if not billions, of users.”

Late in the week, Instagram notices I haven’t opened the app in a while and sends me an email prompting me to see what my friends are up to. And I realize I don’t really know what people are up to. My friends now largely expect that I’ll see their broadcasts on various social networks, which means they don’t tell me things individually anymore, unless I see them in person.

Or the alternative happens: I assume I know everything that’s going on with someone because I’ve been following their feed. I recently went to visit a college friend who lives across the country. We text each other every weekend with our favorite photos from the week, and I felt like we were in relatively good touch, but once I’d spent a few days with her, I discovered there was ground-shaking stuff happening in her life about which I’d had no clue. It made me realize just how limited many of my digital communication channels are.

It’s the proverbial double-edged sword: I feel both out of touch when not on these channels, but like I’m worse at being in touch because they exist.

Funnily enough, reading a draft of this story convinces one of my editors, who has never had Facebook or Instagram, to join the latter because he realizes he doesn’t have a way to show cool things “to a bunch of people I know at the same time without texting them [when] they’re not really worth texting over.”

So I don’t know if this series will convince anyone to quit these tech giants, but it has convinced at least one person to join them.

Next up: Google.

This series was supported by a grant to Dhruv Mehrotra from the Eyebeam Center for the Future of Journalism.

Source: Kotaku.com

Just accept that Weezer’s meme-driven covers album is good

A few facts:

Under most circumstances, the buck would stop here, but, Weezer being Weezer, things have escalated to the next level. Late on Wednesday night, the band surprise-dropped Weezer (Teal Album), which is made up solely of covers including, of course, “Africa,” and a-ha’s “Take on Me.”

For a little more context, Toto’s “Africa” has taken on an unaccountably robust online life since its release in 1982, spawning an entire subreddit devoted to covers of the song, as well as, naturally, a Pitbull semi-cover for the Aquaman soundtrack and a mysterious installation in the middle of the Namib desert.

That Teal is now a part of the Weezer canon is, again, thanks to a meme started by the then-14-year-old Mary. That there’s now an entire album built around it feels improbable, though it fits neatly into the way that Weezer have generally presented themselves as smart weirdos (as well as the resurgence of “oldies” in popular culture — see the soundtracks to Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, etc.) and have become something of a meme on their own.

So, yes, The Teal Album’s existence is sort of a fluke, but here’s one last fact for you: It rules. “Happy Together”? Slaps. “Billie Jean”? Total bop. As per every new Weezer album, the general reaction seems pretty squarely divided, but The Teal Album is indisputably a bunch of flavors that taste great together. “Good memes + Weezer + ’80s hits covers” is a winning formula, so stop pretending you’re above fun and join the rest of us in being right in enjoying the album.

Source: Polygon.com

Into the Spider-Verse Cut a Popular Spider-Ham Joke for a Very Good Reason

Spider-Ham may be beloved, but he started out as “really controversial.”
Image: Sony (YouTube)

“He was simultaneously the most popular and the least popular character.” Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-writer and co-director Rodney Rothman said Spider-Ham was one of the hardest Spider-folks to get right because it was all about finding a balance between schtick and heart. This even led them to get rid of one of the best-received jokes in the entire film.

In an interview on The Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith podcast, Rothman shared some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits on creating the Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This included discussions about an early draft featuring a scene for Peter Parker actors Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Tobey Maguire to play their Spider-sonas, but it was removed for being too confusing for the audience. However, one of the main tidbits involved the evolution of Peter Porker, the man who was turned into the famous Spider-Ham after he was bitten by a radioactive pig.

Spider-Ham was a highlight in an already stand-out movie. Voiced by John Mulaney, he had some great jokes but was also sweet and sincere. There’s a chance he could even get his own television spinoff. But according to Rothman, the character was “really controversial” during most of the production, and one of the hardest to get test audiences behind. Kids loved him, but parents hated him. He said this was partially because they were testing the movie using storyboards, which makes it hard for audiences to see jokes in context, but also because Porker got kind of annoying. Rothman compared early versions of the character to Fozzie Bear from The Muppets—an endless stream of one-liners that didn’t quite fit.

Note how the restaurant is called Uncle Frankfurter’s.
Image: Sony (YouTube)

Rothman said Spider-Ham eventually started coming together but called it a “war of attrition to find the right material.” Sometimes, this involved adding new jokes or taking some away. The biggest removal involved the dorm room scene between Miles Morales and the other Spider-folks. The scene stands out because it’s a rare moment of sincerity from Peter Porker, who tearfully tells Miles how they’ve all lost someone they care about and how that’s sadly part of the job. Until a month or two before the movie came out, that’s not quite how it played out.

