As part of its new Inside Xbox video series, Microsoft announced a number of updates coming to Xbox One later this spring, and Xbox Insider Alpha testers for the console can take these features for a spin right now.

First, Xbox One S and Xes will support displays with FreeSync, a TV and monitor technology that lets the monitor synchronize its refresh rate according to the game. This leads to less framerate stuttering and tearing. All Xbox Ones will also support Low Latency mode, a feature in some TVs coming later this year that will automatically remove post-processing effects some TVs use to make images look sharper when games are being played, reducing input latency while playing games, then restore them when you go back to watching TV or movies.

As previously teased by Xbox VP Mika Ybarra, the update also includes the ability to post videos and screenshots on Twitter. Players will also be able to share their controller with viewers while streaming on Mixer, Microsoft’s livestreaming platform. Viewers will be able to use a either an on-screen or physical controller to play a streamer’s game while watching on their PC.

Finally, Microsoft Edge will be getting a makeover to look more like it does on Windows 10. You’ll also be able to download photos and files onto your Xbox One. If you like an image you find online (and I’m sure there are plenty of those to choose from on the internet), you can set it as your background like a cool guy.

[Source: Xbox Wire]

 

Our Take
There are lots of images on the internet to choose from for your Xbox One background. Lots of them. Use this power responsibly.


Art Credit: Robbie Trevino.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to play and watch others play Artifact for a few hours at Valve’s HQ in Seattle. To learn how the game works both from a mechanical and financial perspective, head you can read my write-up here.

Before any of that, however, Gabe Newell gave a presentation about the company’s history, the purposes behind each of their games, and what they hope to do with Artifact. It’s an illuminating look at the company, and I recommend you watch it

Then I had the chance to sit down and chat with a few of the people behind the game, including Magic: The Gathering designers Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias, and ask them a few questions. Read for details about how the game will handle its economy, how Valve gauges success, communication, and balance, and how tournaments will be an integral part of Artifact.

Coming off of Gabe Newell’s talk about some of the stuff he wanted to introduce us with for Artifact, what left me most curious is about your business model with how the game wasn’t going to be free-to-play and that the market would be heavily involved. How much can you tell me about how you expect players to interact with the game financially? What is the buy-in, and how does the marketplace roll into that?

Brandon Reinhart: There will be packs that look a lot like you would expect. You can buy, sell, and exchange singles on the marketplace.

But to access the game…?

Eric Johnson: It will cost money to purchase the game also. We haven’t set a price yet.

When you buy that, will you get cards with that as well? Will it come with a set number of cards?

Jeep Barnett: If you buy the game, you’ll have the ability to play it. [laughs]


Art Credit: JiHun Lee.

So you’d buy the game and get a certain amount of cards. Is it up to players to go into the market place to buy new cards or will there be a standardized shop?

BR: We won’t sell cards directly. You go to the marketplace and buy them from other players. 

How do players go about buying new cards? Do they buy random packs? Where do the cards initially come from?

BR: Cards initially come from packs. We see pack opening as this opportunity for competitive play with draft-style modes, social pack opening – that kind of stuff.

I know Brad [Muir] didn’t want to use the word “trading” earlier, but is that something you’ll be able to do with other players? Say I just got this card I know my friend wanted. Would I be able to send that directly to them?

BR: At launch, we’re going to focus on the marketplace. What we do from there is unknown right now.

Richard, you were one of the big surprises over at Gabe’s talk about how you’re heavily involved in this. How did Valve approach you and talk about making this card game?

Richard Garfield: I approached Valve. When Magic came out in the 90s and then started making electronic versions of it, it was quickly apparent that because it hadn’t been designed for electronic play, it was not optimal. We spent a lot of time trying to solve the problems which Magic brought to the online world. But immediately, that said to me, what is the optimal game? If we designed a trading object game for online, what would it look like? I’ve been thinking about that design and working on various projects ever since then, and at one point I sent a document to Chris Green who I’ve worked with here at Valve on a couple things and he liked what I was laying down and the approach I was talking about. Skaff and I met with Valve and how we could work on this. That’s what got it going. 


Art Credit: Lake Hurwitz

One of the things that Gabe also mentioned was how you guys don’t have the traditional approach to success and failure with games. You don’t think about “What is the return on this?” When you guys sort of removed that from the equation, how do you guys measure how well something is doing? Do you measure your own progress with external metrics?

