Far Cry 5’s testicle roasting is just part of the grand Far Cry fabric, says developer

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Remember the days when side missions were all about killing rats and collecting items? How times have changed. In 2018, Far Cry 5 players can stumble onto an optional mission that will have them hunting down fresh testicles for the local culinary celebration, Testy Festy. It involves guns, bulls, tractors, and the most surprising use of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing since that awkward ninth grade biology lesson.

It sure came as a surprise in the game. Ten minutes before, I’d been reading a pretty emotional letter from a father to his daughter while I was checking out a prepper stash, and the local cult was still raging – but here I was attacking sexually aroused cattle with a flamethrower. Far Cry 5 feels more open than ever before, so the emotional and the crazy is all mixed into one massive cocktail. We spoke to the game’s executive producer Dan Hay about how the Testy Festy mission came about, and how the team at Ubisoft makes the shifts in tone work.

“It’s exactly what you imagine. The game is so big, and we want to make it so that you have a whole bunch of different experiences,” he says. “So that one minute you have something that’s poignant, and the next minute you have something that’s crazy, and that it’s always surprising.”

Hay says the key to creating a mission like Testy Festy is the one ingredient that can make or break a Tinder date. “That’s the thing that’s really tricky: injecting charm into it with something like the right song. Each character and story has a little idiosyncrasy to it.That’s the process, finding what it is that makes it weird and wonderful.”

And what about those shifts in tone? We got a few hours to play the game, and I spent a lot of that time drawn to the madder moments – but someone else might’ve spent that time just following the main mission. How does the team plan for players following their own whims rather than a storyline?

“The way I choose to think about it is like a piece of music,” says Hay. “In previous Far Crys, we were building a very specific piece of music; we knew where you were going to be at certain beats, so we knew what emotional state you would be in. With this game, we said ‘No – just provide unique notes and rests, and let the player choose what it is they’re going to do.’ It’s not prescriptive, it’s just about opportunities.

“There are going to be times when you go through and you find something that’s poignant, something that’s powerful, something that’s earnest. Then there are going to be times when you’re running around saying ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.’ Our world is not painted with one brush, so why would we try to do that if we’re trying to build worlds? Why not make it interesting, unique, and allow the players to explore?”

This wild experimentation is part of what keeps the Far Cry series so fresh. It’s an action game that has gone back to the Stone Age, had an ’80s-style spin-off, and let you ride elephants around Nepal. “One of the cool things about our brand is that we get to play,” says Hay. “It’s the same spirit that created Blood Dragon, or Far Cry 4; we said ‘OK, what about going back 12,000 years and doing something in prehistory’? Somebody says ‘What?!’ – and then we know it’s the right idea. As soon as somebody says ‘what’ we know we have to chase it.”


Nintendo Switch SHOCK: Bad news, those amazing games might be on hold – or cost a fortune

Nintendo Switch SHOCK: Bad news, those amazing games might be on hold - or cost a fortune

Nintendo Switch gamers looking for blockbuster hits on their handheld may have to wait until 2019.

Developers have been told plans to roll out massive 64GB game cards for the console-cum-portable machine have been delayed a year.

It means big budget, cross-platform titles that take up huge file space will have to be delayed too.

The Switch has a very conservative cartridge memory of 32GB. But on the rival Xbox One and PS4 many of the biggest and best games often come in a 40-50GBs each.

So titles like Call of Duty: WW2 and Assassin’s Creed Origins won’t be appearing in their full glory on the Switch any time soon.

Cut down versions of them, maybe, like the Switch-only FIFA 18 that cut out a lot of modes and additional graphics to keep the file size low enough to fit the handheld comfortably.

Currently, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One Blu-ray discs allow up to 50GB of data.

Compare that to Switch’s current maximum of 32GB and you can see the limitations Nintendo has to play with.

While first-party exclusives like Zelda and Mario tend to be quite small in file size, there will be worries about third-party support going into 2018 as developers often don’t have the time or inclination to make a bespoke version of their games separately for the Switch.

And the console itself could suffer as games planned for the machine this year are now shelved until 2019 after the game card news.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Nintendo told third-party developers recently that 64GB game cards for retail games would not be made available until sometime next year.

Brendan Sinclair, of the Games Industry website, said: “At the moment, Switch game cards max out at 32GB of data, significantly less than the 50GB allowed by Blu-ray discs used on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

“While that’s plenty of space for many titles (the Wall Street Journal noted Nintendo’s critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey both come in at under 16GB), some third-party publishers have already run into space constraints.

