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PC

Call Of Duty: Warzone — How To Download Battle Royale Without Modern Warfare

Call of Duty: Warzone, a free-to-play battle royale that supports up to 150 players, is available as part of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and a standalone game. It’s a huge download size if you don’t have Modern Warfare, but don’t worry–that just gives you some time to check out our list of Warzone tips.

Modern Warfare players were able to start downloading Warzone at 8 AM PT on March 10; it’s 15-22 GB update depending on whether you’re playing on PC, PS4, or Xbox One. Opening Modern Warfare should prompt the update if it hasn’t already begun on its own, though if you encounter any issues, try restarting your system. Those who don’t own MW can expect an 80-100 GB download.

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Original story follows…

An in-game countdown in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is ticking towards a reveal, which should be for the heavily leaked Warzone Battle Royale mode.

The countdown is set to end at 8 AM PT tomorrow, March 10. It occupies a locked space on the Modern Warfare main menu that was introduced with Season 2, and has been linked to the existence of Warzone since then. Although it appears in Modern Warfare, previous leaks have suggested that Warzone will be both free and standalone, not requiring a Modern Warfare purchase to play.

Earlier today many details about Warzone were confirmed by a now-pulled video showing off its gameplay. This leak confirmed that players will fight in 1v1 matches in a gulag to secure revival, feature 150 players at launch, and support the same cross-play as Modern Warfare’s multiplayer.

Although Warzone has yet to be explicitly mentioned by both the in-game countdown and developer Infinity Ward, it’s expected that this tease will coincide with the launch of the game across PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Call of Duty News

  • Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's Remastered Campaign Is Out Now On PS4
  • Two Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Modes Just Got Updated With A Special Twist
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Adds A Free New Map This Week
  • Call Of Duty: Warzone – 9 Tips To Win In Battle Royale
  • How To Download CoD: Warzone Without Modern Warfare

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News

How To Unlock The Shopkeeper In One Step From Eden

One Step From Eden has an interesting Shopkeeper. She looks like Robin Hood and is incredibly polite, yet strangely ominous at the same time. The Shopkeeper was originally going to be a neutral NPC found only on shop icons, but she developed into an unlockable character. After players experimented with attacking the neutral Shopkeeper, she quickly rose in popularity.

Any developer that puts an armed player-character and friendly NPCs in the same room is simply asking for violence. We have to know what happens if we attack the nice people; What are the consequences if we commit such egregious crimes? For those of us who attacked Captain Keyes on the deck of The Pillar of Autumn back in 2001, we found the answer quickly.

Fast-forward to Enter The Gungeon, a rougelike (like Eden) where you’re bound to run into the game’s friendly shopkeeper, Bello. Well, he’s friendly if you don’t attack him. If you do, he’s gonna fight back – and he ain’t a pushover.

Eden’s Shopkeeper is the same. Upon arriving on her turf, open up your deck to be greeted with a storefront, filled with spells and other wares that you can purchase. She’s completely docile if you don’t attack her. Even if you decide to bite into the forbidden fruit and attack, she’ll tank 100 damage before retaliating – pretty generous elbow room in case you accidentally send a spell flying her way.

However, to unlock the fabled Shopkeeper, you must defeat her.

She looks innocent and cute, so that means she’s harmless right?

Wrong – look at those soulless eyes. This crazy lass has 3000 health and a wealth of spells that are designed to brutally crush you. Think boss battle on steroids, because she’ll take you out in an instant if you don’t already have her spell patterns memorized. Fighting the Shopkeeper is a fast way to find out why players are dying to unlock her.

The below video, created by “Huntan,” demonstrates what is likely the fastest strategy to beat her (fighting her in tier 1). This will take some practice. You need to learn her 4 attacks and master the art of dodging them.

You’ll need to play enough of the game to reach Level 5 and unlock Saffron’s second loadout, Chrono, which will allow you to use her time-slowing Wristwatch. It is advisable to keep your card-count low. Tossing out Step Slash and replacing it with a higher damage spell (or a rooting spell) such as Missiletoe or Coldstone is also recommended – shown in the above video.

Killing or sparing the Shopkeeper will unlock her, but it’s easier said than done. Regardless, the only way to get the character is to defeat her. With a lot of practice and a bit of luck – the undertaking is manageable.

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News

How To Deal With Resident Evil 3's Nemesis The Easy Way

Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis is an imposing force who stubbornly chases you throughout your entire playthrough. He’s also harder to avoid than Resident Evil 2’s Mr. X, so if you’re having trouble with Nemesis in the early game try taking him down with grenades. A well-placed grenade will take Nemesis out of the fight for a short time. As an added bonus, Nemesis drops weapons upgrades and other high-powered artillery when you stun him.

In short, always keep a grenade on hand in case of a Nemesis sighting. If you’re out of grenades or don’t have one in your inventory, keep an eye open for interactive environmentals, such as exploding barrels or electrical boxes, which can help buy you enough time to run to the nearest safe room. Naturally, grenades aren’t the easy solution during end-boss encounters, but they still deal massive damage, so don’t waste them on puny zombies. Save that firepower for the big guy. Read our full review of Resident Evil 3 here.

