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Game

‘Monument Valley’ studio returns with a cerebral and sporty roguelike, ‘Desta’

Ustwo, the studio behind Monument Valley and Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, is working on a new game called Desta: The Memories Between. It features a blend of roguelike, turn-based and sports-game mechanics, and it’s in development for multiple platforms — though exactly which remains a mystery, as does the game’s release date. The studio promises to share more information in the coming months.

Desta

ustwo

Desta takes place in two worlds, reality and a limbo made up of the protagonist’s memories, and its main gameplay mechanic involves throwing around a blue ball. The story follows Desta, a person in their 20s who returns home after leaving their loved ones in chaos a while back. Desta’s dad has died, and when they find his treasured blue ball, they’re transported to a dreamlike world where they can confront their past and speak with the people they left behind. Solving physics and spatial puzzles with the ball unlocks dialogue with Desta’s friends and family members, and helps them find the necessary words to move forward.

The game is fully voice acted, and ustwo developers are pulling inspiration from games like Hades and Into the Breach for its mechanics.

Desta

ustwo

Desta is the deepest, most ambitious and most replayable title from ustwo games yet, but with all the heart and approachability that the London studio is known for,” according to ustwo.

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Game

‘Stardew Valley’ has sold more than 20 million copies

Six years after its initial release,  has sold more than 20 million copies. Creator Eric Barone shared news of the accomplishment in an update posted to the game’s and an interview with . “The 20 million copies milestone is really amazing,” he told the outlet.

But what’s even more impressive is the increasing pace of Stardew Valley’s sales. It took four years for the game to sell its first 10 million copies. Since September 2021, it has sold 5 million units. “The average daily sales of Stardew Valley are higher today than at any point,” Barone said. “I’m not exactly sure why that is. My hope is that the game is just continuing to spread via word of mouth, and the more people that are playing it, the more people will share the game with their friends.”

Barone told PC Gamer he plans to continue working on Stardew Valley but is now primarily focused on , a new action RPG he announced last fall. “Ultimately I have to follow my heart or else the quality of the content will suffer,” Barone said.

Twenty million copies sold is an impressive feat for any game, let alone one that a single person developed. Barone began working on Stardew Valley after graduating with a computer science degree from the University of Washington Tacoma. He found that he couldn’t land a position in his field following the 2008 financial crisis, so he started developing the game to hone his craft. He then spent the next four years working on the project before finally releasing Stardew Valley at the start of 2016. Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier documents the entire saga in his excellent 2017 book .

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Game

Xbox Game Pass December 2021 adds Halo Infinite, Stardew Valley, Among Us

Today we kick off the final month of 2021, and with the arrival of December comes news of more additions to Xbox Game Pass. December is shaping up to be a big month for Microsoft’s subscription service, thanks in no small part to the arrival of Halo Infinite. The latest game in Microsoft’s flagship franchise will be joined by some beloved indie classics as well.

Xbox Game Pass games, early December 2021

The new additions start with a bang tomorrow, December 2nd, with the arrival of a bunch of games: Anvil (console and PC), Archvale (cloud, console, and PC), Final Fantasy XIII-2 (console and PC), Lawn Mowing Simulator (cloud, console, and PC), Rubber Bandits (cloud, console, and PC), Stardew Valley (cloud, console, and PC), and Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector (cloud, console, and PC). (via Xbox Wire)

There’s one clear standout in this initial drop of games, and that’s Stardew Valley. We learned that Stardew Valley was destined for Xbox Game Pass earlier this year, and now the big day has finally come. If you’ve never played Stardew Valley before, it’s essentially a love letter to all things Harvest Moon, so if the simple life of small-town farming calls to you, you’ll soon have the chance to play it through Xbox Game Pass.

READ MORE: Halo Infinite multiplayer first impressions

The new additions continue on December 7th with Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator (cloud, console, and PC). That game will be followed on December 8th by the month’s heavy hitter: Halo Infinite, which will be available across the cloud, console, and PC versions of Xbox Game Pass. Keep in mind that this is the campaign for Halo Infinite, with the multiplayer already available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, the Microsoft Store, and PC.

Xbox Game Pass wraps up the first half of December with One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 (cloud, console, and PC) on December 9th and then both Aliens: Fireteam Elite (cloud, console, and PC) and Among Us (console) on December 14th.

Xbox Game Pass perks and upcoming departures

As always, there are several perks for free-to-play games that Xbox Game Pass subscribers can claim this month. It should come as little surprise that one of the perks is for Halo Infinite, granting a “Pass Tense” coating for the MA40 Assault Rifle, four double XP boosts, and four challenge swaps.

