Exploring the slow-burning surrealism of ‘The Gateway Trilogy’

Exploring the slow-burning surrealism of ‘The Gateway Trilogy’

Exploring the slow-burning surrealism of ‘The Gateway Trilogy’

There’s something uniquely fascinating about a pitch-black room. Being blanketed in darkness is simultaneously terrifying and thrilling — a duality that’s been expertly exploited by Spirit Halloween stores and the haunted house industry. The reason behind both of these reactions, however, is the same. We’re afraid of the dark because it could contain anything, and we’re excited by the dark because it could contain anything.

The Gateway Trilogy thrives in this gray area. It’s a minimalistic adventure game that places players in a black void populated by a rotating cast of mysterious rooms. They’re filled with logic puzzles and unsettling messages, and the vaguely malicious sense that someone is watching everything. 

“I definitely enjoy exploring ambiguity,” the Gateway Trilogy creator Anders Gustafsson said. “Not necessarily dark ambiguity. But when people don’t know how they’re supposed to react to something, interesting things happen. Especially in a live audience situation. Some of them cringe in horror, some of them burst out laughing, some of them look around nervously.”

A screenshot of The Gateway Trilogy
Cockroach Inc.

Gustafsson released the first two Gateway installments as freeware in 2006 and 2007, back when he was just getting started in Sweden’s independent game-development scene. He describes them as the first “real” games he ever finished, aside from Snake clones and idealistic projects that were far beyond his actual skill level at the time. 

“I wanted them to have it all — an immersive atmosphere, a great story, fetching visuals and engaging puzzles,” Gustafsson said. “But once I tried to make those games, one or more of these aspects would just come up embarrassingly short, which led to me eventually giving up in shame.”

With Gateway I and II, he stripped away the dreams of grandeur and focused on building something he could actually complete. He included the essentials: clean graphics, sound effects and self-contained puzzles with clearly defined goals. It worked. 

A screenshot of The Gateway Trilogy
Cockroach Inc.

The games came out and were recognized for their particular brand of uneasy, puzzle-based ingenuity. Gustafsson even ended up winning an award that included access to Adobe’s Creative Suite. It was exactly what he needed.

“I’d just quit my day job and wasn’t making much money at the time, so that was like a boon from the gods,” he said. “It really spurred me on to continue making games.”

Gustafsson went on to form an independent studio, Cockroach Inc., with fellow developer Erik Zaring. Over the following decade, they built The Dream Machine, a point-and-click adventure game inspired by the LSD trips of philosopher John C. Lilly, made entirely in stop-motion. Gustafsson and Zaring built physical characters, sets and props out of standard materials like cardboard, clay and food items, but also used unconventional things including animal skulls, condoms and pubic hair.


Cockroach Inc.

There are six episodes in The Dream Machine, all released between 2010 and 2017. It feels like the game that Gustafsson used to fantasize about building, mechanically complex and narratively rich. It’s infused with surreal imagery and paranoid conspiracy, following a newly married man on a journey through the psychedelic landscapes generated by his neighbors’ sleeping brains. The game was introspective, gritty (though that might just be the hair) and beautifully tangible. It earned Cockroach Inc. a handful of award nominations, including a spot as a finalist at the 2011 Independent Games Festival.

Cockroach Inc. has been fairly quiet since closing out The Dream Machine in 2017. That is, until last week.

Gustafsson released Gateway III on March 31st, 2020, alongside revamped versions of Gateway I and II. Fourteen years after its debut, the Gateway series is on Steam for the first time, with the entire trilogy priced at $10.

“I’m a very different designer now,” Gustafsson said. He actually had the ending of the third installment in mind when he began working on Gateway I 14 years ago, and he’s proud to have finally wrapped it all up in a shiny black bow.

“I want the player to look back and feel that there was an oddball cohesiveness to the entire piece,” he said. “Even though I started the first game back in 2006 and finished the last one in 2020, I really tried to interconnect the parts together as tightly as possible, down to minuscule details that no one will ever notice.”

The Gateway Trilogy
Cockroach Inc.

The Gateway Trilogy feels like the polygonal manifestation of The Adventure Zone’s Wonderland, pockmarked with logic games, spatial puzzles and the echoes of 1960s psychological experiments. Playing the original two episodes, Gustafsson’s penchant for mind games and surrealism is clear, and it’s easy to see how these ideas eventually transformed into The Dream Machine.