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eSports

How to sign up for Valorant’s April 2020 closed beta

Riot Games announced details for Valorant’s closed beta starting April 7, 2020. The highly-anticipated 5v5 first-person shooter has attracted attention from the gaming community since its initial announcement. The goal of each round is for the attackers to detonate a spike on one of the three sites. Meanwhile, the counter-agents must prevent the attackers from destroying the site.

This weekend, Rod “Slasher” Breslau confirmed Riot was hosting an exclusive gameplay event. The secretive event was kept behind closed doors. Many popular streamers and professional players were quiet this weekend, presumably gearing up on the Valorant battlefield. Leaks of the game-capture event sparked massive interest in the possibility of closed beta popping up soon.

Valorant’s announcement says the first wave of players will step into the server in April 2020. Limited space is available for players in Europe, Canada, the United States, Turkey, Russia, and CIS. Additionally, Riot hopes to expand the closed beta to more regions, “pending the volatile logistics of launching a beta effectively during a global pandemic.” Daily Esports gathered all the need to know information about the closed beta and how to sign up.

Accessing the closed beta

Credit: Riot Games

Residents of countries eligible to partake in the closed beta should follow the steps below:

1. Register for a Riot Account

2. Link your Riot account with your Twitch account. If you’re not a registered Twitch user, set up your account here.

3. When the closed beta starts on April 7, head over to Twitch and watch official Valorant streams for an opportunity to gain access to the closed beta.

Download the Valorant launcher

Riot Games has released the game launcher, available for download. Players can download the executable by visiting the website here. To access the launcher, the user must have an active Riot account.

The official Riot Games launcher for Valorant.

Unfortunately, any attempts to log in subsequently trigger a message stating the user doesn’t have access to the game.

Stay tuned to Daily Esports for the latest Valorant news, tips, and more!

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PS4

Persona 5 Royal: How To Unlock The New Palace And Semester (Spoiler-Free)

Persona 5 Royal adds tons of new content, chief among them is the new third semester that also contains the ninth and final palace, all of which happen after the events of the original game. But it’s possible to miss all those features entirely if you don’t meet certain requirements. It’s an absolute must to see all the game has to offer, so here’s everything you need to do to unlock the new content, as spoiler free as possible.

The gist of this is that you need to rank up three separate Confidants (Akechi, Kasumi, and Maruki) to certain ranks before specific dates. Some of the ranks are gated by certain days and events, and if you don’t rank them up by then, you’ll miss out on extra gameplay and the new, major story arcs. P5R does a pretty good job notifying you of opportunities to level up these Confidants; they’ll text you when they’re available to hang out and there is some dialogue that highlights important dates. You may still overlook things as there are some specific windows of when to do them. We have everything detailed below.

Goro Akechi (Justice Confidant)

First, let’s start with Goro Akechi, the Justice arcana. In the original Persona 5, Akechi’s Confidant arc was tied to story events and was unmissable, but in P5R you choose to spend time with him. You’ll first meet Akechi in early June when you take the class field trip to the TV Station. This is an unmissable story event that kicks off rank 1.

After rank 1 he’ll be in Kichijoji, the new area in Persona 5 Royal, to hang out. He’ll be a catalyst to show you some of the new things you can do like play billiards and relax at the jazz club. You can achieve ranks 2 to 5 right after rank 1, and there’s no time gate on them. However, his Confidant rank 3 requires you to have Knowledge and Charm stats at rank 3 before engaging.

Rank 6 is locked until a story event on September 3, and he’ll be waiting for you in Leblanc. Ranks 7 and 8 are then locked until November 2, but you must complete both before November 18. A word of advice: make sure you’re prepared to fight for rank 8, though you can always retry if you don’t succeed. If you do all those things correctly, ranks 9 & 10 will unlock automatically as the story progresses.

Kasumi Yoshizawa (Faith Confidant)

Next, let’s move on to Kasumi Yoshizawa, the new transfer student at Shujin Academy. You’ll bump into Kasumi on the train early on, but you won’t truly interact with her until the new park clean-up event on May 30. This is an unmissable story event, and you’ll reach rank 1 with her and open up her Confidant route (she holds the Faith arcana).

You’ll notice that Kasumi only has five Confidant ranks which is different from everyone else. Ranks 2 to 5 aren’t gated by anything and can be easily unlocked after you officially meet her–you’ll find her hanging out in Kichijoji. You have until December 22 to do all of this so no pressure…but don’t slack off, unless Kawakami says it’s okay.

Takuto Maruki (Councillor Confidant)

Finally, the last important Confidant to ensure you reach the extra semester and palace, is Shujin Academy’s very own guidance counselor Takuto Maruki, who holds the Councillor arcana. Maruki joins the story after the first palace and is hired by the school to help the students through their problems. There’s an automatic story event that introduces him, and since you and your friends have endured traumatic experiences, you’re required to go visit him early on. From there you’ll reach rank 1 with him, and throughout the story you’ll see moments of your fellow Phantom Thieves receiving counseling from him as well.

Ranks 2 to 5 can be achieved immediately after that, and he’ll be hanging in front of the nurses office on Monday’s and Friday’s after school. Ranks 6 to 9 are then gated until September 20. You can also do ranks 1 through 9 after September 20 if you choose since you won’t be locked out if you wait that long. Rank 10 then happens automatically on November 18 if you have reached rank 9 by then. However, you will be locked out of rank 10 if you do not reach rank 9 by November 17.

