Category Archives: Gaming

Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack has been Cancelled



Mojang announced that they are ceasing development of Minecraft’s Super Duper Graphics Pack. The upgraded graphics pack was first announced during E3 of 2017.

Super Duper was an ambitious initiative that brought a new look to Minecraft but, unfortunately, the pack proved too technically demanding to implement as planned.

We realize this is disappointing to some of you – there was a lot of enthusiasm for Super Duper from inside and outside the studio – but unfortunately, we aren’t happy with how the pack performed across devices. For this reason, we are stopping development on the pack and looking into other ways for you to experience Minecraft with a new look.

Ars Technica reported that the E3 of 2017 announcement included an incredible trailer that showed Minecraft in a dynamic shadow-and-light model, with screen-space reflections, material-based lighting, and more. It was described as a “pack”, meaning it would leave Minecraft’s raw assets untouched.

It was going to run in 4K resolution on supported hardware, and a free launch was promised by fall of 2017. Clearly, that didn’t happen.

Fans of Minecraft have been waiting for the Super Duper Graphics Pack since 2017. There are bound to be people who are deeply disappointed that it isn’t being released.

The decision to cease development of the pack is probably a good idea, considering that Mojang was not happy with how it preformed “across devices”. The worst thing they could have done would be to release it only to have it not work as promised.


Ninja will Stream Exclusively on Mixer



Tyler Blevins – known as “Ninja” – has left Twitch in favor of Mixer. The announcement was made in a clever (and delightfully cheesy) video that was posted on Ninja’s Twitter account. Ninja was one of Twitch’s biggest streamers.

A press release on Bloomberg provides more details: Gaming superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins announced he is teaming up with Microsoft’s interactive live streaming service, Mixer, to stream panels and games exclusively at Mixer. Ninja will kick off his first Mixer stream during Lollapalooza 2019, from August 2 through August 4, at Ninja’s Dojo inside the Red Bull Outpost.

“I never would have thought that I could build a career by doing what I love, and I am extremely grateful for the incredible experiences that I have had. As I look at the next step in my career, achieving bigger goals in the gaming industry with Mixer will allow me to have the perfect balance of opportunities and success. My roots as a gamer started with Halo, so working with Microsoft and coming over to Mixer felt like a natural next step. Capturing all the great moments in gaming and sharing the wins (and losses) with a positive, community-focused environment that we can all be proud of – that’s why I’m here”, said Ninja.

The Verge reported that Mixer is owned by Microsoft. It was originally launched as Beam back in 2016, and was rebranded as Mixer in 2017.

The Verge also reported a statement from Mixer: “We’re thrilled to welcome Ninja and his community to Mixer. Mixer is a place that was formed around being positive and welcoming from day one, and we look forward to the energy Ninja and his community will bring.”

It is definitely an interesting move for Ninja, who has built up a huge following on Twitch. I think that many of his fans will go over to Mixer to watch him stream. Of course, there will be people who complain about his decision. I cannot confirm this, but I suspect that perhaps Mixer is giving Ninja a better financial deal than Twitch did.


Pluribus AI Bot Beat Pros in Six-Player Poker



Pluribus is the first AI bot capable of beating human experts in six-player no-limit Hold’em, the most widely played poker format in the world. It makes me think of AlphaZero, an AI system that taught itself how to master chess, shogi, and Go. AlphaZero was created by DeepMind.

Pluribus is a new AI bot that was created in a collaboration between Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University. In recent years, new AI methods have been able to beat top humans in poker if there is only one opponent. But developing an AI system capable of defeating elite players in full-scale poker with multiple opponents at the table was widely recognized as the key remaining milestone.

Pluribus has defeated pro poker players in both a “five AIs + one human player” format and a “one AI + five human players” format.

If each chip was worth a dollar, Pluribus would have won an average of about $5 per hand and would have made about $1,000/hour playing against five human players. These results are considered a decisive margin of victory by poker professionals.

There is a lot of detail in the Facebook post about Pluribus, including the AI bot’s blueprint strategy and information about how it stacked up against humans in the poker games. The post also includes some comments from the human professional poker players who share their thoughts about playing against Pluribus.