Visually, the Gateway Trilogy is simplistic, especially when compared with the claymation aspects of Cockroach Inc.’s tentpole franchise. Perfectly animated environments were out of the question when Gustafsson started the series, so he instead relied on audio cues to build its tense and eerie atmosphere.

“Sound and music sneaks under your guard in a way visuals and text doesn’t quite manage,” he said. “That’s been my go-to trick since animation school. I was too lazy to animate things like doors opening and closing, but I learned that I could get away with fairly limited animation as long as I put a good sound effect over the images. The viewer’s brain filled in the rest.”

Gustafsson prefers to linger in the spaces between concrete ideas. He has a distaste for obvious cues like laugh tracks, instead asking his players to interpret his scenes and react individually. Honestly.

“[Laugh tracks are] like serving a cake on top of another cake, as the Swedish saying goes,” Gustafsson said. “It’s too much. Settle for one delicious cake and serve it with a rattlesnake, just to keep people on their toes.”

After one week on Steam, the reviews for Gateway III are mixed. Plenty of players have fond memories of the first two titles, but some think the third installment is bogged down by too many tile puzzles. Essentially, these folks walked into Gustafsson’s pitch-black room expecting one thing, only to find it contained something else.

Now that the Gateway Trilogy is complete, Gustafsson wants to revisit The Dream Machine, adding things like achievements and “other knick knacks.” Probably not a laugh track, though.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 18:00:05 +0000

Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ spoof starring Steve Carell arrives on May 29th

Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ spoof starring Steve Carell arrives on May 29th

Steve Carell as four-star general Mark R. Naird in Netflix's 'Space Force' spoof.


Netflix

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the newly formed US Space Force is pushing ahead — it launched its first satellite last month. Fortunately, Netflix’s spoof, dubbed Space Force, isn’t far behind. Today, Netflix announced that the series, co-created by and starring Steve Carell, will premiere on May 29th.

The show will follow Carell as the fictional four-star general Mark Naird, who dreams of running the Air Force but is assigned to lead the newly formed Space Force, Gizmodo explains. Vice President Mike Pence previously specified that the Space Force would be led by a four-star general, and we can expect the show to borrow other key details. Celebrities including Lisa Kudrow, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz and Tawny Newsome will join Carell as the cast attempts to get Space Force off the ground and land Americans on the Moon.

Shortly after President Trump directed the Pentagon to form a sixth branch of the military focussed solely on space, he admitted that the idea started as a joke. For that and other obvious reasons, the US Space Force was a prime candidate for a spoof. While the US Space Force has launched its first satellite, we can bet that Space Force will land on the Moon before any actual astronauts do.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:41:27 +0000

Stadia Pro is free for two months starting today

Stadia Pro is free for two months starting today

Google Stadia


Jessica Conditt / Engadget

It took a while, but Google is finally making it easier for people to check out Stadia. Starting today, people in 14 countries around the world will be able to sign up for two free months of Stadia Pro. The full list is as follows: the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.

With the signup offer, you no longer need to buy one of Google’s hardware bundles to get access to the platform. Instead, all you need to do is visit the Stadia website, sign up and download the companion Android or iOS app — though you’ll need to provide a USB-compatible controller or keyboard and mouse. When you first launch the service, you’ll get access to nine games, one of which is Destiny 2. If you’re already a Stadia Pro subscriber, Google won’t charge you for the next two months.

After the trial period, Stadia’s Pro tier costs $10 per month. It allows you to play games in 4K (most of the time, anyway), and get discounts on games and DLC. You also get a handful of free titles every month. With the free tier, on the other hand, games max out at 1080p and you need to buy the titles you want to play.

Google’s Phil Harrison says the decision to give two months of Stadia Pro away for free comes in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “We’re facing some of the most challenging times in recent memory. Keeping social distance is vital, but staying home for long periods can be difficult and feel isolating. Video games can be a valuable way to socialize with friends and family when you’re stuck at home,” he wrote on the company’s Keyword blog.

On that note, Google says it’s temporarily adjusting the default streaming resolution of games to 1080p, down from 4K, to limit the platform’s impact on internet networks. You can switch back to 4K streaming through the Stadia app.

