Nintendoes what Valve don’t: Game barred from Steam will launch on Switch

Nothing weird going on here. No siree.
Enlarge / Nothing weird going on here. No siree.

Japanese publisher Spike Chunsoft announced that the first official English translation of visual novel Chaos;Head Noah won’t be coming to Steam as planned “due to Steam’s guideline-required changes to the game’s content.” But while the game is apparently too risqué for Steam, the family-friendly folks at Nintendo apparently have no problem with a Switch version that Spike Chunsoft says will still launch in the US on October 7 as scheduled.

“Spike Chunsoft, Inc. believes these [Steam guideline-required] changes would not allow the game to be released to its standards,” the publisher said in its announcement. “The company is looking into delivering the title through alternative storefronts, and when details are decided will make another formal announcement. Until then your patience and understanding is appreciated.”

Nintendo says this scene is appropriate for its store page, so we figure you readers can handle it.
Enlarge / Nintendo says this scene is appropriate for its store page, so we figure you readers can handle it.

Chaos;Head Noah was initially listed for Steam pre-sale in April, but that page was taken down in August, according to tracking site SteamDB. At the time, that led to some concerns about the eventual fate of the Steam version, which Spike Chunsoft finally confirmed today.

Valve’s apparent push for content restrictions comes even though the extremely similar thematic sequel Chaos;Child has been available in English on Steam since 2019 (following its initial 2014 release in Japan on the Xbox One). The English PS4 version of Chaos;Child received an M for Mature rating from the ESRB, which described game scenes of strangling, torture, and “exposed brains” alongside sexual content like “two female characters moaning off screen while discussing each other’s breasts.”

How bad is it?

Chaos;Head Noah is an enhanced port of Chaos;Head, the game that launched the cult-classic Science Adventure series of visual novels (which also includes Steins;Gate and its sequels). The game follows a series of murders and suicides in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood and allows players to change the story progression by indulging in various positive or negative “delusions.” Some of those delusions can reportedly get extremely gory and/or suggest (but not directly show) imminent sexual violence.

“I don’t think it gets much worse than anything already in Steam’s library,” PQube Games Head of Localization Andrew Hodgson (who worked on the English translation of Steins;Gate) told Ars Technica of the “titillating and violent content” in the game. “It’s far from adult, even if it can be quite gruesome in certain scenes.”

Just your average, everyday game on a Nintendo console.
Enlarge / Just your average, everyday game on a Nintendo console.

The original Chaos;Head was originally released for Japanese PCs in 2008 before the enhanced Noah hit the Xbox 360 in 2009. That console port (and a later Vita re-release) received CERO Z content ratings in Japan, which “assumes that the game should not be sold or distributed to those younger than 18 years old” and is roughly equivalent to an ESRB “AO for Adults Only” rating in the US. CERO’s “content icon” system for that game only included a warning about “crime,” however, and not violence or sexual content.

Subsequent Japanese ports of Chaos;Head Noah for the PS3, PSP, Android, and iOS were heavily edited to remove some of the more extreme images and descriptions of violence. In turn, those ports received a lower CERO D rating (roughly equivalent to the ESRB’s “M for Mature” rating) in Japan. A source in the visual novel translation community (who asked to remain anonymous) confirmed that both the Switch and proposed Steam English-language versions of the game were based on this edited-down script.

A Japanese Chaos;Head port for the Nintendo Switch, released earlier this year, received the higher CERO Z rating (and “crime” content icon) despite using the edited version of the game that previously received a CERO D rating. The English translation will launch on Switch in the US next month, with an “M for Mature” rating and content descriptors that warn of “Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Language, [and] Intense Violence.”


YouTube age-restriction quagmire exposed by 78-minute Mega Man documentary [Updated]

YouTube age-restriction quagmire exposed by 78-minute Mega Man documentary [Updated]
Aurich Lawson / Capcom

A YouTube creator has gone on the offensive after facing an increasingly common problem on the platform: moderation and enforcement that leaves creators confused by the logic and short on their videos’ revenue potential.

The trouble centers on a longtime YouTube video host whose content is popular among the retro-gaming devotees at Ars Technica’s staff. The creator, who goes by the online handle “Summoning Salt,” chronicles the history of various classic games’ speedrunning world records. His hour-plus analyses demonstrate how different players approach older games and exploit various bugs. The games in question are typically cartoony 2D fare instead of violent or M-rated titles.

