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Game

Massive ‘Grand Theft Auto VI’ leak shows off early gameplay footage

A massive trove of footage from the next installment in Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series has leaked online. On early Sunday morning, a hacker who goes by teapotuberhacker uploaded 90 videos from a test build of Grand Theft Auto VI to GTAForums. Since PCGamer spotted the post, the clips have proliferated across YouTube and social media, and as of the writing of this article, they’re still viewable.

In line with reporting Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier published in July, the footage shows two playable protagonists. One of them is a female character named Lucia, who we see robbing a restaurant in one of the clips. In a separate video, you can see the other playable character riding the “Vice City Metro,” pointing to the fact that GTA VI will take place in a fictionalized version of Miami. According to Schreier, the leaked footage is legitimate.

“Not that there was much doubt, but I’ve confirmed with Rockstar sources that this weekend’s massive Grand Theft Auto VI leak is indeed real. The footage is early and unfinished, of course,” he tweeted. “This is one of the biggest leaks in video game history and a nightmare for Rockstar Games.”

Adding intrigue to an already interesting story, teapotuberhacker claims they’re also responsible for the recent Uber hack. They said they obtained the test build after gaining access to a Rockstar employee’s Slack account and may upload additional data online, including source code and assets from GTA V and GTA VI, as well as the test build itself. It’s unclear how old this version of the game is. Rockstar has reportedly been working on GTA VI since 2014. In July, Schreier reported the studio was at least another two years away from releasing the game to the public.

Grand Theft Auto series publisher Take-Two Interactive did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment.

Update, 9/19/2022, 9:18am ET: Rockstar Games confirmed the leak Monday morning in a tweet:

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Game

Naughty Dog shows off improved gameplay from ‘The Last of Us’ PS5 remake

With the PS5 remake for The Last of Us set to arrive soon, developer Naughty Dog recently showed the benefits you can expect with the new hardware. Now in a 10-minute video, the company has detailed new features including a speed-run mode and smarter AI, while walking through improved graphics, physics, character models, animations and more. 

As we saw last month, the new graphics are indeed much improved, with native 4K at 30 fps or dynamic 4K at 60 fps. The biggest changes are with gameplay, though. First off, the remake uses AI from The Last of Us Part 2, which gives enemies and NPCs more complex tactics, making for better fights. It’s not one-sided, either, as your companions’ AI has also been updated. 

The remake also includes new gameplay modes. One of those is a permadeath mode for those who want the full “infected” zombie apocalypse experience, along with new unlockable costumes for Joel and Ellie. The other is a speed run mode — details are scant on that, other than that you’ll be able to measure your progress with a timer. 

The other improvements revolve around characters, with new models that include far more detail “down to the irises and the pupil depths,” noted creative director and writer Shaun Escayg. The team also updated the animations with improved facial expressions, motion-matching tech for more flowing movements and more. It also includes new materials, physics, haptics, 3D audio and more.

The remake does look impressive, but it will sell at a full $70 triple-A price when it arrives on September 2nd. As such, Naughty Dog and Sony appear to be doing more than the usual amount of marketing for a remake, no doubt hoping to show potential buyers it’s worth that. 

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Computing

AMD Ryzen 5 7600X shows off by beating the Ryzen 9 5950X

An upcoming AMD Ryzen 7000 processor has just appeared in an early benchmark on Basemark. It’s most likely an engineering sample of the mid-range Ryzen 5 7600X, paired with a new Gigabyte X670E Aorus Master motherboard.

Although it’s still early days, the CPU did a great job in the benchmark, managing to outperform the current Zen 3 flagship — the Ryzen 9 5950X.

AMD Eng Sample: 100-000000593-20_Y
+
GIGABYTE X670E AORUS MASTERhttps://t.co/1JejoMgfxj pic.twitter.com/A7F4ItVE2x

— APISAK (@TUM_APISAK) July 15, 2022

First spotted by frequent leaker TUM_APISAK on Twitter, the alleged Ryzen 5 7600X appears with six cores and 12 threads. The engineering sample, identified as “100-000000593-20_Y,” sports an impressive base clock speed of 4.4GHz. This means that the finished product will likely be able to break past the 5GHz barrier in boost mode, which is impressive for a middle-of-the-line CPU.