Google’s new introductory offer is likely to make at least some people forget about Stadia’s sometimes disappointing launch. While not exactly a flop, Stadia didn’t launch with all the features Google promised when it detailed the service at GDC 2019. Fans have had to wait to do things like play their game library at 4K over the web, which had led to community dissent. But it’s hard to complain when you get something for free.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 16:56:27 +0000

Snapchat is facing outages in the US and Europe

Snapchat is facing outages in the US and Europe

Bangkok, Thailand - April 22, 2017 : Apple iPhone5s in a mug showing its screen with Snapchat logo.


Wachiwit via Getty Images

Much to the woe of teens across the US and Europe, Snapchat is currently down in parts of the world. According to DownDetector, there was a surge in people reporting issues using the app at around 10:30AM, following widespread problems in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Snapchat’s Support account tweeted an acknowledgment of the outage at 10:33AM ET but didn’t provide any additional details. It also hasn’t shared an update since. Based on the fewer number of recent reports, it does appear that Snap is slowly fixing the issue, however.

With people stuck inside due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of users have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration. It looks like most people can’t even log into the app.

We’ve reached out to Snap for more information, and we’ll update this article when we hear back from the company.

In this article:

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 15:46:02 +0000

Racing to make coronavirus tests

Racing to make coronavirus tests

Disclaimer: The author of this article is married to an employee of one of the companies featured in this article. For the sake of impartiality, the company in question will not be named.

When explaining how countries could control the spread of COVID-19, the Director-General of the World Health Organization was blunt. Dr. Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries “must isolate, test, treat and trace” if they wanted to suppress the pandemic’s growth. But that approach requires nations to have the necessary infrastructure to identify and test those with the infection. The UK has struggled, with tests being rationed and only used in hospitals or other healthcare settings. The UK purchased 3.5 million finger-prick tests in the hope of harnessing them as part of a wide testing scheme. But researchers, when attempting to validate the products, found they don’t actually work.

The situation is little better in the US, with testing numbers falling far short of what experts say is needed. BBC News reported that a retired doctor, Claudia Bahorik, believed she had symptoms, but despite requesting a test on March 9th, she was still waiting for results on the 23rd — the CDC said her profile did not qualify her, at the time, for one of the rationed tests. Her plight illustrates the US failure to follow the “test, treat and trace” strategy. And The New Yorker reported that in South Dakota, there is just one public health laboratory conducting COVID-19 tests for the entire state of close to 900,000 people.

The New York Times found that the UK government lacked the means to test every suspected case. Reporters even identified a rogue private doctor who bought up tests to sell at a high markup to private clients. Public Health England, the nation’s public health body, has advised against using these tests, which are yet to be proven accurate. But in desperation, people are turning to these kits as the country struggles to implement a holistic nationwide testing regime. And it’s not clear where the solution is coming from.


A small private DNA and drug testing company sits in a secure unit on the site of a decommissioned Air Force base in Norfolk, in the east of the UK. It normally supplies DNA relationship testing for court cases relating to immigration and family disputes. It also offers “peace of mind” tests, a home DNA-testing kit sold in major retailers, that enable people to check their family relationships. The company decided to use its expertise to help out as the coronavirus crisis began to become apparent.

“We’d all seen the news about a need for testing,” said Dr. Thomas Haizel, the lab’s managing director, “and decided that we could do it.” The company believed it could quickly and easily use some of its capacity to bolster the testing facilities at the nearby hospital. Not only did it have the raw materials to produce tests, but it has a number of automated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines, each one costing up to £100,000 ($122,000). And thanks to the Chinese scientists who successfully sequenced the genome for SARS-CoV-2 back in January, the blueprint for the test is known.

The company emptied out a pair of labs, turning them into a virology suite that would be suitable for COVID-19 testing. 

In the UK, labs are graded on their Containment Level (CL), which determines what organisms they can handle. Public Health England said that researchers that propagate, culture or do any form of “deliberate work on SARS-CoV-2” must be a CL3 lab. But standard tests for the virus, run on commercially available auto-analyzers, only require CL2. The only requirement that Haizel’s lab couldn’t immediately meet was having a specific form of Microbiological Safety Cabinet, or MSC.

It certainly had several MSCs already, but these were hard-wired into the DNA-testing facilities and so couldn’t be moved. Unfortunately, in the early stages of a pandemic, it’s not a piece of kit that’s particularly easy to get. And so began a frantic race to call every lab supplier in the country in the hunt for a spare cabinet. The company found one, 200 miles away, but it couldn’t make a delivery for several weeks due to high demand. Rather than wait, one employee — armed with his own truck — drove to collect it the following day. 