Summoning Salt asks why his YouTube video was age-restricted.

On Friday, Summoning Salt took to social media to claim that his latest 78-minute documentary about 1989’s Mega Man 2, which went live in mid-September, has been “age-restricted” by YouTube’s moderation system. Bizarrely, the video had been age-restricted roughly one week ago, only for YouTube to relent to the creator’s appeal and claim that the restriction had been placed in error.

Thus, Summoning Salt was surprised to learn on Friday that the video had been re-age-restricted—which he claims severely limits a creator’s ability to monetize content on YouTube. An age restriction flag works against content creators in two ways: it limits the advertisement pool that might run in pre-roll and mid-view breaks, and it essentially slams the door on YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which might otherwise tease Summoning Salt’s content to new viewers.

Remember, this is Mega Man 2 we’re talking about

Summoning Salt’s (age-restricted) analysis of Mega Man 2 world records.

YouTube’s initial notice did not clarify what moderation flag Summoning Salt’s latest video—a video that documents the 18-year history of people playing and exploiting the NES game Mega Man 2, embedded above—had triggered. His appeal eventually teased an answer from YouTube’s moderation team: “explicit language in certain parts.” As Summoning Salt explained, the video includes a three-second outburst of six F-words, taken directly from a Twitch streamer’s microphone during a passionate gameplay moment.

Summoning Salt, a speedrunning-fluent creator, took his analysis tools to the microsecond level and looked for other unrestricted YouTube content in the gaming category to see whether his video’s curses-per-capita percentage (0.16 percent) had been exceeded. He immediately found an unrestricted example from another popular retro-minded channel, Angry Video Game Nerd, which had nearly double the swears in a video one-twelfth as dense in the script. (It’s unclear how many of AVGN’s videos, famously full of curse words, are flagged with age restrictions.)

Ultimately, Summoning Salt points to YouTube’s unclear recommendations to content creators for content like curse words. According to YouTube’s own rules, the line between “moderate profanity” (allowed in YouTube’s unrestricted videos) and “strong profanity” comes down to not only specific word choice but also frequency, and YouTube merely suggests that the line is crossed when reaching a threshold of “used in every sentence,” or having certain swear words appear in prominent moments like the first 30 seconds of a video or as text in a thumbnail.

Summoning Salt noted that the moderation team initially responded with a “full review” in roughly 40 minutes, less than the length of the whole video. Such a swift review process implied that an auto-moderation system used voice analysis to chronicle the number of swear words, and Summoning Salt told Ars via email that YouTube has tools in place to auto-mute what it detects as offending content—but that YouTube doesn’t automatically apply them in the case of age-restriction disputes, and using built-in auto-mute tools doesn’t necessarily undo the damage done by any moderators’ age-gating. This leaves creators out of the revenue circuit once YouTube raises such a flag. He also told Ars that his videos have only been restricted in the past by YouTube due to copyright flags over included music, which he has zero issue with.


The rest of Intel Arc’s A700-series GPU prices: A750 lands Oct. 12 below $300

Intel arrives at a crucial sub-$300 price for its medium-end GPU option. But will that bear out as a worthwhile price compared to its performance?
Enlarge / Intel arrives at a crucial sub-$300 price for its medium-end GPU option. But will that bear out as a worthwhile price compared to its performance?

Intel’s highest-end graphics card lineup is approaching its retail launch, and that means we’re getting more answers to crucial market questions of prices, launch dates, performance, and availability. Today, Intel answered more of those A700-series GPU questions, and they’re paired with claims that every card in the Arc A700 series punches back at Nvidia’s 18-month-old RTX 3060.

After announcing a $329 price for its A770 GPU earlier this week, Intel clarified it would launch three A700 series products on October 12: The aforementioned Arc A770 for $329, which sports 8GB of GDDR6 memory; an additional Arc A770 Limited Edition for $349, which jumps up to 16GB of GDDR6 at slightly higher memory bandwidth and otherwise sports otherwise identical specs; and the slightly weaker A750 Limited Edition for $289.

A770 (16GB model) and A750 specs breakdown.
Enlarge / A770 (16GB model) and A750 specs breakdown.

If you missed the memo on that sub-$300 GPU when it was announced, the A750 LE is essentially a binned version of the A770’s chipset with 87.5 percent of the shading units and ray tracing (RT) units turned on, along with an ever-so-slightly downclocked boost clock (2.05 GHz, compared to 2.1 GHz on both A770 models).

