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The Backrooms has a new, terrifying survival horror game, out now

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The Backrooms has a new, terrifying survival horror game, out now

The Backrooms is one of my favourite internet phenomena, a series of blogs, short films, and creepypasta stories detailing a creepy liminal space between realities haunted by Lovecraftian ghouls. Inspired by Slenderman and SCP, Backrooms now has a new survival horror game, available to download on Itch.

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NylaTheWolf
666 days ago
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I almost don't believe the destructibility in this FPS is real

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I thought multiplayer shooters had run out of ways to surprise me, but I had a genuine shock to the system yesterday morning watching this gameplay trailer for The Finals, a free-to-play FPS in development by the ex-Battlefield devs at Embark Studios. The trailer shows a brief look at what's apparently possible in The Finals: Entire buildings crumbling into hundreds of pieces at the whim of a grenade launcher while players parkour across the falling debris like Nathan Drake.

What I saw didn't line up with my current understanding of what's possible in online games. You can't do destruction this big in a multiplayer lobby, so how is The Finals pulling it off? If I hadn't seen it myself in a remote presentation by Embark, I wouldn't believe it.

The Finals is a team-based FPS set in a virtual game show. The premise immediately brought back memories of Ubisoft's mediocre, now shuttered battle royale game Hyper Scape, but this definitely isn't that. The Finals' main mode is played in 12-player lobbies (four teams of three) on a variety of completely destructible maps based on real-world locations. Embark called it an "extraction mode," but its description sounds more like a normal respawn mode. Players fight over boxes of coins and compete to hold the most dough by the end of the round.

So there's a lot of standard shooter stuff going on, but everything revolves around The Finals' server-side destruction tech, which promises that players can flatten "everything from furniture to entire buildings." Embark is really proud of the behind-the-scenes technology making this possible, so much so that it won't comment on how it works before The Finals releases. Mysterious! And another reason to stay a little skeptical, despite the video clips we're seeing.

Embark co-founder and chief creative officer Rob Runesson expects The Finals' unique tech to change how similar games are made going forward. "I think that many other studios that are working on dynamic shooters will panic now," he said. Creative director Gustav Tellby chimed in, "Well, let's hope they do."

The answer is probably a lot of smart math aided by generational advancements. It certainly doesn't hurt that The Finals is leaving last-gen console hardware behind. It's planned to release on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S, but not PS4 or Xbox One.

Dynamic destruction has long been a white whale in multiplayer games. There's a reason that most online games with destructible worlds, like Fortnite or Minecraft, are often made up of simple, block-sized pieces that rarely move: every piece of the environment, from its appearance to its location, has to perfectly sync across dozens of players, so keeping it simple makes sense. Some games have achieved truly dynamic destruction, notably Rainbow Six Siege and Battlefield (makes sense that Embark's DICE alums are interested in the challenge), but the scope is relatively small. While Battlefield has select buildings that can be punctured to trigger a canned collapse animation, buildings in The Finals will blow apart like chunks of swiss cheese until gravity brings them down. The dense, crumbly explosions in the trailer reminded me of what Red Faction Guerilla managed to pull off in a singleplayer game in 2009. 

Tilleby says this level of destruction is "a holy grail" that Embark has been chasing.

"We want The Finals to be a game about intuitiveness, where if you think something should work, it probably will, and where if you want to play the game a certain way, the game won't stop you," he said. "It's a game that says yes more than it says no."

Malleable city blocks will certainly introduce unpredictability to The Finals unseen in any other multiplayer FPS, but I'm just as interested in the other ways you can interact with the world. The way Embark describes The Finals sounds like a physics-y systems-driven game, almost like an immersive sim. You can pick stuff up and throw it around, set fires, or make sky bridges with a glue cannon ripped straight out of Arkane's Prey. The same glue stuff can be found in barrels and thrown at the ground to create instant cover. Based on how prominent grapple hooks are in the trailer, that may be a default way to get around. Gunplay, unsurprisingly, looks a lot like Battlefield in terms of speed, mobility, and the types of guns on offer (I spotted your standard AK-47 equivalent, a light machine gun, and pistols). It's near future, but definitely not Cyberpunk 2077.

