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  1. @SchlampeSwanzen Like gave. I apply. proof send too.
  2. The Re:Create Coalition has sent a letter to the new US Congress, warning lawmakers that heavy-handed copyright policies can do more harm than good. The group wants to keep current DMCA safe harbors in place but encourages penalties for abusive and fraudulent takedown notices. In addition, copyright law should be amended to prevent Internet disconnections based on one-sided piracy accusations. Changes in power often present opportunities, including in the US where a new President and Congress were recently sworn in. Last week, we reported how a pro-copyright coalition took this opportunity to ask President Biden for help in their battle against online piracy. The copyright holders were particularly critical of big tech companies such as Google and Facebook, accusing them of hiding behind the DMCA’s safe harbor. That should stop, they argued, calling for stricter copyright policies. Re:Create Wants a Balanced Copyright Law Not everyone agrees with this stance. In fact, the Re:Create Coalition, which includes members such as the Consumer Technology Association, the American Library Association, the CCIA, and EFF, is in favor of more ‘balanced’ copyright policies. The coalition sent a letter to the 117th Congress last week, warning that copyright laws and regulations have a downside too. When they go too far, it can harm creativity and stifle free speech. “Attempts to increase the protections provided by U.S. copyright law may serve an important purpose, but in doing so we must remain mindful that a heavy-handed approach will only stifle free speech, creativity and the economy writ large,” Re:Create writes. “The U.S. government should seek the appropriate balance in copyright law to unlock the full potential of all people’s innovative and creative spirit,” the group adds. Unlike many copyright industry groups, Re:Create believes that the DMCA is already balanced and working properly. The notice-and-takedown system is seen as an international standard that protects online services while allowing copyright holders to protect their content. Protecting the Public by Punishing Abuse However, the coalition sees some developments of concern. For example, companies such as YouTube allow rightsholders to de-monetize or block content that could be fair use. This stifles free speech. To prevent these types of ‘abuse’ it should be easier to contest these takedown requests. In addition, there should be penalties for people and companies that abuse the takedown process. “We recommend that the DMCA’s notice and takedown regime largely be left alone, although there is a need to strengthen the penalties for abusive and fraudulent notices, and to make it easier to file counter-notices on non-infringing content,” Re:Create writes. The letter also highlights another DMCA-related concern. In recent years several Internet providers have been sued because they failed to terminate “repeat infringers.” As a result, ISPs have implemented stricter termination policies. Disconnecting Internet Users Isn’t Right This is a problem, Re:Create warns, as Internet access is a fundamental part of people’s lives. Cutting Internet access to entire households simply based on copyright infringement accusations goes too far. “Internet access is a necessity in today’s society – being cut off from the internet could mean losing a job or not being able to participate in school fully,” Re:Create writes. “Just because one household member has had multiple allegations of copyright infringement against them, the whole household should not lose internet access. Copyright law should be amended to ensure that no one loses access to the internet based on allegations of copyright infringement.” The letter highlights several other issues that Congress may want to reconsider as well. These include broadening DMCA exceptions that allow people to break DRM. In addition, Re:Create warns that the newly adopted Small Claims Act should become ‘opt-in’, instead of ‘opt-out’. Progress Without Restrictions All in all, the letter reminds Congress that copyright law isn’t about restrictions. It was originally implemented to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” This means that fewer restrictions can actually prove beneficial. “Copyright law, by its very nature, needs to focus on how to best allow this progress to occur. Restrictive rules that strengthen gatekeepers to the creative world and prevent new and different types of creativity go against this Constitutional purpose,” the coalition writes. — A copy of the letter Re:Create sent to the 117th US Congress is available here (pdf)
