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Game

‘Kirby 64’ comes to Switch Online’s Expansion Pack on May 20th

If your childhood gaming was defined more by Kirby than Mario, don’t worry — Nintendo has you covered. As VGC reports, Nintendo is making Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards available through the Switch Online Expansion Pack on May 20th. The Nintendo 64 title was the first 3D Kirby game, although it was really more of a “2.5D” platformer — you set out to reassemble a shattered crystal by copying and combining your enemies’ powers.

The Switch experience is effectively what you would remember playing circa 2000, complete with low-polygon 3D visuals. As you might guess, though, the multiplayer mini-games are now available online in addition to at home.

This is the 15th N64 game to come to the Switch Online Expansion Pack, which costs $50 per year or $80 for families. While Kirby 64 might not be as immediately appealing to veteran gamers as the likes of Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time, it’s still a notable addition that may be great for introducing kids to the games of your youth.

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Game

GTA Online’s next big update features Dr. Dre and Franklin from ‘GTA V’

Rockstar Games will soon release another big update for , which includes a story mission featuring one of main characters. “The Contract” centers around Franklin Clinton and his friends, who aspire to be problem solvers for celebrities and “rich folk who got rich folk problems.”

One of those potential clients is Dr. Dre, who appears as himself in the story. A phone containing unreleased music from the rapper and producer has gone missing. As a potential partner for Franklin’s new enterprise, it’s your job to get it back.

You’ll be able to hear those Dre tracks and other fresh music when the update arrives on December 15th. Rockstar “an eclectic new radio station from some very special guest hosts” and big changes to current radio stations. Expect additional side missions, weapons (including an EMP launcher), vehicles, locations and more. Rockstar will reveal more details about “The Contract” in the coming days.

A few other well-known figures have appeared as themselves in the Grand Theft Auto series. Phil Collins was in GTA: Vice City Stories, while Katt Williams and Ricky Gervais performed stand-up sets in GTA IV.

Still, it’s notable that Dr. Dre is taking a bigger role in GTA Online — he popped up briefly during 2020’s Cayo Perico heist. Other major ongoing games like Fortnite include versions of and from other properties. Perhaps GTA Online is becoming a metaverse too.

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Game

Switch Online’s Expansion Pack Costs Double The Base Version

While today’s Animal Crossing Direct was largely about the game’s upcoming 2.0 update and newly revealed DLC, Nintendo also snuck in pricing details for its new version of Nintendo Switch Online. Titled Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, the service will cost individual users $50 per year, while a family plan version that lets up to eight accounts use the service will cost $80.

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack was revealed during Nintendo’s last Direct showcase. The upgraded version of Nintendo Switch Online will give its users access to a library of Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis titles, as well as to the new Animal Crossing: New Horizons paid DLC, Happy Home Paradise. While pricing for the service has been revealed, Nintendo has not revealed when users will actually be able to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.

It’s worth noting that Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack’s pricing is a fair leap from what users pay for the base version of the service. A yearlong individual membership for Nintendo Switch Online costs only $20, while a family plan runs customers just $35. In both cases, Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is more than twice the cost of its basic counterpart.

For users, that pricing might be a bit high. Nintendo Switch Online itself has drawn criticism over the years for its lackluster library of games and Nintendo’s own subpar multiplayer service, which doesn’t offer any voice chat capability. Users may be hesitant to shell more money out to the company without being assured that the service’s base issues will also be addressed in the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.

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Game

Red Dead Online’s Season Passes Are Live Service Perfection

There’s something to be said about making games shorter overall. The older you get, the less time you have to sink into a 40-hour long game. You have work to do, bills to pay, and generally don’t want to spend all three or four of your free hours over the course of a day in front of a screen.

But a lot of games, especially live-service titles, want you nowhere else. They want you stuck in front of your monitor or TV, playing. More ideally, they want you progressing through a battle or season pass — some massive ladder of rewards, cosmetics, and other nebulous extras with a flashy prize at the end. It’s only natural to want to reach the end. After all, why purchase a game’s battle/season pass and not finish it? We may tell ourselves that we’ll reach the final rank, but that’s a spur-of-the-moment decision every time. Life has a mind of its own and often decides that we can’t dedicate tens of hours to a game to complete a hundred-rank pass.

I don’t think the right solution to this problem is telling people to change their lives so they can start finishing these passes they spend upwards of $5 on. Instead, passes need to adapt and fit our lives. That’s why when Rockstar announced the Blood Money update for Red Dead Online, I was especially excited for the new, compact passes that would come with it.

The game’s standard pass system, the Wheeler, Rawson & Co. Club Pass, is as long as its name. The season passes last around three months total and have upwards of 75 ranks, with the second such pass featuring a whopping 100 to progress through. While a pass that size means players get a ton of rewards, they also have to sink hours upon hours into Red Dead Online to actually finish it. I feel like that’s not something I, along with a ton of other people, have time for.