With the MSC delivered, the team planned to have a working test facility up and running by March 23rd. And then the power ran out. “The day before we were due to have [the MSC] commissioned, a local power transformer went down, and we lost power to the site,” said Dr. Haizel. The company quickly found and set up a generator, and after a short delay, technicians got the system going. The lab now has the ability and capacity to offer COVID-19 tests — it’s just waiting for approval from official bodies. 

How does a PCR Test work?

Polymerase Chain Reaction testing involves the application of oligonucleotides to strands of Deoxyribonucleic and Ribonucleic Acid…

Okay, how does a PCR test work, and please explain to me like I’m five.

A strand of DNA is usually represented as a ladder, with two uprights and a series of rungs that connect them. Normally, this ladder is curled, like a spiral staircase, but it’s easier to imagine a ladder propped up against a wall. RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), by comparison, looks as if someone just sliced a ladder from top to bottom, with one upright and shorter rungs sticking out of the side. We’re talking about RNA, by the way, because SARS-CoV-2 is a virus with RNA rather than DNA. 

Each rung of this half-ladder is one of four different nucleotides, which make up any organism’s genetic code. Because the genome for COVID-19, or more accurately SARS-CoV-2, has been sequenced, you can create a “primer,” essentially a chunk of genetic material that finds and joins on to the SARS-CoV-2 code. Add some more ingredients and you can make a section of DNA that sits on or beside the SARS-CoV-2 strand. But this strand, on its own, is too small to be spotted by an analysis machine.

So, to make it bigger and, therefore, readable, you heat the mixture to separate and essentially duplicate the strands, and then let it cool. The more times you do this, the more times the strands will separate and replicate until you’ve got enough of a sample to see. All you have to do then is add a dye or fluorescent marker to find this material, and you can see if the SARS-CoV-2 RNA is present. This is how Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, tests work.

A number of laboratories in the UK are working to devote resources to help the effort against COVID-19. In a statement, King’s College London said it’s offering its staff to support King’s College Hospital. King’s also has a commercial DNA lab that offers paid-for relationship testing for court cases and private individuals. It said it would work to “free up laboratory space for COVID-19 testing” and offered an “inventory of all the PCR machines on site to amplify NHS resources.”

In the US, Quest Labs told NPR that it has a backlog of 115,000 tests that it has yet to process. And while the company has successfully managed to increase the number of tests it can process, it is still overwhelmed. The report added that Quest’s tests take between four and five days to process. This, coupled with failures with initial kits and supply shortages, has meant that testing is far behind where it needs to be. 

By comparison, Germany’s labs are said to be processing tens of thousands of tests each day and began manufacturing test kits in January. Italy, which has been hit hard by the virus, has said it plans to begin nationwide testing in the hope of restarting its economy very soon. The picture is different in some African countries, with Science reporting that several (unnamed) nations on the continent have only one or two facilities capable of conducting the tests. 

A number of large international biotech companies, like Bosch and bioMérieux, are developing rapid COVID-19 tests. Tech companies, including Verily, Google/Alphabet’s life sciences subsidiary, have joined the effort in various ways. A presidential announcement claimed that the company was building a tool to help screen for COVID-19, which, according to The Washington Post, prompted employees to scramble to make one. It has since launched a testing program, offering drive-thru swabs in California as part of the wider Baseline project.

Plenty of other big names in tech have pivoted to help in some way with the effort against the coronavirus. Razer has pledged to make surgical face masks that can be given to healthcare workers working with COVID-19 patients. Similarly, Tesla has offered to produce ventilators to cover the likely fall in supply when current resources become overwhelmed.

SAN MATEO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 16: Medical personnel surround a car that is going through a coronavirus drive-thru test clinic at the  San Mateo County Event Center on March 16, 2020 in San Mateo, California. Drive-thru test clinics for COVID-19 are popping up across the country as more tests become available. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Employees at Verily administering drive-thru tests.
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

In the eyes of another lab owner, it’s going to be a long wait before the overwhelmed UK government can approve independent tests. “There’s no point going top-down at the moment on anything,” says Mike Fischer, the co-founder of Research Machines and Alamy. He has funneled his wealth into the Fischer Family Trust, which bankrolls bodies in education, research and conservation. 