  3. Nearly three decades ago, the Software and Information Industry Association released its infamous "Don't Copy That Floppy" PSA to educate kids on the harms of online piracy. Today, software piracy remains a problem and the industry group is still calling on the public for help. However, they're now offering a potential $1 million reward. In the early nineties, software companies already realized that piracy posed a major threat to their business. Computers became more popular and millions of people broke the law by copying floppies, without the permission of copyright holders. Don’t Copy That Floppy This illicit activity was a thorn in the side of the Software Publishers Association. In an attempt to educate the masses, it released the “Don’t Copy That Floppy” anti-piracy campaign that’s still known to this day. The iconic video features ME Hart, starring as “MC Double Def DP,” and two teenagers who are about to tread on the piracy path. For a variety of reasons, the video struck a nerve with an entire generation. Today, almost thirty years later, people still refer to the campaign. The PSA has its own Wikipedia entry and became a meme by itself. It has generated millions of views on YouTube and the number is still rising. It’s safe to say that lot has changed since “Don’t Copy That Floppy” first came out. The software industry has long abandoned floppies and nowadays most piracy takes place on the Internet. However, unauthorized copying remains a problem. Current Anti-Piracy Focus Despite the ‘success’ of their anti-piracy campaign three decades ago, we haven’t heard much from the Software Publishers Association recently. The industry group, currently known as the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), hasn’t taken any pirates or pirate services to court, as far as we know. However, this doesn’t mean that SIIA is no longer concerned with copyright infringements. Instead of fighting casual users or pirate sites, it now focuses on corporate copyright infringement. This week we stumbled upon the group’s rather generous “rewards” program. While this has been in place for a while, it is worth highlighting. Report Piracy The industry group has a special section on its website that’s dedicated to reporting piracy. According to SIIA, unauthorized copying results in an estimated $8 billion in lost sales. To address this issue, they ask the public for help. “Piracy is stealing. We need your help to combat this crime. If you see something, say something. Report issues of piracy here. SIIA advocates for the industry and protects intellectual property from theft,” SIIA writes. https://torrentfreak.com/images/siia-piracy-report.jpgWhile not everyone likes the idea of ‘snitching’ on pirates, SIIA has an offer that many will find hard to refuse. $1 Million Reward “By reporting software piracy to SIIA you could earn up to $1,000,000,” they promise. At the same time, they offer strict confidentiality to whistleblowers. Needless to say, this approach is quite different from the “Don’t Copy That Floppy” campaign. While rewards for reporting piracy are not new, $1,000,000 is a substantial sum of money that pales in comparison to the few hundred dollars or pounds theater employees can get. That being said, when we look at SIIA’s fine print it becomes clear that one has to get very lucky to hit this jackpot. For one, the reward only applies to situations where corporations use pirated software. If someone reports an issue at his or her employer, SIIA may choose to follow this up, which could ultimately lead to a settlement. The scale of this settlement will determine the award. “If all the eligibility requirements are met and the settlement amount paid to SIIA is at least $10,000, the source will be considered for a reward of $500. SIIA may increase the reward to as much as $1,000,000 depending on the amount of piracy reported by the source and the settlement amount collected by SIIA.” In other words, $500 is much more likely than $1,000,000, according to the terms and conditions. More Caveats There are several other caveats as well. For example, the rewards only apply to cases where SIIA reaches a settlement outside of court. If it goes to court, SIIA may still choose to “reimburse” the whistleblower for his or her time, but that’s not guaranteed. In fact, even when all requirements are met, SIIA may still choose not to pay anything. “The decision whether to pay a reward and the amount of that award shall be within SIIA’s sole discretion. SIIA reserves its right to deny the payment of a reward or to revoke the source reward program at any time and without notice and for any reason,” the terms read. We reached out to SIIA to find out more about this program and how often the organization pays out rewards but after a few days we still haven’t heard back. These settlements don’t reach the news very often but they are relatively common. Over the years there have been various reports of successes and several years ago, the group settled nearly a dozen cases on one month, recouping $1 million in lost revenue. In the midst of all this serious business, SIIA didn’t completely ignore its roots. In 2009, it released a sequel to the “Don’t Copy That Floppy” campaign, titled: “Don’t Copy That 2.” Perhaps we’ll see the third installment of the PSA in the years to come?