“The way that scene [originally] went is Noir said he lost his Uncle Benjamin, Peter lost Uncle Ben, and Gwen lost Peter. We went through everyone,” Rothman said. “Spider-Ham said he lost his Uncle Frankfurter. And then he said, ‘He was electrocuted, and it smelled so good.’”

According to Rothman, this joke “would destroy,” getting some of the biggest laughs of the entire movie, partially because it was so shocking and surprising. And even though it elicited one of the best responses of the film, they decided to change it shortly before release (they kept the animation of Spider-Ham crying, but changed what the character was crying about).

When Rothman explained why they chose to take something out that audiences seemed to be enjoying, he said it came down to the integrity of the scene, the characters, and who Spider-Man is at his core. “We just decided, ‘This is a bad laugh. This is throwing off the energy in the scene,’” he said. “Spider-Man is a real person with real feelings, and we wanted people to get that.”

For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.

Source: Kotaku.com

Search between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady, and a precarious flatbed – Fortnite Challenge guide

The season 7, week 8 Fortnite challenges includes a quest for a star hidden somewhere on the map. Thankfully, the game offers us up the hint that the star is somewhere between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady, and a precarious flatbed, which helped us find it. Now, we’re here to show you where it is.

To find the star for this challenge, you’ll have to head to the northeast edge of the map. Once you’re there, you’ll find the star on top of a mountain just outside of Wailing Woods. Here’s a map to help you find it.

Fortnite Search between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady map Epic Games via Polygon

Once you get to the top of the mountain, the star will be on a small patch of dirt on the south side.

Search between a mysterious hatch, a giant rock lady, and a precarious flatbed - Fortnite Challenge guide
This is exactly where you’ll need to land to get the star and complete the challenge
Epic Games via Polygon

Get close enough and the star will reveal itself, allowing you to interact with it and complete this week’s most hidden challenge. Nothing about this challenge is particularly difficult, and you should be able to glide to it no matter which path the Battle Bus flies into the map on.

Source: Polygon.com

How to Fix Your Awful Wifi

Your wifi sucks, and it’s driving you crazy because every time you want to watch old It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you’re left watching a little loading wheel spin instead of laughing at Charlie’s antics. But don’t freak out. We’re here to help.

Bad wifi isn’t a curse. In most cases, it’s simply a matter of physics; an equation in which the variables include the equipment you’re using and the space you’re trying to fill with sweet, sweet internet connectivity. Everyone’s situation is different, but there are some constants that can help you come up with the right formula to fix your awful wifi.

Your wifi could be struggling for a lot of reasons. Bad modem, bad router, bad setup, bad house—it could be anything. Let’s walk through some possible scenarios.

So you have a bad modem…

Most wifi systems involve two pieces of hardware. There’s a modem that connects to your cable internet service with a coaxial cable, and a wifi router that connects to the modem with an ethernet cable. In some cases, the modem and the router are just one device. If you’re a Verizon FiOS customer or have another fiber-based internet service, you’ll have something called an optical network terminal (ONT) instead of a modem, and in the case of FiOS, you’ll have a special Verizon router. We’ll circle back to this sort of setup in a minute.

Now let’s assume that you have a regular old cable modem. This might be something you bought a few years ago, and it might be something you rent from your internet service provider. Not all cable modems are created equal, however. If it’s an older model, there’s a good chance it doesn’t support newer DOCSIS standards, which dictate what bandwidth the hardware can handle over coaxial cables. Lower standards mean lower speeds, and while you might not need a DOCSIS 3.1 modem with the latest standard, you definitely want at least version 3.0. Just keep that in mind when you’re Googling your modem’s make and model. If it’s DOCSIS 2.0 or earlier, it needs an upgrade.

When you’re looking at your modem, also keep in mind what service plan you signed up for. There’s no need to spend a buttload of money on a gigabit modem, for instance, if you don’t have gigabit internet service. The old standard for a cheap modem to replace your increasingly expensive ISP modem rental is the ARRIS SURFboard ($65), although you might get similar performance out of the slightly cheaper Netgear CM500 ($60). Meanwhile, the Wirecutter recommends the Netgear CM600 for most people ($90), and they’re smart friends, so you should consider that newer model as well.

