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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 - Steve Watts

GameFly, the video game rental service, has announced it has sold its digital download service.

According to a notice on the site, that part of the business has been sold to AtGames Holding Ltd. GameFly will continue handling operations until later this year, or until the transition is complete.

"We at AtGames are excited about the next step and future of bringing games directly to your desktop," reads a statement from AtGames. "In holding true to the fantastic service GameFly Digital has provided, AtGames’ mission is to build upon an extensive product line-up, quality service, and great customer support. AtGames appreciates your continued business and looks forward to servicing the needs of consumers like yourself through innovation, continued extensive library of great games, and build an incredible community of like-minded gamers. Thank you again for your patience and understanding during this transition period."

This applies to GameFly's digital service, so the company's standard by-mail rental service appears to be unphased. 

Disclosure: Shacknews was previously owned by GameFly, Inc.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

We're not sure what's prompting these game publishers to give up their experiences for free over the weekend on Steam, but, hey, they can keep coming as far as we're concerned.

After the announcement that Borderlands 2 would be free-to-play on the service through this Sunday, it appears that Bethesda's first-person adventure Dishonored is also available for no charge. The game is available now for free, and you can stab to your heart's content through this Sunday at 1 PM PT without forking over a dime.

Because the best kind of revenge is stabbing everyone, right? Or being sneaky, if you prefer.

Shacknews - Nathaniel Hohl

"Even when your kind appears to triumph ... Still we rise again. And do you know why? It is because the Order is born of a realization. We require no creed. No indoctrination by desperate old men. All we need is that the world be as it is. And this is why the Templars will never be destroyed."

These powerful and terrifyingly truthful words, spoken by grandmaster Haytham Kenway from Assassin’s Creed III, best sum up the enigmatic Order of Templars; the central antagonists of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. However, Haytham’s words reveal only a small fraction of the Templars’ true breadth and influence. With the announcement of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, and through it, the chance to see events unfold through the eyes of an Assassin turned Templar, now is the perfect time to look back at how the Templars were first conceived, where they are now, and what could be in store for them in the future.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Assassin's Creed Series

Perfection Through Purpose

In its purest unaltered state, the ultimate goal of the Templars actually isn’t so sinister. The Order seeks to utilize various ancient artifacts, known as “Pieces of Eden”, to create a perfect world in which mankind can live in eternal peace. No war, no crime, nothing but Order, harmony and perfection. Sadly, this ultimate goal has slowly become diluted, with many individuals twisting the Templars’ ideals to suite their own malicious intentions.

The Assassins, which are nearly as old as the Templars, reject the idea that mankind needs to be controlled and use these malicious individuals as excuses to fuel their endless war and to keep the Pieces of Eden out of Templar hands. Where the Templars see a firm guiding hand, the Assassins see enslavement. Where the Templars see ways to help better the lives of others, the Assassins see manipulation. Where the Templars see tools to help them realize their vision of Eden on Earth, the Assassins see weapons that must be destroyed. Those who are only familiar with the Assassin’s Creed games know that the secret war between the Templars and Assassins has been raging since as far back as the period of the Third Crusade but the true origin of this centuries-long conflict goes back even further still.

Humble Beginnings

The earliest known records of the Templar Order date back to the time of the Achaemenid Empire during the 6th Century BC, though rumors abound that the Order itself was founded by the Biblical figure Cain and that the Order’s crest is actually his mark. The Templars aided both King Darius I and later his son Xerxes in the invasion of Greece in 480 BC before Xerxes was later killed by a Persian Assassin, also named Darius. Xerxes’ assassination also marks the very first recorded use of the iconic hidden blade which would later be used by Assassins and Templars alike.

When the Greek king Alexander the Great began his conquest of the Persian Empire, the Templars offered him one of the Staves of Eden in exchange for a formal alliance. The staff allowed Alexander to forge one of the greatest empires in human history but the alliance was cut short by a Babylonian Assassin named Iltani who successfully poisoned Alexander in 323 BC. Subsequent attempts to support various rulers such as the Qin Dynasty Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang, the Roman Senator Gaius Julius Caesar, the Egyptian Empress Cleopatra, and the Roman Emperor Caligula all ended in failure thanks to the Assassins.

Founding of the Knights Templar

It wasn’t until the year 1118 that the Templar Order finally decided to make itself known; chiefly by allying themselves with the Holy Roman Church. The secretive Order was re-formed as the Knights Templar and was charged with the task of protecting pilgrims who ventured into the holy land of Jerusalem. When Pope Innocent II granted the Knights Templar both diplomatic immunity and exemption from taxes in 1139, the Order’s power, wealth, and numbers quickly swelled. In turn, the Order became an influential force during the Second Crusade.

