Shacknews - Greg Burke

What ho, bold knight! This week, loyal squire Greg "Wild Pantaloons" Burke delves deep into arcane magicks to cast a spell over you. The moving pictures below shall enrich your knowledge with his favourite ten video games of high fantasy. Behold!

Shacknews - Josh Barnes

Have you ever looked down at your phone — be it iOS, Android, or Windows — and thought to yourself, “Wow. What a beautiful machine. You were once just a brick with some awful chiptune versions of songs I liked for ringtones. Now I play games on you. I do advanced math. I have the history of the world at my fingertips. My math teacher was so wrong.”

Nah, me either. Welcome to Modojo Rewind, where you can learn more about what's going on with that calculator you carry everywhere with you. Also Nintendo stuff, cuz they're as portable as you get now. Actually, let's start with them.

Radiant Historia

Nintendo Shmintendo

Do you like opinions on Nintendo? Because I've got them, and this week I shared a couple. First up we had a talk about how Nintendo should hold off on developing that 3DS successor that they were considering. Then I went on a bit of a rant on how the “New” 3DS was poorly thought out and managed. Finally, I talked about Nintendo's mobile strategy so far, and considered what they might need to do in the future.

I suppose you'll want news as well though, so how about them new Arms trailers? The ones that actually make it look like a full game finally? You can also check out Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's fancy new battle mode, now actually worth playing. Bloodstained dropped Wii U support in favor of a Switch release, so here's hoping it doesn't turn into another Mighty No. 9. Those of you on Android devices can finally get your hands on the mobile hardcore parkour simulator Super Mario Run. Also, the Mana series is getting a Switch collection and the rad DS game Radiant Historia is getting an enhanced port for 3DS. Buy it this time.

Red iPhone

Things That Aren't Nintendo

What?! Other things exist?! Afraid so, friends. For instance, did you see that Apple is giving the underdogs a signal boost with a “New Indies” section on the App Store? They then proceeded to release a new iPad and a red iPhone with a silly name. Resident wordsmith Kevin Tucker reviewed a couple of mobile games this week in the form of ini and After The End: Forsaken Destiny, one of which turned out quite a bit better than the other.

A couple of Titanfall mobile games are on the way, to hopefully attract more people to the awesomeness that is Titanfall 2. Pokemon Go is still a thing, and now has a water festival going on, as well as shiny pokemon out in the wild. Red Gyarados, my old friend, how I've missed you. Finally, digital card game Elder Scrolls Legends is now available on iOS, with an Android release coming next month. That's right, an Elder Scrolls game that might actually have compelling gameplay, what a world we live in. We even put up some beginner's tips for those of you looking to jump into it.

Just as Blockbuster asked all those years ago, we've been kind and provided another Rewind. As usual, there's always more going on over on the site proper, so come hang out sometime. Have a good weekend.

Modojo is your homebase for mobile and portable gaming and tech news. You wanna read about the Switch or 3DS? Come on down. How about app store titles? We've got you covered. Interested in mobile VR or phones themselves? We write about 'em. Hell, if Sony were so bold as to release a Vita game, we'd cover that too. Our patron saint is Robomo, the wise-cracking robot.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

It's time once again for This Week @ Shack, our weekly round-up of news, commentary, video, guides, and et cetera. 

I love Mass Effect. I loved the first one, the second is one of the all-time greats, and I'm even one of those weirdos who liked the ending of ME3. I actually reached it well after the sturm und drang had wreaked havoc on the community, and I distinctly remember thinking: all this fuss over an ending that is, at worst, merely so-so? I even read one of the Mass Effect novelizations, God help me. I think it had something to do with Saren's background, before he turned heel in the original Mass Effect. 

(If I recall, I picked it up because it was by Drew Karpyshyn, and I had read a lot of Star Wars novels in my day as well. That should also tell you something about my tastes in literature.) 

Point is, as a Mass Effect fan, it's been disheartening to see Andromeda land with such a thud. Brittany Vincent is still knee-deep in her review for us, but even pre-release her first impressions on our staff channel were less than favorable. The animations are the factor getting the most attention, for obvious reasons. They're funny and eye-catching. But I've been more disappointed to hear the general buzz that the story just isn't as compelling this time around. I'm still planning to play it, of course. I'm not the type to walk away from a space opera just because it starts to turn sour. But I hate to see something I really love slip into mediocrity.