So you have a bad router…

Upgrading your cable modem will improve your wired internet speeds, but to get that bump on your wifi as well, you’re going to need a good router. Just like cable modems, wifi routers can generally be judged based on the standards they support. Long story short, the newest 802.11ac standard it fast as heck—it can theoretically deliver gigabit speed internet—but the 802.11n which offers up to 600Mbps will work pretty well for most people and most devices.

The alphabet soup of 802.11 standards is confusing for sure. However, it’s the first thing you should look at when judging your router. The newest 802.11ac is certainly the most future proof of the bunch. It operates on the 5GHz band, while the 802.11n standard operates on the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz band. The benefits of sticking to the 5GHz band are myriad. Not only does it deliver faster speeds, but because there’s less interference on the 5GHz band, you’ll also offer better stability. Lots of other wireless devices like cordless phones and microwaves use the 2.4GHz, so interference can be an issue, although the 2.4GHz can offer longer range due to the physics of radio waves. (Lower frequency waves can travel further.) The 802.11ac standard also uses beam forming to identify wireless devices in use and focus the signal on those.

That said, not every internet-connected device works with 802.11ac, and the 5GHz band might not be the best option all the time. This is why you’ll see a lot of modern wifi routers tout their dual-band or tri-band capabilities. A dual-band wifi router operates on the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band at the same time. This means you might see the option to connect to either network from any given device. Tri-Band routers add an extra 5GHz band into the mix, which means you could connect more bandwidth-hogging devices to the network without slowing everything down. As with the 501.11ac standard, you’ll only appreciate the benefits of buying a tri-band router if your devices will use them. And these newest router features will come at a price, so there’s no need to spend a bunch of money if you don’t think you need them.

The other meaningful wifi router buzz term is MU-MIMO, which stands for “multi-user, multiple input, multiple output.” The details of how this newer technology might benefit you are complicated enough that it’s fair to say you don’t need an MU-MIMO router right now, but you might want one in the future. MU-MIMO technology is designed for environments where multiple users are accessing the network from multiple points and demanding lots of bandwidth. So if you live in a house where someone is doing a video conference from one room, someone’s streaming on Twitch in another room, and yet a third person is downloading movies in a third room, MU-MIMO might be something to look into. Not all devices support this technology, however, so it’s not the end of the world if your router doesn’t offer it, either.

So what router should you buy? Again, it’s a complicated question that hinges on your needs. We tested the Netgear Nighthawk R7000P, which is a dual-band 802.11ac device with MU-MIMO, and it performed admirably in a multi-level, pre-war building in Brooklyn. Retailing at $200—but often available for around $150—the Netgear Nighthawk is also a device that won’t break the bank. Other leading contenders in this price range include the D-Link EXO AC2600 ($145), the TP-Link Archer C3150 ($220), and the ASUS RT-AC68U ($160).

So you have a bad setup…

All those specs and standards aside, the reason your wifi sucks might have everything to do with the space you live in. Old multi-level brick houses filled with pipes, as we explained earlier, are not super friendly to your standard wifi setup. New expansive mansions with a huge footprint are almost impossible for a single router, regardless of its 802.11 standard, number of bands, or MU-MIMO capabilities. Some situations simply deserve more innovative solutions.

The problem with conventional wifi routers is that they blast out a signal, however sophisticated in its capabilities, to a limited range. If your device is too far from the router or if there are too many obstacles between the two of you, the signal will simply stink. You can buy a wifi extender which connects to your main router and rebroadcasts the signal, but all of the traffic is still getting funneled through that original router. Lucky for you, there is new technology that offers more versatility.

Meet the mesh network. A mesh network operates a lot like the name would suggest. You’ve got a base station that’s hardwired into an ethernet connection. Then a number of satellite routers connect not only to the base station but also to each other. That means the resulting network looks less like a daisy chain and more like mesh fabric, with connections between several different nodes. That means you could place a base station in your living room and distribute nodes throughout your house, not only expanding the reach of your network but also better distributing network traffic. If any single node stopped working, the traffic could be redistributed through the other nodes.

While mesh networking technology has been around for years, the technology has only recently been made available and accessible to the average consumer. A pioneer in the space is a company called Eero. This small Bay Area-startup started selling its mesh-networking hardware back in 2015 with the promise that Eero could offer better speeds and, perhaps more importantly, an easier user experience for a wifi router. We’ve long been fans of the Eero system, which now features sleek white base stations and even sleeker nodes called Beacons that plug directly into the wall and require no wires at all. However, Eero is also very expensive, with a single base station (which should cover about 1,500 square feet) costing $200 and Beacons (which each add an additional 1,000 square feet of coverage) running $150 each.

