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Computing

Intel Meteor Lake will pack more punch for the same power

Intel has just given us a much larger glimpse into its future Meteor Lake lineup. At the 2022 IEEE VLSI Symposium, the company talked about the 14th generation of its processors, detailing the future process node and the improvements the new Intel 4 process should bring.

The teaser certainly sounds promising. Intel claims that Meteor Lake CPUs will provide 20% higher clock speeds than the previous generations, all while maintaining the same power requirements.

Intel

Intel Meteor Lake is still quite far off — the company confirms that the new chips are on track to meet the 2023 launch deadline, although no specifics have been given at this time. Before we ever see Meteor Lake, we will see the launch of Intel Raptor Lake in the fall. However, unsurprisingly, both Intel and the tech world at large are looking to the future — and as far as the 14th generation of Intel chips goes, the future looks pretty exciting.

During the 2022 IEEE VLSI Symposium, Intel took the public on a deep dive into the upcoming Intel 4 process node, which is what Meteor Lake is based on. As a successor to the Intel 7 (used for Alder Lake and Raptor Lake), it will require a new socket, and it will feature a new architecture. Intel claims that the changes introduced in that generation will deliver huge performance gains while keeping the power consumption at a similar level to what we’ve grown used to with 12th-gen CPUs.

The company teased that Meteor Lake will deliver up to 21.5% higher frequencies at the same power requirements as the Intel 7 process. Similarly, when scaled down to the same frequency as Intel 7, Meteor Lake will sport an up to 40% power reduction. This is going to be achieved through various changes in the chip’s architecture, such as a 2x improvement in area scaling. This means that it has doubled transistor density compared to the Intel 7, at least for the high-performance libraries.

With the new process node, Intel will largely use extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography as a way to simplify manufacturing. Simply put, this reduces the number of steps needed to manufacture the node by a significant amount. It should result in higher yields and reduce production errors. As a result of EUV, Intel noted a 5% reduction in process steps and a 20% lower total mask count.

The Intel 4 name is a code name for Intel’s 7nm process node, which means a switch from 10nm to 7nm for Intel. The new chips will utilize Intel’s Foveros 3D packaging technology and will feature a four-die setup joined by TSV (through silicon-via) connections. These four tiles will be split into the input/output tile (I/O), the system-on-a-chip tile, the compute tile, and the graphics tile.

Intel Meteor Lake slide, part two.
Intel

Intel has shared a blown-up image of the compute die for Meteor Lake, complete with six blue-colored performance cores (Redwood Cove) and two clusters of four Crestmont efficiency cores, colored in purple. In the middle of the chip, you can see the L3 cache and the interconnect circuitry. The company has yet to divulge the exact description of the I/O and the SOC tiles.

In addition to teasing the Intel 4 process, the manufacturer also talked about what comes next — moving on to Intel 3. Intel 3 will come with enhanced transistors and interconnects, and it’s worth noting that I4 will be forward compatible with I3, so it won’t require a full redesign. Intel will stay true to the EUV technology, with more EUV layers that simplify the design even further. According to the current estimations, the I3 node will be around 18% faster than the I4. Once Intel is done with I3, it will move on to the 20A and 18A nodes and even more exciting technologies.

All in all, Intel’s sneak peek is very detailed and quite technical, so if you’re a fan of that, make sure you read the full write-up prepared by Tom’s Hardware. Although Meteor Lake is a while off, there’s still plenty to be hyped for this year. We’ve got the Intel Raptor Lake coming up, and around the same time, AMD is slated to launch the Ryzen 7000 series of CPUs.

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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

Nintendo is adding the original ‘Paper Mario’ to the Switch Online Expansion Pack

Nintendo launched its paid Switch Online Expansion Pack tier with a very limited number of N64 games in October. And according to Kotaku, they were plagued with various technical issues, such as wonky layouts, poor graphics quality and bugs that cause crashes. Soon, though, the gaming giant will add a Nintendo 64 classic to the list of titles you can access with the subscription service: The original Paper Mario game that was released over 20 years ago. 