“Titles like NBA 2K18 and WWE 2K18 still require retail purchasers to download additional information to a microSD card, while Bethesda shipped Doom with the single-player campaign on the game card, and online multiplayer requiring a separate download.”

Trailer: Dark Souls Remastered, coming to Nintendo Switch

The only solution, it seems, is paying more and buying additional MicroSD cards to make up the space on the console.

We ourselves found a major problem with LA Noire in our review last year in that the digital download of the game needs Switch players to dump everything else from the console’s internal memory, as well as a separately bought microSD just to get it running on the system.

It meant getting rid of key games like Mario Oddessy from the machine altogether just to play an ageing title that easily ran on the Xbox360 and PS3.

People familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal the delay in thr bigger cartridges was due to “technical issues”.

And Nintendo want to avoid a social media backlash similar to the one following the Switch launch, where there were reports of units warping in the dock and JoyCon controllers unpairing from the system at random.

Industry analyst Dr Serkan Toto saw limited significance in the delay of 64GB game cards, telling the journal they “would be nice to have, but surely not essential for the Switch’s success.”

Samsung Galaxy S9 box leak hints at variable aperture camera

Sometimes leaks are obviously legitimate, and sometimes people go out of their way to dupe us with an elaborate hoax. And sometimes, you just can’t call it — say, when an image pops up on Reddit allegedly showing the box a Galaxy S9 will eventually be tucked up in. The gloves, the clinically white work space, the layout and font; nothing seems too suspect. And given we know the S9 and S9+ will be announced next month, this is when you’d expect the leaks to start flowing. Assuming this is, in fact, final Galaxy S9 packaging, then what does it tell us about Samsung’s next flagship? Well, that it’s much like the S8, but with a few new features thrown in.

Most of what’s listed on the box is completely believable: The 5.8-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display, 8-megapixel front-facing camera, IP68 water and dust resistant rating, iris scanner, 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, wireless charging support and earphones “tuned by AKG.” If anything, they might disappoint those hoping for a bigger step change this generation — we can’t not mention the iPhone X here — since you’ll find all this written on the back of the Galaxy S8’s packaging. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that this is just one box, so who knows what other storage and RAM configurations Samsung is cooking up.

One rumor that’s been doing the rounds is that the S9’s camera will feature a variable aperture, which this leak seems to confirm, but otherwise it’ll be the same “dual pixel” 12MP shooter with optical image stabilization found on the S8. And Samsung’s already launched a pricey flip phone in China with a camera that can switch (mechanically, not digitally) between an f/2.4 aperture and a wider, f/1.5 aperture for improved low-light performance. No great stretch to assume the rumor is true, then.

The box also speaks of a “super slow-mo” feature little birdies have been chirping about. Apparently, the camera is capable of shooting slow-motion video at 1,000 fps, besting the 960 fps limit of Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium and XZ1. Otherwise, we’re apparently getting stereo speakers “tuned by AKG,” which would be new, and we can safely assume the S9 will feature a functioning FM radio chip, at least in North America, given the partnership with NextRadio announced just a few days ago.

There’s no mention of any face-unlocking feature; not on the box anyway. There’s been speculation the S9 could have iPhone X-like face authentication and possibly another take on animated emojis, because Samsung’s latest Exynos 9810 smartphone chip is geared for that kind of thing. Not all S9’s will carry the Exynos 9810 chip, though. In regions including the US, you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in its place, but that chip is capable of the same level of face mapping. Perhaps the feature isn’t ready yet, or Samsung is having trouble getting it performing comparably across both chips. Or maybe it just didn’t make the box.

Predictably, all Samsung had to say was it “is unable to comment on rumors and speculation.” But in between now and the S9/S9+’s official reveal next month, you can definitely expect more leaks either confirming or challenging what we think we’ve learnt from this little drip.

Europe enters race to build world-class supercomputers

Supercomputers are a crucial research tool for medicine, aviation, robots and weapons, but there are only three dominant players: The US, Japan and China. Europe has had enough of that situation, however, and announced plans to spend up to $1.2 billion to develop its own technology. The aim is to develop its own exascale machines (that can do a billion billion calculations per second) by 2022-23. “It is a tough race and today the EU is lagging behind,” said EC comissioner Andrus Ansip.