Did I mention I've read a lot of Star Wars books?

News of the World:

Featured Features:

Guides to Life:

Full-Motion Videos:

Shacknews - John Keefer

Blizzard warned us it was going to happen. The executioner's axe has fallen and Battle.net is dead. The name, that is, but not the service.

The company quietly swapped out the Battle.net logo on its game launcher so that now it says Blizzard where the old Battle.net logo used to be in the top left corner. The move is the fulfilling of a promise that Blizzard made back in September to phase out use of the term. This was apparently the last step in nuking the out-of-date term from public consciousness, as Blizzard had already started moving away from it in the past few months.

The change is purely cosmetic, and does not affect any functionality within the games or the launcher itself. The web URL still works, though. 

The move make sense, as Battle.net is a relic of PC nostalgia before Blizzard started creating games for console and mobile. Identifying everything with the Blizzard moniker now ties everything into a neat little bundle that is understandable to new gamers who may not have known the significance of what Battle.net stood for previously. 

The big question is if Blizzard charged itself for the name change and the cosmetic upgrade.

Shacknews - John Keefer

If you have been waiting to try Splatoon 2 on your Switch, now's your chance. The Global Testfire for the game (aka the beta) begins later today.

You can already download the beta on the eShop, but it will only be accessible every four hour, and only four an hour. Here are the times:

  • Today:
    • noon - 12:59 p.m. PT (3-3:59 p.m. ET)
    • 8 - 8:59 p.m. PT (11 - 11:59 p.m. ET)
  • March 25:
    • 4 - 4:59 a.m. PT (1 - 1:59 a.m. ET)
    • noon -12:59 p.m. PT (3 - 3:59 p.m. ET)
    • 8 - 8:59 p.m. PT (11 - 11:59 p.m. ET)
  • March 26:
    • 4 - 4:59 a.m. PT (1 - 1:59 a.m. ET)

Upon downloading the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire and launching it, you'll be taken to a screen that simply states, "The Splatoon 2 Global Testfire hasn't started yet." The Splatoon 2 download is 408 MB. 

This will be the first real test placed on the new console's multiplayer servers. Splatoon 2 will launch officially this summer. Multiplayer will initially be free, but sometime this fall, Nintendo will launch its paid online multiplayer service.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Mass Effect: Andromeda could have restored the beloved franchise to its former glory. Instead, it very well may have knocked the already ailing series back on its heels even more. BioWare is already promising continuing support in the form of patches, but as we've seen many times in the games industry, the first impression is the one that matters. No patch can undo the damage to its reputation.

It's important to understand that Mass Effect's strength as a brand was already not at its peak. In the wake of Mass Effect 2, legitimately one of the best games of the last generation, the series was riding high. Its combination of strong storytelling, a cadre of instantly iconic characters, and solid action-RPG gameplay earned it praise and positive feelings that continue to this day.

Mass Effect 2 still enjoys a 94-96% rating on Metacritic depending on platform, with the notoriously tougher user review score still just below a 9/10. By comparison, Mass Effect 3 hit a slump. Its reviewer score ranges from 89-93%, which is understandable for the final entry in a trilogy that didn't quite stick the landing. The real story of the disparity is in its user scores, which dropped to 5 or 6 out of 10. While the critical and user reviews for ME2 were more-or-less aligned, there's a wide gulf for Mass Effect 3. Clearly, the fans were not pleased.

That's likely largely due to the controversy over the ending. Even with BioWare's attempted make-good, that backlash left the franchise's reputation with a black eye. Andromeda represented a chance to start fresh and win back those left disappointed by the last entry. While not without its charms, it certainly isn't the unqualified success the studio must have hoped.

Most frustratingly, it appears this may not be BioWare's fault. Insights from other developers and animators, as well as the timing of its release just before the end of the fiscal year, suggests that the developer may have simply run out of time. The goofy animations, for example, take more time in a Mass Effect game because it needs to respond algorithmically to several scenarios, and some might not have been smoothed over by hand. That makes the process efficient, but it comes at a cost. In the modern age of social media, problems that may have been isolated to a fraction of the userbase get amplified worldwide. 

