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ArenaNet teases Guild Wars 2's road to war

After a break, a feature pack, and the yearly antics of the Thorn family, the second season of Guild Wars 2's living world will soon be back in business. The business is, of course, preparing to fight Elder Dragons; the

We got to talk with ArenaNet's Lead Writer Bobby Stein and Associate Game Director Steven Waller about how the living world story has marked out what the team calls the "road to war" against Mordremoth and its minions. But as Game Director Colin Johanson said in his latest blog post, "The road to war is paved with points of no return." That doesn't exactly sound good for Tyria, but it may be exciting for GW2 fans who are looking forward to something big.

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Free Xbox Music streaming to stop in December

The free music streaming feature for Xbox Music will be discontinued on December 1, Microsoft revealed on an Xbox Support page for the service. The company said it is "focusing Xbox Music to deliver the ultimate music purchase and subscription service experience for our customers" with Xbox Music Pass, its $10/month music streaming plan.

Announced at E3 2012, Xbox Music arrived in October of that year as a Zune replacement and Spotify competitor. It took nearly a year before the service reached iOS and Android, just two months before Microsoft began closing down the Zune Marketplace. Those interested in trying out the paid music streaming service can sign up for a 30-day trial on Microsoft's site.
[Image: Microsoft]

Xbox One's screenshot feature won't arrive until next year

The Xbox One's screenshot-making feature won't be added to the system's feature set until next year. Xbox head Phil Spencer explained to IGN that as the company comes "back into the new year, we'll see new stuff, and screenshots is on the list." The news follows Spencer's promise a few weeks ago that the company would deliver on oft-requested features such as screenshot creation and background themes for the Xbox One's dashboard. Those custom backgrounds will be part of the system's November update.

"In December, it's probably a time for us to pause for a little bit and settle just as all the new consoles are coming online," Spencer said, indicating a small break in the action for the console's development team. He also noted that screenshot creation for Xbox One is "a little more technically challenging than I thought," but that the team found a "good solution" two weeks ago. "They're working on it. They know people want it. The team has a path to getting it done, and now it's just prioritizing," he added.
[Image: Microsoft]

World of Warcraft to relocate Oceanic servers to Aussie data center

Blizzard has just announced a new Australian server infrastructure for World of Warcraft, deploying ahead of the release of Warlords of Draenor in November. The existing Oceanic servers (Barthilas, Frostmourne, Thaurissan, Saurfang, Caelestrasz, Jubei'Thos, Khaz'goroth, Aman'Thul, Nagrand, Dath'Remar, Dreadmaul, and Gundrak) will physically move to a new Australian data center, ensuring reduced latency for players down under. Aussie and Kiwi players currently housed on North American shards will be granted free but optional character transfers and guild master realm transfers in the two weeks leading up to Draenor; Blizzard assures Oceanic players that LFG and PvP pools and queue times won't suffer unduly as a result.

In other WoW news, PC Gamer has a new interview with lead encounter designer Ion Hazzikostas, in which he discusses the "obstacles" facing aging games, the dilemma of graphics upgrades, and the non-Blizzard MMOs he enjoys. When asked about subscription models across the industry, Hazzikostas reiterated that subs still make sense for WoW: "We deliver high value for the monthly subscription because it allows us to provide a steady stream of content, and we don't have any plans to move away from that any time soon."

Civilization: Beyond Earth review: Buy-in Alpha Centauri

Viewed through the idea that it's a standalone expansion to Sid Meier's Civilization 5, Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth streamlines gameplay in the long-running strategy series to enhance the pace of the historically-strapped franchise. As a spiritual successor to Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, however, it's a cut-rate disappointment.

Beyond Earth is best described as an epilogue to the events of Civilization 5. Humanity has ruined the planet and must commit itself to starting all over again on another rock and potentially making the same mistakes. And so, various nations make conglomerate factions and shoot for another spherical mass to strategically explore, expand, exploit and exterminate (4X) one another.

Why I wish Firaxis had never mentioned Beyond Earth as a spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri is that this game doesn't look like it was given the financial resources to kick off a new franchise. It feels like it had the budget of a Civ 5 expansion, where asset creation went into making a visually interesting game world, but not its overall presentation. The characters are painfully dull and inarticulate. The tech and wonder voiceovers are all done by one person, but in many cases are attributed to faction leaders within the game (who do have their own voices). The experience doesn't feel luxe. Firaxis has been the benchmark in accessible strategy games and it's owned by triple-A publisher Take-Two Interactive, but I've seen stronger production values from independent European competitors.