Xbox Game Pass subscribers will also get a New Year’s Bundle for Dauntless that includes new cosmetics, a 14-day Slayer’s Club membership, and 25 Patrol Keys. In addition, Apex Legends players can snag the RIG Helmet Weapon charm, while World of Warships: Legends players will get the Hero’s Companion bundle featuring the Medea – a Tier II British warship – along with boosters and credits.

All of these perks will be available in the Perks gallery on Xbox consoles, the Xbox app on PC, and the Xbox Game Pass app on mobile beginning December 2nd, save for the Halo Infinite perks which will go live alongside the campaign on December 8th.

Finally, we’ve got another round of departures heading our way. On Wednesday, December 15th, six games will be leaving Xbox Game Pass: Beholder (cloud and console), The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (console and PC), Guacamelee! 2 (cloud, console, and PC), Wilmot’s Warehouse (cloud, console, and PC), Unto The End (cloud, console, and PC), and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (cloud, console, and PC). If you’re currently playing any of those, you’ve got exactly two weeks to finish them up, so be sure to earmark some game time in the coming days.

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AI

US sanctions a Chinese surveillance company with Silicon Valley funding

The US Department of Commerce has sanctioned 14 Chinese tech companies over links to human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, including one backed by a top Silicon Valley investment firm.

DeepGlint, also known as Beijing Geling Shentong Information Technology Co., Ltd., is a facial recognition company with deep ties to Chinese police surveillance, and funding from US-based Sequoia Capital. Today the Commerce Department added it to its Entity List, which restricts US companies from doing business with listed firms without a special license. Sequoia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeepGlint co-founded a facial recognition lab in 2018 with Chinese authorities in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, according to the South China Morning Post. It has also gained international bragging rights through the US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Face Recognition Vendor Test. DeepGlint claimed top accuracy in the test as of January 2021, giving it a potent marketing tool in the security and surveillance industry.

While DeepGlint has been accepted for a public offering on Shanghai’s STAR stock exchange, the firm hasn’t seen the commercial success of other AI startups in the country, explained Jeffrey Ding in his ChinAI newsletter last month. Since the firm is so heavily invested in government work, it has to follow slow government procurement cycles and is unlikely to score huge infrastructure projects, Ding writes.

Sequoia Capital has funded another company that later ended up on the Entity List. In 2020, Sequoia-backed Yitu Technology was added to the list for similar human rights abuses. Sequoia invested in DeepGlint back in 2014, before China’s genocide of Uyghurs had come to light. (The same year, Bill Gates also referred to the startup as “very cool,” according to KrAsia.)

The Commerce Department also sanctioned Xinjiang Lianhai Chuangzhi Company and Chengdu Xiwu Security System Alliance, two subsidiaries of Chinese military contractors. They both offer surveillance equipment and services, according to their websites and academic reports. Xinjiang Lianhai Chuangzhi Company created an AI-powered checkpoint system that is able to track Uyghurs as they move around cities, according to a report from the Italian Institute for International Political Studies.

Another firm sanctioned today is Leon Technology, a surveillance company that was controlled by Chinese AI giant SenseTime until its role providing oppressive technology in Xinjiang was reported in 2019. SenseTime then divested its 51 percent stake in it.

The Commerce Department sanctions also included nine other Chinese companies for national security reasons, as well as companies in Iran, Russia, and Canada, among other countries.

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Game

Stardew Valley creator reveals next game: ConcernedApe’s Haunted Chocolatier

In the five years since it was released, Stardew Valley has become an indie sensation. Now, Stardew Valley‘s creator, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, has revealed his next game: ConcernedApe’s Haunted Chocolatier. The first trailer for Haunted Chocolatier is here, and it shows off some early gameplay from the new title. It’s safe to say that Stardew Valley fans will probably find a lot to be excited about in the first trailer for Haunted Chocolatier.

In ConcernedApe’s Haunted Chocolatier, players will take on the job of a chocolate maker living in a haunted castle. Throughout the game, players will have to collect ingredients, make chocolate, and then sell it in their very own chocolate shop – one where ghosts help manage the store, it seems. We’ve embedded the first trailer below, and it shows off a good mix of gameplay, from managing the chocolate shop and interacting with NPCs to exploration and combat.

Haunted Chocolatier looks a lot like Stardew Valley, and that certainly isn’t a coincidence. While we imagine that many things about the game will change during development, Barone has a pretty distinctive pixel art style, so the finished product will probably still look like Stardew Valley in at least some regards.