Following Eero’s lead, there are now several major competitors now in the mesh networking space. Google has its own Google Wifi mesh-networking routers that retail for $130 a piece or $300 for a three-pack. Google says they offer similar coverage to the Eero system. Netgear does mesh-networking now, too, with its Orbi system. A single Orbi router will set you back $130, while the latest two-piece system which apparently covers 5,000 square feet costs $370. Plume is another company worth looking at, especially if all those prices seem high.

So if you’re buying more than one of any mesh-networking device, the costs are going to stack up quickly. But bear in mind that only certain spaces will benefit from mesh networks. Multi-storied or especially big homes are obvious choices. If you live in an apartment or single-level home, you’re probably fine with a solid modem and modern wifi router.

So you have a bad house…

Listen, at the top of this post, we warned you that living in a bunker would be bad for your wifi. Just kidding, but also, if you live in an actual bunker, bad wifi might not be your biggest problem.

If you’re facing a more conventional situation like a big brick house with lots of mirrors—mirrors are bad for wifi because they’re full of metal—then you should just pay closer attention to what your specific situation might demand. As we’ve explained, most people living in apartments and smaller homes don’t need expensive mesh-networking hardware to improve their wifi. The right modem and router should do just fine. People living in larger homes might benefit from a mesh-networking solution, but it might not be worth the money. After all, you don’t really need gigabit speeds in the garage if you’re not doing heavy networking jobs from your parked car. Most people can fix their awful wifi just by upgrading to more modern equipment, and that might mean ditching your rental modem and router. They probably cost you more than you think!

Inevitably, fixing your awful wifi is often as easy as some simple trial-and-error techniques. Try installing some different equipment and then running some speed tests. (SpeedSmart is an app we like.) You should also try to stress the network by doing a lot of the tasks you’d normally do on the wifi network. If this test setup doesn’t seem awesome, buy some more equipment and try that out. Return what you don’t want. Finding the perfect wifi setup is not dissimilar to finding the perfect pair of shoes. It’s going to take a little bit of work, but when it feels right, your life will be forever changed.

Source: Kotaku.com

Release dates are the newest way to influence how, and where, you buy games

It can be challenging to figure out when I can play a video game these days.

Publishers now release betas and demos, although my progress might carry over into the final game. They may release games earlier than expected for subscribers, and there may also be different subscription options depending on the console you own.

I used to be able to mark release dates on a calendar, but now I have to decide on which platform I’d like to play the game, whether I want to subscribe to the publisher’s online service, whether I’d like to pre-order, and even then I have to decide which version of the game to purchase before launch. Each of these variables may impact when I’ll be able to actually play the damned thing.

There isn’t a single reason for this shift in how publishers treat access and release dates, and each of the different dates on which I can get access to a game serves a different master. Each release date, and the associated staggered access to each game, is now a chance for the publisher to influence player behavior. Being able to play a game early is a powerful tool that can be used to get players used to the idea of not buying games at all, in fact.

Anthem is the most recent example of what we can expect from release dates in 2019 and, like Battlefield 5 before it, the many different ways to get access to the game give us a hint about what EA values out of its players right now. There is an exclusive demo for players who have pre-ordered the game or who subscribe to EA Access on Xbox One or Origin Access on PC, and then an open demo that’s available for everyone who wants to play.

Note also that these are being called demos, and not betas. The difference between the two things can feel mostly semantic lately, but EA seems to be signaling that this these two periods are a time for players to try the game to see if they want to buy it, not for players to test the game and offer feedback.

Although, of course, both things will be happening. The VIP demo gives players an excuse to pre-order or subscribe to be among the first to play the demo, while EA is also given the opportunity to test the servers with a relatively small number of players.

PC players will be the first to get full access to the “finished” product — as much as these living game can be considered finished — as Origin Access Premier subscribers can begin playing the full game on Feb. 15. EA Access or Origin Access Basic subscribers will get 10 hours to explore Anthem on PC or Xbox One as well, while PlayStation 4 players will have to wait until the “actual” release date of Feb. 22 to play the full game.

Let’s look at all the things these dates, demos, and incentives accomplish for EA:

  • Controlled, staggered access to the game as the servers are tested
  • Incentive to pre-order or subscribe to get access to the demo and early access to the game
  • Incentive to buy the game or subscribe to Origin Access specifically on PC to play the full game before anyone else, with no time limits. It’s probably just a coincidence that EA doesn’t have to share revenue from the PC version with anyone else.