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Minimalistic Tennnes is a team sport at $20

Jan Willem Nijman, one half of the Nuclear Throne development duo Vlambeer, is now selling local multiplayer game Tennnes as a stand-alone download on his site. Originally part of NYU Game Center's No Quarter exhibition in 2012, the game is now available for a minimum cost of $20. The price may seem a little steep to some, but it comes with a bonus: Buyers will be able to distribute the game to their friends for free.

Tennnes is a minimalistic tennis game that was previously gifted to backers of the Sportsfriends Kickstarter project, which concluded in December 2012. The friendly pricing structure makes sense for the game, as those with two controllers will get the most out of Tennnes. Nijman's disclaimer for the game notes that the PC game "can be played by/against AI, but that's absolutely not the intended experience."
[Image: Jan Willem Nijman]

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HaloFest to stream Halo 5 multiplayer, Nightfall's premiere next month

Halo devotees can get an early glimpse at Halo 5: Guardians' multiplayer mode during HaloFest, an upcoming live broadcast event that will also host the world premiere of the digital series Halo: Nightfall.

Starting at 8 p.m. PST on November 10, players can tune in at and to see exclusive beta footage, developer interviews, and the first episode of Nightfall as part of HaloFest. On November 8-9, Microsoft will additionally host coverage of The Master Chief Collection Launch Invitational, a global multiplayer tournament in which 32 top Halo 2: Anniversary players compete for $50,000 in prizes.

Microsoft's streamed event leads up to the launch of the Xbox One series compilation Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which hits retail on November 11.

[Video: Microsoft]

Rob Riggle cast as Frank West in Dead Rising: Watchtower

Frank West, Capcom's favorite zombie-killing photojournalist, will be portrayed by former Daily Show correspondent Rob Riggle in Legendary's live-action Dead Rising: Watchtower film.

"But he's a comedian," we hear you shout. "What does he know about jamming a Servbot helmet on the undead?" Granted, Riggle's not the most obvious choice, but he does have the right lantern-jawed look for the character and Riggle's one of the few candidates who can say that he, like his video game counterpart, has actually covered wars.

As for what he'll be doing in Dead Rising: Watchtower, that remains unknown. Legendary's vague synopsis claims the film focuses on the survivors of a zombie outbreak who begin to suspect government involvement. That should be familiar ground for anyone who's played a Dead Rising entry, but does nothing to differentiate the film from its source material.

So far there's no release date for Dead Rising: Watchtower, but it will debut exclusively on the Crackle digital video network.
[Image: Capcom]

Titanfall update gets cooperative, adds ranked play

The next major update for Titanfall will land tomorrow on Xbox One and PC, Respawn announced today. The patch is the "biggest update ever," according to the developer's blog, which revealed the inclusion of new modes in the update. For starters, Titanfall players will have a new "Frontier Defense" cooperative multiplayer mode in which teams of four stand their ground against waves of AI enemies, getting assistance from stationary turrets and loadout crates.

The other major addition is ranked play, which will be in beta through the end of the month. Respawn's dedicated discussion on its ranked play system for Titanfall notes that players will receive "Rank Chips," which act as "expensive pedometers" that measure players' prowess in the game. Players will have the ability to turn off their Rank Chips as well, so ranked play in Titanfall won't boil down to a separate set of maps or playlists. The update will introduce a multitude of other fixes and improvements, such as the ability to go full-screen with the mini-map, a "sudden death" addition to Capture the Flag mode and seven new Titan insignias.

Warner Bros. working on new Mortal Kombat live-action series

To coincide with the 2015 launch of Mortal Kombat X, the Warner Bros. media empire is planning a new live-action series based on NetherRealm's bloody fighter.

A joint production from publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Warner Bros.' new digital series production arm Blue Ribbon Content, the untitled series will reportedly "[showcase] some of the franchise's most storied characters, while introducing a new generation of fighters." At least, that's the official description. It does little to tell us who are what might appear in this series, though the mention of a "new generation" suggests that the show will mirror the latter-day setting of Mortal Kombat X.

