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Game

‘Overwatch 2’ moderation tools include voice chat transcriptions and SMS verification

Overwatch 2 is set to go live and free-to-play on October 4th, and in preparation for the big day, Blizzard has outlined a suite of moderation tools aimed at curbing abusive and disruptive player behavior. The new system will require a phone number to be linked to every account, and will introduce audio transcriptions of reported voice chat interactions, among other changes. Blizzard is calling the initiative Defense Matrix, named after D.Va’s hologram shield ability.

The phone-linking system, SMS Protect, means every Overwatch 2 player will need to connect a phone number to their Battle.net account, and that number can’t be used to operate or create another account. This makes it easier to enforce suspensions and bans, and makes it harder for players to cheat the matchmaking system. SMS Protect isn’t a new idea in the world of competitive online gaming, and it’s a proven way to reduce smurfing — a practice where skilled players create new accounts and creep into lower-tier matches, whether to boost their friends, avoid a ban or simply troll.

Another notable feature of Defense Matrix is the addition of audio transcriptions for problematic voice chat recordings and automated review tools for the resulting text. The transcription process relies on players reporting abusive speech as it happens — but once someone is reported, this system collects a temporary recording of the match’s voice chat and transcribes it to text. That text is then analyzed by Blizzard’s existing AI-driven abuse-detection tools. 

When it comes to the longevity of the recordings and text files, Blizzard said the following: “Once the audio recording has been transcribed to text, it’s quickly deleted as the file’s sole purpose is to identify potentially disruptive behavior. The text file is then deleted no later than 30 days after the audio transcription.”

The studio said audio transcriptions will roll out in the weeks after launch. Additionally, the general chat feature won’t exist in Overwatch 2, leaving Twitch streamers one fewer outlet for their watch-me spam. Blizzard outlined the complete Defense Matrix strategy on the Overwatch blog, alongside checklists for existing and new players. October 2nd is the final full day to play the original Overwatch, and Overwatch 2 is scheduled to go live worldwide at 3pm ET on October 4th.

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Game

Skullcandy’s first gaming headsets in years include Tile tracking and a wireless model

Skullcandy hasn’t offered gaming headsets for the better part of a decade, but it’s willing to give them another go — and it’s eager to catch up in some respects. The brand has introduced revamped PLYR, SLYR and SLYR Pro headsets that promise budget-friendly game audio on console, mobile and PC with a few perks. The flagship PLYR (shown above) includes Bluetooth 5.2 wireless audio, while it and the wired SLYR Pro offer Tile tracking to help you find your headset (or the device it’s connected to).

Both the PLYR and SLYR Pro (at middle) also use a hearing test to create a personalized sound profile, and offer background audio reduction whether you use the boom or integrated microphones. They can plug in through 3.5mm and USB, and an optional wireless transmitter for the PLYR promises low lag (down to 20ms) for PC- and PlayStation-based gamers. You can expect up to 24 hours of battery life in either model when you aren’t connected through USB. The base SLYR is a no-frills wired design that drops the audio processing features and USB support.

Skullcandy SLYR Pro gaming headset

Skullcandy

As with the old headsets, Skullcandy is counting on price as the main draw. The SLYR starts the line at $60, while the SLYR Pro and PLYR are relatively affordable at $100 and $130 respectively. The caveat, as you might guess, is that the gaming headset business hasn’t been standing still. The Astro A10 offers a more flexible (and arguably more visually appealing) design for the same $60 as the SLYR, while brands like Razer and SteelSeries offer both price-competitive headsets and premium models with extras like spatial audio and RGB lighting. Your choice might come down to sale pricing and personal preferences.

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Game

‘The Last of Us Part I’ accessibility options include DualSense haptic feedback for dialogue

, a complete remake of PS3 classic , will (and PC at some point in the future). Not only will the game include all of the from 2020’s , Naughty Dog has revealed some extra ones that it’s including.

