Nintendo Switch game pricing

I haven’t played anything on my Nintendo Switch yet, as I technically only get it for Christmas. That hasn’t kept me from looking what games there are for the console. Apart from the two “system seller” games Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey there are quite a number of Nintendo and third party games on offer. So the choice is quite good. What is not so good is the pricing.

Prime example: Skyrim. I can overlook the fact that the game is 6 years old. I can overlook the fact that it doesn’t look as pretty on a TV screen as it looks on a PC screen. I can overlook the fact that playing it handheld means you run out of battery after a few hours. But why does this game which is sold on Steam for €14.99 cost €59.99 on the Nintendo Switch? Unless you really, really want to play Skyrim on a handheld tablet (unlikely), or don’t have a PC able to run a 6 year old game (even less likely), why would you want to pay 4 times more for the same game? But yet sales are quite good.

For me as a PC gamer the era of €60 games looks like ancient history. I haven’t bought a €60 game on Steam for years. Most full price games on Steam are cheaper than that, and I don’t usually buy full price games; I have enough games in reserve to be able to wait until I get the same game for half price or less. If Bethesda can sell Skyrim for €60, I imagine there must be a lot of console gamers out there who aren’t as price sensitive as the PC gamers. For me that just doesn’t look like good value for money.

Is story important?

I am currently watching a series of YouTube videos (overview page on this blog) of a group currently playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, the official Storm King’s Thunder adventure. I watched some of their video on previous adventures, and must say that they are both better than average players and their videos have better than average production values. What I found particularly interesting in this series was that I have read Storm King’s Thunder and dismissed it as basically unplayable. But they are doing just fine playing it. Why?

The keyword here is suspension of disbelief. Storm King’s Thunder starts out in a very linear fashion with a series of events befalling a fortified village. Within one week the village gets bombarded from the air by giants in a floating castle, then the residents move out and find shelter in a bat cave where they get captured by goblins, the goblins start looting the village, the adventurers arrive and start killing the goblins, then the Zhentarim (a semi-evil political faction) try to take over the empty village, and then a horde of orcs attacks. (In the videos the DM replaced the orcs by more Zhentarim, but added an deus-ex-machina dragon saving the village). So the adventure for the group consists of searching through the abandoned village and killing the goblins, then beating back the Zhentarim, then beating back the orcs, and then finally going to the bat cave and freeing the kidnapped villagers. Then the villagers send them to another town very far away for rather flimsy reasons, and there the adventure loops backs to the giants. As far as stories in D&D adventures go, this is one of the less believable ones. But of course if you don’t care and just enjoy the ride, a lot of fun can be had.

It reminds me a bit of MMORPGs, where the story can also be rather weak, but is basically just an excuse to lead people to gameplay. In the D&D videos the story leads not just to gameplay in the form of combat, but also to fun situations where the DM describes a situation in more detail and the players come up with all sorts of plans and ideas instead of just rolling for initiative. A good group and a good DM are the ones where the players constantly fire off ideas, and the DM rolls with them. Then the actual story of the adventure becomes a less important backdrop, because the important story is the one that evolves from the players being in unusual situations. The art as a DM is to get people to play that way. I’m working on that.

As the Trump Administration Continues to Threaten the Planet, This Is No Time to Be Complacent

As the days get darker, we must keep the flame burning.

Before he died on November 7, 2016, the great poet Leonard Cohen offered a prophetic warning in his final album’s title song: “You want it darker / We kill the flame.” As we near the northern hemisphere’s longest night of the year, it seems like a monumental challenge to keep the flickering flame from being extinguished.

In the U.S., human rights, environmental protections and social services are being snuffed out by executive order. Angry rhetoric from an administration that appears to thrive on division is fueling racial tensions. As drought-fueled fires rage, storms become more intense and unpredictable and flooding devastates communities, much of the world outside the United States plans how to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement. Yet the fossil fuel industry and its government sycophants continue to destroy ecosystems in their race to exploit every bit of climate-altering product they can before shrinking markets halt their rampage.

Even governments that say they’re committed to tackling climate change continue to promote pipelines, fracking and other fossil fuel projects and infrastructure. We also face the spectacle of two mad nuclear-armed heads of state trading childish insults, inching us closer to catastrophic confrontation.

Another great poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote presciently in 1919: “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

It’s not really true that the “best lack all conviction.” But as the days get darker, it sometimes feels overwhelming, hopeless.

We must keep the flame burning.

