Friday, October 30, 2020
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Riot Games to close Sydney office and dissolve Oceanic Pro League

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When Riot Games opened its Sydney office in 2015 it did so with a literal splash: in addition to creating an actual artificial reef for Nautilus, it also founded the League of Legends Oceanic Pro League. Five years later, alas, things are different, with Riot announcing yesterday that its Sydney office will be closed, and the OPL will be dissolved.

In a statement co-signed by North America and Oceania managing director Malte Wagener and Global Esports director Tom Martell, it\’s made pretty clear that Riot\’s hopes for the OPL haven\’t come to fruition. \”At Riot Games, we want to build competitive and sustainable leagues that drive commercial growth and fan engagement and that support professional play as a full-time career,\” the statement reads.

\”Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of our teams and players, the OPL has not met our goals for the league, and we do not believe that the market is currently able to support the league in its current form.\”

Riot\’s Sydney office is \”primarily focused\” on the operation of OPL, hence its closure, though it\’s unclear at the time of writing how many workers have been affected. As for League of Legends pros in the Oceania region, they\’ll be added to the LCS competitive territory in the US and Canada.

Adding that OCE players \”will no longer take an import slot on LCS rosters,\” the statement confirms that it will still hold qualifying tournaments in Oceania in 2021, for MSI 2021 and Worlds.

Ziggurat 2 brings more first-person roguelike dungeon crawling to Steam this month

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See that image above? Ziggurat 2 has angry carrots. Oh, and Ziggurat 2 exists, and will hit Early Access on October 23. It\’s a sequel to the well-received 2014 original, a dungeon crawling roguelike with hectic first-person combat reminiscent of the ye olde Heretic and Hexen games. 

Back to those angry carrots, they existed in the first game too, only this time they\’re more graphically detailed angry carrots. Aside from the obvious visual upgrade, Ziggurat 2 is all about honing the formula of the original: the randomly generated dungeons will now have \”more verticality and variety\” as well as more compact rooms. Overall, the focus seems to be on making each run shorter but more impactful.

It\’s an approach that should gel nicely with the game\’s focus on lightning quick movement and fast-paced decision making. According to Milkstone Studios the Early Access period should last between 6-9 months, and will mostly focus on gathering player feedback. When it eventually launches into 1.0 it\’ll have \”approximately twice the equipment items\” as this EA build has, as well as new characters, enemies and dungeon types. Alternate modes and a Daily Challenge are also on the cards.

Check out the trailer below:

Pumpkin Jack is a 3D platformer with strong Maximo vibes

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Pumpkin Jack is a videogame about Jack, who is the pumpkin lord. It\’s also a videogame strongly reminiscent of PlayStation 2 classic Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, which was famous for a) basically being a 3D take on Ghouls and Ghosts and b) therefore being very hard. 

As the trailer above will make clear, it\’s a horror-themed game but it\’s pretty far from being scary. Instead, you\’ll romp around as pumpkin-headed Jack, smashing up enemies with combos, evading them with dodges, and solving the occasional puzzle along the way. These puzzles are of the physics-oriented variety, though each level will introduce new problem solving themes. 

In other words, it\’s a 3D platformer, and probably a bit more varied than ye olde Maximo after all. If you\’re keen to give Pumpkin Jack a spin before its October 24 release date, there\’s a demo available on the game\’s Steam page. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War beta will have three modes, new maps and a ping system

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Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War\’s open multiplayer beta starts today on PlayStation 4 and October 17 everywhere else, and Treyarch has poked its head out of the bunker to break down what you can expect when you smear on the camo and head back to the \’80s. 

Cold War\’s beta will feature new maps, like the jungle of compound of Cartel, spread across a variety of modes, including new ones like VIP Escort, Combined Arms: Assault and Fireteam: Dirty Bomb.

You\’ll be able to play on Cartel in different 6v6 and 12v12 modes, which has points of interest that include a handy sniper tower in the middle, surrounded by an open area, a warehouse for close quarters scraps and several opportunities for stealth. 

