Month: August 2021


Call of Duty: Warzone cheater stars in official anti-cheat ad, keeps on cheating anyway warzone


Last week, Tiktok user rushman360 announced to the world, with a certain degree of incredulity, that he had been hardware banned from Call of Duty: Warzone. That meant he couldn't just create another account and get back into the game, because his entire machine was locked out.

It wasn't clear exactly what happened, but it certainly seemed like an escalation in Activision's ability to detect and clobber cheaters. And now Activision is using rushman360's Tiktok tale of woe as a warning to others as it prepares to launch a new anti-cheat tool this fall: “We are coming for you.”

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It's an interesting choice, because while Activision said that it was “evolving” Warzone's anti-cheat capabilities after rushman360 revealed his ban, there was speculation that he wasn't caught because Warzone's anti-cheat team has upped its game, but because something went wrong with his cheating software. The most popular cheat programs come with hardware ID spoofing tools that can protect against hardware bans, but rushman's real hardware ID was somehow exposed. Raven said last week that it had banned more than 100,000 Call of Duty accounts for cheating, which is an impressive number, but not really anything unusual—big ban waves have been a semi-regular occurrence for as long as Warzone has been around.

The latest on Blizzard’s workplace allegations

Activision Blizzard walkout

(Image credit: Getty/Bloomberg)

Activision Blizzard is currently facing a lawsuit alleging widespread discrimination and sexual harassment. Here's everything that's happened since the lawsuit went public

The real twist, though, is the fact that rushman360, who guaranteed that “there's no more cheating in Warzone” last week, appears to be cheating in Warzone again. He has posted multiple clips of dubious gameplay on his Tiktok since last week (along with two more increasingly strident claims about being banned from the game and Battle.net entirely, which makes me wonder if this whole thing is a not-very-elaborate troll), and over the weekend he posted nearly two hours of gameplay on his YouTube in which you can clearly see him activating and using cheats. His most recent Warzone video, in which he and his partner both openly acknowledge using aimbots, was posted just yesterday, August 30.

At this point, it's not clear whether rushman360 was actually hardware banned in the first place, and even if he was he'd be able to get back into the game by replacing enough of the banned hardware—the CPU, perhaps—to get a new ID. After that, it's simply a matter of signing up for a new account and getting back into the action—and being careful to ensure that the hardware spoofer is working.

With luck, Activision really will be able to drop the hammer on cheaters later this year when it rolls out a new anti-cheat system for Warzone. It's not year clear whether it's partnering with a third party or developing an in-house solution of its own, but either way an effective anti-cheat solution can't come soon enough. 

I've reached out to Activision for comment and will update if I receive a reply.

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VVVVVV gets its first update in seven years, and it’s a big one VVVVVV 2.3 update key art


In early 2020, the gravity-flipping platformer VVVVVV celebrated the tenth anniversary of its release by going open source. That meant the source code was posted to Github, where anyone with an interest could download and mess around with it in just about any way they saw fit. And as a direct result of that, VVVVVV's first update in seven years is now live.

The full changelog for VVVVVV 2.3, “the first community-developed version of the game,” is seriously big. You can get an abridged version of all the changes here, but these are the highlights.

  • An obscene number of bugfixes, notably regarding undefined C/C++ behavior    
  • Uncapped framerate        
  • In-game timer support        
  • Improved graphical options    
  • Big giant middleware update, including SDL 2.0.16 and updated Wayland support   
  • A huge number of features for level creators        

“This release was really important to me because I wanted to show that it was possible to do new releases of games with published source code rather than abandoning them like most other developers do, and I think players will immediately see that the results speak for themselves,” developer Ethan Lee wrote. “Thanks to everyone who contributed to this release (especially Misa), and thanks to everyone who has done some really interesting stuff even outside of upstream. And of course, thanks to Terry for letting me try this absurd idea in the first place.”

