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Updated: 41 weeks 3 days ago

A Look At How People Bend and Break A Single Goldeneye Level

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:01

Speedrunning communities build up their share of stories. Legendary runs, heartbreaking chokes and new trick discoveries abound. Goldeneye 007 speedrunner RWhiteGoose has sat down to chronicle the tales behind one of Goldeneye’s best levels.

Ryan J. White is a Goldeneye runner ranked sixth in the world for time on leaderboards. In a new video, he outlines the history of speedruns on the game’s ‘Frigate’ level. Individual level records are tracked heavily by the larger community. Getting a record on Frigate is a challenging level because of how random it can be. The player must rescue hostages who take a variable amount of time to escape. White tracks the tactics players developed to tackle the level in exhaustive detail.

You can see the iterative changes throughout each run in the video. Runners decide to toss a tracking bug across the level to hit an objective early and learn to warp through level architecture. Every run has a new story including a heartbreaking tale of a world record lost by a single button press and a dastardly fake run that stood as a record for over a year and a half.

White’s enthusiasm for the game is clear throughout, his boisterous personality coloring each tale with an infectious energy.

Conor McGregor Impersonator Plays Overwatch

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 14:45
Source: Getty Images.

“Who the fook is that guy?”

I don’t think the real Conor McGregor plays Overwatch, but this fake Conor McGregor that Reeve encountered is an extremely acceptable substitute.

His impression is spot-on as far as purposefully over-the-top parodies go, as is his penchant for melodramatic braggery (and calling everybody a pussy). The whole “I’m finding it hard to even engage with anybody in the game, because not one single individual in this company is on my level” bit made me spit out my water. Turns out, if you just quote McGregor verbatim while playing Overwatch, it kinda works!

We can even learn some things from McGregor’s words. “I’m in a state of zen right now,” he said. “My mind is calm, composed, and I’m ready to put on the performance of my life.” It’s a good mentality to apply when you’re feeling tilted.

And then of course, there’s the part at the end where he says, “I’m up here, driving around California in a car that spits fire, dressed like El Chapo, with anacondas on my feet.” I don’t think I even need to tell you how you can apply that to Overwatch. I mean, it’s pretty obvious.

Ask Kotaku's Staff Anything

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 14:00

It’s time again for another edition of Ask Kotaku’s Staff Anything. We’ll be answering your questions for the next hour or so. Ask whatever you’d like.

The PS4's Nioh Is Basically Samurai Bloodborne, And It Is Very Good

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 13:00

Look, I didn’t expect to spend the last two nights obsessively playing Nioh either, but here we are.

Nioh is a new PS4-exclusive action game from Team Ninja, the studio behind the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series. It’s out in about a week, on February 7. The game has been floating at the periphery of my awareness for a while now, partly due to its incredibly protracted development (it was first announced at E3 2005??) and partly because it’s had multiple demos and betas to allow the developers to tweak and fine-tune the game based on player feedback.

Sony sent me a copy earlier this week and I found myself completely drawn in by it. I’ve now played five or six hours, which has gotten me past the first real (asshole) boss and into the meat of the game. I thought I’d write up some impressions based on my time with it. I do include a clip of the first real boss and a silly gif from a story cutscene, if you’re concerned about seeing that sort of thing a week before the game comes out.

It is good.

First of all: this game is good. I’ll explain how it achieves that goodness in this article, but I wanted to get the big-picture take out of the way up front. I am super into this game. I suppose it’s possible that it turns to garbage after its impressive opening missions, but based on how strong its fundamentals are, that seems unlikely.

It’s not exactly a Dark Souls clone.

Nioh borrows several core structural elements from From Software’s Souls games, though it also differentiates itself in some key ways. Those borrowed elements: You earn XP by killing enemies, and if you die, you drop whatever unused XP you were carrying and have one shot to go pick it all back up or you lose it good. When you die, the level resets (mostly) and standard enemies respawn. You can cash in XP at shrines, which are basically Souls bonfires, which lets you level up and also reset the level.

Levels are twisting, layered affairs where if you venture far enough in the correct direction, you can kick down ladders and up shortcuts to let you get around easier. There are tricks and traps throughout, and often the most straightforward path is not the smartest one. There is no jump button. Bosses are massive beasts that can kill you in a couple of hits. Their health bars are displayed with a giant red bar at the bottom of the screen. You get the idea.

In other words, You Died.

Nioh is also very difficult, and you can die at any moment if you aren’t careful. (I fought the second boss like 30 times before I finally beat him. It was a rush, but man, fuck that guy.) Combat is also Souls-influenced, with a strong focus on 1v1 duels against deadly opponents. Any basic enemy around your level can kill you in a few hits, and you’ll have to play smart, pay attention to your surroundings, carefully manage your stamina, and lure clumped enemies away from their friends. Your moves (and your opponents’ moves) are animation-locked, meaning you’ll have to carefully choose between a quick but weak jab or a longer, stronger combo. If you overcommit you can leave yourself open to a devastating counterattack.

Here’s a clip of me taking on a tough armored enemy, which gives a basic sense of how combat flows:

Combat in Nioh moves much faster than a Dark Souls game, and in fact feels even more fleet to me than Bloodborne. The latter game is certainly the better overall comparison, particularly given that the protagonist William dodges with a speedy quickstep rather than a roll. Like Bloodborne, there are no shields in Nioh, though you can adopt a blocking stance to absorb some attacks.

Like Bloodborne, it has an interesting regen system.

In Nioh, stamina (here called Ki) is everything. It governs how many times you can attack and dodge, and if you run out in the middle of a fight, William will spend a moment standing still, huffing and puffing and waiting to get completely owned by his opponent.

Every time you attack, however, you’ll see a small cloud of Ki particles accumulate around William. Press R1 when that happens and you’ll trigger a Ki Pulse, which triggers much faster Ki regeneration. It’s a crucial move and an interesting additional mechanic to juggle on top of attacking, dodging, and blocking.

Ki Pulsing reminds me a little of Bloodborne’s health-replenishing attacks, where you could recover a portion of your lost health if you launched an offensive shortly after taking damage. It’s a technically optional but often crucial extra thing to hold in your mind while fighting, and it adds a wrinkle to combat. It can be a bit frustrating to get the timing right, since as far as I can tell you have to be standing still to do it, but it adds an interesting and integral new dynamic to combat. (Update: Never mind, I played some more and there’s a skill you can unlock that lets you do a Ki Pulse while dodging.)

You can fight other dead players.

Nioh has online functionality similar to a Souls game, and you’ll see red graves anywhere another player has died. (Some also appear to have been added by the developers.) Pass over the grave and you’ll see some information about who they were and what killed them, along with an option to “fight revenant.”

If you choose to do that, you’ll summon a hostile, computer-controlled version of their character. These fights are much tougher than your average enemy, but can net you better gear if you win. It’s an interesting twist on the Souls formula, and a nifty middle ground between PvE and PvP. (Apparently Team Ninja will be adding PvP in a free update, but isn’t in the game yet. You can, however, summon other players to help you out in your game or go fight alongside others. I haven’t really done that yet.)

Demons require a specific approach.

While the first few levels mostly feature human enemies, there are also demons, known as Yokai, each of which is apparently based on a creatur from Japanese folklore. Most of the Yokai I’ve fought have been signaled with a glowing, darkened area that appears in the game world. If I go close enough, a demon pops out and it’s time for a knock-down, drag-out fight. They’re basically sub-bosses, much tougher than any of the other enemies in the level.

Above: cleansing a ring of Yokai Realm darkness with a Ki Pulse.

Yokai also activate something called the “Yokai Realm” when they run out of Ki, which drops a circular ward of glowing darkness on the ground. If you’re standing on it, your Ki will regenerate much more slowly and the Yokai will be more powerful. Fortunately, you can purify a Yokai Realm area by activating a Ki Blast after an attack. I didn’t really grasp this system until I took on the first proper boss—suddenly, I found myself leaping in, scoring some hits, activating a Ki blast to keep the boss from becoming more powerful, then getting out before he could wreck me.

I have a feeling that later levels will become more and more Yokai-heavy, though I’m actually really enjoying the early levels’ balance of ordinary humans with a few Yokai to spice things up.

Overall, combat is complex despite being fast-moving.

In addition to Ki Blasts and managing pockets of Yokai Realm darkness, you also have to keep track of William’s stance. There are three possible stances, which can be quickly changed by holding R1 and tapping a face button. Low, medium and high stance each do an increasing amount of damage but move ever more slowly.

Here’s me taking on two guys (not generally recommended) using William’s low stance:

Each stance also works differently with each of the main weapon types, which include familiar options like a longsword, two shorter swords, axes, spears, hammers, a chain-sickle Kusarigama. You can quickly switch between one of two equipped melee weapons on the fly. In addition to melee options, you can also whip out one of your two ranged weapons in the middle of a fight, and it’s actually easier to do that than I would’ve thought. It all adds up to a fast-moving and unusually complex combat system with a ton of options for offense and defense. This seems like the kind of game that skilled players will spend months mastering.

There’s a Diablo influence in there, as well.

Nioh isn’t just influenced by the Souls games—there’s more than a little Diablo to it as well, particularly with regard to loot. Enemies regularly drop armor, weapons, and usable items, and each one is color-coded for rarity. There’s no limit to how much you can carry, so you’ll wind up with multiple copies of a given piece of armor, each one with slightly different perks and abilities.

After the second level, I got access to a blacksmith who will let me forge my own weapons and armor, merge existing weapons with higher-level but inferior weapons, change the appearance of a piece of gear while keeping its perks, and change up the perks on a given piece of gear.

There’s also a Diablo-ish mission select screen, which is another departure from the Souls formula. Nioh isn’t one big interconnected map, but rather a series of maps with specific missions attached to them. I’m actually fine with that, but people expecting a Souls-like open map game might be disappointed.

I’m currently in the midst of a side mission that has returned me to the map from the second story mission, but in reverse. The enemy locations are different, everyone’s tougher, the doors work differently, some areas are blocked off, and there are all new secrets and bosses. It’s a cool idea. Nioh’s basic gameplay is so good that I’m happy to replay levels and get into new fights.

Stealth is surprisingly viable.

Anyone who’s played Dark Souls probably knows how “stealth” in those games works. You use your bow and arrow to carefully cheese enemies from so far away that they can’t get to you, whittling down huge foes with 60 arrows until they die. Nioh actually has stealth that feels less like cheesing and more like an intended strategy. You can headshot enemies with your bow and arrow, which will often kill them outright, though with stronger enemies it’ll just knock them to the ground. If you can close fast enough, you can trigger a finishing move before they get up.

