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Game

Roblox is now back online without any explanation for long outage [UPDATE]

When Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp went dark a few weeks ago, the Internet was unsurprisingly on fire with speculations and theories, especially considering the timing of the outage. The truth was stranger than fiction, though, and Facebook, now called Meta, attributed it to simple human error. Roblox’s case, however, is still shrouded in mystery even after it has finally gone back online after almost three days of being inaccessible to all gamers.

You might be forgiven for not knowing what Roblox is, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be any sort of gamer. In practice, however, Roblox is more of an open-world virtual sandbox in the same vein as Minecraft, though using higher-quality 3D models than Minecraft’s blocky voxels. It reportedly has over 40 million users daily, so its sudden and unexplained outage naturally made tech headlines.

As of this writing, Roblox is back online, according to a very brief tweet from the company. It’s definitely good news for those who have been waiting since October 29 to enter the virtual world, though some are understandably a bit peeved by the company’s responses to inquiries about the incident.

Roblox’s developers did make it clear that the outage wasn’t due to an external intrusion, otherwise known as a hacking incident. It has nothing to do with Chipotle either, the company also clarified without naming names. Chipotle was offering $1 million worth of burritos in Roblox that you can redeem for real-world food.

Unfortunately, that leaves users questioning what happened to take Roblox down for that long. Given its audience, which includes kids that may have been emotionally affected by the outage, the company should probably issue some statement to answer parents’ questions. While it is insisting that there was no security intrusion, keeping mum even on broad technical details might not inspire confidence in a platform that caters to younger audiences.

Update: Roblox has finally issued an official statement detailing the cause of the outage. In a nutshell, it was caused by a combination of several technical factors that made it more difficult for the company to quickly trace down the source of the error and fix it. Again, there was no security-related incident and Roblox users and their parents can rest assured that their personal information is safe. More importantly, Roblox is committing to implementing policies that will safeguard creators who can become economically vulnerable to outages like this.



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Game

Returnal 2.0 Update Finally Adds a Long Requested Feature

Returnal‘s new 2.0 update is live right now and brings a new quality of life feature to the game in the form of Suspend Cycle. This update also brings a photo mode to the game, a feature plenty suited to the game and its unique visuals.

Returnal released as one of the first PlayStation 5 exclusive titles in April. While the game was met with positive reception, many players voiced problems with the roguelike nature of the game and not being able to finish missions, due to how long runs can last. This update fixes that problem by allowing players to suspend their run.

Suspend Cycle allows players to pause mid-cycle and return to it later. That means it’s possible to exit the game, play something else, or turn off the console completely and still return later exactly where you left off. This feature isn’t to be confused with the typical Save option, as you’re only allotted one suspend point at a time.

There are also limitations to Suspend Cycle. Players won’t be able to suspend during cinematics, first-person sequences, intense combat scenarios, and boss battles to keep the challenge intact.

The 2.0 update also adds a highly-requested Photo Mode, which many gamers have come to expect from most AAA games at this point. At any time, besides first-person sequences, players can pause the game and enter the new Photo Mode. Like with Photo Modes in other games, players can change the focus, filters, coloring, and more.

Returnal and its free 2.0 update are available now for the PlayStation 5.

Editors’ Choice




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AI

Report: 80% of consumers prefer to speak with AI to avoid long hold times

A new survey conducted by Replicant found that nearly 80% of consumers indicated they would prefer to speak with a virtual agent or machine to avoid long hold times. Moreover, 57% of consumers would speak with conversational AI even if the hold time was only five minutes.

Beyond consumers’ willingness to speak with AI, the survey found pervasive customer service problems, with 91% of consumers reporting they have experienced poor customer service in the past six months.

Consumers say auto and home insurance companies have had the best customer service since the pandemic began, while cell phone and internet providers ranked the worst. Airlines, in the news for long hold times, came in second place for worst customer service overall since the pandemic began.

However, airlines didn’t present the most issues for summer travelers. For the 77% of summer travelers who reported they encountered customer service issues, rental car companies topped the list, as nearly a third of travelers using rental cars had issues.

Overall, brands that don’t address gaps in customer service are at risk, with 76% of consumers saying a poor customer service experience negatively impacts their perception of a brand and one in three saying it affects loyalty. The pandemic and its continued impacts have exacerbated extant staffing issues, but companies haven’t made changes to have more resilient staffing in the face of uncertainty. For many of these companies, AI could provide needed support. With the pandemic still in play, staffing and uncertainty will continue to impact recovery if not addressed.

Replicant commissioned the survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who have interacted with customer service in the past six months late this summer, amid reports of issues with airline customer service and product shortages, to examine public attitudes toward customer service.

Read the full report by Replicant.