In any case, Barone already has a website set up for Haunted Chocolatier with both a blog and an FAQ. In the first blog post about the game, Barone says that even though the Haunted Chocolatier features spooky stuff like ghosts and a haunted mansion, it won’t be “an evil or negative game.” Instead, Barone says, “I intend for this game to be positive, uplifting and life-affirming. However, if Stardew Valley mostly channeled the energy of the sun, Haunted Chocolatier channels the energy of the moon. Both are vital.”

In the accompanying FAQ, we learn that so far, Haunted Chocolatier is a solo project for Barone, just as Stardew Valley was. Barone also describes Haunted Chocolatier as “another ‘town game’” where players will be moving to a new town and getting to know the people who live there. However, Barone also describes Haunted Chocolatier as “more of an action-RPG compared to Stardew Valley,” so we can expect some changes on the gameplay front.

Barone also confirms that Haunted Chocolatier is being developed in a new game engine, though sadly, he doesn’t want to reveal if it’s set in the Stardew Valley universe yet. He also says that while he intends to bring Haunted Chocolatier to major platforms, he can only confirm the game for PC at the moment. There’s no talk of a release date yet, as Barone says the game is still “relatively early in development.” It sounds like we’ll be waiting a while for the arrival of Haunted Chocolatier, but we’ll let you know when Barone shares more.

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Game

‘Stardew Valley’ creator’s next game is ‘Haunted Chocolatier’

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone, aka “ConcernedApe,” has made a surprise unveiling of his next game, Haunted Chocolatier. It has the same pixelated SNES look as Stardew, with characters, set-pieces and themes that are similarly cute and quirky. 

“In this game, you will play as a chocolatier living in a haunted castle. In order to thrive in your new role, you will have to gather rare ingredients, make delicious chocolates, and sell them in a chocolate shop,” according to Barone’s blog on the new website. The video shows characters heading out into into a town, the castle, a mountain and other scenarios to seek ingredients and fend off creatures.

It’s Barone’s first game since Stardew Valley launched in 2016, but so far it’s not a lot more than a demo. Barone has yet to finalize the gameplay systems, and said he doesn’t even want to be “tied down to any particular concept of what the game is” ahead of launch. 

Haunted Chocolatier does sound and look a lot like Stardew at first take. However, in a FAQ, Barone said there will be some substantial differences, particularly when it comes to gameplay.

Like Stardew Valley, Haunted Chocolatier is another “town game,” where you move to a new town and try your hand at a new way of living. You’ll get to know the townspeople, achieve your goals and make progress in many ways. All of that is similar to Stardew Valley. However, the core gameplay and theming are quite a bit different. Haunted Chocolatier is more of an action-RPG compared to Stardew Valley. And instead of a farm being the focal point of your endeavors, it’s a chocolate shop.

Barone wouldn’t reveal other details, like whether the new title is set in the same world as Stardew, nor a release date or even a general timeframe. He did say that it would be single-player only, with no plans for multiplayer. The game will “100 percent” come to PC, though he has “every intention of bringing it to the other major platforms as well.”

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Game

‘Monument Valley 2’ gets a new chapter four years after its debut

Four years after Monument Valley 2 hit and , Ustwo Games has added a new chapter. The developer “The Lost Forest” as its contribution to Playing for the Planet’s Green Game Jam, which promotes tree conservation.

The chapter includes “four intimate scenes” and Ustwo hopes that by playing through them, people will be inspired to sign to show their interest in protecting forests. Play4Forests is an initiative run by the United Nations’ climate and forest partnership and the Playing for the Planet Alliance. The goal is to work with major names in gaming to highlight the “importance of conserving and restoring forests.”

“Our forests, one of our best allies in fighting the climate emergency, are facing mounting threats,” the Play4Forests website reads. “Your voice can help secure a better future for forests and humans.”

It might initially seem unusual to bring extra content to a game like Monument Valley 2 four years later, but there’s an admirable reason in this particular case. Tiny Wings, a popular iOS title from a decade ago, , so such a long gap between a mobile game’s release and more content isn’t exactly unheard of.

As for the future of the series, Ustwo announced in 2019 , but there’s no word of a release date as yet.

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Game

Stardew Valley Releasing On Xbox Game Pass This Fall

Today’s ID@Xbox stream was packed with indie games galore, but the highlight of the show came from Stardew Valley developer Concerned Ape. During an interview on the stream, Eric Barone, the sole developer of Stardew Valley announced that the game will be coming to Xbox Game Pass.