Intel previously confirmed that new purchases of Arc A700 series GPUs made by January 2023 would come with a bundle of downloadable games and software, including this year’s remake of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Gotham Knights, and more.

Ahead of independent benchmarks, GPUs have a confusing “performance-per-dollar” metric

A refresher on Intel's first-gen Arc GPU variety.
Enlarge / A refresher on Intel’s first-gen Arc GPU variety.

In a conference call with the press, Intel representatives declined to clarify initial shipment counts for its first three A700-series GPUs, other than to suggest low stock for the larger-memory A770 LE: “I suspect we’re going to sell out of that one very quickly,” Intel Graphics Fellow Tom Petersen told Ars. He was reluctant to clarify whether he expected early sellouts of Intel’s A700 GPUs, “We don’t know if we’re going to have a supply problem or a demand problem. I hope we have a demand problem.” He then confirmed that Intel plans to produce its own in-house GPU models over time, instead of cutting off “LE” production while demand might still exist.

Unfortunately, Intel compounded the GPUs’ availability question by not confirming which add-in board (AIB) partners would be part of the A700 series’ October rollout. Petersen kicked that can down the road by suggesting those third-party GPU manufacturers will make their own announcements, then mentioned an interest in expanding its list of Arc-powered AIBs.


Are Android-based game-streaming handhelds a fad, or are they the future?

Let's see: Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia Geforce Now, Xbox again, and Steam Link. That's all the cloud streaming services, right? Nothing's missing.
Enlarge / Let’s see: Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia Geforce Now, Xbox again, and Steam Link. That’s all the cloud streaming services, right? Nothing’s missing.

It’s not every day that you see the attempted birth of an entirely new category of video game hardware. But it feels like that’s what we’re seeing this month with the announcement of the Logitech G Cloud and the Razer Edge 5G handheld gaming systems.

While these devices (and somewhat similar emulation-focused handhelds like the AYN Odin) have their differences, they share Qualcomm SnapDragon internals, an Android-based OS, and vaguely Switch-like hardware designs. And while these devices can natively run games designed for Android phones (for whatever that’s worth), the main focus seems to be streaming portable versions of high-end console and PC games through various cloud-gaming providers or in-home streaming options.

It’s too early to know how well these handhelds will serve their stated purpose, or how much actual market demand there is for dedicated portable devices that primarily play games hosted on remote servers or platforms. Still, we can’t help but compare and contrast this new hardware design trend with the last major (failed) attempt to create a new category of gaming hardware: the microconsole.


Remember Ouya?
Enlarge / Remember Ouya?

If you weren’t paying close attention to the video game market in the early 2010s, you might have totally missed the microconsole boomlet that swept a specific corner of the industry. It started back in 2012 with the crowdfunding success of the Ouya and spread from there as established brands like Sony, Nvidia, Mad Catz, Apple, and Amazon all jumped into the market in one form or another.

The pitch, in each case, was similar: Why buy a $400 console when a $100 to $200 microconsole could play “good enough” versions of some of the same games on your TV for less upfront cost. The problem with that pitch, it turns out, was largely with the some part of the “some of the same games.”

The usual microconsole software mix of years-old, warmed-over legacy titles and a handful of indie ports didn’t really lure many gamers away from the big-name exclusives and big-budget third-party experiences on the likes of PlayStation and Xbox (which also featured a huge array of indie gems). Turns out the vast majority of gamers were willing to pay a little bit more upfront to have the most powerful console hardware with the most in-demand games.

The similarities to today’s streaming handheld trend are hard to avoid. Once again, some less-than-traditional game hardware companies are developing new, cheaper hardware based on Android and the latest cheap system-on-a-chip technology. Once again, the pitch involves that hardware providing “good enough” versions of some of the same games available on more powerful hardware. Once again, the hardware itself is essentially an interchangeable commodity, with none of the attractive first-party exclusives that might convince skeptical gamers to take the plunge.

Is gaming history repeating itself here?


Razer joins the “handheld streaming console” wars, which are now a thing somehow

Fun fact: The divot in the middle of the D-pad can also hold a very small amount of salsa or dip.
Enlarge / Fun fact: The divot in the middle of the D-pad can also hold a very small amount of salsa or dip.