The base Switch Online subscription, which gives you access to NES and SNES titles, costs $20 a year. If you want to play the N64 games the expansion pack offers, you’ll have pony up $50 a year or $80 for a family plan. In addition to getting access to N64 games, the more expensive tier also include retro SEGA Genesis games and the $25 Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise DLC. There’s still a huge jump from $20 to $50, though, and the addition of Paper Mario could convince fans of the series to subscribe. 

Here’s a summary of what the turn-based game is about:

“After Bowser steals the Star Rod and kidnaps Princess Peach, Mario plots to rescue the seven Star Spirits and free the Mushroom Kingdom from the Koopa’s rule. As Mario travels from the tropical jungles of Lavalava Island to the frosty heights of Shiver Mountain, he’ll need all the help he can get. Master the abilities of the seven Star Spirits and the other allies joining the adventure to aid our hero on the battlefield.”

Paper Mario for the N64 will be available to Expansion Pack subscribers starting on December 10th.  

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Game

All Of Jackbox Party Pack 8’s New Games Ranked By Fun Factor

October 14 saw the release of The Jackbox Party Pack 8the latest in the long-running party game franchise. Jackbox is best described as a more adult Mario Party. The compilations contain trivia and word-based games that are designed for several players who write, draw, or make guesses based on other players’ entries and the game’s ridiculous situations. The series is unique in that players don’t need to use controllers to participate:W hile Jackbox‘s main action takes place on the big screen, players send in their decisions and answers through their phones. Observers who aren’t actively participating can join the “audience” and influence the outcome of the games.

Jackbox was one of the game series that got my friends and I through the pandemic. While it doesn’t have true online play or any sort of matchmaking, we got around that by having one person stream the main game through Discord and partying up in voice chat. I spent my birthday last year quarantined in my bedroom, drinking beer, and playing The Jackbox Party Pack 7 virtually with a big group of friends, and it brought a lot of levity to what was otherwise a rough situation. When Party Pack 8 released last week, it was an instant buy for me. After playing through each of its party games with different friends, here’s how each new game stacks up in terms of fun factor.

Note: I’ve found that Jackbox games generally work best with at least five main participants. Your experience may differ if you have less than that.

5. Weapons Drawn

Weapons Drawn is probably the weakest of Party Pack 8‘s games. The premise is that each player is a masquerade guest who is also a murderer. Players must illustrate their murder weapon, each of which contains a letter from their chosen player name. They must then choose another player’s party guest to murder in secret, after which comes a meeting where players communally choose which murders to pursue, review the murder weapons, and guess who did it. The game also involves persuading other players not to pursue your murder, guessing which guest came with which player, and cracking unsolved cases within a certain period of time.

Confused? I was, too. While Weapons Drawn has an interesting premise and trying to conceal letters in my drawings was a lot of fun, there’s just too many layers to the whole thing. It wants to be like the board game Secret Hitler, where players yell at each other and accuse one another of ill deeds and double-crossings, but in practice, my friends and I were so busy trying to figure out the rules and procedures that we ended up staying mostly silent (which is too bad, because I love games that let me yell at my friends). If we played several more rounds, we probably could’ve gotten the hang of it, but it was so convoluted that we just went back to some of Party Pack 8‘s other games.

4. Drawful Animate

Drawful Animate is a new spin on Drawful, an existing Pictionary-style Jackbox party game where players must guess what a drawing is. In addition to simply guessing the phrase that inspired the drawing, though, players must also create fake phrases to mislead other players into choosing the wrong phrase. After everyone has seen the drawing, players vote on which one they think is the real descriptor. Drawful Animate follows those exact lines, but allows players to “animate” their art by drawing two images that the game then alternates between. Drawful is a pretty beloved Jackbox game, and Drawful Animate is the “next generation.”

Players choose the correct phrase in a round of Drawful Animate.

It’s fun, but it’s something we’ve seen before. Jackbox Games has been known to include new versions of its most popular party games, like Quiplash, alongside new games in Party Packs, and they’re almost always crowd-pleasers. Drawful Animate includes some good quality-of-life options, like being able to choose between a few colors and slowing down or speeding up your animation, but other than that, you’re really just making two drawings instead of one. A couple of times, my friends and I didn’t really know what to make for the second drawing, so we just redrew the first frame but made it slightly different. Drawful Animate is good, but not an instant classic.