One that takes advantage of the seems particularly novel. “[A feature that] started as a prototype but ended up being really successful during playtesting is a feature that plays dialogue through the PS5 DualSense controller as haptic feedback,” game director Matthew Gallant told the . “That way a deaf player can feel the way a line is delivered, can feel the emphasis, along with the subtitles to give some sense of how that line is delivered.”

Another big accessibility update is audio descriptions for cutscenes. Gallant said Naughty Dog teamed up with a company that delivers descriptions for TV, movies and game trailers. The feature will be available across all the localized languages in The Last of Us Part I. “We’re expecting this to be an accessible experience for blind players, for deaf players, for players with motor accessibility needs,” Gallant said.

The blog post details all of the settings, including presets for vision, hearing and motor accessibility. You can expect visual aids and a way to zoom into a specific section of the screen using the touchpad. You’ll be able to fully remap the controls — there’s even the option to link a command to shaking the DualSense. There are also in-depth settings for motion sickness, navigation, traversal, combat, the heads-up display and, of course, difficulty.

It’s heartening to see Naughty Dog place so much emphasis on making its games as accessible as possible. Not every developer has the resources of that studio, but here’s hoping more game creators take inspiration from Naughty Dog’s work in this area. In the meantime, if you want to find out much more about The Last Of Us Part I, you can read Engadget’s review on August 31st.

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Game

SteelSeries’ first desktop speakers include a 5.1-channel USB model

The gaming audio market has focused on headphones for years, leaving you to rely on familiar brands like Logitech and Klipsch if you prefer speakers. SteelSeries thinks it can shake things up, though. It’s introducing its first desktop speaker line, Arena, and promising a few standout features aimed at gamers. The flagship Arena 9 (pictured at middle) is billed as the first gaming speaker setup to deliver 5.1-channel surround sound through USB. There’s still a 3.5mm jack if you like, but you won’t need a nest of wires to immerse yourself in games on a PC, Mac or PlayStation. You can expect synced RGB lighting, too.

All models also tout the first “pro-grade” parametric EQ aimed at gamers through the Sonar Audio Software Suite, SteelSeries claims. While we’d remain cautious about the company’s boasts, this might prove useful if you’re more interested in accurate-sounding explosions than nuanced music.

The other two Arena models aren’t quite as elaborate, but could make more sense if price or desk space are concerns. The entry Arena 3 (shown at right) is a simple two-speaker offering with four-inch fiber cone drivers and Bluetooth audio support. Buy the 2.1-channel Arena 7 (left) and you’ll get a subwoofer, optional USB audio and RGB lighting.

SteelSeries’ speakers are available now with prices of $150 for the Arena 3, $330 for the Arena 7 and $600 for the Arena 9. You can also buy a $100 Arena Wireless Mic with a cardioid, noise-cancelling microphone to provide voice chat without donning a headset. None of these prices are trivial, but SteelSeries is clearly betting that you’ll pay extra for speakers built more for Call of Duty than Claude Debussy.

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Game

‘Diablo IV’ won’t include pay-to-win microtransactions

Blizzard has published a long-awaited update on its monetization plans for Diablo IV. The short version of the blog post is that Diablo IV will be a full-priced title with an in-game shop and optional seasonal passes. However, the only way to make your characters more powerful will be by playing the game. Here’s how monetization will work. 

Blizzard plans to structure Diablo IV’s endgame around seasons. The game will feature up to four seasons per year, with the first one launching shortly after the game’s release. Each new season will bring additional features, balance changes and quality of life improvements, as well as new quests to complete and items to collect. As in Diablo II and III, you’ll need to create a new character to participate in the latest season. That said, your previous ones will live on in the game’s “Eternal Realm,” where you can continue playing them.

Screenshot showing off the Diablo IV in-game where players can purchase cosmetics for their characters.

Blizzard

A byproduct of that schedule is that there will be fewer seasonal passes for players to buy in Diablo IV than in Diablo Immortal and Overwatch 2, where new ones are available to purchase every four and nine weeks, respectively. Each season pass will feature both free and paid tracks. Progressing through the former will earn you rewards that make it easier to level your characters. Specifically, the free tier will award “Season Boosts,” which Blizzard says will accelerate your progress for the duration of that season. You won’t be able to spend money to purchase additional Season Boosts or unlock them at a faster rate. 

