Archive for the ‘Gaming & Culture’ Category

Novel hydrogels can safely remove graffiti from vandalized street art

April 17th, 2021
A psychedelic mural.

Enlarge / A five-year-old boy with boxing gloves poses in front of a huge mural of himself in Denver, Colorado. (credit: Blaine Harrington III/Image Bank/Getty Images)

Mention the word "graffiti," and many people's thoughts immediately turn to vandalism in the form of defacement of property. But there is also graffiti that rises above such negative connotations and qualifies as bona fide street art. Think of the commemorative murals created after the death of NBA All-Star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna; the Black Lives Matter logos painted on the streets in New York City, and along 16th Street in Washington, DC, last year amid ongoing protests; and the works of Banksy, Eduardo Kobra, and the countless other less well-known artists around the world, who embellish our streets with their work.

Street art, in turn, is vulnerable to vandalism, posing unique challenges to those seeking to preserve these rather ephemeral creations. This week, a team of Italian scientists described its novel, environmentally friendly new method to safely remove defacing over-paintings on street art at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

"For decades, we have focused on cleaning or restoring classical artworks that used paints designed to last centuries," said co-author Piero Baglioni, a chemist at the University of Florence and principal investigator on the project. "In contrast, modern art and street art, as well as the coatings and graffiti applied on top, use materials that were never intended to stand the test of time."

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Posted in art, art conservation, chemistry, Gaming & Culture, graffiti, science, street art | Comments (0)

DC’s Rorschach: A detective walks into a world shaped by squids and superheroes

April 17th, 2021
Thank you for giving me something to look forward to, DC Comics.

Enlarge / Thank you for giving me something to look forward to, DC Comics. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

Warning: Though we'll take great pains not to spoil anything important from DC's ongoing Rorschach comic, some of the story's events will be lightly referenced, given this is a review of sorts.

After the magnetic nine-episode run of HBO's Watchmen back in 2019... well, Alan Moore be damned. The creator may completely reject all adaptations of his seminal comic, but I will happily be indulging in any and all of 'em from here on. So when DC capitalized on that goodwill in summer 2020 and announced a standalone Rorschach comic, I planned to get into an ongoing series for the first time in a decade (the New 52 Batwoman was great in 2011).

Rorschach, from writer Tom King, artist Jorge Fornés, and colorist Dave Stewart, loosely follows the formula set by HBO's Watchmen miniseries—the original comic acts as canon, and this story takes place years later. In fact, the happenings of Rorschach appear to take place several years after the events of the TV series, too. In issue one, an investigator makes explicit reference to the popularity of Rorschach masks "even after Oklahoma."

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Valve Anti-Cheat’s “permanent” bans now have one major exception

April 16th, 2021
Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, seen here at Dreamhack's 2019 Winter Open, may be allowed back in Valve-sponsored events despite a VAC ban.

Enlarge / Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen, seen here at Dreamhack's 2019 Winter Open, may be allowed back in Valve-sponsored events despite a VAC ban. (credit: Stephanie Lindgren / Dreamhack)

If you know just one thing about the Valve's Anti-Cheat system (VAC), you probably know that a ban issued through it lasts forever. As Valve's support page lays out clearly, "VAC bans are permanent, non-negotiable, and cannot be removed by Steam Support."

Now, apparently, there is one sizable exception to this rule, at least when it comes to esports. A post to the Counter-Strike: GO blog yesterday notes that some VAC-banned players will now be able to participate in events surrounding the game's next Regional Major Rankings (RMR) season.

The CS:GO team notes in the post that its event guidelines were initially written around the game's 2012 release, when "all CS:GO VAC bans were relatively recent." Now, though, the team has decided to update those guidelines to reflect the fact that "VAC bans can now be more than eight years old." As such, VAC bans older than five years, as well as VAC bans that pre-date a player's first participation in a Valve-sponsored event, will no longer be taken into account when assessing RMR event eligibility.

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NPD: PlayStation 5’s first 5 months are best ever for a US console launch

April 16th, 2021
The PS5 is bigger than Xbox Series X in more ways than one (at least, in the United States).