The processor sports an increase in the combined cache size compared to its predecessor, the Ryzen 5 5600X. The new Zen 4 CPU will have 32MB of L3 cache and 6MB of L2 cache, adding up to a total of 38MB. While the current-gen Ryzen 5 5600X also has 32MB of L3 cache, it has a smaller L2 cache. There’s also a difference in clock speeds between the two — the Ryzen 5 5600X has a base clock of 3.7GHz versus the 4.4GHz seen on this engineering sample.

This very well might be our first look at the AMD Ryzen 7 7600X. The benchmark results found on Basemark focus on the performance of the Nvidia RTX A4000 GPU that the processor was paired with. However, @Harukaze5719 on Twitter provided some performance metrics for the CPU, and the numbers are certainly promising.

Harukaze5719

The overall benchmark score indicates that the mid-range Zen 4 sample beats the high-end Ryzen 9 5950X by 9.5%, but in one of the tests, it wins by a whopping 11.13%. Of course, these benchmark results can’t quite be taken at face value — we’ll only know the real performance of Zen 4 when more of these tests begin to leak out closer to its release. In any case, this is certainly a good start.

As for the launch date for the new generation of CPUs, there still hasn’t been an official confirmation from AMD — but numerous sources point to September. AMD has a bit of a problem on its hands, all in the form of an oversupply of Zen 3 processors. While these are some of the best AMD CPUs to date, the demand for PC hardware has plummeted recently, leaving AMD with a large stock that no one seems to be buying.

There have been whispers that this situation might make AMD delay the launch of Zen 4 in order to give Zen 3 a chance at one last hurrah before most people move on to the next-gen CPUs. However, with Intel Raptor Lake breathing down its neck, AMD is unlikely to wait much longer to launch Ryzen 7000 — so undoubtedly, we will soon see more benchmarks of the upcoming CPUs.

Editors’ Choice




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AI

Nvidia shows off AI model that turns a few dozen snapshots into a 3D-rendered scene

Nvidia’s latest AI demo is pretty impressive: a tool that quickly turns a “few dozen” 2D snapshots into a 3D-rendered scene. In the video below you can see the method in action, with a model dressed like Andy Warhol holding an old-fashioned Polaroid camera. (Don’t overthink the Warhol connection: it’s just a bit of PR scene dressing.)

The tool is called Instant NeRF, referring to “neural radiance fields” — a technique developed by researchers from UC Berkeley, Google Research, and UC San Diego in 2020. If you want a detailed explainer of neural radiance fields, you can read one here, but in short, the method maps the color and light intensity of different 2D shots, then generates data to connect these images from different vantage points and render a finished 3D scene. In addition to images, the system requires data about the position of the camera.

Researchers have been improving this sort of 2D-to-3D model for a couple of years now, adding more detail to finished renders and increasing rendering speed. Nvidia says its new Instant NeRF model is one of the fastest yet developed and reduces rendering time from a few minutes to a process that is finished “almost instantly.”

As the technique becomes quicker and easier to implement, it could be used for all sorts of tasks, says Nvidia in a blog post describing the work.

“Instant NeRF could be used to create avatars or scenes for virtual worlds, to capture video conference participants and their environments in 3D, or to reconstruct scenes for 3D digital maps,” writes Nvidia’s Isha Salian. “The technology could be used to train robots and self-driving cars to understand the size and shape of real-world objects by capturing 2D images or video footage of them. It could also be used in architecture and entertainment to rapidly generate digital representations of real environments that creators can modify and build on.” (Sounds like the metaverse is calling.)

In a paper describing the work, Nvidia’s researchers said they were able to export scenes at a resolution of 1920 × 1080 “in tens of milliseconds.” The researchers also shared source code for the project, allowing others to implement their methods. It seems NeRF renders are progressing quickly, and could start having a real-world impact in the years to come.

Update March 25th, 15:50PM ET: Updated story with link to research paper and source code.

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Security

Stealthy malware shows why you shouldn’t open unknown emails

A new kind of malware was recently discovered that managed to slip past 56 separate antivirus products before finally getting caught.