To its credit, BioWare has been aggressively supporting it with patches. We're already up to 1.04, and the game hasn't been out a week yet. More so, lead designer Ian Frazier said on Twitter that the team is looking at patching "lots of issues" and plans to "strongly support the game moving forward." It's entirely possible that in three or six months, the problems that are causing the most public embarrassment will be fixed, and the game will be virtually unrecognizable. A player picking it up for the holidays could have an experience that bears no resemblance to the current criticisms. We can hope, at least.

Those who do get it later will probably do so at steep discounts. The game is barely a few days old and it's already been price-slashed at some retailers, as much as 24% off. That suggests that its bad reception has already tarnished the reputation beyond repair, and in the eyes of retailers, they need to spur on sales sooner rather than later.

Whenever players do jump on-board, even if it's much improved and at a lower price, it will be too late for Andromeda–and maybe, for Mass Effect's already-suffering reputation. As Hello Games could tell you about its own space epic, post-launch support can't turn around a game's favors single-handedly. Mass Effect needed a strong new entry to lay the groundwork for the future. After this, Mass Effect as a franchise may not have one.

Shacknews - John Keefer

We already know how well the Unreal Engine works for games, but car maker BMW has started using the software in combination with VR to study interior designs and functionality instead of building a prototype.

Engineers create the car using Unreal Engine 4, then when it through a VR headset to look for accessibility and design issues such as blind spots that may not be noticeable on paper. Designers can also get "into" the vehicle to see their design live. It essentially eliminates the cost of early prototyping, as problems can be fixed in the Unreal Engine editor, and then output again into the VR experience.

Unreal Engine director Simon Jones applauded BMW's "clever thinking" in mixing the Unreal Engine with VR tech.

“Virtual reality and Unreal Engine are becoming a crucial part of automotive design validation,” Jones told VR Focus. “Car makers are defining the parameters and the Unreal Engine tools deliver the platforms they need, allowing engineers and stylists much greater freedom to explore different themes in a way that wasn’t previously possible with costly physical prototypes because they take so long to build and update.”

Shacknews - -Shack Staff

What ho, bold knight! This week, loyal squire Greg "Wild Pantaloons" Burke delves deep into arcane magicks to cast a spell over you. The moving pictures below shall enrich your knowledge with his favourite ten video games of high fantasy. Behold!

Shacknews - John Keefer

Mass Effect: Andromeda has had its early problems with the single-player game, mostly centering on its laughable animations and some crew interactions. If you've been a bit frustrated by those, then you may want to try the first story-based Apex mission that just launched for free. 

The mission, entitled Drack's Missing Scouts, focuses on Krogan patrols that have mysteriously vanished while near a kett base known as Firebase Paradox. The base was created around some Remnant artifacts that are being exported off-world.

The Apex missions are designed for your campaign character as additional story-driven multiplayer affairs. It gives the player at chance at new rewards for completing them, although BioWare has yet to specifically outline what those rewards are. Players will also be able to try out new characters. In this mission, a Krogan Gladiator is introduced. Krogans are already fierce warriors, but this female also has biotic abilities to give her an extra wallop in combat.

Apex missions will only be available for a limited time, and this one ends on March 27. The mission can be accessed through the multiplayer menu or through the Apex selection screen in the single-player campaign.

It's interesting that this new content is already being released less than a week after Mass Effect: Andromeda went live. BioWare and EA have been stung by all the bad publicity generated by the animation and gameplay issues in the Early Access version. BioWare released a day-one patch when the game was released to the masses that addressed some issues, and Lead Designer Ian Frazier tweeted that BioWare is looking at "patching lots of issues" as it supports the game going forward.

Maybe the free Apex mission during week one of launch is a first step.

Shacknews - Shack Staff

This week is Children's Hospitals Week, and Extra Life United is kicking off its Annual Gaming Tournament in Orlando, FL. Check it out below to catch all the action, and be sure to contribute. For the kids!

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