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Xbox players can now start a game from a friend’s clip or screenshot

is an update that includes handy consoles and cloud gaming features. There’s a new way to hop into a game. When a friend shares a screenshot or game clip that catches your eye, you’ll be able to tap the play button on a computer or mobile device and fire up the game in a browser. 

For instance, if you’re on your phone and see a cool Forza Horizon 5 clip that your friend posted, you can start playing the game just by clicking the button. Given that this is a cloud gaming function, you’ll need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership to use it.

Xbox’s take on the feature doesn’t seem quite as advanced as , however. The latter allows you to at the same point as someone else and experience a world just by clicking a link.

Xbox cloud gaming link

Microsoft

There’s another welcome feature that’s available on Xbox Series X/S starting today: noise suppression for party chats. Microsoft says it can keep sounds like controller clicks, your breathing and background noise out of your friends’ ears.

Noise suppression, which Xbox , will be enabled by default. If you want your pals to hear music you’re playing in the background, you can switch it off from the Parties and Chats options in the guide. Microsoft plans to bring the feature to more devices in the near future.

Xbox noise suppression toggle

Microsoft

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‘PowerWash Simulator’ players can now aid mental health research

PowerWash Simulator players can now take part in a research project that looks at the links between gaming and mental health. Developer FuturLab has teamed up with independent researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute for a “a one-of-a-kind anonymous research study centered around the wellbeing of PowerWash Simulator’s players.”

FuturLab says it’s working on in-game rewards for participants. If you’d like to take part, you’ll need a copy of the game on Steam. You’ll also need to download a separate build of PowerWash Simulator. From the Betas menu under Properties, select the “research-edition – Research Edition 2022” option.

As points out, this build will provide two types of anonymized data to the researchers. They’ll receive information on players’ progress, item purchases and other activities as part of a “base telemetry” dataset.

The second type of data is obtained through questions that the researchers will be able to ask players about their experience. These will seemingly only take players a couple of seconds to answer. Players will also be able to provide feedback to researchers through a “Tell us how you feel” button in the menu. FuturLab won’t have access to these responses.

Your game progress won’t carry over between the regular game and the Research Edition (though taking part in the study will earn you cosmetic rewards in the main game). This is to help make sure study data is consistent and to avoid issues with save data. In addition, the Research Edition won’t have a multiplayer mode and it will only have English-language support. FuturLab added that the Research Edition will be available for at least three months.

PowerWash Simulator, at least from my experience, is a relaxing game. It’s just you, a power washer, perhaps a friend or two, maybe some soap and a whole lot of virtual gunk to blast away. It’s not hard to see why many folks might find it soothing.

A number of studies into the benefits of gaming on mental health and wellbeing have been conducted over the years with mixed results. that playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, both of which have sturdy , may be good for you (the study was conducted in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic). However, a , which looked at the gameplay habits of nearly 40,000 people, found that gaming had no significant impact on wellbeing.

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‘The Sims 4′ will let players change their characters’ sexual orientation

will release the 12th expansion pack for on July 28th. Starting on the same day, all players (including those who don’t buy the High School Years DLC) will be able to change their Sims’ sexual orientation, as part of the developers’ efforts to bolster LGBTQIA+ representation in the game.

“Between this update and the , we’re taking several strides forward into being a game that respects and celebrates the nuance and color of everyday life,” a Sims 4 lead designer known as SimGuruJessica wrote in . Developer Maxis worked with GLAAD and the It Gets Better Project “to ensure that we’ve captured the widest possible range of viewpoints on how to approach this feature in a manner that respects and elevates the community.”

There are several attraction settings for each Sim, which you can adjust via the ellipsis menu under the gender selection option on the Create A Sim screen. You can determine whether your Sim is attracted to men or women (or neither), if your Sim’s orientation can change during gameplay and which genders they can “WooHoo” (i.e. have sex) with. Players can alter these settings at any time.