Enlarge / The PS5 is bigger than Xbox Series X in more ways than one (at least, in the United States). (credit: Sam Machkovech)

While we're still waiting on exact sales numbers for last year's newest video game consoles, select stats have begun to emerge that, at least in the US, give a clear lead to Sony's PlayStation 5. As it turns out, the lead is historically significant.

The NPD Group, a longtime retail analyst, has confirmed via brick-and-mortar and digital sales figures that the PlayStation 5 sold more units than any other console sold in its first five months in the US.

NPD rarely confirms exact sales figures, and stitching together an estimate of PS5 sales in the US thus far is therefore a bit tricky. In early 2018, Nintendo claimed the title of fastest selling console in US history at a mark of 10 months, by which point the company had sold "more than 4.8 million" Switch consoles.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, nintendo switch, NPD, NPD Group, playstation 5, xbox series x | Comments (0)

Almost everything we’d want in a gaming laptop—the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

April 16th, 2021

Recently, we managed to get our hands on an Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 laptop. We had to do it just like anybody else does, by finding one and buying it retail. That's notable because this laptop combines AMD's Ryzen 9 5900HS processor with an Nvidia RTX 3070 Mobile GPU, a combination that means this device sells out extremely quickly.

Make no mistake, the RTX 3070 in this year's AMD-powered Zephyrus is a distinct step up. Last year, if you wanted an RTX 3000 series GPU in a laptop, you had to settle for an Intel CPU to go with it.


Specs at a glance: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 GA503, as tested
OS Windows 10 Home
CPU 3.0GHz 8-core AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (4.5GHz boost)
RAM 16GiB DDR4-3200
GPU AMD Radeon 8 core / Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 MaxQ
SSD SK Hynix M.2 NVMe PCIe3.0 1TB
Battery ASUStek 90Wh
Display 1440p WQHD, non-glare, 165Hz, adaptive sync
  • two USB-A ports
  • two USB-C ports
  • 3.5mm phone/mic combo jack
  • DC power jack
  • full-size HDMI out
  • RJ-45 wired Ethernet
  • micro SD reader
  • Kensington lock slot
  • no camera
Price as tested $1,800 at Best Buy

This year's Ryzen-powered Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is almost everything we'd want in a gaming laptop. Beastly CPU? Check. Beastly GPU? Check. Full-size wired LAN port? Check. Loud speakers? Absolutely. 1440p display with high refresh? Yes. Even the storage on this laptop—a model of SK Hynix NVMe SSD we'd never seen before—is blistering fast.

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Posted in ASUS, Features, Gaming & Culture, Gaming Laptop, laptop, Tech, zephyrus | Comments (0)

Resident Evil 4 VR announced for Oculus Quest 2 as a first-person remake

April 15th, 2021
Resident Evil 4 VR announced for Oculus Quest 2 as a first-person remake

Enlarge (credit: Capcom)

On Thursday, Capcom announced that its megaton horror series Resident Evil will soon return to virtual reality. But instead of adding a VR mode to the upcoming Resident Evil VIII: Village, slated to launch next month, the game maker threw horror fans a curveball. The project, as it turns out, is Resident Evil 4 VR, a wildly revised port of the 2005 classic, and it appears to be an Oculus Quest 2 exclusive.

You read that correctly: Quest 2, as opposed to Rift or other PC-VR platforms. No release date or estimate has yet been confirmed.

The VR port was announced as part of the latest announcement frenzy otherwise dedicated to May 7th's RE8, and it confirmed that Oculus Studios and Armature Studios (made up of ex-Metroid Prime developers) are leading the VR port's production. Because of Armature's recent ties to Oculus, in terms of releasing exclusive VR games for its Rift and Quest systems, that collaboration points to this game remaining an Oculus exclusive.

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The looming software kill-switch lurking in aging PlayStation hardware

April 15th, 2021
These consoles could eventually be large paperweights if Sony doesn't fix a problem looming in their firmware.

Enlarge / These consoles could eventually be large paperweights if Sony doesn't fix a problem looming in their firmware.

Unless something changes, an issue lurking in older PlayStations' internal timing systems threatens to eventually make every PS4 game and all downloaded PS3 games unplayable on current hardware. Right now, it's not a matter of if but when this problem will occur.