One of Fischer’s tentpole projects is Systems Biology Laboratory (SBL), an Oxfordshire lab that looks into improving healthcare outcomes. SBL specializes in things like DNA instability, cancer immunotherapy and examining the medical applications of vitamin D. It has deep ties with a number of general practitioners (GPs) in the region and offers help when asked.

“My chief scientist was approached by a practice asking if [we] could test a couple of their GPs,” said Fischer. The doctors in question were showing symptoms of COVID-19 and were concerned that they were putting their patients at risk. “We ordered the first testing kit on March 6th,” said Fischer, and SBL could see “how valuable it was to [doctors] both motivationally and practically.”

Since SBL was already involved in biological research, it was an easy process to set up its PCR machines to offer the test. Since then, the lab has reached out to a number of GP surgeries in South Oxfordshire, testing more than 200 medical staff twice a week. That is enabling doctors and nurses who are free of COVID-19 to return to work while carriers can isolate as soon as possible. 

These small-scale tests have inspired Fischer to set up the COVID-19 Volunteer Testing Network, a body that helps private labs test healthcare workers. “Our big thing is a call to labs,” said Fischer, who has the knowledge, resources and equipment to help. Fischer has promised to fund “consumable costs” for these tests out of his own pocket and will offer additional monetary support where required.

This sort of private largesse shouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately, it is now. In the UK and US, there may be the capability and capacity to offer COVID-19 tests to those that need them, but both countries have so far struggled. They’ve been unable to implement the WHO’s isolate, test, treat and trace strategy, and the consequences could be very, very, bad.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 14:30:19 +0000

Foxconn’s contentious Wisconsin plant will be used to make ventilators

Foxconn’s contentious Wisconsin plant will be used to make ventilators

The Foxconn campus is shown under construction on January 6, 2020. A million-square-foot liquid crystal display factory, a 260,000-square-foot computer server manufacturing and assembly plant and a data center with offices are among structures planned for the Wisconsin site. (Mark Hertzberg/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)


Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Foxconn’s dubious Wisconsin factory — the subject of billions of dollars of tax subsidy scrutiny — will be used to produce ventilators to aid in treatment for COVID-19 around the US. The company, best known for assembling Apple’s iPhones at factories in China, has entered into a partnership with healthcare firm Medtronic for the project, which will see ventilators produced “as soon as possible,” according to a statement provided to Reuters.

The factory — dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world” by President Trump — was first announced back in 2017 and has been the focus of controversy ever since. While its arrival promised new job opportunities for the state, many homes would subsequently be bulldozed to make space for the plant. It was initially earmarked for use as an LCD factory, but plans have repeatedly changed and the ample job opportunities never materialized. For the few that did, pay and working conditions was were way below those originally touted by Foxconn. Meanwhile, the plant was in receipt of more than $4.5 billion in government incentives. The whole endeavour has certainly fallen short of its promises.

Considering the fanfare surrounding the plant, it’s unfortunate that it’s taken this long for it to be put to use. However, given the sweeping global challenges the coronavirus represents this is certainly a good use for the facility. The partnership will see the mass production of Medtronic’s PB-560 ventilator, although neither party has confirmed exactly how many they hope it make. Other tech companies have also turned their attention to manufacturing ventilators during the crisis. Tesla is working on its own ventilator design, for example, while Ford hopes to produce 50,000 devices from its Michigan plant. In the UK, meanwhile, British vacuum brand Dyson plans to produce 15,000 ventilators from a design it created in just 10 days.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 13:25:25 +0000

Apple Music will pay up to $50 million of indie label royalties in advance

Apple Music will pay up to $50 million of indie label royalties in advance

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 08: In this photo illustration, the logo of the music streaming platform Apple Music is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on April 08, 2019 in Paris, France. The number of paying subscribers to the music streaming service of Apple Music has for the first time exceeded that of Spotify customers in the US. The two platforms now have 28 and 26 million paying users, respectively, sources told the Wall Street Journal. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


Chesnot via Getty Images

Apple is setting aside $50 million to help musicians signed to indie labels affected by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Rolling Stone, the tech giant sent an email to indie labels, telling them that it has set up a $50 million advance royalty fund to help them pay their artists.

