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December 15, 2018
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Gaming

Doom is 25 and co-creator John Romero is putting out a giant expansion for it

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25 years ago, anyone old enough to navigate DOS was likely playing Doom every spare minute, assuming their parents weren’t around. A quarter century after its release, the game’s legacy is unquestionable — but it could always use a few new levels. So co-creator John Romero made some. They come with a silver statue of his head impaled on a spike.

There’s not a lot one can say at Doom’s 25th anniversary that one couldn’t at its 20th, so I’ll spare you the big retrospective. Suffice it to say that Doom still rules, and if you’ve never played it, you’ve got a treat ahead of you. And at this point there’s enough of it to rival modern games in length and challenge.

What has happened in the intervening five years is the release of… well, Doom, AKA Doom 2016. This gory, kinetic remake charmed (and tore out) the hearts of millions, reigniting interest in a franchise that had seen better days.

Seeing this renewed interest, and with the 25th anniversary, approaching, co-creator John Romero decided he wanted to dive back into making maps for the game that made him.

“I worked on it part time during 2017 and 2018, mostly while I was on vacation or in the evenings,” Romero explained in an interview, apparently with himself, posted on his website. “For me, making this whole episode was a labor of love and a reminder of all the amazing times that we had at id working on the original. I was fortunate to be a part of such a great team and a foundational game.”

Sigil is a pack of nine levels that are an unofficial, but probably as official as we’re likely to get, fifth “episode” of Doom.

“I wanted the levels to feel like they belong to the original game as if they were a true fifth episode,” Romero told himself. “There’s more detail in the levels than episodes 1-4, but not overly so. The boss level is terrifying. There’s a massive room in E5M6 that is the coolest room I’ve created in any map.”

Many will remember the synth-metal soundtrack to the original, and to match that Romero tapped legendary metal guitarist Buckethead to contribute a song to Sigil. The catch is that the song doesn’t come with the free version of the expansion.

See, Sigil will release as a megawad — a wad of .wad (“where’s all the data?”) files, the original format for Doom expansions and mods. You’ll be able to download that for free and play it on your original copy of Doom; if you don’t have one, you can buy one for $5, and should.

But true Doom megafans will want to go with a boxed edition. The standard one comes with a 3.5″ floppy disk shaped USB drive with the game on it, but the “Beast Box” has a bunch of extra gear inside the giant box: a booklet and print, an XL Sigil shirt, and most tempting of all, “a pewter statue of John Romero’s head on a spike.” This is a reference to a famous Doom Easter egg, but honestly would have made perfect sense anyway.

“I believe the most important legacy of Doom is its community, the people who have kept it alive for 25 years through the creation of mods and tools,” said Romero. “It’s not at all lost on me that I have gone from a creator to a part of the community in that space of time, and I love that.”

Sigil comes out mid-February. I can’t wait. If you’re interested in the more modern Doom stuff, though, keep an eye out for Doom Eternal, the sequel to the 2016 hit. More of the same? Sounds good to me. Rip and tear!

News Source = techcrunch.com

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is good, clean, butt-kicking fun

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After a few days with the game, I’m no expert. Hell, I’m not even entirely sure I’m confident enough to take on all comers. I am, however, most definitely hooked. This scrappy little gaming upstart just might have a future ahead of it, after all.

I admit that I’ve not played a Smash Bros. title in…well, it’s been a while, aside from the little bit of game time I’ve had with Ultimate in various demos since the game was unveiled at E3 earlier this year. If you find yourself in a similar boat, the title plays like a fun bit of chaos out of the box.

Try to remember just how much Nintendo managed to pack into previous installments. Now multiply that by a few orders of magnitude, and you should begin to approximate how much is packed into a single screen for Ultimate. I recommend playing the first couple of rounds alone in the comfort of your own home, where no one can make fun of you.

After a few times knocked into the abyss, however, this will come back to you. The button scheme, the combos, how to rebound after some adorable Pokémon hurls you over the side like a mustachioed rag doll.

Of course, one of the series’ hallmarks has always been its ability to appeal to the button mashers as much as the hardcore gaming crowd. That holds with Ultimate. You can still inflict a fair bit of damage on the opposing side with some ham-handed controller slamming. Heck, with enough finesse, you might even trick them into believing you’ve got some clue about what you’re doing.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, be prepared to be overwhelmed. One of the fundamental keys to Nintendo’s prolonged success is maintaining the basic building blocks of IP, while upping the ante with each subsequent interaction. Like Zelda Breath of Wild and Super Mario Galaxy, Nintendo’s done its best to make the title as expansive as possible. Of course, that plays out quite different with a fighting game than an open-ended sandbox title.