The light will return to this part of the world and the days will get longer, but we must act to make our lives brighter. The “passionate intensity” (or maybe just banal indifference to suffering) of those who would impose misery on many for the benefit of the few may be little more than the death throes of an outdated, destructive order. But it’s no time to be complacent. We must show that we shine brighter. Knowledge, kindness and solidarity can overcome ignorance and fear.

This truth is coming to light as more and more people reject the forces of darkness. #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Idle No More. Women are speaking out against those who have oppressed them through rape, abuse and systemic sexism. People of color are standing up to the violence, hatred and inequality they have faced in countries claiming to value freedom and equality. Indigenous Peoples are demonstrating their knowledge and power and demanding an end to colonial oppression. Business people, religious leaders, politicians and citizens are demanding action on climate change and other environmental challenges. People everywhere are developing solutions to the problems we have caused through ignorance and avarice.

We must also work for better education, at home and throughout the world. Stabilizing population growth requires education for women and families, along with access to birth control and family planning. Democracies function best when people cast their votes and base their decisions on facts, critical thought and understanding rather than tribalism and rigid ideology. Those who have learned how to critically assess the overabundance of information that floods our daily lives are in a better position to contribute to positive change.

For many cultures, the winter solstice is a time to reflect, regroup and rededicate. As the light slowly returns, it’s a period of renewal and eventual rebirth. It’s a good time to celebrate that which holds true meaning and brings real happiness in life: friends, family, nature, connection. It’s also a time to reach out to help those who are less fortunate.

Every good deed, every positive act, helps the flame burn a little bit brighter. No matter how small or insignificant our contributions may seem, when we do good in the world, it adds up—and it will eventually overcome the darkness. Even an unconditional smile given to a stranger can cheer that person, who may then offer smiles to others, multiplying the effect and spreading joy.

As we near the solstice and enter the holiday season, I and the David Suzuki Foundation staff wish you peace and happiness for this year and the days to come. Let us all shine our lights to make the world a brighter, better place for all.

This article was written by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington and originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation.

 

 

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The ultra popular Arena of Valor finally launches in North and South America

  • Arena of Valor, a game with over 80 million players in China, launches in North and South America today.
  • The game is a MOBA and pits teams of five against each other.
  • There will be eSports leagues and competitions for the game.

One of the most popular games in the world is finally launching in the Americas. Arena of Valor is a MOBA from Tencent Gaming that has been all the rage in China. It has 200 million registered players with over 80 million daily active users— all using their mobile devices to play the game.

Arena of Valor, or Honor of Kings as its known in native China, pits teams of five heroes against each other in a bid to take over each others’ bases. If the game reminds you of League of Legends, you’re onto something. Arena of Valor is developed by Tencent Games, who owns Riot Gaming— the makers of League of Legends.

See also

The game is making some changes as it crosses the pond. It’s dropping the Chinese-specific parts of the game for more Western aspects. The in-game heroes are now more appealing to Western audiences instead of the original Chinese versions. Additionally, Facebook is used to log in, rather than WeChat. These changes are in an effort to appeal to a wider audience— something that other Chinese games in the past have failed to do. 

To hype the title, Tencent is creating an eSports league for competitive play. It is also partnering with streamers on Twitch to promote it. eSports has exploded around the world where Twitch streams can top a million viewers for popular competitions. Tencent hopes to tap into that trend and show audiences that eSports can be mobile games too.

See also: PC smash hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds coming to mobile 

This isn’t the first launch outside of China for Valor. The game is available in Europe and has accumulated about 2 million downloads since August. If you’re in North or South America and interested in trying the game out for yourself, you can hit the button below to download it. 

get it from google play

Uses and abuses of challenge

Once upon a time, in a past so long a go that few people remember it, computer games came with an options menu in which you could choose the difficulty and challenge of the game yourself. The idea was that all of us would like games to be both winnable and not a pushover, but because preferences on how easily winnable a game should be, as well as experience and skill in a game, vary from user to user, it would be best to have several options in order to please everybody. Now that was way back when games still came in a box. With games increasingly switching to a “game as a service” online experience, difficulty settings fell out of favor. Somehow it appeared to make more sense if the same orc in World of Warcraft held the same challenge for each player, with the only variable being the power level of the player himself. With less and less single-player games around, and PvE games being more and more replaced by PvP, difficulty setting have become increasingly rare.