However, enemies are fairly vigilant, so if you take out one guy, the guy standing next to him will immediately come running your way. Your foes seem much more aggressive in Nioh than in a Souls game, and I’ve yet to see one run into an invisible wall and immediately lose interest in me. They’ll chase you across half the level if they have to.

It’s possible for a careful player to sneak across the rooftops of a level, picking off unaware enemies from afar, but they really will have to be careful when doing so. Do things right, and you can clear levels largely by striking from the shadows.

The story is actually pretty grounded (so far).

I’ve never gotten too deep into Team Ninja’s past games, but so far Nioh is a marked tonal departure from what I’ve played of Ninja Gaiden or Dead or Alive. It’s a historical fantasy tale set in Japan’s war-torn 16th century Sengoku period, and the developers have apparently gone to great lengths to include period appropriate weapons, armor, and fighting styles. It’s just that there’s also magic and demons.

And cats, apparently. (Side note: this is a Real Ninja Fact! Ninja would apparently use a cat’s eyes to tell the time. You can find out more in the in-depth Ninja article we published back in 2015.)

The plot centers around a western Samurai named William, who’s actually based on a real dude named William Adams. He’s tracking a mysterious occult conspiracy that originated in England. It actually feels a bit Assassin’s Creed-ish so far, with a mix of historical figures (Hattori Hanzo has already turned up as my Ninja trainer), secret societies, and fantastical truths waiting to be discovered. I’m not really playing this game for the story, but so far the setting has been refreshingly low-key, with nary a big-titty CIA agent in sight.

Like I said, it’s good.

A lot of what I’ve written here will be old news to people who’ve been following Nioh for years. If you’ve played all the demos and are already planning out your character builds, you probably know more about this game than I do. I’ve only just unlocked Ninjutsu abilities and haven’t even begun to experiment with specialized skills and magic abilities.

I do feel confident saying that Nioh is good, however, and am much more excited about it than I was a week ago. It’s a historically grounded samurai Bloodborne, with a healthy dose of Diablo and some nifty new ideas of its own. If that sounds like your cup of tea, you will almost certainly like this game.

Why Overwatch Hacking Is Such A Big Problem In Korea

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:30
Overwatch’s Sombra

In a now-famous Overwatch video, a Korean player is banned mid-match because of his shameless hacking. He’s streaming himself as Widowmaker, effortlessly flinging himself across the map and landing perfect headshots in-air. A Hanzo approaches, and in a moment, he’s gone. Widowmaker’s crosshairs, which were feet away from him, rubberband to his head.

A few minutes in, he’s locked out of the game. Someone reported his cheating. But it’s no issue—he just navigates back to the Battle.net website to make another account.

Cheating on the Asian Overwatch server is endemic and widespread. On the Battle.net forums and Reddit, complaints about hacking South Korean players’ too-accurate headshots, immediate gun-downs and even DDOS attacks against winners in competitive mode are widespread. Just today, 22,865 Korean hackers were banned from Overwatch. Between January 26th and 31st alone, 3,095 accounts were suspended. Harry, the Korean Blizzard representative who reported the ban wave on Battle.net, proudly gives the numbers, but doesn’t explain steps Blizzard is taking to definitively stomp out Overwatch hacking in South Korea. For months, Korean fans have begged Blizzard to stop playing whack-a-mole and address the root of their servers’ endemic hacking problem.

Based on my conversations with Korean players, it seems that hacking culture Korea is inexorably bound to the over 25,000 “PC bangs” where Koreans hang out, slam energy drinks and grind on Overwatch. They’re like North America’s now-antiquated ‘90s LAN cafes where patrons pay a small $1.00/hour fee to play on top-notch computers. At PC bangs, cheaters often download aimbot software with impunity. Recently, “nuking” has become widespread. It’s a practice where people hack into enemy control systems to change maps or freeze them at spawn.

Since Overwatch’s release last May, Thomas Lytwynchuk has frequented PC bangs to play the game. In Korea, Overwatch is the second most-played title in PC Bangs, second only to League of Legends. At the cafe, he grinded for months in Competitive mode to reach Platinum rank, where he says he’s run into a lot of hackers. Recently, while defending on the Anubis map, he turned a corner and within a nanosecond, was pummeled by McCree’s rapidfire, a little faster than human impulses permit.

“I checked the deathcam replay, and sure as hell, he’s hacking,” Lytwynchuk told me. “His crosshair instantly locked onto me, and as I’m jumping and crouch-spamming away from the corner, the crosshair perfectly follows my head.” Later, that same player switched to Widowmaker, whose crosshairs, in his words, “would literally flick onto your head then perfectly track it, even through walls.”

Lytwynchuk reported the player, but doesn’t think it made a difference. In Korea, it’s possible to play Overwatch on an infinite number of Battle.net accounts as long as you’re in an unmonitored PC Bang. That’s because Blizzard has a deal with Korean PC bangs that allows patrons to spend a meagre $.80-$1.50 per hour to access the game. They don’t have to buy it themselves. They can just make a new account each time they play. The cafes pay Blizzard a subscription fee in exchange.

“If you had to pay $40 for a copy of Overwatch every time you hacked and got banned, like in the West, nobody would do it,” Lytwynchuk told me. “Unless you got a lot of spare change to throw around.”

Players don’t even have to attach their personal information to these accounts. They’ll use VPNs to make North American accounts with burner e-mails. For home computers in South Korea, Blizzard requires a form of strong identity verification to play Overwatch. That’s what empowers Cinderella’s Law, which prevents kids under 16 from gaming after midnight, to know gamers’ ages. So essentially, in several PC Bangs, anything goes.

“It is ruining the game for people and its endemic in Korea because of the free-to-play model,” Lytwynchuk told me. “The fact that you can hack and play games with your friends for $1.50 an hour with no repercussions is what’s bringing out the worst in people.” PC bang owners, I’m told, don’t have much of an incentive to report hackers, since the ability to hack is a big draw to play there. Employees’ pay is low and monitoring every user would require a surveillance panopticon.

Daniel Na, who is based in Seoul, mostly plays Overwatch at home, but estimates that he’s encountered hacking 50 times on the Asian server. He’s ranked at Diamond and says that, at higher levels, it’s more widespread. “Usually the hackers’ IGNs [in-game names] are famous enough that when a game starts, both teams just agree to tie the match if there is an aimbot in the room,” he told me. He described it as a “manner system,” so nobody wins or loses when there’s a hacker.

When I asked Na why so many PC bang attendees enjoy hacking, he told me that “I believe it is all brought from the competitiveness that Korean culture has in general, especially for younger generations in gaming.” He added, “Breaking the rules may be considered as fun when you are living in a world where you always have to listen to your parents and live your life in tight studying-schedules since elementary school.”

If 22,865 Korean Overwatch hackers were banned today, it’s easy to picture how toxic their server can get. Korea-based players I spoke with said they absolutely despise hackers. They decimate any possibility of fun and fair play. That’s why, in the very early morning, you might see Korean players on your North American server—they don’t want to deal with hackers. English-speaking players have widely complained about this, since they can’t communicate with their Korean teammates. Some have even called for Blizzard to ban Korean IPs from the North American server.

Blizzard did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Korean players are constantly posting their pleas to Reddit and Battle.net, with one, “BLIZZARD DISREGARDS KOREANS OPINION,” garnering over 17,000 upvotes. Relief is necessary, but Blizzard’s license agreement with PC bangs may tie up their hands. Mass account bans may look effective, but to cite one response from today’s news, “And 22,865 new PC bang accounts were made.”

Final Fantasy XV Voice Actors Playing Their Own Game Is Excellent

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:25

Last night the voices of Ignis, Prompto and Noctis streamed the game they star in, Final Fantasy XV, on Twitch. Unsurprisingly, it was adorable.

Source: Adam Croasdell

Adam Croasdell (Ignis), Robbie Daymond (Prompto) and Ray Chase (Noctis) were also joined by fellow voice actor Max Mittelman. While the stream hasn’t been archived, fans have clipped the highlights. Of particular note are the guys getting together to sing, “Stand By Me.”

Croasdell had apparently never played Final Fantasy XV before, and was a little amused at some of Ignis’s more “no duh,” recipes.

I also loved this video of them goofing around with the new free camera mode. Peep them taking a pic of Gladio’s butt!

Croasdell also has a very, um, soothing reading voice. I really get why people are into Ignis now.

The guys promised they’d stream again soon, and I really hope they do. I wanna catch it live this time! Here’s Croasdell saying Ignis’s most notable line, to tide us over.

How Another Star Wars Side Story Could Help Make the Prequels Better

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 12:00

Hello, apocalypteers! Reality is a nightmare, so let’s head immediately into the sweet embrace of pop culture. This week, I explain the many reasons why video games movies don’t work, the difference between Iron Fist and Rogue One’s Chirrut Imwe, what the hell the Super Friends cartoon is in the Arrowverse, and more. Take shelter!

Revenge of the Revenge of the Sith:

Another Confused Rebel:

Dear Mr. Postman,

One thing about Rogue One is that it makes us look at the original trilogy in different ways. Now the exhaust port is a brillant piece of “screw you” to the Empire from Galen Erso. With that in mind, I would assume the Han Solo film is going to take place timeline wise during the prequel trilogy. We do see the Millennium Falcon in Episode III on Coruscant. Do you think there is a way for the Han Solo film to improve the prequels or put a different spin on something from the prequels?

Also, I have a follow-up question to the answer you gave ConfusedRebel last week. If Jedha is destroyed in Rogue One, where the crystal mines are, where does the Empire get the crystals for Death Star II? Are there other mines on other planets? If so then that makes Jedha pretty meaningless, doesn’t it?

The Han Solo movie isn’t going to take place in prequel times. It can’t, actually, unless we’re going to some seriously young Han Solo. While I don’t believe anyone’s age has been officially confirmed, at least in the new canon, Wookiepedia says Han is less than 30 and Lando is about 30 when A New Hope begins. Revenge of the Sith takes place ~19 years before Rogue One, which would make them both about 10 years old—too young to be piloting the Falcon. The person in the Falcon in RotS is someone else, although we don’t know (yet) how Lando got it.

That doesn’t mean the Han Solo movie couldn’t help reframe some of the prequels just like Rogue One did for A New Hope. Maybe a neat but incredibly underused character like Aurra Sing could show up and actually do something cool. Or maybe Han has to smuggle something to Naboo and discovers it’s decimated. Maybe he meets an elderly Gungan. Honestly, if Han met Jar Jar Binks, who had stopped being stupid and was still agonizing over the way he helped destroy the Republic... that would be sort of fascinating.

However, the Han Solo movie probably won’t do this. There are a few reasons, the main one being that Disney seems to be ignoring the existence of the prequels as best they can. At least for now. I think they’d at least see if the Han Solo movie goes well before deciding to take a risk on something more directly prequel related, presumably a future Side Story.

