Category Archives: Gaming

Niantic is Permanently Banning Pokémon GO Cheaters

Pokemon Go logoNiantic, the developer behind the popular Pokémon GO game, has started banning players who cheat. It appears that Niantic is very serious about this because they are now issuing permanent bans to the players who have broken the terms of service.

Earlier this month, Niantic posted an update about maintaining and running the Pokémon GO service. In the update, Niantic pointed out that third parties have attempted to access their servers in various ways outside of the game itself.  Part of that post said:

“It’s worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.”

It appears that the next step in their efforts to “provide a fair, fun, and legitimate game experience for everyone”, Niantic is permanently banning players who cheat. The company has posted a note to its website called: Submit a ban appeal.  It says:

Your account was permanently terminated for violations of the Pokémon GO Terms of Service. This includes, but is not limited to: falsifying your location, using emulators, modified or unofficial software and/or accessing Pokémon GO clients or backends in an unauthorized manner including through the use of third party software.

The post has a link to a form that banned players can use if they believe their account has been terminated in error. Some players who were caught cheating received an email that has the same wording as the note Niantic recently posted on their website.

High Bandwidth Support is Coming to Overwatch

Overwatch logoBlizzard Entertainment is in the process of rolling out a high bandwidth server option to Overwatch. It was something that was part of the Overwatch beta. At the time, Blizzard said that they would investigate adding the high bandwidth option to other game modes if it performed well and players responded positively to it.

Keep in mind that this is being rolled out and may take a few weeks for it to appear on all regions. Right now, they are rolling out the high bandwidth option globally to PC. (Overwatch is not compatible with Mac). Blizzard is exploring how they can bring the high bandwidth option to console.

In the official post about this upcoming change, Community Manager Lylirra explains more about what the high bandwidth option means.

So what does that mean? In Overwatch, our high bandwidth option adjusts the game’s client update rate (the frequency at which your client gets updates from the game server) from 21 updates per second to 63 updates per second. This reduces the amount of time between when you complete an action and when your client hears back about the result, which in turn will help make the game feel more responsive.

In addition, Blizzard is adding in “tech that will automatically and adaptively scale down your update rate if we find your connection can’t keep up.” They are looking to add an option that will allow players to self-limit their update rate in a future patch. The reason for that is because Blizzard recognizes that “not all internet connections are equal”.

SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Game Controller Unboxing and Setup

SteelSeries LogoThe 4th-generation Apple TV won’t blow anyones mind as a gaming machine. But game developers have taken advantage of the device’s ability to run third-party apps, and a decent number of games have been produced for Apple’s home-media box. I received a new Apple TV as a Christmas gift last year. The stock Siri Remote that comes with the new Apple TV can be used for game play. But I found the gaming experience with the Siri Remote to be lacking. That’s why I decided to pick up a SteelSeries Nimbus wireless game controller.

SteelSeires Nimbus box
SteelSeires Nimbus box
SteelSeries Nimbus unboxing
SteelSeries Nimbus unboxing
SteelSeries Nimbus unboxing
SteelSeries Nimbus unboxing

The Nimbus is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The controller uses a Lightning port for charging. There’s a series of four LEDs at the top of the controller that indicate how well the battery is charged. I was pleased to discover that my new Nimbus was fully charged.

SteelSeries Nimbus lights
SteelSeries Nimbus lights

The Nimbus is a Bluetooth controller. Pairing it with the Apple TV was pretty simple. Turn both devices on. Open the Apple TV’s Settings app, navigate to Remotes and Devices, select Bluetooth, and the Nimbus should appear under Other Devices. From there, you can select the Nimbus for wireless pairing to the Apple TV.

Apple TV Remotes and Devices Menu
Apple TV Remotes and Devices Menu
Apple TV Bluetooth menu
Apple TV Bluetooth menu
Apple TV Bluetooth screen
Apple TV Bluetooth screen
Nimbus connected to Apple TV
Nimbus connected to Apple TV

Once the Nimbus was paired to the Apple TV, it was smooth sailing. I found that the game controller replicated most of the functions of the Siri Remote and that I could use it to navigate around the main Apple TV screen just like the remote. I selected the game Dragon Mania Legends. As the game loaded, a screen came up that I hadn’t seen before with instructions on how to use a game controller with the game.

