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Shacknews - Steve Watts

While the Xbox One turning on with the sound of your voice made for an impressive stage presentation, it didn't take long for the Internet to notice: doesn't that mean it's listening all the time? Today, in a bevy of new information that also included online checks and game licensing, Microsoft attempted to put fears at ease with more detail about the new Kinect's privacy settings.

In a detailed announcement, Microsoft stated that you'll personalize your Kinect during start-up. That will let you pick which settings are on from the start, and you can turn the sensor on, off, or pause it. When the Kinect is off, Microsoft says, it's only listening for the command "Xbox on," but you can disable that feature as well. When the Xbox One is in use, Microsoft is careful to note that it's not recording or uploading any conversation. Finally, you can use other inputs if you just want to turn off or pause the Kinect.

Concerning personal data, Microsoft claims that nothing will leave your Xbox One without explicit, expressed permission. It uses examples like a fitness game measuring heart data or a card game that views your face to determine the strength of a bluff.

This is all much more specific than the information we heard late last month, which simply promised privacy settings without going into detail.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Almost as soon as the Xbox One announcement ended, we started hearing contradictory tales from Microsoft regarding the system's connectivity requirements. The last two weeks have apparently given the company a chance to get its messaging straight, as it finally clarified today just how often the system needs to check in.

As confirmed on the official site the system will require an online check-in every 24 hours on your primary console. If you're accessing your game library on someone else's system, that window gets narrowed to every hour. The page warns: "Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies."

This is similar to what Phil Harrison told Kotaku, which apparently let the cat out of the bag early. Microsoft quickly told Polygon he was merely describing "potential scenarios."

More mundane details include the recommended connection speed (1.5Mbps), and the ability to sign in and install games from your friend's house to play them there. That's certainly convenient, but the one-hour check-in time might make it less welcoming.

Shacknews - Steve Watts
Steam announced a new "Family Sharing" feature today, and is accepting beta applications to test it. When it launches fully, close friends and family will be able to play one another's games, while still earning their own achievements and saving their individual progress through the cloud.
Shacknews - Aaron Linde

With summer in full swing, Chatty is catching up with some of the best games from recent weeks. That includes Divinity: Original Sin, which Sapiens is happily running through on the recommendation of fellow Chatty posters. I'm also tossing in the opening minutes of The Wolf Among Us, which offers but a mere taste of the final episode, in case you need some motivation to catch up with Telltale's story. And wtf242 continues his efforts to master the game of Hearthstone, showing improvement with each passing day.

Here's a compilation of some of the best Shacknews Twitch highlights for the week of July 12, 2014.

Warning: Some clips may contain NSFW language.

The Wolf Among Us

Telltale wrapped up its adaptation of Bill Willingham's Fables universe and it was quite wonderful. And episode five only clinched the story's brilliance, so I took it upon myself to take a look at the final episode's opening minutes. They not only recap the story (though it's my own personal story. Your choices will vary), but also give a glimpse into what's to come in the game's climactic confrontation. It should serve as a good motivator to get stragglers jumping in, because this story is not to be missed.

Watch live video from EyeCarumba on TwitchTV

Diivinity: Original Sin

No game has quite captured Chatty's imagination in recent months quite like Divinity: Original Sin. The old-school RPG from Larian Games is harkening back to what everyone loves about classic RPGs of a bygone era, but also doing more than enough to stand out as a great modern RPG, as well. Sapiens offers a nice look at one small example of what makes the game a blast, as you can watch him stack some barrels.

Watch live video from SapiensTV on TwitchTV

Hearthstone: Heoes of Warcraft

Hearthstone is an easy game to learn, but incredibly difficult to master and perhaps nobody knows that more than Chatty's wtf242, who has been among the most vocal posters in regards to how to get better at the game. He's taken a lot of people's advice to heart and has gradually started to improve his game. So we're featuring one of his ranked matches, as he takes Malfurion the Druid out for a spin and finds himself in a very close match. And anyone that has participated in these kinds of matches knows that he can only get better from here.