As for your Kyber crystal question, we don’t know where the Death Star II got its crystals. However, it’s a big galaxy out there. No one in Rogue One claims Jedha has the only Kyber crystal mine out there; in fact, they say Jedha has “a” Kyber crystal mine and not “the” Kyber crystal mine, which indicates there are more.

As for other crystal mines on other planets, I don’t think they make Jedha meaningless at all. It could be a convenient location—maybe the source of crystals closest to the core Imperial domain. Or it could be because the inhabitants seemed few and poor, and thus less able to flee and/or tell people about the Death Star. But a gold mine is still a gold mine. Finding a second gold mine doesn’t mean you should abandon the first.


Tomorrow Never Knows

Jason H.:

Postman! I gotta say, Legends of Tomorrow’s “everything’s on the table” approach to time travel is a heckuva lot more fun than, well, pretty much anything that doesn’t have the word “Doctor” in the title. Here’s something interesting, though- when Dr. Haywood says he named the Legion of Doom after an old Hanna-Barbara cartoons, doesn’t that imply that the characters on the show are fictional? No one’s gonna care about the loss of Wendy and Marvin, but it sounds like Batman and Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman aren’t in the Arrowverse.

Fun thought, though: if they are in the Arrowverse, then who the heck was on “Super Friends?”

Batman and Robin, Superman, and Wonder Woman are definitely not in the Arrowverse. Or rather, it would take some seriously backtracking for them to suddenly say that any of those three existed.

Remember, when Supergirl arrived for the crossover, everyone was boggled. No one said, “Hey, it’s like a female version of Superman!” or “She might be able to take on Wonder Woman!” Without those two, it’s pretty safe to guess that Batman isn’t around either. More tellingly, no one has ever brought up anything regarding these superheroes, and everyone in every DC/CW show has talked and acted as if Green Arrow was the first superhero on the scene, followed by Flash. The only way to get DC’s Big Three on the show would be to have them start their careers in the present, which sounds terrible. No one wants a world where Green Arrow is Batman’s mentor.

Aquaman, on the other hand, could be introduced very easily—he could be a new character, or he could have been doing his crimefighting underwater to date. He doesn’t have the same baggage of Supes, Bats, and Wondy.

It’s also important to note that thanks to Kara’s casual mentions of her cousin Kal-El’s team-up with a “gadget-obsessed vigilante,” we can guess that Batman is currently operating in the Supergirl universe. And we can also guess Wonder Woman probably isn’t, because it would be weird for a female superhero with Kara’s powers to arrive but for no one to ever bring up Wonder Woman in comparison, or even just conversation. Still, I’m hoping that the “gadget-obsessed vigilante“ is Batwoman.

As for Super Friends, I always like to imagine that in DC universes only Marvel comics exist, and vice versa. So the Arrowverse’s Super Friends would basically be the Avengers, with the Legion of Doom consisting of their villains, led by Doctor Doom... because it’s his legion. Boom.


The Game Is On

Cervertus:

Fuck it, I’ll ask: why don’t you think a good video game movie is possible?

(I always appreciate it when you guys ask questions I basically asked you for.)

The main problem with adapting video games into movies is that video games rarely have the right kinds of stories. They almost never have something that can translate exactly into a two-hour movie, but the reasons why are myriad.

Sometimes the plot is too thin and screenwriters need to add (or feel they need to add) new plots and characters, like the old Tomb Raider and Resident Evil films, which fundamentally alter the property. Sometimes the plot is wildly overcomplicated, and not never be properly conveyed in a way that fans would enjoy, like most epic RPGs (although Warcraft is unique in that it decided to try to convey the MMORPG’s giant amount of lore, which had the effect of being impenetrable to people who weren’t fans of the game). Sometimes a video game essentially has no plot and Hollywood needs to invent one whole cloth, at which point it’s not an adaptation but something that shares a title, like Need for Speed. And then there’s all the times that incompetent people make the movie, which can be an additional problem. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, Doom, Dead or Alive, all those Uwe Boll films… the list goes on and on.

And sometimes—and I think this is pretty key—is what people love most about a video game isn’t its story, but the story of their own play experience*. And that’s something a movie can never, ever replicate.

Example: I really love the Hitman and Assassin’s Creed games, but not for their (increasingly goofy, spiraling out-of-control) plots. It’s the open world, the historical recreation, the running like hell, the jumping constantly off tall buildings—and most importantly, doing the assassinating myself. I could watch Michael Fassbender and Timothy Olyphant assassinate people all day, and it would never give me the same satisfaction that I get while playing the games. I imagine watching people get scared in the Silent Hill movie is also not nearly as getting terrified yourself while playing the games, too.

And although Uncharted and The Last of Us may have stories and characters that translate better into movies than any other games in recent memory, I suspect fans would find them lacking something as well. There are plenty of movies about action-adventure heroes and badasses traveling with small children. What makes the games special is that there, you’re the star.

(* This line 100 percent cribbed from Evan Narcisse.)


On Danny and Chirrut

Stellwolf:

Last week someone said Rogue One “was enjoyable even with the stereotype of having an Asian character know martial arts.”

Yet when Iron Fist was cast as a white guy this site decided that was racist too? Is it always a lose-lose?

I know it seems like the same issue, but it’s actually not.

The premise of Iron Fist is that he’s a martial artist. That’s immutable. Him being a white dude is not. I know a major aspect of Danny Rand is also that’s he an outsider who comes to a strange land and becomes the best magic martial artist ever, but that same aspect would be served exactly as well if Danny was an Asian-American.

Moreover, the character of Iron Fist is a textbook example of the White Savior trope, i.e., the white guy who enters a foreign culture and becomes or is automatically superior to the people actually in it. The concept of Iron Fist is based on this racist trope. Marvel could have fixed that and helped mitigate its stunning lack of diversity by making Danny Rand an Asian-American, but they didn’t take it. So Iron Fist as a character is inherently problematic, but since the character was originally white, it wasn’t actually racist to cast Finn Jones in the part. It was disappointing.

Meanwhile, Rogue One had a blank slate. All the established characters played minor roles, so Donnie Yen could have played anybody (or anything). They immediately cast him as a warrior-monk, a role he’s played a million times in both Chinese and American movies; the only real difference is that this time he was in space. Lucasfilm could have made Chirrut Imwe anything, but they chose the stereotype. It was certainly disappointing, but it was also typecasting, which is somewhat racist.

Yes, casting an Asian-American as Danny Rand would in one sense have been succumbing to the same sort of stereotype, but I would argue that adding diversity to a major franchise—especially a lead character—supercedes that. At least Donnie Yen had the chance to play one of the leads of a Star Wars movie. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios seems to have a real hard time not casting white dudes.


The Belgariad Omnibus Part One cover by Laurence Schwinger.Tradition!

Jeremy W.:

Every Christmas I re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve been doing so every year* since I first read LOTR as a 15- or 16-year-old (I’m 42 now). Do you have any long-standing nerd traditions? If so, what’s your favorite?

(* I cheated one year by watching the extended edition of all three movies on DVD.)

I used to have a bunch. I would always watch the original Star Wars trilogy once a year, would watch both Mystery Science Theater 3000 Christmas movies just before the holiday, and I read David Edding’s Belgariad series repeatedly in my youth.

As I’ve gotten older and time seems to move inexorably faster, it feels like I have less separation from these things—i.e., even a year later, it feels like I just watched those MST3K episodes. So it’s not as enjoyable to watch or read them again. I don’t think I have any yearly traditions anymore, although there are certainly things I like to revisit. (I did just re-read the Belgariad, but it’s probably been a decade since I last picked it up.)

I’ve sort of depressed myself.


I Have Mild Affection for the ‘90s

Eccentric Circle:

Good to know that you weren’t eaten by mutant crab monsters. We were worried.

Its no secret that lots of people on the internet are very preoccupied about which 1980's cartoons are going to get remakes as part of Hollywood’s desperate attempt to cash in on all nostalgia ever. However, on behalf of all 90's kids I’d like to make the observation that sooner or later we’ve got to move beyond the 80's. They’re already remaking Power Rangers, if that does well could they perhaps decide that color-coded power armor is “in”?

What I’m basically asking is will we one day get the live action Dragon Flyz movie of our dreams? Or will they decide that the millennials are a more lucrative audience and jump straight to making a dark and gritty reboot of Mona the Vampire?

Sorry. Other than Power Rangers and Pokémon—both of which never actually went away—nothing in the ‘90s hit the same level of cultural cache as ‘80s toy/cartoon/property juggernauts. I’m not trying to be a smug ‘80s kid and say your stuff was terrible, it’s that there were fewer options for kids entertainment in general back in my day, so all those series—Transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Man—all managed to pervade pop culture. So if you’re looking for Tiny Toons, Freakazoid, or Gargoyles movies, you’re going to be disappointed. Also, it’s worth remembering that of all the ‘80s reboots on Michael Bay’s Transformers movies have been successful, and that’s because it jettisoned almost everything about the series other than the basic concept and some character names.

But there’s more hope on TV, where the lower stakes allow Hollywood to take a chance on ‘90s properties. I mean, DuckTales is coming back. If it does well, and I sort of feel it will, I bet we’ll see a few other ‘90s cartoons will get a revival. I wouldn’t mind more Animaniacs, personally.


With Great Power Comes Great Opportunity

Tom:

Hello dear Postman! I hope everything’s okay in the awful post-apocalypse I inhabit... also I hope you’re fine, I guess.

Here’s one for you: which of the canonical “stock superpowers” (strength, speed, flight, invisibility, invulnerability, etc.) could be used most effectively and efficiently to make a profit for the individual user? Let’s say, for instance, The Flash got sick of fighting crime and working as a CSI and hanging out with the SuperSTARs and wanted to purely maximize his personal wealth. How could he do that most effectively?

Mind control. The Flash could pick a lot of pockets and rob a bunch of banks without being caught, but mind control one billionaire and have him write you a check and you’d be set. Use your powers to control the brokers and the stock market and you could add to your net worth ad infinitum.

Of course, if someone had the ability to control a billionaire’s mind, I think we could find more useful things for him/her to do at the moment.

Have a nerdy question? Need advice? Want a mystery or argument solved? Keep those emails coming, and send them to postman@io9.com! (Three weeks in a row! Not bad, right?) Remember, no question too difficult or dumb! Probably! 

Internal GameStop Memo Says 'Vast Majority' Of Employees Aren't Misleading Customers

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:37
Credit: Invision/AP

This afternoon, following yesterday’s Kotaku report on GameStop’s controversial Circle of Life program, the retail chain sent out a memo to all stores condemning some of the actions we spotlighted and claiming that most of their employees don’t behave that way.