By contrast, the paid track awards cosmetic items and the game’s premium currency. You can use the latter to purchase cosmetic items through Diablo IV’s in-game shop. “Nothing offered in the Shop grants a direct or indirect gameplay advantage,” said Kegan Clark, Diablo IV director of product. “So, while many of these may look like powerful pieces of gear, they have no in-game stats.”

Additionally, Blizzard claims some of the best-looking armor, weapons and transmorgs – items you can use to change the appearance of a piece of gear – will be found by playing the game. “The Shop offers more diversity of choices, not systematically better choices,” Clark added.

While one could argue purchasable cosmetics go against the spirit of an action RPG series like Diablo, the system previewed Blizzard for Diablo IV at least looks much better than its Diablo Immortal counterpart since it will allow you to mix and match individual items to create your own sets. Additionally, once you buy a premium set for a specific class, you can use the included items on every character of that class on your account.

Screenshot showing off the Season Journey UI in Diablo IV.

Blizzard

Separate from the battle pass system is a progression mechanic called the Season Journey (pictured above). Like its Diablo III counterpart, the Season Journey will allow you to earn items and cosmetics by completing chapter tasks. The Season Journey is included with the base game, and filling out its pages will also earn you progress toward the current season pass.

Today’s blog post follows weeks of bad press around Diablo Immortal’s aggressive monetization. At the start of August, YouTuber Jtisallbusiness posted a video complaining that he couldn’t participate in the game’s endgame PVP after spending $100,000 to max out his character. Blizzard later said it would address the issue, but not before JT’s story added to the negative discourse around the game. But for all the vocal complaining around Immortal’s monetization, it doesn’t seem to have affected Blizzard’s bottom line. Eight weeks after release, the game surpassed $100 million in lifetime revenue, making it one of the fastest mobile titles to achieve that feat.

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Security

Latest LAPSUS$ victims include Facebook, DHL in massive hack

Hacking group LAPSUS$ has revealed its latest target: Globant, an IT and software development company whose clientele includes the likes of technology giant Facebook.

In a Telegram update where the hackers affirmed they’re “back from a vacation,” — potentially referring to alleged members of the group getting arrested in London — LAPSUS$ stated that they’ve acquired 70GB of data from the cyber security breach.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Not only have they seemingly obtained sensitive information belonging to several large organizations, the group decided to release the entire 70GB via a torrent link.

As reported by Computing, the group shared evidence of the hack via an image displaying folders that are named after Facebook, DHL, Stifel, and C-Span, to name but a few.

Although there is a folder titled “apple-health-app,” it is not directly related to the iPhone maker.

Instead, The Verge highlights how the data it contains is actually associated with Globant’s BeHealthy app, which was developed in partnership with Apple due to its use of the Apple Watch.

Meanwhile, LAPSUS$ posted an additional message on its Telegram group listing all of the passwords of Globant’s system admins and the company’s DevOps platforms. Vx-underground, which has conveniently documented all of the group’s recent hacks, confirmed the passwords are extremely weak.

LAPSUS$ also threw their System Admins under the bus exposing their passwords to confluence (among other things). We have censored the passwords they displayed. However, it should be noted these passwords are very easily guessable and used multiple times… pic.twitter.com/gT7skg9mDw

— vx-underground (@vxunderground) March 30, 2022

Notably, login credentials for one of those platforms seemingly offered access to “3,000 spaces of customer documents.”

Following the Telegram message and subsequent leak on March 30, Globant itself confirmed it was compromised in a press release.

“We have recently detected that a limited section of our company’s code repository has been subject to unauthorized access. We have activated our security protocols and are conducting an exhaustive investigation.

According to our current analysis, the information that was accessed was limited to certain source code and project-related documentation for a very limited number of clients. To date, we have not found any evidence that other areas of our infrastructure systems or those of our clients were affected.

