Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

by Luke Plunkett, Kotaku

A USPS supervisor in Middletown, Connecticut has been sentenced to nine months of “home confinement” and a $20,000 fine after being caught stealing items like iPhones and “PlayStation and Nintendo gaming devices”.

Via Polygon, 34 year-old Zoheb Deura, who has since resigned from the US Postal Service, was caught following an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, who found that between the months of February and April 2020 Deura “stole numerous packages, including packages containing an Apple computer, PlayStation and Nintendo gaming devices, an iPhone, footwear, and clothing items.”

Deura was officially charged with embezzlement of mail by a U.S. Postal Service employee, which he pled guilty for on October 21, 2020.

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We’ve seen that episode of Black Mirror.

Image credit: JUST_SUPERGETTY IMAGES

by Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics

No one knows where we go when we die. Microsoft might have some ideas.

Last month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Microsoft that outlines a process to create a conversational chatbot of a specific person using their social data. In an eerie twist, the patent says the chatbot could potentially be inspired by friends or family members who are deceased, which is almost a direct plot of a popular episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror.

In that episode, “Be Right Back,” a woman named Martha is upset when her partner, Ash, dies in a car accident on the day they were supposed to move in with each other. It turns out one of Martha’s friends has signed her up for a service that will let her communicate with Ash through text messages. Of course, it isn’t really Ash, but a sort of AI-based version of him. Suffice to say, things get weird.

According to the new Microsoft patent, images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages, and written letters can all be used to “create or modify a specific index in the theme of the specific person’s personality.” From there, engineers can use the index to train a chatbot to converse like that person—yes, even if they’re already dead.

Even creepier: The application could also don the likeness of your dead loved one in a “2D or 3D model,” and utilize their voice while talking to you.

This sort of chatbot opens a whole can of worms when it comes to data rights and privacy. “Technically, we can recreate anyone online given enough data,” Faheem Hussain, a clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, told Reuters in April 2020. “That opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical implications.”

The question boils down to consent: Anyone who has access to data like text messages, photos, videos, and audio recordings from the deceased could theoretically create a virtual avatar of the person, even if they’d never agree to such a thing while living. You can thank a lack of regulation in most countries surrounding post-mortem data.

Now, patents aren’t always perfect proxies for new products. In many cases, companies pursue patents for wholly different reasons, including to protect against future competition. Securing the intellectual property rights for this sort of chatbot could certainly be Microsoft’s way of ensuring it will have a place in any future market devoted to AI-based renderings of late loved ones.

That doesn’t mean Microsoft will ever produce something to this effect. The company could sell off the patent to another firm that wants to get into the chatbot space in the future, for example. There’s always the possibility this idea will never take off, and it will remain where it is right now: floating in the ether.

And frankly, that might not be such a bad thing.

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Wolfenstein developer MachineGames is making an Indiana Jones game, parent company Bethesda has announced.

by Andy Robinson, VGC

he collaboration with the newly reformed Lucasfilm Games label was announced via a video on Tuesday, which features a pan over a desk littered with iconic items from the movie series, including Indy’s famous hat and whip.

Executive produced by Elder Scrolls and Fallout director Todd Howard, the Indiana Jones game will tell a wholly original, standalone tale set at the height of the career of the famed adventurer, Bethesda said.

“It’ll be some time before we have more to reveal, but we’re very excited to share today’s news,” the company added. In a separate post on StarWars.com, Lucasfilm said that some clues to the game’s setup could be found in Tuesday’s teaser.

MachineGames said in a statement: “As huge fans of the franchise, it’s a tremendous honor for us to create a brand-new Indiana Jones game with a completely original story. We’re very excited and can’t wait to share more in the future!”

The Swedish developer was formed in 2009 by former employees of Starbreeze Studios. After agreeing to join Bethesda, the company became the new custodian of the Wolfenstein FPS series, releasing several instalments including The New Order (2014), The Old Blood (2015), The New Colossus (2017), Youngblood (2019) and Cyberpilot (2019).

In a post on Twitter, Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness lead Jens Andersson – who spent several years at LucasArts before its closure – confirmed he is involved in the Indy game.

MachineGames’ parent Bethesda agreed a $7.5 billion sale to Microsoft last year, with the deal expected to be completed in early 2021, so it’s unclear if the Indy game will release on platforms other than Xbox and PC.

Following the announcement of the ZeniMax deal, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said Microsoft would honour existing PS5 exclusivity agreements Bethesda has in place for games like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo.