It’s also worth noting that Maruki raises your SP cap and grants abilities like Detox, Flow, and Mindfulness which are extremely useful. He’s also a refreshing personality and you honestly should just meet with him regardless; he provides perspective for mental health, which will be very important by the time you reach the new content.

A Few More Tips

To rank up Confidants faster, make sure you’re carrying a Persona with the same arcana as the person you’re hanging out with–you’ll receive more points for proper dialogue options. Oh and lastly, make sure to refuse any deal that would compromise your morals throughout the course of the story.

If you accomplish all these steps then you should be ready for the brand new palace, third semester, and everything that comes with them. When you follow through on the new final boss, make sure you have everyone’s Baton Pass at rank 3 (which levels up by playing darts throughout the game)–trust us on this one.

For more on this extended version of the original RPG, be sure to read our early review of Persona 5 Royal’s first 50 hours and how the new mechanics effect the experience. You can also check out how some changes were made in the localization process and get insight on how Persona’s localization was done throughout the years.

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PC

Resident Evil 3: How Long Does It Take To Beat?

Resident Evil 3 Remake is out this week, offering another dose of zombie survival-horror in the style of last year’s Resident Evil 2 Remake. This time the focus turns to Nemesis, the ever-present danger who defined the original. But how long can you expect to be on the run from this looming threat?

A standard critical path run through RE3 will take you about six hours, while taking your time to gather all the collectibles will last roughly 11-plus hours. That means getting all of the weapon upgrades and secrets, opening all of the locks, and finding all of the bobbleheads.

Resident Evil 3 is coming alongside Resident Evil Resistance, a standalone multiplayer mode that pits four survivors against one mastermind controlling the output of zombie hordes. A final open beta for Resistance was planned recently, but the PC and PS4 versions ran into technical problems and had to be postponed.

If you’re planning to check out Resident Evil 3, read our story recap for everything you might need to remember before venturing into the world of survival-horror. Plus make sure your rig is up to the task by checking out the PC system requirements.

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eSports

How to see through Bangalore’s smokescreen in Apex Legends

Bangalore’s smokescreen can be useful in many ways. These include using it to block the enemy’s sight, or creating cover when reloading weapons. Players can also use smoke to escape an area. However, from an enemy player’s point of view, it can be quite a frustrating ability to deal with.

Now, an Apex Legends fan has discovered a way in which Bangalore’s smoke can be counteracted. A clip from the Apex Legends Reddit shows how one of Caustic’s abilities can reveal players that are in Bangalore’s smoke. Instead, the Caustic receives the advantage and the smokescreen no longer provides a sense of security.

Caustic’s Nox Gas traps

Although the smokescreen impacts player visibility, Caustic’s gas traps prove otherwise. In the clip, both of the Caustic’s teammates were knocked. Following this, the Caustic throws a single gas trap into a room full of Bangalore’s smoke. The gas trap creates a green outline around the enemy players, even though the smoke is hiding them. As a result, this allowed them to push into the smoke. The player managed to easily wipe the enemy team.

  • Use Caustic’s traps to see through Bangalore’s smoke guys
    • r/apexlegends
    • xxGURIxx
    • 2d ago
      • 715 points
      • 73 comments

      The gas traps do outline enemy players in green when they are in close proximity. However, it is unknown if this is intentional through Bangalore’s smokescreen. It will be interesting to see if the developers provide a response to this. Meanwhile, the status of bugs and glitches can be viewed on the Apex Legends Trello board, where you can also report any that you find.

      The increased versatility of Caustic’s gas trap ability is a welcome perk to other Apex Legends fans. One player commented: “has never occurred to me to do this, that’s going on the notepad.” Next time you play as Caustic, it is worth using this simple method if you come face to face with an enemy Bangalore. This is if you have gas traps available at the time of the encounter!

      Let us know if you have tried this, or if you intend to in the future! Stay tuned to Daily Esports for all your Apex Legends news!

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    News

    How coronavirus is boosting booze, weed, and other vice industries

    While many businesses are struggling to survive the crippling impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, others are seeing a surge in demand. The increased traffic spans bicycle stores, video-based social networking, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, “vice industries.” With social-distancing and self-isolation widely acknowledged as the best ways to counter the spread of COVID-19, demand for goods such as cannabis, alcohol, and even sex tech products are on the upswing.

    Bars and nightclubs may be closed, but governing bodies recognize that people will need some form of escapism in the weeks and months ahead — which is why liquor stores are being classified as “essential” in U.S. states and across the U.K and can remain open.

    Reports emerged last week that New Yorkers were ordering more alcohol, earlier in the day, with delivery services like Drizly recording a 450% surge in sales. Canadian cannabis stores also revealed a significant increase in sales as citizens prepared to hunker down behind closed doors.

    In the weeds

    Cann, an Oakland, California-based startup that sells low-dose cannabis drinks, told VentureBeat it has seen a 300% month-on-month sales increase in March, more than doubling the total units sold for January and February combined. Through on-demand cannabis delivery service Eaze, Cann said it has been doubling its shipments each week — in a typical week Cann sells around 500 units through Eaze, but last week it shifted 3,000.