By the time of the Third Crusade in 1191, the Assassins had become a major thorn in the Knights Templar’s side. Despite having secretly recruited several prominent figures on both sides of the war between the Crusaders and Saracens, the Order suffered a major setback when the Assassins, led by the Syrian Assassin Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, managed to locate and secure an artifact known as the Apple of Eden before the Templars could. Even the secret alliance with the Assassin grandmaster Al Mualim wasn’t enough to stop Altair from killing several prominent Templar leaders before spiriting the Apple away, to remain forever out of the Order’s reach.

Securing A Legacy

In spite of their supposed disbanding in 1307, the Templar Order lived on in secret, continuing to manipulate events from the shadows. During the Hundred Years’ War which began in 1337, the Templars discovered that one of the Swords of Eden was in the possession of a young French freedom fighter named Joan of Arc. It was the Templars’ manipulation that ultimately led to Joan’s capture and subsequent burning by the English in 1430, allowing the Order to secure the sword. This boost in power allowed the Templar Order to eventually secure an alliance with the Spanish Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia in 1476.

Borgia, who would go on to become Pope Alexander VI as well as the Grand Master of the Templar Order, led the Templars into what is currently referred to as the “Dark Age of the Order.” Through murder, extortion, bribery, and conspiracy, Rodrigo (with the help of his sons Cesare and Juan and his daughter Lucrezia) soon became one of the most powerful men in all of Europe. Rodrigo’s thirst for power extended across the entirety of Northern Italy and his leadership of the Templars caused the Order to lose sight of its original ideology. Few dared to openly defy Rodrigo and the Templars except for the Assassins, now led by a vengeful young man named Ezio Auditore de Firenze.

Ezio’s father Giovanni had also been an Assassin fighting back against Rodrigo and the Templars and when Rodrigo had Giovanni and Ezio’s two brothers killed, he inadvertently created the very force that would be his eventual undoing. Ezio, fueled by vengeance and, later, a desire to rebuild the Order of Assassins, went on to liberate several Italian cities, including Florence and Rome, from Templar control. Rodrigo was later killed by his own son Cesare in 1503 who, in turn, was killed by Ezio in 1507. Ezio’s final act for the Order of Assassins was travelling to Constantinople and helping the Turkish Assassins wrest control of the city from the Templars in 1511, all but eradicating the Templars’ presence in Italy and the Byzantine regions.

Westward Expansion

It wasn’t until the 17th Century that the Templars were able to gain a solid foothold once again, this time in the New World region of the West Indies. Operating out of the Cuban port city of Havana, this newly revitalized Templar Order was eager to shed the dark reputation of its Borgia-controlled past, and instead embrace an ideology that favored subtle influence over direct control. However, wherever the Templars were, the Assassins were sure to follow. While the Templars focused on securing alliances with local governors and other influential figures, the Assassins found a suitable ally in the various pirates that also called the West Indies home. Pirates such as Anne Bonny and Edward Kenway helped the Assassins take down the local Templar Grand Master Laureano de Torres in 1720.

When the French and Indian War began in 1754, the Templars saw an opportunity to both secure new territories and put their ancestral enemies, the Assassins, down for good. Haytham Kenway, the Templar son of the Assassin pirate Edward Kenway, and Shay Cormac, a former Assassin turned Templar, were both sent to North America with the goal of recruiting new members to the Templar Order and killing any Assassins they could find. While Haytham focused on building up the Order’s North American ranks, Shay began systematically hunting down his former brothers in arms and eventually led an all-out assault on the Assassins in 1763 that left only a sole survivor: Achilles Davenport. The Templars left the broken and disillusioned Davenport to live in exile while they secured their reign over the thirteen colonies. However, a chance encounter between Davenport and a young Native American boy in 1770 would change everything.

Revolution On Two Fronts

That boy was Ratonhnhaké:ton, the half-breed son of Haytham Kenway and an Indian woman named Kaniehtí:io. Under the tutelage of Davenport, Ratonhnhaké:ton, eventually given the name of “Connor”, grew up to become an Assassin and helped to re-establish the Assassin presence in Colonial America while also fighting back against his father Haytham and his Templar allies. Connor inadvertently became a major force behind the American Revolution, helping Patriot forces win their independence from the British monarch. One by one, every major Templar figure in the thirteen colonies, including the brash general Charles Lee and Connor’s own father Haytham, met their end at Connor’s hands, erasing the Templar presence in Colonial America.

When the French Revolution began in Paris in 1789, the Templars tried to once again capitalize on the turmoil and instability of the region but the murder of the Templar Grand Master De la Serre at the hands of a fellow Templar and the subsequent conflict with the Assassins ruined said efforts before they could gain any traction. Little else is known about this tumultuous time other than that it involved an Assassin named Arno Victor Dorian who supposedly had a romantic relationship with Elise De la Serre, the daughter of the Grand Master who was murdered.