  4. Russia-based RuTracker is not only one of the oldest torrent sites online but also one of the most popular. The site is heavily blocked in its home territory, something which contributes to a fall in seeder counts. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign, RuTracker is set to address this problem by adding 800 terabytes of storage on top of almost 2,500 terabytes already dedicated to old and rare content. Thousands of torrent sites have come and gone over the years but only a handful of large public sites have stood the test of time. The Pirate Bay is an obvious example but in Russia and surrounding countries, RuTracker is king. This massive torrent site and tracker has endured many storms but has still managed to stay afloat for more than 16 years. Like all torrent sites, to a great extent, RuTracker relies on its users to seed and share content, whether that’s movies and TV shows or games, music or eBooks. As long as these human parts of the ecosystem play their crucial role in distribution, content should in theory remain available forever. In reality, though, it rarely works that way for long periods of time. To the detriment of the sites they frequent and other file-sharers, only a small number of BitTorrent users share significantly more data than they take. Fewer still seed for prolonged periods of time. This means that torrents with initially large seed and leech counts can diminish quickly and when the number of seeders on a torrent reaches zero, people hoping to obtain that content have their options severely restricted. To mitigate this type of problem, a group on RuTracker known as ‘The Guardians / The Keepers’ have been storing huge volumes of content and seeding it to the masses, with a reported focus on older and rare content. In a community post late December, a RuTracker admin revealed that the group had been doing its work for more than 10 years, helping to distribute 1.52 million poorly-seeded torrents referencing around 2,470TB of data, to the tune of 100 to 150TB of transfers per day. Given that court-ordered blocking is preventing the free flow of regular users into the site to replace those that inevitably leave, RuTracker said that extreme pressure is being placed on The Guardians’ resources, particularly in respect of sheer lack of hard drive space. So, in an effort to boost their output, the site launched a crowdfunding campaign hoping to buy enough new hard drives to store and seed an additional 600 and 800TB of old and rare content. “First of all, these are distributions that are in low demand by the general public due to their age, narrow focus or volume, but are still of historical and practical value,” the admin explained. “Specialized software, old versions of software, images of games for now redundant consoles, alternative distributions of media files, etc. If you watch movies, listen to music, download games or software that were released more than a year ago, then each of you may be faced with a situation where there is no way to download the desired distribution due to the lack of distributors. This fundraiser is intended to minimize such incidents.” After being launched early January, the crowdfunding campaign has now reached its target. According to a report from Meduza, two million rubles (around US$26,870) was raised in just a few weeks, meaning that The Guardians will now get the hard drives they need to ensure that older, rare and historically significant torrents are kept alive. While the site and its users will be no doubt pleased that their target has been reached quite quickly, it still took weeks to raise a fairly modest amount, something which reflects the general nature of the BitTorrent ecosystem when sharing quotas aren’t enforced. According to SimilarWeb stats, RuTracker.org receives around 40 million visits per month, yet only a relatively small number of visitors in January contributed to the fundraiser. In the same way, millions of people regularly jump on torrents offered by dozens of trackers, yet only a tiny proportion go the extra mile to make sure content remains available. BitTorrent is an extremely powerful protocol but without high-levels of human altruism, interventions like this will always be required if niche content isn’t to fall by the wayside.
  5. For many researchers, a publication in a high-impact academic journal is the holy grail. However, this goal comes at a price. Authors often have to sign over their copyrights to major publishers, who put the research behind a paywall. This model is detrimental to science, according to Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan, who remains determined to break the stranglehold. A few years ago I reached out to an academic researcher, asking for a copy of a paper that was just published in a prominent journal. We regularly report on piracy-related research and many of these papers are hidden behind paywalls. Researchers are often willing to share a review copy, but not always. Giving Up Copyrights In this case, the author was very reluctant to share the article. While he would like to see the work covered by a news site, he feared repercussions from the publisher. Why? Because like most researchers, the author had to give up his copyrights in order to be published. To outsiders, this may sound bizarre. Why would the person who came up with the idea, did the research, and wrote up the results, have to give up the copyrights? Welcome to the world of academic publishing. While there may be some exceptions, the majority of the “high impact” academic journals are owned by for-profit publishers. These earn billions of dollars, in part by charging academic institutions for access. Yes, the same institutions that pay the researchers. Paywall Barriers To make matters worse, the paywalls prevent less fortunate academics from accessing the work of their colleagues. In some cases, researchers even find their own articles behind a paywall. These billion-dollar companies essentially have a stranglehold on science. While copyright is supposed to “promote the progress of science,” the major publishers restrict access to millions of people, mostly in developing countries. This system has led to a situation where academic researchers actively use ‘pirate’ sites to access research literature. For many academics, Sci-Hub has become the go-to site for unrestricted access to scientific papers. The Sci-Hub ‘Threat’ Needless to say, the publishers are not happy. Companies such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer Nature are taking countermeasures. US Courts have ordered Sci-Hub to pay millions of dollars in damages and publishers are actively trying to have the site blocked by ISPs. The most recent blocking attempt is currently taking place in India. Despite the mounting pressure, Elkabyan refuses to give up what she stands for and continues to push back. Sci-Hub Founder Highlights Publisher Problems In a recent interview with the Indian news site The Wire, Elbakyan neatly summarizes the “exploitive” business model of the publishers. “The careers of researchers depend on journal publications. To receive funding or secure positions at the university, a scientist must have publications in ‘high-impact’ academic journals,” she notes. In other words, the research only ‘counts’ if it’s published in high-profile journals, which are often controlled by large corporations. Putting exactly the same paper on a university site is pointless. The publishers essentially have a monopoly on science. A pretty healthy one as well, because all the hard work is done by people they don’t have to pay. Publishers are Organizers, Not Creators “Researchers do the actual work: they invent the hypothesis, do the experiments and write the articles describing the results of these experiments. Then they publish this article in an academic journal,” says Sci-Hub’s founder. “Publishers send articles they have received to other scientists for peer-review. Reviewers give their opinion on whether the work should be accepted in a journal or not, or if some additional work must be done. Based on these reviews, the article is published or rejected. “Both reviewers and scientists work for free. They do not earn any compensation from the academic publisher. Here, academic publishers work as organizers of the academic community, but not as creators. The work of the academic publisher is organizational and not creative.” Progress of Science That last comment hits the nail on the head. While there are probably many nuances, most people would agree that the researchers are the real creators here. They are the definition of the “progress of science.” Paywalls certainly aren’t. That brings us back to the author I requested a paper from a few years ago. After repeated requests, also to the publisher, I never managed to get a copy. The paywall worked, but does that help science?
