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BioWare cancels Anthem rework to focus on Mass Effect and Dragon Age
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The multiplayer action RPG Anthem had been undergoing a major redesign behind closed doors at BioWare since early last year, with the studio going back to the drawing board to "reinvent the core gameplay loop" following the poor reception to its latest IP. However, all plans for this overhauled version have now been canceled.
Today, BioWare Austin head Christian Dailey revealed in a blog post that the studio had made the "difficult decision" to stop the development of the redesign project - dubbed Anthem NEXT. "While we continue to make progress against all our game projects at BioWare, working from home during the pandemic has had an impact on our productivity and not everything we had planned as a studio before COVID-19 can be accomplished without putting undue stress on our teams," explained Dailey.
While Anthem's journey has come to an end, the famed RPG studio is currently working on fresh entries for its Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises as well as a Mass Effect trilogy remaster as new projects. "Game development is hard," added Dailey. "Decisions like these are not easy. Moving forward, we need to laser focus our efforts as a studio and strengthen the next Dragon Age, and Mass Effect titles while continuing to provide quality updates to Star Wars: The Old Republic."
Anthem will still remain playable online in its current state for the time being, though as explained, no more updates will arrive for the troubled title. The studio did not say if there's a planned date for a future server shutdown.
Electronic Arts officially confirms Codemasters acquisition
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Codemasters, the British video games company known for its wide range of racing titles, is now a part of Electronic Arts. The acquisition has been in the works for some time now, and today, EA officially confirmed the move on a blog post that welcomed the racing giant into the fold.
The acquisition has been an interesting journey to keep an eye on. Take-Two Interactive was originally in talks to purchase Codemasters with a deal that involved almost a billion dollars. However, EA threw a wrench into the takeover talks by making a "knockout bid" worth $1.2 billion, which Codemasters went on to accept in December.
"This is the beginning of an exciting new era for racing games and content as we bring together the talented teams at Electronic Arts and Codemasters," said Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson in a statement. "Racing fandom continues to grow worldwide, and the franchises in our combined portfolio will enable us to create innovative new experiences and bring more players into the excitement of cars and motorsport. Our teams will be a global powerhouse in racing entertainment, with amazing games for players on every platform, and we can’t wait to get started."
EA's racing portfolio already includes popular franchises like Need for Speed and Burnout. Now with Codemasters on its side, that list is increasing to include Dirt, GRID, Formula 1, and Project CARS, among other series that expand the publisher's scope beyond just arcade racers while also enabling it to have multiple racing game launches a year.
By Usama Jawad96
The first preview of .NET 6 is now live: Here's what you need to know
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft announced .NET 5 a few months ago as the first step in the path to .NET unification. The goal is to have a single set of APIs, languages, and tools that you can utilize across multiple platforms. Today, the firm has unveiled the next stepping stone in this journey, which is .NET 6 Preview 1.
The first preview of .NET 6 brings with it a raft of new features and capabilities. However, first and foremost is that it enables the next bits of .NET unification. Under this plan, while you can use .NET SDK to build mobile apps in Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, the size of the SDK will actually be smaller because mobile workloads are optional. This capability will be gradually rolled out with .NET 6 releases and will be complete in .NET 7.
With .NET 6, Microsoft is also leaning towards "open planning" so everyone is aware of the direction the company is headed in. This can be viewed in the Blazor-based app here which has multiple filters that allow you to see the plan most relevant to you.
Additionally, .NET 6 comes with a new Multi-platform App UI built on top of Xamarin. It is a toolkit that allows developers to get a consistent view of their apps across various platforms, also allowing them to share code. Microsoft states that the focus during .NET 6 releases will be performance, control themes, and "faster developer experiences". Preview 1 currently includes support for Android and iOS. Windows and macOS will be supported in future releases.
.NET 6 also includes support for developing Blazor desktop apps. This capability is primarily aimed at web developers who want to offer a feature-rich UI in offline desktop apps. Currently, Blazor desktop is being built for .NET apps, but Microsoft has stated that it can be used to build apps in other stacks like Swift as well. As can be ascertained, Blazor is built on top of the Multi-platform App UI, with focus being on providing performance similar to other desktop solutions.
Another project that the .NET is working on goes by the name of "fast inner loop". The aim of this initiative is to enable faster build time and to develop capabilities that allow developers to skip rebuilding altogether, and just integrate code edits in live processes.
With .NET 6, Microsoft is investing more in ARM64 support as well. Performance improvements are a key focus area in Preview 1, along with support for Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Framework (WPF). The development team also plans to add support for Windows Desktop app features in .NET 5 once it has enabled and tested them in .NET 6. With regards to Mac, initial support has been added for Apple Silicon ARM64 chips.
Microsoft also plans to improve containers in .NET 6. Multiple ways to do this include reducing container image size, enhancing the scalability of containers, adding support for Windows process-isolated containers, and optimizing performance, among many others. Based on the current Linux landscape and release strategy, Microsoft has stated that images for .NET 6 will be based on Alpine 3.13, Debian 11, and Ubuntu 20.04. Once the company begins to release new .NET 6 images, this base image version will not change. Debian 10, which has been used as the image in multiple past releases, will be retired.