I’ve been playing a bunch of pseudo-PvP games on my iPad lately. Pseudo because I don’t necessarily fight another player online at the same time, but my army fights his computer-controlled army. That usually was nice enough at the start of the game. But then with each win I gained some sort of trophies or ranking, so that later I was matched against more and more powerful players. Ultimately it was obvious that this was a no-win proposition: The better I did, the more likely it became that I would lose the next game. The only strategy that worked was to deliberately lose games, to drop down in rankings, to then win the now easier PvP games in order to achieve the quests and goals the game set me. But that sort of cheesy strategy isn’t exactly fun.

The other type of game I played recently is the one in which your performance doesn’t actually matter at all any more. I played Total War: Arena, but many team vs. team multiplayer games fall into the same category: The contribution of any single player to the outcome of a 10 vs. 10 battle is only 5%. That gets quite annoying if you come up with a brilliant move and outmaneuver another player and crush him, only to find that the 9 other players on the enemy team obliterated your 9 team mates, and you lost the battle. Especially since in Total War: Arena you end up with more rewards having done nothing much in a won battle than for a great performance in a lost battle.

Finally my wife was complaining about a problem with challenge levels in her iPad puzzle games: The games are free to play, they get harder and harder with each level until you can’t beat it any more, and then the game offers you a way out: Use some sort of booster, which of course you need to pay real money for, to make the too hard levels easy enough to win again.

Somehow I get the feeling we lost something important when difficulty sliders went out of fashion. However the discussion of difficulty and challenge is complicated by the fact that this is one of the issues where gamers are the most dishonest about. Gamers tend to say they want more challenge, but when you observe what they are doing, e.g. attacking the enemy castle in a PvP MMORPG at 3 am in the morning, it is clearly that they are mostly occupied with avoiding or circumventing any actual challenge. Pay2Win and loot boxes wouldn’t be such an issue if gamers weren’t actually spending their money on improving their chances to win. If most gamers were so interested in challenge, then why is there so much cheating and botting going on? People want to win, by any means, and by talking up the challenge they want to make their win look more impressive. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it, that their positive self-image depends on being a winner in a video game. Many a fragile gamer-ego can’t admit that they’d quite like a relaxing game that doesn’t constantly challenge them to the max. I do.

John Kelly Reportedly Working Toward Bipartisan DREAMers Solution

He attended a meeting with senators from both parties.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was seen on Capitol Hill Tuesday as part of the Trump administration’s push to reach a bipartisan solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

As Politico reports, Kelly attended a meeting with close to a dozen senators from both sides of the aisle and assured them that the White House “will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal” for DACA recipients, also known as DREAMers.

“We couldn’t finish this product, this bill, until we knew where the administration was,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the senators working on the compromise, told Politico. “And that’s why this meeting was so important.”

Though senators who left the meeting said Kelly insisted the president’s terms may be released in a matter of days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the upper chamber would not vote on DACA before they break for the holidays this Friday.

“That’s a matter to be discussed next year,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox News earlier on Tuesday.

 

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Deal: Nova Launcher Prime on sale for $0.99 (was $4.99)

Nova Launcher Prime is regarded as one of the best launchers on Android. It’s sitting right now with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars at the Google Play Store, based on hundreds of thousands of reviews, and if you’ve never used it before, now might be the time.

As pointed out on Reddit, Nova Launcher Prime has been reduced from $4.99 to just $0.99 — the same offer it launched this time last year. This is the unlocked version of the free Nova Launcher app, which comes with a slew of extra customization options and advanced features, like notifications badges, gestures, and more.

Editor’s Pick

Nova Launcher allows you to alter many aspects of your Android phones home screen, such as the app drawer, folders, dock, and their aesthetic, and has received a number of Android 8.1 Oreo features lately, including adaptive icons and the custom dock widget.

Nova Launcher sits on our best Android Launchers list and it doesn’t look like it will be moving anytime soon. We don’t know how long this deal will last, but you can find the free and Prime versions of the app in Google Play via the buttons below (note that Google Play says Nova Launcher Prime hasn’t been updated since December 2016 but it will still unlock the latest content found in the regular app).

Download Nova Launcher
Download Nova Launcher Prime

One Woman’s Crusade to Help Educate Female Prisoners About Drug Addiction

Deborah Jiang-Stein is helping incarcerated women prepare for life after prison.

Deborah Jiang-Stein found inspiration for the unPrison Project in a pair of reading glasses. Jiang-Stein, the founder and CEO of the organization, which teaches literacy, mentoring and life skills for women and girls in prisons, was born in prison to a heroin-addicted mother. She struggled with addiction and brushes with the law, before turning those struggles into a career as a writer and motivational speaker in women’s correctional facilities, sharing her story to inspire other incarcerated women and bring books into prisons. However, there were a few basic but critical barriers to achieving that goal.