  6. Doom Eternal has had an incredibly successful year since its release last March. According to a former employee of developer id Software, the first-person shooter game has already made more than $450 million in revenue. The Doom series has been popular since its original release back in 1993, so fans were eager to pick up the latest installment in 2020. The Doom franchise follows a space marine known as Doomguy as he fights demons and the undead. After a brief 4-year hiatus, a reboot of the original Doom was released in 2016. Doom Eternal is a sequel to this reboot, picking up some time after the previous game's events. In this installment, Doomguy sets out on a mission to stop Hell from destroying the Earth and stop a group of aliens from taking over humanity. The game first arrived on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia in March 2020, followed by a Nintendo Switch release that December. Doom Eternal is also slated to hit PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X at some point. The game received rave reviews from critics and its stunning sales numbers only prove how in-demand this sequel was. As PCGamesN reported, former id Software employee Dave Saunders, who worked at the studio during Doom Eternal's development and release, shared the game's revenue on his LinkedIn page. Saunders noted that Doom Eternal raked in $450 million in its first nine months. In other words, the game has earned nearly half a million dollars in less than a year. The numbers are crazy, but not too surprising given Doom Eternal's record-breaking statistics from the start. More than 3 million copies of Doom Eternal sold within a week, which is three times higher than Doom 2016's launch month sales. The sequel also broke its predecessor's Steam record with an average of over 100,000 concurrent players. Doom Eternal has shown no signs of slowing down its success rate, and fans are already looking forward to the franchise's future. While there's nothing officially in store for the future of the Doom franchise, the game's creative team has already considered some directions that the games could take. Doom Eternal's creative director, Hugo Martin, revealed recently that the team thought of adding in a female Doom Slayer. If this is something to be done in the future, Martin noted that the Doomgirl would have to be her own character, not just a female version of Doomguy. She would need her own slaying style and her own experiences. Fans can only hope that id may one day follow up on Doom Eternal with a bada** Doomgirl.
  7. People Can Fly’s Outriders demo has already broken the top ten selling games chart on Steam after only a few days. The demo’s release has driven pre-orders on the cooperative action RPG numbers through the roof. Outriders is the latest installment in the looter-shooter genre to be added to Steam. Created by Bulletstorm developers People Can Fly and published by Square Enix, Outriders is a sci-fi action-adventure RPG where players can team up in squads to take down enemies in the pursuit of more loot across multiple platforms. Hype began when the first trailer was revealed in February 2020 and Xbox also released a new trailer ahead of the demo's launch on February 25. Following the release of the free demo on Steam, Outriders pre-orders rose to the top ten best-sellers games chart. According to the Steam database, Outriders quickly began climbing the charts after the demo became available to download on Steam and consoles. Outsiders is the 7th best-selling game on Steam at the posting of this article. Along with Outsiders, Stardew Valley was also featured in the top ten best-sellers after a 50% off sale in celebration of the game’s fifth anniversary, placing just ahead of Outsiders in the chart. The worldwide release of Persona 5 Strikers was also in the charts, taking up two of the ten chart spots. The hit early access survival game Valheim managed to remain at the top of the chart for another week after a boom in popularity. The rise of Outsiders may be perfectly timed, with EA officially shutting down Anthem for good and Destiny being between major updates. The loot-based shooter genre is ripe for the picking right now. Similar loot-based games, such as Diablo 4 and Diablo 2: Resurrection, are expected to launch in either late 2021 or early 2022 after the recent Blizzcon announcements. People Can Fly timed their demo perfectly, giving people a chance to try out their game during a dry period in the market. Whether or not these pre-release numbers will reflect the overall success of Outriders is yet to be seen. Pre-release hype has burned many franchises before, with the memory of Cyberpunk 2077 release still raw for many gamers. Triple-A titles tend to get a lot of hype and pre-orders, only to not live up to expectations on release. Hopefully, this won’t be the case with Outriders, with players able to test out the waters early on with the demo and see if they really are willing to invest. Outriders will be released on April 2 on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Stadia.