EJ: The answer is yes. We do everything. It’s a part of everyone’s job at the company to try and understand the state of the world with respect to their customer base. I actually think it’s a falsehood to think that just because you have access to all this data to generate a true picture of the state of the world – it became really fashionable over the last 5 to 10 years. And while that stuff is super useful, the amount of stuff that customers are buying is really important. Just as much of the picture is reading through how your customers are talking about your product. What are the things that they’re thinking about? It’s about trying to use as many different sources as possible to try and get in the heads of as many customers as possible. When we do The International for Dota, it has a bunch of great, non-obvious side effects to our company. One of those things is that we get to talk to a bunch of people that play Dota in-person and ask whatever questions we want. That’s actually super helpful for us in how we think about running that game, so I think the question you’re asking is so core to how we do our job. How do we understand the state of our customers? We use any piece of data we can possibly find.

JB: We watch all kinds of people play Artifact and it’s really exciting seeing them find a new combo or find a new idea they haven’t considered before like a new way to use a card. It’s super gratifying, and in terms of the health of the community with all the games we’ve worked on, it’s really exciting to see people talk about who would win in a fight: Tidehunter or Kunkka? Or what happens when you put a portal inside another portal? When people talk about those sorts of things on that level, that’s what I really view as a healthy community.

A lot of it has to do with recognizing those interactions as important, but also sort of balancing that with the idea of, you know, balance. So you see people do stuff with cards, or even with Dota, things you didn’t expect. What do you think is the line between keeping something cool in a game that you didn’t notice or this is something that might be an issue?

EJ: Is it cool or not? That’s usually the issue. Honestly, with Dota, just because it has more customers … I don’t know how it is with Magic.

JB: [Looking at Skaff and Richard] You two guys can talk about this a bunch more in terms of the meta of card games and how strategies rise. There’s a lot to say on that. How do you decide if something’s a bug or feature?

Skaff Elias: You just declare it a feature and move on. [laughs] You’re trying to give the customer as many options as possible. It takes a long time for the meta to settle down, and then hopefully by that time, you’ve injected more cards. It’s the idea of always having something for your community that keeps playing. And these games are so complicated that I think you’ve failed if you’ve anticipated every combination and every possibility because you’ve set your sights too low. You want to give the audience a true sense of exploration and they can tell if it’s a rich environment to find combinations, that’s a platform for them to innovate on, as opposed to something with few things to connect.

BR: This idea is so fundamental, it’s really where the Artifact comes from. The Artifact is this object that you search for and discover, that you solve a puzzle and you find it. It implies that discovery process.

One of the things Gabe said is that he wanted the game to be unsolvable. As someone who only recently got started with online card games, it always feels like you see a strategy evolve around an ideal deck. This is the ideal with deck, with a few permutations, this is what you should into battle with. How do you guys avoid that being the case?

JB: There’s a huge thing that mitigates that in Artifact. If I were to have someone play the game for a week with a tournament-ready deck versus someone with a random deck who has played it for a month, I bet my life on the guy with the random deck. A huge amount of skill comes from how you play those cards and how you react to your opponent and the cards your opponent plays.

SE: Also part of the general system design, if I know exactly what you’re playing and I know your deck, I can build a deck to beat it. As long as that’s true for every deck, there is no best deck. That is an extremely important part of the process.


Art Credit: Randy Vargas.

This is maybe more specific to Valve, when it comes to communication you say that you input a lot. One of the things I saw with Dota is that you’re planning to balance more regularly. Is that the same approach you’re taking to Artifact, in terms of having more regular updates? A lot of people describe Valve as a black box where you observe but don’t interject unless you absolutely need to. With Artifact, do you have plans to change that approach?

JB: We have a long history of partnering with our community and making sure we’re building the thing that best serves that community.

SE: Our intention is to update it primarily releasing new cards.

RG: It’s worth noting there that we will nerf and buff cards at an absolute minimum. We probably would never buff a card. 

SE: There’s never a reason to buff a card.

RG: The only reason to nerf a card is in the unlikely situation where everyone has to play this card or they’ll lose. We would rather let the metagame play out and if a card is a problem, it’s going to go away anyway.

So you plan to use that rotating format?

RG: Yes.

Another thing that Gabe mentioned is that the single player experience would be defined mostly by teaching. You play against an AI to learn the game. How extensive is that? Is it like here’s a bot, you can test whatever you want, or do you plan to have hey, here’s not only the rules of the game but here’s a few tips on how to deck build or other aspects of the game and strategizing?