Just one week after Logitech confirmed its Android-based, streaming-focused G CLOUD Gaming Handheld, fellow peripheral maker Razer is getting in on the act. The Razer Edge 5G, announced in conjunction with Verizon at Mobile World Congress today, will play games “downloaded to play locally, streamed from your console or accessed directly from the cloud.”

As the name implies, Verizon and Razer are leaning heavily into their console as “the world’s first 5G mobile gaming handheld,” complete with the ability to stream or download games “over 5G Ultra Wideband.” That should be an upgrade from 10 years ago, when Sony integrated a 3G mobile antenna in some versions of the PlayStation Vita, letting the device serve as a highly questionable cell phone replacement. That version of the system saw a severe price drop just months after launch before it was discontinued later that year, suggesting a lack of excitement for mobile data options in a game console at the time.

Not just a dev kit anymore

The Edge 5G will be based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform, which the chipmaker revealed as a reference design last November. That announcement came alongside a Razer-designed dev kit for the platform, which featured a 6.65-inch OLED, 120 Hz screen, built-in 1080p webcam, and “Snapdragon Sound” four-way speakers (as well as theoretical support for 4K, 144 fps, 10-bit HDR color output via a DisplayPort USB-C connection to an external monitor).

Razer's Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform dev kit, as revealed last November.
Razer’s Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Gaming Platform dev kit, as revealed last November.

At first blush (via a short teaser trailer that includes long lingering shots of the L2 trigger, for some reason), the Razer Edge 5G seems to be a consumer-facing version of that previous Android-based dev kit. The more streamlined design in that teaser brings to mind Razer’s Kishi V2 smartphone controller, only now integrated into its own self-contained hardware rather than sold as a clamp-on phone attachment.

The mobile gaming landscape has changed quite a bit between the G3x reference platform announcement and today’s Razer Edge 5G announcement, thanks to the delayed release of the Steam Deck earlier this year. Valve’s portable device—with its native support for thousands of Steam games—could eat into the demand for these less powerful (and less functional) streaming-focused portable gaming options. For those unsatisfied by the Steam Deck, though, there will be at least two Android-based options to choose from relatively soon.

Razer has promised more details about the Edge 5G will be revealed at its RazerCon promotional event on October. 15. Personally, we can wait.


Ubisoft’s biggest 2022 game delayed for sixth time in five years

As <em>Skull & Bones</em> suffers yet another delay, we question Ubisoft’s choice of an ominous skull as its featured box-art image.”><figcaption class=
Enlarge / As Skull & Bones suffers yet another delay, we question Ubisoft’s choice of an ominous skull as its featured box-art image.

2022 is turning out to be a substantial rebuilding year for game publisher Ubisoft, as its holiday 2022 release slate of major multi-platform games has now been all but wiped clean.

The bad news came on Wednesday when Ubisoft again delayed the launch of its open-world pirate adventure Skull and Bones, this time past its previously suggested November 8 launch date on PC and current-gen consoles. The game maker confirmed the delay to March 9, 2023, after an independent report from Kotaku suggested that S&B‘s latest rounds of pre-release testing pointed to a stable-but-boring experience for its online multiplayer modes and noted issues with the game’s “progression” systems.

Skull and Bones debuted at E3 2017 as an apparent build-out of the third-person, open-seas pirate adventuring found in mid-’10s Assassin’s Creed games—albeit with no formal ties to that other Ubisoft-helmed series. As originally announced, players would directly control a pirate ship’s captain and issue orders to AI-controlled crewmates to either engage in a solo campaign or connect online for open-seas combat with both PvE (fight the computer) and PvP (fight real players) elements.

However, even as the game approached its previously confirmed November 2022 launch window, Ubisoft had yet to publish a clear video demonstration of how the final game might look to play—meaning, no direct-feed footage of players’ viewpoints, in-game HUD elements, or demonstrations of how different modes will work. In the years since S&B‘s initial announcement, Microsoft and Rare’s own online, open-world pirate series Sea of Thieves has racked up player counts and accolades while delivering substantial free patches and updates—all of which have rendered our initial criticisms of that 2018 game moot.

Ahead of S&B‘s fall 2018 launch window, Ubisoft began rowing the game’s release date farther out to sea. Shortly before E3 2018, the game’s retail launch was pushed into “fiscal year 2020,” only to get bumped from that release calendar into “sometime after March 2020.” This was followed by conference call mentions over the years that delayed S&B‘s launch into FY 2022, then FY 2023, before finally settling on its November 8 launch date earlier this year.