The Founding of Abstergo

Despite the previous efforts of Connor Kenway and the Assassins, the Templars were eventually able to regain a presence in North America and, by the 19th Century, had even recruited several prominent members of the American Industrial Age including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The Templars helped Edison slander his rival Nikola Tesla, allowing Edison’s direct current method of harnessing electricity to become the preferred method worldwide. Thanks to a booming industry that was spearheaded by men such as Edison and Ford, the Templars soon had access to a vast financial network that allowed them to establish their first public presence since the founding of the Knights Templar: Abstergo Industries, which was founded in 1937.

Under the new moniker of Abstergo, the Templars tried to assist Adolph Hitler with the conquest of Germany and its surrounding countries during World War II but an Assassin managed to kill Hitler in 1945, putting an end to those plans. The Templars then turned their attention towards more local political pursuits such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the subsequent installment of Lyndon B. Johnson (a member of the Templar Order) as President of the United States. Several other major political leaders including American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were also influenced by the Templars, leading to the eventual dissolution of Communism.

The Development of the Animus

In 1985, Abstergo founded the Animus Project; an initiative through which test subjects could be influenced using a device that mimicked a Piece of Eden. Led by a scientist named Warren Vidic, the Animus Project allowed the Templars to infiltrate the Assassin Order and eventually secure its political and industrial influence over the United States. Later on, the Animus Project was reworked in such a way as to allow users to actually relive the memories of their ancestors. Abstergo hoped to use this new functionality to discover the whereabouts of additional Pieces of Eden but the plan backfired horribly when a test subject named Desmond Miles, the ancestor of Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, Ezio Auditore, and the Kenway family, managed to escape and eventually kill Vidic in 2012. Vidic’s death forced Abstergo to put its plan of launching a Piece of Eden into orbit via satellite, thus gaining absolute worldwide control, on indefinite hold.

An Uncertain Future

Despite the setbacks brought about by Desmond Miles and the Assassins, the Templars, acting through Abstergo, remain committed to their pursuit of peace and order. The founding of the multimedia subsidiary Abstergo Entertainment has allowed the company to further exert its influence thanks to the development and release of various projects including movies, video games, and other visual media that is based off the ancestral memories of test subjects. Despite the machinations of a hacker group calling themselves the Erudito Collective, Abstergo Entertainment is still going strong today. No one is certain what the future holds, but it cannot be denied that, true to Haytham Kenway’s words, Abstergo and the Templars will weather any opposition and continue to steer events in their favor.

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.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

This week, the regular Chattycast panel is all back together, inasmuch as you can call them "regular." The gang discusses non-gaming hobbies, studio acquisitions, vaporware, Pokemon on iPad, and Goodwill's gaming store. All that and a disturbingly thorough examination of where you might hide trading cards await you, and all you have to do is press play.

Thanks as always to our topic suggesters this week: Degenerate, mindmann, Nerdsbeware, the man with the briefcase, and harold.johnson. If you us to appreciate you too, make sure to keep an eye on Chatty next Tuesday and suggest some topics of your own!

Games DiscussedSegment 1: Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman: GO, Plants vs Zombies 2, Transformers: Rise of the Dark SparkSegment 2: Prey 2, Maximo, Battlefront 3, Star Fox 2, Mega Man Legends 3, Thrill Kill, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Half-Life 3, The Last Guardian Segment 3: Pokemon TCG, Hearthstone, Card Wars, Pikmin, WarioWare

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Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Hearthstone's 'Curse of Naxxramas' expansion is now officially behind us. All of the expansion's new cards are now available and have already begun filling up player decks all around the world. Chatty is no different, having previously revealed some of the more notable combinations from the Arachnid Quarter and the Plague/Military Quarter.

Now we're ready to wrap up with the Construct Quarter and the Frostwyrm Lair. And though Chatty is still going through their own list of favorite combos, they've discovered some cool combos to use. Some are more practical, while one in particular is just downright broken. Let's take a look.

Death's Bite + Execute (submitted by Guybrushed)

This one's a bit of a simpler one. Guybrushed found a potent control Warrior deck floating around on Reddit. Its main draw is Death's Bite, one of the Warrior's cooler new toys. Death's Bite has the unique Deathrattle ability of hitting all minions for 1 damage, essentially turning it into a Whirlwind spell. And just like Whirlwind, the Warrior can take advantage of it to wipe out any lingering threats.

However, for heavier hitters that are hanging around the board, the 1 damage is all the Warrior needs to use Execute and wipe it off the board. This is definitely an easy combo to use and one that Hearthstone novices should take full advantage of.