    With alcohol consumption generally decreasing in many markets around the world, the COVID-19 outbreak could be a veritable boon for the cannabis industry.

    “During anxious times, people always turn to vices to keep things light,” Cann cofounder Luke Anderson said. “Drinking is where you’d expect most people to turn first, but drinking was already on the way out before COVID-19 — eight out of 10 adult drinkers in 2019 stated that they’re looking to moderate or reduce their alcohol consumption. With so many health-conscious consumers in the market today, vices that are ‘better for you’ are performing extremely well.”

    Above: Cann: low-dose cannabis beverages

    No hangovers and fewer calories could be one reason stay-at-home consumers are turning to alcohol alternatives, but it’s difficult to know whether this recent spike will sustain itself or plummet when the coast is clear. Certainly, Cann sees an opportunity to gain new customers, even if they initially sign up for the lockdown.

    “There has been some hoarding behavior, and it’s not uncommon for consumers to buy hundreds of Canns at a time. We are seeing new customer growth roughly in line with total unit sales growth,” Anderson continued. “Given that we have a 30% month-over-month repurchase rate, all these new consumers are just as likely to be converted to lifetime loyalists.”

    For now, Cann is ramping up its production capacity and “running continuously” at its plant to ensure that it has sufficient inventory, but it is aware that this could be a short-term trend.

    “We are being mindful of cash and aren’t aggressively ramping up hiring, but working with a number of short-term contractors to support the surge,” Anderson added.

    Elsewhere in the cannabis realm, San Francisco-based Kiva Confections, which makes various edibles, said it has seen an average increase of nearly 38% on its projected sales with the COVID-19 lockdown.

    Above: Kiva: Cannabis-infused chocolate

    Vices

    Catharine Dockery is a founding partner of New York-based Vice Ventures, a venture capital firm that focuses specifically on industries like weed, booze, and vaping. While the sales spikes may reveal something about the psychology of consumers amid the pandemic, the surge feeds into a broader panic-buying trend that has stripped supermarket shelves.

    “I think there are also major concerns around scarcity,” Dockery told VentureBeat. “For many Americans, this is the first time they’ve gone to any kind of store and seen empty shelves. Trader Joe’s still has an hour-long line, but [stores] are out of stock on 75% of their products. That’s an experience that I think gets consumers wondering what else they might want to get now, in preparation for long isolation.”

    Moreover, delivery and direct-to-consumer companies are enjoying an uptick in consumer demand, which will again benefit industries like those that deliver booze and weed.

    “When you don’t want to go outside, you start asking which other portions of your life can be moved to online shopping, dramatically speeding up the trend that’s been largely driven by Amazon to this point,” Dockery added.

    Vice Ventures closed its first $25 million fund last summer and has already made a number of seed-stage investments. These include Lucy, a company that sells nicotine alternative products and has seen a 50% increase in sales. The company said its data indicates that its sales uptick may have been a direct result of a news cycle suggesting a link between smoking and COVID-19 mortality rates. And then there’s Maude, which sells “intimate essentials” and said it has been sold out of its Vibe “personal massager” since mid-February. It has also enjoyed a 15% spike in lubricant sales — make of that what you will.

    The company added that in 2020 it expects to surpass its total sales by 200%.

    Above: Catharine Dockery

    Vice Ventures’ portfolio company Bev (which claims Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund as an investor) sells California Rosé in a can, and it saw a 200% sales increase in a single week this month. It also launched an SMS-based direct-to-doorstep delivery in the greater Los Angeles area. In the cannabis industry, Vice Ventures has backed New York’s Plant People, which saw sales grow by up to 40%, and Recess, which doubled its ecommerce sales in a week.

    So while some startups are having to adopt hastily constructed survival strategies during these tough times, others seem to be flourishing.

    “COVID-19 has created a difficult environment for everyone and is a large-scale international crisis,” Dockery said. “Startups are especially hard-hit as a group because they often have short runways before funding is needed, and they’re often operating at losses as they try to scale. That being said, we feel that vice industries have outperformed the broader class of startups, and [we] continue to be firm believers in their potential for some top-class long-term performance.”

    Platforms that enable remote working, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack, have also benefited from the COVID-19 outbreak, with share prices through the roof in some cases. But there is an underlying sense that such boosts are temporary and that business will return to normal once all this is over. Can the same thing be said for vice industries? Will COVID-19 increase awareness of all the ways to get high and have fun at home, or is this a short-term trend?

    “My thought is that these spikes [in sales] are a bit of both,” Dockery said. “These companies are at the very beginning of their lifecycles, though, and are often looking to expand a category — any sort of increased exposure they get in the coming weeks and months will leave them in a much stronger position coming out of the crisis.”

    Another potential outcome, as far as vice industries are concerned at least, is that COVID-19 could usher in a more open mindset in terms of how people unwind behind closed doors. What constitutes “moral” behavior is ultimately subject to shifting attitudes and legal landscapes, evidenced by the fact that it’s now legal to consume weed recreationally in 10 U.S. states and the whole of Canada.

