All posts by Sam Machkovech

Battle.net’s name is changing—just in time for its 20th anniversary

Enlarge / We hope Blizzard taps Ars' own Aurich Lawson for graphic-design duties on what we assume will be a new logo for the renamed Battle.net. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

If you've touched PC gaming over the last two decades, chances are good that you've logged in to the Battle.net service at least once. Blizzard Entertainment's hugely popular online-gaming network has connected every one of the developer's PC games since 1996, and while the service has expanded and added myriad options over the years, its name has held on—which we at Ars think is awesome, considering "dot net" sounds delightfully dated.

Apparently, 1996 called, and it wants its old-sounding domain name back.

Blizzard used its World of Warcraft blog to announce the name-change news on Wednesday, where an unnamed representative confirmed that the company's online-matchmaking services will soon be dubbed "Blizzard tech." The company didn't offer a firm date for the name change other than indicating that we can expect the change "over the next several months."

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Rez Infinite’s new content is so good, it made me cry

Rez Infinite's reveal trailer for Area X.

SEATTLE—I just finished playing the final level in the upcoming PlayStation VR launch title Rez Infinite and took my headset off to see the game's creator, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, looking at me with a big smile. It's always at least a little jarring to cleanly segue out of a virtual reality experience, but in this moment's case, the intensity was nearly too much to bear. As in, I teared up.

I'd been waiting with great anticipation for this, the game's "Area X" level, ever since it was announced a little over a year ago. Rez has always sat at the edge of the rhythm-gaming conversation, even more so than the nichey likes of Parappa the Rapper and Dance Dance Revolution, but I have held a small torch for the game since its early 2001 release. Now, on the eve of its 15-year anniversary, my torch has been rekindled thanks to the stunning VR reinvention coming to Sony's headset next month. At demo events, I have played this rhythm-gaming classic with new VR eyes and been delighted at how the game, and its synesthesia-loaded blasts of trance music and pulsing imagery, translates to a headset.

That excitement went over a particular threshold during a September demo ahead of the PAX West festival, when Mizuguchi-san and his team at new studio Enhance Games asked me to come by a hotel suite and test out one of the first press demos of Area X—as in, the new Rez level built specifically for this remaster.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

League of Legends meets meatspace with board game crossover

The video-game-to-board-game community gained another member on Monday with the announcement of the first League of Legends board game. Titled Mechs vs. Minions, the $75 game will launch exclusively through Riot Games' own Web store on October 13.

If you're looking for a board game that replicates the "MOBA" game genre with elements like lane control and creep management, don't get your hopes up too highly. Mechs vs. Minions appears to be more of an "inspired by" product, as it eschews LoL's mechanics in favor of a "programmatic card deck" movement and battle system. Players control one of the series' four "yordle" characters—small, dwarf-like people who ride giant machines—and team up in a cooperative campaign against dozens of board-controlled bad guys.

If you've seen Avalon Hill's classic game Robo Rally, you know the drill. You'll draw from a deck of movement cards, then set those down to play out in order during your turn—and hope that your preselected movements match up with how everything else on the board eventually moves. Unlike Robo Rally, your MvM deck will also contain attack cards, along with the ability to stack matching cards for stronger movements and attacks. This stacking mechanic destroys whatever movement series you'd already established in your previous turn, so you'll need to find matching colors and stack at strategic times to make the most of the game's mechanical systems.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Pokémon Go player assaulted in Central Park while streaming on Twitch

On Sunday night, Pokémon Go player and Twitch game streamer "Rickeybot" turned on his usual livestreaming rig so that he could film himself walking around New York City while playing the popular smartphone game. That session took a dark turn, however, when the player's camera captured someone assaulting and mugging him in Central Park.

Thanks to Pokémon Go's geolocation features, the video makes clear that the mugging specifically happened next to the Sweeny Memorial Bench "Pokestop" at 12:13am Eastern time—right after the victim tried and failed to capture a moderately rated Seaking character in the game, no less. An archival video of the apparent assault shows a man approach Rickeybot from behind and bring him down with what looks either like a chokehold or a punch around his throat. The camera viewpoint falls to the ground at the same time that viewers hear a sound of impact and a moan. The assailant orders his victim to "take it off, let's go," while the streamer pleads, "no, no, no, please, no."

The camera clearly captures the assailant's face for a few seconds, and it reveals a man in his late teens or early 20s wearing what appears to be a camera or flashlight mounted on top of his head. The video also shows the assailant gesturing one hand toward the game player, though it's harder to tell whether that gesture included a weapon of any kind. The rest of the video includes dark, shaky video and sounds of intense breathing in what appears to be proof of the assailant fleeing the scene; meanwhile, the screen-capture feed reveals someone going through the Samsung smartphone's settings to factory-reset the device and delete all of its credentials. All the while, Twitch viewers commented on what they saw, typing responses such as "if you read this you thief, we saw your face, you will be in jail soon."

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Gears of War 4 reveals offline LAN, free matchmaking DLC, smooth 4K on PC

Ars visits The Coalition in Vancouver, BC. Video shot by Sam Machkovech, edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

VANCOUVER, BC—The future of high-end PC gaming is looking good thanks to graphics APIs like DirectX 12 and Vulkan, which let game engines more directly access multi-threaded processes in your hungry gaming computer's CPU and GPU. As of right now, however, neither API has been heavily tested in the public gaming market. Vulkan's biggest splashes to date have included noticeable, if incremental, bumps for games like Dota 2 and this year's Doom reboot, while DX12 has been applied to PC versions of existing Xbox One games—meaning that we've seen those games jump up to impressive 4K resolutions, but we haven't seen similar jumps in geometry or other major effects.