Here that means a ridiculous 74 characters at launch (including downloadable content). The list includes all characters from past versions, with several new additions. The series has always played into that old fanfic favorite of getting all of your favorite characters in one place to beat the ever-living snot out each. With Ultimate, the selection spans a broad array of popular franchises, including Mario, Zelda, Street Fighter, Metroid, Sonic, Mega Man, Pokémon and Donkey Kong.

The list goes on and on and on, but here’s a pretty handy guide, including in which installment a given character was introduced.

Ultimate also features modes galore. The basic, however, is the most familiar. Simply stated, you choose a stage and a fighter and do whatever you can to knock your opponent off the platform. The more times you connect, the more damage you do — and the more likely you are to deplete their life force with every subsequent toss.

The stages (100 in all) themselves are as diverse as the fighters, each playing out like a love letter to Nintendo’s past. And there are some pretty deep cuts, from the Living Room in Nintendogs to a level of the 1984 primary colored Pac-Man arcade title, Pac-Land (I could’ve sworn I was the last person alive who had any recollection of that game).

The levels are as dynamic as the fighters. That ranges from the simple speeding freight in Zelda’s Spirit Train, to, in many cases, having the ground seismically shift beneath your feet. The touches are clever in many cases, including Dream Land GB (Game Boy) and Flat Zone X (Game & Watch), which maintain the monochrome screens of their predecessors and allow you to play in — and in some cases around — the old-school console. The developers appear to have had every bit as fun designing the levels as players will have playing them.

Add to that a huge arsenal of items, from Pokeballs to Nintendogs who temporarily block the action, and you’ve got a lot jam-packed into a single frame. Sure, one of the Switch’s best features is the ability to play on the go, but you’re really going to want to experience this thing plugged into a bigger screen.

Between stages, you’ll find yourself pitted against a new challenger. Defeat them in a quick one-on-one, and they’ll be added to your roster. Lose, and they’ll come around for another challenge later on.

A few days in, and I’ve barely even begun to scratch the service on this thing. Devin’s getting ready to do a much deeper dive on the title, including the half-dozen different modes, featuring things like Spirits, collectable characters that add attack and defense bonuses to your fighters.

Sure, things don’t always turn out well when nerds get exactly what they want, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is fan service in the best possible sense of the term. The title offers longtime Nintendo devotees exactly what they’re looking for — and then some.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Hit the trackless nuclear wastes with this Laco RAD-AUX watch

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Laco is a small German watch company famous for its Flieger watches – pieces designed for pilots featuring big crowns and legible faces. Now brand has teamed up with ABlogToWatch on a Fallout-themed watch that looks like something pulled out of a deserted vault.

The $2,950 watch contains an ETA 2824.2 movement and features a massively distressed case and band along with a clever case that hearkens back to 1950s A-Bomb/military design. It’s limited to 143 pieces and you can pre-order it for shipment in March. The entire package looks like something out of the Fallout game. Bethesda is not involved in the product, incidentally, but the entire thing is an homage to the Fallout universe.

From the site:

On the outside of the heavily-worn tin box, we see a stamp showing that it was issued to the Overseer of Vault #43. Inside the box, you’ll find the Laco RAD-AUX, a user manual, and an accumulation of a few odds and ends. Presumably, the additional artifacts were collected by the owner of the Laco RAD-AUX before it was discovered. There are realistic Polaroid-style photos depicting abandoned landscapes, mutated plant-life, and a curious panther named Gloria. A bottle cap bearing the mark of a sunset, which has been turned into a pin. There is also a New California Republic ’protection postcard’ which instructs you to place it near the entrance of your domicile, and each item included looks realistically tattered and aged.

The most interesting thing about this watch is the partnership with ABlogToWatch, a popular watch blog run by Ariel Adams, and Laco. These sorts of partnerships usually result in a boring, branded watch with an ugly blog logo hidden somewhere on the case. This partnership is more about Laco and Adams’ imagination taking flight over a mushroom cloud. Regardless, this is a great piece for folks who haven’t yet picked up a 3D-printed Pip Boy. Good luck, Vault Dweller!

News Source = techcrunch.com

Spotify for Xbox One now works with Cortana voice commands

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Spotify arrived on the Xbox One back in August 2017 to give gamers the option of streaming their own tunes while in a gaming session. Today, Spotify is upgrading its app with a few key additions, including most notably support for Cortana voice control along with other personalization features. With Cortana, gamers will be able to speak their music requests instead of using the controller. That means they can command the music – including being able to play, skip and pause songs – without having to leave their current gaming session, Spotify says.

