The Battlefield V Open Beta Is Now Underway

The Battlefield V Open Beta Is Now Underway

7:16pm, 6th September, 2018
Gamers who are interested in the beta can get a rundown of all the features, the class roles, the maps, the modes, start and end times, as well as what they can expect feature-wise from the beta for one of the biggest games set to release this fall.
TLDR: Amazon HQ2 hints?

TLDR: Amazon HQ2 hints?

6:20pm, 6th September, 2018
Today’s featured stories [Editor’s Note: TLDR is GeekWire’s tech news rundown show, hosted by . Watch today’s update above, , and check back weekday afternoons for more.]
You can now use Alexa and Cortana to control your Xbox

You can now use Alexa and Cortana to control your Xbox

12:08pm, 6th September, 2018
You can now control the Xbox from Alexa and Cortana. Microsoft his morning it’s introducing a new way to interact with Xbox One using voice commands, by way of an Xbox Skill that works with both Alexa and Cortana, across platforms. The skill will allow users to launch games, adjust the volume, start and stop their broadcasts to Mixer, capture screenshots and more. For example, players will be able to say to their Echo speaker, “Alexa, start Rocket League,” and the console would power on, sign them in, and launch the game. To use the new feature with Alexa, players will first have to sign in with their Amazon account then With Cortana, users will instead have to first sign into the Xbox they want to control, then to link the skill on their Windows 10 PC. They could then say something like “Hey Cortana, tell Xbox to open Netflix.” Microsoft says the skill will work across a range of voice-powered devices, including Windows 10 PC, Amazon Echo devices, Harman Kardon Invoke, Sonos One, or the Cortana and Alexa apps for iOS and Android. A full list of its commands will be posted to the The Xbox Skill, at launch, will be rolling out gradually to U.S. Xbox Insider rings (Alpha Skip Ahead, Alpha, Beta) as the company takes in feedback from its early adopters. To see if you have the option available, you’ll need to look in Settings –> Devices on your console to see if the “Digital Assistant” setting is visible.
Tencent to tighten age verification checks for gamers amid government crackdown

Tencent to tighten age verification checks for gamers amid government crackdown

7:50am, 6th September, 2018
Chinese Internet giant Tencent has announced it’s bringing in a new system of age checks to its video games which will be linked to a national public security database — in an effort to reliably identify minors so it can limit how long children can play its games. The new real name-based registration system will initially be mandated for new players of its popular Honour of Kings fantasy multiplayer role-playing battle game. It will be introduced around September 15, according to . Tencent said the planned ID verification system — which couches as equivalent to a police ID check — is the first of its kind in the Chinese gaming industry, and claimed it will enable it to accurately identify underaged players and impose existing play time restrictions. Last July Tencent said it would impose a playtime maximum of one hour per day for children up to aged 12, and a maximum of two hours a day for those between 13 and 18. But if kids can get around age checks such limits are meaningless. “Through these measures, Tencent hopes to continue to better guide underaged players to game sensibly,” it said in a statement on its official account about the beefed up checks. It also said it plans to gradually expand the requirement to its other games. In total Tencent’s gaming portfolio is in China. The move comes amid a crackdown by the Chinese government on video gaming over fears of health problems and addiction among children. Late last month a statement posted on the Education Ministry website said new curbs were needed to counter worsening myopia among minors. Ministers have long said they want to limit the amount of time kids can play games — although achieving that outcome is clearly a major challenge, given the popularity of video games and the proliferation of devices from which they can be accessed. Tencent’s move to link age verification to a public security database does seem to represent a significant new step towards the government achieving its goal of also controlling kids’ digital activity. And investors reacted negatively to the announcement — pushing Tencent’s shares down more than 3%. Shares in the company also dived around 3% last week when the government announced its latest gaming crackdown. Reuters notes that shares in two other major Chinese game developers, China Youzu Interactive and Perfect World, also dropped 5.5% and 3.6%, respectively, as investors digested the regulatory risk. Last year the Chinese government also , doubling down on its long standing real-name registration rules.
A tale of two Penny Arcade Expos, on my first time to the show