This is what I mean when I argue that release dates and access are increasingly used to shape player behavior. The best way to get the most access to Anthem the earliest is to subscribe to Origin Access Premier on PC. EA is probably happy to get your money and time through other methods, but that subscription on that platform is the perceived ideal situation for the publisher, and thus the incentives are likely meant to nudge you toward that outcome.

Players are used to release dates being a very simple thing: The time at which they can buy and play a video game. But publishers are increasingly seeing them as ways they can push subscriptions, drive pre-orders, manage the number of people online at any given time, and even try to influence the platform on which you play each game. There’s going to be tension in the short term as players get used to navigating all the ins and outs of how publishers want them to interact with release dates compared to how they would like to do so themselves.

And never forget that players still hold the power in this relationship: Publishers need to sell games to survive, and these updated tactics to push subscriptions or to encourage play on specific consoles are a test to see how the players will respond. The loudest vote you have, and the most important, is the one you cast by deciding how and when to spend your money.

Source: Polygon.com

Save 25 percent off Resident Evil 2 on PC with our exclusive discount

The highly anticipated remake of Capcom’s seminal 1998 PlayStation game Resident Evil 2 will be released Friday, Jan. 25, on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. Polygon readers can save 25 percent off the PC version of Resident Evil 2, which normally retails for $59.99, at licensed Steam key marketplace Fanatical by using our exclusive discount code, ZOMBIE25.

Fanatical is currently offering 20 percent off Resident Evil 2 for all customers, so the code will take an additional 5 percent off the listed price. That brings the Standard Edition down to $44.99 (usually $59.99) and the Deluxe Edition to $52.49 (usually $69.99).

The code ZOMBIE25 will actually work on any games in the Resident Evil franchise, many of which are already discounted at Fanatical, including Resident Evil 7 ($16.95, usually $29.99) and Resident Evil 0 ($7.53, usually $19.99). The code will stack, so you can buy as many games as you want at that extra discount.

For fans of the hit survival horror series, the remake goes beyond doing justice to the 21-year-old classic. In Polygon’s review, Michael McWhertor calls 2019’s Resident Evil 2 “everything a video game remake should be.” A 30-minute demo, released on Jan. 11, gave players a taste of what to expect — a slick, modern overhaul of the beloved game with plenty of Easter eggs for loyal fans of the series. I played the demo once and watched another runthrough; both left me excited for what’s to come.

Polygon’s exclusive discount code will be available until Feb. 10.

Source: Polygon.com

What We Love (So Far) About Kingdom Hearts 3

Tim Rogers and I have had Kingdom Hearts 3 for only one full day, and we played as much as we could. Here’s what we think so far. We try not to spoil anything major, but of course, we can’t spoil anything that happened beyond the first ten hours or so. Enjoy!

Maddy Myers: Are you ready to talk about Sora’s smartphone for a full hour? I don’t even know where to start with Kingdom Hearts 3, because there’s so much video game in this video game. Every time I’m like, “okay, so this is what this game is,” there’s suddenly also Space Invaders-style ship battles or some other thing.

Tim Rogers: I took some notes. For example, Wow Those Graphics, That First World Sure Was Action-Packed—Unexpectedly Action Packed, and The Dialogues Sure Do Feel Exactly Like Kingdom Hearts.

Maddy: I am coming into this game from a longtime fangirl perspective, so I actually can’t tell if it’s good or if I’m just experiencing a lot of emotions, as accompanied by the music of Utada Hikaru. But I know from your anti-review video that you were once a non-fan of this franchise. And now you like it, maybe? I guess I’ll let you explain that.

Tim: Well, I wasn’t ever a NON-fan… I just thought it would be easy to get hits by making fun of it, and it was. Maybe we can start by talking about the opening cutscene. I mean, the music video, which somehow crams in every character in the series in a way that, if you are in any way a fan of these games, might actually kill you.

Maddy: Yeah! So, like every other Kingdom Hearts game, this one starts with a music video that recaps all the previous games. Except, as usual, there’s no dialogue, so the recap won’t actually help you at all beyond setting the scene.

Tim: Also, the rules of the chess-like game the two wizards in the cutscene are playing are impossible to grasp.

Maddy: Yeah, it ends with their two kings facing each other, which is… good? Bad? Both?? Or, uh, queens? Impossible to say. Also, that’s young Xehanort and Eraqus. I’m sorry that I know this.

Tim: Oh, I know who they are, too.

Maddy: And that’s not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer. The real spoilers probably aren’t gonna show up until, like, thirty hours into the game. I guess this is the part where we should explain that we didn’t get our codes until 11 PM last night, so we are not yet 30 hours into the game.