“Terry,” in this case, is original VVVVVV creator Terry Cavanagh, who announced the plan for the patch back in April and tweeted about its release on Steam earlier today. He also confirmed that the update is coming to the Itch.io and Humble versions as well.

“This update is as a direct result of making the source code available last year, and accepting source contributions,” Cavanagh wrote on his Distractionware blog. “I’ve personally added very, very little to this update—which is something that I feel maybe a little anxious about! But I’ve been very careful to make sure that every change is something I was happy with, and that none of the changes to the game were doing anything other than making this the best version of the 2010 game. 

“I’m extremely grateful to everyone who contributed to that—especially—and I really can’t overstate this, especially InfoTeddy, who did by far and away the most to make this happen.”

InfoTeddy also wrote a little song to celebrate the release of the 2.3 update.

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Say goodbye to Apex Legends’ best movement exploit Octane takes a selfie while soaring in the air


A future Apex Legends patch will remove a popular movement exploit that has seen wide use in recent months. Known as “tap-strafing,” the tactic allows players to quickly change their midair trajectory while maintaining momentum. Basically, you become a speedy midair bullet that's very hard to shoot at.

Respawn announced on Twitter that the unintended movement technique will be removed in Apex Legends patch 10.1. “Our reasoning: It's inaccessible, lacks readability/counterplay, and is exacerbated by movement abilities,” the tweet reads. The dev promised to go into more detail when the official patch notes come, but it's not yet clear when that'll be.

It can be hard to see exactly what's happening in tap-strafing clips. Usually, trying to shift your direction midair will slow you down, but with a few simple inputs, tap-strafing lets you pick up speed and then bounce around in any direction you want. You could think of it as an extremely quick dodge roll that Respawn never designed for.

and_they_said_jumppad_tap_strafing_wasnt_useful from r/apexlegends

Apex Legends (and Titanfall before it) is no stranger to community-discovered movement techniques. For years, players have employed versions of slide cancelling and bunnyhopping to optimize speed. In some cases, Respawn has stepped in to nerf these tactics. In 2019, Respawn removed the ability to heal while bunnyhopping across the ground, a change that made sense for the intended penalty of healing (you have to stop running for a while).

The removal of tap-strafing seems like a similar case. Jumping in Apex Legends naturally makes you a harder target, but it's balanced by forcing players to pick a direction and stick with it.

By tap-strafing, players bypass this penalty and become harder to hit than with any other intended mechanic. Left untouched, tap-strafing could become the best, meta-defined technique to outmaneuver players in Apex. To players that enjoy tap-strafing as a tool, that may sound like a good thing, but Respawn clearly thinks Apex is better off without it.

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Part of the reason, I suspect, is the power of tap-strafing against console players. While some report that tap-strafing is somewhat possible on a controller, it's way easier to execute on a keyboard and mouse, furthering the skill gap between the platforms in crossplay matchmaking. Once again I must apologize to our console brethren.

As Respawn points out in its tweet, tap-strafing can also be combined with some character's movement abilities to pull off some truly overpowered shenanigans, like flipping an instant u-turn with Pathfinder's grapple hook or Octane's jump pads.

But soon, players will have to go back to strafing mid-gunfight the old-fashioned way, so enjoy it while you can.

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Surviving Mars will soon let you drill underground, accidentally abandon colonists on asteroids surviving mars below and beyond


If Hollywood and Doom games have taught me anything, it's that nothing good lies beneath the surface of Mars. Surviving Mars' latest expansion, Below & Beyond, it's first premium expansion since mid-2019, says otherwise.

In addition to new buildings and more resources, the big draw for this DLC is the chance to explore the cavernous underground of Mars. You'll create your own network of tunnels, then set up bases deep inside, either with pre-existing building types from the surface or underground-specific building types. Regretfully, I don't think either will survive tunnel cave-ins that can occur.

(Image credit: Surviving Mars/Paradox Interactive)

The “Beyond” part of the DLC has you creating rocket-propelled buildings that your colonists will ride onto passing asteroids. You'll have a brief window of time to mine the heck out of whatever an asteroid is carrying, but stick around too long and it'll carry your building and your people away with it.