The malware, when executed, can cause some serious damage to your device — and it seems to be so well made that it might be the product of nation-state actors. Opening an email attachment is all it takes to grant it enough entry to wreak havoc.

EThamPhoto / Getty Images

Unit 42, a threat intelligence team from Palo Alto, has just published a report on a piece of malware that managed to avoid detection from a massive 56 antivirus products. According to the team, the way the malware was built, packaged, and deployed is very similar to various techniques used by the APT29 threat group, also known under the names of Iron Ritual and Cozy Bear. This group has been attributed to Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), which indicates that the malware in question could be a nation-state affair.

According to Unit 42, the malware was first spotted in May 2022, and it was found hidden within a pretty strange file type — ISO, which is a disk image file used to carry the entire contents of an optical disc. The file comes with a malicious payload that Unit 42 believes was created using a tool called Brute Ratel (BRC4). BRC4 prides itself on being hard to detect, citing the fact that the tool’s authors reverse-engineered antivirus software in order to make the tool even stealthier. Brute Ratel is particularly popular with APT29, adding further weight to the claim that this malware could be linked to the Russia-based Cozy Bear group.

The ISO file pretends to be the curriculum vitae (resume) of someone named Roshan Bandara. Upon arrival in the recipient’s email mailbox, it doesn’t do anything, but when clicked, it mounts as a Windows drive and displays a file called “Roshan-Bandara_CV_Dialog”. At that point, it’s easy to get fooled — the file appears to be a typical Microsoft Word file, but if you click it, it executes cmd.exe and proceeds to install BRC4.

When that’s done, any number of things could happen to your PC — it all depends on the attacker’s intentions.

Unit 42 notes that finding this malware is worrying for a number of reasons. For one, there is a high probability that it is linked to APT29. Aside from the reasons listed above, the ISO file was created on the same day as when a new version of BRC4 was made public. This suggests that state-backed cyber attack actors could be timing their attacks to deploy them at the most opportune times. APT29 has also used malicious ISOs in the past, so everything seems to fall in line.

The near-undetectability is worrying in itself. For malware to be that stealthy takes a lot of work, and it suggests that such attacks could pose a real threat when used by the wrong team of people.

How can you stay safe?

A digital security lock.
zf L / Getty Images

Amidst frequent reports that cyber attacks have been on a massive rise in recent years, one can hope that many users are now more conscious of the dangers of trusting random people and their files all too much. However, sometimes these attacks come from unexpected sources and in various forms. Enormous distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks happen all the time, but these are more of a problem for enterprise users. Sometimes, software that we know and trust can be used as a decoy to fool us into trusting the download. How to stay safe when danger seems to be lurking around every corner?

First of all, it’s important to realize that a lot of these large-scale cyberattacks are made to target organizations — it’s unlikely that individuals would be targetted. However, in this particular case where the malware is hidden within an ISO file that poses as a resume, it could plausibly be opened by people in various HR settings, including those in smaller organizations. Bigger businesses often have more robust IT departments that wouldn’t allow the opening of an unexpected ISO file — but you never know when something might slip through the cracks.

With the above in mind, it’s never a bad idea to follow a very simple rule that many of us still forget at times — never open attachments from unknown recipients. This can be difficult for an HR department that’s actively collecting resumes, but you, as an individual, can implement that rule into your daily life and not miss out on anything. It’s also not a bad idea to pick up one of the best antivirus software options available. However, the greatest security can be gained by simply browsing mindfully and not visiting websites that might not seem too legit as well as being cautious about your emails.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Apple M2 smokes the $6,000 Mac Pro, leaked benchmark shows

Apple’s new M2 chip appeared in a leaked Geekbench 5 test today. Found inside the upcoming 13-inch MacBook Pro, the latest iteration of Apple silicon certainly did a good job — so much so that when compared to the Intel-based $6,000 Mac Pro, the M2 chip is actually the winner.

Based on the leaked benchmark, the M2 has proven itself to be up to 20% faster than the M1, thus surpassing Apple’s own expectations for the chip. Aside from beating the high-end Mac Pro, the M2 also wins against the M1 MacBook Pro.

CPU Benchmarks have leaked for Apple's M2 chip!

