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      Discord starts down the dangerous road of ads this week / ArsTechnica · Monday, 1 April - 19:24 · 1 minute

    The Discord logo on a funky cyber-background.

    Enlarge (credit: Discord)

    Discord had long been strongly opposed to ads, but starting this week, it's giving video game makers the ability to advertise to its users. The introduction of so-called Sponsored Quests marks a notable change from the startup's previous business model, but, at least for now, it seems much less intrusive than the ads shoved into other social media platforms, especially since Discord users can disable them.

    Discord first announced Sponsored Quests on March 7, with Peter Sellis, Discord's SVP of product, writing in a blog post that users would start seeing them in the "coming weeks." Sponsored Quests offer PC gamers in-game rewards for getting friends to watch a stream of them playing through Discord.

    The goal is for video games to get exposure to more gamers, serving as a form of marketing. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal ( WSJ ) reported that it viewed a slide from a slideshow Discord shows to game developers regarding the ads that reads: "We’ll get you in front of players. And those players will get you into their friend groups."

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      Embracer Group lets go of Borderlands maker for $460M after three years / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 28 March - 13:39 · 1 minute

    Borderlands' Claptrap, metal hands on hips, in front of window

    Enlarge / Claptrap keeps finding himself in wild new places. Now he's heading from Sweden's Embracer Group to New York City's Take-Two Interactive. Okay, maybe not that wild. (credit: Gearbox Interactive)

    Embracer Group has been backing away from its all-encompassing position in the games industry lately. The latest divestment is Gearbox Entertainment, the studio behind the Borderlands series it bought in early 2021 for a deal that could have been worth up to $1.37 billion to Gearbox had it stayed inside the Swedish conglomerate's grasp.

    The buyer is Take-Two Interactive Software , which had previously partnered with Gearbox on publishing Borderlands and other titles. Take-Two will issue new shares of its common stock to pay $460 million for Gearbox, to be completed before the end of June this year. Embracer paid $363 million in cash and stock for Gearbox in 2021 but promised up to $1 billion more should the developer hit earnings goals over six years.

    "Today’s announcement marks the result of the final structured divestment process and is an important step in transforming Embracer into the future with notably lower net debt and improved free cash flow," said Embracer CEO Lars Wingefors in a statement intended to start nobody's imagination running.

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      Microsoft opens a crack in console gaming’s decades-old walled garden / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 27 March - 15:58

    Will the fragile Xbox balloon pop if that cage is opened?

    Enlarge / Will the fragile Xbox balloon pop if that cage is opened? (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

    Since the days of the NES, the one unshakable distinction between the PC and console gaming markets was the latter's "walled garden" approach to game distribution. For decades now, console makers have completely controlled the licensing and sales methods available for games on their own hardware.

    So when Microsoft Xbox chief Phil Spencer says that he's open to breaking down that walled garden for his consoles, it's a big deal.

    Speaking to Polygon in an interview at last week's Game Developers Conference, Spencer said he could foresee a future in which competing game marketplaces like the Epic Games Store or indie clearinghouse were available directly on Xbox hardware. “[Consider] our history as the Windows company," Spencer told Polygon. "Nobody would blink twice if I said, 'Hey, when you’re using a PC, you get to decide the type of experience you have [by picking where to buy games].' There’s real value in that."

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      Cities: Skylines 2 gets long-awaited official mod support and map editor / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 26 March - 18:53 · 1 minute

    View of a rooftop terrace with sun umbrella in Cities: Skylines 2's Beach Properties expansion.

    Enlarge / Kudos to the designer of this umbrella-shaded rooftop terrace at Colossal Order, perhaps the only worker who can imagine a place that isn't overwhelmed by Steam reviewers. (credit: Paradox Interactive)

    Under the very unassuming name of patch 1.1.0f1 , Cities: Skylines 2 is getting something quite big. The sequel now has the modding, map editing, and code modding support that made its predecessor such a sprawling success.

    Only time will tell if community energy can help restore some of the energy that has been dispersed by the fraught launch of Cities: Skylines 2 (C:S2) . The project of relatively small developer Colossal Order arrived in October 2023 with performance issues and a lack of content compared to its predecessor. Some of that content perception stemmed from the game's lack of modding support, which had contributed to entire aspects of the original game not yet available in the sequel.

    When Ars interviewed Colossal Order CEO Mariina Hallikainen in December, she said that modding support was the thing she was most looking forward to arriving. Modding support was intended to be available at launch, but the challenges of building the new game's technical base, amid many other technical issues , pushed it back, along with console releases.

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      Super Mario Maker’s “final boss” was a fraud all along / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 26 March - 11:00 · 1 minute

    When good robots fall into the wrong hands, bad things can happen...

    When good robots fall into the wrong hands, bad things can happen... (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

    The Super Mario Maker community and "Team 0%" have declared victory in their years-long effort to clear every user-submitted level in the original Wii U game before the servers shut off for good on April 8 . That victory declaration comes despite the fact that no human player has yet to clear "Trimming the Herbs" (TTH), the ultra-hard level that gained notoriety this month as what was thought to be the final "uncleared" level in the game.