Instead, players can now buy a Quick Draw Club Pass. It started on July 13 and runs until August 9. The best part? It only consists of 25 ranks. It’s compact and lets players breeze through every rank easily over the course of about 10 hours. For a person that can’t sink tons of hours into a game, this is pretty much the perfect alternative to the gargantuan passes in games like Fortnite.

In fact, it’s not clear why the industry standard for passes doesn’t shift to something much smaller like the Quick Draw Club Pass. For instance, Call of Duty: Warzone‘s latest season pass is a full 100 ranks, which is extremely difficult to progress through if you’re only playing Warzone. A smaller battle pass would leave players with a filled-out pass and all the cosmetics they want, and even give developers the chance to sell more battle passes.

We shouldn’t have to work to fill out passes for games; they should work for us. Logging in to your favorite game to play doesn’t need to feel like a chore, and thanks in part to its new, compact pass, Red Dead Online isn’t one anymore. I’m not concerned with how much XP I’m getting because I know that regardless of what I do, I’ll be able to complete the entire thing. That experience needs to extend out from Red Dead Online into other live service titles.

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Game

Do Red Dead Online’s Changes Make It Worth Playing In 2021?

Since launching in 2018 alongside Red Dead Redemption 2, Red Dead Online has felt like the outcast in Rockstar’s family. It doesn’t get nearly as much attention as GTA Online, nor does it receive the same type of content drops, and its player base certainly isn’t as large. But with a new update coming for the game that will add more content for every player, it’s worth wondering if now is a good time to finally get into Red Dead Online.

If you’re an old returning player (like I often am), Red Dead Online has pretty much never been better. The game has received updates that, although sparse, have added more content. Beyond simple story missions, you can pick up various roles that add more depth to Red Dead Online‘s five states. Three other Telegram Missions have also been added, with the promise that more are on the way. Red Dead Online has even gotten more matchmaking content, although it’s still nowhere near as thrilling as GTA Online‘s stunt races.

Roles and gold

For new players, the story’s a bit different. Red Dead Online‘s early game isn’t nearly as exciting as GTA Online‘s. In GTA Online, you can still steal a plane, drive a fast car, or participate in small-scale robberies. Red Dead Online‘s early game is tethered to its story missions, which are pretty lackluster and bare-bones. Worst of all, they don’t get you much money.

Making money in Red Dead Online‘s current state requires two things: Time and gold bars. The latter is the game’s premium currency, which players can slowly build up by completing challenges every day or finding treasure marked on treasure maps. You don’t earn full gold bars at a time, though, with gold nuggets, or 0.1 gold bars, being paid out. That makes the process of earning enough to buy your way into Red Dead Online‘s interesting and moneymaking content a bit of a slog.

Most of Red Dead Online‘s content is found in its roles, which have players take on various professions around the West. However, even these jobs are a mixed bag, with some receiving updates from Rockstar and others remaining unchanged from their release. The most interesting role by far is the bounty hunter, which lets players tackle some of the game’s more interesting PvE missions. The bounty hunter role is so popular that Rockstar added an extra 10 ranks to the role, along with some extra legendary bounties.

Outside of bounty hunting, players can be a trader, which revolves around hunting, a naturalist or nature watcher, a collector who scans the West with a metal detector, or a moonshiner, which is one of the slowest roles in the game to make money with. It may seem like I’m saying these roles are all pretty boring, but they’re not. They all have their upsides and their downsides, but each makes the game more interesting than it would be without them.

Blood Money update

Now, a ton of new content is heading to Red Dead Online with its upcoming Blood Money update. On July 13, players will be able to start working in organized crime, just with an Old West twist. It’s not clear what players can expect in terms of a payout from this role yet, but if Blood Money is full of free, PvE content, it’s sure to be a great addition to the game.

Red Dead Online hasn’t really gained any footing since its release, but with Blood Money arriving soon, it feels like 2021 might be the year that all changes. The game still needs a lot more content to be a competent live-service game, but at this point, things are looking up for Rockstar’s black sheep.

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Tech News

A love letter to Eve Online’s tutorial

“Don’t be afraid to die!” Eve Online player “Grey Gal.”

Eve Online is an immense game with nearly two decades of player-driven history and lore behind it. To the uninitiated, beginning your life in New Eden is daunting to say the least.

For those unfamiliar, Eve Online is a free-to-play, massively-multiplayer, online game where thousands of players vie for resources, power, and combat victories in a shared universe set in space.

The gist of the game, as far as I’ve managed to experience it, is that you’ve suddenly awakened in a spaceship and you’ve got work to do. And when I say “in” a spaceship, I mean it: you’re apparently the soul of the craft. And if you die, you have to be reincarnated in another spaceship?