As she explained in a phone interview, in multiple facilities, “I saw a pair of glasses being shared. In every prison, there would be a couple pairs of glasses that were shared.” She also learned that the average reading level in these facilities was fourth grade. How could they read the books she brough them if they were blocked from reading, for both structural and logistical reasons? After all, she continued, “if we’re advocating employment and success on the outside, reading is just the basic right in the world, let alone this country.”

So Jiang-Stein secured donors who provided 10,000 pairs of reading glasses, and brand-new children’s books for distribution in visiting rooms around the country. These efforts helped start the unPrison Project, which helps cultivate tools for a successful life after incarceration. She also wrote a memoir of her life experiences titled Prison Baby. 

She chose to focus specifically on women in prison, she says, because she believes any issue related to the “incarceration of women gets ignored. The number [of incarcerated women] has spiked 800 percent in recent decades, and it’s twice that of men. It’s a huge increase, and many—in fact, the majority—would benefit from services in the community like mental health resources, drug treatment instead of incarceration.”

The brief curriculum she developed begins with her own story, and includes advice on drug treatment, career counseling, mental health services, literacy, how to manage time behind bars, and how to build a life on the outside to ensure the women don’t return. Jiang-Stein travels to facilities all over the country speaking to both large and small groups. She tells them she knows “what it takes to survive out here… because I’m also in recovery, I know that it can be easy to face a disappointment and then be motivated to use again instead of trying to solve the problem.”

Her personal experiences—she spent the first year of her life in prison, later became addicted to drugs and has been clean and sober for 20 years—helps boost her credibility with the women she works with. 

After all, she explained, “my birth mother was a woman exactly like the women that I meet. She was a heroin addict, in and out of facilities since she was around the age of 13… I was an actively using addict, I know what that lifestyle is, so part of the reason I do this is… I could have been sitting in those chairs in prison with a life sentence.” She continued, “I have the story that is sadly not so unique, but I’m an adult coming in as a peer, showing what the other side can look like by using the tools that I’m talking about. Being in recovery, learning to forgive, I value education, I continue to read and be curious and engage myself in a bigger world.” 

While the organization doesn’t yet track former participants or their activities after prison (some may be in for very long or life sentences), the feedback has generally been positive. Cynthia Wallace, the program manager at the Dr. Jerome McNeil Detention Center of Dallas County Juvenile Department, agreed. She brought Deborah Jiang-Stein to the youth detention center, as she explained in a letter to donors that she shared with AlterNet: “The girls were engaged and asked great questions [like] ‘how did you begin healing, when did you forgive yourself, how did you find happiness, are you still afraid?’” 

While Jiang-Stein and her small staff at the unPrison Project would like more opportunities to develop longer-term relationships with individual systems or facilities, she says, “If I go to one place two or three times then I’m not going to another place. And they’re close to 30 states now that have asked me in, and I’ve been in quite a few already.”

This year, she may finally get the opportunity to do both. The unPrison Project was nominated for a 2017 L’Oreal Women of Worth Award, to honor women who give back to their communities. While Jiang-Stein didn’t ultimately win the award, as a finalist, she and the unPrison Project won $10,000, great publicity and the chance to network with other changemakers. 

Going forward, the unPrison Project is in the midst of strategic planning for the next few years, adding staff, volunteers and board members, developing an infrastructure that will help reach more prisoners, not only in the U.S. but also internationally. Jiang-Stein has had interest from Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ghana. 

 Learn more about the unPrison Project.

 

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Samsung Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus (2018) specs: Infinity Display and a dual selfie camera

There’s no denying that Samsung’s S-series has boasted some of the finest flagships ever made, but sometimes there’s no match for a bonafide bargain, and that’s what the South Korean giant seems to be delivering with its newly-announced A-series phones, the Galaxy A8 (2018) and Galaxy A8 Plus (2018).

As the new gold standard of Samsung’s mid-tier range, the Galaxy A8 and A8 Plus look to balance premium design with a steady performance all while retaining a modest price tag. On paper, this year’s A8 phones – which technically replace the Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A7, respectively – appear to deliver on all counts.

Editor’s Pick

This time around both the 5.6-inch A8 and the 6-inch A8 Plus sport an elongated Infinity Display with the same 18:5:9 aspect ratio found on the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8. Both panels are Super AMOLED displays with a 2220 x 1080 resolution.