You can have an asexual Sim who’s romantically interested in other Sims and an aromantic Sim who is happy to WooHoo other characters but won’t enter into a relationship with them. Casual sex is a new feature in The Sims 4, since WooHoo has always been locked behind the romance mechanic. Young adult and older Sims will be able to ask close friends to hop in the sack as WooHoo partners. A rejected invitation could lead to an awkward interaction, though.

“I want to again acknowledge that these topics are complex and full of nuance,” SimGuruJessica wrote. “We consider this a version 1.0, and are absolutely looking forward to seeing what further tools we might add to allow players to tell a broader range of stories.”

While players can change their Sims’ pronouns, the romance and WooHoo options are gender binary for now due to how the game was created. “Mechanically, non-binary Sims don’t yet exist in [The Sims 4],” SimGuruJessica noted. “While we made great progress in representing non-binary Sims with the pronouns update, we acknowledge that pronouns are not the same thing as gender identities. We recognize that we still have a ways to go in this regard.” Adding the systems needed to properly support non-binary Sims will take a little more time, but Maxis is working on it.

Same-sex relationships have been present in the series since the very first game (an E3 demo in 1999 famously depicted two women kissing). Still, these new settings will enable players to have more control over the stories they want to tell. Maxis has been working to improve representation in The Sims 4 on other fronts. In 2020, the team and sliders to customize them.

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‘Wordle’ players can soon sync their stats and streaks across devices

The New York Times has announced a handy feature for  players who want to keep their streak going no matter the device they’re playing on. The publication, which the ultra-popular daily word game in January, players will soon be able to sync their stats and streaks across devices. You’ll need a Times account to do so. Note that after you sync your stats, there’s no way to unlink them.

This is a welcome update. It’ll be handy for for those who play the game on their office computer during the week, for instance, or on both their phone and PC. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, Wordle stats don’t mean all that much. Still, if you’ve correctly guessed mystery words for many days in a row on your desktop system and you’re going out of town, you won’t need to break your streak.

It’s not clear exactly when the Times will roll out the sync option to everyone, as notes. Hopefully, the publication can avoid the kinds of issues it had when it . Some players lost their streaks during the transition.

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Riot Games will monitor ‘Valorant’ voice chat to combat disruptive players

Abusive Valorant players could soon have their verbal tirades come back to haunt them. In a published on Friday, Riot Games outlined a plan to begin monitoring in-game voice chat as part of a broader effort to combat disruptive behavior within its games.

On July 13th, the studio will begin collecting voice data from Valorant games played in North America. According to Riot, it will use the data to get its AI model “in a good enough place for a beta launch later this year.” During this initial stage, Riot says it won’t use voice evaluation for disruptive behavior reports.

“We know that before we can even think of expanding this tool, we’ll have to be confident it’s effective, and if mistakes happen, we have systems in place to make sure we can correct any false positives (or negatives for that matter),” the studio said.

Some players will likely bristle at the thought of Riot listening in on their voice comms, much like they did when the company introduced , its kernel-level anti-cheat software. But Riot says it sees voice evaluation as a way for it to “collect clear evidence” against players who take to comms to abuse and harass their teammates. The tool will also give the studio something it can point to when it provides sanctioned players with feedback.

“This is brand new tech and there will for sure be growing pains,” Riot said. “But the promise of a safer and more inclusive environment for everyone who chooses to play is worth it.”

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Charging Players For Early Access to Games is a Dirty Tactic

Gamers and the gaming industry are in a perpetual battle. The industry wants to make as much money off of players as it can, and players want as much high-quality content for as little money as possible. Every now and then, a publisher will test out some new way to make money, perhaps with DLC, paid cosmetics, or dreaded loot boxes. Generally, those moves are met with outrage — but not always.

One monetization attempt that we have been quick to slap down is anything that is seen as “pay-to-win.” Players can deal with paid cosmetics and DLC content, but the second there’s a whiff in the air that a game is selling some sort of advantage — it’s blood in the water. That’s why I find it so strange that a trend is coming back and, for whatever reason, it isn’t being lambasted as it was in the past. That would be requiring players to pay for early access to games.