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Game

At long last, Spelunky 1 and 2 get a Switch release date

We’ve known for a while now that Spelunky and its sequel, the aptly named Spelunky 2, were on the way to Switch, but with no specific release date confirmed. That all changed today when Spelunky developer Derek Yu announced that both games are landing on Switch later this month. In just a few short weeks, you’ll be able to play both indie gems on the go.

It’s a little interesting that the release date announcements for Spelunky and Spelunky 2 weren’t included in yesterday’s Indie World Showcase, as their inclusion would have made a show that was already surprisingly great even better. In any case, Spelunky developer Derek Yu announced on Twitter today that both games will be landing on Switch on August 26th.

Both games will be available in North America, Europe, and Australia on that day, with more regions coming in the future. Listings for both games are live on the eShop at the moment, and they show that the original Spelunky will cost $9.99, while Spelunky 2 – which initially launched on PS4 and PC last year – will cost $19.99.

If you haven’t played Spelunky before, these Switch releases will be an excellent opportunity to try them out. Both games offer procedurally generated caves and dungeons for players to explore, collecting loot as they try to survive the perils found within. Their roguelike elements make them particularly good pick-up-and-play games, and the Switch is the perfect platform for those given its hybrid design.

Today’s announcement is just the tip of the iceberg for Switch indie gaming news. Yesterday, during an Indie World Showcase, we saw a number of games get surprise releases on the Switch, including the highly-anticipated Axiom Verge 2. We also learned that Loop Hero will be heading to Switch later this year, so Switch owners have a lot of solid indie games heading their way.

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Categories
Game

Tencent limits how long kids can play its flagship game, ‘Honor of Kings’

China’s regulatory war against its tech giants isn’t limited to data. After opening a front in gaming back in 2018, the government is now adding to the restraints the biggest publishers face. Tencent is first on the chopping block. The publisher has been forced to further slash playing time on Honor of Kings for those aged under 18 to one hour during regular days and two hours on weekends. The rules, designed to appease the country’s all-powerful censors, come into effect today, according to state media outlet the South China Morning Post

Previously, play time in China was capped at 90 minutes per day during the week and three hours per day at weekends and holidays as part of broader rules introduced in 2019. Additional restrictions banned younger gamers from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and curbed how much they could spend on downloadable content.

Honor of Kings is a hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Tencent subsidiary TiMi Studio Group, also known for Call of Duty: Mobile and Pokémon Unite. As of November, the mobile title boasted 100 million players. But, its success has also brought with it increased scrutiny. In June, Tencent found itself at the center of a lawsuit that accused it of including “inappropriate” content in Honor of Kings, including characters with low-cut clothes and historical inaccuracies.

The latest crackdown comes amid growing fears in China over the addictive nature of video games. On Tuesday, a state-affiliated media outlet described the products produced by the gaming industry as “spiritual opium.” The article continued: “No industry or sport should develop at the price of destroying a generation.”

Therein lies the broader issue. China is currently grappling with a generational divide that has seen younger citizens reject the competitive lifestyle pressures heaped upon them. This stance is encapsulated by the “tang ping,” or “lying flat,” philosophy embraced by a growing number of Gen Z Chinese. In a nutshell, it signifies those who choose not to work hard, not to buy property and not to marry and have children. 

Instead of addressing the societal complaints, China is choosing to deflect the blame onto the gaming industry.

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AI

Google’s ethical AI researchers complained of harassment long before Timnit Gebru’s firing

Google’s AI leadership came under fire in December when star ethics researcher Timnit Gebru was abruptly fired while working on a paper about the dangers of large language models. Now, new reporting from Bloomberg suggests the turmoil began long before her termination — and includes allegations of bias and sexual harassment.

Shortly after Gebru arrived at Google in 2018, she informed her boss that a colleague had been accused of sexual harassment at another organization. Katherine Heller, a Google researcher, reported the same incident, which included allegations of inappropriate touching. Google immediately opened an investigation into the man’s behavior. Bloomberg did not name the man accused of harassment, and The Verge does not know his identity.

The allegations coincided with an even more explosive story. Andy Rubin, the “father of Android” had received a $90 million exit package despite being credibly accused of sexual misconduct. The news sparked outrage at Google, and 20,000 employees walked out of work to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment.

Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, co-lead of the ethical AI team, went to AI chief Jeff Dean with a “litany of concerns,” according to Bloomberg. They told Dean about the colleague who’d been accused of harassment, and said there was a perceived pattern of women being excluded and undermined on the research team. Some were given lower roles than men, despite having better qualifications. Mitchell also said she’d been denied a promotion due to “nebulous complaints to HR about her personality.”

Dean was skeptical about the harassment allegations but said he would investigate, Bloomberg reports. He pushed back on the idea that there was a pattern of women on the research team getting lower-level positions than men.

After the meeting, Dean announced a new research project with the alleged harasser at the helm. Nine months later, the man was fired for “leadership issues,” according to Bloomberg. He’d been accused of misconduct at Google, although the investigation was still ongoing.

