All posts by Sam Machkovech

Bethesda’s big VR games now have release dates, and they’re all in 2017

Nice box art.

Nice box art. (credit: id Software)

Bethesda had previously announced that it would release not one, not two, but three VR versions of its biggest franchises by the end of this year. Rather than disappoint headset hopefuls with a last-minute delay, the company has gone ahead and announced firm release dates for all three.

Mark your calendars, real or virtual: Doom VFR will land on both the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR on December 1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR will launch exclusively on PlayStation VR on November 17. And Fallout 4 VR will round out the company's 2017 VR schedule by launching exclusively on the HTC Vive on December 12.

Bethesda has not announced plans for any of those games to appear outside of their announced platforms. While it's likely that at least one of the three games will flutter out to another platform, we at Ars Technica would bet cacodemons to cacodonuts that Bethesda has no intention of releasing a game on an Oculus-branded platform anytime soon. Or ever.

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HTC Vive gets its first permanent price cut, now down 25 percent

Enlarge / Take heed: the newly discounted HTC Vive bundle, pictured here, includes the old head strap without either embedded headphones or a more comfortable fit. (credit: HTC)

The HTC Vive has finally received its first major, and permanent, price drop since launching in April of last year.

Starting today, the complete HTC Vive virtual reality kit, which includes a headset, two Vive wand controllers, and two tracking boxes, now costs $599 (and £599 in the UK), as opposed to its launch price of $799/£689. This cut is remarkable not only for its 25 percent discount but also its rarity. Throughout the system's 16-month lifespan, HTC has only offered one single-day discount of $100/£100 for the Vive system.

HTC's stubborn pricing strategy contrasted with that of the Oculus Rift, whose price has seen a few temporary and permanent price drops since launching last year. Those prices have fluctuated thanks in part to the later launch of add-on Oculus Touch controllers. Currently, an Oculus Rift and Touch bundle can still be purchased for $399, which means that Oculus's "limited-time" offer has lasted for over six weeks at this point.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda officially shuts down its single-player updates

Enlarge / Pretend that planet is Mass Effect: Andromeda's single-player DLC, then look at it wistfully, turn around, and walk away. (credit: Bioware)

Anybody who hoped the troubled Bioware game Mass Effect: Andromeda would get some more single-player content should probably sit down. The game developer chose to deliver bad news to fans on Saturday evening via its official blog, confirming that it would not create any more "single-player or in-game story content" for the game.

If you're anxious to see the game's loose plot threads receive any resolution, you'll have to turn to other means. The game's existing 1.1 patch, which went live nearly three weeks ago, marked the end of any single-player changes, updates, or patches. Multiplayer modes will receive more "story-based APEX missions," Bioware says, and other stories, including those of the fate of the quarian ark, will be shuffled into "our upcoming comics and novels."

This confirms a DLC cancellation rumor dug up by Kotaku back in June. According to Kotaku's sources, EA had already bailed on plans for either add-on DLC or a full-fledged Andromeda 2 sequel after the game's lukewarm critical and commercial performance.

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Nidhogg 2 review: Violent, disgusting, and hilariously fun

Enlarge (credit: Messhof)

Of all the fighting video games I imagined might ever get sequels, Nidhogg was pretty low on my wishlist. The 2014 sword-duel game was a masterwork of simplicity, and it benefited from looking and playing like something from an early '80s home console. Two-button controls. Minuscule color palettes. A simple directive to stab and run. I had seen too many zillions-of-buttons, zillions-of-commands fighting games, and Nidhogg, even more than its one-button contemporary Divekick, served as a delightful palette cleanser.

When its sequel was announced last year, fans—including myself—wondered what the heck was going on. Where was the refreshing simplicity? What was up with these new weapons? Why did the fighters transform into grotesque, mutated Homer Simpsons?

Once I went hands-on with Nidhogg 2 last December, I instantly changed my tune. That love has only grown since playing its preview builds in bits and pieces—and it's grown more since getting the final version. Nidhogg 2 is everything a great sequel should be: an opportunity to build on a solid foundation, a successful gamble on updated mechanics, and a better game for fans both old and new.

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OkCupid bans white supremacist “for life,” asks daters to report others

Enlarge (credit: OkCupid)

Dating site OkCupid made the unusual move of announcing that it had given a single member a "lifetime" ban on Thursday—and naming him—in order to make a point.

"We were alerted that white supremacist Chris Cantwell was on OkCupid," the company wrote at its official Twitter account on Thursday. "Within 10 minutes, we banned him for life."

Cantwell was the subject of a Vice documentary about the white-supremacist Unite The Right marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the past weekend, where he offered numerous racist and threatening comments while acting as a march organizer and riding in a car alongside former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. ("We're not non-violent," Cantwell offered at one point in the documentary. "We'll fucking kill these people if we fucking have to.")

