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News

New Boneworks Update Will Add New Maps And Weapons

A new Boneworks update is right around the corner, and it’s packing some new maps and toys to play with.

Update 1.4 will arrive on April 9th. Stress Level Zero’s Brandon J Laatsch confirmed as much in a tweet earlier this week. This update will bring with it three new maps for the game’s wave-based combat modes, including a ‘redacted Chamber’, ‘handgunBox’ and ‘Tuscany’. Tuscany was a map originally made available via the Oculus Store version of the game that launched last month, based an old VR demo.

As for the other maps? We’re not trying to work out what they are based on those names, but someone smarter than us probably will.

Elsewhere this new Boneworks update brings in the P350 handgun and includes a ‘hand physics refinement pass’. Hopefully that means we’ll see smoother interactions in a game that was already pretty sturdy in that department.

Replying to another tweet, Laatsch spoke a little to the developer’s current situation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Core engineering is moving better than ever because it needs long focus,” he said, “but shipping is way harder so far because of all of the tiny details.”

This is Boneworks’ first big update since the launch of Half-Life: Alyx last week. If you bought a headset for Valve’s big return and have seen it through to the end then we definitely recommend this shooter for your next VR outing. It might not boast the high-end production values and its campaign isn’t as meticulously designed, but its physics system is incredibly robust and needs to be seen.

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Mobile

Pokemon Go Will Let You Do Raids From Home Soon

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forcing many parts of the country into lockdown, Pokemon Go developer Niantic has been tweaking the hit AR mobile game to make it easier to play while social distancing. As part of the changes, the studio has recently begun offering 1 PokeCoin bundles in the in-game store and removed the walking requirement to take part in the Go Battle League, and it will soon let players participate in Raids from afar as well.

In a new blog post, Niantic outlined some further changes it will make to Pokemon Go. One of the most notable is that you won’t need to leave your home in order to join Raids. “You’ll soon be able to team up with friends and take on Raid Battles together in Pokemon Go from the comfort of home,” the developer wrote.

This is certainly a welcome change, as players previously needed to physically travel to a Gym where a Raid was taking place in order to join the battle. Raids are one of the few ways you can catch rare Legendary Pokemon, which are typically only available for a limited time, and this adjustment will ensure that everyone will have a chance to capture these monsters while they’re in the game.

That’s not the only change Niantic is making. The developer says it is also “working on an entirely new way to enjoy Pokemon Go Fest” this year, and it will also adjust the Adventure Sync feature so that it tracks your steps while performing indoor tasks “like cleaning your house and running on a treadmill.”

Beyond that, Niantic is also working on a handy new feature for Pokemon Go called Today View. This tab will display ongoing and upcoming in-game events, as well as personal stats, such as your daily streaks and what Pokemon you currently have defending Gyms, making it easier to keep track of what’s currently happening in the game.

A new Legendary Pokemon is also set to debut very soon. Landorus, the final member of the Forces of Nature trio, will be appearing in Raids from March 31 to April 21. The Mythical Pokemon Genesect is also set to debut in EX Raids in April, following its appearance as part of the recent Drive to Investigate Special Research story event.

Pokemon Go News

  • Pokemon Go Adding Mythical Pokemon Genesect This Week As A Paid Event
  • Pokemon Go's Legendary Raid Weekend Events Are Being Extended
  • Pokemon Go Thundurus: Best Counters, Weaknesses, Go Battle League Reward, And Battling Tips
  • Pokemon Go March 2020 Field Research Tasks

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PS4

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Will Have Endgame Content

As fans eagerly await the release of Final Fantasy VII Remake on April 10, Square Enix has unveiled an interview with the developers of the game that clarifies some details, including more on the size of the game–and it sounds like it’ll be huge.

Co-director Naoki Hamaguchi said that the upcoming remake has been “designed as if it were a standalone game, and comparable in size to other mainline Final Fantasy games.” Since the remake only covers Midgar, which is the first five to eight hours of the original Final Fantasy VII, this represents a significant expansion of content.