We are taking strict measures to prevent further incidents.”

Earlier in March, seven alleged members of the group, reportedly aged 16 to 21, were arrested in London, before being released pending further investigations. According to reports, the alleged ringleader of the group, a 16-year-old from Oxford, U.K., has also apparently been outed by rival hackers and researchers. “Our inquiries remain ongoing,” City of London police stated.

Security researchers have suggested other members of LAPSUS$ could be based out of South America.

Hacking scene’s newcomer causing a lot of noise

LAPSUS$ has gained a reputation by injecting activity into the hacking scene in an extremely short span of time.

Amazingly, the majority of its hacks seem to come to fruition by simply targeting engineers of large companies and their access points via weak passwords. The group even stresses this fact repeatedly in its Telegram updates.

It’s understandable when an average user from home is subjected to a hack due to weak passwords, but we’re not talking about individuals here. LAPSUS$ has successfully infiltrated some of the largest corporations in history without the apparent need to resort to complicated and sophisticated hacking methods.

Moreover, hackers are now even exploiting weak passwords that make your PC’s own power supply vulnerable to a potential attack, which could lead to threat actors causing it to burn up and start a fire. With this in mind, be sure to strengthen your passwords.

LAPSUS$ has already leaked the source codes for Microsoft’s Cortana and Bing search engine. That incident was preceded by a massive 1TB Nvidia hack. Other victims include Ubisoft, as well as the more recent cyber security breach of Okta, which prompted the latter to issue a statement acknowledging a mistake in how it reported the situation.

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Game

PS Plus Extra and Premium games for July include ‘Stray’ and ‘Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade’

Sony has announced the first new batch of games for its higher PlayStation Plus tiers since it revamped the service. Along with the three titles that are available for PS Plus Essential members and those in the current Extra and Premium libraries, subscribers will have access to a bunch more games as of July 19th.

One of those is Stray, a cyberpunk adventure game in which you play as a cat with a drone companion. It’s the first time that a third-party title will be available on a higher PS Plus tier on its release date. You’ll have access to the PS4 and PS5 versions. 

Members will also be able to check out PS5 blockbuster Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade. The PS4 version of Final Fantasy VII Remake was previously available to claim through PS Plus. However, for a while, those who snagged it were unable to get Intergrade without paying for the full game. Square Enix eventually relented and offered an upgrade path.

Also on July 19th, Extra and Premium members can play Marvel’s Avengers on PS4 and PS5 at no extra cost. Things haven’t exactly gone incredibly well for that but the gameplay is solid. Crystal Dynamics just added the latest playable character, The Mighty Thor (Jane Foster), a few weeks ago.

On top of those, you’ll have access to a bunch more Assassin’s Creed games, Saints Row entries and some other games:

  • Assassin’s Creed Unity (PS4)

  • Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag (PS4)

  • Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered (PS4)

  • Assassin’s Creed Freedom Cry (PS4)

  • Assassin’s Creed: The Ezio Collection (PS4)

  • Saints Row IV: Re-Elected (PS4)

  • Saints Row Gat out of Hell (PS4)

  • Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition (PS5)

  • Ice Age: Scrat’s Nutty Adventure (PS4)

  • Jumanji The Video Game (PS4)

  • Paw Patrol on a Roll! (PS4)

  • ReadySet Heroes (PS4)

Premium members will be able to dive into a couple more PlayStation Portable titles in the form of No Heroes Allowed! and LocoRoco Midnight Carnival as well. That’s a fairly solid slate of additions overall, with something for just about everyone.

Sony says it will continue to shakeup the PS Plus lineups on a monthly basis. It will refresh the Essential library at the start of each month and add new games to Extra and Essential a couple of weeks later. Bear in mind that games will cycle in and out of the Extra and Essential tiers, but you’ll have access to Essential titles you claim as long as you maintain a PS Plus subscription.