  8. Bad news for Xbox players, as Microsoft has shut down rumors of any showcase this March. This sadly means that there will not be a look at the Elden Ring trailer, continuing the news drought surrounding this From Software title. Last week, rumors of a mid-March Bethesda showcase for Xbox were circling online. Following the recent Nintendo Direct, Nintendo’s Pokemon Day announcements, and the PlayStation State of Play digital events, it made sense that Microsoft might follow suit. With so much new content from their major competitors, it makes sense that Microsoft would make a move sooner rather than later. There hasn't been any event showcasing games for the Xbox since the Xbox Series X/S launched in November 2020. The source of these rumors comes from Games Beat Journalist Jeff Grubb, who announced in a recent episode of the Games Beat Decides podcast that he believed there would be a digital event of some kind. “I don’t know if it will be a full, Direct-style event, but they will make note about it and they will talk about it extensively, explain what it means for everybody and talk about the immediate future of both companies becoming one," said Grubb. Aaron Greenburg, the Xbox Games Marketing Manager at Microsoft, had to officially announce on Twitter that Microsoft's rumors making any new announcements or Showcase events in March will not be happening. While the tweet doesn't specifically deny that Elden Ring will be featured instead, Greenburg states that while Microsoft does have some work going on in the wings, nothing is coming out soon that would feature game announcements or world premieres. Amain reason why fans were speculating that the Showcase would have been Bethesda-based was the Microsoft-Zenimax acquisition undergoing review this month by the European Union. This review will determine whether or not the deal could go ahead, with the EU being the last hurdle for Microsoft to join the two companies together officially. The idea that Microsoft would be in the clear following this review spurred fans on to believe that Microsoft would celebrate with a Showcase. March marks a full 21 months since Elden Ring was officially announced at E3 2019. Since then, From Software and publishers’ Bandai Namco have gone dead silent on the game. Since the initial announcement, there has been no news with the Dark Souls developers' fans going into a meltdown every time PlayStation or Microsoft make an announcement online. With no future announcement to slake the thirst of the desperate fans, it remains to be seen if Microsoft and Xbox can appease the fans with any news of an upcoming showcase.
  9. The anticipated System Shock remake has finally secured a more or less solid release window, and everyone who pre-orders the game will receive a guaranteed free copy of System Shock 2: Enhanced Edition. Although the remastered version of the sequel is expected to launch alongside the remake of the original game, some features might be missing since they are being currently prototyped for future updates. As revealed by Nightdive Studios back in January, System Shock 2: Enhanced Edition might be treated to VR support. In a short video on Twitter, the development team demonstrated how VR controllers can be used in melee combat and environmental puzzles. It looked exciting, to say the least, but no official announcements have been made so far. In other words, there’re no solid plans to include VR support when System Shock 2: Enhanced Edition comes out, which leaves space for potential introduction in the future. The System Shock remake has finally received a release window alongside opening pre-orders on all major digital PC storefronts. Additionally, the team at Nightdive Studios has shared a new teaser on YouTube, setting the mood for the upcoming reimagining of the iconic franchise. According to the developers, the game will be available this summer, with an exact release date to be announced later. The project has been in production since 2015 when it received initial funding via a successful Kickstarter campaign, and six years later, all the devoted fans will have the opportunity to finally play the game. The remake will feature completely reworked visuals, revamped hacking mechanics, an expanded in-game world, and the original voice of AI SHODAN thanks to the return of voice actor Terri Brosius. Last but not least, there’s now a new playable demo of the remake available for download on Steam. While the System Shock remake is confidently approaching its release date, a completely original System Shock 3 game is still far from being complete. The sequel’s announcement also happened back in 2015, although Nightdive Studios transferred the rights to develop the project to indie studio Otherside Entertainment. Unfortunately, the latter couldn’t manage to cope with such an ambitious video game, and as a result, Tencent took control of System Shock 3 last May. It’s soothing to see that the troubled development of the anticipated System Shock remake is wrapping up successfully. There were reasonable fears among fans that the project might never see the light of day, but fortunately, it was able to overcome all of those challenges. The most worrying event happened back in 2018 when the team decided to take a break in order to reevaluate and reboot the development process. Nightdive didn’t do that in vain, though, as the wait will soon be over. System Shock releases this summer on PC via Steam, GOG, and Epic Store.