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From the developers that brought you Assassin’s Creed and The Division 2

by Chris Garcia, One More Game

If there’s any company out there that knows its open-world games, it would be Ubisoft. With their success on the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, they’re looking ready to take on a new challenge as developers Massive Entertainment (The Division 2) have entered into a partnership with Lucasfilm games to work on a new open-world Star Wars game.

According to a report from Wired, this is the first time that a Star Wars game will be developed by someone outside of EA since 2012. This title is still very early in development, and no other details like characters and setting / timeline has been decided on, but Massive Entertainment have already started recruiting personnel to work on the game. Serving as creative director will be Julian Gerighty from The Division 2 and The Crew, and the game will reportedly be using the Snowdrop Engine, which was used in games such as The Division and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle.

EA reportedly has a 10 year Star Wars exclusivity deal, but according to the report, “it seems like either that was misstated or the clock has run out early.” EA is still free to create Star Wars games, but Lucasfilm games is “free to seek other partners.”

“The Star Wars galaxy is an amazing source of motivation for our teams to innovate and push the boundaries of our medium. Building new worlds, characters and stories that will become lasting parts of the Star Wars lore is an incredible opportunity for us, and we are excited to have our Ubisoft Massive studio working closely with Lucasfilm Games to create an original Star Wars adventure that is different from anything that has been done before.” says Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft Co-Founder and CEO

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“It is in many ways very different”

by Stephen Tailby, Push Square

Warner Bros. Montreal’s long-teased game turned out to be Gotham Knights, a co-op superhero action game starring the extended Bat-family of vigilantes. Instead of the Caped Crusader himself, you’ll be playing as Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing, and Red Hood in an adventure designed to be played with others. You can tackle it solo, of course, but it’s clear there’s an emphasis on co-op.

That extends to the combat system too, as you might expect. The studio, which previously brought us Batman: Arkham Origins, is familiar with the series’ “Freeflow” brawling, but it’s had to make some changes to account for two players. Speaking with GamesRadar, executive producer Fleur Marty explains the team has “entirely redesigned the combat system in order for it to work well in co-op”. Those who played the Arkham games should still feel at home, but the combat is “in many ways very different”, Marty says.

We’re certainly interested to see how it plays in co-op. From what little we’ve seen so far, it’s looking good, with each hero equipped with their own abilities and strengths. Gotham Knights is due for PS5 and PS4 some time this year. Will you be playing it alone or with a friend? Drop into the comments section below.

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A new update to GTA Online included some code from RDR2, which suggests that the upcoming Series X and PS5 updates could include a leap in tech.

by Alex Santa Maria, Screen Rant

Code found hidden away in a recent Grand Theft Auto V update suggests that the upcoming enhanced version of the game for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S may be sharing tech with Rockstar Games’ latest hit sandbox, Red Dead Redemption 2. Released just over two short years ago, there are few games that have matched the technical achievement of the cowboy open-world adventure in 2021. This level of technical achievement did come with a human cost for those working at Rockstar, and the cruel practice of crunch is evident in the final product’s slightly ridiculous attention to detail.

Red Dead Redemption 2‘s cities and outposts feel like living and breathing simulations, and that’s where a lot of the appeal lies for Rockstar’s legions of fans. However, one thing that Red Dead Redemption can’t claim over Grand Theft Auto is a more populous online mode. Despite releasing years earlier and lacking Red Dead Online‘s standalone release (for now), GTA Online remains the destination for those looking for open-world mayhem. Perhaps this is due to the low tech setting of cowboys being no match for the expansive mix of urban and rural environments that GTA Online benefits from. It’d be counterproductive to cram a rocket-powered motorbike with rocket launchers mounted to the front into the old world of Red Dead Online, so it remains more low-key compared to its modern-day sister sandbox.

Grand Theft Auto V and Online players may soon be getting the best of both works if some code referenced in a new update proves fruitful. Datamined by GTAForums user alloc8or, the latest update to the  refers to the specific branch of the RAGE engine (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine) utilized in Red Dead Redemption 2. This means that the developer could be planning to port the game to that engine, utilizing the tech from Red Dead Redemption 2 to give Grand Theft Auto V its second full-fledged update for a new set of hardware.

Some note that it’s possible that Rockstar could only be updating something like the UI to the newer Red Dead Redemption standards, leaving the rest of the game more or less as it is on a structural level. Considering that Grand Theft Auto V was originally released in 2013 and that a sixth entry in the franchise seems likely this generation, that line of thinking has its merits. On the other hand, if it wasn’t going to be a full update, it would be strange for Rockstar to miss the opportunity to advertise that GTA Online is enhanced for new consoles on launch day. Either way, other than a promise of a 2021 release, the newer generations’ versions of GTA V and Onlinemostly remain a mystery.