Watch live video from Wtf242 on TwitchTV

For more highlights and live streams, check out the full list of Shacknews Twitch channels.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

We're deep in the summer doldrums now, but there's still a lot to get excited about if you're looking to fill up your PC backlog. There are a number of great games to check out and a lot of them are going for pretty cheap. So be sure to check out Goat Simulator on Steam, the full Civilization V pack on Amazon, the Sega sale on Get Games, the 2K bundle on Humble Bundle, and a whole lot more.

Here's our selection of this weekend's PC deals:


Bundle Stars

Pay $4.99 for Magicka and all of its 21 DLC packs. They activate on Steam.

Or pay $3.99 for Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword, Project Aftermath, Explodemon, Velocity Ultra, Electronic Super Joy: Groove City, Influx, Imperial Glory, and Praetorians. All activate on Steam.

Or pay $3.99 for Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, Alien Rage: Unlimited, Disciples III: Reincarnation, Deadly 30, Fearless Fantasy, Muffin Knight, Street Racing Syndicate, I Am Vegend - Zombiegeddon, Iron Grip: Warlord and the Scorched Earth DLC. All activate on Steam.

GameFly Digital

Use the code JUL20OFF to get 20% off purchases over $9.99. If you're across the pond, use UKMAY20OFF.

  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted [Origin] - $4.99 (75% off)

  • Need for Speed Ultimate Digital Collection [Origin] - $7.49 (75% off)

  • Other Need for Speed games can be found on sale here.


  • NBA 2K14 [Steam] - $7.50 (75% off)

  • Spec Ops: The Line [Steam] - $7.50 (75% off)

  • Other games in GamersGate's 2K Greatest Hits promotion can be found on sale here.

  • Total War: Rome II [Steam] - $20.40 (66% off)

  • Empire: Total War Collection [Steam] - $8.75 (75% off)

  • Other games in GamersGate's Total War Weekend promotion can be found on sale here.


Get Games

  • GET LOADED with this month's Get Games special! Pick from Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2, Alien Rage, Dogfight, Alan Wake, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Darksiders, Gothic 3, Red Faction Guerrilla, Red Faction Armageddon, Wooden Sen Sey, Sang Froid: Tales of Werewolves, Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut, Just Cause 2, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, and Dungeon Siege III. Get any two for $10.

  • Thief [Steam] - $10.19 (66% off) (Other Thief games on sale here)

  • Total War Grand Master Collection [Steam] - $41.24 (75% off) (Other Total War games on sale here)

  • Typing of the Dead: Overkill [Steam] - $6.79 (66% off) (DLC also on sale here)

  • Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed [Steam] - $6.79 (66% off)

  • The Cave [Steam] - $5.09 (66% off)

  • Other games featured in Get Games' Sega Summer Sale can be found here.


Green Man Gaming

Use the code EEKC1D-0FTUGV-M8G5ZN to get 20% off a minimum purchase of $10.

Humble Bundle

Humble Bundle

Pay what you want for BioShock, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, and Darksiders II. Pay more than the average $7.81 to also get BioShock 2, Mafia II, and Spec Ops: The Line. Pay $20 or more to also get BioShock Infinite and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. All games work with Steam.

Or pay what you want for Windforge, Stacking, ReignMaker, Paranautical Activity (Early Access), and a Strife closed beta key. Pay $6 or more to get Darkout, Signs of Life (Early Access), and 30-Day premium access to Curse. Pay $10 or more to also get Lifeless Planet and Edge of Space (Early Access). Most games work on Steam.

  • The Humble Store is offering daily deals on DRM-free titles. VIsit their storefront for the full list of the day's sales.

Indie Royale

Pay $2.99 for Chronology, Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren's Call, The Book of Legends, Guns n Zombies, Quest of Dungeons, and Jones on Fire. Pay $6 or more for a bonus soundtrack. All of these games work on Steam, except Jones on Fire.