3.49GHz CPU clock vs M1's 3.2GHz
Single-core performance gain vs M1: 11.56%
Multi-core performance gain vs M1: 19.45%

A little bit better than my estimates. I'm impressed!https://t.co/TGHOHw77Ds
Thanks to @amoss_137 for sharing. pic.twitter.com/NS9xODnOdX

— Vadim Yuryev (@VadimYuryev) June 15, 2022

Although the 13-inch MacBook Pro is not even up for pre-order just yet, we already have the first benchmark results for the notebook, and thus, the first benchmarks of the M2 chip. Apple itself has predicted a performance boost of around 18% when switching from the M1 to the M2. These are still early days, and we only have the results of one benchmark, but so far, so good — the M2 managed to do a better job than what Apple itself had teased during its announcement.

The M2 and the M1 both have eight cores, which amounts to four performance cores and four efficiency cores. However, the M2 has higher clock speeds, hitting 3.49GHz compared to the 3.2GHz provided by the M1. The M2 also wins out by the number of GPU cores, bringing it up from eight to 10.

In the Geekbench 5 test, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip scored 1,919 points in the single-core test and 8,928 in the multi-core test. Both mark an increase from the M1, which scored 1,707 and 7,419, respectively. This adds up to an 11.5% improvement in single-core performance as well as a 19.5% boost in multi-core. These scores put the M2 just a fringe above what Apple teased.

Taylor Frint/Digital Trends Graphic

The two extra GPU cores on the M2 are definitely doing their job as well. In the Metal benchmark, the M2 scored 30,627 points compared to the 21,001 of the M1. That’s a whopping 45% increase between the two chips.

Comparing the M2 to the M1 is a logical thing to do, but perhaps the more exciting duel is between the M2 chip and the latest Mac Pro, which still hasn’t been upgraded to Apple silicon. MacRumors compared the base model of the 2019 Mac Pro, priced at $5,999, to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, priced at $1,299. The outcome shows that the M2 chip dominates the somewhat aged, but ever-so-expensive Mac Pro, winning by 11% in multi-core performance.

Of course, when comparing the Mac Pro to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, one has to consider the other factors provided by the desktop. It can be decked out with more storage, there are various GPU options, and there’s also a more expensive model with 12 cores as opposed to the eight found in the base version. However, when you consider the nearly $5,000 difference in price between the Mac Pro and the new MacBook, it’s hard not to applaud the M2 chip — and even more eagerly await the release of an Apple silicon-based Mac Pro.

First announced at the WWDC 2022, the M2 chip will first be found inside a new MacBook Air and inside the aforementioned 13-inch MacBook Pro. While it’s true that the M2 will usher in the next generation of Apple silicon, it’s still not quite as big a leap from the previous gen as some might have hoped for. We may have to wait until the M3 to see a true generational jump with a massive performance increase.

We won’t know the true performance of the M2 chip until more benchmarks emerge, but so far, these results are encouraging. Future Apple devices, including the rumored Mac Pro, will likely be decked out with some version of the M2, so undoubtedly, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the next few months.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

First ‘Redfall’ gameplay trailer shows a whole lot of vampire slaying

Microsoft opened its not-E3 Xbox and Bethesda showcase with a deeper look at Redfall. The co-op vampire shooter from Arkane Austin was supposed to be out this summer but it has been delayed until the first half of next year. In the meantime, many more details about the game have been revealed.

The first gameplay trailer begins with one of the playable characters, Layla, exploring a blood-drenched church by themselves. In an attic space, they hear a voice muttering. A vampire attacks, followed by a couple more. Sharpshooter Jacob, one of Layla’s teammates, shows up to help out. 

Redfall is set on an eponymous island off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s filled with vampires and cultists who want to be turned (i.e. familiars). The vampires blocked out the sun and caused the tide to recede, making it impossible for those on the island to escape. 

There’s a brief look at the two other playable characters: engineer Remi, who has a killer robot companion, and Devinder, an expert on all things creepy (or a cryptozoologist, if you’re fancy). Layla, meanwhile, has telekinetic powers and Jacob has a cloaking ability. The characters’ various abilities can be upgraded.