Grand Theft Auto V turns eight years old in 2021, and few games have maintained their momentum as much as Rockstar’s arguable magnum opus. While it’s unfortunate that GTA Online consumed the rest of the game and any potential single-player DLC, there’s no denying that there’s a healthy player base who consider the game expansive enough to play day after day for years on end. From stunting across the map to just grinding missions for an expensive car, the online component of the game is its own animal and it will likely reach World of Warcraft levels of longevity before it’s finally put to bed for good.

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Twitch: TommyInnit

Minecraft star Thomas ‘Tommyinnit’ Simons hit the ridiculous mark of 40,000 subscribers on Twitch, which, even with the most conservative estimates, would bag him around $150,000 per month. 

by Connor Bennet, Dexerto

Even though it’s been around since 2009, Minecraft has become incredibly popular with creators in the last 18 months, as many have flocked to the sandbox survival game.

Some have only had a brief stint playing the game, but others like the DreamSMP server players, have stuck around for much longer and had a huge amount of success. 

Their videos and streams rack up millions of views, with 16-year-old Tommyinnit having the most success when it comes to Twitch by amassing over 40,000 paying subscribers on the Amazon-owned platform.

Tommyinnit has seen an incredible rise to success in the past year. Image credit: Twitch.tv/Tommyinnit

The 16-year-old British streamer hit the crazy mark during his January 7 stream where he dived into the DreamSMP server for just over an hour’s worth of play. 

The subscriptions quickly rolled in and after starting with just over 39,000 subs,  he eclipsed his goal of 40,000 subs by the halfway point. That, if it held up – and assuming that the streamer gets around $3.50 per $5 sub (the exact split can vary) – would equate to over $150,000 per month.

As his stream came to an end, and presumably so did a number of subscriptions, his total dipped to just under the 40,000 mark – finishing up at 39,674. In total, for that hour-long stream alone though, he got 957 subs. 

Tommy sits in 4th of all Twitch streamers, with xQc having the most.

That total of 39,674 puts him fourth of all Twitch streamers when it comes to subscribers. According to TwitchTracker, Tommy sits just behind xQc, NICKMERCS, and Ibai, and is just ahead of fifth-placed Sykunno. 

It should be noted that Twitch does not publicly disclose subscriber counts, and so we must rely on figures provided by the streamers themselves.

In addition, the Minecrafter also averages around four million views on his DreamSNP YouTube uploads too, so, he’s not going to be strapped for cash anytime soon. Despite all this, he still goes to college – and once had to end his stream suddenly when he remembered he had an essay due the next day.

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Here’s what Signal is and how it works.

Tech mogul Elon Musk — known as widely for slinging cars into the sun’s orbit as he is for advocating against COVID-19 safety measures — took to Twitter Thursday to slam Facebook over its latest privacy policy updates for its supposedly secure encrypted messaging app WhatsAppMusk instead recommended users choose encrypted messaging app Signal. 

Use Signal— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2021

The tweet was then retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Shortly after, Signal tweeted that it was working to handle the surge of new users. 

This isn’t the first time Musk has publicly sparred with Facebook over privacy concerns. In 2018, he not only had his own personal Facebook page removed, but those of his companies Tesla and SpaceX. His take on the long-fought battle between Signal and WhatsApp isn’t off-base, though. 

Both of the encrypted messaging apps have been found to have security bugs over the years that have been resolved. For years, WhatsApp has openly collected certain user data to share with parent company Facebook. Its latest policy change just expands that. Signal, on the other hand, has a history of fighting any entity that asks for your data, and adds features to further anonymize you where possible. 

Here are the basics of Signal you should know if you’re interested in using the secure messaging app.

The Signal app encrypts all of your messages to others on the platform. Image credit: Getty/Bloomberg

What Signal is, and how encrypted messaging works 

Signal is a typical one-tap install app that can be found in your normal marketplaces like Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, and works just like the usual text messaging app. It’s an open source development provided free of charge by the non-profit Signal Foundation, and has been famously used for years by high-profile privacy icons like Edward Snowden.

I use Signal every day. #notesforFBI (Spoiler: they already know) https://t.co/KNy0xppsN0— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015

Signal’s main function is that it can send text, video, audio and picture messages protected by end-to-end encryption, after verifying your phone number and letting you independently verify other Signal users’ identity. You can also use it to make voice and video calls, either one-to-one or with a group. For a deeper dive into the potential pitfalls and limitations of encrypted messaging apps, CNET’s Laura Hautala’s explainer is a life-saver. But for our purposes, the key to Signal is encryption.