Game controller instructions
Game controller instructions

(Curiously, the game controller depicted in the instructional graphic looks similar to a Playstation Vita. Not sure what’s going on there.) I’ve found that most games will provide a screen like this. For the ones that don’t, working out the controls is usually not a problem.

The Nimbus is a comfortable and familiar controller that resembles an Xbox controller in design. The buttons, D-Pad, and joysticks work well, and the Nimbus really does make for a much more enjoyable experience when it comes to Apple TV gaming.

Here’s to hoping that some clever game designers will now make some really good games for the Apple TV. It seems much more likely with controller options like the SteelSeries Nimbus.

4 Tips for Pokémon GO Safety and Success

Pokemon Go logoI’ve been playing Pokémon GO, the altered reality, mobile app-based game that’s taken (most of) the world by storm, almost since the game was first released in the United States. I’ve managed to reach level 17 so far, caught tons of Pokémon, and have had a lot of fun playing the game. Here are four tips for playing the game, based on my own experience:

1.) It’s OK to take your eyes off the screen: Pokémon GO naysayers have evoked a zombie meme when referring to players of the game. And while it’s not brains Pokémon GO players are after, there is something accurate about this portrayal, as players can sometimes be seen mindlessly making their way to a nearby PokéStop with little awareness of their surroundings. But it really is OK to take your eyes off the screen when hunting for Pokémon. Just make sure your device’s volume is turned up and/or the device’s vibrate function is on. Then you can hold the device at your side while walking. This may save precious battery life, as certain devices will automatically dim the screen when they’re put into this position, it’ll also free up your eyes to do what they’re supposed to – look forward into the world you’re moving thru.

2.) Stay out of the way of traffic: Of course you want to be sure to not wander into a multilane highway while playing Pokémon GO. But it’s not just vehicle traffic you want to avoid. You need to also be mindful of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other types of movement around you. So when the 100th Pidgey of the day pops up, take a few steps out of the way if you’re on a sidewalk, or duck into a nearby doorway instead of blocking traffic, before you try catching that Pokémon.

3.) It’s OK to trash things in your bag: I absolutely hate wasting resources in video games. And while Pokémon GO may have an inexhaustible supply of Zubats, the game doesn’t provide players with an Infinite Bag of Holding. Hit enough PokéStops and you’ll inevitably get the annoying “Your bag is full” message. At this point you’ll want to assess all of the items you’re carrying and jettison some of them in order to make room for more important stuff. But what’s “important” in the game will vary at any given time from player to player. If you’re not yet ready to battle at Poké Gyms, then having a bag full of potions is a waste. And if you’re more interested in gym battles than catching new Pokémon, you can drop Poké Balls in favor of healing and revive potions. And of course, if you don’t mind spending real-world money, you can always buy a bag upgrade. Still, I’ve found that keeping a balanced amount of potions and Poké Balls is possible as long as you don’t mind trashing extra potions or cutting back on the number of Razz Berries in your inventory.

4.) Treat the Pokédex as your true Pokémon collection: Pokémon GO has a few ways to keep track of the monsters you’ve encountered in the game. The first time you catch any Pokémon, it’s added to your Pokédex, where you can see statistics and other information about the Pokémon. All Pokémon catches are also noted in your journal. And finally, the Pokémon themselves are stored in your backpack. And while it might be tempting to hang onto every last Rattata and Nidoran, that could cause you to use all of your available storage slots rather quickly. Instead, consider the Pokédex to be the ultimate collection of Pokémon you’ve caught, keeping one or two of the highest-level of each Pokémon you’ve caught in your backpack and transferring the rest to Professor Willow for valuable Pokémon candy.

Are you playing Pokémon GO? Share your own tips and strategies in the comment section below.

Full Archive of Nintendo Power Magazine Now Available

Nintendo Power pages JPGCoverage of the gaming industry is virtually inexhaustible at this point. Pick any console, platform, franchise, or game title, and you’re likely to find a plethora of blogs, vlogs, and podcasts catering to that subject. But back in the days when the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) reigned supreme over the gaming world, news about the console and its attendant game titles wasn’t so easy to find. As a video-game obsessed kid, I remember the wait in between new editions of Nintendo Power magazine (and its predecessor, Nintendo Fun Club News) felt like a lifetime, despite the publication’s bi-monthly print schedule.