After the man was fired, he threatened to sue Google. The legal team told employees who’d spoken out about his conduct that they might hear from the man’s lawyers. The company was “vague” about whether it would defend the whistleblowers, Bloomberg reports.

The harassment allegation was not an isolated incident. Gebru and her co-workers reported additional claims of inappropriate behavior and bullying after the initial accusation.

In a statement emailed to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said: “We investigate any allegations and take firm action against employees who violate our clear workplace policies.”

Gebru said there were also ongoing issues with getting Google to respect the ethical AI team’s work. When she tried to look into a dataset released by Google’s self-driving car company Waymo, the project became mired in “legal haggling.” Gebru wanted to explore how skin tone impacted Waymo’s pedestrian-detection technology. “Waymo employees peppered the team with inquiries, including why they were interested in skin color and what they were planning to do with the results,” according to the Bloomberg article.

After Gebru went public about her firing, she received an onslaught of harassment from people who claimed that she was trying to get attention and play the victim. The latest news further validates her response that the issues she raised were part of a pattern of alleged bias on the research team.

Update April 21st, 6:05PM ET: Article updated with statement from Google.

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Computing

The Best HP Laptop Got a Massive Price Cut, but Not for Long

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If you’re looking for a new laptop, and a 2-in-1 convertible device sounds pretty appealing, you’re going to love this HP Spectre x360 convertible laptop deal we’ve just spotted. As part of the HP 72 Hour Flash Sale, you can pick up a stylish and practical HP Spectre x360 laptop for just $900, saving you $150 on the usual price. This is a great time to enjoy the rich benefits of a laptop that also doubles up as a tablet, all for a lot less than usual. You’ll need to be quick, though, as this sale is only available for a strictly limited time only.

In our review of the HP Spectre x360, we described it as the convertible 2-in-1 perfected because it’s simply that great a device. For the money, you get an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of solid-state drive storage, and a gorgeous 13.3-inch full HD display. Of course, the display is a touchscreen device, so you can easily switch between using the laptop as a regular laptop or as a more tactile tablet instead. It’s these benefits that are why the best 2-in-1 laptops are becoming so much more appealing than before.

Effectively, by purchasing the HP Spectre x360, you get the best of both worlds. You can use it as a regular laptop, typing up documents and being super productive before switching over to tablet mode to relax with your favorite streaming shows or opting to get more tactile with reports and presentations you need to complete. The HP Spectre x360 offers fantastic battery life, along with other useful features such as an un-hackable webcam kill switch and a microphone mute button.

A great way to be more productive and enjoy yourself more, the HP Spectre x360 is available right now as part of the HP 72 Hour Flash Sale for just $900. That’s a saving of $150 on the usual price, making it a great time to buy. Just remember to hit the Buy button fast. Stock is strictly limited.

More laptop deals

Looking for a different type of laptop? We’ve got them. We’ve rounded up all the best laptop deals right now so you don’t have to go searching yourself. You’re sure to find the right type of laptop for the right price here.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

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Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Dell XPS 13 Got a Massive Price Cut — It Won’t Last Long

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For anyone looking for the best laptop out there, Dell has an amazing deal right now. With $200 off the usual price, you can buy the consistently elegant and responsive Dell XPS 13 for just $700. It’s one of the best laptops out there in this price range and anyone looking to be more productive on the move, while also enjoying a lightweight design, is going to adore this device. You’ll need to be fast though. As with all Dell deals, stock at this price is strictly limited. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and you seriously don’t want to miss out on it.

The Dell XPS 13 is an absolute dream to use. The laptop endgame, that’s hardly surprising in many ways given it comes from one of the best laptop brands out there right now — Dell. The laptop offers an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 256GB of SSD storage, plus a gorgeous-looking 13.3-inch full HD display. It’s everything you could want from such a productivity-focused laptop and yet somehow, it goes a little further, too.

That’s because as you’d expect from one of the best laptops out there, the Dell XPS 13 is wonderfully designed. Dell has squeezed a 13.3-inch screen into an 11-inch form factor so you get all the benefits of a decent-sized screen without having the bulk of excessive bezels getting in the way. Other parts of the Dell XPS 13 that were intelligently redesigned include a webcam that’s been reduced in size while still providing a superior experience to previous webcams.

With everything about the Dell XPS 13 so smartly designed, it’s a great laptop for use in your home office or for taking out and about with you on your daily commute. Wherever you are, it’s going to look good and you’ll appreciate the fact it’s so lightweight and sleek looking.

Ordinarily priced at $900, you can snap up the Dell XPS 13 for just $700 at Dell right now. Stock allocation at this price is very limited so once it’s gone, it’s gone, meaning you’ll need to be fast here. You won’t be disappointed though. This is one of the best laptops out there right now.