In VIP Escort, one team will have to get a VIP to an extraction zone while the other team tries to stop them. Respawns have been disabled, so you\’ll have to revive your fallen comrades. Combined Arms: Assault joins Combined Arms: Dominations, which was playable during the alpha, in the list of 12v12 modes. It\’s a race to capture five objectives, one after the other, taking teams further and further behind enemy lines. 

Finally, there\’s Fireteam: Dirty Bomb, a surprisingly elaborate race with an extraordinarily grim premise. 40 players, split into ten teams, compete to detonate dirty bombs by fighting over uranium caches. The radiation caused by the bomb\’s explosion will linger, making part of the map a radioactive hazard and earning the team responsible some points. Players finding themselves in a radioactive area will develop radiation sickness, affecting their perk benefits, slowing them down, reducing health regeneration and finally killing them. Sounds like a fun romp. 

On top of the new maps and modes, the beta will also be an opportunity to check out other new additions, like the ping system. Cold War\’s not the first Call of Duty to follow the welcome trend started by Apex Legends—that would be Warzone—but it\’s the first time the series has used it outside of a battle royale setting. The system lets you warn your team about threats, show them loot and communicate without needing to actually chat.

Less relevant to PC players is the expansion of the FOV slider to all platforms, but it\’s good news if you\’re planning to play Cold War on consoles. Along with changing the FOV, you\’ll be able to customise the UI by toggling different elements, like crosshairs, health bars and the compass. 

While you\’ll have to wait a bit longer to play on PC, expect to see plenty of footage appearing from the PS4 beta in the meantime. You\’ll also be able to play a little earlier, on October 15, with a preorder. 

Microsoft is testing a Windows 10 setup screen with \’gaming\’ as an option

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Some of what goes into a new Windows 10 installation is fluff, like certain Start menu tiles and programs you might not have any interest in using. In an effort to tailor Windows 10 to your actual interests, Microsoft is toying with the idea of an initial setup screen that lets you select how you plan to use your PC, with several different categories to choose from. One of them is Gaming.

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There six categories in all, the others being Family, Creativity, Schoolwork, Entertainment, and Business. Each one offers a broad description. For example, the Gaming category states, \”Play and discover games, keep up with new releases,\” while Schoolwork reads, \”Take notes, write essays, and collaborate on projects.\”

Microsoft is not 100 percent committed to adding the optional setup screen to the Windows 10 installation routine, and is instead \”exploring\” the possibility, first within the Windows Insider program via preview build 20231 in the Dev channel.

\”Based on feedback, we’re exploring adding a page to Windows setup (OOBE) to help better understand how you plan to use your device and aid in customizing your device given your intended usage,\” Microsoft says.

At this early stage, selecting one or more customization categories does not do a whole lot. Microsoft says Insiders may see different options during Windows setup, depending on which boxes they tick, but it will not result in any actual configuration differences after exiting Windows setup. Which is kind of weird.

To that end, it is also not entirely clear how the different category designations will affect Windows 10. Specifically as it relates to the Gaming option, I suspect it would least enable hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling by default, and turn Game Mode on. Beyond those things, though, who really knows.

Looking at this broadly, Microsoft seems to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to Windows 10 is perhaps not the best way to go. Outside of launching a version of Windows 10 specifically for gaming (Windows 10 Gaming Edition), this could be the next best thing.

The PlayStation 5 supports standard PC-sized NVMe M.2 SSDs

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The PlayStation 5 will support M.2 SSDs up to 2280, Sony confirmed in a recent teardown video. While we still don\’t have all the details on which of the best NVMe SSDs for PC will make a good fit for the next-gen console, we can at least now confirm that it will support the standard sizing.

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There are multiple sizes of NVMe SSD, although most PC builders will be familiar with just one: 2280. Smaller sizes, such as 2260 and 2240, are most often used in compact laptops, and not regularly found in our chunky desktop rigs.

Sony announced the PS5 would feature expandable storage during its first technical overview, although has since held off recommending users go out and purchase an NVMe SSD in preparation for its November 12 (or November 19, for some) release date. 