To give you an idea of how far behind, China has the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight, with 93 petaflops (93 million billion floating point operations per second) of computing power. The nation is also working on the Tianhe-3 (below), the world’s first exascale machine with over ten times the power of TaihuLight, and expects to have that up and running by 2020.

Other top ten machines are located in Japan, US and everywhere but Europe (other than Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but an “associated country.”) The only large European player is Atos SE, which built the Bull Sequana shown above. The machine, 55th in global supercomputer rankings, is the first phase of a 25-petaflop computer that will be used by the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission.

The Sunway TaihuLight Supercomputer (Li Xiang/Xinhua via AP)Right now, weather, space and other government agencies in Europe, along with private Euro companies like Daimler, Airbus and GlaxoSmithKline must rent supercomputing time on US or Japanese machines. That poses a risk that sensitive personal information, trade secrets and other data could leak or be stolen. If a dispute or crisis happens, Europe could also lose access to those machines.

Buying and developing supercomputing technology is crazy expensive, with exascale machines expected to cost up to a half billion dollars. To buy and develop them, Europe will spend $486 million itself, with the balance of the $1.2 billion coming from member states. It plans to first acquire machines that can compete with current top supercomputers, then develop its own exascale machines by 2023.

UK researchers have contributed expertise to the supercomputer project, but with Brexit, it’s not clear if it will sign on in the future. “Brexit has thrown a lot of uncertainty around the UK’s participation and it is really unfortunate and causing delay and confusion,” University of Bristol’s Simon McIntosh-Smith told Bloomberg.

The PC market recently grew for the first time in six years

There’s been a discouraging trend in computer shipments recently; year-to-year growth has declined steadily over the last six years. But now, IDC has a bit of good news: It looks as though the PC market actually grew 0.7 percent in the holiday season of 2017. This contradicts IDC’s forecast, which predicted a 1.7 percent decrease in shipments.

The first holiday season growth of PC shipments in six years is certainly worth nothing; the team at IDC believes that, while the computer market is still weak, it’s beginning to stabilize. Overall, the year’s shipments were down 0.2 percent, with a total of 259.5 million units shipped. A decline, sure, but better than 2016’s 1.5 percent decline.

The top PC performer in 2017 was HP, with a market share in the US of 34 percent. Lenovo followed, with Dell in third place. Apple remains in fourth place, growing its shipments 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017. ASUS and Acer were tied for fifth place.

It’s good news for the PC market generally; in 2015, it made its steepest drop in history, falling 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 8.3 percent overall. It looks like IDC’s prediction that the market is finally evening out is indeed coming to pass.

CES 2018: What the Gadget Fest Looks Like in ‘the Year of A.I.’

Yet the clear darling of this year’s show was not a gadget but the growing amount of artificial intelligence software helping these products run. The race between Amazon and Google to be the go-to service for integration of consumer products was on full display. In many booths, signs prominently advertised that products worked with Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. The smart home, car and TV all seemed to have been touched by Amazon or Google.

“It’s the year of A.I. and conversational interfaces,” said J. P. Gownder, an analyst for Forrester Research.


Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Zipping along the convention floor were robots yielding a host of skills. One robot, Loomo, top, doubles as a hoverboard and a companion that can take photos. Another robot, iPal, above, serves as companion to older and younger users. Designed by AvatarMind, the $1,500 humanoid robot can remind elders to take medicine or greet children at the door.

Sony’s new robot dog, Aibo, also stopped conventiongoers who took time to rub their hands on its hard-surface head.

Google’s presence was easily identifiable with activation centers, games and presenters walking around the convention floor, but Amazon dominated the arena by the sheer volume of products that worked with the Alexa voice assistant, like robovacuums, light dimmers and even mosquito zappers.

Continue reading the main story


Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

This year’s event featured more than 4,000 exhibitors, including 800 start-ups, and covered more than 2.6 million square feet.


Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Home appliances like coffee makers, vacuums, ovens and even the cat litter box also received an A.I. upgrade. Samsung’s smart refrigerator, which was on display, allows consumers to control other home devices with their voice and a large touch screen.


Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

The Mercedes-Benz User Experience, known as MBUX, one of many vehicle systems showcasing connected car technology, was a crowd favorite. The in-vehicle system includes a touch screen and understands voice commands

Credit Roger Kisby for The New York Times

On Wednesday, the power went out for a large portion of the convention center for more than an hour. Many attendees mocked the irony of a giant electronics show lacking electricity.