It has been said that robots are coming to take our jobs. In some industries, they already have pushed out the human workers. Should we now start to worry that robots may someday replace humans players in games? I suppose it might be possible that, in the future, AI bots will have replaced all the humans on eSports teams. That might be fun to watch once, but I think it would get really boring after that.


Microsoft Introduced Project Scarlett



Microsoft introduced Project Scarlett at the Xbox E3 2019 Briefing. It is for players who want a console designed, built, and optimized for gaming. Project Scarlett is arriving Holiday 2020.

Project Scarlett will set a new bar for console power, speed and performance, arriving Holiday 2020 alongside Halo Infinite. With a custom-designed AMD processor, high bandwidth GDDR6 memory, and a next generation solid state drive (SSD), Project Scarlett will give developers the power they need to bring their creative visions to life. Thousands of games across four console generations will look and play best on Project Scarlett.

A video about Project Scarlett provides some more details. There is mention of reduced load times, where the game stops and players have to wait around for the next part to load. Microsoft’s goal with gaming is to not have those pauses.

Project Scarlett has a custom designed processor that leverages the latest Zen 2 and Navi technology from their partners at AMD. It makes processing four times more powerful than the Xbox One X. It also leverages high bandwidth GDDR 6 to ensure the best performance possible.

In the video, there is mention of giving gamers the option to connect across devices and across platforms in a way that Xbox was never able to do before. Your games, your achievements, your progression, your accessories – your console experience with Xbox all comes forward with Scarlett.

It sounds like Project Scarlett and Google’s Stadia will compete against each other for the attention of gamers. Both are being released at roughly the same time, during the holiday season. Scarlett has the advantage of already having a dedicated player base who currently play on Xbox consoles.


Google Announced First Collection of Stadia Games



Google announced the first collection of game that are coming to Stadia, the company’s game platform. A limited number of Stadia Founder’s Edition are available for preorder at the Google Store.

Those that buy Stadia will have the ability to play games across multiple screens. People who have a 4K TV and Stadia Pro will get up to 4K HDR resolution at 60 frames per second with 5.1 surround sound. Coming in 2020, Stadia Base is how you will play games you purchase in up to 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second without an active subscription to Stadia Pro.

The Stadia Founder’s Edition is priced at $129. It will ship in November of 2019 in U.S., Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. Google is working to expand to additional countries in 2020.

The Stadia Founder’s Edition includes:

  • Three-months of Stadia Pro
  • A three-month Buddy pass
  • A Founder’s badge
  • A Chromecast Ultra
  • A limited-edition Night Blue Stadia Controller
  • Dibs on selecting a Stadia Name
  • A Google Chromecast Ultra for streaming to your TV

Stadia will include free content, as well as discounts on titles you buy. The first free title is Destiny 2, and it comes with the base game, all previous add-ons, the upcoming Shadowkeep expansion and the annual pass. After your three-month subscription ends, Stadia Pro is $9.99 per month.

You can purchase an extra controller for multiplayer games, or for your laptop. Controllers come in three colors: Just Black, Clearly White or Wasabi. Each costs $69.99.

One of the things that I like about Stadia is that it lets you play games without a console. It also doesn’t make players wait for game downloads. It is intended to be a “jump right in” and play kind of situation.

Additional games are available for purchase, including titles like DOOM Eternal, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Tomb Raider Trilogy, The Elder Scrolls Online, Baldur’s Gate 3, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Farming Simulator 19, and Final Fantasy XV. Right now, it is unclear what each of these games will cost. The interesting thing is that people will buy the games – not rent them.


S-Charge 10,000 mAh Portable Power for Nintendo Switch Review



The Nintendo Switch is unique among the current generation of gaming devices, morphing between a console and a handheld. It’s a novel idea implemented well and a key factor in my choice to buy one for Christmas last year. For gaming on the go, the internal battery lasts a couple of hours which is usually enough for a commute, but for long journeys the Switch will need a recharge and this is where InDemand Design’s S-Charge comes in. Let’s take a look.

The S-Charge is a 10,000 mAh battery case for the Nintendo Switch that combines extra power with card storage and a multi-angle kick-stand. Originally, an Indiegogo project, the S-Charge is now available direct either from S-Charge or from Amazon for GB£65. This price includes the S-Charge itself, a carry case that takes a Switch with the S-Charge attached, a 45cm USB A to C cable and a screen protector.