  10. Google Stadia's choice to kill off its first-party development feels even more surprising now given that it reportedly had a promising line-up of exclusive titles coming. A new report from VGC notes that games from Hideo Kojima, Harmonix, and more have all been axed or directly impacted by this news. Google Stadia launched less than two years ago as a game streaming service. Essentially, so long as users had internet, they could play some of the hottest games, like Red Dead Redemption 2, without a console or high-end PC. The service would be available on TVs via Chromecast, smart phones, and standard computers. By all accounts, it was a pretty revolutionary idea and it probably could've done well, but it didn't have enough new games. Some titles launched day and date with the service, such as Doom Eternal, but other games, like Red Dead Redemption 2, had already been out for a while by the time it released. What's worse, Google felt the need to spend tens of millions acquiring titles like Rockstar's acclaimed western when it could've poured that money into exclusive games. It sounds like Google didn't do a great job of wooing the third-party developers who were working on exclusive titles for Google Stadia. According to VGC, Death Stranding creator Hideo Kojima was reportedly working on an episodic horror game and was looking to do something innovative with cloud gaming. The prolific Japanese developer noted last summer that he had a game canceled, but details were scarce back then. “I’m pretty pissed, but that’s the games industry for you,” he said at the time. It's unclear if it'll return, but Microsoft could be partnering with Kojima soon, signaling a revival of the horror title. Google also canceled a sequel to Journey to the Savage Planet, a new Yu Suzuki game, as well as a multiplayer action game from Splinter Cell producer Francois Pelland. Pelland's team as well as the Journey to the Savage Planet team both found out about the cancelation when the bad news broke earlier this month. Harmonix is also working on something, but it's not canceled. It could see the light of day on Stadia or it could even move to other platforms. “While Google has shifted its strategy, we remain incredibly excited about what we’ve been working on for Stadia and if the project isn’t released for Stadia we will take it to other platforms,” Harmonix CEO Steve Janiak told VGC. Given reports have suggested that Google Stadia shut down its first-party teams because of Microsoft's acquisition of Zenimax, but it's confusing as to why that would've startled the tech giant. This line-up of games, while small and likely a partial list, would've been incredible. Kojima is a strong proponent of using technology to further his games, as can be seen with revolutionary titles like Metal Gear Solid V and P.T.. One can only imagine what he might have done with Google Stadia.
  11. An insider has claimed that more information on Elden Ring is set to be announced sometime in March. Details on the upcoming action RPG from Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin has been sparse ever since the game was announced in 2019. Fans have even gone as far as to create their own fake leaks as a humorous way to bide their time until more information is released. Apart from the Elden Ring announcement trailer that was released in 2019, not much else has been released for the game so far. While initial concept art for the game's trailer was shared by an artist who worked on it, it was quickly deleted a day later due to the heated discussions it caused within the community. The artist later clarified that they had no knowledge of the actual game and the concept art was simply for internal use, adding that ideas for a game change during its production. GamesBeat’s Jeffrey Grubb recently shared in the latest episode of the GB Decides podcast that more information on Elden Ring could potentially come by the end of March, at least according to several of their sources. While he says he has “confidence” in that information, he clarifies that things could potentially change so it’s possible that any announcements would be pushed to April. Grubb’s co-host, GamesBeat reviews editor Mike Minotti, adds that the game isn’t vaporware and is “happening” and details would be announced soon and it would happen in March based on what’s been shared with them and what they know. Bloomberg video game reporter Jason Schreier also weighed in recently, citing "strong evidence floating around" to indicate that a reveal is coming soon. Despite the murkiness of his sources, Schreier is confident that the game is in a better state than George R. R. Martin's other project Winds of Winter, the next Game of Thrones book. The hosts didn't share much else about Elden Ring other than they think fans will be happy with what they’ll “end up seeing,” which wouldn’t be surprising considering FromSoftware’s recent track record. The Dark Souls series is still one of the most popular video game franchises and the studio’s last game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, was also a critical and financial success. The award-winning title from 2019 was enjoyed so much by fans that they hope FromSoftware improves on it even further for Elden Ring. Hopefully, the information Grubb and Minotti have shared ends up being accurate and fans can finally find out more about Elden Ring. With how long fans have waited for the game so far, an announcement is definitely overdue, whether that includes a release date for the game or just more information on its story and gameplay. At this point, any details on Elden Ring would be greatly appreciated.