New progression paths include additions to the Recon and Expansion research trees. These include more buildings, vehicles, upgrades, and locales, in addition to asteroid mining and underground tunneling.

(Image credit: Surviving Mars/Paradox Interactive)

Surviving Mars last got a free bit of DLC with March 2021's Tourism update, which let players create resort getaways on the alien planet. Abstraction took over for original developer Haemimont Games, saying they have “ambitious” plans for Surviving Mars' future. In our Surviving Mars review, editor Fraser Brown fell in love, saying “nothing else marries survival and city building so deftly. It's a tricky but satisfying space disaster.”

Below & Beyond arrives on September 7 for £15.49 (no USD price yet) on Steam, Epic, GOG, Humble, and Xbox One.

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A game where you’re the ship that blocked the Suez Canal A ship sailing up an unrealistic Suez Canal.


In late March this year a giant container ship got wedged in the Suez Canal, and blocked one of the world's biggest trade routes entirely for six days. This obviously happened at a time when most of us were still sitting at home with our shirts off, so the world became obsessed with the story for a few days, and the ship and efforts to un-stick it became a meme. Good times.

Thing is, as experts were at pains to point out while we all had a good laugh, piloting something of this size through the Suez Canal is actually really difficult. An indie developer by the name of Napas Torteeka certainly noticed, and Whatever is a not-entirely-serious attempt to present the challenges of a container ship's captain in game form (thanks, 80.lv).

“You will cry and finally realise how amazing every cargo ship's captain is,” reads the game's Steam page. “Because it is extremely hard to pilot that [email protected]%!$# 200,000-tonne cargo ship with their extreme inertia through the canal!”

A ship in a fantasy Suez Canal.

(Image credit: Napas Tadeeki)

The game is “a singleplayer cargo boat drifting game at its core” and will launch in early access on September 7. I'm pleased to see that the “high priority” additional features to follow post-launch are “more canal” and details like exploding cargo. But the game is being released in what the developer considers a complete form, with nine stages and two bosses.

Yes, apparently at one point Godzilla turns up in the Suez Canal.

A ship in a fantasy Suez Canal.

(Image credit: Napas Tadeeki)

There's also UFOs in some of the screens so, yeah: if you're after an accurate reflection of the challenges faced by the captains of giant cargo ships, this may veer off-piste. But it's fun to see the real world bleed into games, even in a silly manner, and remember when were all laughing at a big ship that got stuck.

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Hacker kids’ parents sued over $780k of stolen cryptocurrency Cyberpunk 2077


Back in January of 2018, Colorado resident Andrew Schober was relieved of 16.4 bitcoin, worth around $780,000 in todays market. After spending around $10,000 in private investigation fees, he is now suing the parents of the believed culprits—two UK-based computer science students who were, back then, minors.

Schober supposedly followed a link through Reddit to download a cryptocurrency wallet application called Electrum Atom, only to find it was bundled with some dodgy clipboard scouring malware. According to KrebsonSecurity (via Futurism), the kids used this to weed out his cryptocurrency wallet details, and steal the bitcoins he had stored away.

It was as Schober tried to move his crypto hoard from one wallet to another, that the malware swapped his copied wallet key out and replaced it with the hackers' own code.

He might have thought he was playing a harmless joke, but it has had serious consequences for my life.

Andrew Schober

Being minors at the time, the boys' parents are taking the brunt of the legal action. In an appeal Schober initially sent to one of the boys' parents, he explained he was willing to drop the case should the funds have been returned safely to his cryptocurrency address. 

He notes the boys would likely be charged as adults for Category 1 Theft, which could result in over £100,000 (around $140,000) charges.

“It seems your son has been using malware to steal money from people online,” Schober writes. “Losing that money has been financially and emotionally devastating. He might have thought he was playing a harmless joke, but it has had serious consequences for my life.” 