A tale of two Penny Arcade Expos, on my first time to the show

9:20pm, 5th September, 2018
Yeah, and that’s the whole problem. (Photo: Thomas Wilde) Why I Hate the Word “Gamer” and You Should Too I’ve been in Washington state for 11 years now, and I write about games for a living. Usually, that means I’m out of town or on deadline during late August, so I don’t have time to check out the Penny Arcade Expo, which has been one of the primary events on the Seattle nerd calendar since 2004, for video game fans and otherwise. This year was my first time at the show. I didn’t have a typical attendee’s experience, as I got in on a media badge and had appointments to keep. I didn’t have full control of my time at the show until the last day, so I saw most of PAX as a blur, flitting back and forth between booth shows and hands-on demos. That being said, I do go to E3 almost every year, and at least on the fourth floor of PAX, the similarities are striking. In fact, I found myself thinking of a year after PAX was created, which adequately and ironically summarized the fourth-floor PAX experience better than I could hope to. A portion of Penny Arcade’s strip for May 30, 2005, To be fair, this strip is never that far from my mind. Writing about games, at any level, means you spend a lot of time with people who are explicitly trying to hustle you. “An elaborate scheme to suppress rational thought” ought to be in the dictionary entry for “marketing.” The point I’m circling around, however, is that the fourth floor of PAX West is essentially just that. From the moment you walk in, you’re getting bombarded from all sides by carefully-crafted schemes by multinational corporations, attempting to build your hype levels for their next products. You’re encouraged to buy shirts and hats with a company’s logos on them from that company (because why do your own advertising when you can try to get people to pay you $50 to do it for you), compete for “swag,” and wait in endless lines to play a carefully-curated ten-minute sample of a game that will be virtually omnipresent at some point in the next six months. It’s rampant consumerism repackaged as a weekend activity, and that’s even before the whole pin-trading thing gets involved. Part of this isn’t PAX’s fault. Because of the way video games suddenly exploded in the ’00s, as soon as the hobby finds a way to grow in any direction, there are dozens of people waiting to turn it into a new commodity. I’ve grown tired of the word “gamer” in the last couple of years, because it’s gone from a useful term to describe a particular hobbyist to an artificial identity, specifically so people could use that word and identity to sell you more things. In retrospect, it probably hit its nadir with in 2007, and it’s just been getting more obnoxious ever since. Somebody was trying to sell specific eyewear for gamers at PAX, some set of glasses that was supposed to improve your gaming experience in some minute but measurable way, and I didn’t investigate because I was worried my own eyes would roll back in my skull and get stuck that way… at which point, no doubt, I would be offered some kind of GAMEZ-RULE-brand shoehorn with which I could pry them back out. By opening the doors to that kind of vendor, PAX has become a vector for the same kind of over-the-top nonsense that the comic strip used to . It began as an attempt to throw a “big ass party,” as , but now it’s basically a trade show, and such a successful one that . The Better Part of the Show (AKA Thomas Displays His Hipster Tendencies) I had my cynic hat on for most of the weekend, because a lot of PAX made me feel like I was at E3 with more actual stores. Eventually, I had to go exploring. What I got out of it was that a lot of PAX, and arguably the better part of it, is basically hidden. The way the show is organized right now, you’re funneled into the fourth floor and its marketing fusillade just by walking in. The sixth floor is basically treated like it’s a secret level, with access points that can be tricky to find, and a lot of the panels are located off-site, in neighboring hotels. I had lunch on day one of PAX with a PR guy who was a little frantic, because he was supposed to attend a panel an hour from then and had absolutely no idea where it was being held. Those hidden areas, though, are where you can find the love. The booths on the sixth floor are as mercantile as the fourth, but they’re for smaller games and companies, often hosted by the designers, with few if any marketing people anywhere on site. I tend to have a lot of sympathy for the indies anyway, since they’re usually trying to do more interesting work, and PAX is a great show for independent game designers. I met a lot of great people at this year’s show, local and otherwise, and played some games I might otherwise have ignored. I didn’t get to see all the panels I was interested in, but there was a lot going on. The one I’ve been telling people about for a few days, “,” about identity exploration and therapy in the form of tabletop roleplaying games, has been high on my mind ever since it ended. I also got a chance to catch “,” about the difficulties to making a story-centric game that, if it’s at all popular, will end up making some streamer or Let’s Player money off your back. That’s only going to be a bigger problem going forward, and it’s one that’s going to end up in the courts at some point if we don’t hit on a solution. Raffael “Dr. B” Boccamazzo, director of Take This, hosts the “Am I Playing A Role” panel on Day Three of PAX. (Photo: Thomas Wilde) There are a lot of valuable resources for designers and interested players in PAX’s various panels, and I feel like the organizers do the con a disservice by essentially de-emphasizing them. The various game tournaments and the various market stalls may be what pay the bills at PAX, but there’s a lot going on just under the surface and it’s crazy how hard it is to find. The Part Where I Solve Everything What I’d really like, in a crazy dream world, is to see the con reexamine its priorities. Right now, it does achieve some of the party goals with which it was founded, but everything takes a back seat to the big companies’ marketing blitz, to the point where it feels like it’s crowding activities out of the Washington State Convention Center. Why do I have to go five blocks away for some of the features of the convention? Why am I skipping because I have no friggin’ idea where the Hydra Theater is, except that it’s not in this building? What would be nice is, put simply, parity in booth sizes. Let’s let everyone come to PAX, the same way they do now, with whatever double-barreled publicity blitz they’re willing to fund. But. Everybody gets the same floor space as they did in the Indie Megabooth this year. All the way from Microsoft and Sony to indie developers working solo, if you’re at PAX, you get four demo stations, a folding table, and a canvas banner. That’s it. This is supposed to be a party, not an ersatz trade show. Let’s keep the convention tables to a dull roar and focus on the actual reasons you’d want to show up in person to a con.
Tozai Games bringing classic shooter compilation ‘R-Type Dimensions’ to Nintendo Switch and Steam

