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Game

Yakuza spinoffs ‘Judgment’ and ‘Lost Judgment’ finally arrive on Steam

In a surprising turn of events, Sega has released Yakuza series spinoffs Judgment and Lost Judgment on Steam. The former first arrived on PlayStation 4 in before making its way to current generation consoles and Stadia . Judgment casts players as Takayuki Yagami, a private detective investigating a serial murder case in a fictional part of Tokyo modeled after the city’s famous Kabukicho district. The game’s 2021 sequel, Lost Judgment, takes place three years later and has a darker tone and new gameplay elements.

The likelihood of the Judgment franchise ever making its way to PC seemed bleak before this week. According to a report published last year by Japan’s (), the series was unlikely to continue due to a dispute between Sega and the talent agency representing Takuya Kimura, the actor who lent his likeness and voice to its protagonist. Kimura’s agency was reportedly against a PC release, fearing it would hurt its business model. At one point, the two sides were so far apart it seemed unlikely Sega would make another Judgment game.

But that was before and now you can buy and  on Steam either separately or as part of a that includes the sequel’s Kaito Files expansion.

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Game

It looks like the ‘Uncharted 4’ and ‘Lost Legacy’ bundle is coming to PC on October 19th

It seems that nine long months after a remastered bundle of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: Lost Legacy , PC gamers will be able to find out . According to a listing on the Epic Games Store Twitter gaming deals maestro Wario64, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection will hit that storefront on October 19th. It appears Epic published the information ahead of schedule, as currently displays a 404 error. The leak from SteamDB that October 19th was the release date.

Legacy of Thieves Collection is supposed to be coming to Steam before the end of the year as well, but it appears that if you pre-order through Epic, you’ll gain access to a Sully’s Seaplane glider in at no extra cost. Nathan Drake and Chloe Frazer skins earlier this year to promote the .

The apparent timing of the Legacy of Thieves Collection PC release is interesting, since Sony said Spider-Man: Miles Morales is . One would think they’d try to space things out a bit. In any case, perhaps Sony will soon host a PlayStation showcase that clears everything up.

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Game

Nintendo’s Dragalia Lost mobile RPG goes offline on November 30th

Nintendo and Cygames have announced Dragalia Lost’s exact end-of-service date: November 30th, at 1AM Eastern time. The companies started winding down the gacha fantasy RPG back in March and released its last major update by the end of that month. In July, they wrapped up the game’s main story with the intention of shutting down its servers before the year ends. Players can expect more changes before November 30th comes around — in fact, Diamantium, the premium currency in Dragalia Lost, is no longer available for purchase as of August 30th. 

The upgrade essentials and packs players can buy from the in-game shop using their Diamantium stash will no longer be available starting on October 31st at 2AM. If users still have in-game money left by that time, they could spend it on summoning, building facilities at the Halidom castle, recovering stamina and other gameplay-related purposes.

When the companies announced that they were shutting down the game, they didn’t explain the reason behind their decision. This new announcement is no different. Dragalia Lost is Nintendo’s first foray into mobile games and was released back in 2019. While it never quite achieved the popularity of games like Genshin Impact, it wasn’t a flop either: Sensor Tower estimates put its earnings at over $140 million by the end of 2020. That said, Nintendo hasn’t been exactly been putting a lot of energy into mobile gaming — its most recent title is Pikmin Bloom released in 2021 — and was resistant to the idea of making games for phones for the longest time. No matter what the reason is for Dragalia Lost’s demise, anybody who tries to sign in after its servers shut down will only see an end-of-service notification on the screen.

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Security

Web3 projects have lost more than $2 billion to hacks this year

In the first six months of 2022, Web3 projects have lost more than $2 billion to hacks and exploits — more than all of 2021 combined.

That’s according to research from blockchain auditing and security company CertiK, which on Thursday released its quarterly Web3 security report covering Q2 of this year. The report paints a sobering picture of a cryptocurrency space still plagued by hacks, scams, and phishing schemes while also facing relatively new threats like flash loan attacks.

CertiK puts particular focus on this last category of threat, which has been created by the invention of flash loans: a decentralized finance mechanism that lets borrowers access extremely large amounts of cryptocurrency for very short periods of time. If used maliciously, flash loans can be used to manipulate the value of a certain token on exchanges or buy up all of the governance tokens in a project and vote to withdraw all of the funds, as happened to Beanstalk in April.

In total, CertiK’s report claims that a total of $308 million was lost across 27 flash loan attacks in Q2 2022 — an enormous increase compared to just $14 million lost to flash loans in Q1.

Phishing attacks also increased in frequency between Q1 and Q2 of this year, with CertiK recording 290 in the most recent quarter compared with 106 in the first three months of the year. Discord was the vector for the vast majority of phishing attempts, a signal of its continuing popularity as the social network of choice for the cryptocurrency and NFT scene, despite ongoing security concerns.