As well as regular discounts, Steam has a couple of additional weekend deals.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Iron Galaxy hosted a Killer Instinct panel during Evo 2014 and have revealed the newest character for Killer Instinct: Season 2. It's the fierce warrior Maya, making her return from the Nintendo 64 KI sequel.

Maya's moves include dagger throws, with her weapons able to level up as the match progresses. If her daggers are powered-up all the way, they will home in on opponents and become unblockable. However, there's a risk-reward element to Maya's weapons, as missing with these weapons can make her weaker. Along with Maya came a new stage called CIty of Dawn, set in Maya's Incan homelands.

Iron Galaxy added that Season 2 will feature eight more characters, including some all-new ones. They'll also add a new ladder system, which will revamp the game's current multiplayer ranking system. New stage interactions, dubbed "Stage Ultras" are also being added to help give players new ways to finish their opponents. 

There were more topics beyond the new character discussed during the Evo panel. One of them was the 'Jail' system, which will be refined over the coming weeks. Iron Galaxy acknowledged that a fan poll stood in favor of the game's current system, so it will remain in place until the studio can find a solution to the disconnection issues surrounding it. Iron Galaxy's Dave Lang stated that 'Jail' stats would be reset soon, giving current jail-ees a second chance, and that new fixes will be implemented to better track rage quitters or serial cord-pullers. There is no timetable in place to deploy the revamped 'Jail' system.

Iron Galaxy also noted that they would be working with previous characters (Fulgore was specifically named) in order to help make them more accessible to newer players. They'll be looking to add to the combo system, too, revealing 'Air Counter Breakers' to give players at the wrong end of juggles a chance to break the neverending chain.

This is far from the end, of course. In fact, Microsoft's Ken Lobb said during the panel that he envisions Killer Instinct lasting a full generation, with new content (modes, characters, etc.) gradually being added over the course of many years.

A trailer is forthcoming and we will have it ready once it's made available.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Remember when that guy in the movie Robocop said, "I'd buy that for a dollar"? Well, apparently, that's what Sony wants you to do, as the company recently launched a special Flash Sale for a number of its titles, good through the weekend. These include a mixture of new titles, as well as some older favorites for PS1 and PS2, all ready for the download.

Games like Worms Revolution, Double Dragon Neon, Papo & Yo, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee HD, and Dyad can be yours for a buck apiece, along with various classics, including the Syphon Filter games for PS1, Virtua Fighter 2, Toe Jam & Earl (seriously, buy that), Legend of Dragoon, and the first two Wild Arms games.

The sale only lasts a limited time, so head on over and buy to your heart's content. You can see all the deals here.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Shacknews is ringing in our shiny new redesign with a new Chattycast. This week, we talk about games with emotional punch, critically panned games that we enjoyed, good games that we soured on through no fault of their own, and our biggest recent surprises. Plus, we have a brand new sparkling design! The button has been pressed!

As always, thanks to the Chatty members who contributed this week's topics: LoioshDwaggie, Rauol Duke, dael, and Nerdsbeware.

RSS | iTunes | Download this episode

Shacknews - Nathaniel Hohl

There are few terms within the gaming community which are as likely to stir up a storm of debate as the infamous three-pronged phrase “free-to-play.” Some bemoan the practice as a thinly-veiled cash grab from greedy developers while others praise the idea of trying a game and playing it for as long as they like without having to pay a cent. As someone who has played a fair number of free-to-play games myself, I find the whole “F2P good/bad” debate to be a mostly moot point, since there isn’t a set template by which all free-to-play games adhere. In fact, I’d say that anyone who claims all free-to-play games are the same clearly hasn’t played said games and I’ve listed some prime examples below to prove just how diverse the free-to-play model can be.