Tozai Games bringing classic shooter compilation ‘R-Type Dimensions’ to Nintendo Switch and Steam

8:08pm, 5th September, 2018
Tozai Games, publishers of Spelunker and , announced Wednesday that it’s bringing to the Nintendo Switch and the Steam digital marketplace. Dimensions is a compilation title, packaging together two of the most brutally challenging arcade shooters of the 1980s, with new features and updated graphics. Dimensions first appeared on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Network in 2009, combining 1987’s R-Type and its sequel, 1989’s R-Type II. Both games are side-scrolling shoot-’em-ups, developed in Japan by the which put players in the role of a single spaceship fighting against the armies of the alien Bydo Empire. The original arcade flyer for Irem’s R-Type, circa 1987. (Source:) R-Type‘s central gimmick is in the use and deployment of an auxiliary unit called a Force, which can be attached to the front or rear of your spacecraft to equip it with a more powerful basic weapon, or deployed on its own as a secondary means of attack. Your Force is also completely invincible, and can be used to deflect incoming enemy fire. Even in the landscape of highly challenging 1980s arcade shoot-’em-ups, such as Gradius, Gyruss, and Fantasy Zone, R-Type was notorious for its difficulty, owing to some truly fiendish level design. It went on to spawn a small franchise that ended with R-Type Final in 2007. Irem went on to a short career developing games for the PlayStation 2, such as the real-world survival series Zetta Zetsumei Toshi, the first two of which were localized for the North American market as Disaster Report and Raw Danger. However, after the company took losses in the 2011 Touhoku earthquake in Japan, Irem reorganized itself to focus on the more lucrative Japanese market. Many of its employees moved on to form a new company, Granzella. Tozai Games, based in Bellevue, Wash., was founded in 1996 by Scott Tsumura and Sheila Boughten. Initially headquartered in Seattle, it was primarily a consulting firm for the first nine years of its existence, before transitioning into a video game developer and publisher in 2007. Tozai currently holds the intellectual property rights to the classic Lode Runner and Spelunker franchises, in addition to R-Type. The new Tozai Games release of Dimensions features all the levels from R-Type and R-Type II, which can be played using modernized 3D models, or with the original 1980s pixel art, which you can switch between in-game with a single button. You can play alone or with a friend, and if you really want to challenge the limits of that friendship, you can enable Collision Mode, which will destroy your ships if you run into one another. If you’re not feeling that masochistic, this new Dimensions also features Infinite Mode, where you never run out of extra lives; a level select; and a slow-motion feature, which gives you more time with which to weave through the fields of fire coming your way. The Switch version will also reportedly have a selection of in-game achievements, encouraging players to switch up the ways in which they play. R-Type Dimensions is scheduled to be released in the winter of 2018.