I'm immediately eager to check out The Finals for myself. Blowing stuff up looks like a lot of fun, but the novelty could wear off pretty quick if there's not a fundamentally enjoyable game at its core. Yesterday's press presentation didn't go deep on character customization or monetization, but Embark said there will be a battle pass and lots of cosmetics. The studio is also holding its first playtest later this week from September 29 to October 3, so we'll know soon how well the server-side destruction survives in a real network environment.

"This is not a marketing beat. This is for us to make sure we start building better games together with our community," Runesson said. Embark didn't mention when The Finals is coming out, but we know it'll be sometime in 2023. The studio recently delayed its other game, the co-op robo shooter Arc Raiders to 2023 so that it can focus on getting The Finals out first. Gameplay in the trailer is tagged as pre-alpha, so it's still pretty early.

You can sign up for the playtest on The Finals Steam page, but Embark said only a small number will get in this time.



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NylaTheWolf
666 days ago
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It's finally time to try Foxhole, the tremendous war MMO hitting 1.0 tomorrow

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On my first night in Foxhole, I didn't fire a gun for hours. Instead, I wandered around a town until I ran into a fellow Colonial (my faction) and asked how I could be useful. He put me to work in the scrap fields, where I harvested bits of discarded metal that we'd then load into a big container, crane into the back of a truck, and deliver to the local refinery. Our scrap became basic materials (or "bmats") used to craft guns, ammo, vehicles, tools, clothes, explosives, sandbags—anything and everything that our actual (virtual) comrades a dozen miles away needed on the frontline.

As I worked the scrapyard, the Wardens were destroying one of our bases. Dozens of miles to the south, we'd secured a Warden base of our own, pushing the front further west in a war that'd been raging for more than one real-time month.

The scale of Foxhole continues to boggle my mind weeks into playing it—it's one gigantic war game with thousands of simultaneous players across two factions fighting for domination of a map so large that I gave up measuring it. The game is hitting 1.0 this week after five years in early access, and it's the biggest update yet. Soon, both sides will compete to build expansive train networks across the map and construct massive factories capable of producing fire-breathing tanks. 

As a single soldier, I'm a tiny cog in the works, and yet my contributions feel real and useful no matter what I'm doing. Amazingly, the distribution of players between frontline fighters and blue collar factory workers is balanced. I've played a few military sims, including FPSes like Squad, where logistic (or "logi") roles go mostly ignored by players who'd all rather be shooting guns than driving trucks back and forth. That's not the case in the persistent world of Foxhole, probably because the logi part of the game is just as deep as the frontline. Building experts spend days and weeks constructing freeform bases and fortifying them with walls, gates, bunkers, pillboxes, and trenches. The first few weeks of a war are not a race to grab territory, but a race to the end of a tech tree that starts with sandbags and ends with devastating nuclear weapons.

An actual RPG

Foxhole is an honest-to-god MMO. It's also an RPG, but in the literal roleplaying sense, not in the stat grinding sense. Like the best social games, great stories happen as a matter of course. Like last night, a few friends and I were helping secure a frontline base by guarding a bridge that Wardens had been seen sneaking through. The four of us stood at the ready for over an hour, occasionally chasing after enemies who tried to slip past our watchtowers and steal a vehicle. It was going pretty well until a pair of Wardens came rolling down the bridge in an armored car with a mounted machine gun. We got slaughtered, but were determined not to let it stand.

After repsawning in the base we'd been protecting and lacking our own APC, my friend hatched a plan just silly enough to work: hop in the bed of an armored transport, drive straight toward the APC, and toss anti-tank grenades out the back.

Three guys in a truck: 1; Armored gun car: 0.

I've become instant friends with soldiers scrunched in cramped foxholes only to lose them moments later in a hail of bullets. I've snuck deep behind enemy lines with a small partisan squad, stolen a Warden tank, and taken it on a joyride through their base. I've delivered crates of desperately needed respawn tokens to a frontline base just minutes before it ran out (got a lot of grateful messages for that one). 