There's no word on when we can expect this series to launch, where it might launch, or if any notable actors are involved. It does not appear that this new series has any ties to 2011's Mortal Kombat: Legacy, though that's to be expected given creator and director Kevin Tancharoen's departure.

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Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley trailer talks farmlife fantasies

Natsume gets chatty in this narrated trailer for Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, giving a detailed overview of what players can expect from the latest entry in its long-running farming simulation series. The Lost Valley puts players on a quest to restore the seasons to a forgotten town, and features new world-building elements and customization options inspired by Minecraft. The Lost Valley hits retail and the 3DS eShop on November 4.

[Video: Natsume]

Developer bike gang rides across the US to de-stress

William Stallwood is burned out.

In 2008, Stallwood and Dain Saint co-founded independent studio Cipher Prime in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and they've since built a reputation for creating stylish games rich in music and dreamy visuals, such as Auditorium, Splice and Intake. Cipher Prime hit success on Kickstarter before it was cool. Stallwood is heavily involved in the local game dev scene, and he helped found Philly Game Forge, Philly Dev Night, and he's Creative Director of the Philadelphia Geek Awards. Right now, he and three friends are taking a break from normal life – and from Philadelphia – to ride across the country on bicycles.

"Cipher Prime is down to just Dain and myself again, and I needed to sort of run away and collect myself," Stallwood tells Joystiq in an email. "I've taken on a bit too many management roles and my recent work on the Philadelphia Geek Awards has pushed me a little over the level. I'm hoping to refuel my creativity and process all the things I love."

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Pew Research: Online harassment rife among young, women

Western grey kangaroo
A recent study by the Pew Research group finds that online harassment is exceedingly common, with forty percent of adult Internet users claiming they have been the target of some form of harassment.

The study differentiates between "less severe" and "more severe" forms of harassment. While the former includes things like name calling, the latter includes stalking and death threats. According to the study, of those who claim to be victims of harassment, 45 percent claim to fall into the "more severe" category. Those rates are especially high among young women, the study finds, as 26 percent of female Internet users polled claimed to have been stalked online, while 25 percent claim to have been the target of online sexual harassment.

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Gabriel Knight and starvation wages at Pinkerton Road

Twenty-one years ago the world was introduced to the mysterious universe of Gabriel Knight from prolific games industry creative Jane Jensen. This month marks the celebration of that anniversary, with the release of the Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers remake – enhanced with new visuals, audio and, in some cases, tweaked to preserve the original game's intended emotional resonance.

One sequence, in particular, stands out to Jensen, she tells me: the police station.

In the original 1993 release, the scene plays out light and even campy: "When Gabriel goes to the police station and breaks into Mosely's office [...] in the game there was a puzzle sequence that had to do with cops and doughnuts and distracting them. It was all very silly," Jane Jensen admits.

The sequence, she says, has been changed in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – 20th Anniversary Edition (one year late, but close enough), to better parallel Jensen's original novelization.

"I wrote a book about Gabriel Knight, I mean I wrote it as a novel after I had written the game, and so there were a few things that I had put in the novel that were new that we ended up rolling back into the remake," Jensen adds. In the novel, the police station sequence was written to be "much scarier," and given the opportunity to better convey the story's suspenseful hooks with the remake, the sequence was changed to better mirror the novel. It was the first of a few tweaks made in Gabriel Knight's return.

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Joystiq Deals: Name your own price game design bundle

For those who have always wanted to learn to make their own games, but don't want to shell out big bucks for training comes the Joystiq Deals name your own price game design bundle.

The bundle includes four training modules, with topics ranging from the Unity graphics engine to art design to gamification. At retail this bundle would be priced at $800, but Joystiq Deals users can name their own price. Visit the Joystiq Deals website, pay more than the current average (it currently stands at a very reasonable $6.07) and you'll walk away with all four training modules.

Best of all, 10 percent of your purchase will be earmarked for one of three charities, either the World Wildlife Foundation, Child's Play or Creative Commons. For more information and all the fine print, visit the Joystiq Deals website.
Joystiq Deals is a partnership between AOL and StackSocial. A portion of sales goes to funding this site. Deals are curated by StackSocial independently of the Joystiq editorial team.


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