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Sonic Mania review: 16-bit return breathes new life into struggling series

Enlarge (credit: Sega)

Sonic Mania has finally made what various arms of Sega, including the official Sonic Team staff, haven't pulled off for decades: a great old-school Sonic game. That's a monumental thing in and of itself, considering how long Sonic has struggled as a series—and how many times his major contemporary rival Mario has lapped him, in both modern and retro flavors.

With that hindsight in mind, it's tempting to overlook some of Sonic Mania's shortcomings. This is a lean game, weighing in at around 3-4 hours for a first playthrough—which, to be fair, is comparable to how much you'll find in a Genesis or Mega Drive Sega game. A few peculiar design decisions (and, at launch, bugs) can hinder the fun you'll have in your first playthrough. And this game has no interest in holding your hand, so don't expect a relaxing reintroduction to the blue bomber.

But having a good Sonic game again means having a platformer that emphasizes the word "speed" and all it implies—including level density, tucked-away secrets, pitch-perfect controls, and satisfying run-and-jump pathing. Many games have tried to recapture Sonic's magic over the years (including Sega itself, with 2002's Sonic Advance 2 worth a shout-out). But this week's Mania combines the familiar and the new to declare that maybe, just maybe, only Sonic can do it best.

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StarCraft Remastered’s day-one LAN parties can win free pizza today

Enlarge / Free pizza for your StarCraft Remastered launch-day LAN party could be yours with just one tweeted photo. (credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Receiving transmission: StarCraft Remastered is about to go live! While we at Ars have yet to begin testing the final retail version, I couldn't help but point out that this 1pm ET launch gives fans plenty of time to get ready for one of the funnier old-school PC gaming giveaways we've seen in recent memory.

Starting at 6pm ET today, Blizzard will begin accepting entries for the only "free pizza for your LAN party" contest we have ever found on the Internet.

From that hour until 11pm ET, series fans are invited to capture "a wholly original photograph of Entrant participating in a StarCraft Remastered LAN party with at least one (1) friend," then post it on Twitter with a #StarCraftPizzaMe hashtag. (Meaning, you can't pull out a few computers, boot SCR on all of them, and add a caption about how everyone else has gone to pick up Doritos and Mountain Dew. #foreveralone)

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We try Discord’s new video features, ask if game-chat app will ever make money

Enlarge (credit: Discord)

Discord probably didn't need to add more major features to keep its 45 million users happy. The free text and voice-chat service has exploded in roughly two years of public testing, thanks to its simple "chat with my gaming friends" system that resembles a more voice-heavy version of Slack.

But just as the service begins to reach critical mass—and invites more questions about how the heck its "no ads, no required subscription" model will ever make money—the Discord team has responded with a major update: new video-sharing features that Discord insists will also remain totally free for all users.

“Do it in a bathtub”

When Discord co-founder and CMO Eros Resmini needs to conduct important business, he prefers to conduct it via his own app. The free text and voice-chat service works on a bunch of hardware, and if you're not interested in installing the Discord app on Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, you can access its every feature via a simple, instant-load Web-browser interface. The idea: no matter what platform you are playing a game on, you can use a phone or computer to connect to friends, coordinate multiplayer sessions, and instantly sync up all-important "party" voice chat (without jumping through the hoops of other exclusive gaming-network services).

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Rez Infinite on PC is a better game—all because of mouse support

Enhance Games

When you see the phrases "classic Dreamcast game Rez" and "author Sam Machkovech" near each other, you can probably fill in the blanks yourself. I've raved. I've cried. I've covered myself in vibrators. I love the game, and I previously thought the classic game had reached its peak via a 4K- and VR-friendly re-release on PlayStation 4 last year.

Turns out Enhance Studios had a surprise up its retro-polygon sleeves: a PC version. With mouse support!

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Valve announces Artifact, a Dota-themed digital card game

Enlarge / Want more info on Valve's upcoming card-battling game Artifact? Too bad! All you get for now is this logo. (credit: Valve)

Rather than wait until the end of The International, the major Dota 2 tournament taking place in Seattle all week, to announce major Dota news, Valve surprise-announced an entirely new video game on the event's second, early-rounds evening.

"It's not Half-Life 3," broadcaster Sean "Day9" Plott said, and he insisted that the game was not a re-release or a fine-tuning of an existing game à la Counter Strike: GO or Dota 2. Then, he introduced a vague, 35-second teaser video that prominently featured a triangular logo. It ended with the phrase: Artifact: The Dota Card Game, which Valve says will publicly launch sometime in 2018. (Technically, Plott wasn't lying, but gosh, did he come close.)

Sadly, Artifact's reveal was not followed with anything in the way of screenshots or gameplay. Instead, Plott described having played test versions of the game already, and his brief description hinted at a one-on-one digital card-battling game, like Hearthstone, only with a Dota-themed three-lane system and other Dota-like tweaks.

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