“While the behaviors described in the news article are disappointing, I know they don’t represent the vast majority of our associates and how they treat our customers,” wrote GameStop COO Tony Bartel in the memo, obtained by Kotaku and printed in full below. Bartel also denied that the Circle of Life program “placed pressure on store associates to mislead customers on the value of certain products.”

In yesterday’s story, I spoke to several GameStop employees who complained about the company’s aggressive new quotas. Those quotas, employees said, punished staffers who sold new copies of games and have led to some GameStop staff deceiving customers or pulling other shady techniques to ensure that they hit their quotas.

Since the publication of that story, I’ve heard from dozens of current and former GameStop employees. Although some said they believed situations like the ones we outlined were “edge cases,” almost all of these employees agreed that the new quotas have placed significantly more pressure on them and their stores. Some said they were fired as a result of the Circle of Life program. Others wanted to emphasize that they do not lie to customers or participate in the shady practices outlined in the story.

As one store manager said: “All GS employees are sick and tired of this CoL metric, and sick and tired of corporate threatening our jobs over this.”

Here’s the full memo:

Special Message From Tony Bartel

February 2, 2017

GameStop family,

I want to take a moment to address an article that called into question our Circle of Life program and the exceptional service you provide our customers every day.

In the article, there were behaviors described that indicated our Circle of Life program placed pressure on store associates to mislead customers on the value of certain products.

Let me be clear on this, nothing could be further from the truth. You and I know, at GameStop it is absolutely our mission to help our customers get the best advice and price on any product we sell through buying, trading, pre-ordering and earning points.

We want every customer to get the product and deal that is right for them - whether that be a new or pre-owned video game product, digital game or collectible. The Circle of Life generates great value for the customer. Consider these facts: GameStop issued approximately $1 Billion of trade credits to our customers last year. 70% of the time, those trade dollars were immediately spent on new gaming products.

I’ve heard from many of you concerning this and know that you work very hard to make sure our customers have a great experience. Thank you for that! While the behaviors described in the news article are disappointing, I know they don’t represent the vast majority of our associates and how they treat our customers.

Thank you again for all your hard work on creating great customer experiences. Your passion, knowledge and commitment to excellence motivate me, and it’s what sets GameStop apart from all others.

Keep up the great work and Power to the Players!

Tony

What I Learned Doing Push-Ups Every Day for a Month

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:00

At the beginning of January, I happened upon a video you may have seen: a young woman doing pushups for 100 days. She starts out “scrawny,” but gets stronger. I wanted to do that. So I did, and you can too.

Right before this, I’d only been exercising occasionally—life gets busy with three kids—so I felt pretty scrawny myself to start with. The pushups were tough at first, but they got easier. I definitely got stronger. Here is what I learned along the way.

Soreness Doesn’t Have to Stop You

At the beginning, I could do full pushups, but they were hard. I tend to avoid them in my exercise routines because if I do more than a set or two, I’ll be seriously sore the next day. So if I was going to do pushups every day, I had to tread carefully.

Fortunately I knew how to work out despite soreness. You don’t skip workouts; you just do them as easy and gentle as you need to. On my second day I only did a few sets at a time, and likewise on the third day. It took more than a week to totally shake the soreness, but I kept my workload light and just focused on working out consistently. I knew if I skipped a day early on, I would have a hard time convincing myself to continue.

Consistency Pays Off

As tempting as it was, I never skipped a day. I also pared down my goal to the single most important thing: doing at least one pushup every day (and taking video of it).

Since I already had trouble finding time to go to the gym, I knew I didn’t have much hope of doing a lengthy workout every day. I hesitated to sign on to any specific plan, even the One Hundred Pushups routine, since I would have to modify it anyway in the beginning because of soreness.

Some days I did the pushups as part of a bodyweight workout, but most of the time I just did them during the work day, whenever I felt like I could use a break. I set up Nagbot to text me every day so I couldn’t forget.

You Improve More Quickly Than You Think

I figured my first milestone would be doing more reps at a time. That’s not exactly what happened, though. The first accomplishment I saw: my form improved.

At the beginning, I showed fellow Vitals writer Stephanie Lee some of my pushup videos, and asked for a form critique. She pointed out that my elbows flared out and my hand position was wide, and predicted that I’d probably fix that automatically as I got stronger.

That’s exactly what happened. Even a week later, while I was still working through the soreness, I noticed I could put my hands directly under my shoulders. I could also go all the way down to the ground, instead of sort of cheating halfway like I used to.

I wasn’t doing more reps, I was doing better ones. So to keep that momentum, I started trying new things. I did pushups with my feet on a chair, for example, and have recently moved up to putting my feet at table height. I also asked my kid to sit on my back, and if I push with every ounce of my strength, I can lift him up.

When I started, I had no idea I would improve this much. I’m excited to build on this momentum and see where I’ll be at the end of the next month, or even in a full 100 days.

15 Of The Strangest Dystopias In Gaming

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 11:00

The future is scary and, according to these 15 dystopias in video games, it’s going to get a lot stranger before things get better.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku on January 1, 2015.

Remember Me

Paris, the city of lights and memories. But what about memories that can be shared and erased? Neo-Paris has a facelift with bright lights, huge corporations, and rebels called Errorists. Dystopias reach another level when they can shift the fabric of the collective memory, a Jungian unconsciousness subverted in favor of the state. Erasing regrets has its allure, and this mix of science fiction, action, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a reminder that even the worst memories are better than none.

Half-Life 2

What does half a life amount to? In City 17, the Combine is sucking the life out of humanity. Our Benefactors were inspired by the works of Frank Herbert and Ken Kessey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a police state ruthlessly stamping out dissent—a plot behind a plot behind a plot. I’m trying to imagine a world run by Jack Nicholson and Kyle McLaughlin.

Chrono Trigger

In the future, a single seed amongst rotten food hundreds of years old needs only the hope of mankind to sprout. Chrono Trigger’s dystopia is presented in a brown palette that’s devoid of life, with dust storms making visibility difficult. Enetrons, cylindrical chamber technology, are energy sources that, along with the thieving rats and rogue robots, probably make for the most exciting and dangerous things to happen to the lives of people living in the domes. Or unfortunately living hopeless lives as this case may be...

Phantasy Star 2

Phantasy Star is the game that introduced me to dystopias. On the surface, Motavia seems like a paradise. But then there are the masterminds behind Mother Brain who are the true evil, exploiting the system to satisfy their insatiable needs. As it turns out, these aliens are actually human beings from Earth. Thanks, humanity, for ruining Motavia too!

Deus Ex

Why’s the future have to be so bleak? Gray Death is decimating the population and only the elite have access to an Ambrosia that counters the effects. The rich become richer, the poor die, and a machine AI tries to become a god. Where’s the deus ex machina where everyone is saved and lives happily ever after?

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Thankfully, whoever has control of the Fire Emblem can change the fate of Chrom’s and Co.’s future — the alternate timeline future in which the Fell Dragon, Grima, is resurrected and kills many of our present day heroes leaving their children to fight a losing war against the undead.

During the course of the story, the future bloodlines consistently tell tales of death and turmoil while many of the offspring harbor feelings of abandonment leading to resentment of their parents being absent due to death. Unfortunately, possession of the Fire Emblem is no easy task — defined by classes of thieves, magicians, cavalry, wyvern riders and fighters all trying to thwart your plans by way of grid-based strategic plotting.

Beyond Good and Evil

Animal Farm in many ways was one of the scariest dystopias written for the way it allegorized the evils of government in the form of pigs, horses, and birds. Beyond Good and Evil took that a step further by combining Orwell with Nietzsche. The DomZs are trafficking humans and the Alpha Sections, who claim to help the people of Hillys, are actually under their control. Nothing like aliens controlling human sock puppets as defenders of the world.

Bioshock

Underwater haven or sky city—pick your poison. Both have incredible architecture. Both are miserable to live in. Charismatic leaders—men of bold vision who have serious family issues—prop both societies up. Would you kindly forfeit all your freedoms and privacy in exchange for a modicum of happiness? Sure.

Shadowrun

Before the Matrix, there was Shadowrun. Megacorporations and the Computer Crash of 2029 led to the global network. The Matrix is the internet’s shadow, and the big corporations need someone to do their dirty work. Taking out the trash is hard, even in digital form.

Transistor

When we meet Red the singer in Cloudbank, her voice is gone. It’s not just her voice that’s taken, but her lover too. As the journey unravels, revealing bits of information players have to piece together from cryptic messages and machines that vote on things such as the weather, it’s clear that there’s much more that’s been taken from Cloudbank.

Individuality and independent thoughts, it seems, are lost in this world. The people’s freedoms are masked by the glowing green pulses of a technologically-created, sterile world. Then there’s “The Farm” that is located just outside Cloudbank. What’s real and what’s not? We’re still trying to put those pieces of the puzzle together.

Radiant Historia

The promise of what we can expect in Radiant Historia’s future is a world affected by a desertification. The only land would be desert and people would turn to sand and add to a wasteland bereft of life. The power of the White Chronicle could allow its chosen hero to travel through time and alternate branching timelines to slow the process of desertification. Each path is a dangerous choice in ever growing wars and the end game is no different, with sacrifices made to save the world.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

Futurama’s New New York was a colourful mix of aliens and alien invasions, mutants living in the sewers and robot suicide booths. Enslaved’s vision of New York, on the other hand, was littered with beauty amongst the decay. Red flowers on patches of green burst through rubble of famous Manhattan locations such as the Museum of Natural History and Grand Central Terminal. It was a sombering experience, vacant of human life and dominated by vicious machines hunters.

It’s another game where questions were put forth: live in the safety of another’s utopia while sacrificing humanity and choice? Or go forward, enduring excruciating hardships as an exchange for free will?

Zelda series (Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker)

Split timelines, wild theories and the cyclical nature of the Hero of Time confuse but also make for interesting lore in the Zelda series. The removal of the Master Sword in Ocarina of Time plunged Hyrule into a chaos that saw evil envelop the land and leave dark clouds hanging over the Death Mountain while Redead took over Hyrule Castle’s surroundings.

When evil encroached on peaceful times, Wind Waker’s future was one in which a Hero did not return, Hyrule was lost and the Legend forgotten beneath a vast ocean giving rise to dozens of islands, many uninhabitable and crawling with evil. It’s a recurring theme in the Zelda series—lands overrun by dark forces with kidnappings, and people not daring to wander after sunset, or forced into hiding. It takes quite an adventure to restore peace but history proves time and again that happiness is fleeting.

Sound Shapes

You know those websites where people muse about song lyric meanings? A trip to Beck’s “Cities” playable song level in Sound Shapes has us questioning the same. Rhythmic missiles dance to a beat while words from the lyrics appear, move and take shape on the landscape.