It has long been supposed that this was due to a sizing mismatch between the most common M.2 NVMe SSDs and those which the PS5 would support. However, the recent PS5 teardown posted by Sony confirms otherwise, and clearly shows a single NVMe M.2 expansion slot with support up to 2280 and the most common key (M.2 SSDs also come with different keys, or connector configurations, but you really don\’t have to worry about that too much).

But while we have all the information we now need on sizing, we still don\’t know why Sony would rather have you wait to pick up your extra storage drives for the PlayStation 5. Perhaps it\’s a firmware deal, which would require a little extra work on SSD manufacturers part to ensure compatibility. Sony is using a bespoke SSD controller chip for high bandwidth, so perhaps there\’s a little more tinkering to be done to bring standard SSDs up to the mark. And don\’t forget PCIe 4.0 bandwidth will very likely be a part of that requirement.

We still don\’t recommend you rush to buy one of the best NVMe SSDs in a flash, but at least there\’s hope your spare PC drive may come in handy in bolstering the 825GB (perhaps more like 664GB with system reservations) internal PS5 SSD.

Watch the AMD Ryzen 5000 Zen 3 livestream here today

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It\’s a big day, it\’s AMD Ryzen 5000 day, and today we\’ll find out just what Dr. Lisa Su and Co. have planned for the next-gen Zen 3 gaming processors. We\’re liveblogging the Zen 3 announcement, so check that out for the very latest updates once the show starts.

 The AMD Ryzen 5000 livestream, dubbed \’Where gaming begins\’, kicks off today at 9am Pacific, 12pm Eastern, or 5pm UK time, and you can watch it live right here.

AMD\’s popular CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, will be running the event today, along with a select bunch of other senior execs, and will be introducing us to the new Ryzen 5000 lineup, the desktop gaming chips powered by the new Zen 3 CPU architecture.

But what are we expecting to find out about the new processors today? Obviously there should be a firm release date for at least the first Ryzen 5000 CPUs, and hopefully prices too, but we\’re also likely to see some gaming performance numbers too. 

This new generation of AMD processors is expected to move the game on, both figuratively and literally, because the Zen 3 architecture is promising some serious IPC gains. With a slightly updated 7nm production node, and a new design we could be looking at 10 – 15 percent higher IPC, with some rumours suggesting a 20 percent uplift. 

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Along with an expected bump in clock speeds that could put the new AMD Ryzen 5000-series CPUs in the driving seat when it comes to gaming performance, and mean the red team has the lead over Intel for the first time in years. Given that\’s the only place Intel could realistically claim the win, having lost the core-count battle and process node superiority, the Zen 3 chips really could represent a true changing of the gaming guard.

I\’d say that Intel will definitely be paying attention. The announcement yesterday that the 11th Gen desktop processors, code-named Rocket Lake, would be launching early in 2021, with Alder Lake also following later in the year, is likely no coincidence of timing ahead of AMD\’s big announcement.

We\’ve only heard tell of a pair of AMD Zen 3 CPUs so far—the Ryzen 5800X and 5900X—and it\’s possible those are going to be the first chips to hit the shelves. But there are sure to be more following, a full family to usher in a new era of gaming CPUs. And that starts today. 

EA has no plans to add more to Star Wars: Squadrons

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EA\’s taken an uncharacteristically restrained approach to Star Wars: Squadrons. It came out shortly after it was revealed, without any microtransactions or grindy progression systems—none of the trappings of a live service game. And now that it\’s out, it looks like there are no plans to milk it. 

Speaking to UploadVR earlier this week, creative director Ian Frazier explained that EA Motive wanted to make a straightforward game where it was complete at launch, rather than stretching it out across updates, seasons or DLC. 

\”Never say never,\” he said, \”but as far as our philosophy goes we\’re not trying to treat the game as a live service. We don’t want to say, \’It\’s almost done!\’ and then dribble out more of it over time, which to be honest is how most games work these days. So we\’ve tried to treat it in kind of an old-school approach saying, \’You’ve paid the $40, this is the game and it\’s entirely self-contained. We\’re not planning to add more content, this is the game, and we hope you understand the value proposition.\”

That it wasn\’t going to be a live service game was emphasised quite a lot before launch, but given all the different aliens and locations stuffed into the Star Wars universe it\’s surprising that EA Motive isn\’t drawing on them for new cosmetics and more maps. 

