Category Archives: Itech

Fortnite for Android launches as a Samsung Galaxy exclusive today

It’s true, Fortnite is coming to Android this summer. We’ve known that for sure since May. There is, however, one key caveat (aside from that whole no Google Play bit): The obscenely popular sandbox survival game will launch on Google’s mobile OS as a Samsung exclusive.

The Epic title will be available for Galaxy users with an S7 or higher (Note 9,  S9, Note 8, S8, S7,S7 Edge). Those with a Galaxy Tab S4 and S3 will get a crack it it, as well).  That, naturally, includes the new Note 9, which the company is positioning as something of a mobile gaming powerhouse.

The specs are certainly impressive, and the 6.4-inch screen should lend itself well to portable gaming. There’s also a new Water Carbon Cooling system on board, to help keep the handset from overheating from more resource-intensive tasks. The new tech improves the liquid cooling system the company has had on-board its Galaxy devices since the S7.

Starting today, the title will appear on Galaxy devices’ game launcher, remaining an Android exclusive until the 12th — at which point, one imagines, it will become more widely available for the rest of Android users. As with the rest of the versions of the title (the PS4’s issues aside), the game will support multi-platform crossplay. 

To celebrate the deal, those who pre-order the Note 9 will be able to choose between free AKG noise cancelling headphones or a device with a 15,000 V-bucks — the in-game equivalent to to $150 of our regular people dollars. All Note 9 and Tab S4 users will also get access to a Fortnite Galaxy skin (see: above), which is unique to those devices. 

Discord is launching a game store

Just a few weeks back, Valve moved into Discord’s turf a bit with a dramatic overhaul of Steam’s chat system.

Today, Discord is returning the favor by playing with the idea of selling games through its namesake chat platform.

The company says it’ll launch a beta of the game store later today, though it’ll initially be limited to a small slice of its user base (which now sits at 150 million users). More specifically, the beta will roll out to just 50,000 users from Canada at first.

It’ll be dabbling in game sales on two fronts: they’ll directly sell some games, while other games will be added perks for its Discord Nitro subscription service.

Whereas Valve has massively increased the number of games on Steam over the last few years by opening up to third parties through things like Steam Greenlight or (more recently) Steam Direct, Discord is pitching this as a more “curated” offering with a slimmer number of options. At least at first, they say they’re aiming for something that feels more like “one of those cozy neighborhood book shops” — which, on day one of the beta, translates to 11 games.

The games it’ll sell first:

  • Dead Cells
  • Frostpunk
  • Omensight
  • Into the Breach
  • SpellForce 3
  • The Banner Saga 3
  • Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
  • Hollow Knight
  • Moonlighter
  • This is the Police 2
  • Starbound

While 11 games may not seem like much, you can bet they’ll offer more than that in time. See that screenshot up top? You don’t dedicate an entire tab in some of your app’s most prime screen real estate unless you’re hoping to make it a key part of your business.

Taking things one more step forward, Discord is also getting into (temporary) exclusives — or, as it calls them, “First on Discord” games. While it doesn’t mention names and none will roll out with today’s beta, Discord says it’ll soon highlight select indie games that’ll be available only on Discord for the first 90 days-or-so after their respective launches.

Meanwhile, the company is also testing the idea of building up its premium subscription add-on, Discord Nitro, into a game subscription service. Whereas the $5-per-month service previously primarily got you a few mostly aesthetic perks like animated avatars, a special profile badge and bigger upload limits, the same 50,000 players mentioned above (or, at least, those on Windows) will get access to a rotating set of games.

The first games hitting the subscription beta:

  • Saints Row: The Third
  • Metro: Last Light Redux
  • Darksiders: Warmastered Edition
  • De Blob
  • Tormentor X Punisher
  • Dandara
  • Kathy Rain
  • GoNNER
  • Kingdom: New Lands
  • System Shock Enhanced Edition
  • Super Meat Boy

While many of those games aren’t exactly new (some of them are 5+ years old), a lot of them are really great games (I’ve lost days to Super Meat Boy) that not everyone has gotten around to playing. It’s a solid way to pique people’s interest in giving Discord a bit of money each month if the GIFs and badges weren’t quite enough.