As with the Dishonored games, playing stealthily will be to your advantage. “A huge emphasis for Redfall has been the solo experience, in keeping with Arkane’s passions,” explains Arkane Austin studio and creative director Harvey Smith said. “Redfall is an open world game, but it can be soloed with any of the heroes. The pace becomes more exploratory; you can use recon and stealth to gather info on encounters and avoid enemies or get the drop on them.”

The vampires have a hierarchy, seemingly ranging from grunts to powerful bosses. There will be nests to clear out. The cultists, meanwhile, are willing to lay down their lives to protect the vampires. They will shoot on sight. 

Luckily, you’ll have an extensive arsenal with which to battle your enemies as you try to purge the island of evil. Some of the weapons have unique traits. Along with regular ol’ guns, you’ll have slightly more traditional vamp-vanquishing weapons, including a stake launcher and a UV beam. 

Redfall is coming to PC, Xbox consoles and Xbox Cloud Gaming in the first half of 2023.

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Game

What to expect from this summer’s big video game shows

It’s June, and video game fans across the globe know what that means – it’s not E3. Again. The old, in-person gaming show has been canceled for the third year in a row, but this summer will still be filled with news and virtual events, thanks in large part to Canada’s sweetheart Geoff Keighley.

It all takes place in early June, which is like right now, so let’s take a look at the schedule for Summer Game Fest and break down what to expect from the studios involved.

Summer Game Fest is less a singular event and more a state of mind. It comprises a handful of virtual shows spread over 10 days, starting on June 2nd with the PlayStation State of Play stream. This one already happened, and it was short and sweet, focusing on content for PlayStation VR 2. Capcom kicked things off with a reveal of the Resident Evil 4 remake, the announcement of a VR version of Resident Evil: Village, and a release window of 2023 for Street Fighter 6. Square Enix also showed off the first gameplay trailer for Final Fantasy XVI, complete with a 2023 timeframe for launch. Oddly enough, there’s still no word on when the PSVR2 will actually come out.

Resident Evil 4 remake
Resident Evil 4

Capcom

After that, Activision is hosting its own little party for the reveal of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II on June 8th at 1pm ET. The game is a sequel to 2019’s Modern Warfare and a reboot of the series. This show literally just wrapped up, and Activision shared its plans to bring Modern Warfare II‘s technology to the new Warzone, which will land after October this year. No Russian, the controversial airport mission from the original Modern Warfare II, will not be included in the reboot.

Summer Game Fest officially kicks off with a big live-streamed event on June 9th at 2pm ET. Hosted by Keighley, the show is expected to be two hours long and will feature announcements from the usual suspects, including 2K, Atlus, Bloober Team, Capcom, EA, Epic Games, Warner Bros. and Square Enix. The Day of the Devs stream directly after the main show will spotlight indie games specifically, backed by iam8bit and Double Fine.

Not much has been publicly confirmed for the kickoff show, but we’ll definitely get a fresh look at Gotham Knights, an appearance by The Rock, and lots of raw gameplay footage, according to Keighley. Even with State of Play last week, there’s still room for Capcom to drop some details about DLC for Resident Evil: Village, and for Square Enix to showcase Forspoken, which comes out in October. Atlus may show off something in the Persona universe, and rumor has it Bloober Team is working on a Silent Hill game — but it could also be building a new Layers of Fear.

Next on the calendar is indie publisher Devolver Digital, with a Twitch stream on June 9th at 6pm ET, the same night as the main Summer Game Fest event. It’s Devolver, so this show’s gonna be weird. It’s gonna have a lot of f-bombs. It’s gonna leave you with the feeling that Devolver is scrappy and relatable, but also way too cool for you. It’s gonna try really hard to disguise the fact that yes, even Devolver’s show is simply another long ad from a company entrenched in the video game industry’s multibillion dollar corporate system – but most of all, I bet it’ll be funny as hell. Devolver always puts on a good show, and they always have a rich roster of indie developers to choose from. This year should be no different, with Suda51 hosting the stream and recent hits like Death’s Door, Inscryption, Trek to Yomi and Weird West on the publisher’s roster.