The Switch slots into the S-Charge much like it slots into the standard TV dock, connecting into the lower USB C port. The Switch is retained in the S-Charge by a top hinge which rotates round and clicks into place, holding the the Switch securely while still giving access to the buttons and vents along the top edge of the console. The card slot’s not realistically available but it’s not much effort to flip the top up and switch the game card over.

Once connected up, pressing a small button on the left side powers up the S-Charge and there are four small white LEDs which show the battery level. Next to the button is a standard USB A port for charging other devices, such as phones or Bluetooth earbuds. Finally, there’s a USB C port for recharging the S-Charge via the supplied cable.

The long and adjustable kickstand on the S-Charge addresses one of the Switch’s other weak points, namely the flimsy, offset and single position built-in stand. The one on the S-Charge runs the full length of the unit and will click into about five different angles to get the Switch just right. Underneath the kickstand is space for two game cartridges.

Using the Switch with the S-Charge attached in handheld mode takes a little getting used for two reasons. One, the S-Charge weighs 325g and two, where do you put your fingers? A Switch with joycons attached tips the scales at 400g, so once the S-Charge is added, it’s 725g all in, which is hefty enough to hold. Depending on hand-size, fingers can either curl behind the joycons or lie along the the back of the S-Charge, but it’ll take a little getting used to. Obviously, neither of these are an issue if primarily using the Switch in tabletop mode.

The carbon fibre effect carry case is good too. It’ll take a Switch with both the S-Charge and joycons attached and there’s space for an extra six game cartridges. In the lid, there’s a zipped pocket to keep the charging cable and any other extras, like a screen cleaning cloth. The only thing I’d say about the case is that the zipped pocket has a metal pull on the zip itself. For the sake of the left hand joycon, I would have preferred a plastic one or at least a rubber coating.

The battery in the S-Charge is a beefy 10,000 mAh – that’s over twice the capacity of the Switch which Nintendo says is 4,310 mAh. How much extra gameplay depends entirely on the games being played with Zelda burning through the standard battery in less than three hours. Starting with the Switch and S-Charge at full capacity, Breath of the Wild play time could be extended to ten hours.

I used the S-Charge extensively over a couple of weeks and while I never managed to fit in a whole day of non-stop portable gaming, my experience was very much in-line with expectations. Taking the console round to another family’s home over Christmas, there was some serious Mario Kart for a couple of hours with only the loss of one white LED.

The S-Charge isn’t a pocket money purchase at GB£65, but you do get a multi-functional unit with a carry case and overall I think it’s a very good solution. Not only does it extend gaming-on-the-go to at least ten hours, the stand is much better, there’s cartridge storage and the S-Charge can recharge other devices too. It’s the perfect travelling companion for the Nintendo Switch.

There’s more on my YouTube video.

Thanks to InDemand Design for providing the S-Charge for review.


Twitch Removes Universal Ad-Free Viewing from Twitch Prime



Twitch recently made changes to the perks that come with Twitch Prime. One controversial change is that universal ad-free viewing will no longer be a part of Twitch Prime for new members. This decision could end up hurting streamers.

As we have continued to add value to Twitch Prime, we have also re-evaluated some of the existing Twitch Prime Benefits. As a result, universal ad-free viewing will no longer be a part of Twitch Prime for new members, starting on September 14.

Twitch Prime members with monthly subscriptions will continue to get ad-free viewing until October 15. If you already have an annual subscription, or if you upgrade to an annual subscription before September 14, you will continue with ad-free viewing until your next renewal date.

All other Twitch Prime benefits, like monthly channel subs, monthly games and loot, and chat badges are not changing.

Twitch provided some explanation for why they made this change: “Advertising is an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible. This change will strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love.”

Twitch says that an ad-free viewing experience is still possible. One way to get it is to subscribe to Twitch Turbo. Doing so will give you ad-free viewing across all channels.

Twitch also points out that Twitch Prime subscribers can still get channel-specific ad-free viewing as part of Twitch Prime by using their monthly subscription token on a channel that has ad-free viewing for subscribers turned on.

This change could harm streamers. People who cancel their Twitch Prime will lose the free monthly subscription that they could use to support a streamer. It is unclear how much of the revenue from the ads that appear on a stream actually go to the streamer.