JB: The community will do a lot of that for us. People will write guides and teach each other what they think is a good or interesting way to play.

With Dota, there’s a lot of that stuff in-game. Do you plan to implement that at some point, despite Artifact’s difference from Dota? Would there be some sort of reward for people writing guides?

JB: I actually hadn’t thought about this, but we have a really brilliant AI programmer. Watching the plays that the AI makes sometimes has given me interesting ideas about the heuristics that I should consider for a play. Maybe just watching that AI would help players learn something new.

RG: It’s worth pointing out that the AI is really quite good. When we say that there’s no campaign or no single player content to speak of and people will want to play against other people, we’re really underselling the AI. Playing AI against most board and card games, but this one you could play against the AI and have a lot of fun and learn a lot.


Art Credit: Kieran Yanner.

From a community standpoint, you said you’re planning on having a million dollar tournament, things like that. Where do you see yourselves building off of Dota? Is that sort of the start here? With Dota, it seemed to start off a little hands-off with tournaments and then tightening the grip a little bit. When you guys think of that, how much do you plan to emulate what you have now versus trying something new?

JB: [Looking at Eric] You can speak to this better because you’ve covered the tournament scene, but if you look at TF2, CS:GO, and Dota, they all handle the competitive scene differently. It’s about what fits the needs of the community and what they’re looking for.

EJ: It’s a game design exercise. The same people who designed the game or going to determine how tournaments are administered. I think the idea of the community having some interaction with the price pool is pretty interesting. You want to learn about the community, who the pros are and get things rolling to design the best possible tournament.

JB: We’ve also learned a lot from Richard and the staff who have participated in card tournaments for years. You should talk about the grass roots stuff a little bit.

SE: The plan for the tournaments is to not just focus on the top level, but there should be tournaments for all different levels of play. Magic does very similar things and that’s absolutely something we want to emulate. We don’t want to put on only a few elite tournaments a year where a few people play and everybody else watches.

Gabe did mention that there would be more regular tournaments within the game itself. Do you guys have a plan for players who do well in these in-game tournaments and getting them to the next level?

SE: Not just a plan, but too many plans. We still have to work on them, but yes, there are plans, but nothing is settled.

RG: It’s really exciting to play in tournaments and it’s a shame that only the top one percent of the one percent can really do it.

During a developer livestream, Beamdog (who have been enhancing and re-releasing various CRPGs like Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate, and Icewind Dale over the last few years) announced, among other things the release date for their enhanced edition of Neverwinter Nights: March 27.

Beamdog also announced they will continue to update and patch the game, and add new content and expand the modding toolset. Finally, the company mentioned that while it doesn’t have any plans to bring the game to Switch, the idea “is something that is appealing to us.”

[Source: Beamdog Games]

 

Our Take
I’m not a big CRPG guy so I don’t have plans for play Neverwinter enhanced or not, but I think if the question of a Switch version has been brought up enough that the developer needs to issue a statement on it, it should probably head to Switch. Here’s hoping.

After revealing the game’s date and price a few days ago, State of Decay developer Undead Labs has made another announcement fans should be excited to hear: The game will not have microtransactions.

The team mentioned the detail during a livestream discussing the first gameplay details shown off by IGN a few days ago. When asked about whether the game would have microtransactions, the developer said they have no plans to include them in the game. However, because the game is currently priced at $30, they did say they may have plans for paid expansions packs down the road.

While this isn’t the first time the company has made the statement (Undead Labs has previously stated they wouldn’t be doing microtransactions while responding to players on Reddit), the affirmation of it is good to see in light of the reduced price tag.

[Source: Undead Labs via COGConnected]

 

Our Take
Hopefully Undead Labs can support the game and its community with the reduced price tag and DLC-over-microtransactions model. It’s definitely something I’d like more games to do.

After announcing its absurdly popular battle royal game with another mode, Fortnite, was heading to mobile platforms, Epic has announced that players on Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS, will able to play with each other, with Android users joining the fun “in the next few months.”

The mobile version of the battle royal mode will be exactly the same as it is on console, and will receive in updates in tandem with other versions. The company did not announce exactly when cross-platform matches would kick off, but instead pointed players to sign up for the Invite Event on iOS.

Absent from the announcement is the PS4 version, which, as you may remember, was briefly able to play nice with the Xbox One version late last year due to an error on Epic’s part. Considering every other platform the game is on is part of this crossplay, signs once again point to Sony being responsible about the lack of crossplay at this point.