“Generous subsidies” may have come at a cost

According to an extensive 2021 report from Kotaku, S&B began development even further back than we had publicly heard: in 2013, as an expansion to the pirate-filled adventures of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The offshoot game’s messy lifespan has reportedly been prolonged by a tenuous deal struck between Ubisoft and the government of Singapore, which allegedly gave the game maker’s Singapore office certain “generous subsidies” in exchange for a guaranteed game launch and the development of unique IP by the company’s Singapore studio. The report was so stuffed with behind-the-scenes stories of turmoil and toxicity that Kotaku broke out an additional feature-length piece on the project’s underpayment, mismanagement, and sexual harassment of staffers.

Those stories, of course, were in addition to other reports and investigations about Ubisoft’s allegedly pervasive issues with mismanagement, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Those allegations led to several major executives stepping down, even though Yves Guillemot, the longtime CEO who oversaw the company during its reported periods of turmoil, has remained on board. Axios’ Stephen Totilo, who has spent years covering and investigating internal affairs at Ubisoft, recently suggested that the resulting executive efforts to turn the company’s reputation around have been inconsistent and left company-wide morale generally low.

Between those issues and pandemic-related work disruptions, Ubisoft has come up short with other potential 2022 game launches. A recent Assassin’s Creed announcement event confirmed reports that the series was undergoing a massive shakeup, and it suggested three standalone console games would launch at some point (no dates given). The Middle Eastern setting of Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be the first to launch out of this collection (currently pegged to a “2023” launch window, but, hey, we’ll see). Additionally, a third-person adventure game based on the James Cameron film series Avatar had been pegged for a late 2022 launch, only to be delayed earlier this year to sometime in FY 2024. A new free-to-play Division spinoff, dubbed The Heartland, was teased in 2021, and its closed beta may begin in 2022, but we don’t expect this F2P spinoff to formally launch by year’s end.

Thus, Ubisoft’s remaining 2022 release calendar has little left: a sequel to the popular Mario + Rabbids strategy series (a Switch exclusive and co-production with Nintendo, which so far looks promising), an iterative sequel to its long-running casual Just Dance series, and this month’s long-delayed launch of Rocksmith+, a paid-subscription version of its “Guitar Hero on a real guitar” series. Other Ubisoft console games came and went earlier this year: Rainbow Six Extraction, a January dud, and Roller Champions, a three-years-delayed free-to-play roller derby romp that eventually launched with very little fanfare or promotion from Ubisoft. The biggest news attached to Roller Champions in recent memory is a tweet that begins, “Let’s clear it out of the way first, Roller Champions isn’t getting cancelled”—which only inspires so much confidence coming from a publisher with a history of early F2P game shutdowns.


Intel: “Moore’s law is not dead” as Arc A770 GPU is priced at $329

The Arc A770 GPU, coming from Intel on October 12, starting at $329.
Enlarge / The Arc A770 GPU, coming from Intel on October 12, starting at $329.

One week after Nvidia moved forward with some of its highest graphics card prices, Intel emerged with splashy news: a price for its 2023 graphics cards that lands a bit closer to Earth.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger took the keynote stage on Tuesday at the latest Intel Innovation event to confirm a starting price and release date for the upcoming Arc A770 GPU: $329 on October 12.

That price comes well below last week’s highest-end Nvidia GPU prices but is meant to more closely correlate with existing GPUs from AMD and Nvidia in the $300 range. Crucially, Intel claims that its A770, the highest-end product from the company’s first wave of graphics cards, will compare to or even exceed the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti, which debuted last year at $399 and continues to stick to that price point at most marketplaces.

While we have yet to personally test Intel’s pair of 700-series GPUs, the tale of their tape points to comparable hardware, with 4,096 shading units (compared to the 3060 Ti’s 4,864 CUDA cores), 16GB of GDDR6 RAM (compared to 3060 Ti’s 8GB GDDR6), and a boost clock of 2.1 GHz (compared to 3060 Ti’s 1.67 GHz). So far, initial comments made by Intel to Ars Technica point to higher performance on modern games running in DirectX 12—and even improved ray tracing performance thanks to several focused hardware features to make that performance efficient in existing DX12 RT games. However, Intel also suggested to Ars that, in the short term, 3D software running in older APIs will likely suffer from a mix of early Intel GPU drivers and minimal performance optimization.