3. Poll Mine

If you’ve got a huge group of participants and audience members, Poll Mine is a game you’ll definitely want to check out. At the beginning, players are divided into two teams. The game then presents silly and absurd polls to each player, making them rank things like the most desirable roles in the middle school play about the methane cycle. After each person votes, teams must work together to choose the average rank of each item from the poll. For example, if everyone said that a pile of cow poop was the No. 1 most desirable role in the play, the team that guesses its rank correctly gets a point. Teams must do this for every item on the poll. It’s better witnessed than explained — try watching a YouTube video of a group playing it.

Players choose teams in Poll Mine.

While it was a lot of fun and the polls were appropriately dumb, you really need a big group to enjoy it. We played with five people, which wasn’t enough to truly mix up the rankings. We’re all good friends and we had a good idea of what each person would pick, which made the game easier than it should have been. If I were to play with seven or eight people, particularly people I don’t know as well, it would be a lot more challenging. Even if your team is doing poorly, though, you can still win at the end, which makes it hard for one team to get a no-contest victory. I want to give Poll Mine another shot with more people, because it’s definitely a great idea.

2. The Wheel of Enormous Proportions

Trivia is a classic party game, and Jackbox Games knows this. Most of the Party Packs contain some sort of trivia-inspired party game and The Wheel of Enormous Proportions is Party Pack 8‘s requisite trivia adventure. Guided by a silly, fast-talking wheel, each player must answer trivia questions to obtain wheel slices. After three questions, players place their slices on the wheel and take turns spinning it. If the spinner lands on a place where someone placed their slice, they get points. There are a variety of slices with other effects, like ones that take points from one player and redistribute them to others. Once any player reaches 20,000 points, they can spin the Winner Wheel, which grants them victory if they land on the correct slice. If they don’t, the game continues until someone lands on the right spot.

Players spin the Wheel of Enormous Proportions.

I’ll admit it: I love trivia. I watch Jeopardy and do New York Times crossword puzzles for fun. My brain is full of random knowledge that probably won’t ever be useful. As such, my friends usually hate playing trivia games with me, but they still really enjoyed The Wheel of Enormous Proportions (as did I!). That’s because you don’t have to be a trivia buff to win. Answering questions correctly grants additional slices to be placed on the wheel, but who actually gets points — and wins — is based more on the random wheel spin than any one person’s knowledge. It’s a great way to alleviate the powerlessness that some people feel when playing trivia, and it does make the game feel more fair, if a little frustratingly random at times.

1. Job Job

Before I wrote this article, I asked my friends which game they liked best. Job Job was everyone’s favorite, hands down. Under the guise of a job interview, players must type in their answers to a series of questions, like in Quiplash. However, once everyone has submitted their answer, the words from each answer are scrambled and presented to a different player, who must then use only words from other people’s answers to answer a new question. Though my English major brain was slightly miffed at the random capital letters and not-so-grammatical sentence structures of everyone’s answers, the sheer fun and absurdity of the game more than made up for it.

Players choose words in Job Job.

The key is to have each person answer the first few questions as absurdly as possible to give future rounds a variety of words to work from. The answers don’t always make perfect sense, but when someone somehow got enough words to string a coherent sentence together, my friends and I literally rolled on the floor laughing. Players don’t get to see the initial questions until the end of the game, which keeps everyone guessing as to how someone could possibly use “toothbrush,” “wallpaper,” and “poop” in the same sentence. It’s a ton of fun with any number of players and is absolutely worth playing — we kept wanting to go back to it instead of trying other games.

The Jackbox Party Pack 8 is available now on all major consoles and several online storefronts and will be coming to Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV soon.

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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

Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack price is a big hike over standard subscription

After making us wait a few weeks for details, Nintendo today announced pricing for Nintendo Switch Online and its Expansion Pack, which adds playable Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games to the service. The new pricing might elicit sticker shock in those used to Nintendo Switch Online’s standard pricing of $20 a year because gaining access to the Expansion Pack content means suffering a rather dramatic price increase.