  12. Bad news for those ready to rejoin Aloy's adventures as Horizon: Forbidden West may be getting delayed out of 2021 and into next year. Forbidden West is the sequel to Guerrilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn, which launched on PlayStation 4 at the end of February 2017 and was later ported to PC via Steam in August of last year. Horizon: Zero Dawn was well received with a Metacritic score sitting at a shiny 89%. Although it was originally overshadowed by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, due to the games releasing within the same week, Horizon: Zero Dawn became a huge success for both Sony and Guerrilla Games selling over 10 million copies just two years after its release. Horizon: Forbidden West was announced during Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal event last summer with a beautiful cinematic trailer showing Aloy mounted on a Charger galloping through different environments and swimming underwater. Neither Sony nor Guerrilla Games have given exact release dates for the anticipated sequel. The last estimate was that it would release in the second half of 2021. Now, though, a delay is being reported PlayStation Universe (via Anton Logvinov) from the same source that leaked the announcement of the first game’s PC release. A tweet with a list of games that had 2021 release dates and games that were anticipated to come in this year was posted on February 25. All these games have been delayed to 2022 like Destiny 2: The Witch Queen or not given a release window like Overwatch 2. Logvinov replied to that list with, “I would add Horizon to the top of that list.” There hasn’t been much information about Horizon: Forbidden West since its announcement trailer except that the game will be cross-generation, releasing on both PlayStation 4 as well as PlayStation 5. Jim Ryan, the CEO and president of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said earlier this week that Horizon: Forbidden West was still on track to meet the second half of 2021 release goal. Forbidden West was notably absent from this week’s PlayStation State of Play event, so it’s clear that Sony and Guerrilla Games don’t have anything to share at this time. This rumor should be taken with a grain of salt. It is entirely possible that Horizon: Forbidden West has been delayed, but Logvinov’s sources are unknown. His leaks on the PC release of the first Horizon were correct, but the sources of that information may not have been from within Sony or Guerrilla Games. The delay is not entirely out of the realm of possibility though. It was disappointing not getting any new information out of the State of Play this past week, but the reason for that could be that Sony is waiting to show another look of Horizon: Forbidden West closer to its scheduled release window.
  13. It's my first trip across the ocean on my tiny wooden raft and I'm holding my torch nervously as I peer through the pitch-black night. I feel intensely vulnerable. I've never left my starter island before and I have no idea what's waiting out there in Valheim's massive procedurally generated world. After a long, tense night of sailing I finally set foot on a new continent, and immediately discover what looks like a village. That's a surprise—I didn't know there were villages in Valheim. The village is full of draugrs. I didn't know there were draugrs, either. The mob of undead warriors bash me with axes and bombard me with arrows. I flee and sail home miserably with little to show for my hours of exploration save for badly degraded weapons and armor and a few draugr entrails from the two I managed to slay. I decide I'm never going back there. Ever. But the discovery of draugr intestines has given me a new recipe for sausages, so I stuff the rotting entrails with boar meat and flavor them with thistle in my cauldron. Then I eat them, my eyes widening as my health bar grows to twice the size it's ever been. I am going back to the draugr village immediately. I need more sausages. I am now in the sausage business. In Valheim, which is still in Early Access, you're a dead Viking warrior. Your soul has been deposited in the afterlife so you can battle the enemies of Odin, powerful creatures such as a towering giant made from tree trunks and a toxic swamp blob that emits great clouds of poison. But before you can do Odin's work, you've got to do dozens of hours of your own labor: building a home, crafting weapons and gear, leveling up skills, unlocking crafting recipes, and slowly exploring deeper and deeper into the huge, dangerous world. It may not sound all that different from other open world survival sandboxes, but Valheim is an utterly engrossing experience that blends thoughtfully-designed survival systems with exciting RPG-like adventures, where each small nugget of progress sets the stage for the next. Odin's blood The sausages are a good example. Unlike most survival games, you won't starve to death in Valheim if you don't eat, but you absolutely need to eat. The right foods dramatically boost your tiny health bar and increase your stamina, so you won't get far without spending some time in the kitchen. The draugr village (I've now found and cleared out three of them) not only supplies me with sausage ingredients but some buzzing bees I can use to farm honey, which I can use for mead-making. Mead, which requires a few days of fermenting, can give me poison and frost resistance, allowing me to enter the toxic swamps and freezing mountain biomes. Which leads to new discoveries, which leads to new recipes, which leads to more new discoveries. And a whole lot of deaths along the way. There's not so much a difficulty curve to Valheim as there are towering, razor sharp difficulty spikes. That feels frustrating initially, but eventually, and weirdly, it becomes encouraging. Just setting foot somewhere you're not ready for, like that draugr village or a swamp crypt or a frigid