It’s the backdrop of the war torn, decimated city while Beck croons, “You weren’t made for this place. It’s not your fault...” that has us trying to decipher whether we’re in the middle of a drawn-out war or if it’s a peek into a bleak future where nuclear-type radiation bursts blanket areas with bass lines facilitating the patterns in which they move. It’s a terrifying, lonely scenario, albeit a catchy-sounding one. Though, we could also be overthinking the meanings behind this one.

Snatcher

The greatest dystopian game very few people had the fortune to play, this Blade Runner-inspired adventure game had bioroids, or snatchers, trying to take their place in humanity. Why can’t we just leave the androids in peace for trying to be humans? Then again, hubris is the greatest crime in Greek mythology. What’s the word for a machine trying to be human? Siri, did you hear my question?

N. Ho Sang has made contributions to Entropymag and SF Signal. She is currently a regular contributor to Talk Amongst Yourselves, rambling about life and RPGs under the username Zarnyx. She can also be found on Twitter under the title @Zarnyx.

Peter Tieryas is a VFX artist who just worked on Guardians of the Galaxy and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. His novel, Bald New World, was listed as one of Buzzfeed’s 15 Highly Anticipated Books and Publisher Weekly’s Best Science Fiction Books of Summer 2014. He scribbles about RPGs at tieryas.wordpress.com.

Some PS4s Have Become A Bit Laggy Recently

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:32

If you’re noticing that your Playstation 4 is a bit sluggish, you’re not the only one. Recently, players across social media are reporting increased delays when navigating the Playstation 4’s menus.

Players are noticing slowdown on their Playstation 4s. Complaints center around lag on the Playstation 4 when browsing media or simply moving through the home screen. The process seems slower and much choppier. Friends lists, profiles, and trending media have increased load times as well.

Small issues are adding up to make for a clumsy menu experience. Testing on Kotaku’s office Playstation 4 showed a few specific areas of trouble. Home screen navigation was responsive until settling on a few sections. Browsing to general tabs like “What’s New” lead to sluggish load times and exploring individual game tabs was a challenge. Overview screens and trending media in particular lead to a significant amount of delay. This is what it looked like in action:

It’s not great. Menus are taking a pretty long time to show up. The video (by SamuelHS) below shows how quick the menu was during beta testing for last year’s UI overhauls. It’s much quicker.

Some delay and loading is to be expected when using the Playstation 4 but the current level of lag feels rather pronounced. Sections dedicated to media seem to have the most trouble; players navigating to trending streams or looking to check out Netflix seem to be having the most difficulty.

“This [menu] flow which used to be pretty instant has turned into staring at the loading indicators and watching the delay,” a user posted on Reddit in reference to the system’s media tab.

“It gets stuttery when it used to be buttery,” notorious snack eater Mike Fahey said.

It’s not really clear what’s causing the slowdown. The last major update for the Playstation 4 came early last December. It, along with two preceding patches before it, were meant to improve systems performance. They don’t seem to have given the system the kick in the pants it needs. Kotaku has reached out to Sony for comment.

This isn’t exactly the end of the world and most players will be able to soldier on in spite of the lag. Still, it’s there and doesn’t seem to be getting better. Hopefully, a future update will give the system a digital cup of coffee.

Square Enix Is Treating Final Fantasy XV Like A Live Game 

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 10:00

Final Fantasy XV just won’t stop changing. We already knew that Square Enix was adding new cutscenes and overhauling Chapter 13, and now, director Hajime Tabata says they’re adding a free-drive mode for the car, among other things.

In an Active Time Report video presentation last night, as translated by Gematsu (which you can watch below), Tabata promised:

1) a patch on February 21 that’ll raise the level cap, add “limited time” hunts, and boost the game’s framerate and resolution on PS4 Pro

2) a patch on March 28 that’ll improve Chapter 13, to launch alongside the Episode Gladiolus DLC

and 3) off-roading for the Regalia, a feature that I guess people wanted?

To most fans, this might seem like a waste of time—why not just move on to the next game rather than adding menial features and improvements to a game that we’ve all already finished? But it’s testament to how publishers and developers view games these days. No longer is it a smart business move to spend years making a game, release it, and then immediately go to the Next Big Thing. The better practice is to keep people talking about (and buying) your game for as long as possible, through patches and DLC and, uh, driving your car off the road.

Account Snafu Might Explain Why Pokémon Players Keep Failing Global Missions

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 09:54

For months now, we’ve seen people repeatedly fail Pokémon Sun and Moon’s Global Missions, the community missions that net players rewards if they reach certain gameplay goals. Turns out, many players can’t even register and log in to Pokémon Global Link, the online service which logs their progress in Global Missions, something that would explain why the online quests are faring so poorly.

In order to sync your game progress online, you need a Pokémon Trainer Account, which will then give you access to the Pokémon Global Link. Players are still able to sign up for and access Trainer Accounts, but when you take that log in info to the website for the Pokémon Global Link, the page refreshes instead of logging you in. I attempted to register and log in last night and was unable to, the page refreshing instead of allowing me access to the Global Link. This problem is only affecting players newly registering accounts, leaving them unable to join their peers in Global Missions, as well as redeem mission rewards and register their Pokémon.

Players have noticed this problem for at least the past month, and have received little help by sending in support tickets, the saga documented in a now 31 page GameFaqs thread.

Some players were told by support to add their name to their Pokémon Trainer Account and setting their PGL settings to “Nobody,” but that solution doesn’t help everyone. Even after adding my name and changing my PGL settings, I was unable to log in this morning. I contacted the Pokémon Company regarding the issue but they did not respond in time for publication.

This makes the current Global Mission for Pokémon Sun and Moon difficult to complete, to say the least. The mission, which began January 30th and will end on February 14th, is to complete one million trades, using the Global Link website to sync your progress. Good luck, trainers.

Thanks for the tip, John.

Saving $5 On Rocket League Is The Best (Or Most Self-Destructive) Decision You'll Make Today

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 09:42

I can’t promise that buying Rocket League Collector’s Edition (which comes with a ton of DLC) will lead to a job with Shaquille O’Neal and thousands of dollars in prize money. But I can promise that you’ll have fun. $15 is the best price Amazon’s ever listed on the PC version.

I Started These 269 Video Games In 2016 And Liked A Whole Bunch

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 09:05

For the 11th year in a row, I’ve tallied a list of all the games I started and/or finished in the previous year. This is a list of games I started in 2016. Some I played for mere minutes, some for hours and some until the credits rolled. Some were good. Some, not so much.

In years past, I’ve bolded games I completed. I’m done with that. The idea of completing a game has become less relevant, so I’m instead bolding the games I really liked. Consider those the ones I can confidently recommend that you go out of your way to play. Note that I didn’t bold some games that are probably very good, because I didn’t play enough of them to give them my personal stamp of approval. Some of these games I bought on my own, though many were provided to me for review for free. I couldn’t afford to sample this many games otherwise.

You might notice that this list is about a month late this year. It’s because I just had kids in late December and was filing to Kotaku in January. Doubtless the impact of having twins will manifest itself in an even more significant way on next year’s list!

Here we go...

My 2016 Games Started List

(Games I started listed below. The games I played that I can confidently recommend are bolded.)

3DS
  1. Azure Strikers Gunvolt
  2. Azure Strikers Gunvolt 2
  3. Boxboxboy - A great sequel to a great game.
  4. Bravely Second - Played a few hours and… I liked it more than the first but just didn’t get hooked.
  5. Crimson Shroud
  6. Fantasy Life - Started it in 2015, finished it in 2016 and want those hours back. It was too seductive a grind.
  7. Feed Mii (Streetpass Game) - I love Streetpass games. This one involves cooking recipes to make Mii warriors hearty enough to kill enemies.
  8. Gotta Protectors - A terrific throwback to Japanese NES action-adventure games and one of the best 3DS releases of last year. Get it!
  9. Hyrule Warriors Legends
  10. Kirby: Planet Robobot - Finished this one. Wow. Not very difficult, but full of imaginatively designed levels leading to an amusingly over-the-top finale. This game forced me to finally realize that I am a fan of Kirby side-scrollers and sent me back to play more of Kirby: Triple Deluxe and the DS’ Kirby Mass Attack, though I didn’t finish either yet. My review.
  11. Kokuga
  12. Mario & Luigi Dream Team - Started in 2015, finished in 2016. Very good but too long. I’m enjoying its sequel more.
  13. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam - So far, better than the previous one, which I liked.
  14. Mario Party Star Rush
  15. Market Crashers (Streetpass Game) - You use Miis to help buy and sell stock that is all amusingly tied to fake companies that supply goods to other Mii games. The more Miis you have to help you, the more likely you’ll get an accurate forecast about how much stock to buy and sell as the day speeds by. This is the most charming little economics game I’ve ever played.
  16. Metroid Prime Blast Ball
  17. Metroid Prime Federation Force - It’s barely a Metroid game but it plays quite well as a co-op action-adventure. Creative level design and some smartly-crafted challenges. I played with one and two other people. I finished it and can declare that it is good! My review.
  18. Mighty Gunvolt
  19. Mii Trek (Streetpass Game)
  20. Ninja Launcher (Streetpass Game) - I’m a sucker for a game with an absurd premise, and in this one you are launching your initially-naked Mii toward an enemy, hopefully intercepting some clothes and weapons mid-flight before you reach your target.
  21. Picross 3D Round 2
  22. Pocket Card Jockey - Horse-racing and solitaire, the video game combo I didn’t know I needed.
  23. Pokémon Dream Radar - Yes, the 2012 3DS Pokémon augmented reality game. I thought it might be an interesting predecessor to Pokémon Go. Not really!
  24. Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
  25. Rhythm Heaven Megamix - More Rhythm Heaven is always a good thing.
  26. Slot Car Rivals (Streetpass Game)
  27. Xeodrifter
  28. Yokai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls - Some games that are made for kids are still fun to play as an adult, but I’ve now played several hours of both U.S.-released Yokai Watch games and, no, I’m too old for them. They are too much about a kid’s idea of how the world might work. Also, the bug-catching stuff ain’t fun. Too bad, because I like the game’s battle system.

Note: I also played a few more hours of Animal Crossing New Leaf thanks to that game’s surprise patch. I played a game within the game, the newly-added AC riff on Puzzle League.

iOS
  1. Battleborn Tap
  2. Clash Royale - Wow, this multiplayer card-based combat game is great. Everyone should try it. It’s easy to start, is free, doesn’t force you to pay more or wait more to keep playing. So many people are playing it that you can matchmake within about two seconds. I’ll have more to say about it in future articles.
  3. Fieldrunners Attack
  4. Imbroglio
  5. Mini Metro
  6. Pokémon Go
  7. Really Bad Chess
  8. Reigns - So many people like this, but it just didn’t do much for me. I’ll try again someday, though I’m playing fewer phone games as is. My 3DS is tempting me back!
  9. slither/io
  10. Super Mario Run - Eh. I really do think I’m over Mario side-scrollers. Sacrilege, I know.
  11. Tap My Katamari - Must stop trying clicker games.
  12. Uncharted Fortune Hunter
PC

Okay, I need to explain this one. Until last year, I was trying to play PC games on a gaming laptop. It was a fool’s errand. This year, I wanted to be able to try the Vive and Rift VR headsets, so I bought a pretty good desktop gaming PC. I also was able to get access to a ton of VR games for free, and so I tried a LOT of VR games, mostly for a few minutes a pop. Most of them aren’t very good. VR gaming is a pretty raw genre, after all.