[Source: Epic Games]

 

Our Take
It’s no longer surprising when a game has cross-platform play on every available platform except Sony’s, but always disappointing. At least PC and Xbox players will be able to join up with each other soon.

Not even the time-warping power of Daylight Savings can stop these gaming events! But, you should probably keep that whole “Spring Forward” thing in mind as you pour over the schedules for this week.

Call of Duty: WWII begins its run on the CWL this weekend, so if you’ve been keeping up with the game over the Winter and what to see the game played at its best, this is your best shot. (Stream / Schedule)

You’ll be able to catch a lot of Overwatch this weekend. Along with the usual Overwatch League (Stream / Schedule) today, you can also catch the Contenders league tomorrow, where upstarts looking to prove their worth face off against each other. (Stream / Schedule)

Hearthstone is in Toronto this weekend for its HCT event this weekend, so you can watch pros test their mettle in the cold of the north. (Stream / Schedule)

Meanwhile, Halo 5: Guardians is in Sydney, Australia, for the its Championship Series, but the tournament schedule isn’t too far off from other time zones, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble watching. (Stream / Schedule)

If you’re willing to stay up super-late (or don’t mind catching the replay in the morning), you can watch the grand finals of the Dota 2 Bucharest Major. Dark Willow didn’t make the showing we expected – maybe she’s not as broken as people thought? (Stream / Schedule)

The Rocket League Championship series returns this week with the Rival Play-In Series as 128 teams across North America and Europe fight for 4 spots on the Championship bracket. The North American broadcast starts at 12pm PST, while the European broadcast starts at 9am PDT. (Stream)

It’s the final week of the regular season for the League of Legends Championship series, so you’ll be able to see where your favorite team stacks up this weekend before a one-week break and then, the playoffs. (StreamSchedule)

If you’re looking to catch some Super Smash Bros. For Wii U action as you wait to see if it’s being ported over to Switch or if the announcement is a new entry, check out the Chicago Gaming Coalition event this weekend. (Streams and Schedule)

That’s it for this weekend! Let us know if we missed an event, or if there’s a scene you’d like us to cover, in the comments.

After our momentous celebration of 300 issues last weekend, this one is a time for us to unwind with a swath of activities, ranging from heading on over to the movies to testing our merit in the battle royale genre. Some of us are even drawn to Smash and Nintendo titles in general after the company’s solid Direct on Thursday. But what are you up to this weekend? Let us know your plans in the comments below.

Jon Bowman (@MrGameAndWrite) – I started binging the second season of Jessica Jones last night. I had lower expectations after an incredible first season, but I’m hooked once again! I’ll finish that off this weekend. Other than that, I’m planning on showing Robbie why Fortnite is better than PUBG, watching some wrasslin’ on Sunday, and somewhere in between starting Life is Strange: Before the Storm. I wanted to wait until the bonus episode came out to make sure I fully recovered from the emotional toll of Life is Strange. I’m ready to feel all the feels again!

Jeff Cork (@gijeff) –  One of my kids is having a sleepover this weekend, and unfortunately he’s made it clear that video games are on his agenda. I could slum it on the secondary gaming setup, but maybe this is my cue to read a book or go outside or something? Once they’ve gone to sleep, I’ll probably head downstairs and play Overwatch. Old habits die hard …

Ben Hanson (@yozetty) –  Oh man, what should I play this weekend? It might be a good time to jump back into Subnautica, but I’ve also been thinking about finally checking out Planet Coaster. Although I’ve been craving Smash Bros. again after the exciting announcement, so maybe a tournament of sorts is in order. Tell me what to play, comments! Have a good weekend!

Kyle Hilliard (@KyleMHilliard) – I have a lot of movies to see this weekend. Going to try and see both Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time. I also really want to see Early Man, as I fear my window to go see it in a theater is closing, but I won’t be able to see them all! I am going to have to pick. I’m also seriously considering a haircut, but I don’t want to make any promises. Sunday, I’ll be heading out of town for work stuff, so it will be a short one, but I am hoping to get some other fun stuff in there, too, like laundry folding.

Robbie Key (@RobbieKeyV) – I shall be working on a feature this weekend with my fellow G.I. intern, Jon Bowman, where we will play PUBG and Fortnite with each other on a quest to convince the other which one is better and why. Outside G.I. work, I am continuing my hee-hawing adventures in Red Dead Redemption, and editing a video that’s part of my Shenanikins YouTube series.