In slightly more positive news, so-called “rug pulls” — where the founders of a project halt development and abscond with the funds — are becoming less common, though tens of millions of dollars were still lost in this way. CertiK found that a total of $37.46 million was lost to rug pulls in Q2 of this year, down 16.5 percent from the previous quarter, though the report attributes much of this decrease to the current crypto winter, which may be driving away the less experienced investors who are likely to be fooled by scam projects.

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Game

‘Axie Infinity’ hack victims will only get back around a third of what they lost

Sky Mavis, the developer of blockchain game Axie Infinity, says it will start reimbursing the victims of a $617 million hack that took place earlier this year. The attackers took $25.5 million in USDC (a stablecoin that’s pegged to the value of the US dollar) and 173,600 ether, which was worth around $591.2 million at the time. The FBI claimed North Korean state-backed hacker groups were behind the attack.

Impacted Axie Infinity players will be able to withdraw one ether token for each one they lost in the hack, Sky Mavis told Bloomberg (the company didn’t mention a USDC reimbursement). However, as with other cryptocurrencies, the value of Ethereum has plummeted since the attack in March. 

Because of that, Sky Mavis will return around $216.5 million to users. It’s possible that the price of Ethereum will rise again, but as things stand, affected users will get back around a third of what they lost.

In April, Sky Mavis raised $150 million in funding to help it pay back the victims. The developer plans to reimburse affected users on June 28th, when it restarts the Ronin software bridge that the hackers targeted. 

Axie Infinity is widely considered the most popular play-to-earn game. Players collect and mint NFTs representing creatures that battle each other, Pokémon-style. These NFTs can be sold to other players, with Sky Mavis charging a transaction fee. By February, Axie Infinity had facilitated $4 billion in NFT sales.

However, the NFT market has all but bottomed out, which has had a significant impact on Axie Infinity. For one thing, according to Bloomberg, the daily active user count dropped from 2.7 million in November to a quarter of that by the end of May.

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Game

‘Uncharted 4’ and ‘Lost Legacy’ remasters hit PS5 on January 28th

You won’t have to wait too much longer to play (or replay) the last two Uncharted games on your PlayStation 5. Naughty Dog and Sony have confirmed that Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection will be available for PS5 on January 28th for $50, or $10 if you’ve bought the PS4 versions of either included game. The companies have also revealed just what audiovisual upgrades you can expect. These aren’t complete overhauls (they’re both mid-cycle PS4 releases, after all), but they might be worthwhile if you missed out on Uncharted 4 or Lost Legacy, or just want to make the most of a new TV.

As with some PS5 titles, you can prioritize the graphics for either resolution or speed. A “Fidelity Mode” jumps to native 4K while preserving a target frame rate of 30FPS. You can alternately use a “Performance Mode” if 60FPS matters more than crisp graphics, and there’s even a “Performance+” option that caps the resolution at 1080p in return for an extra-smooth 120FPS.

Both games promise “near instant” load times thanks to the PS5’s SSD, and Naughty Dog is taking advantage of improved DualSense haptic feedback as well as spatial audio for built-in TV speakers and headphones. It should be a more immersive experience, then, even if you can’t justify an elaborate audio setup.

You’ll have to be patient if you’re jonesing for the PC version. You can add the Uncharted bundle to your wish lists on the Epic Games Store and Steam, but the developers haven’t narrowed down the release date beyond a generic “2022.” The system requirements aren’t yet available, either. While that’s not surprising given the extra challenges of porting a PS4 game to PCs, it could leave you waiting a bit longer than you might like.

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AI

DeepMind reportedly lost a yearslong bid to win more independence from Google

Tensions between Google and its AI brain trust DeepMind have always been fascinating. To put the relationship in crude terms: DeepMind, founded in 2010, is home to some the best AI researchers in the world who output a steady stream of insightful academic papers and Nature front covers. Google, meanwhile, bought DeepMind in 2014 and bankrolls its large losses, and it really, really wants to squeeze some money out of all those juicy brains.

That’s why a recent story on the two companies from The Wall Street Journal is so interesting. In it, Parmy Olson reports that Google has ended yearslong negotiations between the two firms, ultimately rejecting a plea from DeepMind for more independence.

According to Olson, DeepMind told staff the talks were over “late last month.” One suggestion from DeepMind’s founders was apparently for the company to have the same legal structure as a nonprofit, “reasoning that the powerful artificial intelligence they were researching shouldn’t be controlled by a single corporate entity, according to people familiar with those plans.” But Google wasn’t on board with this, telling DeepMind it didn’t make sense considering how much money the company has poured into DeepMind.

This conflict isn’t surprising. Google execs have said repeatedly the company’s future lies in AI, and numerous news stories suggest the mothership has been pressuring DeepMind into commercializing its work. This has led to projects from DeepMind using its research to improve battery life on Android and reduce energy costs in its data centers, but the financial benefits of these efforts are unclear. Meanwhile, the UK firm’s losses keep rising — hitting a high of £477 million (around $660 million) in its most recent public filings for 2019. If Google wants its money’s worth, it can’t give DeepMind anything like nonprofit status.