    “One major pattern we’re hoping to see is that consumers become more comfortable discussing with others the vices they enjoy within their own homes,” Dockery said. “Millions of Americans consume cannabis and alcohol at home. Having an extended period where nearly everyone is stuck at home could absolutely change social norms around how we look at those sorts of decisions.”

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    Reviews

    The Psychology of Gaming: How A Good Game Satisfies Our Basic Psychological Needs

    When good game design produces a good game, the result is that the game can satisfy some of our basic psychological needs. And that’s why it feels so, well, good.

    Whether you’re a game designer wanting to understand more about what effects your games can have on players, a gamer looking to give names to the experiences mentioned here that you’ve undoubtedly had, or just looking to pass time during your COVID-19 quarantine, it’s insightful to understand why gamers choose the games they choose.

    In her book titled The Gamer’s Brain, world-renowned gaming user experience (UX) consultant and author Celia Hodent explores these concepts (and others) in a lot more detail than this post permits. Here, we break down the main points behind the psychology of gaming.

    It’s All About Motivation

    Competence, autonomy, and relatedness: These are three core human psychological needs. We really love doing things that satisfy these needs…. like playing a video game that hits that sweet spot of immersion, challenge, mastery, and overall engaging-ness.

    All three of these needs are linked to the greater concept of motivation. More specifically, it points to the concept of intrinsic motivation, wherein someone feels motivated to do something simply because the act of doing that something is, itself, rewarding. This is opposed to extrinsic motivation — the desire to carry out an activity because it will lead to something else that will be rewarding. Of course, gaming can entail both, and in fact, in this context, it can get quite tricky to distinguish between the two. One could dive deep into that too, but let’s stay on track.

    Competence: We All Want To Be Badasses

    We love to feel like we’re skilled, or competent, at something. We enjoy feeling as though we have control and mastery over it. In the context of games, we can liken this to that irresistible sensation of being a complete badass once you’ve gotten the hang of things, if the game in question is DOOM or, in the case of a real miracle, Dark Souls.

    Players will feel like they are gaining mastery over a game only if there is a clear sense of progression being fed back to them. In other words, “Killing these enemies used to be my biggest challenge, but now doing so is a cakewalk” is the kind of thing they should be thinking. And players should know pretty much from the get-go how they can become more competent. This might be investing points into different skillsets or gathering items for weapon upgrades. In other words, the game must clearly lay out its goals, because this motivates players to progress and, thus, engage more.

    Autonomy: Don’t Tell Me What To Do, Except When I Need Help

    Autonomy refers to our need to feel a degree of freedom and independence. In a game, however, this needs to be balanced with guidance, because if there is too much independence there is a risk that the player will be left feeling aimless and overwhelmed with confusion over what to do and where to go. So, in short, “guided autonomy” is the way to go, and that’s where tutorials, waypoints, maps, journal updates and so on come in.

    Players also tend to like it when they have a hand in the direction in which the game progresses. This is why character and name creation exist. People often attach more value to something that they helped create (the so-called “IKEA effect”). That’s also a big reason why choice-based games like The Walking Dead and Until Dawn are so popular. The feeling that one’s choices directly mold the story’s progression is empowering, makes players feel more autonomous, and likely leaves them more invested in the game.

    Relatedness: We’re All Friends Here

    Relatedness refers to the importance we place on social affiliation. This can come in a variety of forms in the gaming world, most obviously in multiplayer settings. Here, players get the opportunity to connect with others, and to feel a sense of belonging within a broader community. There are different levels to this, however. Players interact with and relate to other players differently depending on whether they’re doing so with strangers or friends, with the latter more likely to feature a sense of trust, for example.

    But this need can still be satisfied in single-player games, albeit in slightly different ways. Belonging to a guild such as the Companions in Skyrim, or sharing meaningful relationships with NPCs can appeal to our need to relate to others, and be related to in return. A nice example is the dynamic between Joel and Ellie in The Last Of Us. The writing, character design and performance all makes the meaningfulness of their relationship so brilliantly clear. All of this serves to draw the player further in and to engage.

    The Challenge: How Can Game Devs Tap Into All Three Needs?

    So, ideally a game should satisfy these three basic psychological needs in some way. The operative word here is “ideally,” because it certainly seems easier said than done.

    But perhaps it need not be just an ideal. After all, if you boil all of the fluff down, you’re left with just three basic principles. At the very least, all three should be brought up and considered early on in the design process, and returned to frequently thereafter.

    Ultimately, it seems that there’s no need to get too fancy. We are actually pretty simple psychological creatures who have convinced ourselves that we are far more difficult to understand than we are.

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    News

    How the tech industry will have to step up to fight online toxicity and child abuse

    When it comes to fighting online toxicity and sexual abuse of children, most companies say they are supportive. But complying with the laws can become tricky.

    The proposed federal legislation, dubbed the EARN IT Act (short for Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies), creates incentives for companies to “earn” their liability protection for laws that take place on their platform, particularly related to online child sexual abuse. Civil libertarians have condemned it as a way to circumvent encryption and an attempt to scan all messages.