Imran Khan (@imranzomg) – This past week, I’ve gotten really into Hitman again and am likely going to try and finish it and the DLC I never played. Even after all this time, it’s still a really great game, if not even better than before. I’m also a few million halos away from purchasing the Rodin ticket in Bayonetta 2.

Brian
Shea
 (@BrianPShea) – I recently put Shadow of the Colossus, Celeste, and Final Fantasy X behind me, so at the moment, I’m kind of between games. I’ve been slowly working my way through Yoshi’s Island and Pokémon Omega Ruby, but until Far Cry 5 hits, I don’t think I really have a big game in front of me. Maybe Yakuza Kiwami? Oh, and definitely more Overwatch, and probably some Pokémon Go. 

Jeff M (@GIJeffM) – I thought I was finally getting over my infatuation with Into The Breach this week. Then I played it until 3:00AM last night/this morning. Suffice it to say I’m hooked again, but if I can manage to set aside my kaiju-stomping adventures, I might start up the Shadow of Colossus remake (which are kind of kaiju in their own right). On the television front, my wife and I might continue watching Altered Carbon and The Last Man On Earth, or we might start up The Colony, based on Reiner and Cork’s suggestions. That’s a lot of “might”s, but hey, it’s the weekend! 

Joey Thurmond (@DrJoeystein) – I have a superb weekend lined up! After seeing one of my favorite bands (The Oh Hellos … you should look them up) on Friday night, I’m going to see if I can delve into Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide with a group of friends over the weekend to find out if the sequel is worth checking out at some point. I’ll also be watching one of my favorite artists stream this weekend while I work on finishing God of War: Chains of Olympus. The remastered version on PS3 is stunning, which almost looks even better than the first God of War. The restrictions on gameplay with the PSP are evident in the port but it’s solid nonetheless.

In the year since the Switch launched, fans of the system have been wondering to different degrees why Netflix, an app ubiquitous on any device that has or interfaces with a screen, is not on Nintendo’s latest system.

While Netflix said they were exploring options with Nintendo just a few months ago, nothing has been said since. Netflix executive Scott Mirer, who is in charge of partnering with device manufacturers for Netflix apps, answered questions about it at a Silicon Valley Q&A.

“In the case of the Switch, they [Nintendo] were very focused at launch not on video-use cases, but on gaming cases, video was not a priority for them,” Mirer said. “Whether that changes over time, we have a great relationship with them and look at the possibility of the Switch. We each have opportunity cost around that, but at some point, it might happen.” 

The reasoning is strange, as Hulu appeared on the Switch last November. Still, it seems Netflix wants to do it, Nintendo just appears to be uninterested in allowing it at the moment.

[Source: mobilesyrup]

 

Our Take
I don’t particularly need Netflix on Switch, but I can see it being useful for a lot of people. I can’t see a good reason for Nintendo not wanting it on the system.

Replay 300 – Super Metroid

In celebration of Game Informer’s 300th issue – which contains a huge 300 Greatest Games of All Time list – Replay is taking a look back at some of the top games that made that prestigious list. The first game is selected by Game Informer’s editor-in-chief, Andy McNamara. Andy has been at Game Informer since issue 1, dating back 27 years ago. He wanted to play Super Metroid, a game we’ve already played to death in a Super Replay. For the sake of 300, we had no qualms in revisiting this game for a more focused conversation about this important (and awesome) game.

In the second segment, we focus on a game that didn’t make the list, but should have, according to Andy. In true Replay fashion, this look back at yesteryear is not what Andy expected. Enjoy the show. Enjoy the 300th issue. We’ll be back in seven days with another 300 themed episode, this time with a pick from yours truly.

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In most modern generations, the first year or so of a console is full of cross-gen titles and games ported from the previous console to the modern one. It’s an easy way to fill in a library without completely committing to the console or to give some time to let the first wave of ground-up software get enough time in development.

In the past two Nintendo Directs, Nintendo has gone fairly heavy on bringing forward Wii U games to the Switch. Reaction to this differs depending on who you ask, but some people have strong feelings about filling in a library with previously released games.

What is your general feeling on porting old games to a new console? Do you think they’re an absolute good, an absolute bad, or does it depend? What would make ports okay for you and what pushes them too far? Let us know in the comments below.