Archive for the ‘Gaming & Culture’ Category

Xbox Series S outed by next-gen controller leak—and it’s legit

August 10th, 2020

The new Xbox console controller is now officially in the wild, which is astonishing enough since its accompanying console, the Xbox Series X, still doesn't have a release date or a price.

But the two leaked controllers we've seen thus far are even more intriguing because of something they have in common: an apparently official mention of "Xbox Series S" as an additional Microsoft next-gen console. Ars Technica can confirm that this is indeed the name of an upcoming, unannounced Microsoft product.

S marks the spot—but questions remain

The controller itself was previously announced alongside Xbox Series X's reveal during the December 2019 broadcast of The Game Awards. While it bears a strong resemblance to the existing Xbox One controller, its general mold has been shrunken to better support a wider range of hand sizes. Functionally, it's identical, other than a new "share" button, while its d-pad has been updated to resemble one of the d-pad options found in the first-party Xbox Elite Controller line. One owner of the new controller, who goes by Zak S on Twitter, pointed specifically to the updated d-pad as "one of [his] favorite parts."

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, lockhart, Xbox One, xbox series s, xbox series x | Comments (0)

Real Genius turns 35—celebrating this cult classic is a moral imperative

August 9th, 2020
Mitch (Gabriel Jarret) and Chris (Val Kilmer) play young science whizzes trying to build a 5-kilowatt laser in the 1985 film <em>Real Genius</em>.

Enlarge / Mitch (Gabriel Jarret) and Chris (Val Kilmer) play young science whizzes trying to build a 5-kilowatt laser in the 1985 film Real Genius. (credit: TriStar Pictures)

Back to the Future justly dominated the summer box office in 1985, but it's too bad its massive success overshadowed another nerd-friendly gem, Real Genius, which debuted one month later, on August 9. Now celebrating its 35th anniversary, the film remains one of the most charming, winsome depictions of super-smart science whizzes idealistically hoping to change the world for the better with their work. It also boasts a lot of reasonably accurate science—a rare occurrence at the time.

Real Genius came out the same year as the similarly-themed films Weird Science—which spawned a 1990s TV sitcom—and My Science Project, because 1980s Hollywood tended to do things in threes. But I'd argue that Real Genius has better stood the test of time, despite being so quintessentially an '80s film—right down to the many montages set to electronic/synth-pop chart-toppers. The film only grossed $12.9 million domestically against its $8 million budget, compared to $23.8 million domestically for its fellow cult classic, Weird Science. (My Science Project bombed with a paltry $4.1 million.) Reviews were mostly positive, however, and over time it became a sleeper hit via VHS, and later, DVD and streaming platforms.

(Spoilers for the 35-year-old film below.)

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Posted in Entertainment, film, Gaming & Culture, Real Genius, science | Comments (0)

Three algorithm-less streaming sites revive the wacky Web from days of yore

August 9th, 2020
An average performance you can expect to see, and participate in, at Internet Temple. Co-creator Clayton Collins is in the center frame, performing as his alter-ego Long Distance Husband.

Enlarge / An average performance you can expect to see, and participate in, at Internet Temple. Co-creator Clayton Collins is in the center frame, performing as his alter-ego Long Distance Husband. (credit: Internet Temple)

In early May, I needed a change of pace from my usual YouTube rabbit holes, having gone down a few of those during months of quarantine. My discovery of Internet Temple almost felt like finding a good bar or music venue; instead of being served content by a video platform’s algorithm, I had to know someone, get a tip, and type an entire URL.

The Temple made a blunt entrance on my browsing tab with little more than a cropped YouTube embed and a chat box with no scrolling feature. And then it got weird.

I witnessed a startling musical performance drenched in autotune (the laughs between songs were also autotuned). The singer wore snowman print boxers, an oversized sweater featuring abstract humanoid images, and a hat reading "WWW DOT COM MY ASS." He danced with three stuffed sheep in his hands, while behind him, a green screen was flooded with imagery chosen by audience members. They had selected images of Shrek and Unicode shrimp emojis.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, internet temple, youhole | Comments (0)

Science, history, and purring cats: Brief podcasts for the nerdy set

August 8th, 2020
Podcasts with your interests—and attention span—in mind.

Enlarge / Podcasts with your interests—and attention span—in mind. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

The beauty of the podcast format is also sometimes its curse: arbitrary episode lengths. Finding a new podcast to love can be daunting when episodes regularly exceed the hour-long mark. If you’re struggling to commit to podcasts on topics like history and science, don’t fret: We have recommendations for great series that typically serve complete episodes well under half an hour.