Intel has not yet announced a price or release window for its other 700-series GPU, the Arc A750. So far, the company has suggested that this GPU, which has lower specs across the board but is otherwise in arm’s reach of the A770, will compare directly to Nvidia’s RTX 3060 (not Ti).

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger points to a chart of Nvidia GPU prices in a certain range since the launch of the GTX 650 Ti.
Enlarge / Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger points to a chart of Nvidia GPU prices in a certain range since the launch of the GTX 650 Ti.

Before announcing the 770’s price and release date, Gelsinger pointed to a chart of “performance segment GPU prices” that charted Nvidia’s mid-range GPU launches since the GTX 650 Ti. “We are, with gamers, delivering and hearing the complaints of high prices,” Gelsinger said as he pointed to the current costs of RTX 3060 and 3060 Ti models in the wild. “You should be frustrated, because you are missing out as the gaming community. And today, we’re fixing that.”

Gelsinger’s presentation included multiple declarations that “Moore’s law is not dead,” apparently referencing a comment made by Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang last week in light of his company’s announcements of the RTX 4090 and RTX 4080. Gelsinger even stood in front of a slide about its full production pipeline of various chips, stating, “Moore’s Law: Alive and Well.” He added, “We will continue to be the stewards of Moore’s law.”


HBO Max drops first teaser for The Last of Us adaptation

Pedro Pascal stars as a hardened survivor in HBO’s new series, The Last of Us.

A traumatized survivor of a zombie apocalypse must face hordes of the “Infected” to protect a teenage girl who might hold the key to a cure in The Last of Us, a new HBO series based on the blockbuster action/adventure game of the same name. HBO just dropped the first official teaser, giving gaming fans their first look at this long-awaited TV adaptation.

(Some spoilers from the game below.)

The Last of Us game from Naughty Dog debuted in 2013 to pretty much universal acclaim for its narrative, gameplay, visuals, and sound design. Ars senior gaming editor Kyle Orland called it “a thrilling, beautiful, exceptionally human zombie apocalypse story” in his 2013 review. The game sold more than 1 million units in the first week of its release and won multiple gaming awards. It’s still often cited as among the greatest video games ever made. Co-showrunner Craig Mazin called it the “Lawrence of Arabia of video game narratives.” Naughty Dog co-President Neil Druckmann, who wrote and directed the original game, co-wrote the first season of the TV series with Mazin.

The game is set in 2013 in the 20-year aftermath of a deadly outbreak of mutant fungus that turns humans into monstrous zombie-like creatures (the Infected, or Clickers). The world has become a series of separate totalitarian quarantine zones and independent settlements, with a thriving black market and a rebel militia known as the Fireflies making life complicated for the survivors. A hardened smuggler named Joel is tasked with escorting a teenage girl named Ellie across the devastated US, battling hostile forces and hordes of zombies, to a Fireflies unit outside the quarantine zone. Ellie is special: She is immune to the deadly fungus, and the hope is that her immunity holds the key to beating the disease.

There were a couple of failed attempts to adapt The Last of Us for a film before HBO Max announced its TV adaptation, which purportedly covers the events of the game as well as some aspects of the sequel, The Last of Us Part II (2020). Unlike the recent film adaptation of another Naughty Dog game, Uncharted—which told a new story within the game world—Mazin said that any changes for The Last of Us TV series are “designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but to enhance.” He also said that some content cut from the game will be included in the series and that some of the dialogue will be drawn directly from the game. The show’s score was created by original game composer Gustavo Santaolalla.

The Last of Us to prepare for his role as Joel.” src=”https://rassegna.lbit-solution.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/hbo-max-drops-first-teaser-for-the-last-of-us-adaptation.jpg” width=”640″ height=”423″ srcset=”https://rassegna.lbit-solution.it/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/hbo-max-drops-first-teaser-for-the-last-of-us-adaptation-1.jpg 2x”>
Enlarge / Pedro Pascal watched his nephew playing the beginning of The Last of Us to prepare for his role as Joel.
YouTube/HBO Max

Per the official premise:

The Last of Us story takes place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

Pedro Pascal was cast as Joel, while Bella Ramsey—so memorable as the fierce Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones—plays Ellie. Gabriel Luna plays Joel’s younger brother, Tommy, a former soldier, while Merle Dandridge reprises her role in the game as Marlene, head of the Fireflies. Anna Torv plays Joel’s smuggling partner, Tess, and Nico Parker has a guest role as Joel’s daughter, Sarah. Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett play survivalists, while Storm Reid plays an orphaned girl named Riley Abel, a character who appeared in a DLC packet for first game (The Last of Us: Left Behind).