  1. Adr1ft (Rift) - I liked this slow, contemplative space station exploration game better when I played it without VR, but it doesn’t help that I was sick when I did try to play it in VR!
  2. AirMech Command (Rift)
  3. Anshar 2 (Rift)
  4. Ark: Survival Evolved - Others love this game, but I was lost and don’t have time to play more.
  5. Astroneer - Only played it at PAX and during a livestream. I like it but not enough to recommend it yet.
  6. Bazaar (Vive)
  7. Beglitched
  8. Carpe Lucem: Seize the Light (Vive)
  9. Chronos (Rift)
  10. Cityscape Repairman 2.0 (Rift)
  11. The Climb (Rift) - Crytek’s nicely-made mountain-climbing game.
  12. Cloudlands VR Minigolf (Vive)
  13. Cosmic Trip (Vive) - Still early access and now also available for Rift, this remains my favorite VR game. It’s slowly developing into a terrific first-person RTS game.
  14. Cryptark
  15. Damaged Core (Rift)
  16. Darknet (Rift)
  17. Dead and Buried (Rift)
  18. Dead Hungry (Rift) - Really good once you realize that you can satiate a zombie with one burger and one helping of fries!
  19. Deathstate
  20. Devil Daggers - Look I only played this one for seven minutes, according to Steam. Who am I to judge?
  21. Dexed (Rift)
  22. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor - Tried it, wanted to like it, wasn’t feeling it.
  23. Divinity Original Sin 2
  24. Doom - Whoa, this game is amazing! I’m not one for heavy metal music and gorefests, but the gameplay—the need to basically dance among your enemies by shooting them from afar and then rushing in to melee them to get health—is terrific. Plus it has lots of upgrades and nooks and crannies. I’m a person who wishes there was more Metroid in my life and this partially soothes that wound.
  25. Eagle Flight (Rift) - I wanted more out of this pretty basic bird-flying game.
  26. Edge of Nowhere (Rift) - I finished this Insomniac-made VR game, a sort of horror-tinged Uncharted/Tomb-Raider set in Antarctica. It’s solid but only begins to realize its potential near the end. Not a bad option, though, if you’re looking for a well-made third-person VR game. My review.
  27. Epistory - Hooray for games you control by typing. This is a beautiful action-adventure in a pop-up book kind of world. You’re a girl riding a big fox, and you type words to slay your many enemies.
  28. Eve Valkyrie (Rift)
  29. Fantastic Contraption (Vive)
  30. Farlands (Rift)
  31. Fated (Rift)
  32. Feral Rites (Rift) - Another Insomniac-made game from some of the key Sunset Overdrive developers. It is a third-person brawler that I like but don’t love. Will play more someday, though now that I have two babies, who can justify putting VR goggles on, you know? Gotta watch the young ones. Keep them out of trouble.
  33. Final Approach (Vive)
  34. The Final Station
  35. Floor Plan (Rift)
  36. Fruit Ninja VR (Vive) - I’ve got no time for Fruit Ninja in regular reality, but slashing virtual fruit in VR is a pleasure and a privilege.
  37. The Gallery - Episode 1: Call of the Starseed (Vive)
  38. Grow Up
  39. Gunjack (Vive)
  40. Herobound Spirit Champion (Rift)
  41. Homefront: The Revolution
  42. Homeworld: Deserts if Kharak - Great art direction but maybe I’m just not an RTS guy?
  43. House of the Dying Sun - Our own Kirk Hamilton loves this space-combat game. I am not yet hooked.
  44. Hover Junkers (Vive) - Plays pretty well in PvP and co-op but needs more polish before I can rave about it.
  45. Hyper Light Drifter - Look, the map in this game sucks, can we agree? But the art is great, the gameplay is satisfying. It’s very hard and abstract and I’ve not played more than a few hours. Maybe it doesn’t hold up? What I’ve played is very good, at least.
  46. iOMoon (Vive)
  47. Jeeboman (Vive)
  48. Job Simulator (Vive) - Funny! Great use of VR! A winner!
  49. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Rift) - Co-op bomb defusal in VR? A clever concept executed well, though a bit bare-bones. Good for parties.
  50. LA Cops
  51. La Peri
  52. The Lab (Vive) - Come on Valve, make a full-sized game for god’s sake. The bow and arrow thing in here is neat.
  53. Legend of Luca (Vive)
  54. Lethal VR (Vive) - A promising but still pretty rough shooting gallery from some of the lead makers of the great Burnout games.
  55. Light Repair Team (Vive)
  56. Lucky’s Tale (Rift)
  57. Meadow
  58. Mervils: A VR Adventure (Vive)
  59. Mountain Goat Mountain (Rift)
  60. NBA 2K VR Experience (Rift)
  61. Near Death - A survival game without stats. Hooray! My review.
  62. Necropolis
  63. Offworld Trading Company - Like Civ but entirely about economics and yet it’s terrific. I guess this was the year of economics games for me.
  64. Omega Agent (Rift) - The VR game that got me closest to barfing.
  65. Osiris: New Dawn
  66. Owlboy
  67. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
  68. Pan-Pan
  69. Pharaonic
  70. Please Don’t Touch Anything (Rift)
  71. The Political Machine 2016 - I remember playing this on the afternoon of election day. Oh, it was so funny when the game sometimes said Donald Trump could win the election. Ha ha. What a rib! No need to play it now, but check out the next update in four or so years from now.
  72. Punch Club
  73. Quadrilateral Cowboy
  74. Quar Battle For Gate 18 (Vive)
  75. Raw Data (Vive)
  76. Rec Room (Rift)
  77. Rive
  78. Robo Recall (Rift) - Holy shit. One of the best-playing VR games you can try. Too bad it’s only a demo for now.
  79. Selfie Tennis (Vive)
  80. Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
  81. Shenzen I/O - I pride myself as being able to solve puzzle games, but this one broke me almost immediately.
  82. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI
  83. Space Pirate Trainer (Vive)
  84. Stardew Valley
  85. Stephen’s Sausage Roll
  86. Subnautica - I suck at survival games and didn’t really get it.
  87. Superhot VR (Rift) - Heard it was great but haven’t played enough to be sure.
  88. Surgeon Simulator VR: Meet the Medic (Vive)
  89. Thoth
  90. Tyranny - Just sampled it, though I know others love it.
  91. Unseen Diplomacy (Vive) - The best thing to show to people who’ve never tried VR, if you have about three parking spots’ worth of spare room. It turns the space you’re playing into a lunar base full of doors to open, ducts to crawl through and lasers to evade. People watching you play will think you’ve gone mad as you walk, crawl and bend through thin air. Their loss. You’re having a grand time.
  92. The Unspoken (Rift)
  93. Vanishing Realms (Vive) - A promising first-person Zelda-style game in VR, but not enough content to boast about it yet.
  94. VR Sports Challenge (Rift) - I’ve only tried the first-person VR basketball which should be a disaster but is actually really well done and a lot of fun.
  95. Water Bears VR (Vive)
  96. Windlands (Vive) - Some questionable level design, but the basic experience of using each of your hands to grapple to—and swing from—treetops is superb.
PS4
  1. 100ft Robot Golf (VR)
  2. Abzu
  3. Alienation
  4. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India
  5. Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia
  6. Batman: Arkham VR - You’re Batman in VR, which has its pros and cons since you are stuck standing still in most of the game’s chapters. The brief game has some clever touches, is canonically part of the Arkham gaming series and was even set up with an easter egg that was cleverly snuck into Batman Arkham Knight via DLC. My review.
  7. Battleborn
  8. Battlezone (VR)
  9. Bound
  10. Darkest Dungeon
  11. Dead Star - Multiplayer spaceship combat game with great ship design, good music and a cool invasion mode inspired by the best episode of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Launched in 2016, shut down in 2016. Bummer.
  12. Destiny: Rise of Iron
  13. Dishonored 2 - One level in. Seems good so far, but I haven’t played enough to recommend it.
  14. Driveclub VR
  15. Dying Light: The Following - Finished this.
  16. Dragon Quest Builders - Great concept of putting an RPG quest system around a Minecraft building system, but the quests were vanilla and the stuff I was building early wasn’t that interesting. I don’t have time to play more, but I’m glad I at least tried it out.
  17. Final Fantasy XV - Started it, liked the first few battles and quests I did in it, but I’m waiting for the big patch that reworks a lot of the game.
  18. Firewatch - It starts so well and then has such a weak, contrived final quarter.
  19. Gravity Rush Remastered - Started it, played a lot of it, loved the flaming windmills and colorful characters and falling physics. Really wanted to finish it before the new one, but it got a bit tedious. I can’t recommend it given that I hear the sequel is better.
  20. Hatsune Miku VR Future Live
  21. Headlander - Haven’t finished it, but this is a neat Metroid-style game set in a space station, all done up in a groovy 1970s sci-fi style.
  22. Headmaster (VR)
  23. Here They Lie
  24. Hitman - People I trust say this game is brilliant. I haven’t played past the fashion show level, so I can’t confirm that they are right. I’m pretty sure they are, mind you.
  25. Inversus
  26. Call of Duty: Jackal Assault (VR)
  27. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris - This four-player co-op game came out in 2014, and I probably should have played it then and with other people.
  28. The Last Guardian - Just started it and haven’t been able to play more. Sounds like it is good.
  29. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Good levels, weak hub worlds.
  30. Lichtspeer
  31. Mark of Kri - Yes, the 2002 PS2 game with a much-heralded combo system that involves targeting multiple enemies. I liked the bit I played, but I couldn’t make time to play a blurry PS2 game for more than an hour. Sorry, blurry PS2 games!
  32. Overwatch - I hear people like this. Not for me.
  33. Playroom VR (VR)
  34. PlayStation VR Worlds (VR)
  35. Ratchet and Clank - An impressive remake
  36. Rez Infinite (VR) - I really like the base game but didn’t feel like playing into VR overcame my sense that I’d already played enough Rez in my life.
  37. Rigs (VR)
  38. Rise of the Tomb Raider - I’m in awe of this game. I gushed elsewhere. One of my favorites of the year, and, yes I know it came out on Xbox One in 2015.
  39. Senran Kagura Estival Versus - The publisher sent us a copy and I thought, well, maybe I should play a game about big-breasted young women fighting until their clothes are torn off in order to see what I think of it. An hour of it was enough.
  40. Soft Body - A smartly-made puzzle game
  41. Song of the Deep
  42. Stories Patch of Destinies
  43. Super Hyper Cube (VR)
  44. Tharsis
  45. Thumper
  46. The Tomorrow Children
  47. Uncharted 4 - A very good game, though I was shocked to discover that I preferred Rise of the Tomb Raider when I finally played it on PS4. My review.
  48. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood (VR)
  49. The Witness - My favorite game of 2016. My review.
  50. Videoball
  51. Volume
  52. Watch Dogs 2 - Better than the first and, believe it or not, sneakily one of the most interesting 3D platformers released in a long, long time.
  53. Wayward Sky

In addition to the games above, I dipped in and out of GTA Online a bit and finally had a good time.