In its day, Nintendo Power magazine was required reading for anyone who took their gaming exploits seriously. Each issue came packed with news on the latest games and gaming accessories, as well as helpful things like gameplay maps and cheat codes. Just in time for the upcoming release of the NES Classic Edition (was this planned or just pure coincidence?), the entire run of Nintendo Power magazine has been digitized and archived online.

I took a quick flip thru the first issue, which features write-ups on NES classics Super Mario Bros. 2 and Double Dragon. The digital magazine even contains a reader survey that was filled out by the magazine’s original owner but never clipped and sent. There’s also a short piece on the latest Pee-Wee Herman film, as well as a celebrity player profile section devoted to Candace and Kirk Cameron.

Get your own Nintendo Power nostalgia fix at Internet Archive, where the magazines can be flipped thru in all their original glory.

Blizzard DDoS Possibly Linked to Second Overwatch Ban Wave

Blizzard Entertainment logoYesterday, Blizzard Entertainment enacted a second ban wave of players who were cheating in Overwatch. Many banned players complained online and some of their comments suggested they were seeking some kind of revenge on Blizzard. Not long after that, Blizzard experienced a DDoS attack. This doesn’t prove that the situations are connected – but it certainly looks suspicious.

In May, a warning was posted on the Overwatch Forums that stated: “If a player is found to be cheating – or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.” In June, Blizzard banned players who were cheating in Overwatch. One would think this should have been enough of a clue that Blizzard is serious about banning cheaters.

Despite a very obvious example of what would happen to cheaters, some players decided to cheat in Overwatch anyway. This caused Blizzard to enact a second banwave. Kotaku reported:

This time around, Blizzard sniffed out players who use “triggerbots”, which shoot for players when their crosshairs appear over a target, and “aimbots,” which aid in accuracy.

A Reddit user compiled a series of screenshots of complaining comments that were posted by people who were cheating and got banned. Many of the comments are overly dramatic, and some are NSFW.

Included in the Kotaku article are a few comments that imply that some banned players want to take revenge upon Blizzard via a DDoS attack. There’s no way to know whether those comments came from people who actually know how to do that, but it definitely looks suspicious.

Yesterday and today, @BlizzardCS (the verified Twitter account for Blizzard Entertainment North America Customer Support) posted a series of tweets stating that they were experiencing a DDoS attack. It affected players ability to log in to all of Blizzard’s games and also impacted their websites.

Shortly before I posted this blog, @BlizzardCS tweeted:

Player Threatened Blizzard Entertainment with AK-47 Over Silence Penalty

Heroes of the Storm logoIn September of 2015, Blizzard Entertainment added a silence penalty to Heroes of the Storm. (Blizzard will soon be adding a silence penalty to World of Warcraft as well.) Players who earn a silence penalty lose the ability to chat with most other players. It is understandable that being silenced will irritate players who were being abusive in game. Even so, that doesn’t excuse the guy who decided to threaten Blizzard Entertainment with an AK-47.

According to the Department of Justice (Eastern District of California) website, a 28-year-old man named Stephen Cebula has been charged with “making threats to injure employees of the video-game company Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.” The post also says:

According to court documents, between July 2, 2016, and July 3, 2016, Cebula transmitted messages over the internet to Blizzard Entertainment, in which he stated that he “may or may not pay [Blizzard] a visit with an AK47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools,” and “might be inclined to ’cause a disturbance’ at [Blizzard’s] headquarters in California with an AK47 and a few other ‘opportunistic tools’..”. Cebula was arrested on July 12, 2016, and is in custody. He is scheduled to be arraigned July 26, 2016.

If he is convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The Department of Justice website says: “The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that in one threat, court records showed that Stephen Cebula wrote “Careful Blizzard… I live in California and your headquarters is here in California… You keep silencing me in Heroes of the Storm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK-47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools.” Blizzard’s headquarters is in Irvine, California.

Players that earn a silence penalty in Heroes of the Storm receive it because they have been posting abusive chat, posting spam, cheating or botting, or doing things in game intentionally to anger the players on their team (like walking away from the keyboard). If you someday find that you earned a silence penalty, it’s ok to feel upset about it. Just be very careful about how you choose to express your irritation online.