Free-To-Play Done Well

League of Legends:

It’s hard to imagine the amount of success Riot Games’ free-to-play MOBA title League of Legends has managed to garner considering how non-intrusive its monetization methods are but one cannot argue with the results. Downloading and playing League of Legends (or “LoL”) is absolutely free and Riot uses a clever balance of both in-game and cash-purchasable currency to let players decide how much they want to invest in the game. Playing matches in LoL earns players Influence Points (or “IP”) which can be saved up to purchase new playable champions, boosts, stat bonuses, and other items. Players can also purchase Riot Points (“RP”) for real cash which can in turn be used to purchase in-game items more quickly.

While there are certain items which can only be purchased with RP, such items are merely cosmetic and include new player profile backgrounds, profile icons, and new outfits or “skins” for a specific champion. By offering a monetization model that doesn’t force casual players to spend real cash but also offers more dedicated players a way to show their support and get fun cosmetic bonuses in return, Riot has created an online environment that is inviting to all and yet restrictive to none. When combined with Riot’s constant efforts to improve both the game and its community, LoL’s non-restrictive monetization model stands as a shining example of free-to-play done right.   


Yet another story of surprise success, the slick third-person online cooperative shooter Warframe was developed by the relatively small development studio Digital Extremes and has garnered a fair amount of recognition since its open beta launch last year. The game has proven to be so popular that a PlayStation 4 port was made available alongside the console’s launch late last year and an Xbox One port is in development.

Much like League of Legends, Warframe uses both an in-game currency and real-world currency monetization system. While the ethics of offering paid services for a game that’s still technically in open beta are a little shaky, Warframe manages to do so in a non-intrusive way that affords players a wealth of freedom no matter how much or how little they’re willing to fork over. New playable characters, weapons, item skins, boosts, and other bonuses can either be purchased directly with the game’s premium “Platinum” currency or crafted using a combination of blueprints purchased with in-game credits and items which can be obtained through play.

While both methods tend to favor more dedicated players (crafting often required several different resources which are scattered throughout the game’s large number of levels), Warframe still offers a robust amount of content right out of the gate, which means casual players will rarely feel like they’re missing out if they don’t decide to pony up. Warframe’s monetization model may not appeal to more casual free-to-play gamers as League of Legends’ model, but it’s still a solid contender for free-to-play games that remain fun no matter how much (or how little) you spend on them.

DC Universe Online:

To give you an idea of just how casual-friendly and non-intrusive SOE’s hit MMO DC Universe Online (or “DCUO”) is, I’ll just say this: I managed to level a character all the way up to the maximum cap of level 50, partake in a robust quest-filled storyline that spanned my character’s entire leveling path, purchase and inhabit my own personal instanced lair, and access both instanced solo and group-oriented dungeons and PvP battlegrounds without spending a dime. While, like all other SOE MMO’s, DCUO does have an optional subscription fee, it is far less intrusive than some other free-to-play MMO’s (I’m looking at you Lord of the Rings Online).

There are naturally certain bits of optional content which have to be purchased using SOE’s premium “Station Cash” currency such as character services and unlocks, but not having them in no way detracts from the solid and well-rounded experience DCUO offers up absolutely free of charge. If you find yourself really enjoying the game, you can purchase some or all of the optional DLC add-on packs which unlock even more content such as new high-level areas to explore, new storylines to pursue, and even new character creation options such as additional weapons and superpowers. If you’ve always shied away from MMO’s that carried the free-to-play moniker, I’d suggest you at least give DCUO a shot since it offers a heroic-feeling experience for the even more heroic price of $0.   

Honorable Mention: Team Fortress 2:

For the sake of fairness, I decided to keep the number of games I listed in each category to three but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Valve’s hit team-based shooter Team Fortress 2. While TF2 wasn’t always a free-to-play game, its adoption of the free-to-play model back in 2011 led to some exciting new changes for the venerable title including some major revamps to the in-game item distribution system first introduced even further back in 2009.