Lame marketing ploy

Paying to get a game early is not a new trick for the gaming industry. I clearly remember the lead-up to Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the entire debacle surrounding its pre-order structure. This scheme, called “Augment your pre-order,” had multiple tiers of rewards that unlocked as more people pre-ordered the game, with the final level being the game releasing four days early.

After a major outcry from, well, everyone, the stunt was shut down after just about a month. Aside from the “I never asked for this” memes, the biggest complaint was the early access being restricted to only those who pre-ordered — and only if enough people pre-ordered at that. Whether other companies took note of this massive marketing failure, or I’m giving the community too much credit, we haven’t had to deal with this marketing ploy for the last few years.

Same story, different ending

Forza Horizon 5 cars racing on dirt road.

Two massive games just hit with an arguably worse form of this early access tactic: Forza Horizon 5 and Battlefield 2042. Let’s start with Forza. This is a Microsoft first-party game, meaning it would be free on Game Pass the day it comes out. However, there were also two ways to get the game four days early (sound familiar?). The first is to pre-order the Premium Edition, which costs $100, and the second is to pre-order the $50 Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC. Hardly anyone batted an eye at these offerings. Perhaps it was because the game was also “free” with Game Pass, or because the game itself turned out great, but the public reaction was much more positive than what we saw with Deus Ex.

Now that the game is actually out, Microsoft is celebrating how many players the game has attracted. According to in-game metrics, around 800,000 people played the game in its early access period, meaning they spent either $50 or $100 for the privilege. That rubs me the wrong way. Forza Horizon 5 has a big multiplayer component, so isn’t it unfair to anyone not willing to shell out that extra cash to have to compete on “day one” against someone who already spent 20 hours learning the game?

Battlefield 2042 offers a much more obvious example. The game officially launched on November 19, but those with an EA Play Membership or Game Pass got a 10-hour trial as early as the 12th. Anyone with EA Play Pro or those who pre-ordered either the Gold or Ultimate Edition flat-out got the game on the 12thg. That’s a full week early for a multiplayer shooter! That means that some players got an entire week to not only learn the game, but level up and unlock new weapons and tools.

If that wasn’t shady enough, there’s also the fact that Battlefield 2042‘s other beta period didn’t exactly instill much confidence in anyone who tried it out. The game was criticized for how many bugs and technical issues it still had to work out. The incentive to pre-order an expensive special edition to play the game early feels like an attempt to lock down people’s money before they find out whether or not the game is good. You can bet plenty of people who gave EA their money to get the game early would have thought twice and waited for the game to get fixed if they had been able to see reviews and impressions.

A character in Starfield.

This strategy of paid early access is most egregious for multiplayer games, but single-player games aren’t safe either. In fact, we have already seen it happen with the likes of Persona 5 Strikers. While it’s technically a spinoff, it’s a sequel to Persona 5, which is a very story-focused game. If you were worried about spoilers leaking, you were kind of forced to pay for early access, which doesn’t benefit anyone but the publisher. You can pay and risk spending a lot of money for a game sight unseen that may not be so great, or wait and either be at a competitive disadvantage, risk the game getting spoiled, or both.

Is this something we’re just OK with? Because now’s the time to speak out if that’s not the case. If this becomes normal now, there’s no going back.

Editors’ Choice




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Forza Horizon 5 released on Xbox Game Pass, immediately goes HAM with millions of players

Microsoft released Forza Horizon 5 on November 9, 2021 for Xbox Series X, in the Microsoft Store on PC, with Steam, and with Xbox Game Pass. This game was released with Xbox Game Pass for multiple platforms, including Xbox (console), PC (Windows), and through the system’s Beta Cloud Gaming interface. This means you could potentially be playing Forza Horizon 5 on your tiny baby smartphone by the end of the day today.

Forza Horizon 5 was released in a bunch of different bundles on different platforms on day 1. The Standard Edition includes the Forza Horizon 5 full game and nothing else, and that’s available on Xbox Game Pass. That’s the version most people will likely buy.