Tim: I think I won’t be thirty hours into this game until about 48 hours from now.

Tim: I have put the Utada Hikaru theme song single on as background music for talking about this game. I had to search for “Hikaru Utada” in order to find this single in Apple Music, which feels weird. As someone who had a LiveJournal and Napster in 1999, she will never not be “Utada Hikaru.” And isn’t that who this game is made for?

Maddy: Yeah, she’s Utada Hikaru to me, clearly. And my LiveJournal archives would show the same.

So, I would recap the opening cutscene, but it is followed by six other cutscenes and scene-setting sequences, so I am not even sure what to recap because it’s all running together by this point. I can start by saying that the premise of this game is that Sora and Donald and Goofy are all underpowered again for the sake of the Necessary Plot Machination of having to level up your character, and after enduring some lecturing from Yen Sid about it, they all get into their ship and start flying around to the Disney and Pixar worlds that you would expect of a Kingdom Hearts.

I’ve been trying to imagine how it would feel to play this if I didn’t understand any of the lore, and I think the first several hours or so aren’t too bad. The opening cutscene is visually overwhelming and may have characters you don’t recognize. But then after the dust settles, you can calm yourself with the knowledge that the villains are, like, Maleficent.

Tim: While waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3, I saw fit to replay Kingdom Hearts 1 for the first time since the one play-through I gave it in 2002, and I gotta say: that sure prepared me to be blown away by Kingdom Hearts 3. You *do* start out underpowered, though you learn guard and dodge-roll like forty-five *minutes* into the game, not literally fourteen hours!

Maddy: Yeah, they teach you a lot of techniques almost immediately in this game. They bombard you with techniques!

Tim: The (multiple, luxurious) opening CG cutscenes were a sort of high-speed brain-download of all the characters and situations and lore, in a way that it might be reaching a little bit to compare to the way the characters in the game feel when they have their souls and realities manipulated by sinister forces, though yeah, as soon as I saw Donald I was straight back to hollerin’ at my buddies.

That first world is great! They throw you right into some stuff! And the way they do it is great! The game is totally self-aware about how weird the series’s structure is and it has a lot of fun with it. I’m talking about one particular title card, which made me laugh sort of too loudly. Do you, uh, know what title card I am talking about?

Maddy: The one that says Kingdom Hearts 2.9?

Tim: Yeah, that one! I loved it. Maybe we should redact that for people, though…

Maddy: I’ll toss a spoiler tag above this section so we don’t have to worry about that stuff.

Tim: Do we wanna say what the first world is? Again, I’m so scared of being branded a spoilerer: It’s Hercules. They give you a full-scale action set piece in Hercules land and it’s packed with graphics and battles and techniques and cutscenes!

Maddy: Hercules is great. I got lost multiple times and I kept finding more tiny chests. Running up and down walls and climbing up Mount Olympus is fast and fun. The combat feels really great to me even though it is so overstuffed with different kinds of moves you can do that it’s kind of ridiculous, especially since every move is still fundamentally just triggered by variations on “press X a lot.”

Kingdom Hearts is always, and will now definitely remain, my go-to example of a game that looks incredibly complicated and impressive to play, but when you are actually the one holding the controller, you know the secret, which is that you are merely pressing X.

Tim: Oh god. I got lost for forty minutes like halfway up through the level.

Maddy: That makes me feel better. They kept giving me maps in each area and I was like… do the maps help??? There are still so many corridors! But eventually I’d always end up in the right one and there would be more Heartless or whatever and I’d be back on track. Also, even when I did get lost, I somehow always had missed twelve chests or smashable boxes anyway, so, it’s fine. I’m ready to grind. I’ve got levels to level!

Tim: As I said a moment ago, I replayed through Kingdom Hearts 1 this week and wow, having not played it since playing Kingdom Hearts 2 in 2005 I forgot how simplistic the combat was in the first one. Kingdom Hearts 2 had erased the memory of that combat. And now it’s like my brain has reset and I’m right back to being surprised by Kingdom Hearts 3’s combat. It’s like 2’s, except with more buttons to press to make wild huge things happen. And it’s faster! Wow! It’s so fast! Everything is so fast! Sora runs so fast! And you run up walls! So even if you get lost, you can just sprint right back to another familiar location in like two seconds.

What do you think of the Disneyland “Attraction” attacks?

Maddy: I enjoy them, although I am at the point where I’m skipping a lot of those intro cutscenes (of Sora and the gang getting into a roller coaster or train or whatever the set-up is for the attack). But the attack animations look great. It’s very satisfying to throw a barrel of fireworks into a massive tornado of Heartless.