More laptop deals

If you know you want to buy a laptop but you’re not entirely sold on the Dell XPS, we also have all the other best Dell XPS deals for you to check out. In particular, if you’re thinking of snagging a Dell XPS with a slightly different configuration, this is where to look. Alternatively, check out the best laptop deals for great prices on other laptop brands.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

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Game

Gundam Evolution trailer delivers 6v6 PvP FPS action at last: What took so long?

Over the past decade, Esports exploded and games like Overwatch and DOTA 2 sat at the center of high-end spectator-friendly action. PvP games of all sorts have been popular since the internet made it possible to play with friends from home, and since the dawn of the mech, folks around the world have dreamt of commanding their own battle bot. What’s taken Bandai Namco so long to put all the pieces together?

The game Gundam Evolution isn’t the first of its kind – there’ve been PvP mech games before. There’ve been games that look like this, feel like this, and play like this before. But they’ve not been GUNDAM.

This is like saying there’ve been games out there in the world where you can find and fight tiny animals, but they’re not Pokemon. Gundam is the long-lasting fan-favorite brand universe that’s been at the center of the mecha universe since it effectively invented the “real robot” mecha anime genre back in 1979.

If you’re in search of the most epic and fantastic PvP FPS mech suit game in the world today, you’ll want to check out Titanfall. It’s not Gundam, but if you’ve not played it before and have been waiting to get inside a mech your whole life, that’s the one you should look at first. THEN let’s take a peek at Gundam Evolution as it heads toward release in early 2022.

The game Gundam Evolution will begin its public life with a Closed Beta starting on August 8, 2021. There’ll be a recruitment period from July 15 (today) to August 2, and the creators of the game are looking for approximately 5k users (in Japan, first) to test the game.

Bandai Namco will deliver a new Gundam Evolution presentation on July 17 with early gameplay. There’ll be some chat about the creation of the game, about the game as it exists today, and about where they’re planning on heading with the game. The embedded YouTube above this paragraph will show that presentation as such – stay tuned and take a peek!

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Computing

The Best Dell XPS 13 Laptop Deal We’ve Seen in a Long Time

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It’s hard to find a PC laptop with better features than the Dell XPS series — just check out the amazing laptops on sale in these Dell XPS deals. And right now at Dell, you can get $200 off a 13-inch Dell XPS 13 laptop. This laptop comes loaded, and it’s only $700, a huge drop from its regular price of $900. That’s an amazing deal on one of the best laptops in its class!

The Dell XPS 13 is so dominant that when we reviewed this computer, we called it “the laptop endgame.” It’s really got everything you need in a small-sized, portable computer. The frame is nearly without bezels, and the performance is unmatched for a laptop in this class. Also, the connectivity is massively improved, as are the larger keyboard and touchpad. We can’t say enough good things about this computer, which, on top of everything else, is handsomely designed and will look perfect on any desk (and fits well in any bag).

Let’s start with the screen, which is really unbeatable for a PC laptop. The great-looking, four-sided InfinityEdge 13.3-inch display provides an 80.7% screen-to-body ratio. Add to this a color spectrum with 100% sRGB color and a 1500:1 contrast ratio, and you’ve got unbelievably tight visuals and unmatched clarity. And then there’s the smaller, improved HD webcam – a four-element lens brings you the sharpest video despite the webcam’s tiny size at only 2.25mm.

Under the hood, things continue to look fantastic, with an 11th-generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 Processor, backed up by 8GB of memory for effortlessly handling multiple complex apps. And then there’s the huge 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe solid-state drive for secure storage that can be accessed in a jiffy. There’s smooth streaming with Killer Wi-Fi 6 technology, Windows 10 (which can soon be upgraded to 11), Intel Iris Xe Graphics, and a battery that lasts up to 12 hours. On top of this all, XPS 13 is Energy Star certified to give you peace of mind. Simply put, there is no more powerful laptop in this class than the Dell XPS 13.

Made with safe materials, this XPS 13 is more durable than your average laptop because it’s cut from a single block of aluminum. It’s impact- and scratch-resistant, and its carbon fiber palm rest doubles down on that support. And yet, it’s light and portable, boasting a build of 0.62 inches by 11.9 inches by 7.8 inches and weighing only 2.6 pounds. You can bring it anywhere and connect it to anything, especially with a USB-C port (which is great for charging, too) and two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Is there anything this laptop can’t do?

Finding a decent laptop for under $1,000 can be tricky, but it’s super rare that we see a laptop at the level of the Dell XPS 13 for as little as $700. This is an incredible opportunity to get $200 off one of the best compact laptops on the market, down from its regular price of $900. What are you waiting for?

More laptop deals

Want to see what else is out there in the world of portable computers? We’ve rounded up some of the best laptop deals just for you below.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Choice




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