To be clear: I’ve only played the tutorial, so the story is a bit fuzzy still. But, the point is that I really want to learn more about the game world. Right after I go murder some pirates, learn about the economy, and upgrade my ship. And fight some players. And join a PVP group. The list goes on and on.

The next person to play the tutorial after me might decide to be an engineer or a merchant. I’m a merciless pirate hunter hellbent on ending slavery in the galaxy. At least, that’s who I think my character is after an hour-long tour-de-force in the form of (dare I say it? Yes, I dare) the perfect tutorial.

I like to fancy myself a bit of an expert on game tutorials, simply because I play about a dozen new games a week and I always complete the tutorial. And, if I’m being honest, most of them suck.

Here’s what EO gets right:

Respect

In 2021, chances are, most ‘new players’ aren’t new to gaming, just the game they’re playing for the first time. Eve Online respects the fact that I’m not logging on to play a button masher, but a complex space sim. It doesn’t bog down the first 15 minutes with pages upon pages of command descriptions.

Far too often, the developers behind complex games (I won’t name and shame, but you know who you are) will try to front load the tutorial with everything a player needs to know. It’s like they’re angrily shoving information at me, as if to declare “I gave you everything you needed to know how to play. What more could you want from me?”

But Eve Online avoids this trapping. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what everything on the screen does. There’s like fifty little buttons. But they all have tool tips that pop up when I hover over them, so I’m confident I’ll figure things out.

Rather than teach me everything, Eve’s tutorial taught me a handful of things to do. It’s like I showed up for my first day at work and went through orientation. Nobody expects me to remember everything, but I’m eager to see what happens next.

Eve Online also respects my time. At no point in my life have I ever been eager or excited for a tutorial. I’m looking forward to experiencing the game and its tutorial is my gateway. It’s like standing in line for a ride. Sure, the ambiance is nice, but I want to get to the real game.

To that end, the tutorial could probably be completed in 20 minutes. I took longer to explore the interface and soak up the ambiance.

Pacing

At the end of a well-executed tutorial I should be prepared for what’s immediately in front of me as a player and inspired to explore beyond what I’ve learned so far.

In Eve Online, this means I’m fairly certain I know what I want to do next and the game’s given me a clear path to doing it.

The tutorial lets players explore the facets of the game they’re most interested in and then sets them on that path. While it does play on some old tropes (you’ve just arrived, and you have to prove yourself to the big factions by taking on small jobs), the combination of an AI assistant, a big bright interface that basically says “click this button to advance,” and a surprisingly funny and to-the-point storyline makes this tutorial feel like it takes 10 minutes.

When I was finished I had to force myself to stop playing.

Focus

A lot of MMOs and competitive games suffer from a “hard to learn, hard to master” problem that makes it difficult for some people to get into them. I played Eve Online more than a decade ago, but I was never able to really get into it.

Over the years I’ve seen the news pieces covering the massive player-lead wars and incredible record-breaking gaming feats. I wanted to dive in and try again, but I always had reasons not to.

I’ll never catch up, I’ll never have enough time to grind the levels or resources to be competitive, I just don’t have the time.

The current tutorial dismisses these worries by focusing on the one thing that matters: you.

Eve Online is a massive game, but its tutorial focuses on the little things. You’re just a ship with somewhere to go. When you’re done learning the ropes, your job is to go make some money, explore the galaxy, or find out where you fit in among fellow combat-seekers.

I never felt like I needed to rush into the fray and, perhaps most importantly, Eve Online doesn’t expect me to be a hero and it isn’t lying to me about how the galaxy needs me to save it (just like everyone else playing the game).

By the time I was done, the tutorial had shown me that my journey in Eve Online wasn’t something I could compare to anyone else’s.

I was also lucky enough to chat with a player known as Grey Gal, who specializes in onboarding noobs like me. We spoke on the phone after I joined developer CCP’s Associate PR Marketing Specialist Páll Grétar and Community Developer Jessica Kenyon for a one-hour game demo.

Grey Gal told me about her experiences over 12 years as a player. The most interesting takeaway I had was when she laughed about the idea of new players not being able to catch up.

Per Gray Gal:

New players have just as much chance of making an impact in a battle as experienced ones. It’s more about how you fit your ship and how much skill you, as the player, have than how much you’ve grinded or how long you’ve been playing.

And that’s the sense I had after completing the simple, yet compelling tutorial for Eve Online, I felt like I was ready to contribute to this gorgeous galaxy in front of me. I wanted to find somewhere to report for duty and get started.

As Community Developer Jessica Kenyon told me:

The players that survive to go on to do great things in Eve Online are those who are predisposed to setting their own goals.

Before I began the tutorial, I was expecting the standard disjointed combination of roleplay lore and out-of-character button diagrams I’ve become used to when starting a new MMO, but Eve Online gave me a masterpiece. Its tutorial has everything I need and nothing I don’t.

I hope other developers, across all gaming genres, are paying attention.



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