Undertaker + Mad Scientist (submitted by Psigun)

Like Guybrushed, Chatty's Psigun has also been intensely researching new combos across various sites. One common theme he found was the use of Undertaker in Hunter decks. Undertaker is an extremely cheap 1 mana for 1/2 stats, which is already fine in itself. But cheap Deathrattle cards will quickly turn it into a monster. Beefing it up with Leper Gnome, Loot Hoarder, and Webspinner can up its stats quickly, with only a Silence spell that can stop it.

One other Deathrattle minion that can help boost Undertaker is Mad Scientist, who has quickly made the Hunter's deck even more aggravating than it already was. Since his effect will put a Secret in play, Mad Scientist can kamikaze himself for 2 damage and help Hunter play one of his many fury-inducing Secrets, like Explosive Trap, Snipe, and Misdirection. Mad Scientist was meant to help the Mage, but it's actually been the Hunter that's been its biggest beneficiary. Combine this card with Undertaker for a formidable duo.

Zombie Chow + Auchenai Soulpriest (submitted by handofthrawn)

On paper, Zombie Chow seems utterly useless. Even at his low mana cost for higher stats, the Deathrattle effect of restoring 5 health to the opponent is hard to swallow. So leave it to handofthrawn to find a novel use for this undead minion.

Since Auchenai Soulpriest turns all health-restoring effects into damage-inducing effects, its presence turns Zombie Chow into a time bomb. If the opponent doesn't deal with it right away, Zombie Chow can deliver an instant 5 damage directly to the opponent upon death. Chances are, savvy opponents can take one or both of these minions out on their next turn, which is why anyone utilizing this combo is also advised to have a Shadow World: Pain combo handy to sacrifice their Zombie Chow.

Be forewarned, though! Do not use Circle of Healing unless you're absolute sure that Auchenai will survive. It's tempting to hit the entire board for 4 damage and pile the Zombie Chow effect on top. But if you aren't careful and deploy the spell with a +1 Spell Damage minion on the board, the Circle of Healing will take out Auchenai before the Zombie Chow effect can be applied. So you'll have wiped out your entire side of the board and still restored 5 health to your opponent. Don't be that person! Don't be like gnomish!

Turn 1: Feugen/Stalagg + Ancestral Spirit Turn 2: Baron Rivendere + Reincarnate (submitted by f4llen)

Remember that Leeroy combo from a few weeks ago that summoned about 5 Leeroys at once? Believe it or not, that's not the most unfair combo to come out of Naxxramas. There's an even worse one out there and f4llen was the first to bring it to my attention.

It takes Feugen and Stalagg both dying in the course of a game to summon the titanic Thaddius. The Shaman not only has the ability to call him, but he has the ability to call him more than once!

You're asking yourself what just happened, aren't you? Let's explain this video.

Stalagg fell earlier in the game, so this person summoned Feugen. Ancestral Spirit was used to give the Deathrattle effect that would resurrect Feugen at full health. For the next turn, Baron Rivendere was summoned to double all Deathrattle effects. This person then used Reincarnate to kill and resurrect Feugen immediately. Because of the double Deathrattle spells in place, Feugen was restored, as was a second Feugen because of the Baron, and a third Feugen because of the Ancestral Spirit spell. On top of that, since Stalagg died previously, this also summoned Thaddius, while the Baron's presence also summoned a second Thaddius!

Believe it not, this still isn't the end of the combo. Because Baron Riverdere is still on the field, if any of the Feugens die, it will summon two more Thaddius's! It's literally an unbeatable combination and one that's actually not all that difficult to pull off. If you're looking for a quick way to win a game and aggravate your opponent at the same time, here's a great combo for you.

With that, we've reached the end of our Naxxramas card combinations feature. Special thanks to our Chatty posters that helped put this together. If you have any potent card combos you'd like to submit, leave them in the comments below.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Bungie's Destiny is just about ready to hit retail, with less than three weeks and counting until we take part in hours of sci-fi shooting action that only the creators of Halo can deliver.

To commemorate the game's forthcoming release, an official launch trailer has dropped, giving players an idea of just what they're in for when September 9th rolls around. Sure, the launch is still over two weeks away, but it's the thought that counts, and this new footage is bound to get you excited.

Destiny will release for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

This past weekend at the WWE Summerslam event in Los Angeles, CA, 2K Games not only gave us the opportunity to go hands-on with the forthcoming WWE 2K15, but it also enabled us to talk to a couple of wrestlers about being included in the game, as well as if they do any gaming themselves.

First up? Former WWE champion John Cena, who took the time to discuss his role at Summerslam events, as well as a little bit of gaming here and there.

We also managed to catch up with the leader of the "Yes!" movement himself, Daniel Bryan, who's currently recuperating from injury. He managed to talk about gaming as well, along with what rivalry he'd like to see himself take on in the game.

WWE 2K15 arrives on October 28th for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.


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