Even today, TF2 supports a thriving community of players who trade, sell, and craft a staggeringly large amount of different weapons, costumes, accessories, and other items which can be equipped by TF2’s in-game character classes. The system allows players to acquire new items either through randomized drops or by purchasing special “Mann Co. Supply Crate” keys, again offering a great amount of flexibility that benefits both casuals and more dedicated players. Since the system extends into the digital market on Valve’s Steam service, players who are particularly item-savvy can even make a bit of money plying their trade, giving Team Fortress 2 one of the most unique free-to-play ecosystems of any game ever released.

Free-To-Play Done Not-So-Well

EA’s Dungeon Keeper:

Although I wanted to stick with PC/console games, Dungeon Keeper on mobile is simply too bad to ignore. Much has already been said about EA’s infamous mobile port of the Dungeon Keeper series (including an excellent opinion editorial from ShackNews writer Steve Watts) but the lessons learned from the game’s highly-intrusive monetization model bear repeating. EA has often been vilified and condemned for its habit of injecting real-world purchases of DLC “shortcuts” into games such as Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, and recent Battlefield titles but what the company attempted to do with Dungeon Keeper took the intrusive nature of these so-called “optional” purchases to a whole new level.

In a nutshell, EA’s Dungeon Keeper utilizes a free-to-play model that limits a player’s total number of actions using a timer that refreshes over time. Players can naturally bypass these limitations by purchasing premium currency if they don’t feel like waiting for the timer to refresh. However, as players work their way deeper and deeper into the game, the costs of bypassing the timers only increase, forcing the player to either continue purchasing premium currency or wait for longer and longer periods of time. Such a system inevitably creates a vicious cycle in which players are pretty much forced to pay in order to make any meaningful progress, making EA’s Dungeon Keeper an unappealing venture for more casual mobile gamers.

EA’s Dungeon Keeper has garnered so much negative reception that the UK's Advertising Standards Authority recently disallowed EA from advertising Dungeon Keeper as a free game. While EA has supposedly learned from its mistakes with Dungeon Keeper and intrusive microtransactions in general, it’s doubtful the gamer community will soon forget this particular stunt the publisher tried to pull.    


When one thinks of Crytek, they most likely think of the lauded Crysis trilogy or one of the many other games which utilize the company’s signature Crytek game engine. Among Crytek’s many pursuits is the recently-launched free-to-play online shooter with the unfortunate name of Warface and, sadly, the even more unfortunate circumstance of being labeled as a “Pay2Win” game. Like many other online free-to-play shooters, Warface comes with an in-game cash shop through which players can purchase various boosts, weapons, and pieces of equipment for their characters. Sadly, Warface’s cash shop embodies virtually everything that is wrong with the “Pay2Win” model.

When you purchase most items in Warface’s cash shop, you aren’t really purchasing them so much as renting them. This naturally makes sense for items such as XP boosts and bonuses to in-game currency earned (of which Warface actually has two of) but, in Warface’s case, it also applies to a large portion of the different guns and other items you can purchase as well. Most guns and equipment pieces, when purchased, only last for a set period of time (usually between 7-14 real-world days) forcing players to continuously purchase them over and over if they want to keep using them. While this isn’t such a huge deal in Warface’s cooperative modes, it can make all the difference in a competitive matchup where the better and more powerful gear goes to the players with the deepest wallets.

Considering how new it is and that it’s a free-to-play game, Warface offers a surprisingly hefty amount of content which includes four different playable soldier classes, six competitive modes, seven cooperative modes, and both a PC and Xbox 360 port. Unfortunately, the game’s robust veneer hides an extremely intrusive Pay2Win monetization model that forces co-op fans to either grind or pay for gear that is mostly temporary and all but cripples competitive-minded players who want to stay competitive without dipping into their wallets.    

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot:

If EA’s and Crytek’s problems stemmed from intrusive real-world purchases, Ubisoft’s cheeky fantasy-themed online game The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, suffers instead from a grind-centric gameplay formula that lacks depth or variety. While getting to construct and defend your own castle while raiding other players’ castles sounds fun on paper, sadly Ubisoft did a rather poor job of transferring such a fun-sounding concept into the reality of actually playing.