Science Diction

Sometimes the best way to recover from stress is to focus on learning something new. Science Diction helps with this by presenting the etymologies of familiar scientific technical terms alongside bite-sized usage histories of how people engage with science. The episode on "Meme," for example, tells the story of the word's coinage as a parallel to "gene" to show how ideas spread through a culture. Science Diction talks about the spread of "meme" itself, sometimes as a meme, until it became the one of the most common ways to refer to images and jokes passed around on the Internet. An episode titled "Vaccine," meanwhile, teaches us what happens when the public is scared of new science, describing antivax propaganda nearly as old as the first vaccines themselves.

Science Diction releases episodes monthly, and it only started this year, so many of its episodes are about concepts related to COVID-19. Even if you’re fatigued by that topic, I still recommend this podcast as a refreshing, historical overview of similar stories, told in a laid-back way.

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Posted in cats purring, Gaming & Culture, podcast, Podcasts | Comments (0)

Review: Doom Patrol comes back strong with fierce and fun S2

August 7th, 2020

TKTK in the second season of Doom Patrol.

Lots of people missed last year's debut of Doom Patrol, a delightfully bonkers show about a "found family" of superhero misfits, because it aired exclusively on the DC Universe streaming service.  Fortunately, S2 also aired on HBO Max, expanding the series' potential audience. Apart from one sub-par episode, this second season expanded on the strengths of the first, with plenty of crazy hijinks, humor, pathos, surprising twists, and WTF moments. Alas, the season finale is bound to frustrate fans, since it ends on a major cliffhanger and leaves multiple dangling narrative threads.

(Spoilers for S1; some S2 spoilers below the gallery.)

As we reported previously, Timothy Dalton plays Niles Caulder, aka The Chief, a medical doctor who saved the lives of the various Doom Patrol members and lets them stay in his mansion. His Manor of Misfits includes Jane, aka Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), whose childhood trauma resulted in 64 distinct personalities, each with its own powers. Rita (April Bowlby), aka Elasti-Woman, is a former actress with stretchy, elastic properties she can't really control, thanks to being exposed to a toxic gas that altered her cellular structure. Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, is a US Air Force pilot who has a "negative energy entity" inside him and must be swathed in bandages to keep radioactivity from seeping out of his body. (Matt Bomer plays Trainor without the bandages, while Matthew Zuk takes on the bandaged role.)

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Posted in DC Universe, Doom Patrol, Entertainment, Gaming & Culture, hbo max, streaming television, TV reviews | Comments (0)

Fall Guys review: A perfect amount of cheap, stupid fun with online friends

August 7th, 2020
Fall Guys: half a dozen players run up a ramp through an obstacle course

Enlarge / Try not to get whacked on your way to this race's finish line. (credit: Mediatonic / Devolver Digital)

Have you been looking for a good online multiplayer game that's accessible to anyone who can use a joystick and three buttons? Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is that game. Imagine the minigame zaniness of Mario Party combined with the simple, squishy controls of Gang Beasts, then remixed to deliver the kind of fun that won't have you screaming in sheer anger at your friends. (Meaning, much better than Mario Party.)

The biggest catch, as those comparisons hint at, is Fall Guys' weakness as a solo game. Every match you'll play in the game's launch version is a battle against up to 59 online strangers, and the same design elements that make this a fun game with friends will leave you frustrated and furious when it's just you versus the world.

Fall Guys is a must-play with friends in your online party, a more tiring slog when played alone, and a party game that currently lacks any form of local-multiplayer functionality. If that sales pitch hasn't lost you, read on.

Tails, balls, and whacks

Each Fall Guys session takes place over five rounds of elimination contests, whittling the fray down from 60 competitors to a single winner. In every round, you control a slow, bean-shaped "fall guy," likely named after its floppy balance issues. You'll run and jump through obstacle courses, between swinging pendulums and platforms, and across soccer-like arenas, and anything less than a smooth landing will see your colorful, squeaky character topple over, get up, and try again.

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Posted in devolver, fall guys, Gaming & Culture | Comments (0)

Untitled Goose Game ditches plastic for its eco-friendly game cases

August 6th, 2020

When Untitled Goose Game finally sees a physical release later this year (after a highly successful digital launch last year), it will also see the debut of a new line of "eco-packaging" that publisher iam8bit says it "hope[s] leads an entire industry into the future."

Iam8bit's so-called "Lovely Edition" release of the game will be the first PS4 title to eschew the standard plastic Blu-ray DVD case in favor of a cardboard box made with "100% post-consumer, recycled material with heavy duty 20-pt stock and no harmful inks." The packaging also makes use of a biodegradable plastic shrinkwrap called biolefin, which breaks down into biomass after just one to three years, instead of the usual 300 to 600, according to its manufacturer.