Credit David Becker/Getty Images
Correction: January 11, 2018
An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the robots on display at the CES trade show. It is Loomo, which doubles as a hoverboard and a companion that can take photos, not Nimbo, a different robot that works as an intelligent security system that can be programmed to patrol specific routes.

Xbox Games with Gold for January 2018 send you raiding with Lara Croft and Van Helsing


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The holiday season is just a warm memory now, but the gifts keep on coming for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. January’s selection of Games with Gold titles encompasses solo platforming and survival adventures as well as co-op friendly action experiences. Not to mention some good old fashioned time travel. Here’s what you can look forward to downloading for free this month.

Remember: any games you choose to download during their availability period will remain accessible so long as you have an active Xbox Live Gold membership. And don’t forget too that any Xbox 360 games made available through Games With Gold are also backwards compatible with Xbox One.

January 2018 free Games With Gold games

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3 (Xbox One) – Available: January 1 – 31
The concluding chapter of the Van Helsing action RPG trilogy is a fine way to while away the hours killing freaky monsters across gothic Europe. Choose from six playable character classes and level up your slaying talents, and even play through the entire campaign in co-op with up to four players (or try out the PvP mode, which also supports up to four).

Tomb Raider: Underworld (Xbox One / Xbox 360) – Available: January 1 – 15
Before Lara Croft went into full reboot mode in 2013, Tomb Raider: Underworld presented some of the most refined movement and exploration the series had ever seen. If you ever missed Ms. Croft’s more exaggerated adventures but didn’t want to go all the way back to the clunky days of the ’90s originals, this game is just what you’re looking for.

Back to the Future: The Game – 30th Anniversary Edition (Xbox One) – Available: December 16 – January 15
Telltale is currently known for its adaptations of The Walking Dead, Batman, and the Fables comics, but once upon a time it also made one of the most beloved ’80s films into a playable experience. Enter Back to the Future: The Game, which picks up after the trilogy and presents an all-new adventure for Marty McFly.

Today’s best Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription deals

Zombi (Xbox One) – Available January 16 – February 15
Try to play this first-person zombie survival game like a shooter and you’ll quickly become another shambling corpse. Even worse, that corpse will still have all of your stuff on it – and your new character will have to track them down and take them out to get it back. Move quietly, keep your cricket bat close at hand, and maybe you’ll make it out of London.

Army of Two (Xbox One /  Xbox 360) – Available: January 16 – 31
Army of Two is an FPS built from the ground-up with two-player co-op in mind. It’s playable alone, but it’s at its best when you and a buddy are working together and coordinating your attacks. Unfortunately, EA shut down the online servers for this game back in 2011, so you’ll need to play in local splitscreen to get the best experience.

The Last Guardian devs have put up a new teaser – meet a different kind of Beauty and Beast

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The studio behind The Last Guardian may be teasing its next project. Just over a year after The Last Guardian arrived on PS4, Gen Design updated its website with well-wishes for the New Year and a verrrrry long image. You can see part of it embedded above, here’s more.

Most of the image is darkness with a few birds circling around a pillar of light. The source is found at the base of the image: a young woman lifting herself up from a stone dais. Her nigh-luminescence and white gown evoke Yorda from Ico, which was also directed by Gen Design founder Fumito Ueda, though the stark shadows indicate that she’s reflecting light rather than emitting it. A series of steps leads down and to the right, where something big rests on the landing. Something a bit furry? Not Trico furry, no, but it has a good coat going on. And instead of weird dog-bird paws, this thing has a hand. There also might be a leg and even a chin, but it’s too dark to be sure.

ResetEra user Rösti poked a bit deeper into the image’s source script, which revealed a layer named “Beauty and the Beast 2018.” Don’t get your hopes up about a title reveal, that’s probably just a codename or overt reference to the image’s contents (though I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney’s lawyers are already drafting up the C&D letter just in case).

The Last Guardian took seven years to arrive after it was first announced in 2009. Hopefully the turnaround time on this new project – whatever it turns out to be – is much shorter!

Overwatch teases 2018 plans including Hero 27, competitive changes, and more

As Overwatch enters its third calendar year, its developers at Blizzard want players to know that the team-based shooter isn’t going stagnant any time soon. The studio released a New Year’s developer update with game director Jeff Kaplan where he teased some of the new bounty we can expect in 2018. You can watch the whole thing above, and read on to see the six things I’m most looking forward to this year.