At the tail end of its Animal Crossing: New Horizons Direct today, Nintendo revealed Switch Online’s Expansion Pack pricing will clock in at a hefty $49.99 per year for individual subscribers and $79.99 a year for family subscriptions. That is a significant price bump over the standard Nintendo Switch Online cost, but Nintendo also revealed today that the Expansion Pack will include the Happy Home Paradise DLC for Animal Crossing: New Horizons in addition to N64 and Genesis games.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNsGXJ6Cl00

Happy Home Paradise is priced at $24.99 as a standalone purchase, so if you’re an Animal Crossing player planning to buy the DLC, then an upgrade to Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pack could well be worth it, at least for the first year. It should be noted that the Animal Crossing DLC, Genesis, and N64 games are the only additions in the Expansion Pack, meaning you get all the other features of Switch Online with a standard subscription.

We’re guessing this pricing isn’t going to sit well with Nintendo Switch owners – or at least those who aren’t Animal Crossing: New Horizons players. Indeed, the overview trailer for Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, which we’ve embedded above, sits at 6.3k likes and 3.6k dislikes at the time of this writing, so there is certainly a sizable contingent of Switch owners who aren’t happy with the price of the Expansion Pack.

The big question now is whether this decision to add DLC to the Expansion Pack is a one-off thing for Animal Crossing or if Nintendo will add more DLC to the Expansion Pack in the future. We’ll see what happens from here, but the Expansion Pack launches on October 25th, with a discount available for those who are currently subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online.

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Game

Nintendo’s Switch Online ‘Expansion Pack’ costs $50 a year, launches October 25th

Nintendo held a Direct video presentation this morning, announcing two major updates for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. One is a free bit of DLC, and the other is a paid, $25 expansion called Happy Home Paradise. Unexpectedly, Nintendo used this announcement to reveal the price of the upcoming Switch Online “expansion pack.” The service, which adds classic N64 and Sega Genesis games to the existing Switch Online offerings, will cost $50 per year or $80 for a family plan. This expansion will include access to the $25 Happy Home Paradise DLC — so if you’re an Animal Crossing: New Horizons player, it’s like getting the rest of the Expansion Pack benefits for $5.

Shortly after this story was published, Nintendo released more details about the expansion pack, including its October 25th launch date. If you already have a Switch Online subscription, you’ll be able to upgrade at a pro-rated cost depending on how much time was left on your original plan.There are more details about the expansion pack in the video above as well as on Nintendo’s site.

Finally, you can now pre-order the N64 and Sega Genesis controllers that are compatible with the Switch. A single controller will cost $50, and there doesn’t appear to be any discount for pairs. Given how good Nintendo’s previous classic controllers have been, we expect these should feel like authentic reproductions.

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Game

Everything We Know About Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

During a Nintendo Direct in 2021, Nintendo announced a new addition to their Nintendo Switch Online service. Dubbed the Expansion Pack, a reference to the hardware you could add to your old N64, this new service promised to expand the current online service to include both N64 titles as well as Sega Genesis games. The normal service, in addition to standard online play for games that support it, currently gives access to NES and SNES classic games, making this the next logical step for their online offerings. However, some key details about the service were left unanswered.

While initially we only knew that this Expansion Pack would be an additional service, and not included in the normal Nintendo Switch Online subscription, we had no idea how much this extra service would cost or how it would function. We now know the pricing structure for this extra service, when it will launch, plus how it will function with the existing online subscription. However, in typical Nintendo fashion, their messaging has left many people confused. We’re here to clear up as many questions as possible and share everything we know about Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.

Further reading

What is the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack?

The Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack is, on the surface, exactly what it sounds like. It is an expanded service to the base Nintendo Switch Online subscription that will give you access to more games for a higher cost. These games, as mentioned, will consist of N64 and Genesis titles, with more games being added as time goes on, plus all the normal functionality and games you get as part of the normal Nintendo Switch Online.

The current, base Nintendo Switch Online service will continue, so no one will be forced to upgrade to this new service if you don’t want to. The Expansion Pass will launch on October 25, 2021.