According to producer Yoshinori Kitase, much of these new sections come as part of an attempt to expand Midgar beyond its original scope. Since the original game had to imply the connective tissue of the different neighborhoods of the city due to technological limitations, the team endeavored to “fill all the gaps” to make it a more continuous experience.

The interview also confirms the existence of endgame content, and covers the controversial exclusion of the wolf-like beast Red XIII as a playable character. Though he will be playable in a guest capacity, he will not have full character progression. However, he may be more fully-realized in future entries.

It’s not immediately clear if Square Enix means that this remake will be similar in length to other mainline Final Fantasy games. For comparison, Final Fantasy XIII takes roughly 50-hours to main-line, whereas FFXV is only around 30.

In other news, Square Enix believes it is “increasingly likely” that the coronavirus will affect distribution for physical copies of Final Fantasy VII, though it is committed to meeting the current release date. No delay yet, but digital might be your best bet if you want to be safe.

Final Fantasy VII Remake News

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake Preview — First 3 Hours, Aerith and Tifa Combat, And More
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Is Out Now
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Release Date, Gameplay, Trailers, Differences, And What We Know So Far

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Reviews

Halo: Infinite Will FAIL Without A Battle Royale Mode

Although many questions remain about the next installment in the Halo saga, fans can be sure of one thing. If Halo: Infinite launches without a battle royale mode, the game will be dead on arrival.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the release of the next Halo game, and have shown a thirst for any information that 343 Industries is willing to offer. Not much information has been given, but fans of the series do know some things:

  • The expected release should be sometime around the holiday season in 2020.
  • It will be available on both the Xbox One and the new Xbox Series X, also launching around the same time.
  • The game will be included with Xbox Game Pass.
  • A brand new Slipspace Engine will be put into effect.

All that fans have had to go on thus far is an announcement trailer at E3 2018, and a “Discover Hope” cinematic trailer at E3 2019.


These trailers are jaw-dropping and have only amplified the hype around this game. There is one important aspect, however, that is getting overlooked.

Fans are used to what Halo has offered in the past: a captivating and immersive campaign, a high-powered and engaging multiplayer experience, and forge and custom games to give to game longevity. But one question remains: will Halo: Infinite feature a battle royale mode?

Why Battle Royale?

Battle royales have taken the world by storm, completely transforming the face of gaming on Twitch and YouTube. Starting with H1Z1, then evolving through PlayerUnknown’s BattlegroundsFortniteApex Legends, and now Call of Duty: Warzone, the battle royale genre has changed the future of first-person shooter (FPS) games forever.

The launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare saw great success early on, topping $600 million in sales during the first three days alone. This marked the most successful launch weekend in Call of Duty history. As shown on the green line on the chart below, viewership on Twitch quickly fell off, however. As early as December, only two months after the game’s launch, viewership was down well over 50 percent to under 50,000 average viewers per day. This has only continued to decrease over time.

The bright side to this is the giant spike in viewership since March 10, 2020. That day marked the release of Call of Duty: Warzone, Modern Warfare’s brand new, 150 person, battle royale. In just 10 days, this game has reached over 30 million players, marking an extremely successful launch. Activision’s marketing has been nothing short of genius, recognizing that at around this point in a Call of Duty game’s lifecycle, even die-hard players begin to turn away from the franchise and search for different games to occupy their free time. Launching Warzone strategically at this point, along with cultivating partnerships with famous streamers and content creators such as Dr Disrespect, has lead to the successful revival of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

It’s important for Halo: Infinite game developers to understand this lesson. In order for Halo: Infinite to be equally successful for longer than just a few short months, 343 Industries needs to fully understand the direction the FPS genre is going. The studio then needs to apply what it knows to the game.

Halo is known for its immersive campaigns and addicting multiplayer, and frankly, it always will be. 343 does not need to reinvent the wheel with an entirely new battle royale experience that changes everything. The development team does, however, need to cater to the FPS community’s desires and offer a battle royale to its player base. This would not come without some downsides, of course, like less time and money spent making and updating the multiplayer and campaign. But the upside is absolutely limitless.