    If passed, the bipartisan legislation could force companies to react, said Carlos Figueiredo, director of community trust and safety at Two Hat Security, in an interview with VentureBeat. The legislation would take the extraordinary step of removing legal protections for tech companies that fail to police the illegal content. That would lower the bar for suing tech companies.

    Companies may be required to find illegal material on their platforms, categorize it, and verify the ages of users. Their practices would be subject to approval by the Justice Department and other agencies, as well as Congress and the president.

    Two Has Security runs an AI-powered content moderation platform that classifies or filters human interactions in real-time, so it can flag online cyberbullying and other problems. This applies to in-game chat that most online games use. 57% of young people say they have experienced bullying online when playing games, and 22% said they have stopped playing as a result.

    Two Hat will be speaking about online toxicity at our GamesBeat Summit Digital event on April 28-29. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Figueiredo.

    Above: Carlos Figueiredo is director of community trust and safety at Two Hat.

    GamesBeat: The EARN IT Act wasn’t really on my radar. Is it significant legislation? What’s some of the history behind it?

    Carlos Figueiredo: It has bipartisan support. There’s pushback already from some companies, though. There’s quite a lot of pushback from big tech, for sure.

    There are two aspects to it right now. One is the EARN IT Act, and the other is coming up with a voluntary set of standards that companies could adopt. The voluntary standards are a productive aspect. It’s awesome to see companies like Roblox in that conversation. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Thorn–it’s great to see that in that particular conversation, that separate international initiative, there’s representation from gaming companies directly. The fact that Roblox also worked with Microsoft and Thorn on Project Artemis is awesome. That’s directly related to this topic. There’s now a free tool that allows companies to look for grooming in chat. Gaming companies can proactively use it in addition to technologies like Photo DNA from Microsoft. On an international level, there is a willingness to have all those companies, governments, and industry collaborate together to do this.

    On the EARN IT Act, one of the biggest pieces is that–there’s a law from the ‘90s, a provision. It says that companies have a certain exception. They don’t need to necessarily deal with user-generated content. They’re not liable for what their platform–there’s a pass, let’s say, in that sense. The EARN IT Act, the legislation calls for industry standards, including incentives for companies who abide by them, but it also carves an exception to this law from the ‘90s. Companies would have to have minimal standards and be responsible. You can imagine that there’s pushback to that.

    GamesBeat: It reminds me of the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) law. Are we talking about something similar here, or is it very different?

    Figueiredo: COPPA is a perfect example to discuss. It directly affected games. Anybody who wants to have a game catering to under-13 players in the U.S., they must protect personally identifying information of those players. Of course it has implications when it comes to chat. I worked for Club Penguin for six years. Club Penguin was COPPA-compliant, of course. It had a very young user base. When you’re COPPA-compliant at that level, you need to filter. You need to have proactive approaches.

    There’s a similarity. Because of COPPA, companies had to take care of private information from children, and they also had to make sure that children were not, through their own innocence, inadvertently sharing information. Talking about child protection, that’s pertinent. What the Act could bring is the need for companies to have proactive filtering for images. That’s one potential implication. If I know there is child exploitation in my platform, I must do something. But that’s not enough. I think we have to go beyond the knowledge of it. We need to be proactive to make sure this is not happening in our platforms. We could be looking at a landscape, in the next year or so, where the scrutiny on gaming companies to have proactive filters for grooming, for image filtering, means that will become a reality.

    Above: Panel on Safety by Design. Carlos Figueiredo is second from right.

    GamesBeat: How does this become important for Two Hat’s business?

    Figueiredo: Because of the very DNA of the company–a lot of us came from the children’s space, games catering to children. We have long been working in this area, and we have deep concern for child safety online. We’ve gone beyond the scope of children, protecting teenagers, protecting adults. Making sure people are free from abuse online is a key component of our company.

    We have our main tool, which is used by a lot of leading game companies around the world for proactive filters on hate speech, harassment, and other types of behavior. Some of them also work for grooming detection, to make sure you’re aware if someone is trying to groom a child. Directly related to that, there’s an increased awareness in the importance of people knowing that there is technology available to deal with this challenge. There are best practices already available. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There’s a lot of great process and technology already available. Another side of the company has been our partnership that we forged with the RCMP here in Canada. We work together to produce a proactive filtering for child abuse imagery. We can find imagery that hasn’t been cut a lot yet, that hasn’t become a hash in Photo DNA.

    The implication for us, then, is it helps us fulfill our true vision. Our vision is to ensure that companies have the technologies and approaches to reach an internet where people are free to express themselves without abuse and harassment. It’s a key goal that we have. It seems like the idea of shared responsibility is getting stronger. It’s a shared responsibility within the industry. I’m all about industry collaboration, of course. I firmly believe in approaches like the Fair Play Alliance, where game companies get together and put aside any tone of competition because they’re thinking about facilitating awesome play interactions without harassment and hate speech. I believe in that shared responsibility within the industry.

    Even beyond shared responsibility is the collaboration between government and industry and players and academia. To your question about the implications for Two Hat and our business, it’s really this cultural change. It’s bigger than Two Hat alone. We happen to be in a central position because we have amazing clients and partners globally. We have a privileged position working with great people. But it’s bigger than us, bigger than one gaming community or platform.