I can't overstate how important proximity voice chat is to making this all work. Hearing distant conversations or urgent calls for help creates points of interest that I naturally want to investigate. Sometimes I find a squad preparing a coordinated tank push on a distant Warden base. Sometimes it's a bleeding rifleman who needs to be carried to a medical tent. Other times it's a recon squad arguing about anime as they set out on a spy mission.

It's almost impossible to run five minutes in a direction without interacting meaningfully with other players, and the vast majority of the time, the interactions have been positive. That guy who showed me the ropes on my first night? He really didn't have to. I was slowing him down with my constant questions, but his patience was deep and his instruction remarkably thorough—you'd have thought he was a convincingly programmed tutorial NPC if he hadn't later told me he's a machine operator from Utah who plays Foxhole during the quiet hours of his graveyard shift. I kept expecting to run into jerks as I was learning the game, but without fail I've found players eager to help. The obnoxious loudmouths and outright trolls common in Squad and Hell Let Loose seem to be fewer in Foxhole. Maybe its top-down perspective and simplistic shooting don't conduct egotistical behavior as well.

Dugout

Good thing Foxhole's community is cool, because there are a bunch of unintuitive design decisions that make getting into the game harder than it needs to be. You have to really like the idea of Foxhole to put up with its frustrating inventory menus, obtuse interaction controls, and general lack of explanation of how things work beyond a basic boot camp area that teaches you to the bare minimum of movement, combat, and factory work. YouTube, wikis, and good ol' human conversation will have to be your real teachers.

I find it hard to stay frustrated by what Foxhole doesn't do well because of how many things it does spectacularly well. They're things that other games don't even aspire to. Foxhole places its complete trust in players to use the tools provided to conduct a war with essentially zero direction. There's not even an official command structure or class system that dictates who can do what. You do rank up by receiving comendations, but it's mostly a cosmetic title. I, a lowly sergeant, can do anything a Captain can. I'm endlessly impressed that Siege Camp, a small Toronto-based studio that got its start in mobile games, has successfully operated an MMO for years that allows thousands of concurrent players to build, shoot, drive, and explode tens of thousands of objects on a single server with minimal interruptions.

foxhole map

A friendly town nuked early on in the war, permanently destroyed and memorialized with a Call of Duty 4 quote. (Image credit: Siege Camp)

I suspect some of the magic can be explained by the smart way Foxhole instances the map in several kilometer-wide hexes. Only your current hex is loaded at a given time and traveling to a bordering hex requires a few seconds of loading. At the borders of the busiest fronts, ones packing hundreds of players on both sides, I sometimes had to wait in a queue for a few minutes before getting in.

As Foxhole nears its 1.0 release, I've wondered if the single biggest reason the game works is because it's relatively small. Unlike most most other MMOs, Siege Camp can place its full attention on a single server that covers its entire population. The studio has been able to increase the map size over the years to support a growing player base, but a few times Siege Camp has been forced to start up a second shard—an overflow war cut off from the original. The war that just wrapped up seemed to comfortably fit a daily average of 1,500 players on a single server. If Foxhole's player base doubles overnight following its 1.0 release, the server list will almost certainly have to expand to accommodate. That's fine, but I do find it charming that right now, every single person playing Foxhole is on the same map.

Selfishly, I want Foxhole to stay small, but I also think more people would give it a shot once the major 1.0 Inferno update drops on September 28.



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NylaTheWolf
666 days ago
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A mysterious voice is haunting American Airlines' in-flight announcements and nobody knows how - Waxy.org

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Mozilla criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for using their operating systems to force users away from other browsers

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Mozilla has criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for pushing the default browser in their operating systems aggressively. It has published a report that highlights the anticompetitive practices of the tech giants that forces users away from other browsers.

Mozilla criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for using their operating systems to force users away from other browsers

The report, titled Five Walled Gardens, analyzes the problems caused by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta (Facebook). Mozilla conducted a survey to find out how users around the world use browsers, and it wasn't impressed with the results. Over 6000 participants from Australia, U.S., U.K., France, India and Kenya took the survey, they were asked about their experience with using web browsers, changing the default browser, etc.