This fall, Microsoft is finally taking the DX12 plunge with a deluge of "Xbox Play Anywhere" game launches, including this week's Forza Horizon 3, but arguably the biggest DX12er of the bunch is October's Gears of War 4. I wouldn't have made that statement before game developer The Coalition unveiled the game's DirectX 12 version for the first time, but after seeing what the company had to offer, I was amazed. Here, finally, was a Gears of War game that looked as stunning as the original did during its era—you know, so long as you can afford the game's "recommended" PC build spec.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Oliver Stone on the Snowden who graced Ars’ forums: “Now he’s a different man”

Enlarge / Director Oliver Stone attends the Snowden New York premiere at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on September 13, 2016 in New York City. (credit: Getty Images / Jim Spellman)

On the day the Oliver Stone film Snowden opened in theaters around the world, Mr. Stone was kind enough to give Ars a call (in fact, a Facetime call) to talk about the film's creation. We had so many questions for Mr. Stone about collaborating with Edward Snowden, how he thinks American warfare has changed, and how much of his film is based on a work of fiction. Here's a transcript of our Friday conversation, edited for flow and for Mr. Stone's requested redactions.

Ars: To start, I was curious: How much did your film draw from the forums of Ars Technica, where Edward Snowden was apparently a longtime member and commenter?

Stone: Well, quite a bit of stuff [in my film] had not appeared [up until now]. There was a lot of information that only... let’s say no one really knew. Bart Gellman [the British journalist who appeared in Citizenfour] told me that when he saw the film, he said, there’s stuff here no one knows. And James Bedford [author of The Puzzle Palace], who I respect, they’ve been on the frontier of this, he said [classified programs] like Heartbeat, Epic Shelter—these things, nobody had talked about them.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Snowden’s bias is blatant—but Gordon-Levitt makes its message powerful

The first major film event about Edward Snowden did not come this year thanks to Director Oliver Stone. Instead, it came in the form of Citizenfour, the deserving winner of the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

That film is given a lot of attention in Stone's own creation, this week's Snowden, as many of its scenes include actor portrayals of Snowden, filmmaker Laura Poitras, and journalist Glenn Greenwald. The reenacted documentary scenes are quite authentic, complete with Snowden ducking under a blanket to enter a password while he's being filmed, and they were shot in the same Hong Kong hotel where Snowden was staying when the documents he copied were revealed to the world.

One documentary scene didn't make the dramatized cut, however. The first moment in which Snowden appears in the documentary includes Greenwald asking about the leaker's life and identity. To those, he almost immediately responded, "I'm not the story here."

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Facebook login adds real-name policy, auto-updated friends list to Oculus

This week saw the latest Oculus Rift software runtime begin to roll out to PC users, and the 1.8 version includes one new feature in particular: official Facebook integration. The software update is rolling out in waves, so Oculus owners may not yet have this live on their PCs, but once it rolls out, users are told that "Oculus is better with Facebook friends" and are given the option of logging in to a Facebook account.

To confirm, this is wholly optional, and the service will still operate normally should users not opt in. And in some ways, this change brings Facebook up to speed with other major online gaming platforms such as Steam, Xbox Live, and PlayStation Network, which all support Facebook-specific features like searching for friends and posting updates.

However, Oculus' tie-in to Facebook is different from the others in more aggressively tying FB to a gaming service, according to the Facebook-in-Oculus terms posted to the headset's official Reddit forum. For starters, should you log in to Facebook via the Oculus Rift's PC app, your username will change to your real name. If for any reason you'd rather your Oculus username continue to be your favorite gaming handle, whether for privacy's sake or just because you like the sound of it, you'll have to avoid the login.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Now Pac-Man can run into the ghosts?! Behold, the new Championship Edition 2

Ars plays Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. (video link)

Long after arcades faded from the height of pop culture, but well before cheap apps and microtransactions ruled the gaming world, there was a pretty amazing transitional period for cheap, quick-blast gaming: the world of Xbox Live Arcade. Microsoft's service launched on the Xbox 360 with low-priced apps and a reliance on arcade classics, and shortly after its debut, Pac-Man proved it out as a great place for new, arcade-inspired experiences.

Pac-Man Championship Edition garnered praise and sales in equal measure in 2007 for putting a lovely "modern-retro" spin on the series, and in 2010, that game's tweaks got their own tweaks in a "DX" update of the game. Six years later, Namco has returned with one more pass in the form of Tuesday's Pac-Man Championship Edition 2.

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from:http://arstechnica.com

Rick & Morty co-creator sits with Ars, shows us what Accounting looks like in VR

(video link)

SEATTLE—"How much of this am I allowed to spoil?" This was my first question to Justin Roiland—the writer, animator, and voice actor best known for co-creating Adult Swim series Rick & Morty—after 12 minutes of laughing hysterically inside of his first virtual reality project.

Roiland topped off his makeshift morning mimosa and responded pretty demurely, choosing not to offer a PR-style list of rules and restrictions. Instead, his plea sounded like one from a creator, not an advertiser: whatever gets spoiled will ruin the whole point of his first-ever fully fledged VR product, so, you know, be cool about it.

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from:http://arstechnica.com