Other actors from the game also appear in the series: Jeffrey Pierce (Tommy in the game) plays a rebel in the quarantine zone named Perry, while Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson (who played Joel and Ellie, respectively, in the game) have been cast in as-yet-undisclosed roles. There are also a handful of new characters: Marlon (Graham Greene), who lives in the Wyoming wilderness with his wife, Florence (Elaine Miles), and Melanie Lynskey as a revolutionary leader in Kansas City named Kathleen.


WoW: Lich King player hits level 80 just 9 hours after “Classic” server launch

Naowh explains how he got to level 80 in Wrath of the Lich King Classic in just a few hours.

When it comes to World of Warcraft‘s long-demanded “Classic” servers, players understandably want an experience that’s identical to the MMO experience they remember from years ago. At least one player has taken that concept to an extreme this week, using years-old exploits to reach the level 80 cap on Blizzard’s Wrath of the Lich King Classic (aka Wrath Classic) servers mere hours after they launched.

Streamer Naowh and his compatriots at Echo Guild announced their level 80 speedrun achievement on Twitter early Tuesday morning. As Naowh explains in an accompanying video, the rapid leveling takes advantage of a bugged Icecrown boss that continually spawns mobs of undead zombies. A player can “tag” those zombies with a single attack, then get full experience for defeating all the zombies when the next mob spawns in.

Naowh said he practiced this method in the live retail version of World of Warcraft before the launch of Wrath Classic servers Monday. “It’s still the same to this day in retail,” Naowh said. “I’m surprised no one has noticed this.”

Naowh combined this exploit with another that makes use of four dead level-one characters in his group. Since these low-level players can’t receive experience from the high-level mob, all the group experience from the fight goes to Naowh. Together, these exploits let Naowh gain experience points at an astounding rate of 1.8 million XP per hour, letting him make the usually grueling run from level 71 to 80 in just under nine hours.

The more things change…

Naowh’s exploit-driven push to level 80 brings to mind similar methods used when Wrath of the Lich King came out in 2008. Back then, a popular player named Athene was banned from the game after hitting level 79 during a 13-hour post-launch marathon play session.

Athene’s strategy wasn’t exactly the same as Naowh’s but made use of a similar mob-tagging bug that let players get full “solo” experience points for mobs that are actually destroyed by an entire high-powered group. Athene loudly claimed that the mob-tagging method they were using was not a bug, saying its use “was confirmed by Blizzard GM Aegeoth to be perfectly legal in the game.”

Back in 2008, Athene claimed they got pre-approval for a similar mob-tagging exploit before being banned.
Enlarge / Back in 2008, Athene claimed they got pre-approval for a similar mob-tagging exploit before being banned.

Hours after Athene’s ban, a player named Nymh became the first fully confirmed player to hit level 80, an achievement we wrote about on Ars Technica at the time. That led to widespread community discussion of whether Athene’s ban was justified and whether mob-tagging abuse really counted as exploit abuse.

Blizzard, for its part, seems to have recently implemented a “stopgap fix” to prevent Athene-style mob-tagging in Wrath Classic. Perhaps recognizing this history a bit, Naowh acknowledged the possibility that Blizzard might revoke his own record and reset his character for using other exploits to power-level.

“People are doing all crazy type of mob-tagging… and shit, and they’re allowing that,” Naowh said. “If they want to set an example and roll me back because I did something sneaky, I’m not gonna be mad about it… It’s really pushing the limits. If Blizzard feels like it’s too much, I’ll take it…. It’s up to them.”

For now, though, Naowh can revel in having the first level 80 character on the Wrath Classic servers at a time when countless other players are still patiently waiting in queues to log in. And if that achievement reset happens, Naowh says he’ll simply see it as another achievement. “Imagine if we get world’s first [level] 80 rollback as well,” he said. “Then we’d get two world’s firsts in one day!”