Despite the buzz around the term, end-to-end encryption is simple: Unlike normal SMS messaging apps, it garbles up your messages before sending them, and only ungarbles them for the verified recipient. This prevents law enforcement, your mobile carrier and other snooping entities from being able to read the contents of your messages even when they intercept them (which happens more often than you might think). 

When it comes to privacy it’s hard to beat Signal’s offer. It doesn’t store your user data. And beyond its encryption prowess, it gives you extended, onscreen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups, face-blurring anti-surveillance tools, and disappearing messages. Occasional bugs have proven that the tech is far from bulletproof, of course, but the overall arc of Signal’s reputation and results have kept it at the top of every privacy-savvy person’s list of identity protection tools. 

For years, the core privacy challenge for Signal lay not in its technology but in its wider adoption. Sending an encrypted Signal message is great, but if your recipient isn’t using Signal, then your privacy may be nil. Think of it like the herd immunity created by vaccines, but for your messaging privacy. 

Now that Musk and Dorsey’s endorsements have sent a surge of users to get a privacy booster shot, however, that challenge may be a thing of the past. 

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All in less than a month since release

by Jess Weatherbed, TechRadar

Cyberpunk 2077 has become a controversial topic to discuss since its release on December 10 last year, with its ‘fall from grace’ hitting major news networks around the world. After hitting a record-breaking 1 million concurrent players on Steam, CD Projekt Red’s futuristic RPG is now struggling to maintain 225,000 users less than 4 weeks after the game was released.

A fall in player base is to be expected of course, with previous games such as The Witcher 3 seeing a similar drop in users – though this took three months to occur. 

For PC players at least, these numbers dropping at such an alarming rate are an interesting gauge for the satisfaction level of the gamers who purchased Cyberpunk 2077, and the potential future of the game itself.

Well that was quicker than expected

It’s easy to understand why we’re seeing such a dramatic fall in players when you look at the game issues documented by players across both PC and consoles, with bugs and hardware limitations rendering the game unplayable for some and unsatisfactory for many. A massive drop-off in player numbers is typical in video game life cycles and isn’t news in itself, but the speed at which we’re seeing gamers abandoning the game should concern CD Projekt Red.

Cyberpunk player numbers over the four weeks since release. (Image credit: GitHyp)

With recent history providing examples of games like Marvel’s Avengers and Anthem struggling to retain a player base, it’s not hard to see why developers should be looking to providing optimized products with replayable content. 

Whilst not directly comparable as Cyberpunk 2077 is a single-player open-world game, consistent player numbers are important for future longevity developments like DLC and expansions.

The developer is currently working on a host of patches and bug fixes, and has already promised refunds for unsatisfied PS4 and Xbox One players after having admitted to not paying enough time on the version for the previous generation of consoles. CD Projekt Red’s diminished reputation may be a factor in the decline in players, so fixing the game to a better standard is keep to win back the trust that had previously fueled the years-long hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 prior to its release.

We’re hoping to see the issues ironed out over the coming weeks so that CD Projekt Red can salvage the situation and deliver a game that can be enjoyed by players across both PC and consoles. For now, we will continue to try and ignore the NPC’s T-posing in clubs and V’s pants disappearing during a gun fight.

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“We went through every component, every piece”

by Fraser Gilbert, Pure Xbox

You might recall that we highlighted Bloomberg’s excellent oral history of the original Xbox earlier this week, and as part of the feature, Xbox exec Aaron Greenberg revealed the PS2 played a notable role in the console’s development.

Various team members admitted that they were “so naive about the complexity” of building a brand-new console, and with no companies doing tear-downs, they took it upon themselves to strip a PS2 to its bare bones.

“In the old days, there weren’t companies that did tear-downs, so we actually had to take a PS2, we took the entire thing apart, put it on a giant wood board. We did a whole competitive review, and we went through every component, every piece and priced it out and tried to figure out how many screws and how much did it cost.”

The CEO of the manufacturer Flextronics also admitted that the team was “very transparent about the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing,” and the first version of the Xbox ended up having a failure rate of about 20-25%.

To make things worse, 200,000 consoles had to be reworked because the DVD drive was scratching the discs, but fortunately it all worked out in the end, and the Xbox was finally released on November 15, 2001 in the US.

Here’s what Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had to say about the original Xbox team:

“One of my favorite things about Microsoft—and something I still love to do today—was getting to explore big, new ideas that might seem impossible to other people. We built the whole company around that. The early Xbox days were a great example—with a group of people who knew that gaming would be huge, and they believed Microsoft had a role to play even though it would mean starting something completely new.”

How do you feel about the original Xbox? Were you a fan? Let us know down in the comments.

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