Blizzard World opens its doors soon

This Hybrid map was first teased at Blizzcon back in November, and we’re getting super close to its debut beyond the test servers. Look forward to hunting down all the little Easter eggs of course (it is set in a fictional Blizzard theme park after all), but also be prepared for some new approaches to level design. More new maps will follow after Blizzard World throughout 2018.

Hero 27 is well on the way

Jeff Kaplan says Blizzard is “well along the path” to Overwatch’s next playable character, who he thinks is “very needed”. We haven’t gotten any new Defense heroes since launch, so that category’s as good a guess as any. Hero 27 is in internal testing right now, and though we don’t have any hint of a release date yet, I doubt we’ll have to wait too long into 2018 to find out more. Kaplan also confirmed that Blizzard has plans for more heroes even after No. 27 arrives.

Competitive Mode may get some big changes

Blizzard typically makes small tweaks to Competitive Mode between each season, like different rules for overtime, but grander changes may be afoot in 2018. “As the year goes on, we want to evolve our plan for what competitive play looks like over the long term of Overwatch, and [whether it takes] a different shape or form,” Kaplan said. I’m a pretty casual competitive player (I am aware of how much that sounds like an oxymoron) so I’m open to pretty much anything, but Blizzard will have a difficult task in pleasing the mode’s many different kinds of players.

Events get bigger, starting with Year of the Dog

The next seasonal event will be the Lunar New Year, and players can expect some “pretty significant content” when Year of the Dog begins (so hopefully not just dog icons pasted over all the old rooster icons). Kaplan confirmed that the Uprising event will reappear later in 2018 – I wasn’t sure, since it’s built around an in-universe event rather than a season or holiday – as well as celebrations for Overwatch’s second anniversary; get ready to unlock all those dance emotes while you can. Those were the only events called out by name, but it’s safe to assume that another round of Summer Games, Halloween Terror, and Winter Wonderland are on the way in 2018 too.

 The standard loot selection will grow

“Hopefully sometime this month”, the pool of non-event-exclusive loot will get a sorely needed infusion of new items. Kaplan says it will be “a ton of new content” and you’ll have all the time you need to unlock it… assuming you don’t buy all of it straight off with that pile of credits you’ve been saving up.

 The Overwatch League begins

You’re probably already pretty hyped up for the first season of Overwatch League to begin on January 10 if you’re into esports. Blizzard’s ambitious new approach to competitive play has athletes from around the world competing for city-based teams and the pre-season has already produced memorable moments aplenty. If you’re not into esports, hey, at least some of those new team skins look pretty cool.

This year’s best Destiny cosplay so far just turned up (in-ring) at a Japanese pro wrestling show

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Professional cosplayers aren’t exactly a rarity, these days. Professional wrestlers who also cosplay? There aren’t many of those. In fact there’s probably only Kenny Omega. Personifying better than anyone else the ‘curious but actually makes total sense when you think about it’ crossover between geek culture and pro grappling fandom, Omega is not only one of the best in the business, having enjoyed a hell of an international career trajectory since his debut in 2000, but he is also proudly, defiantly, a great big fanboy.

His YouTube channel is dominated by recordings of his Street Fighter matches. He’s used Mega Man themes as his entrance music. He’s used a Final Fantasy-nodding finisher called the One-Winged Angel. He’s appeared dressed as Liquid Snake. And now, for his latest appearance at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 event, he’s given us possibly the best thing to come out of Destiny 2’s disappointing Curse of Osiris expansion by turning up in a costume inspired by the titular Warlock (in truth mashing up the character’s look with the first game’s Anubis-inspired armour), packing a home-made recreation of the Vigilance Wing Exotic pulse rifle.

I’ll dodge mentioning the result of Omega’s no-disqualification match against Chris Jericho, because it only ended a few hours ago. But while you wait to catch up, would you just look at the quality of his get-up in these pics (found on Reddit, via Hova092, HAYABUSA_DCLXVI, and MakeEmSayWoo)? While the gun and the costume are tweaked just enough to not entirely infringe copyright, they’re one hell of a good recreation, and would probably get just as much photographic attention were Kenny simply a nameless nerd wandering around Comic Con. Rather than, you know, one of the best wrestlers working in one of the best promotions around.