The letter continues, “Your son is obviously a very intelligent young man. I do not wish for him to be robbed of his future, however it would not be just to let him inflict such a damaging blow to my future.”

This appeal was met with months of silence, and Schober soon filed an official complaint [PDF warning]. The case is now underway and, apparently, neither defendant denies their part in the robbery. Instead, their defence rests on the fact the crime was committed so long ago, Schober has run out of time to prosecute.

Tips and advice

The Nvidia RTX 3070 and AMD RX 6700 XT side by side on a colourful background

(Image credit: Future)

How to buy a graphics card: tips on buying a graphics card in the barren silicon landscape that is 2021

“Plaintiff alleges two common law causes of action (conversion and trespass to chattel), for which a three-year statute of limitations applies,” the court files detail [PDF warning]. “Because plaintiff did not file his lawsuit until May 21, 2021, three years and five months after his injury, his claims should be dismissed.”

It may be easy to laugh at a situation like this—minors managed to trick a grown man into transferring them a fortune, ha ha—but it's yet another reminder that you should be super aware of what you're downloading online. After all, over 3 million malware attacks from the last nine months have come disguised as legitimate Minecraft downloads.

And, for goodness sake, keep an eye on what your kids are up to online. You don't want to end up with a lawsuit of this magnitude on your hands because they couldn't keep their hands out the cookie jar.

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Roccat Magma membrane gaming keyboard review Roccat Magma lit up purple, top down view


The Roccat Magma membrane keyboard reminds me that a gaming keyboard doesn't have to be expensive, or even mechanical, to keep you at the top of your game. I've been thoroughly impressed by the tactility of the rubber dome switches, the unique RGB top plate design, and great features for competitive gaming. All underlined by an affordable price for a trustworthy brand. That's a rare thing, and though it may not be as sturdy as some boards, nor as full of fancy greebles, it's a (literal) beacon of excellence among membrane gaming keyboards.

It’s a board for flashy, ’80s retro aesthetic enthusiasts who’re looking to do some competitive gaming for cheap.

Recently, Roccat seems to have been shaking things up in terms of where lighting should belong on peripherals, exemplified in the Magma's uniquely lit design. 

Much like the hex-laden, under-finger lighting of the Roccat Kone Pro Air mouse, the Magma houses its RGB LEDs in previously unexplored places.

With a membrane, there's no per-key lighting. Instead, Roccat has opted for 5 separately configurable lighting zones that span the entire top plate, behind the key caps. The obvious drawback is that there's less potential for intricate customisation—those who prefer W, A, S and D to glow a different color, for example, will be disappointed. The zoned RGB design does still offer some room for nice gradients and effects, but the cycle isn't as smooth as it could be, and colours aren't super accurate.

The minimal use of LEDs within the board does mean less coverage, too, resulting in some slightly darker patches where a few key caps' lettering looks a bit dim. It's not hugely noticeable, though. There are a few obvious blemishes under the top plate that may detract from the design for some—little black spots where the board is joined together— but I think Roccat was going for a kind of 'naked look' with the milky white translucence. Very cyberpunk, but not to my personal taste.

Roccat Magma specs

Switch: Rubber dome, Membrane
Size: Full size
Backlights: 5 zone RGB
Passthroughs: No
Media controls: Function keys
Wrist rest: Yes, hard plastic 
Price: $60 (£50)

With the entire face illuminated, when dust shows up, it really shows up. Thanks to the raised plastic housing under each key cap, and lack of mechanical, dust-trapping faff, that doesn't translate to a huge issue—a hard blow should see you right (wow, it really is an '80s throwback). 

Besides, you'll have more reason to keep your keyboard clean and show it off. Being quite eye-catching compared to your standard under key lighting, you're sure to win praise from your RGB-loving friends. And with it being a Roccat product, you get to play with the Aimo lighting feature to sync lighting across your peripherals.