Esports observer Moses_FPS took to Twitter to state his opinion on the matter.

The Limitless Potential of the Battle Royale Format

Battle royales offer unmatched replayability for the FPS genre, as often times games in this category quickly become dull, repetitive, and lack quality competition. Every single drop, every single gunfight and every single epic victory is entirely different, giving the player an endorphin rush that a simple team-slayer win will never replicate.

Halo has such a storied history with so many brilliant storylines and characters that fans have come to know and love. Whether this hypothetical mode is free-to-play is subject to 343 and Microsoft, but there are countless monetization options by solely relying on the franchise’s history and passionate fan base. It would be a win-win for both fans of the series and for the developers that are trying to appease shareholders.

343 Will Need To Give Players What They Want

Fortnite was released in 2017, yet is still consistently one of the most-watched games on Twitch and YouTube. PUBG smashed record after record during its successful run before eventually succumbing to the success of other battle royales. FPS fans absolutely love this game mode and will continue to demand it for years to come. The success of PUBG, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and now Call of Duty: Warzone has shown that appreciation for the battle royale genre is not just growing, but is growing exponentially. The passionate fanbase of the Halo franchise should be demanding this from 343 Industries. One can only hope that this developer, like many others, obliges. If Halo: Infinite does not want to become another failed shooter, tossed quickly into the discount bin at Walmart, it must include a battle royale.

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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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News

Epic Games will publish new titles from the makers of The Last Guardian, Limbo, and Control

Epic Games will publish new titles from three well-known and respected game studios: Gen Design (maker of The Last Guardian), Playdead (Inside, Limbo), and Remedy Entertainment (Control). The projects will be released under Epic Games Publishing, a new multiplatform publishing effort with a developer-first approach.

The North Carolina-based Epic Games is on an expansion path, thanks to the riches from its Fortnite franchise, and now it is working with outside game studios to bring new games to the market. This move will help it diversify beyond Fortnite and the Unreal Engine, and it will also help populate the Epic Games Store with new titles.

And Epic said its approach to publishing fundamentally changes the developer/publisher model, and aims to have the most developer-friendly terms in the industry, so that creators can focus on making great games.

Full creative freedom and ownership

Above: Remedy’s Control was one of the top games of 2019.

Developers retain 100% of all intellectual property and full creative control of their work. Epic Games Publishing will cover up to 100% of development costs, from developer salaries to go-to-market expenses such as quality assurance, localization, marketing, and all publishing costs.

It will have 50-50 profit sharing. Epic said developers will earn a fair share for their work. Once costs are recouped, developers earn at least 50% of all profits.

“We’re building the publishing model we always wanted for ourselves when we worked with publishers,” said Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic Games, in a statement.

“Gen DESIGN, Remedy, and Playdead are among the most innovative and talented studios in the industry, with strong visions for their next games,” said Hector Sanchez, head of Epic Games Publishing, in a statement. “They will have full creative control, while Epic will provide a solid foundation of project funding and services.”

Additional information, development partners, and games will be announced in the coming months.

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Mobile

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Will Not Be Delayed, But You Might Want To Buy Digital

Update: Square Enix has shared a quick update on the state of Final Fantasy VII Remake’s release. According to the statement below, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is “increasingly likely to affect the distribution and retail landscape in Europe, Australia, and the Americas.” In a similar situation, Amazon said shipments for Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal could be delayed because of the pandemic. As it stands, though, Square Enix remains committed to meeting FFVII Remake’s April 10 PS4 launch–if you want to grab it digitally, you’re set.

Original story follows below…

Square Enix, after assessing the global impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, is still moving forward with Final Fantasy VII Remake’s April 10 release date on PlayStation 4. However, the company has stated that the virus’s spread may cause the game’s distribution to get caught up, causing issues for those seeking physical copies of the game on day one.

According to a statement from FFVII Remake’s official Twitter, “the unforeseeable changes in the distribution and retail landscape” has increased the likelihood that fans may not get their physical copies of the game on April 10.