The eco-friendly decisions extend to what comes inside the game box, as well. A booklet and foldout poster included in the package get their paper from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, ensuring the wood "comes from only the most well-managed and environmentally responsible forests," as iam8bit puts it. And the included "No Goose" sticker is made from sugar cane waste, which the company assures us is fully biodegradable but not as delicious as it sounds.

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Posted in environment, Gaming & Culture, iam8bit, ps4, recycling, untitled goose game | Comments (0)

Trailer for Ridley Scott’s Raised by Wolves is giving us strong Alien vibes

August 6th, 2020

Executive producer Ridley Scott's sci-fi series Raised by Wolves is coming to HBO Max in September.

Androids struggle to raise human children on a mysterious planet in the first trailer for Raised by Wolves, a new sci-fi series coming to HBO Max, courtesy of none other than Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, etc., etc.). Created by Aaron Guzikowski, who also penned the script for the 2013 thriller Prisoners, the ten-episode series was initially a straight-to-series order for TNT, but moved to HBO Max last October. Scott even directed the first two episodes, making this his US TV directorial debut.

“I’m always searching for new frontiers in the sci-fi genre and have found a true original in Raised by Wolves— a wholly distinct and imaginative world, full of characters struggling with existential questions," Scott told Deadline Hollywood in 2018 about what drew him to the project. "What makes us human? What constitutes a family? And what if we could start over again and erase the mess we’ve made of our planet? Would we survive? Would we do better?”

The tagline for the series gives little away: "Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust." But the basic premise revealed during development is that the story involves two androids serving as Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) figures on a strange virgin planet. They are programmed to raise human children to rebuild the population. However, the people of the fledgling colony develop stark religious differences, and "the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task."

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Posted in Entertainment, Gaming & Culture, hbo max, raised by wolves, Ridley Scott, science fiction television, streaming television, Trailers | Comments (0)

Star Trek: Lower Decks review: Comfort food with a comic twist

August 5th, 2020
Screenshot from Star Trek: Lower Decks trailer

Enlarge / Ensigns Tendi (Noël Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) reporting for duty. (credit: YouTube/CBS All Access)

Star Trek has been many things in the past 54 years: eight television series, 13 films, the better part of a thousand total novels, and the beating heart that arguably created modern fandom as it now stands. But for all the humor—both intentional and not—scattered throughout its storied history, there is one frontier it has not yet explored: the half-hour comedy.

The ninth and newest Star Trek series aims to change all that. Lower Decks is a half-hour animated series set in the timeline two years after the conclusion of Star Trek: Voyager. The half-hour comedy cartoon format is a definite change of pace from ViacomCBS' other recent Star Trek offerings, the heavily serialized dramas Picard and Discovery. The question any fan might have then, is simple: does it hold up?

And the answer is yes, mostly—but don't set your expectations to "stunned."

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Posted in CBS, CBS all access, Gaming & Culture, reviews, Star Trek, star trek the next generation, Star Trek: Lower Decks, TV | Comments (0)

Horizon Zero Dawn on PC: Not the optimized port we were hoping for

August 5th, 2020
In still-image form, <em>Horizon Zero Dawn</em> sure is a looker on PC. But it's a video game, not a slideshow, and that brings us to some bad news.

Enlarge / In still-image form, Horizon Zero Dawn sure is a looker on PC. But it's a video game, not a slideshow, and that brings us to some bad news. (credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Horizon Zero Dawn was an easy Ars pick for one of 2017's top five video games, but a certain subset of our readers disagreed. This was due almost entirely to the game's PS4 exclusivity. Never mind that its developer, Guerrilla Games, is a wholly owned Sony subsidiary; we want it on PC, our readers declared.

Historically, Sony Interactive Entertainment (not to be confused with other Sony publishing arms) has been cagey about letting its PlayStation exclusives land elsewhere, but the past couple of years has seen that stance shift, with games like Heavy Rain and Death Stranding making their PC debuts. Death Stranding stands out as a particularly impressive example of a console game's PC port gone right.

I remarked at the time that DS' PC version was good news for HZD, mostly because they share the same underlying tech, Guerrilla's Decima Engine. But today, two days before HZD's "complete" edition lands on Steam for $50, I'm here to report that their shared tech hasn't been paid forward with identical PC-version results.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, Guerrilla Games, horizon zero dawn, Playstation 4, sony interactive entertainment | Comments (0)