There are some other interesting features in the Roccat Swarm software, too. These include the (slightly gimmicky) option to add sounds to your key presses, such as a typewriter, or some laser beam pew-pews. Those are fun to play around with, sure, but the most practical feature comes in the form of Roccat's Easy Shift key assignment. Not all the keys are assignable, but there's a huge list of potential actions for each one that is.

The Magma's non-mechanical nature means that—although the key caps do come off for easy cleaning—you won't be able to jam fancy new key caps onto it like you would a mechanical counterpart. But actually, and I hate to admit this, I really like the rubber dome membrane construction Roccat has used here. It's oddly tactile, with great feedback and actuation, as well as being soft and silent for keeping on your teammates' good side.

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Roccat Magma top down view

(Image credit: Future)
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Roccat Magma front view

(Image credit: Future)

The Magma isn't the sturdiest board ever. Compare it to some of the solid, milled metal boards around and there's some minor concern that when you press down on the spacebar with force—the board bows a little. As long as you don't intend to smash the keyboard with your fist, you should be ok. But something to keep in mind: if you're an exceptionally heavy typist, a metal keyboard is a better option. 

Otherwise, it's a spectacular looking board. The deeply rounded corners and thick black frame really set it off, and the lettering isn't some overkill, sci-fi typeface. There may not be dedicated media controls, but it's a nifty full size keyboard with function keys and 26-key rollover, as well as anti-ghosting, so it's everything you need for competitive gaming. That's what Roccat was aiming for, and it delivers without breaking the bank. You even get a wrist rest with it, and although it's not spongy, it's a nice bit of support.

The Roccat Magma is a keyboard for gamers who prefer a soft and silent, yet tactile feel from a membrane board, and are happy to have their whole board lit up like a quest item. With its outlandish lighting design choice, it's a board for flashy, '80s retro aesthetic enthusiasts who're looking to do some competitive gaming for cheap.  And despite some minor annoyances, such as the RGB colour inaccuracies and a hard wrist rest, it's nothing that can't be overlooked for the $60 (£50) price tag.

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Yakuza series creator reportedly in talks to join China’s NetEase toshihiro nagoshi


The creator of the long-running Yakuza series, Toshihiro Nagoshi, is reportedly in talks with Chinese publisher and developer NetEase to hire him away from Sega, where he's worked since 1989.

Bloomberg reports that NetEase wants Nagoshi to build a new team and develop new games for the rapidly growing publisher. Things are reportedly still in the discussions phase, so exact details probably won't be known for some time.

NetEase is one of the biggest video game companies in China (alongside Tencent), with a line of hugely successful mobile games and a partnership with Activision-Blizzard for Chinese versions of World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Starcraft 2.

“Tencent and NetEase have been speaking to just about all publicly traded studios here and are actively courting some privately held developers, too. They both feel pressure to make headway in Japan, especially since game regulations in their home market are becoming increasingly restrictive,” industry analyst Serkan Toto told Bloomberg.

The news comes as China imposes tighter limits on the amount of time underage players can play, up to a maximum of one hour from 8-9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Chinese publishers will inevitably be looking for talent that can make games for 18+ audiences or successfully work within the Chinese government's restrictions.

Nagoshi's first credit was a designer role on Sega's Virtua Racing series. He later produced and directed the Monkey Ball franchise before joining the Ryu Ga Gotoku studio to kick off the Yakuza series in 2005 on the PlayStation 2. In the past few years, Yakuza has grown in popularity in the West, recently receiving a prequel, remasters of all six core games, and last year's Yakuza 7, which transformed the game from an action brawler into a turn-based RPG. 

Nagoshi has served as executive director on the Yakuza franchise since Yakuza 0, leaving general directorial duties to fellow employees Hiroyuki Sakamoto and Ryosuke Horii.

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DrLupo signs exclusive streaming deal with YouTube Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo headshot


Mega-popular streamer Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo has announced a partnership with YouTube Gaming that will see him leave Twitch in order to livestream exclusively on the YouTube platform.