A Deluxe Edition was released for multiple platforms with both the game and Car Pass. The Car Pass system enables additional vehicles and features in the game, and will likely be highly recommended by the game itself once users drop in and start their vehicle-based journey.

That idea is reinforced by the fact that users who own Forza Horizon 5 Standard Edition on their console, PC, or are playing with Xbox Game Pass, they’ll be able to purchase a “Premium Add-ons Bundle” with all the content that’s otherwise available with the game’s Premium Edition.

A Premium Edition of Forza Horizon 5 includes the full game, Car Pass, a VIP Membership, an Expansions Bundle, and a Welcome Pack. And we’re sure if Microsoft were able to include any other names for “additional content”, they’d do so. UPDATE: Like this limited edition controller – speak of the devil!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3x_hxdrqWw

Forza Horizons 5 was developed by Playground Games, published by Turn10 Studios, and released by Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios. This game was directed by Mike Brown, and is available for play in both single-player and multiplayer gameplay.

Per data recorded by KudosPrime, using the game’s in-game leaderboard data, Forza Horizon 5 has nearly 3 million players, and it’s only just been released today. Yesterday before the game’s official launch, leaderboards indicated over 1 million players had already begun to drive. Early Access users started to filter in on the 5th and a huge spike of players appeared over the past half day, reaching nearly 3 million here at around noon Eastern Time, November 9, 2021. This should put the game on course to be the most popular Forza of the bunch, by a long shot – we’ll be keeping track!

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Google Stadia players can now join games without waiting for an invite

Google’s cloud-based gaming platform Stadia has received a small update that will make playing games with friends much easier going forward. In an updated support document, the company revealed that Google Stadia players can now join their friends’ games without first receiving an invite, mirroring the option available on traditional gaming consoles.

The Stadia change was rolled out quietly and first spotted by 9to5Google, which points to an updated Stadia support document with the new feature details. Put simply, Stadia players can now join multiplayer games their friends are playing without asking them to send an invite. This feature is only supported by some games, however.

Anyone who has played games on Xbox and PlayStation is likely very familiar with this sort of feature. A Fortnite player, for example, can view and join their friends’ existing matches without requesting an invite as long as their friend doesn’t have the match set to private. Stadia, as exciting as it is, launched without these sort of arguably basic features.

According to Google, the ability to join supported multiplayer games without an invite is disabled by default. Players who want to enable the feature will need to open Your Activity > Current Game > “Join your current game.” Enabling this feature will make it possible for friends to join the match even if you don’t send them an invite.

Google offers some control over this feature, however, by allowing players to decide whether they want to limit invite-free gaming sessions to only friends or make the opportunity available for all players. Users who aren’t in the mood for random multiplayer sessions can set their game to “Only You,” “Private,” or toggle the “Join your current game” feature off in the same menu used to enable it.

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Latest New World update has good news for broke players, bad news for gold sellers

Overnight, New World received its weekly update, and there were some big changes contained in this one. While we received the usual round of bug fixes, Amazon also implemented some changes concerning the gold cost of attribute respecs and the Azoth cost of weapon skill tree respecs, meaning that players should be able to change their builds much more frequently. In addition, Amazon detailed some measures it’s implementing to combat all of the gold sellers players have undoubtedly seen in chat.

New World update 1.0.5 changes

In its patch notes for update 1.0.5, Amazon dove right into a hot button topic among the New World player base: coin sellers. It seems that no matter the MMO, there will always be accounts looking to sell currency, and in New World it’s not any different. Amazon starts off by saying that it has banned and suspended many of the gold-selling accounts that players have been reporting.

The company will now also require that new accounts hit player level 10 before they can participate in player-to-player trades or make currency transfers. Accounts will also have to be older than 72 hours to do both of those things. In addition, Amazon has moved some gold rewards from early main story quests to later quests to avoid giving sellers an early way to grind out gold, and the Trading Post will no longer be accessible before new players accept the “Introduction to the Trading Post” quest.