Before, gamers would have to use Spotify Connect via an app on their phone, tablet or laptop to control or change the music while gaming.

For example, you’ll be able to say things like “Hey, Cortana, play my playlist on Spotify,” or “Hey Cortana, play my Discover Weekly on Spotify.”

This upgrade is currently only available in the U.S., however.

The new app is also introducing an updated experienced that’s designed to make it easier for Spotify users to access recently played songs, plus your “Made for You” hub, and your music library.

Spotify says the app can help gamers find their favorite background music, too, by taking into account their listening history when making its recommendations for a more personalized experience.

This part of the update is rolling out more broadly, including the U.S. as well as in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and the U.K.

Options like repeat and shuffle are available, too, as are a selection of curated gaming playlists over on Spotify’s “Gaming Hub” if you get stumped as to what to play.

The update will require the latest version of the Spotify app which can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store, the company notes.

News Source = techcrunch.com

App Stores to pass $122B in 2019, with gaming and subscriptions driving growth

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Mobile intelligence and data firm App Annie is today releasing its 2019 predictions for the worldwide app economy, including its forecast around consumer spending, gaming, the subscription market, and other highlights. Most notably, it expects the worldwide gross consumer spend in apps – meaning before the app stores take their own cut – to surpass $122 billion next year, which is double the size of the global box office market, for comparison’s sake.

According to the new forecast, the worldwide app store consumer spend will grow 5 times as fast as the overall global economy next year.

But the forecast also notes that “consumer spend” – which refers to the money consumers spend on apps and through in-app purchases – is only one metric to track the apps stores’ growth and revenue potential.

Mobile spending is also expected to continue growing for both in-app advertising and commerce – that is, the transactions that take place outside of the app stores in app like Uber, Amazon, and Starbucks, for example.

Specifically, mobile will account for 62 percent of global digital ad spend in 2019, representing $155 billion, up from 50 percent in 2017. In addition, 60 percent more mobile apps will monetize through in-app ads in 2019.

Mobile gaming to reach 60% market share

As in previous years, mobile gaming is contributing to the bulk of the growth in consumer spending, the report says.

Mobile gaming, which continues to be the fastest growing form of gaming, matured further this year with apps like Fortnite and PUBG, says App Annie . These games “drove multiplayer game mechanics that put them on par with real-time strategy and shooter games on PC/Mac and Consoles in a way that hadn’t been done before,” the firm said.

They also helped push forward a trend towards cross-platform gaming, and App Annie expects that to continue in 2019 with more games becoming less siloed.

However, the gaming market won’t just be growing because of experiences like PUBG and Fortnite. “Hyper-casual” games – that is, those with very simple gameplay – will also drive download growth in 2019.

Over the course of the next year, consumer spend in mobile gaming will reach 60 percent market share across all major platforms, including PC, Mac, console, handheld, and mobile.

China will remain a major contributor to overall app store consumer spend, including mobile gaming, but there may be a slight deceleration of their impact next year due to the game licensing freeze. In August, Bloomberg reported China’s regulators froze approval of game licenses amid a government shake-up. The freeze impacted the entire sector, from large players like internet giant Tencent to smaller developers.

If the freeze continues in 2019, App Annie believes Chinese firms will push towards international expansion and M&A activity could result.

App Annie is also predicting one breakout gaming hit for 2019: Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which it believes will exceed $100 million in consumer spend in its first 30 days. Niantic’s Pokémon Go, by comparison, cleared $100 million in its first two weeks and became the fastest game to reach $1 billion in consumer spend.

But App Annie isn’t going so far as to predict Harry Potter will do better than Pokémon Go, which tapped into consumer nostalgia and was a first-to-market mainstream AR gaming title.

Mobile Video Streaming

Another significant trend ahead for the new year is the growth in video streaming apps, fueled by in-app subscriptions.

Today, the average person consumers over 7.5 hours of media per day, including watching, listening, reading or posting. Next year, 10 minutes of every hour will be spent consuming media across TV and internet will come from streaming video on mobile, the forecast says.

The total time in video streaming apps will increase 110 percent from 2016 to 2019, with consumer spend in entertainment apps up by 520 percent over that same period. Most of those revenues will come from the growth in in-app subscriptions.

Much of the time consumer spend streaming will come from short-form video apps like YouTube, TikTok and social apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

YouTube alone accounts for 4 out of every 5 minutes spent in the top 10 video streaming apps, today. But 2019 will see many changes, including the launch of Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, for example.

App Annie’s full report, which details ad creatives and strategies as well, is available on its blog.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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