Tim: I loved them the first couple of times, though then I got that Splash Mountain one like right at the END of a tiny battle like four times in a row and I gotta say it is a heck of an anticlimax to be wheeling some glittery HDR raft around for a full 40 seconds while one little baby monster cowers in the corner. I keep pressing the triangle button hoping it’s going to be the Goofy team-up attack which is *also* queued up, though oops! I hoped wrong!

Maddy: Haaa, oh man, yeah. There have been times when I’m almost at the end of a fight and I’ve seen the option to do a big splashy attack and I’ve just swung my keyblade on through it because I know I don’t need it.

Tim: The battle system in this game is sometimes a slot machine that dispenses gumballs and I gotta say I love it.

Maddy: I’m still also getting the hang of the Link attacks and all the other kinds of attacks you can do, and when it’s good to do the various magic attacks, when it’s not worth bothering, what my shortcuts should be, and so on. Often these battles are accompanied by almost joyful or even bouncy music, too, so the entire experience of the super-sparkly attacks is all the more slot machine-like.

Also, I really respect that the outfits in this game have remained incredibly 2002. Now everyone has plaid accents on their clown outfits. Plaid. Incredible.

Tim: The plaid is amazing. I plan to write two whole paragraphs about the plaid in my upcoming Full Review.

Maddy: Riku has Nirvana on his Gummi Phone playlist, I guess.

Tim: Man, the Gummi Phone!

Maddy: Honestly, I’m not over the smartphones, at all.

Tim: You know what my first immediate thought was when I saw that? Was “Oh god Kingdom Hearts 2 came out before the iPhone.”

Maddy: I could tell where we were going as soon as I saw those interstitial screens with the Facebook-like social media posts, even the fake hashtags, and so on. The hashtags are little heart symbols, instead of a hash mark, because of course?

Tim: Those loading screens are part of The Kingdom Hearts Full Package Experience, which is “We thought of everything, and then we spent twelve years thinking of MORE than everything.”

Maddy: Yeah, imagine THAT meeting. “Sora should have the internet!”

Tim: In the Famitsu review for Kingdom Hearts 2 in 2005, every one of the four reviews used the Japanese word “Kodawari.” Which means, roughly, “attention to detail.”

This game is THAT game, plus twelve years more of that kind of obsessive thinking. Like, yeah, of course Sora has the internet! He’s got a spaceship!

Maddy: He does have a spaceship, and he uses the spaceship to fight Heartless, in space.

Tim: Did you take any pictures? The first thing I did with my Gummi Phone was take a picture of Donald. He threw up his arms and said “What! You want to take a picture of ME?!” And I yelled “DONALD!!!!!” He was so flattered!!!!!

Maddy: That is perfect. I haven’t taken any selfies with it yet, because I have fucked up, and I need to boot the game back up and do this.

Tim: I got one with Sora smiling and Donald doing a muscle pose.

Maddy: All of the characters do the muscle pose in this game.

Tim: Especially Hercules! He can’t stop doing the muscle pose! Uh yeah, the Gummi Ship? Do you like the new Gummi Ship? I don’t know how much I like it, yet…

Maddy: I don’t yet understand why the ship segments are in the game or where they’re going, I guess? Or how big of a role they’re going to play. As I fly around between worlds fighting random baddies in space, I’m mostly just thinking of all the times I would dig for minerals in Mass Effect. I don’t hate it as a mini-game, I just can’t tell if it’s going to get old or what. It’s really hard to pass judgment on anything when we’ve both only had the game for a day.

Tim: I loved the idea of the Gummi Ship in the first one. “An RPG where the overworld traversal mechanic is an old-school, kinda dumpy, kinda dumb, somewhat boring shooting game” sure was better than a lot of turn-based RPGs. And then in KH2 I genuinely loved that Gummi Ship!

In this one, it’s some sorta open world thing where battles take place on a separate screen and I uhhhhhhh I really can’t tell where my ship is.

I am highly myopic in my left eye and I always have been, so my depth perception is pretty bad in real life. So 3D video games are my opportunity to feel like I have perfect depth perception. Anyway, the Gummi Ship sure does not let me feel that. Like, I don’t know where the enemies are! It looks like they’re like a millimeter in front of me!

Maddy: That isn’t just you, actually. Those fights are really, really weird. You have to just line up the ship to be right in front of the enemy to shoot it, and it feels somehow wrong.