Stardew Valley was originally released in February 2016 but has since exploded in popularity. The game, heavily inspired by the Harvest Moon franchise, gives players a farm to call their own, and a small town to live in. The game is currently available on PC, Switch, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox consoles, and will arrive on Xbox Game Pass later this fall. A concrete release date for the game on Xbox’s subscription service was not announced.

Along with Stardew Valley, a decent number of other indie titles are coming to Xbox Game Pass. Aragami 2 hits the service on September 17, Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous arrives on March 1, 2022, Evil Genius 2 is set to launch on Game Pass in fiscal Q4 of this year, and Pupperazi is rolling onto the service sometime soon.

The ID@Xbox stream wasn’t just about the indie games coming to Xbox Game Pass though. You can find a list of every game that appeared during today’s showcase down below.

  • Lightyear Frontier
  • Lab Rat
  • the Legend of Wright
  • OlliOlli World
  • Inked
  • Sam & Max Save The World Remastered
  • Aeon Drive
  • The Big Con
  • The Vale: Shadow of the Crown
  • Aragami 2
  • Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous
  • Pupperazi
  • Evil Genius 2
  • Stardew Valley
  • Library of Aruna
  • Spacelines from the Far Out
  • The Artful Escape

Editors’ Choice






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Game

Stardew Valley game soundtrack gets soothing sleep lullabies cover

Hit farming simulator game Stardew Valley is known to be as relaxing as it is addictive. What better game to get a soundtrack cover designed to lull you to sleep? The game’s developer ConcernedApe has revealed that Gentle Love has created a soothing Prescription for Love cover of the game’s iconic songs, ones that are chill enough to play as you fall asleep.

The Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabies music series comes from Norihiko Hibino and AYAKI, the two artists known under their performance name Gentle Love. The Prescription for Sleep series features relaxing, soothing covers of hit game music, giving fans a way to experience the soundtracks in a different way.

The latest installment in the audio series is Stardew Valley; the album has a total of 12 tracks, including the game’s overture, “Winter: Nocturne of Ice,” “A Golden Star is Born,” and more. The artists offer a number of streaming options, including ones to download and stream the content.

You can find Prescription for Sleep: Stardew Valley on Apple Music, Amazon Music, Bandcamp, and iTunes Store. The album is available to preorder for those who want to own rather than stream it. Prescription for Sleep: Stardew Valley will be available on May 19.

A number of game songs have been covered by Gentle Love, including popular ones made available under the Game Music Lullabies Vol. 1 and Vol 2. Titles include DuckTales, Final Fantasy XV, Yoshi’s Island, Undertale, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Coutry.



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Tech News

MetaHuman Creator: Did Epic just leap the Uncanny Valley?

Epic just revealed an Unreal Engine-related piece of software and system called MetaHuman Creator. This system allows users to create “truly convincing digital humans.” This software is cloud-streamed and designed to “take real-time digital human creation from weeks or months to less than an hour.”

This project works with “an ever-growing library of variants of human appearance and motion.” Using a set of preset faces from the MetaHuman database, users will be able to make adjustments and “sculpt and craft the result you want.” Each time an adjustment is made, MetaHuman Creator blends between examples in its library “in a plausible, data-constrained way.”

Once a body is created, users will be able to download the asset in the form of a Maya file via Quixel Bridge. When downloaded, the result will be fully rigged (for 3D animation movement) and ready for motion capture.

The downloaded file will include source data, including skeleton, facial rig, meshes (hopefully able to be converted for 3D printing!), materials, and animation controls. Manual keyframing is in the pipeline, as is support for a wide variety of 3rd-party software names.

Epic suggested that they’re working with vendors to make support a reality for the following: Cubic Motion, Speech Graphics, JALI, Faceware, Dynamixyz, Digital Domain, ARKit, and DI4D. They’ve also pointed to the Unreal Engine Live Link Face iOS app as an early connection.

To gain access to MetaHuman Creator, you’ll want to head over to the sign-up page at Epic. There they’ll give you the text boxes you’ll need to fill to apply for early entry.

NOTE: Surpassing the Uncanny Valley is a subjective sort of goal. These creations look pretty convincing while in still captures – but they’ll still need some work in post-production to appear real in video form. That shouldn’t be too hard, especially given the key that most producers seem to forget: If you’re trying to trick someone into believing a video of a MetaHuman isn’t digital, don’t tell them it’s digital from the get-go. Also, dirty it up a bit!

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