Oh, and for good measure, Discord is making itself a launcher — that is, you’ll be able to sort and launch most of the games on your computer right from Discord, including games purchased elsewhere and even those, notes the company, that require another launcher to run. If that’s not a shot across the bow in Steam’s direction, I’m not sure what is.

RIP EmuParadise, a haven for retro gamers for almost two decades

If you’re a fan of retro games, chances are you have a few emulators installed to let you play Mega Drive or Atari 800 titles. And if you have a few emulators installed, you probably have some ROMs. And if you have some ROMs, it’s likely that sometime since the year 2000 you visited EmuParadise, a stalwart provider of these ambiguously legal files. Well, EmuParadise is no more — at least the site we knew and loved.

The site explained the bad news in a post today, acknowledging the reality that the world of retro gaming has changed irrevocably and a site like EmuParadise simply can’t continue to exist even semi-legally. So they’re removing all ROM downloads.

For those not familiar with this scene, emulators let you play games from classic consoles that might otherwise be difficult, expensive or even impossible to find in the wild. ROMs, which contain the actual game data (and are often remarkably small — NES games are smaller than the image above), are questionably legal and have existed in a sort of grey area for years. But there’s no question that this software has been invaluable to gamers.

“I started EmuParadise 18 years ago because I never got to play many of these amazing retro games while growing up in India and I wanted other people to be able to experience them,” wrote the site’s founder, MasJ. “Through the years I’ve worked tirelessly with the rest of the EmuParadise team to ensure that everyone could get their fix of retro gaming. We’ve received thousands of emails from people telling us how happy they’ve been to rediscover and even share their childhood with the next generations in their families.”

But the games industry is changing; official re-releases of old games and the consequent legal attention that brings to sites hosting original ROMs has created an unambiguously hostile environment for them. Nintendo, it must be said, has been particularly zealous in its efforts to clear the web of ROMs, especially for its first-party games.

EmuParadise and other sites have been the constant target of legal actions, from simple takedown requests to more serious allegations and lawsuits.

“It’s not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years,” MasJ continued. “We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it’s not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble.

“This is an extremely emotional decision for me after running this site for so many years. But I believe it is the right thing for us at this point of time.”

Alas, they will be unavailable forever now.

I can remember EmuParadise being one of the most reliable sites to get ROMs from back in the day; and in the early 2000s, when emulators were essentially the only way to play many old games — and the web was a bit more wild — it was also one of the few that didn’t attempt to load some kind of virus onto your computer at the same time.

It’s always sad when a homegrown site that single-mindedly pursues a single goal, and in this case one that is arguably a public service, legal or no, is forced to bow out. It’s sad, but they can at least retire knowing that retro gaming is alive and well and finally being embraced by game distributors and makers the way it ought to have been for the last couple decades. Consoles like the NES Classic are outselling modern ones, and love for old games has not abated.

Not only that, but websites like this, while they provide other services, are no longer necessary for the distribution of ROMs. What was practical in 2002 no longer makes sense, and the advent of both legal game stores on PCs and consoles, and of course torrents, mean that even rare games like Radiant Silvergun are just a click or button press away.

And lastly, EmuParadise isn’t just plain dying. They plan to maintain and update their emulator database and keep the community going, and MasJ says there are plans to launch some new things as well. So, out with the old, in with the new.

Thanks to EmuParadise and those running it for all their hard work, and best of luck in the future!

H1Z1 officially comes to the PS4

H1Z1 has spent a couple months on PS4 in an open beta. But today, the Battle Royale game is officially making its debut on the PlayStation platform.

Much like Fortnite Battle Royale, which has swept the gaming world unlike almost any title before it, H1Z1 drops 100 players into a map where they must loot up and survive. Unlike Battle Royale, H1Z1 is relatively more realistic, with a much larger map, more drab colors, and a handful of drivable vehicles.

Interestingly, H1Z1 was one of the earlier Battle Royale games during the game type’s wave of popularity, catching the attention of pro gamers back in 2015. Back then, the game was only available via Steam.

Since, games like PUBG and Fortnite have grown wildly, forcing H1Z1 makers Daybreak to play a bit of catch up.

But today, H1Z1 goes officially live on the PS4, giving gamers who are sick of Fortnite’s bubbly world a chance to get into the Battle Royale world in a different way.