Immortality
Immortality

Half Mermaid

On June 10th, there’s a Netflix Geeked Week stream followed by a Tribeca Games Spotlight focusing on a curated selection of upcoming indie titles, including Immortality, Thirsty Suitors, As Dusk Falls and Oxenfree II. And then, on June 12th, it’s time for the most E3 event of the summer – the Xbox and Bethesda showcase.

The Xbox and Bethesda stream kicks off at 1pm ET on Sunday, June 12th. There are no confirmed announcements so far, but the show’s cosmic marketing scheme suggests we’ll see something from Starfield, Bethesda’s huge new sci-fi RPG. This will be bittersweet for anyone who’s been following the game’s development – just last month, Bethesda delayed Starfield into the first half of 2023, pushing it back from an initial release date of November 11th, 2022. Aside from a few teaser videos and dev diaries, we haven’t seen much of Starfield, and the Xbox show is the ideal time to break out some actual gameplay and maybe even convince fans that the delay will be worthwhile.

It’s very possible we’ll get a good look at another delayed Bethesda property – Redfall, the open-world, co-op vampire shooter developed by Dishonored studio Arkane. Redfall was originally supposed to come out this summer, but Bethesda pushed it into the first half of 2023 alongside Starfield. It’d be great to see some gameplay from this title, since so far the marketing has consisted of stylized, cinematic videos. And to round out the Bethesda properties, there’s always a chance that Elder Scrolls 6 will make an appearance, considering we haven’t seen anything about it since 2018 – you know, back when E3 was still a thing.

But that’s enough about Bethesda – Xbox owns 23 game studios and it has Game Pass, the company’s subscription game-streaming service that’s sure to be mentioned every other minute during the show. Other potential hits for the Xbox stream include Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, the next Forza Motorsport, and maybe even something about the new Fable that was announced in 2020. And of course there’s always room for Halo: Infinite updates.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

Ninja Theory

With Sony and Microsoft chugging along in the latest console generation, the focus right now is on software, and both studios have plenty to prove in this space. Sony barely participated in the summer’s events and the company doesn’t seem interested in talking about major in-house projects like God of War: Ragnarok or Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2. Meanwhile, two significant delays from Xbox this year were a big blow to the company’s reputation, especially considering how important first-party exclusives are in a subscription-based ecosystem. Xbox promises to include its blockbuster games in Game Pass subscriptions on day one, at no extra charge, while that isn’t the case with Sony’s new subscription service, PlayStation Plus Premium. This poses a significant consumer-facing advantage for Xbox and I expect to hear a lot about first-party exclusives in Game Pass during the company’s big show.

And with that, it looks like Summer Game Fest is done – but there’s still plenty more gaming news to come this year. Nintendo loves to host digital showcases whenever it damn well pleases and we’re just about due for another one; EA usually has a show of its own at some point; Sony still has plenty of PSVR2 and PS Plus Premium details to share, and Microsoft will never stop talking about Game Pass. In fact, Xbox is hosting a second showcase on June 14th. And when all else fails, there are so many indie games, you guys. Let’s all have some fun.

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Game

Kao the Kangaroo shows how no game is ever truly dead

Legends never die … even when those legends are obscure Polish 3D platformers.

In the 3D platformer boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, many new franchises emerged as developers looked to catch part of the hysteria started by games like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. One such series was Kao the Kangaroo from Tate Interactive, an independent Polish game developer.

The series starred a yellow kangaroo with boxing gloves who tries to save his family from an evil hunter. Particularly popular in Poland and other parts of Europe, Kao the Kangaroo got four games but eventually faded into obscurity after the release of Kao the Kangaroo: Mystery of the Volcano, which was never released in the U.S.

While it’d be easy to assume that the series would stay dormant, Kao the Kangaroo is getting a second wind. On May 27, Tate Multimedia, the current iteration of the developer that originally created Kao the Kangaroo, is releasing a reboot that reimagines the 3D platformer for a new generation of consoles.

It’s an impressive feat, especially for an independent team that doesn’t have the backing of a company like Nintendo, Sony, or Activision. Digital Trends spoke to developers from Tate Multimedia to discover how this reboot came about and the trials and tribulations of having to compete with the likes of revivals like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart on an indie budget.