What is included in the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack?

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack shown during the Nintendo Direct.

At the moment, Nintendo has revealed what we can play as soon as the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack launches on October 25. These titles will be:

N64:

  • Super Mario 64
  • Mario Kart 64
  • Star Fox 64
  • Yoshi’s Story
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  •  WinBack: Covert Operations
  • Mario Tennis
  • Dr. Mario 64
  • Sin and Punishment

Sega Genesis:

  • Castlevania: Bloodlines
  • Contra: Hard Corps
  • Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
  • Eco the Dolphin
  • Golden Axe
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • MUSHA
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Ristar
  • Shining Force
  • Shinobi III
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2
  • Streets of Rage 2
  • Strder

The library of games for both systems will be added to over time, just like the NES and SNES games, and include new features such as split-screen and online play, plus quick save functionality.

One added perk to getting the Expansion Pass Nintendo shared was the inclusion of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise DLC as part of the subscription when it launches on November 5. This DLC would otherwise cost $25 if purchased separately.

How much does the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack cost?

Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack Pricing.

There are two options for subscribing to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. First is the individual membership, which will cost $50 for a one-year subscription. Second is the family membership, which can include up to eight members, for $80 a year. The current Nintendo Switch Online costs $20 for an individual subscription and $35 for a family plan, making this a fairly substantial price increase.

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Game

Fortnite Minty Legends Pack winter skins revealed months early

In a somewhat surprising twist on its usual habits, Epic Games has revealed a winter skin bundle called Minty Legends Pack that won’t be available until early November. The company gives a sneak-peek at the skins that will be included in the pack, also promising buyers 1,000 V-Bucks and more. The company promises a ‘closer look’ at the new skins soon.

Epic won’t release the Fortnite Minty Legends Pack until November 2, at which point it will be available on all platforms that support the game as a digital purchase. As well, Epic plans to make physical releases available on the same day for the Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation consoles.

Though all of the Minty Legends Pack details haven’t yet been revealed, Epic did say that this bundle will feature 10 “fresh items,” including three new makeovers for existing skins:

– Fresh Aura
– Minty Bomber
– Skellemint Oro

It seems these will be the only skins included in the bundle; the other items will include three new “chilling” Back Bling items, a trio of spearing Pickaxes, and one “spicy hot Wrap.” Epic hasn’t revealed any of these items, but says it will offer a closer look at them soon.

The Fortnite Minty Legends Pack will also give players 1,000 V-Bucks, which should help make the pack’s price a little bit easier to justify. The company hasn’t yet said how much the bundle will cost, but we’ll know for sure by early November.

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Game

Fortnite Crew Pack for August 2021 includes skin based on fan concept

Epic Games has revealed its Fortnite Crew Pack subscription bundle for August 2021 and it includes a skin based on a fan concept design. The bundle will, as expected, be made available to Fortnite Crew Pack subscribers starting on August 1, offering them the skin and related gear, V-Bucks, and more.

During Fortinte Chapter 2 – Season 2, Epic introduced a skin called Skye as one of its higher-tier Battle Pass rewards. The new Fortnite Crew Pack will offer a variant of the Skye skin that is based on a concept by game fan and artist NolloBandz. The concept is a unique, more modern take on the fantasy character, one that retains its iconic glowing sword.

The new Skye skin is described as having a “casual persona,” one that includes a fun summer outfit, a modern tattoo, and just hints of the character’s fantasy origins, including a small pouch strapped to her belt. The character is joined by the Cursed Eagleshield Back Bling, Epic Sword of Might Pickaxe, plus the Pspspsps! Wrap featuring Meowscles, the Cattitude Wrap, and the Afternoon Quest Loading Screen.

That’s quite a few rewards with next month’s bundle, which predictably revolves around the summer season. This includes a stormy version of the outfit called Stormy Skye Style, which will match the Cattitude Wrap. This character can also wear the original Skye skin’s hat.

As expected, the next Crew Pack will include 1,000 V-Bucks. The subscription is priced at $11.99/month; players can cancel it whenever they’d like, though canceling will obviously result in not getting the next month’s bundle.

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