    GamesBeat: Is there something in place industry-wide to handle the EARN IT Act? Something like the Fair Play Alliance? Or would it be some other body?

    Figueiredo: I know that there are already working groups globally. Governments have been taking initiatives. To give a couple of examples, I know that in the U.K., because of the team responsible for their upcoming online harms legislation, the government has led a lot of conversations and gotten industry together to discuss topics. There are active groups that gather every so often to talk about child protection. Those are more closed working groups right now, but the game industry is involved in the conversation.

    Another example is the e-safety team in Australia. Australia is the only country that has an e-safety commissioner. It’s a whole commission inside of the government that takes care of online safety. I had the privilege of speaking there last year at their e-safety conference. They’re pushing for a project called Safety By Design. They’ve consulted with gaming companies, social apps, and all sorts of companies globally to come up with a baseline of best practices. The minimum standards–we think Safety By Design would be this idea of having proactive filters, having good reporting systems in place, having all these practices as a baseline.

    The Fair Play Alliance, of course, is a great example in the game industry of companies working together on multiple topics. We’re interested in enabling positive player interactions and reducing, mitigating negative behavior, disruptive behavior. There are all sorts of disruptive behavior, and we have all sorts of members in the Fair Play Alliance. A lot of those members are games that cater to children. It’s a lot of people with lots of experience in this area who can share best practices related to child protection.

    Above: Carlos Figueiredo speaks at Rovio Con.

    GamesBeat: How much of this is a technology problem? How do you try to frame it for people in that context?

    Figueiredo: In terms of technology, if we’re talking about images–for a lot of gaming companies it could be images on their forums, for example, or perhaps they have image sharing even in the game, if they have avatar pictures or things like that. The challenge of images is critical, because the volume of child abuse imagery online is unbelievable.

    The biggest challenge is how to identify new images as they’re being created. There’s already Photo DNA from Microsoft, which creates those digital IDs, hashes for images that are known images of child abuse. Let’s say we have a game and we’re using Photo DNA. As soon as somebody starts to upload a known image as their avatar or to share in a forum, we’re able to identify that it’s a known hash. We can block the image and report to law enforcement. But the challenge is how to identify new images that haven’t been catalogued yet. You can imagine the burden on a gaming company. The team is exposed to this sort of material, so there’s the point of wellness and resilience for the team.

    That’s a technology problem, because to identify those images at scale is very difficult. You can’t rely on humans alone, because that’s not scalable. The well-being of humans is just shattered when you have to review those images day in and day out. That’s when you need technology like what Two Hat has with our product called Cease, which is machine learning for identifying new child abuse imagery. That’s the technology challenge.

    If we go on to live streaming, which is obviously huge in the game industry, it’s another problem in terms of technological limitations. It’s difficult to detect child abuse material on a live stream. There’s work being done already in this area. Two Hat has a partner that we’re working with to detect this type of content in videos and live streams. But this is on the cutting edge. It’s being developed right now. It’s difficult to tackle this problem. It’s one of the hardest problems when you put it side by side with audio detection of abuse.

    The third area I want to point out is grooming in text. This is challenging because it’s not about a behavior that you can simply capture in one day. It’s not like somebody harassing someone in a game. You can usually pinpoint that to one occasion, one game session, or a few occasions. Grooming happens over the course of weeks, or sometimes months. It’s the perpetrator building trust with a child, normalizing the adult-child relationship, offering gifts, understanding the psychology of a child. That’s a huge challenge technologically.

    There are great tools already available. We’ve referenced a couple here, including Project Artemis, which is a new avenue. Of course you have Community Sift, our product from Two Hat. There are folks doing awesome work in this area. Thorn and Microsoft and Roblox have worked on this. There are new, exciting initiatives on the cutting edge. But there’s a lot of challenge. From our experience working with global clients–we’re processing more than a billion pieces of content every day here at Two Hat, and a lot of our clients are in the game industry. The challenge of scale and complexity of behavior is always pushing our technology.

    We believe that it can’t be technology alone, though. It has to be a combination of the right tools for the right problems and human moderators who are well-trained, who have considerations for their wellness and resilience in place, and who know how to do purposeful moderation and have good community guidelines to follow.

    Above: Two Hat’s content moderation symposium

    GamesBeat: Is anybody asking you about the EARN IT Act? What sort of conversations are you having with clients in the game industry?

    Figueiredo: We have lots of conversations related to this. We have conversations where clients are coming to us because they need to be COPPA compliant, to your previous point, and then they also need to be sure of a baseline level of safety for their users. It’s usually under-13 games. Those companies want to make sure they have grooming topics being filtered, as well as personally identifying information. They want to make sure that information isn’t being shared by children with other players. They need proactive filtering for images and text, primarily for live chat in games. That’s where we see the biggest need.

    Another case we see as well, we have clients who have largely successful gaming platforms. They have very large audiences, in the millions of players. They want to make a transition, for example, to a COPPA-compliant scenario. They want to do age gating, maybe. They want to address the fact that they have young users. The reality is that we know there are games out there that don’t deliberately face players who are under 13, but children will try to play everything they can get their hands on. We also seem to be coming to a time, and I’ve had many conversations about this in the last year, where companies are more aware that they have to do something about age gating. They need to define the age of their users and design products that cater to a young audience.