Back for Round 2

Throughout the 2010s, Tate Multimedia was more focused on racing games like Urban Trial Freestyle and Steel Rats rather than family-friendly platformers. Despite that, love for Kao didn’t die during that time, and the platforming mascot maintained a small but passionate fan base, with the developer saying it still got emails asking to bring the series back.

About five years ago, a YouTuber named NitroRad reviewed the whole Kao series, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and bringing attention back to this obscure Polish platforming mascot. A #BringBackKao hashtag even trended on Twitter as fans of this forgotten franchise emerged and wanted the series to return after over a decade of rest.

Emboldened by the upsurge of a Kao fan base and demands for rereleases following these videos, Tate Multimedia decided to offer Kao Round 2 on Steam in 2019. According to Tate Multimedia studio head Kaja Borówko, this rerelease was downloaded over 2 million times and showed her there was still interest in this series. Successful indie platformers like Yooka-Laylee and Super Lucky’s Tale also gave  hope that a new Kao 3D platformer could be successful.

“We saw a few titles that gave us hope because they were more indie, like Yooka-Laylee,” she said. “Those titles were not from the biggest studios, so that was a good sign. Then big ones came, and it was a good confirmation that it looks like there are still people who are looking for those kinds of games.”

The Polish studio then knew it still had something special on it hands and wanted to bring the series back, but had to decide what exactly to do. Developers at Tate Multimedia threw multiple ideas around as the small team had to determine the best way to bring back a franchise that only nostalgic early 2000s gamers might remember.

“It was a tough decision that took us almost a year and multiple prototypes,” Borówko explains. “We started from this idea of a remaster of the third game in the series, but once we got into it, the game became bigger and bigger, and we wanted to do something else. In the end, we had a game jam here in the studio with our team, and we had four different ideas. We loved all of them, and we decided that we were just going to combine some of the ideas.”

“The flow of the game is very important.”

Ultimately, this resulted in a combat-heavy platformer that still respects the series’ roots. Jean-Yves Lapasset, Tate Multimedia’s head of production, made it clear to Digital Trends that Kao the Kangaroo is a classic-feeling platforming journey, even if it has more modern sensibilities in its design.

“The story is a journey, so each level in the game feels like a journey to the player,” Lapasset explained. “That is very different from how platformers were built in the 2000s, which was more like ‘put as many platformers as you can and make it super difficult.’ For us, the flow of the game is very important, so when you go through a level, you can see references and know what type of enemies you’ll meet, what traps are there, and other new things we have in the game.”

The response to what Tate Multimedia has shown of the new game has been positive. Still, the developers I spoke to emphasize that this is very much an indie game not made on the same budget as the most notable 3D platformers.

A rift apart

Games like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time were AAA productions with hundreds of developers working on them. Kao the Kangaroo was not. While Tate Multimedia had bold ideas for a revival that could both innovate and respect the series’ roots, it also had to keep in mind that it was working on a “triple-I” budget, not triple-A. The first place where that rift became noticeable was in crafting the game’s narrative.

“We realized rapidly that story was an area where it will be difficult to complete because we’re a III kind of budget rather than AAA,” Lapasset explained. “On one side, you have big productions like Ratchet & Clank with 300 people working on it for four years. On our site, you have a team in Poland that is very talented, but not 300 people with a $100 million budget.”

Kao the Kangroo looks over a vast level from a rooftop.

Borówko also mentioned that it was difficult to match those games’ high animation quality with a smaller team. Tate Multimedia was passionate, but Kao the Kangaroo didn’t have the same scale of development as a AAA title.

“Development tools a pretty much the same, but we don’t have the time and developer capacity to really use all of the features,” Borówko said. “Especially when it comes to such things as animation and graphics, you can go very, very detailed today and know what’s possible. In the old days, there wasn’t such a difference between what you could achieve as an indie studio compared to the big studios because of the time and resources that you had.”

Kao the Kangaroo might not be the prettiest or technologically advanced 3D platformer ever released. Still, Tate Multimedia knew they had to work within their limitations to make the best game possible. And having a small team does have some notable advantages, according to Lapasset.