This comes amid a similar scenario to the releases of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Doom Eternal, in which retail chain GameStop has cancelled the midnight launches of these two games in response to growing concerns over the coronavirus. Both titles launched Friday, March 20.

“Due to the extraordinary circumstances the world is facing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to update you on how this will impact the forthcoming release of Final Fantasy VII Remake,” the statement reads. “Our priority is the wellbeing and safety of our fans and customers, taking into account regional government and World Health Organization advice.

“The worldwide release of Final Fantasy VII Remake on April 10 will go ahead. However, with the unforeseeable changes in the distribution and retail landscape which varies across countries, it is increasingly likely that some of you will not get hold of your copy of the game on the release date.

“We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and working with our partners, retailers, and Square Enix teams across Europe and the Americas, to do everything we can to ensure as many of you as possible can play the game on April 10.”

Square Enix recently shared a ton of new FFVII Remake screenshots that show off some brand-new characters and locations, Cloud in a dress during the controversial (and now extremely high-res) cross-dressing mission, and more. We’ve also learned that Red XIII won’t be playable in this upcoming release.

Final Fantasy VII Remake News

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake Preview — First 3 Hours, Aerith and Tifa Combat, And More
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake Demo Is Out Now
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Release Date, Gameplay, Trailers, Differences, And What We Know So Far

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News

PlayStation 5 Will Play "Almost All" Of The Top 100 PlayStation 4 Games At Launch [Update]

Update: In a recent clarification on the original PlayStation Blog post, Sony noted that the number of PS4 games expected to be supported through backward compatibility is much higher than PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny’s initial comments made it appear.

“We believe that the overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5,” the post says. “We’re expecting backward compatible titles will run at a boosted frequency on PS5 so that they can benefit from higher or more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions. We’re currently evaluating games on a title-by-title basis to spot any issues that need adjustment from the original software developers.” 

Sony also notes that further updates on backward compatibility will be coming in the months ahead, along with more details about the PS5. 

Original Story (posted 3/18/20, 12:05pm): During today’s “Road to PS5” presentation, PS5 lead system architect Mark Cerny ran through a lot of technical details regarding Sony’s upcoming hardware. Though the event seemed geared more towards developers than consumers, it did clarify some information about one of the topics gamers are passionate about: backwards compatibility.

Cerny revealed that PS4 (and PS4 Pro) backwards compatibility is a native part of the PS5 chipset, and that it isn’t a scenario like the PlayStation 3’s backwards compatibility, which essentially just included a copy of the PS2 in every console until the feature was removed in later iterations. 

“Once backwards compatibility is in the console, it’s in,” Cerny says. “It’s not as if a cost-down will remove backwards compatibility like it did on PlayStation 3.”

However, that doesn’t mean that every PS4 game will automatically work perfectly out of the gate. Cerny says that running PS4 titles at boosted frequencies can cause complications in certain games. “The boost is truly massive this time around, and some game code just can’t handle it,” he says. “Testing has to be done on a title-by-title basis.”

So what PS4 games can you play on your PS5? Cerny says that “almost all” of the top 100 PS4 games (as ranked by play time) will be available at launch. Presumably, tests on individual games will continue beyond that to continue broadening the library.

By contrast, the Xbox Series X has an even more inclusive approach. Last month, head of Xbox Phil Spencer explained that all existing Xbox One games – including Xbox 360 games that are already backwards compatible on Xbox One – will work on the Xbox Series X.

All of these recent PS5 backwards compatibility details pertain specifically to PS4 Pro and PS4 titles; Cerny did not mention anything about whether PlayStation games from earlier generations will also work on PlayStation 5. 

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eSports

Guilty Gear Strive will finally implement rollback netcode

Arc System Works answered some FGC fans’ prayers by confirming that Guilty Gear Strive will finally adopt rollback netcode to improve online play.

This news comes paired with the announcement of ASW providing a closed beta test for the game due to all of the fighting game tournaments being canceled. 