Apple will offer royalty advances to labels that earn at least $10,000 every quarter from Apple Music and have a direct distribution deal with the service. The amount will depend on the label’s past earnings and will be recoupable against its future earnings on the platform. In its email, Apple said it will offer them the advance in good faith that they’ll use the money to help their struggling artists and fund their operations in order to stay afloat.

The company wrote in its letter:

“These are difficult times for the music industry globally. Livelihoods are at risk, with multiple sources of income that our industry relies on vanishing overnight. Apple has a deep, decades-long history with music, and we are proud to be in close partnership with the best labels and artists in the world. We want to help.”

Some of Apple Music’s rivals also previously banded together to come to musicians’ and industry workers’ aid. Amazon Music, Facebook, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Tidal and YouTube Music pledged to contribute to MusiCare’s COVID-19 relief fund. Spotify made it easy to donate to artists, as well, and vowed to match up to $10 million in donations. Meanwhile, SoundCloud and Bandsintown are helping artists earn money from their online concerts streamed via Twitch.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 12:31:36 +0000

The Morning After: Sony unveiled the PS5’s DualSense controller

The Morning After: Sony unveiled the PS5’s DualSense controller

TMA


Engadget

Thanks for all your feedback on this newsletter’s makeover. We’ve refined a few design elements, but you also told us there are some bugs if you’re using Outlook to read the daily email. We’re working to fix that as soon as possible. Now, on to today’s news.

Lego’s collaboration with Nintendo on a set of Super Mario figures and ‘levels’ sounds really intriguing. It also sounds really expensive. The Starter Course is now available to pre-order for $59.99/€59.99 — the same price as a Switch game at launch. In Lego’s defense, these sets are a bit more elaborate than an Overwatch playset or other prior projects. 

The Mario figure has LCD screens packed into his eyes, with a larger one set into his overalls. He also packs a built-in speaker — no wonder he’s bigger than the typical Lego figure. The company adds that there will be a companion Lego Super Mario app for tracking scores as well as housing instruction manuals and suggestions for “other creative ways to build and play.” At these prices (the Bowser kit is just shy of $100), the replayability factor is crucial.

— Mat

PS5 DualSense controller has a built-in mic and adaptive triggers

Meet Sony’s new gamepad.

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Engadget

We haven’t actually seen the PlayStation 5 yet, but at least we’ve met its controller. The DualSense sports a two-tone look and a smaller light bar that wraps around the touchpad. The Share button has been swapped out for a Create button, which should inspire many future Twitch streamers, and a built-in microphone array promises to enable in-game chatting even if you don’t wear a headset.

And that DualSense name? Haptic feedback should provide more immersion than mere rumbling, while adaptive L2 and R2 triggers give you a feel of resistance for actions like drawing back an arrow.
Continue reading.

Dell’s XPS 15 and 17 leak with sleek new designs

Time for a new look.

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Seen the new XPS 13? Someone on Reddit put an image up showing new designs for the larger XPS 15 and 17, which give them a similar look, with tall 16:10 screens and no bezels or big USB-A ports.
Continue reading.

What to know before buying a smartwatch

Our guide to getting the most for your money.

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Just a couple of years ago, the case for smartwatches wasn’t clear. Today, the wearable world is filled with a bunch of high-quality devices to choose from, and a few key players have pushed themselves to the front of the pack. But which one? Well, that depends on what you want, but, yes, the Apple Watch is right up there, as are some Fitbit models.
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WhatsApp imposes even stricter limits on message forwarding

It’s to slow the spread of misinformation.

If you receive a frequently forwarded message — one that’s been forwarded more than five times and identifiable with a double arrow icon — you’ll only be able to forward them on to one chat at a time. It’s a defense against misinformation: The company says it’s seen a “significant increase” in the number of forwarded messages on the platform, and while many of them are relatively innocent — memes and prayers, for example — this practice is contributing to the spread of misinformation.  

It’s not the first time WhatsApp has imposed such measures. After both it and its parent company, Facebook, were accused of playing a pivotal role in the spread of misinformation during violence in India in 2018, WhatsApp reduced the number of times a message could be forwarded from 20 to five. This time it’s a global effort, however.
Continue reading.

Netflix’s new parental controls include PIN-protected profiles

And you can turn off auto-play for kids’ profiles.