Despite missing out on the curved edges of its premium counterparts, the A8 and A8 Plus both pack slimline bezels, while leaving enough room for the devices’ most unique feature – a front-facing 16 MP and 8 MP dual-camera. We’ll be putting the pair’s selfie-taking credentials and much more to the test at a later date for a full review, but for now, be sure to check out the table below for all of the key specs.

  Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) Samsung Galaxy A8 Plus (2018)
Display 5.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
441 ppi
18:5:9 aspect ratio
6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED
2,220 x 1,080 resolution
412 ppi
18:5:9 aspect ratio
Processor Unspecified octa-core platform
2.2 Ghz + 1.6 Ghz
Unspecified octa-core platform
2.2 Ghz + 1.6 Ghz
GPU TBC TBC
RAM 4 GB 4/6 GB
Storage 32/64 GB 32/64 GB
MicroSD Yes, up to 256 GB Yes, up to 256 GB
Cameras Rear camera:
16 MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture, phase-detection auto-focus, video digital image stabilisation (VDis) technology, hyperlapse, and Food Mode

Front camera:
16 MP + 8 MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and Live Focus

Rear camera:
16 MP sensor with f/1.7 aperture, phase-detection auto-focus video digital image stabilisation (VDis) technology, hyperlapse, and Food Mode

Front camera:
16 MP + 8 MP sensor with f/1.9 aperture and Live Focus

Audio 3.5mm headphone jack
MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
3.5mm headphone jack
MP3, M4A, 3GA, AAC, OGG, OGA, WAV, WMA, AMR, AWB, FLAC, MID, MIDI, XMF, MXMF, IMY, RTTTL, RTX, OTA
Battery 3,000 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging
3,500 mAh
Non-removable
Fast charging
Sensors Accelerometer Barometer
Fingerprint sensor Gyro sensor Geomagnetic sensor Hall sensor
Proximity sensor
RGB light sensor
Accelerometer Barometer
Fingerprint sensor Gyro sensor Geomagnetic sensor Hall sensor
Proximity sensor
RGB light sensor
IP rating IP68 water and dust resistance IP68 water and dust resistance
Network TBC
LTE Cat. 11
TBC
LTE Cat. 11
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
ANT+
Location (GPS, Glonass, BeiDou)
USB Type-C 2.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
NFC
ANT+
Location (GPS, Glonass, BeiDou)
USB Type-C 2.0
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Colors Black, Orchid Grey, Gold, and Blue Black, Orchid Grey, Gold, and Blue
Dimensions and weight 149.2 x 70.6 x 8.4 mm
172 g
159.9 x 75.7 x 8.3 mm
191 g

Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018) and A8 Plus (2018) specs in the comments below! Is its dual-camera for selfies and (near) bezel-less design won you over?

YouTube TV app for Apple TV and Roku to launch Q1 2018

  • The YouTube TV app will be launching on Apple TV and Roku in Q1 2018.
  • The app was originally supposed to be out by the end of the year.
  • Older Samsung and Sony smart TVs will also see the app early next year.

One of the limiting factors when choosing an over-the-top streaming service is the ability to stream the content to your TV. Most services allow some sort of casting from your phone or tablet, but that’s not a perfect solution. To do this, you’re relying on multiple pieces of hardware that could fail at any time. Additionally, some programming like the NFL don’t currently allow mobile streams of their content.

That’s why, when YouTube TV started to roll out its standalone app, I started doing a happy dance. I can now use the app on my smart TV or Xbox, and the experience is great. It saves me on Sundays and allows me to watch my beloved (but terrible) Bengals.

Editor’s Pick

Unfortunately for some users, they’re still lacking the app. Users with Apple TV and Roku devices were slated to get the app before the end of the year. Now, with only 12 days left in 2017, we’re getting word the apps are being pushed back to Q1 2018. In addition to Apple TV and Roku, the YouTube TV app will also come to older smart TVs in the first quarter. These TVs include some Samsung sets from 2013 and 2014. Older Sony TV’s that use a Linux-based OS instead of Android TV will get the app too.

Most of YouTube TV’s competitors like Sling, Hulu, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue are all on numerous platforms. YouTube TV lags a bit behind the others as they’re all on Apple TV and Roku already. Where you won’t see YouTube TV is on Amazon’s Fire TV or the PlayStation 4. Google and Amazon have had very public battles (although things do appear to be getting better) and Sony refuses to let other streaming services on its gaming system while its pushing PlayStation Vue.

Despite all of that, YouTube TV is one of the popular options for cord-cutters right now. The lineup of channels is fantastic, and at just $35 a month, it’s very affordable. The service initially rolled out to only a few cities in the US when it first launched, but that number has recently pushed past 80.