Rollback netcode is a technique that simulates frame inputs without delay rather than waiting for the input to be received from the other signal. This significantly cuts down on latency between players and provides a smoother experience than a delay-based netcode system. 

For the longest time, most fighting games used delay-based netcode and hurt its online player base because matches could end up unplayable due to high latency. Opponents would skip frames, making it impossible to react or make strategic moves, turning each game into a button-mashing expo. 

Strive will hopefully be the first of many ASW games to adopt the rollback netcode, especially since GGPO (Good Game Peace Out), the original, popularized the version of rollback netcode.

“We are also pleased to announce that the release version of Guilty Gear -Strive- will use rollback netcode for online play,” ASW said. “Please note that our rollback implementation is still being developed so the upcoming closed beta will be using a delay-based implementation.”

The beta test, which is scheduled to run from April 16 to 19 will use delay-based netcode as the rollback system is still in the works and will be fully implemented in the final version of the game. 

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News

PS5 will load games in just one second as Sony reveals full tech specs

Sony still hasn’t revealed what the PlayStation 5 looks like but they have talked a lot about its tech specs and the magic of its SSD.

To be fair to Sony they already said that this week’s PlayStation 5 livestream would be a deep dive into the tech side of things, but we don’t think anyone was prepared for anything quite as dry as the ‘Road to PS5’ presentation below.

Although it wasn’t made clear beforehand it was basically Sony’s previously planned GDC (Game Developers Conference) presentation, which had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

That means it was originally intended only for developers and so there was no look at any games or the console itself. Nor was there any hint at a price or release date, just a lot of very detailed descriptions of how the PlayStation 5’s innards work.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ph8LyNIT9sg%3Fversion%3D3%26rel%3D1%26fs%3D1%26autohide%3D2%26showsearch%3D0%26showinfo%3D1%26iv_load_policy%3D1%26wmode%3Dtransparent

To judge by the comments, it seems most viewers were bored to tears within the first few minutes, if they weren’t creeped out by the obviously fake CGI audience.

But there was a lot of important stuff revealed, with the impossibly soft spoken Mark Cerny (he really should start a side career in ASMR videos) implying that the SSD is going to be the console’s biggest game-changer, allowing games to load in just one second and putting an end to update patch installs.

That’s all very good (really, it’s a great thing) but it’s not a very interesting thing to hear about, especially without any visual examples. Not only that, but the Xbox Series X also has an SSD, although Sony are implying theirs will be faster.

To save you the bother of searching through it there wasn’t a single screenshot or video of anything specifically to do with the PlayStation 5. The closest you got was a 2D map of Jak 2 and a screenshot of Dead Space, which Cerny described as ‘old school’.

PS5 tech specs

CPU: 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.5GHz (variable frequency)
GPU: 10.28 TFLOPs, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz (variable frequency)
GPU Architecture: Custom RDNA 2
Memory/Interface: 16GB GDDR6/256-bit
Memory Bandwidth: 448GB/s
Internal Storage: Custom 825GB SSD
IO Throughput: 5.5GB/s (raw), typical 8-9GB/s (compressed)
Expandable Storage: NVMe SSD slot
External Storage: USB HDD support
Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive

What you did get though, was a promise that the top 100 PlayStation 4 games should be backwards compatible from launch, which will please many.

It also seems that new audio technology Tempest 3D AudioTech is perhaps the secret feature of the PlayStation 5 that was being hinted about previously.

Again, it’ll undoubtedly be a major positive but it’s a difficult thing to get excited about without any kind of demonstration or example.

People that like arguing over numbers over the Internet will no doubt find more of interest in the tech specs below, although others will probably be more relieved at the promise that the PlayStation 5 will be quieter than the PlayStation 4.

It’s good that Sony are finally talking about the PlayStation 5 in public, but ironically this particular presentation is probably one they should’ve kept just for developers.

As it stands, we still don’t know anything new about the PlayStation 5’s games or controller, and still have no idea when we’ll find out either.

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