This ticking firmware time bomb has been known in certain PlayStation preservation and hacking circles for a while. But it's gaining new attention amid Sony's recently announced decision to shut down the online stores for PS3, PSP, and Vita software. While that impending store shutdown won't impact players' abilities to play and re-download previously purchased software for now, the eventual wider shutdown of PSN servers for these aging consoles could have a much more drastic effect on the playability of a wide swath of games.

What’s the problem?

The root of the coming issue has to do with the CMOS battery inside every PS3 and PS4, which the systems use to keep track of the current time (even when they're unplugged). If that battery dies or is removed for any reason, it raises an internal flag in the system's firmware indicating the clock may be out of sync with reality.

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Posted in firmware, Gaming & Culture, History, preservation, PS3, ps4, Sony, time bomb, update | Comments (0)

Fast and Furious 9 drops a new trailer ahead of June 25 release

April 14th, 2021

This past weekend, with little to do thanks to the pandemic, I marathoned through the Fast and Furious franchise. That was fortuitous timing, because on Tuesday a new trailer dropped for F9, the next installment, which arrives in theaters on June 25.

We actually got our first look at F9 well over a year ago, when the first trailer dropped at the end of January 2020. Family has been a central theme to the F&F movies, and that continues here. Dominic Torreto (played by Vin Diesel) and the gang have to confront his younger brother Jakob (John Cena), described as "the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they've encountered." He's working with criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), who sports a much more flattering haircut than in Fate of the Furious, the movie where she improbably hacked a bunch of old cars to drive themselves.

Also returning to the series is Han Lue (Sung Kang), who we all thought died at the end of Tokyo Drift. (This was revealed to be the work of Deckard Shaw (Jason Stratham) who was bad in Furious 7 but then turned out to be good in Fate of the Furious and Hobbs and Shaw.)

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Posted in cars, F9, Fast and Furious 9, fast and the furious, Gaming & Culture | Comments (0)

Oculus Quest 2 gets official wireless-VR mode, 120 Hz support via patch

April 14th, 2021
More hidden features will soon be loosed onto Oculus Quest 2 owners.

Enlarge / More hidden features will soon be loosed onto Oculus Quest 2 owners. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

Last year's Oculus Quest 2 VR headset remains one of the cheapest—though not necessarily recommended—ways to jump into virtual reality. But even I must admit its sales proposition became more tantalizing on Tuesday with a late-night announcement from reps at Facebook: two disabled features inside the headset are now being unlocked as a default option.

The first is a wireless-VR mode, which Facebook is calling Oculus Air Link, coming "soon" to headset-and-PC combos that run compatible Oculus software. The short version: you will soon be able to connect your Oculus Quest 2 to a gaming PC using nothing more than a local WiFi connection. This feature will be supported within stock headset software, no extra apps required. And it will essentially make connecting to your PC's VR apps work the same as the VR apps built directly into Quest 2's storage.

“Not every network and PC setup will be ideal”

"We know gamers want to use Link without a wire," the announcement says, and sure enough, that cry tends to be the loudest in our VR hardware reviews. No more wires in VR, the readers complain, and Facebook has responded with no more wires. But, gosh, do you really want to use this feature, folks?

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, oculus, oculus link, oculus quest 2, Tech, valve index, virtual reality | Comments (0)

It’s Dave Bautista and pals vs. zombie horde in Army of the Dead

April 13th, 2021

Dave Bautista stars in the zombie heist film Army of the Dead, directed by Zack Snyder.

Fresh off the successful release of Zack Snyder's Justice League, we'll soon be getting the director's latest project: Army of the Dead, about a group of mercenaries that attempts a heist in a zombie-ridden Las Vegas. In a sense, Snyder has come full circle. His directorial debut was 2008's Dawn of the Dead, an entertaining reboot of the original George Romero classic from 1978.

Army of the Dead started out as a joint project between Universal Studios and Warner Bros. back in 2007. But like so many films, it got stuck in development hell until Zack Snyder signed on as director in 2019. Netflix picked up the distribution rights from Warner Bros. soon after.

Per the official premise:

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Posted in Army of the Dead, Entertainment, film, film trailers, Gaming & Culture, Netflix, Zack Snyder | Comments (0)