While we wait to see if those changes have any noticeable effect on the number of gold sellers spamming the chat, this week’s patch also fixed a number of issues. First up is a fix for an item duplication bug that affected storage sheds and crafting stations, along with a fix for the gold duplication bug that sprouted up after Amazon disabled wealth transfers earlier this week.

In a rather huge change, Amazon announced that it has reduced attribute respec costs by 60%, while the Azoth cost for weapon respecs has been decreased by 75%. This is exciting news for players who like to switch builds frequently or, like the author of this article, can’t seem to decide on a weapon combo and stick with it for any length of time. The coin cost of chisels has also been reduced by up to 50%, though that depends on the tier. Sadly, players can no longer equip two of the same type weapon, so if you want to put both weapons slots to use, you’ll have to pick two distinct weapon types for them.

Amazon has also fixed issues affecting spell strike consistency, the resilient item perk (which reduced all damage instead of just critical hit damage), and group scaling passives for the Great Axe, Hatchet, and Warhammer. We’re also getting a number of fixes for Outpost Rush and a slate of general bug fixes, which you can read about over in the full patch notes.

Amazon talks present and future changes for New World

In addition to sending this patch live, Amazon also published a lengthy developer blog post in which it discussed many features, covered this recent patch, and talked about future changes that are on the way. The blog post can be found on the New World forums and is worth reading from beginning to end for anyone currently playing, but there are some things that stick out to us.

First, Amazon’s blog post includes a lengthy section on the economy and gold deflation, which has been a big concern for players. In short, Amazon says that the economy is “performing within acceptable levels,” but does acknowledge that the gold generated at level 60 – New World‘s level cap – does become more “narrow” than it is at earlier levels. Amazon says that the recent fix for tier IV and V Azoth Staffs and the reintroduction of Outpost Rush should help late-game players earn more gold, as those were intended to be end-game gold grinds.

Amazon also revealed a whopper of a change by confirming that all Trading Posts in the world will be linked, meaning you can buy any product from any Trading Post. Transaction taxes from the settlement you’re buying from will still apply, and expired items will be returned to the settlement where they were listed. This is a big change, and it should normalize prices while ensuring that you don’t need to travel to a central settlement just to buy things. In addition, Amazon will also be ramping up the coins gained from Expedition bosses, so expect more gold from your Expedition runs.

There’s a lot more contained within New World‘s latest dev blog, but these are among the biggest changes. Some of these changes are already in the game as of the most recent patch, while others will be coming with the month’s major release later on in November.

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Epic challenged Fortnite players to make short films: Here are the results

Epic Games announced a twist when it revealed its last Fortography challenge: it wasn’t about images at all this time around, but rather videos and how creative players could make them using the game and its various assets. Fast-forward a few weeks and the company is back with the results, showcasing the player-made videos it liked the most.

Epic’s battle royale game Fortnite features a huge number of characters, outfits, and emotes, among other things, enabling players to wear unique looks and perform a variety of actions. Those outfits and emotes are the central tools used by the players behind a new series of short films made in the game, all of them revolving around a Halloween theme.

Epic has shared the videos it liked the most in a new blog post, noting that it selected videos that followed the rules it established for its first Video Fortography challenge. The videos use various locations in Fortnite, as well as a mix of classic and more recent emotes and costumes to tell stories using emotion and music.

Some of the short videos are creepy, including a film from “GranbeFN” that was clearly inspired by slasher movies, more comical pieces like “Always Check Your Back” from “SteamyDucks,” and a Japanese-narrated video about monsters returning Halloween to eat unsuspecting players’ candy and treats.

Though anyone can participate in these challenges (for which the ‘rewards’ are merely bragging rights), players on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation are at the greatest advantage due to one important feature: replay mode. This game mode automatically saves recent matches, allowing players to revisit them using advanced controls.

The replay mode playback functionality includes the ability to move around the game during the match, view yourself in third person, speed up and slow down the playback speed, and more. This is the tool behind some of the shots featured in these showcased videos, including scenes that wouldn’t be possible by using regular gameplay footage.

Check out the rest of the Fortnite Halloween short films on Epic’s game blog.

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