Alongside financial pressures, another bone of contention between the two companies seems to be ethical oversight. A much-trumpeted element in Google’s acquisition of DeepMind was a promise that Google would set up an ethics board to ensure its technology was always deployed fairly. The exact nature and scope of this board, though, including who sits on it, has always been unclear. A 2019 report from The Economist said the board even held ownership over any artificial general intelligence created by DeepMind — a term that refers to AI that meets or exceeds human capacity across a broad range of tasks.

The status of this board is not mentioned in the WSJ’s report, but Olson notes that DeepMind’s future work will now be overseen by a separate ethics board “staffed mostly by senior Google executives.” Olson noted in a tweet that this is the Advanced Technology Review Council, or ATRC. This is reportedly Google’s “highest review board.”

In a statement given to The Verge, a spokesperson for DeepMind said: “Over the years, of course we’ve discussed and explored different structures within the Alphabet group to find the optimal way to support our long term research mission to solve intelligence. We could not be prouder to be delivering on this incredible mission, while continuing to have both operational autonomy and Alphabet’s full support.”

Update, May 21st, 11:04AM ET: Story has been updated to note that the ethics board mentioned in the WSJ’s report is the ATRC.

Update, May 24th, 04:55AM ET: Story has been updated with statement from DeepMind.



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Game

Amazon Prime Gaming drops August free games: Lost Horizon 2, Battlefield V, Indiana Jones

A new collection of games was revealed in Amazon Prime’s “Free Games with Prime” for August of 2021. Games are available for claim by Amazon Prime members for a limited time, then remain available for use from that time thereafter. The turnover from one month to the other ushers out the game Battlefield 1 and in Battlefield V, making July and August a real decent pair of months for users that’ve never played Battlefield games before.

The August 2021 Free Games with Prime collection with Amazon includes Lost Horizon 2, Another Lost Phone: Laura’s Story, Planet Alpha, A Normal Lost Phone, Secret Files: Tunguska, Metamorphosis, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Battlefield 1 will be available for claim until August 4. After that, Battlefield V becomes the Battlefield you’ll be able to claim with Prime Gaming.

UPDATE: Actually Battlefield 1 is available for free until August 4, but Battlefield V becomes available for free starting August 2, 2021. It’ll be up there until October 1. August 2 will be the last chance to claim Batman: The Enemy Within – The Telltale Series, RAD, The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature, Portal Dogs, Automachef, and Tales of the Neon Sea.

As it’s been in the past, so too is it true here that you’ll need an Amazon Prime subscription to claim these games. In some cases you’ll get codes, in others you’ll need desktop software from Amazon to download and play the games. Amazon Prime Gaming also delivers some in-game bonuses for games you might already own, including (for example) a Beetle Buddy Bundle + 6,500 Kudos in Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. You’ll just need to balance the value of the content you’re getting VS the possibility that you’ll subscribe to Amazon Prime and forget that you’ve done so, paying a subscription fee for the rest of time or until you remember to unsubscribe as such.

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Game

‘Lost Judgment’ will let you team up with a dog detective

Lost Judgment, the sequel to detective adventure Judgment, arrives in a couple of months and Sony has given a deeper look at what to expect with a gameplay trailer. For one thing, there are a ton of mini-games for you to check out, including a Sonic the Hedgehog one.

You’ll be able to tail and chase suspects, once again adopt disguises, harness Takayuki Yagami’s parkour skills and use a bevy of gadgets. Perhaps most excitingly, you’ll have a companion dog who can help you find targets and assist in fights.

When it comes to combat, you can draw from a variety of martial arts forms, including the new counterattack-centric snake style. The trailer also shows off more of Yagami’s side-quests while he’s undercover as a high school advisor. You’ll be able to build and control a robot in the robotics club, for instance.

It’s not exactly surprising that there’ll be so much to see and do here, given the depth of the original and developer Ryu ga Gotoku Studio’s history with the Yakuza series. The trailer gives just a taste of what you’ll be able to do in Lost Judgment, which arrives on PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on September 24th.

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Tech News

New study offers clues about how Mars lost its water

Mars is known for its thin atmosphere, where CO2 dominates and provides most of the atmospheric mass and pressure. In fact, the pressure is similar to that in the Earth’s stratosphere, which is a layer of the atmosphere, at more than 30km above the surface.

But what about water? Water on Mars is currently found on the surface as a layer of ice – several kilometers thick – at the north pole. It also appears as seasonal frost at the coldest times of the year, and in the atmosphere as vapor and ice. Nevertheless, the Martian atmosphere is extremely dry compared to Earth’s, with about 100 times less water. While precipitation on Earth results in water layers several centimeters thick, water that would precipitate on Mars would only form a thin film of less than a millimeter.

New data now provides a better understanding of why there is (almost) no water left on Mars.

Water escapes from the Martian atmosphere

The evidence suggests that Mars was not always the cold, arid planet we observe today. There is plenty of evidence of water on Mars’s surface in the distant past – about four billion years ago. At that time, liquid water flowed in great streams and stagnated in the form of pools or lakes, such as in the Jezero crater explored by the Perseverance rover, in search of traces of past life.