    That design needs to have a consideration for the privacy and safety of younger users. There are brilliant companies out there that do segmentation of their audiences. They’re able to understand that a user is under 13, and they’re talking to a user who is over 13. They’re able to apply different settings based on the situation so they can still comply with COPPA. The under-13 user isn’t able to share certain types of information. Their information is protected.

    I have a lot of those conversations on a daily basis, consulting with gaming companies, both as part of Two Hat and within the Fair Play Alliance. From the Two Hat perspective, I do community audits. This involves all sorts of clients — social platforms, travel apps, gaming companies. One thing I believe, and I don’t think we talk about this enough in the game industry, is that we’ve gotten a lot of scrutiny as game companies about negative behavior in our platforms, but we’ve pioneered a lot in online safety as well.

    If you go back to Club Penguin in 2008, there were MMOs at the time of course, lots of MMOs, all the way back to Ultima Online in the late ‘90s. Those companies were already doing some levels of proactive filtering and moderation before social media was what it is nowadays, before we had these giant companies. That’s one element that I try to bring forward in my community audits. I see that game companies usually have a baseline of safety practices. We have a lot of examples of game companies leading the way when it comes to online safety, player behavior, and player dynamics. You recently had an interview with Riot Games around the whole discipline of player dynamics. They’re coining a whole new terminology and area of design. They’ve put so much investment into it.

    I firmly believe that game companies have something to share with other types of online communities. A lot of us have done this well. I’m very proud of that. I always talk about it. But on the flip side, I have to say that some people, they come to me asking for a community audit, and when I do that audit, we’re still far away from some best practices. There are games out there that, when you’re playing, if you’re going to report another player, you have to take a screenshot and send an email. It’s a lot of friction for the player. Are you really going to go to the trouble? How many players are actually going to do that? And after you do that, what happens? Do you receive an email acknowledging that action was taken, that what you did was helpful. What closes the loop? Not a lot of game companies are doing this.

    We’re pushing forward as an industry and trying to get folks aligned, but even just having a solid reporting system in your game, so you can select a reason–I’m reporting this player for hate speech, or for unsolicited sexual advances. Really specific reasons. One would hope that we’d have solid community guidelines at this point as well. That’s another thing I talk about in my consultations. I’ve consulted with gaming companies on community guidelines, on how to align the company around a set of string community guidelines. Not only pinpointing the behaviors you want to discourage, but also the behaviors you want to promote.

    Xbox has done this. Microsoft has done very well. I can think of many other companies who have amazing community guidelines. Twitch, Mixer, Roblox. Also, in the more kid-oriented spaces, games like Animal Jam. They do a good job with their community guidelines. Those companies are already very mature. They’ve been doing online safety for many years, to my previous points. They have dedicated teams. Usually they have tools and human teams that are fantastic. They have the trust and safety discipline in house, which is also important.

    Clients come to us sometimes with no best practices. They’re about to launch a game and they’re unfortunately at that stage where they need to do something about it now. And then of course we help them. That’s very important to us. But it’s awesome to see when companies come to us because they’re already doing things, but they want to do better. They want to use better tools. They want to be more proactive. That’s also a case where, to your original question, clients come to us and they want to make sure they’re deploying all the best practices when it comes to protecting an under-13 community.

    Above: Melonie Mac is using Facebook’s creator tools to manage followers.

    GamesBeat: Is there any hope people have that the law could change again? Or do you think that’s not realistic?

    Figueiredo: It’s just a hunch on my part, but looking at the global landscape right now, looking into COPPA 2.0, looking at the EARN IT Act of course, I think it’s going to be pushed fairly quickly by the normal standards of legislation. Just because of how big the problem is in society. I think it’s going to move fast.

    However, here’s my bit of hope. I hope that the industry, the game industry, can collaborate. We can work together to push best practices. Then we’re being proactive. Then we’re coming to government and saying, “We hear you. We understand this is important. Here’s the industry perspective. We’ve been doing this for years. We care about the safety of our players. We have the approaches, the tools, the best practices, the discipline of doing this for a long time. We want to be part of the conversation.” The game industry needs to be part of the conversation in a proactive way, showing that we’re invested in this, that we’re walking the walk. Then we have better hope of positively influencing legislation.

    Of course we want to, again, in the model of shared responsibility–I know the government has interests there. I love the fact that they’re involving industry. With the EARN IT Act, they’re going to have–the bill would create a 90-member commission. The commission would include law enforcement, the tech industry, and child advocates. It’s important that we have the industry representation. The fact that Roblox was in the conversation there with the international initiative that’s looking toward a voluntary approach, to me that’s brilliant. They’re clearly leading the way.

    I think the game industry will do well by being part of that conversation. It’s probably going to become legislation one way or the other. That’s the reality. When it comes to creating better legislation to protect children, Two Hat is fully supportive of that. We support initiatives that will better protect children. But we also want to take the perspective of the industry. We’re part of the industry. Our clients and partners are in the industry. We want to make sure that legislation accounts for what’s technically possible in practical applications of the legislation, so we can protect children online and also protect the business, ensuring the business can continue to run while having a baseline of safety by design.

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