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Xbox Games with Gold will no longer include Xbox 360 titles

As of October 2022, Microsoft will stop offering free Xbox 360 titles through Games with Gold. The company announced the change in an email sent out to Xbox Live Gold subscribers in the US, Canada and other parts of the world. “We have reached the limit of our ability to bring Xbox 360 games to the catalog,” the company states in the message. “However, Games with Gold will continue to include exciting Xbox One titles and exclusive savings each month.”

The email adds that Xbox users can redownload any 360 titles they claimed through Games with Gold regardless of whether they continue to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. 

“No other Xbox Live Gold benefits will be impacted by this change,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Engadget. “We’re always looking at ways to evolve the Xbox experience based on community engagement, feedback and shifting company priorities. We have reached the limit of our ability to bring new games to the catalog from the past due to licensing and technical constraints. We will continue to focus on providing Xbox One titles through the Games with Gold program.”

Xbox Live Gold email

Microsoft

Introduced in 2013, Microsoft added Games with Gold to Xbox Live Gold in response to the success of Sony’s PS Plus service, which was the first to offer free monthly games to customers. Microsoft later extended the perk to include the Xbox One. In recent years, the allure of the bonus has waned with the introduction of Xbox Game Pass. After Microsoft recently dropped the Xbox Live Gold requirement to play free-to-play games online, it felt like the company was preparing to reconfigure the service, and this announcement adds to that. See the full email from Microsoft above.

Update 12:47PM ET: Added comment from Microsoft.

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PS Plus games for July include ‘Crash 4’ and ‘Man of Medan’

Sony has the three games that all subscribers can snap up in July. They are Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, Man of Medan and Arcadegeddon — a notable leaker once again got all three games .

Crash Bandicoot 4 arrived in 2020 and was the first new mainline Crash game in 12 years. It was pegged as a direct sequel to the original PlayStation 1 trilogy — meaning that it . Both the PlayStation 4 and PS5 versions will be available, with the latter like the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback.

 is the first title in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures Anthology series. It’s an interactive horror game in which your choices determine whether characters live or die. However, we felt it as the studio’s previous game, Until Dawn. Man of Medan is hitting PS Plus just after the arrival of Supermassive’s latest game, .

Arcadegeddon, meanwhile, is a multiplayer shooter from that has both co-operative and player vs. player modes. You’ll search for loot and unlock abilities as you take on the evil Fun Fun Co. megacorp, which is using an arcade for real-world weapons testing.

This is the first time Sony has refreshed the games on the lowest tier of the new-look PS Plus since it . The company said it will continue to offer Essential tier users a couple of games a month that they’ll have access to as long as they remain subscribers. Sony will also update the in the middle of each month.

Crash 4, Man of Medan and Arcadegeddon will be available to claim on July 5th. Until then, you can still add the — God of War (2018), Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl — to your library.

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Security

iOS 16 and macOS Ventura include Apple’s new Rapid Security Response

As part of today’s announcements at WWDC 2022, Apple briefly mentioned a new addition to its security tools that will apply to iPhone, iPad, and Mac platforms called Rapid Security Response. It didn’t go into a lot of detail about what Rapid Security Response is, but Apple is promising to have important security updates that get to your devices even faster. Currently, iOS and macOS users get their security updates rolled in with full system patches, usually with .1 or .0.1 version numbers, which can take quite some time for users to download and install.

Now, Apple says its Rapid Security Response updates include important security improvements that “can be applied automatically between standard software updates.” MacRumors reports that for users who’ve installed the iOS 16 developer beta, there’s a new toggle under the Automatic Updates section of settings for “Install System and Data Files” to apply new security configuration and system data files. It says that “some updates may only take effect once you restart your iPhone,” which suggests that some won’t require a reboot.

That’s the case on macOS Ventura, where Apple’s breakdown of the new features coming in version 13.0 includes the Rapid Security Response, however on this platform “This isn’t a standard software update. These improvements can be applied automatically between normal updates — without a restart.” The Verge has contacted Apple for more information about the new updates, and with beta testers already running the new software, we should know more about how they work soon.

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