E3 2023 books its physical venue, schedule—and confirms new fan-friendly twist

It's baaaaaaack!
Enlarge / It’s baaaaaaack!

The annual gaming expo once known as E3 is finally drawing closer toward rebirth as a physical event. While information about the next iteration of E3 remains scarce, this week’s big news suggests a crucial change in how the decades-old event will work: a split between audience types.

The expo’s new showrunners at ReedPOP, an agency responsible for regional gaming and comic expos like PAX, EGX, and Star Wars Celebration, confirmed on Monday that E3 2023 has locked down its location and date range. Both should sound familiar to E3 fans: a week-long span in mid-June (specifically, June 13–16) at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

This time, E3 will better resemble overseas game-industry showcases like Gamescom and Tokyo Games Show. The event’s first two days, dubbed “E3 Business Days,” will exclusively host “registered industry personnel,” which ReedPOP says will include game makers, distributors, licensors, and press. E3 2023’s third day will function as a hybrid industry/public day, and the fourth will be exclusively open to public ticket purchases. During this two-day span of “E3 Gamer Days,” the event will host a theater full of “deep-dive looks at highly anticipated titles.”

Maybe this one will be fun for average showgoers

Based on our years of E3 coverage, we imagine this structure will be a net positive for anyone who attends. In the expo’s pre-COVID state, E3 primarily connected game publishers and developers with the industry’s logistics side: your Targets, Amazons, and Best Buys, along with global distribution partners, digital services, and other firms that get video games into players’ hands one way or another. At the E3 of old, those people were the priority, not average consumer attendees or even the press.

Yet the ESA’s version of E3 sold tickets to a fanbase that had come to expect gaming expos to be fun. Typically, that wasn’t the case, thanks largely to brutal waits in lines for limited numbers of gameplay kiosks—all while industry professionals waltzed past velvet ropes to skip those lines. Splitting those audiences should clear out more space for fans to actually play demos of anticipated games. ReedPOP’s announcement about a theater portion also suggests that it wants to streamline public access to “exclusive” game presentations at the show—instead of making fans wait in E3 lines just to watch behind-closed-door videos.

As of press time, we still have questions about how the show will operate. Will the attendance split between industry members and public consumers be reflected by a show floor change once E3 Business Days give way to E3 Gamer Days? Meaning, will the show’s third and fourth days add more public gameplay kiosks for unreleased games? Also, ReedPOP’s other expos are largely marked by third-party merch booths (i.e., clothing, “mystery boxes,” and retro game resellers). Will that ReedPOP status quo spill over into their version of E3, despite those booths arguably missing the point of E3’s industry-exclusive days? (Representatives for ReedPOP did not immediately answer Ars Technica’s questions on these matters.)

But who will actually be at E3 2023?

Most of all, E3 is defined by the video game developers and publishers who present there, but even before COVID forced the show’s physical incarnation to halt, major publishers had begun bowing out of the show to emphasize their own physical and digital events. Without formal confirmation of participating publishers at this point, we’re left reading various industry-event tea leaves.

On the console side, this summer’s Gamescom saw the return of Xbox at physical events, but that console family’s handlers at Microsoft didn’t participate at ReedPOP’s PAX West 2022, just minutes down the road from its Seattle-area headquarters. Nintendo, to its credit, had formal presences at both recent expos. Sony has been the most expo-reluctant company since it pulled out of E3 2019, as its PlayStation arm has been happy to alternate between YouTube presentations and limited hands-on events for the press.
The most recent PAX West was telling as far as ReedPOP’s relationships with potential participating game makers; in addition to Nintendo, the September event’s show floor had a scattershot selection of recognizable game publishers, including Bandai Namco, Devolver, and various Embracer-owned subsidiaries. But Gamescom 2022, which is not affiliated with ReedPOP, shot a little higher with its inclusion of Xbox, Sega, and Ubisoft at its events.

What’s more, Game Awards and Summer Game Fest organizer Geoff Keighley, who was affiliated with some of this year’s Gamescom events, is moving forward with a physical version of Summer Game Fest 2023. As a longtime behind-the-scenes organizer of E3-adjacent events, Keighley may flex his savviness with major game publishers to fill out his own show floor in June 2023—and leave the new version of E3 starved for content. SGF 2023’s dates, venue, and participating game makers are still unknown as of press time, but already, we are anticipating a showdown in one way or another for fans’ June 2023 game-preview bandwidth, both online and in person.