Congress has Questions About Pokémon GO Data Usage

Niantic Pokemon GoThree members of the United States House of Representatives sent a letter to CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, with some questions about the amount of data that Pokémon GO uses. The members of Congress who wrote the letter want “to better understand what measures Niantic has undertaken to ensure consumers are informed of Pokémon GO’s effect on their mobile data usage.” The letter states:

Third-party testing recently found that the typical Pokémon GO player users between 10 and 20 megabytes of data per hour of play. A serious user playing for three or more hours per day could use two gigabytes of data per month. T-Mobile CEO John Legere reported that in just four days, the number of Pokémon GO users on the carrier’s network had doubled and their data usage had quadrupled. Users have reported maxing out their monthly data usage plan within a few days of playing.

The members of Congress who signed the letter were Frank Pallone Jr. (Democrat – New Jersey), Diana DeGette (Democrat – Colorado), and Jan Schakowsky (Democrat – Illinois). They came up with four questions that they would like Niantic to answer:

  1. Are there best practices that Niantic follows to minimize the amount of data consumers use when playing Pokémon GO?
  2. Has Niantic worked with wireless carriers to ensure that consumers are not unexpectedly hit with large overage charges?
  3. Does Niantic conspicuously warn consumers before they start using the app about how much data the app consumes?
  4. Does Niantic have any mechanisms in place to make sure consumers are made whole in the event they are hit with an unexpected overage charge resulting from the use of your app?

CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, has been asked to provide responses to those questions by August 9, 2016.

The amount of data that Pokémon GO uses is not the only concern mentioned in the letter. In the first paragraph, the letter says: “In addition to issues related to the game being played in inappropriate locations, safety, and privacy, recent reports suggest that Pokémon GO could exhaust a consumer’s available monthly mobile data.”  The letter does not mention anything at all about the problem that many Pokémon GO users are facing – the app drains the phone’s battery rather quickly.

Blizzard is Adding a Silence Penalty to World of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment logoBlizzard Entertainment is adding a new silence penalty to World of Warcraft. It is designed to enable players to report those who cannot play nice with others. This new silence penalty for World of Warcraft has some similarities to the one Blizzard added to Heroes of the Storm in 2015.

The silence penalty will be implemented with the pre-expansion patch for Legion (World of Warcraft’s newest expansion that will be released on August 30, 2016.) The pre-expansion patch will appear sometime before that date.

The silence penalty will enable players to report other players who are engaging in spam, abusive chat, or other inappropriate chat behaviors. An investigation will be done.

Reported players who, after an investigation, were found to be engaging in bad behavior or chat will receive an account-wide silence penalty. That means they can’t switch from their character that got silenced to an alt in the hopes of being able to get around the penalty.

Silenced Players are Unable to:

*Talk in Instance Chat (Raid, Party, and Battlegrounds)

*Talk in global channels that are autojoined (such as General or Trade)

* Create Calendar Invites/Events

* Send in-game mail

* Send Party invitations

* Send War Game invitations

* Send invitations to Duel

* Update a Premade Group Listing

* Create a New List for a Premade Group

Silenced Players are Able to:

* Whisper to friends (both World of Warcraft and friends)

* Reply to Whispers from non-friends

* Party/Raid Chat (with Invited Players)

* Create Parties and Raids

* Talk in Global Channels that have a moderator

* Share Quests

* Sign up for a pre-made group

The first time a player is silenced, their chat will be restricted for 24 hours. The silence penalty restriction will double for each silence penalty received after the first and there is no maximum.

Pokémon GO Has Launched in Three Countries

Pokemon Go logoPokémon GO was developed by Niantic (the company behind Ingress). Both games require players to get up and walk around in order to make progress in the game. Pokémon GO was recently launched in three countries: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. If my Twitter timeline is any indication, I’d say the game is already extremely popular!

Those of you who have played any of the previous versions of Pokémon will have a pretty good idea about what to expect. Players search for Pokémon, throw Poké Balls at them, and hope to “catch ’em all”. The difference is that this newest version of the game requires players to get up, walk around, and go outside.

Sure, there could be a Pokémon hiding somewhere in your home. But eventually, you’re going to have to walk to the nearest PokéStop for more Poké Balls, or eggs, or to hatch and train your new Pokémon. It will be interesting to see if the walking that is required to play Pokémon GO results in a bunch of physically fit players.

Pokémon GO is available on both the App Store and Google Play Store in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Niantic says the game will become available in other countries around the world “in the days ahead”.

I learned that it is entirely possible to play Pokémon GO without purchasing the Pokémon GO Plus wearable device. The advantage of using the wearable device is that it enables you to capture Pokémon, and harvest items from PokéStops without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.