mountainside, can brutally punish you, but also give you new goals and a tantalizing glimpse of future possibilities. When I first discovered a new biome, The Plains, I had roughly one second to admire the view and swelling music before a deathsquito buzzed across the screen and into my side, taking more than half my health away with one jab. I fled immediately, though I managed to kill the insect, gaining a needle, which gave me the crafting recipe for a deadlier type of arrow. I may not be ready to return, not for a long while. But I know I will, and I'm now eager to progress to the point where I can. Strength in numbers I've split my time in Valheim between solo play and adventuring on a server with some other PC Gamer writers, and while they're both rewarding, playing with friends gives Valheim a wonderful communal feeling. We've built a small settlement with several buildings, we share resources and discoveries, take on boss fights together, and help each other out with personal missions and goals. One of those missions was a rescue and recovery operation. Steven had also discovered the Plains biome while on a long solo boating trip. A deathsquito fatally welcomed him to the neighborhood, killing him right on his ship, so after he respawned back at our base we both set out on a second ship to recover his gear and boat. It was a long sail, made more complicated when a sea serpent, the first we'd ever encountered, attacked us in the middle of the night. While I shot the creature with flaming arrows Steven took us to shore, fearing our boat would be destroyed. Once on land we were mobbed by growling greydwarfs while the serpent continued attacking our ship. We finally, frantically, dealt with both threats and we set off again, only for me to realize I hadn't brought enough resources to build the fast-travel portal I had planned in case everything went wrong and we needed to return quickly. So, we had to make another stop for me to collect wood in the darkness of night while Steven built a workbench to repair the damage the serpent had done to the ship. When we finally reached the area where Steven had lost his boat and loot, we crept along the shore slowly into The Plains, our eyes scanning the skies for more deathsquitos—to the point we didn't notice the little green goblin who came charging out, whacking us with its club and doing more damage than a twenty-foot troll does. The fucking Plains, man. After another mad scramble we killed the goblin, recovered Steven's gear, and had a delightful and peaceful sail back home, each in our own boats. It was a genuinely exciting adventure, with one extra bonus: I now had serpent meat, which gave me the recipe for serpent stew, a fantastic new health and stamina boosting food that has me sailing our boat aimlessly around just hoping to be attacked so I can gather more sea-snake meat. We're currently preparing to take down the next boss on our list, but I'm also planning to completely redesign my house, which was workshop focused, to be a more efficient food and mead preparation zone. Move over, sausages. Not since survival RPG Outward have I been more aware of the importance of preparation before stepping out of the house: Carefully packing to make sure I've got just the right items in my tiny inventory. Cooking enough food and mead to boost resistances and lift stamina and health as high as it can go. Repairing every weapon and piece of armor and checking recipes for things I might need to craft on the fly. It makes a quick trip into the swamps for iron or an excursion into the mountains for obsidian feel like a proper campaign mission, even though there is no real campaign in Valheim. Bosses, however, provide some structure to the otherwise open-ended adventure. Finding them takes a ton of exploration, as only certain runestones will show their location on your map—and a boss might wind up several continents away from your starting island. Just reaching a boss with the resources you need to summon them is an adventure in itself. And the boss battles are long, challenging bouts accompanied by music and effects that really make you feel like you're in a dramatic showdown with angry gods. Each boss drops an item you'll need to begin the long process of preparing to take down the next one. Valheim is a gorgeous game, too, imaginatively blending pixelated textures and fairly simple models and animations with beautiful lighting and environmental effects that make me stop what I'm doing to admire the sunset or bask in the daunting power of a thunderstorm. The only places I don't enjoy in Valheim are the subterranean zones. In the burial chambers, troll caves, and swamp crypts, the beautiful and complex procedural generation of the world is replaced with cramped rooms, narrow corridors, and ugly textures. But that's just a small blemish in a large world I'm still restlessly exploring. Under construction I've bought lots of unfinished Early Access games in the past decade, and loved plenty of them, but typically I draw the line at recommending them. It's impossible to predict exactly how long games will remain in Early Access, what direction the development will take during that time, what might change along the way and how those changes will make the game better or worse. Spending money in Early Access is a gamble, always, and while I do it myself, it's just not something I'm usually comfortable recommending to others. Valheim might be the rare exception. The game as a whole is not complete, but the parts that are there do feel complete, if that makes sense. I can see the areas in which I'd like it to grow, but Valheim feels refined and satisfying as it is right now. I've put 70 hours into it so far, and I fully expect to at least double that, and it's a $20 game. No matter what happens in Early Access, it's hard not to feel like I've already gotten my money's worth.
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