    This strange confluence of events is the result of an admission by Ahoyo, the creator of Trimming the Herbs, who came clean Friday evening regarding his use of automated, tool-assisted speedrun (TAS) methods in creating the level. That means he was able to use superhuman capabilities like slow-motion, rewinding, and frame advance to pre-record the precise set of perfectly timed inputs needed to craft the "creator clear" that was necessary to upload the level in the first place.

    Ahoyo's video of a "creator clear" for Trimming the Herbs, which he now admits was created using TAS methods.

    "I’m sorry for the drama [my level] caused within the community, and I regret the ordeal," Ahoyo wrote on the Team 0% Discord and social media . "But at least it was interesting. However in the end the truth matters most. Congratulations to Team 0% for their well-earned achievement!"

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      Grand Theft Auto VI trailer confirms arrives early with a crime-crazy Florida / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 5 December - 00:25

    Grand Theft Auto VI logo

    Enlarge / "Coming 2025." (credit: Rockstar Games / YouTube)

    Grand Theft Auto VI , like its protagonist Lucia, keeps finding itself in an awkward spot because of "Bad luck, I guess."

    The trailer for Rockstar Games heavily, mightily, impossibly anticipated sequel in its record-breaking series landed on YouTube Monday evening , earlier than its previously published Tuesday morning release. That's because a pop-up, quickly suspended X (formerly Twitter) account posted it early, and Rockstar rushed to get its official version out, ending with a "Coming 2025" notice.

    Grand Theft Auto VI trailer.

    It's a mishap far smaller in scale than most leaks, but it's notable for Rockstar, which typically lets out very little about its games beyond official trailers. GTA VI had nearly an hour of early gameplay and testing footage leak out in early September 2022, following a network intrusion. A teenager in the UK was arrested on charges related to the leak quickly after Rockstar confirmed its veracity. TikTok videos have also recently surfaced, with computer monitors showing off images of the game's setting, according to The Verge .

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      After a chaotic three years, GPU sales are starting to look normal-ish again / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December - 21:57 · 1 minute

    AMD's Radeon RX 7600.

    Enlarge / AMD's Radeon RX 7600. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

    It's been an up-and-down decade for most consumer technology, with a pandemic-fueled boom in PC sales giving way to a sales crater that the market is still gradually recovering from . But few components have had as hard a time as gaming graphics cards, which were near impossible to buy at reasonable prices for about two years and then crashed hard as GPU companies responded with unattainable new high-end products .

    According to the GPU sales analysts at Jon Peddie Research, things may finally be evening out. Its data shows that GPU shipments have returned to quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year growth after two years of shrinking sales. This is the second consecutive quarter this has happened, which "strongly indicates that things are finally on the upswing for the graphics industry."

    JPR reports that overall GPU unit shipments (which include integrated and dedicated GPUs) are up 16.8 percent from Q2 and 36.6 percent from a year ago. Dedicated GPU sales increased 37.4 percent from Q2. When comparing year-over-year numbers, the biggest difference is that Nvidia, AMD, and Intel all have current-generation GPUs available in the $200–$300 range, including the GeForce RTX 4060 , the Radeon RX 7600 , and the Arc A770 and A750 , all of which were either unavailable or newly launched in Q3 of 2022.

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      Dragon Age: Dreadwolf teaser proves EA hasn’t forgotten about the game / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December - 20:25 · 1 minute

    Hey, remember Dragon Age: Dreadwolf ? It has been over a year now since the game's title was first revealed and almost exactly five years since the then-unnamed sequel was first announced at the 2018 Game Awards . And today, just to make sure you didn't forget about the long-in-development game completely, Bioware and EA are out with yet another teaser presaging a "full reveal" planned for summer 2024.

    The short "Dragon Age Day" video, titled "Thedas Call," features unseen voiceovers speaking over airborne, still-life shots of three locations that will feature in the new game. An accompanying blog post goes into a bit more detail on the locations, describing "the desolate, beautiful badlands of the Anderfels with curtains of distant mountainous spires. The twisting channels and gleaming towers of Antiva, where Crows may lurk in any shadow. The turquoise seas of Rivain with its rushes of greenery and hardy sea-faring people."

    The short teaser concludes with a statement that seemingly comes from Solas (a.k.a. Fen'harel), the Dread Wolf that will serve as the game's antagonist: "All the world will soon share the peace and comfort of my reign." And EA's blog post expands a bit on Solas' motivation as "not a man who sees himself as evil, but someone who believes he's fighting for a good cause and is willing to get his hands dirty."

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      The surprisingly robust careers of Star Trek stars who became video game voice actors / ArsTechnica · Monday, 4 December - 12:00

    Actors in starfleet uniforms pose in a line with Patrick Stewart in the middle

    Enlarge / Cast members from Star Trek: The Next Generation . (credit: CBS)

    It would be hard to overstate the impact that Star Trek has had on geek culture. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when folks who spent years watching the shows pursue careers in game development, they seek out the actors from one of their favorite TV shows to bring their creations to life. From TOS to VOY, many Star Trek actors followed up their star-making screen performances with voiceover work in video games.

    Of course, many of the cast members reprised their roles for licensed Star Trek games or reappearances of their Starfleet personas over the years; studios understandably don’t want to recast iconic parts if they can avoid it.

    But games have also provided many of these talented actors with a chance to create new characters and explore new genres beyond the ones that made them household names. If they’re not so versatile, working in games at least meant a chance for a paycheck after the series finale aired.

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