“I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I love and even more grateful to be able to give back to causes that I care about the most,” Lupo said. “YouTube not only allows me to continue creating content and growing my community, but through this partnership, YouTube will help me as I expand my brand through other entertainment initiatives. I am excited to bring my fans on this journey with me.”

Lupo already has a significant presence on YouTube, where he has 1.74 million subscribers—an impressive number by any measure, but still a far cry from the 4.5 million followers he has on Twitch. A representative for Lupo declined to comment on the value of the deal.

 It's been a while since we last heard about a big-time streamer signing an exclusive deal with a streaming platform: Ninja and Shroud both returned to Twitch in 2020 after a dalliance with Microsoft's failed Mixer platform, which is also when Dr Disrespect made his return—for somewhat different reasons, and with no exclusivity invoked—to YouTube. Pewdiepie also signed an exclusive YouTube deal in 2020.

But YouTube could surely use a big win like this: A recent Stream Hatchet report indicates that while Twitch remains the dominant livestreaming platform with 12.8 billion total hours watched over the first two quarters of 2021, YouTube is just barely ahead of Facebook, and is being rapidly outpaced in terms of growth. YouTube rose from 2.1 billion watched hours in 2020 to 2.7 billion in the first half of 2021, while Facebook Gaming shot from 1.1 billion to 2.3 billion over the same span.

Twitch, perhaps getting used to this kind of thing, didn't visibly break a sweat over the deal, and wished Lupo “nothing but the best in everything that comes next.”

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It will soon be a lot harder to die early to high rollers in Hearthstone Battlegrounds Hearthstone Battlegrounds


Blizzard has revealed what's coming in tomorrow's Hearthstone Battlegrounds revamp, “the biggest Battlegrounds update to date,” which will see a whopping 37 minions replaced, the addition of two new heroes, a new Battlegrounds-specific keyword (basically a card ability) called 'Avenge', and a limit on the amount of damage that players can inflict during the opening rounds.

The new damage cap of 15 will be in place until the first player in a lobby dies or disconnects, which should slow the pace of the game somewhat and ensure that players don't get immediately demolished by opponents who have made particularly lucky minion comps. Turn timers are also being increased to give everyone time to get a handle on the new content: Players will get an extra five seconds to make up their minds during turns 3-9, and Blizzard “may further adjust the length of turns sometime in the future.”

Here's the full rundown of general updates coming in the revamp:

  • Battlegrounds Specific Keyword added, Avenge: Does something after (x) friendly minions die.
  • The length of turns 3-9 have been increased by 5 seconds. We may further adjust the length of turns sometime in the future.
  • Darkmoon Prizes have been disabled.
  • All players’ Battlegrounds ratings have been reset for a new season.
  • Damage cap of 15 damage has been added until the first player dies. Please note that the damage cap does not check for player deaths until the start of each Recruit Phase, meaning if someone concedes, disconnects, or dies during the Recruit Phase (Is Wrath Weaver ever really on your team?), the damage cap will still be present for that combat.
  • Players with Battlegrounds Perks are now more likely to be offered new Heroes during the two-week early access period that follows their initial announcement. In every lobby during the two-week early access period, the option to play with new Heroes will be distributed at random between players with Battlegrounds Perks. No player will be offered more than one new Hero.

And here are the new heroes:

Master Nguyen

  • Power of the Storm [Passive]: At the start of every turn, choose from 2 new Hero Powers.        

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Cariel Roame

  • Conviction (Rank 1): Give a random friendly minion +1/+1. (Upgrades at Tavern Tier 3.)
  • Conviction (Rank 2): Give three random friendly minions +1/+1. (Upgrades at Tavern Tier 5.)
  • Conviction (Rank 3): Give five random friendly minions +1/+1. 

(Image credit: Blizzard)

The list of new minions and their abilities is way too long to get into here, but you can get the full lowdown on them—and who they're replacing—at playhearthstone.com

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