Vita
  1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - Couldn’t get into it. Sorry, Jason.
Wii U
  1. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD
  2. Paper Mario: Color Splash
  3. Star Fox Guard - A rare great use of the Wii U’s two-screen set-up. My review.
  4. Star Fox Zero - Nintendo’s weakest big-game release in a long time. My review.
  5. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE - I played into the second chapter and liked it but don’t feel I know the game well enough to recommend it.
  6. Yoshi’s Woolly World

Note: I finally played some single-player Splatoon in 2016 and it’s very good. I’m excited to see how much of a campaign the Switch sequel will have. I also finished and reviewed the original Metroid Prime in 2016. I hadn’t played through it since it came out for GameCube. According to the system’s internal stats, I didn’t use my Wii U in November or December. So sad.

Xbox One
  1. Bedlam
  2. The Division - I played a lot of this game and even vacuumed up every collectible. Finished the campaign. Played a fair amount of the Underground expansion. Did a few runs of the Survival expansion. Not the greatest game ever, but a well-made cover shooter with lots of well-written audio logs. Its missions aren’t fun solo but are fun to play co-op. I wrote a lot about this game.
  3. Far Cry Primal - Finished this. Surprisingly good spin-off that uses animals to help you kill. More games set in oddball eras like the stone age, please. My review.
  4. Forza Horizon 3
  5. Fru - Best Kinect game ever?
  6. Gears of War 4 - Only played Horde. Haven’t touched the campaign but may someday.
  7. Inside - One of my favorite games of 2016.
  8. Kingdom New Lands
  9. Quantum Break - The most audacious game I played in 2016. Finished it. Reviewed it. Loved that they actually tried to make a game that has interstitial half-hour live-action episodes that play differently depending on what you did in the gameplay parts of the game.
  10. Recore - So promising, so beautiful but technically hobbled with bad loading times and a tedious end-game. I wish I could recommend it without hesitation.
  11. Slime Rancher
  12. Steep
  13. Superhot - Another one of my 2016 favorites. A shooter in which the bullets fly only while you’re in motion. Except it’s more than that. Play it without reading about it. So good.
  14. The Turing Test
  15. Titanfall 2 - Fun campaign! I liked the assembly line level the best, even more than that level that people kept raving about.
  16. Valley
  17. We Happy Few
  18. Xcom 2 - I haven’t played much of this game but was amazed by the little bit that I did. I’m eager to play more and am sure it’s worth people’s time based on what I’ve sampled.
  19. Ziggurat

Phew!

I did play a lot of games in 2016, and you can see that there are several promising games that I wasn’t able to play much of. There were also a bunch of games from last year and the year before that I thought I’d play a lot of but that I didn’t start. That list includes: Dark Souls III, Battlefield 1, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, Infinite Warfare, Mafia III, No Man’s Sky, Pokemon Sun/Moon as well as Metal Gear Solid V, Fallout 4, and Bloodborne.

Dare I ask what other great games I missed?

The final 2016 tally is: 269 games started (Yikes!)

That compares to:

2015...138 played; 24 finished

2014...129 played; 26 finished

2013...117 played; 31 finished

2012...139 played; 23 finished

2011...161 played; 28 finished

2010... 195 played; 52 finished

2009... 165 played; 48 finished

2008… 135 played; 37 finished

2007… 118 played; 35 finished

2006… 102 played; 21 finished

Podcast: Boycotting Games, Destiny, And More

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 08:30
Iconic Assassin’s Creed Unity face glitch via Steam user King_Anesti

Should Kotaku abstain from covering games if they launch broken on day one? Why haven’t we reviewed Destiny’s new Dawning update? And just how do we do our GOTY deliberations? All that and more on today’s Kotaku Splitscreen.

We’re reaching into the mailbag this week, answering YOUR questions on all sorts of topics. We talk about Japanese games’ stories (and how they tend to escalate fast), side stories in open-world RPGs, and how VR might have cool applications outside of gaming.

You can listen to this week’s episode on iTunes or Google Play, or directly here. (MP3 download here.) As always, you can reach us at splitscreen@kotaku.com.

It really took this long for official Rocket League toys?

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 08:27

It really took this long for official Rocket League toys? Psyonix and Zag Toys have teamed up to create a line of Rocket League pull-back racers. Due out this spring, each vehicle will come packaged inside one of the game’s giant balls. About time!

Today's Best Deals: Logitech Gear, Contigo Mugs, GTA V, and More

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 07:57

Your favorite Logitech peripherals, Contigo travel mugs, and a fitness tracker that runs for months lead off Thursday’s best deals.

Bookmark Kinja Deals and follow us on Twitter to never miss a deal. Don’t forget to sign up for our email newsletter.

Top DealsLogitech Gold Box

Amazon just kicked off another Gold Box deal full of Logitech peripherals, and this one is a doozy.

The selection includes the feature-packed MX Master Mouse for an all-time low $60, the versatile MX Anywhere 2 mouse for $48, the K480 Bluetooth keyboard/gadget stand for $21, and a lot more. Just remember that like all Gold Box deals, these prices are only available today, and I imagine several items will sell out early.

Note: There are two pages of deals on Amazon’s site; it’s easy to miss the pagination buttons.

Backcountry’s up to 50% off Semi-Annual Sale

I am fully convinced Puxatawny Phil is out to screw is all. That furry, sentient potato predicted six more weeks of winter (again) and that means six more weeks of whatever winter is in NYC, but it’s actually perfect timing for Backcountry’s Semi-Annual sale. It may help you deal with the nightmare that is Wintery Mix and brown-gray slush puddles.

Withings Go, $50

Withings’ Go boiled down the fitness tracker its its very essence: It’s basically just a huge e-ink countdown clock that tells you at a glance how much more walking, running, swimming, or even sleeping you need to do to reach your fitness goals. Best of all, it can run for about 8 months on a single watch battery, so you’ll basically never have to worry about charging it.

While supplies last, Amazon’s marked it down to just $50 in two different colors, the best price we’ve ever seen.

10% off Valentine’s Day Chocolate

I get it; Valentine’s Day was invented by corporations to profit off of love and the whole thing is contrived and the restaurant crowds are terrible and how can we be talking about Valentine’s Day while the country is ripping apart at the seams? I know, I’m with you.

But that being said, you still probably have to buy chocolate, and Amazon will deliver several options to your door for 10% off (discount shown at checkout).

GTA V’s campaign is great, and its online mode is still incredibly active, so its no wonder that the game has been relatively immune from downward price pressure, even years after release. Today though, you can get a PS4 download code from Amazon for $30, matching the best deal we’ve seen.

Watch Dogs 2, $30

Watch Dogs 2 represents a dramatic improvement over the original, and Amazon’s marked it down to $30 today on both PS4 and Xbox One, matching a Gold Box deal from a few weeks ago for an all-time low price.

Rocket League Collector’s Edition [PC], $15

I can’t promise that buying Rocket League Collector’s Edition (which comes with a ton of DLC) will lead to a job with Shaquille O’Neal and thousands of dollars in prize money. But I can promise that you’ll have fun. $15 is the best price Amazon’s ever listed on the PC version.

Taken 3-Movie Collection, $15

If you preorder the Taken 3-movie collection for an all-time low $15 now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will scold you.

Breville Lift & Look Slot Toaster, $40

Look, I’ve got nothing against toaster ovens. I own a fancy one, and I use it all the time. But the fact is, even a cheap slot toaster produces better toast than the best oven, and one of the best you can buy just went on sale.

$40 gets you the Breville Lift & Look, which features motorized slots, a one-touch button to toast for a little bit longer, and a dedicated bagel mode that only toasts on the inside. This thing has sold pretty consistently for $80 since it launched, and $40 is the best deal Amazon’s ever offered.

DualShock 4, $40

When Sony rolled out the new PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro, they also quietly tweaked the DualShock 4 controller, and here’s another chance to get it for $40.

This is basically the same gamepad you know and love, but with a futuristic looking light bar at the top of the touchpad, and the ability to communicate over USB when plugged into your console for lag-free input. We see $40 deals on the black model from time to time, so this is a great opportunity if you’re smitten with silver.

$50 Domino’s Gift Card, $40

If you were planning on buying pizzas for the big game on Sunday, or your next Young Pope watch party, this discounted gift card will save you $10 on any order at Domino’s.

Update: Sorry, for some reason I thought this was email delivery, but it’s actually a physical gift card, so it probably won’t arrive in time for this weekend.

Contigo AUTOSEAL Transit, $14

This Contigo travel mug is very similar to the Autoseal West Loop, your overwhelming favorite mug on Kinja Co-Op, but with a rubberized non-slip grip. $14 matches a Gold Box deal from last week, so if you missed out on that all-time low price, this is a great second chance.

Target wants to be your home goods destination with three pretty big home deals to choose from.

There’s a lot to digest, so here’s a quick summary. First, take 10% off $25 worth of Valentine’s day decorations and supplies. Good for stocking up on cards for your kids’ class and other cutesy things. Then, save 25% on select bedding, furniture, and decor, plus buy one, get one 50% off window treatments.

The X-Files: Complete Series, $120

The complete X-Files Collector’s Set is backed with 57 (!!!) discs comprising all 10 seasons (including the new special event series from 2016), plus over 25 hours of extra features. If you’re a die-hard fan, Amazon’s selling the set for $120, matching an all-time low price.

Photography Pistol Grip, $15

A pistol grip can help you steady your hand when shooting with a DSLR, GoPro, smartphone (with adapter), or any camera in-between, and you can add one to your bag for $15 today.

Lorell Sit to Stand Monitor Riser, $148

So you want to try a standing desk, but you’re not ready to commit to it for eight hours a day...what do you do? You buy this Lorell monitor riser for $148, an all-time low.