Plus, Daybreak has added in a Fortnite-style Battle Pass for the season, letting PS4 players unlock reward levels for $5.49. H1Z1 is also getting a couple new weapons, including a Sniper Rifle and an RPG, as well as an ARV that can fit a full team of five.

You can check out the launch trailer below:

Facebook builds its own AR games for Messenger video chat

Facebook is diving deeper into in-house game development with the launch of its own version of Snapchat’s multiplayer augmented reality video chat games. Today, Facebook Messenger globally launches its first two AR video chat games that you can play with up to six people.

“Don’t Smile” is like a staring contest that detects if you grin, and then uses AR to contort your face into an exaggerated Joker’s smirk while awarding your opponent the win. “Asteroids Attack” sees you move your face around to navigate a space ship, avoiding rocks and grabbing laser beam powerups. Soon, Facebook also plans to launch “Beach Bump” for passing an AR ball back and forth, and a “Kitten Craze” cat matching game. To play the games, you start a video chat, hit the star button to open the filter menu, then select one of the games. You can snap and share screenshots to your chat thread while you play.

The games are effectively a way to pass the time while you video chat, rather than something you’d ever play on your own. They could be a hit with parents and grandparents who are away and want to spend time with a kid…who isn’t exactly the best conversationalist.

Facebook tells me it built these games itself using the AR Studio tool it launched last year to let developers create their own AR face filters. When asked if game development would be available to everyone through AR studio, a spokesperson told me, “Not today, but we’ve seen successful short-session AR games developed by the creator community and are always looking out for ways to bring the best AR content to the FB family of apps.”

For now, there will be no ads, sponsored branding or in-app purchases in Messenger’s video chat games. But those all offer opportunities for Facebook and potentially outside developers to earn money. Facebook could easily show an ad interstitial between game rounds, let brands build games to promote movie releases or product launches or let you buy powerups to beat friends or cosmetically upgrade your in-game face.

Snapchat’s Snappables games launched in April

The games feel less polished than the launch titles for Snapchat’s Snappables gaming platform that launched in April. Snapchat focused on taking over your whole screen with augmented reality, transporting you into space or a disco dance hall. Facebook’s games merely overlay a few graphics on the world around you. But Facebook’s games are more purposefully designed for split-screen multiplayer. Snapchat is reportedly building its own third-party game development platform, but it seems Facebook wanted to get the drop on it.

The AR video chat games live separately from the Messenger Instant Games platform the company launched last year. These include arcade classics and new mobile titles that users can play by themselves and challenge friends over high-scores. Facebook now allows developers of Instant Games to monetize with in-app purchases and ads, foreshadowing what could come to AR video chat games.

Facebook has rarely developed its own games. It did build a few mini-games, like an arcade pop-a-shot style basketball game and a soccer game to show off what the Messenger Instant Games platform could become. But typically it’s stuck to letting outside developers lead. Here, it may be trying to set examples of what developers should build before actually spawning a platform around video chat games.

Now with more than 1.3 billion users, Facebook Messenger is seeking more ways to keep people engaged. Having already devoured many people’s one-on-one utility chats, it’s fun group chats, video calling and gaming that could get people spending more time in the app.

Pokémon GO is getting PvP by the end of the year

As popular as Pokémon GO is, it has always been missing one major feature: pitting your Pokémon directly against another trainer’s. Strange, since that was the entire basis of the franchise to begin with! But the mobile game will at last get this much-requested feature by the end of the year, the company told Polish news site Gram.

After a record-shattering debut and then a long slump as players perceived the game’s shallowness and abandoned it en masse, Pokémon GO is having something of a renaissance. Improved gym and social mechanics, better reliability and, of course, a host of new ‘mon have brought players back, and it seems that features will continue to be rolled out.

What exactly the PvP mode will consist of is not clear. Chances are it will require players to be near each other, like the trading function. Though it is likely to produce some kind of reward, it likely will be limited in some other way, via a stardust or candy cost, to prevent people gaming the system.

Niantic’s Anne Beuttenmüller, in her interview with Gram, didn’t get specific. She was more interested in talking about the upcoming Ingress Prime, a sort of relaunch of the game on which Pokémon GO is essentially based; that will also be released toward the end of the year.

As for the highly anticipated Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which will no doubt involve people waving their phones around and uttering magic nonsense in full view of the public, her lips were sealed. It too will release around the end of the year! It’s going to be a busy holiday season.