Image Credit: Mozilla

Operating systems push their default browsers aggressively

The report highlights the fact that there are just 3 browser engines used across different platforms, Apple Safari (WebKit engine), Google Chromium (Blink), and Mozilla Firefox (Gecko). This results in a lack of diversity of browser engines, which in turn offers users limited choices to select their preferred app. The research paper claims that there is practically no option on mobile devices.

Mozilla says that modern operating systems are designed against interoperability, and bundle various apps for messaging, email, maps, voice assistants, etc (Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, etc), and that such apps pose a risk to the user's privacy. The report goes on to underline the fact that it is not easy to remove a browser as the default option, or to delete the app completely.

It also took a dig at Apple for not allowing other browser engines on iOS and iPadOS, restricting app developers to the WebKit engine, stating that Apple's browser is limited to iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, and without Firefox's engine, Google's Chromium project would be the only browser engine available across platforms.

Search engines in operating systems

Mozilla criticized how Windows 11's Search bypasses the default browser preference, to open links and search results in Microsoft Edge, its aggressive attempts to promote its browser via Bing Search, and overriding the default browser setting to force users to use Edge. iOS uses Safari to perform a web search when you use the lookup feature. Android isn't any different, thanks to the Google widget on the home screen, which routes the search via the Chrome app.

Less than half of the survey respondents in some regions knew how to change the default browser on their desktop computer or mobile phone. The number of people who actually changed their browser was even lower, at around 10% to 20%. Mozilla says that this could be because of the numerous steps involved in the process, i.e, using the App Store or Play Store, searching for a browser, downloading and setting it as the default browser via the Settings.

statcounter browser share august 2022 stats

Image credit: StatCounter

All these numbers add up, says Mozilla, adding that Apple Safari has an 27% share in the iOS browser market, while 65% of people who have Android phones use Chrome. StatCounter's latest chart (August 2022) shows that Firefox has a measly 3.16% user base across platforms (desktop and mobile), only higher than Opera which was at 2.2%, while Edge was slightly higher with a 4.3% user base. The chart toppers were Chrome and Safari at 65.52% and 18.78% respectively. I'd suspect these numbers will change drastically after Google drops support for Manifest V2 extensions, effectively killing ad blockers, which will create a domino effect and drive users towards Firefox, Brave and Vivaldi.

Would this be any different if operating systems like Android and iOS didn't have Chrome and Safari as the default browsers? That's what Mozilla is trying to say with its report, that it is an unfair practice that harms other browser makers and the users. You can download the report from Mozilla's website, it's a bit of a long read, but provides some valuable insight about the issues discussed in this article.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is investigating Google and Apple in an antitrust case related to the duopoly of their browsers. Similarly, EU's upcoming Digital Markets Act will prevent big tech companies from unfair gatekeeping practices.

As much as I'd like to see it happen, I don't think that Apple, Microsoft and Google will ever ask the user what browser they want to use. What do you think?

Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Mozilla criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for using their operating systems to force users away from other browsers appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

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NylaTheWolf
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This is the last week that you can play Overwatch before it's gone forever

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This is your warning Overwatch players, you've only got a few more days to play the original game before it's gone for good and replaced with Overwatch 2. 

If you didn't know, Overwatch 2 is due to launch on October 4, 2022. However, with the joy of its launch comes sadness that we'll no longer be able to play the original Overwatch that has been part of our lives for the last six years. So, we suggest getting the most out of the first Overwatch game before October 2, 2022

You may have noticed that there's actually a two-day break in between the closure of Overwatch and the launch of Overwatch 2. It's not all bad though as you can use this lull to reflect fondly upon your time playing the game and mentally prepare yourself for when the sequel officially drops. 

To add even more salt to the wound, if you boot up Overwatch between now and the dreaded October 2 d-day, you'll find a new menu screen that features all 15 of the original cast of heroes, in a sort of solemn celebration standing in front of a white screen. It really does feel like the end of an era. 

As you can imagine, Overwatch fans have been sharing their sorrow online with many creating memes about the loss and others genuinely thanking the game for the fun it has brought them over the last six years. You can find our favorite reactions below. 

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Already done mourning? Find out everything you need to know about the Overwatch 2 Battle Pass.



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