It should be a good thing, a game that launches with everything it\’s ever going to have, so you can just buy it and never have to dip into your bank account again, but on the other hand I just want more stuff. I\’m greedy. The unlockable cosmetics are all very plain, and eventually I\’m going to start getting bored of the maps—but I guess that\’s when I just move on. Being finished with a game—what a novel concept!

AMD acknowledges a vulnerability in its GPU driver that could crash your PC

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If your PC is prone to those dreaded \’blue screen of death\’ (BSOD) errors and you are running a Radeon GPU, the culprit could be your graphics driver. And more specifically, a denial-of-service vulnerability that will not be fixed until sometime next year.

Security researchers at Cisco discovered the security flaw, noting that it can be \”triggered by executing the D3DKMTCreateAllocation function with malformed data. This leads to an out-of-bounds read vulnerability in AMD ATIKMDAG.SYS driver.\”

The resulting actions by an attacker could potentially lead to an out-of-bounds read exploit and denial-of-service, which in turns crashes the PC with a BSOD. It can also be triggered by non-privileged (read: guest) accounts.

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This particular vulnerability has a 7.1 Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) rating, based on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being the most serious. AMD acknowledged Cisco\’s disclosure and the possibility for a BSOD to occur, but said it believes \”confidential information and long-term functionality are not impacted.\” So it sounds more like a potential annoyance than a serious security threat.

Putting on its Captain Obvious cap, AMD also said an affected user \”can resolve the issue by restarting the computer.\” That\’s opposed to staring at a BSOD forever—blue is supposed to have a calming effect, after all—if your PC is not already configured to automatically restart after a crash.

AMD will offer a more permanent fix through a future graphics driver update, in the first quarter of 2021.

Baldur\’s Gate 3\’s EULA contains a bardic quest

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Baldur\’s Gate 3 puts a few pretty tricky quests into your journal in its first act, which is out now in Early Access, but its most demanding trial is secreted away far from goblin camps and the Underdark. Larian snuck it into the EULA. 

Obviously we all read EULAs right to the bottom, so this will exclusively be news to people who haven\’t played Baldur\’s Gate 3 yet. Larian added it to the end of the agreement—again, something we\’ve all read if we\’ve played it—along with the threat of forfeiting fame and fortune if we fail. 

Give it a read:

Upon accepting this Pact, you take on an additional quest to submit to Larian one (1) recording of a chant, song, text, poem or interpretive dance performed by you and extolling your interest in the Forgotten Realms.

Should you decline to undertake and finish this quest within the first three winters following your acceptance of this Pact, you forfeit subsequent fame, fortune, and/or infamy as a founding member of our Guild of Great Genius.

You hereby grant Larian Studios a worldwide, perpetual, and royalty-free license to share such recordings through Larian Studios\’ social media channels.  

It\’s a quest really more suitable to bards, though I guess that is the closest class analogue for someone who writes about videogames. I think I\’ll take my chances with the forfeit. 

After screenshot of the EULA was shared on Reddit by ViviFFIX, it was pointed out that this juxtaposition of in-game fiction and legal agreements also crops up in the tabletop game. My D&D 5e rulebook, for instance, includes the disclaimer that \”Wizards of the Coast is not responsible for the consequences of any failed saving throws, including but not limited to petrification, poison, death magic, dragon breath, spells, or vorpal sword-related decapitation.\” There goes my class action lawsuit. 

Larian slipped a few other things into the EULA, including a stipulation that you don\’t strike any deals with fey, infernal or eldritch creatures. That\’s also just good general advice. 

Baldur\’s Gate 3 launched in Early Access earlier in the week, and I played through the first act and found that I couldn\’t stop pushing people off ledges. It\’s pretty great. If you\’ve started playing, you might want to check out our Baldur\’s Gate 3 tips and then mosey on over to our Baldur\’s Gate 3 companion guide.

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