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Engadget

Netflix has had separate user profiles, including ones that stick to kids’ content, for a while, but some new changes could make parents more comfortable. Adults can use a PIN to secure their own profiles so kids can’t open the app and watch whatever they want. Adults can also remove series or films by title, select between different age filters for a kid’s profile and see the history of what children have been watching.
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Google releases Chrome 81 with ‘app badging’ for subtle notifications

The next version will be Chrome 83, update your notes accordingly.

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Engadget

Keeping up to date with Google’s reworked schedule, the latest version of Chrome is going out to everyone. It has new tweaks for WebXR and some NFC support, plus widely available support for app badges. That lets web apps update their icons to let you know there’s something new, like a waiting email or a message in Slack, without popping up an intrusive notification.
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The best Xbox games

Given the 2020 refresh.

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Engadget

Today, we walk through the best games to get for your Xbox One — there’s still time before the next-gen consoles get here, you know. And if you want something that doesn’t center around guns or blades, we recommend the newest addition to the list: Ori and the Blind Forest.
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The best board games with an app-based twist

Ten Engadget favorites that blend digital and analog play.

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Engadget

Conversely, how about some games involving less screen time. The caveat, here, is that not all of these are lockdown appropriate, but if you’re living with family or several roommates, we have a few ideas to distract from Monopoly or another Netflix binge.
Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more…

Samsung’s older smart TVs are losing remote control app support

The Big Picture: See every square foot of asteroid Bennu, Earth’s little frenemy

Vizio SmartCast TVs add 30 new free TV channels

Nuro’s driverless delivery cars are cleared for testing in California

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What’s on TV this week: ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 11:20:58 +0000

Twitch clears up its confusing nudity and attire guidelines

Twitch clears up its confusing nudity and attire guidelines

A twitch sign-in screen is seen at the offices of Twitch Interactive Inc, a social video platform and gaming community owned by Amazon, in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 6, 2017.  REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage


Elijah Nouvelage / Reuters

When Twitch unveiled its new community guidelines around sexual material last year, the rules around attire were very vague. That resulted in streamers, including ExoHydraX, receiving bans for what they considered to be inconsistently applied rules. Now, Twitch has released new “nudity and attire” guidelines that clarify more precisely what is allowed in streams.

While Twitch has banned streamers for wearing suggestive clothing, it never really said what it considered to be “suggestive.” Rather, the guidelines just stated that “we recommend creators wear attire that would be publicly appropriate for the context, location, and activity,” while adding that “attire intended to be sexually suggestive” wasn’t allowed.

Now, the rules are “based on a standard level of coverage,” Twitch wrote. You can’t broadcast nude or partially nude, and “must cover the area extending from your hips to the bottom of your pelvis and buttocks.” Those presenting as women must cover their nipples and can’t expose the underside of their breasts. However, “cleavage is unrestricted as long as these requirements are met.” Swimsuits, breastfeeding and body-painting are also allowed, provided that genitals and nipples (for women) aren’t visible.

The policy goes into effect immediately with no grace period for new streams. Also, Twitch won’t re-evaluate past suspensions for things that are now allowed (like cleavage), even though the older rules were unclear. In a FAQ explaining why, it said that “although your content may not violate the new policy, it violated the guidelines in place when the enforcement was issued.” At the same time, though, Twitch is also forcing creators to take down older content that now violates the new rules, with a May 1st deadline.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 09:49:19 +0000

Xbox Game Bar’s new widgets link to apps like XSplit

Xbox Game Bar’s new widgets link to apps like XSplit

Xbox Game Bar
Razer Cortex widget

Microsoft

Last year Microsoft added a Spotify integration to its Xbox Game Bar on the PC, and now it will be able to offer far more third-party support. That’s because it has introduced a new Game Bar Widget Store, as well as an SDK for outside developers to plug their apps into the gaming experience on Windows.

As introduced during its April 2020 Inside Xbox presentation, some of the first ones up include integrations from Razer for its Cortex gaming enhancements and Gold wallet deals. Another new widget adds controls for XSplit’s Gamecaster streaming app, so that creators can flip between settings without having to alt-tab out and stop the action. One other widget that’s on the way but not available yet is for Intel’s Graphics Command Center, with access to display settings, capture features and more.

Xbox Game Bar
Microsoft

The new features are available initially for people who’ve joined a test flight via the Xbox Insider app and should roll out for everyone else soon.

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Published at Wed, 08 Apr 2020 08:31:40 +0000