Tim: Yeah! I’m glad to know it’s not just me! Anyway I have Too Many Opinions about shooting games in general so maybe I shouldn’t get started on this. One final thing I’ll say about the Gummi Ship: it’s not 60fps at ALL. It’s very 4K, and it is bursting with little explosive HDR particles, though it ain’t no 60fps. It is barely touching 30. I only point this out because: oh my god. I did not expect this game to be native 4K, 60fps. Apparently for me, avoiding spoilers also means not knowing the native resolution of the game until I play it. (I’m playing on Xbox One X, by the way.)

Maddy: Yeah, I’m just playing on the regular old PlayStation 4, so the visual look of those battles isn’t very jarring to me. I do think it’s weird that you get a grade on each Gummi Ship battle and that I’m expected to care what the grade is.

Tim: Something tells me we might want to… upgrade our Gummi Ships so that we can understand what the grading system is.

The Xbox One Elite Controller feels real good for this game: you put ability shortcuts into “decks,” and I love putting the ability shortcut activator button on a rear paddle instead of a shoulder button. Now it feels like esports!

Maddy: There are so many other fiddly bits to upgrade, too. But that’s good. I like upgrading fiddly bits. I’m enjoying moving my keyblade slots around and synthesizing ethers or whatever.

Tim: I can’t wait to have three full decks of fiddly techniques to switch between by holding a real paddle and clicking my Xbox One Elite Controller’s loud mechanical D-pad.

Maddy: It’s going to be an incredible weekend of that.

Tim: Yeah, I’m gonna try to get through this entire game in a weekend. I wonder if I will die!

Maddy: Do we have anything else we want to say? I love Donald, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse with all of my heart. I don’t think I said that yet, or enough. I don’t even care about the classic Disney characters at all except in these god damn games, wherein Mickey is a bad-ass who tells me there will always be a door to the light, and I believe him.

Also, Mickey is wearing plaid too, bless him. They repeatedly refer to the fairies having made the new outfits, and at one point, Sora throws a tantrum because he wants one too.

Tim: I just wanna say: wow, this is a monstrously polished video game. I cannot imagine anyone who liked any Kingdom Hearts game being disappointed by this game, based on what I’ve played so far.

Maddy: It is both incredibly polished and also a trip directly into my brain a decade ago, which is what you want out of Kingdom Hearts 3. I hope the rest of the game continues to feel this great.

Tim: I once made fun of Kingdom Hearts cutscenes—not for how convoluted the plot was, or anything. Mostly I loved to make fun of the weird way the voice actors emphasize the wrong words sometimes, or there’s too much of a pause between dialogue lines. Though as soon as I was talking to a couple familiar characters, all voiced by their original actors, now thirteen years older than the characters they’re portraying, I was like, “Wow, I am home, inside this video game.”

Maddy: God, yeah. Every time Sora pauses for a weird amount of time as Donald and Goofy look on at him, the love and patience in their eyes, I am transported back to being 20 years old again.

Tim: Like, despite the incredibly, psychedelically new graphics technology, once a cutscene starts up, it’s an immediate time-travel back to Kingdom Hearts. It’s like, it’s been thirteen years since Kingdom Hearts 2, though the developers have somehow stayed in the exact same zone all that time. It must be tremendously difficult to work on a game this meticulous for that long!

Maddy: Well, they did keep making DS games and so on. With important plot details that many people didn’t follow, which is also kind of fine?

Tim: Yeah they made those DS games! Though you know what I mean. Oh, there was one tiny thing I somehow wanted to mention: in Hercules world, you’re talking to Hercules and you’re like “Heck yeah, that’s the original voice actor of Hercules.” And then Pegasus and Meg and Phil show up and you’re like “Heck yeah that’s the original voice actor of Meg.” And then someone acknowledges Phil and he just kinda nods and walks off-camera and you’re like, “Oh. Where’s Danny DeVito?” I was like, dumbstruck that they cut a single corner. I didn’t know they knew HOW to cut a corner.

Maddy: Ha! Good point.

Tim: Then I was like, “Oh, I guess there are like 400 other actors in this game.”

Maddy: Okay so wait, apparently they didn’t even have Danny DeVito in the other Kingdom Hearts games? It was this other voice actor named Robert Costanzo??? Mind blown…

In summary, they didn’t even get FAKE Danny DeVito this time. Talk about a buncha corner-cutters! Just kidding: wow, they filled this game with stuff. And now, we’re going to get back to playing the entire rest of this video game. Goodbye!

Source: Kotaku.com