For what it’s worth, the optional DLC packs for The Mighty Quest actually aren’t that intrusive. Most of the items included in these packs are merely boosts that temporarily increase XP gain or the amount of in-game gold a player earns while the others are simply exclusive cosmetic items such as character skins or castle themes. However, even with all these nifty boosts and exclusive items, The Mighty Quest still can’t be stopped from turning into a mediocre grind-fest that never really moves past the “loot enemy castle, build up your castle, loot more enemy castles, build up your castle more, rinse repeat” formula.

Ubisoft has promised more content will be coming to the game in the future but unless the developer finds some way to spice up the gameplay variety while also toning down the grindy elements, I fear for The Mighty Quests’ future.   

More Gameplay, Less Grind

If the above examples prove anything, it’s that developers need to be careful about not putting their carts before their horses. It’s understandable that virtually all free-to-play games will have some sort of grinding/time-sink mechanic in place to subtlety encourage players to spend real money. Free-to-play developers still need to make money, after all. But when the grind outweighs the gameplay, that’s when problems start to crop up. Free-to-play developers have to ensure their games not only offer a fun introductory experience but that their games remain fun after an average player has sunk a few hours into them. If your game is fun, players will be much more willing to support it both financially and otherwise. If it’s not, then it’s sadly not doing much else other than contributing to the bad image the free-to-play model already has.

Nate Hohl has been working as a freelance writer and game journalist ever since he graduated college in 2011. He has written for a large number of different websites including freelancewriting.com and Newegg's gaming site gamecrate.com. While he enjoys writing news and reviews, he feels his skills are best applied when exploring relevant topics and engaging readers through opinion and editorial pieces.

Jul 11, 2014
Shacknews - Robert Workman

Android gaming devices these days can hit or miss. On the one hand, you have the Amazon Fire TV, which has access to a vast library of thousands of Google Play games, as well as original titles being made for it. On the other, you have the OUYA, a device that had great potential, but kind of blew it with a strange pricing structure, little support for developers, and an expensive console set-up, just coming in at over $100.

Recently, however, an interesting alternative has arisen, one that is a media hub that comes with auto-synching capabilities across Android, iOS and other devices, as well as the means to access said content. So, why does that qualify this device as an Old Made New? Because of its ability to play 16-bit games with very little hassle.

The EzeeCube is a rather sizable unit, clocking in at just being bigger than the OUYA with its 140 x 140 x 45mm dimensions, is a stackable media hub that lets you configure whatever you see fit. It comes with all the whiz-bang technology you've come to expect from a device, including HDMI support, an SD card memory slot, a USB 2.0 socket slot and WiFi/Bluetooth support. However, it can also support the classic Sega Genesis and SNES game libraries, so if you feel like popping in a Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge, that's certainly your perspective.

Of course, the EzeeCube also supports other means of media, including photo storage, as well as movies and TV shows that are uploaded. But, again, I can't help but like the idea of turning the little device into a retro-based system, without having to worry about unreliable hardware (like those early RetroN systems before the 5th edition came out) or even blowing in the cartridge (unless, well, they've been sitting around a while).

Part of the collaboration lies behind the XBMC's RetroPlayer emulator, which supports the 16-bit media and allows games to be played with ease through the device. Though I didn't get to see it in action, it sounds quite promising. The team didn't specify if it would be region-locked or not. It could be possible for the EzeeCube to support the Japanese equivalents of those systems, the Mega Drive and Super Famicom. After all, that import copy of Super Mario Kart won't play itself.

While the EzeeCube isn't available quite yet, the team is confident that this will be the ideal set-top box when it makes it to market later this year. It's already surpassed its total of $75,000 over on Indiegogo

Although more pricey than the OUYA and the Amazon Fire TV, the Ezee is loaded with potential, and the fact the team wants to support old-school gaming right at the source (rather than just using an emulator to get the job done) makes this project all the more appealing. We certainly wish them the best of luck.

Learn more about the EzeeCube (and buy your own) here.


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