“You have fewer people in the room, so they are very committed and know what they’re doing with expertise in each field,” Lapasset said. “In big teams, you have a lot of project management and spend a lot of time doing customer surveys and research to have the studios understand what they need to steer the next game. You have less data to build your strategies in small studios, so it’s more about the feeling when you have expertise and commitment from team members.”

“People appreciate and see the effort and heart that was put into it.”

This allowed the team to work lean and mean, bringing in new ideas later on in the project than they would’ve been able to in a AAA studio. While Tate Multimedia doesn’t have as many developers as AAA studios like Toys for Bob or Insomniac, Borówko and Lapasset believe each developer had more creative freedom and that players can feel that heart in the final game.

“We’re already pretty happy with the feedback that we’re getting from players as people appreciate and see the effort and heart that was put into it,” Borówko says. “They see that the platforming gameplay was most important for us in the end. We needed to make sacrifices and chose to focus on certain things because we couldn’t do everything. That’s something that people value and appreciate as they see that Kao the Kangaroo is what it is supposed to be.”

While Kao the Kangaroo might only be a legend to a few, this new game shows how no game franchise is ever truly gone. As long as some fans and game developers are still passionate about a series, teams big and small can work hard to bring back series, beloved or obscure. And if all goes well, Kao might be sticking around for a while.

“Bringing Kao back after 15 years, we want to stay longer with the title,” Borówko says. “We already have something planned for the fans in the future.”

Editors’ Choice




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Security

Data leak from Russian delivery app shows dining habits of the secret police

A massive data leak from Russian food delivery service Yandex Food revealed the delivery addresses, phone numbers, names, and delivery instructions belonging to those associated with Russia’s secret police, according to findings from Bellingcat.

Yandex Food, a subsidiary of the larger Russian internet company, Yandex, first reported the data leak on March 1st, blaming it on the “dishonest actions” of one of its employees and noting that the leak doesn’t include users’ login information. Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has since threatened to fine the company up to 100,000 rubles (~$1,166 USD) for the leak, which Reuters says exposed the information of about 58,000 users. The Roskomnadzor also blocked access to an online map containing the data — an attempt to conceal the information of ordinary citizens, as well as those with ties to the Russian military and security services.

Researchers at Bellingcat gained access to the trove of information, sifting through it for leads on any people of interest, such as an individual linked to the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. By searching the database for phone numbers collected as part of a previous investigation, Bellingcat uncovered the name of the person who was in contact with Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to plan Navalny’s poisoning. Bellingcat says this person also used his work email address to register with Yandex Food, allowing researchers to further ascertain his identity.

Researchers also examined the leaked information for the phone numbers belonging to individuals tied to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), or the country’s foreign military intelligence agency. They found the name of one of these agents, Yevgeny, and were able to link him to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and find his vehicle registration information.

Bellingcat uncovered some valuable information by searching the database for specific addresses as well. When researchers looked for the GRU headquarters in Moscow, they found just four results — a potential sign that workers just don’t use the delivery app, or opt to order from restaurants within walking distance instead. When Bellingcat searched for FSB’s Special Operation Center in a Moscow suburb, however, it yielded 20 results. Several results contained interesting delivery instructions, warning drivers that the delivery location is actually a military base. One user told their driver “Go up to the three boom barriers near the blue booth and call. After the stop for bus 110 up to the end,” while another said “Closed territory. Go up to the checkpoint. Call [number] ten minutes before you arrive!”

In a translated tweet, Russian politician and Navalny supporter, Lyubov Sobol, said the leaked information even led to additional information about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former mistress and their alleged “secret” daughter. “Thanks to the leaked Yandex database, another apartment of Putin’s ex-mistress Svetlana Krivonogikh was found,” Sobol said. “That’s where their daughter Luiza Rozova ordered her meals. The apartment is 400 m², worth about 170 million rubles [~$1.98 million USD]!”

If researchers were able to uncover this much information based on data from a food delivery app, it’s a bit unnerving to think about the amount of information Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and others have on users. In 2019, a DoorDash data breach exposed the names, email addresses, phone numbers, delivery order details, delivery addresses, and the hashed, salted passwords of 4.9 million people — a much larger number than those affected in the Yandex Food leak.



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