This riser arrives fully assembled, and just sits on top of your existing desk. Put your monitor(s) on the top shelf, your keyboard and mouse on the bottom, and use its integrated spring system to raise the entire setup from a sitting to standing position within seconds. I own a very similar product from Varidesk (which was much more expensive, by the way), and I absolutely love it.

I can tell you from experience that you’ll definitely want a good anti-fatigue mat for standing. This one has great reviews, but whatever you choose, make sure it’s at least 3/4" thick.

Andake Travel Pillow, $11 with code 36FFSDTP

If you have any trips on the horizon, this inflatable pillow can make that economy class seat just a little bit less terrible. Inflatable pillows are a dime a dozen, but this one is shaped in such a way to provide more support if your head nods backwards or off to the side when you doze off, and it comes with a carrying case to boot.

25% off Chemical Guys Products

Chemical Guys makes some of the most popular car detailing products on the market, and Amazon’s currently taking 25% off several soaps, sealants, scents, and more. Just note that the prices listed on this page don’t include the discount, so you won’t see the deal until checkout.

Folding Wagon, $40

You’ve probably seen these fold-up wagons popping up everywhere, and in fact, our deal researcher Corey owns one himself. Here’s what he thinks:

Perfect for toting all the stuff that typically takes multiple trips to the car and back. We use it for all manner of sporting events, tailgating, picnics at the park, and lawn days at the local vineyard.

Oh - and it takes up less space in my trunk than the spare tire does.

This one only costs $40, and it even includes a detachable “roof” to shade any kids riding below.

WenTop Digital Programmable Timer Outlet Switch, $11

This WenTop outlet switch can’t take orders from Alexa or integrate with IFTTT like Wi-Fi connected smart plugs, but it’s far cheaper at $11, and can be pre-scheduled to turn on and off up to eight times per day. That means you can wake up to a well-lit house, never worry about forgetting to turn off the lights at night, and even deter thieves while you’re away from home.

If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer, $1

If you still haven’t recovered from 2016's O.J. Fever, his pseudo-confessional book is down to $1 on Kindle today. This new edition includes essays from the Goldmans and their attorney detailing the O.J. Simpson bankruptcy case, which resulted in the family obtaining the rights to this very book. It’s all very meta.

Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Brewer, $35

I know, I know, drip coffee makers don’t make the best coffee. But they’re popular for a reason: They require a lot less work than french presses, and don’t come with the cost and waste of Keurig brewers, and this 12-cup Mr. Coffee is one of the best you can buy.

For $35, you get a freshness timer, a delay timer, and best of all, a brew strength selector. That’s about $10 less than usual, and an all-time low.

Oster Electric Wine Opener with Foil Cutter, $16

If you struggle with manual wine openers, or just need an easy gift idea for someone else, Oster’s top-selling electric wine opener is just $16 today, complete with a foil cutter.

6-Pack Suave Men’s Shampoo, $8 after 20% coupon

If you’ve got the space under your bathroom sink, there’s no good reason not to buy six bottles of Suave men’s shampoo for $8. Note that it’s listed as an add-on item, but it’ll still ship free with any Subscribe & Save delivery.

LG 55" OLED 4K TV, $1500

If you love inky blacks and vibrant colors, and who doesn’t, this OLED LG TV is back down to $1500 today, with no sales tax for most buyers.

As you’d expect from any high-end TV these days, that gets you a 4K panel and Dolby Vision HDR, but OLED technology means the blacks will be far richer, and the colors more vibrant than any LCD-based screen you can buy. It’ll still cost you, but your eyes will tell you it was worth it.

Pioneer Sp-BS22-LR Bookshelf Speakers, $90 for Prime members

Get better audio for the big game this weekend with these Pioneer Bookshelf speakers. Prime Members can get these for just $90, which is a steal for the amount of audio upgrade you’ll be getting.

Note: Discount shown at checkout for Prime members only.

Elite Muscle Roller Stick, $12

I have painful, yet fond memories of my college’s Athletic Trainer using one of these on my thigh after I suffered a strained quad. They are hell while using it, but heaven afterwards. And for $12, this muscle roller can help further your love-hate relationship with working out.

Contigo Autoseal Fit Trainer, $16

Contigo may be your favorite brand of travel mug, but their water bottles are also pretty spot-on. I have the Ashland (which is only $10 right now) and I use it every day, and if you’re looking to upgrade your H2O intake, this $16 steel-bodided Autoseal Fit Trainer should be your answer. It has the classic Contigo autoseal technology, plus a button to make one-handed drinking easier.

Philips Hue White and Color A19 Bulb, $35

$35 is still a lot of money for a light bulb, but it’s one of the best prices we’ve ever seen on individual Philips Hue color bulbs. Just note that you’ll need a Philips Hue Hub to use these, and that this isn’t the newest model with improved greens and blues.

Corsair Gaming K70 LUX RGB Mechanical Keyboard, $134

Corsair’s K-series mechanical keyboards are some of your favorites for gaming, and for general use as well, and the popular LUX RGB K70 is down to its best price ever of $134 today with brown switches.

Etekcity Dimmable LED Desk Lamp, $25

$25 is a solid great price for any LED desk lamp, but it’s one of the best we’ve ever seen for a model that includes a USB charging port and adjustable color temperature, which can seriously boost your productivity.

Hoover TwinTank Steam Mop, $45

When it comes to cleaning hard floors, you’ve basically got three options to choose from, if you don’t want to get down on your hands and knees:

  • A regular old mop, which can leave your floors wet for hours.
  • A Swiffer WetJet, or any similar product that uses chemical spray that can leave a residue, and disposable (i.e. expensive) cleaning pads.
  • A steam mop, which cleans using regular old water that dries within seconds.

Now, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but the choice seems rather obvious to me, especially when you can get a highly rated Hoover steam mop for just $45 today only on Amazon. That’s the best price ever listed, and $10 less than our previous mention.

Aukey USB Wall Charger, $6 with code ZOERF9IO

You know the little charging brick that came with your phone? Throw it out, and spend $6 on this replacement from Aukey (white only with code ZOERF9IO). It’s basically the same size as Apple’s standard iPhone charger, but it includes two ports, folding prongs, and 2.4A of current (shared between the ports) to charge your devices faster.

Eneloop Pro AA 8-Pack, $28

Eneloops are far and away our readers’ favorite rechargeable batteries, and the higher capacity Eneloop Pros are on sale today.

$28 gets you eight pre-charged AAs. That’s still a price premium over the standard Eneloops (an 8-pack without a charger is still on sale for $18), but it’s the best price Amazon’s ever listed, and worth it if you want your batteries to last longer per charge.

Netgear Nighthawk R6700, $100 after $20 coupon

If your home network has more holes than Swiss cheese, Netgear’s Nighthawk R6700 features beamforming, USB ports, and up to 1750 Mbps maximum throughput, meaning it’s more than enough router for most homes. You can save an additional $20 by clipping the on-page coupon, which brings it down to just $100.

Wet & Dry Amopé, $26 with coupon

The Amopé is an electric foot file that literally files down the gross calluses on your feet until they slightly resemble that of a modern human. Clip the coupon and get $15 off the Wet & Dry Amopé. Unlike the original, this can also be used in the shower, so you can easily wash all your foot shavings down the drain. Pick one up and start taking better care of your treads.

Cymas Vegetable Slicer, $15

This inexpensive mandoline slicer can chop all of your favorite fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and fingers for just $15. Plus, its five interchangeable plates and three thickness settings mean it can adapt to many different ingredients and recipes. I have this and use it practically every time I cook.

Samsung 55" 4K TV, $500

The most popular TV we posted last year was the Samsung UN55KU6300, which includes a 4K panel, smart apps, and even HDR. We saw it get as low as $550, but the nearly identical UN55KU6290 is now on sale for just $500.

The only difference, so far as I can tell, is the UN55KU6290 doesn’t have a Smart Remote. If you can live without that, you’d be hard pressed to find a better picture for this price.

PS4 Slim Uncharted 4bundle with an extra controller, $250

If you didn’t get your PS4 over the holidays, now’s your chance to score with this bundle from Newegg’s eBay storefront. Pick up a PS4 Slim Uncharted 4bundle with an extra controller for just $250.

Mpow Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, $27 with code JPWMM2QA

You’ve probably heard a lot of fuss about mechanical keyboards lately, and if not, you’ve at least heard the clicking. If you’re curious to try one yourself without dropping a bunch of money, here’s an entry level model for $27, one of the best prices we’ve ever seen on any mechanical keyboard.

Greenco Bidet, $22

A lot of people are reflexively appalled by the idea of a bidet, which makes no sense, because they’re amazing. Today on Amazon, you can score a Greenco Bidet attachment that will work with just about any toilet for just $22. That’s nothing for a product you’ll use just about every day. This deal could sell out any time though, so purchase or get off the pot.

RTIC 20 Soft Pack, $70 | RTIC 30 Soft Pack, $87

While convenient for keeping drinks chilled, lugging a hardside cooler everywhere is less-than-ideal. How about picking up one of RTIC’s softsided coolers, in either 20 or 30L for their best prices ever? Save some money and save your back.

$200 Gap Gift Card, $160

If you make a habit of shopping at Banana Republic, GAP, Old Navy, or Athleta, you can get 20% off this GAP Options card. Since it’s just a gift card, your savings will stack with any other deals or promotions the retailers offer as well.

Even if your personal Miyazaki collection is comprehensive, I bet you have some friends and family members who would appreciate his films. Several of his best are down to $13 on Blu-ray on Amazon right now, which is just about as cheap as they ever get.

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Steam Users Uncover Images Of Possible New Steam UI

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 17:10

You might use Steam to play games, chat with friends, and in the future—if fate is kind—host your dream game that combines Warhammer and anime porn, but there are others who dissect it. They slice and dice in search of sweet, sweet information. Today, they found some.

As part of a new beta update to Steam, SteamDB uncovered a handful of assets connected to something called “SteamU.” Some users now suspect that means “Steam Universal” after they searched an account depicted in one of the images.

Here are the most interesting assets (in full size):

Now, these appear to be mock-ups, and a lot of the content is probably placeholder stuff. Still, it’s interesting to see tabs for apps, comics, and other media in addition to games. Given the amount of non-game stuff on Steam, it’s about time—you know, assuming it’s about time for this update to happen. It may well never see the light of day. It’s tough to say. I reached out to Valve, but they’ve yet to reply to my inquiry.

Shortly after Steam users uncovered all of this, Valve released another beta update that removed these files. You can still find everything SteamDB scraped from the update here, though.

You’re reading Steamed, Kotaku’s page dedicated to all things in and around Valve’s wildly popular PC gaming service. Games, culture, community creations, criticism, guides, videos—everything. If you’ve found anything cool/awful on Steam, send us a message to let us know.