The .NET command-line interface (CLI) also has a bunch of new experiences thanks to adoption of the System.CommandLine libraries. These include response files and Directives. Furthermore, math APIs and libraries have been added to .NET 6 too. It includes better support for Windows access control lists (ACLs) as well, with improvements to various relevant methods such as Semaphores and Mutex.
The .NET thread pool has been redesigned to enhance portability. It will be the standard for .NET releases going forward, and will allow applications to have access to the shared thread pool, regardless of their runtime.
A major part of .NET 6 Preview 1 is support for Apple Silicon. However, Microsoft has emphasized that this is currently in alpha stage. With this release, both ARM64 and x64 builds for macOS are being released. According to the company, this has been a major effort and as such, it does not plan to release ARM64 versions for earlier releases of .NET. Microsoft has also thanked Apple for all its support in bringing .NET 6 to Apple Silicon.
That said, there are still some issues with the current release on Apple Silicon. Debugging native .NET apps doesn't currently work for any Visual Studio product. Microsoft plans to add support for this in Preview 3. Other known issues include:
.NET has not been fully tested on Rosetta 2 emulation, but Microsoft has noted that this is a temporary bridge connected to ARM64 anyway, and will likely not be supported forever by Apple. The Redmond giant plans to support .NET on Macs on these older machines as long as Apple supports them.
As stated, another focus of this release is also performance improvements. As such, .NET 6 Preview 1 brings enhancements to single file apps, single-file signing on macOS, hardware-accelerated structs, and dynamic PGO. It also includes Crossgen2 - a new iteration of the initial Crossgen tool - which allows for easier code generation and cross-generation development. Currently, the SDK defaults to Crossgen, but will be moving to Crossgen2 in future preview releases.
.NET 6 will be officially released in November 2021, similar to how .NET 5.0 was released in the same timeframe last year. You can download .NET 6 by heading to this dedicated webpage and find out more details about it in the extensive blog post here. Microsoft has also stated that .NET 6 Preview 1 was tested on Visual Studio 16.9 Preview 4 and Visual Studio for Mac 8.9, so it is recommended that you use these configurations to test it for yourself.
By Abhay V
Google rolling out dark theme for Search on the desktop for some users
by Abhay Venkatesh
Google seems to be rolling out a new dark mode for Search on the desktop for some users. A new pop-up message suggesting that “Dark theme is now available has begun showing up for people, based on user posts on Twitter, which was corroborated by folks over at 9to5Google as well. The feature seems to also be showing up for users when accessing Google Search from the desktop in Incognito mode.
The prompt reportedly redirects users to a setting that lets them choose between light, dark, or system theme. This means that the search engine will adapt to the system theme settings on Windows and macOS, making it a much more streamlined option for those that prefer to switch between themes regularly. However, it is not clear if the rollout is part of an A/B test or an actual staggered release since the feature supposedly gets disabled for some users after a page refresh or when users navigate to image search.
This isn’t the first time that users have been able to spot dark mode for Search on the web. Back in May last year, the company was testing the theming option on mobile browsers via a hidden flag. Early this year, there were reports of a randomized test with an experience similar to what users are reporting today.
As for the theming option itself, the company is keeping the experience in line with its mobile apps, which means that the UI adapts a dark grey background color with white text. From the screenshots posted by users, it does not look like there are too many rough edges, although, the theme is applicable only to a few pages.
The addition of a dark theme for Search on the web will be a welcome addition for those that prefer the theming option, especially when working in dimly lit environments. It will be interesting to see if the Mountain View company expands the rollout of the feature soon or if this is another toe dip in the water to gauge reception from users.
By Abhay V
This week's Edge Dev build adds the option for a simplified right-click menu in PDFs
by Abhay Venkatesh
Just like clockwork, Microsoft has released a new Edge build to Dev channel users, bumping up the version to 90.0.789.1. While this is the second Edge 90 build being released for Dev users, it is still light on features, with the build today readying improvements to the right-click context menu for PDFs and adding a management policy for governing how Office files are opened in Edge. Other than that, there are a bunch of fixes to address reliability issues and changed behavior.
Additionally, the company has also reminded users of the impending end of support for Edge Legacy and has also linked to a post on what steps are to be taken by those that use kiosk mode. The firm has also detailed the new password management features brought by Microsoft Authenticator on mobile and on Chrome via the Microsoft Autofill extension.
With that out of the way, here is what’s new with today’s Dev channel release:
As mentioned in the release notes, the simplified right-click menu in PDFs is still rolling out gradually, so the settings to enable it might not be functional for most users for now. It is not clear what the exact changes are either, so users will have to wait for the completion of the rollout.
As usual, there are fixes to improve the reliability of the browser. Here is the complete list:
And here is a long list of fixes to address changed behavior, including a bunch of fixes aimed at Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):
Lastly, there are the known issues that users should be aware of when installing the latest Dev channel build. The list includes a few items that are being tracked for a while now, such as the duplication in favorites and the like:
As is the case always, the update should be installed in the background without any user intervention. However, you can always head into Settings and hit 'About Microsoft Edge' to force the browser to check for an update.
As for users in the Beta channel, the company released Edge version 89 to users in that channel last week, bringing features like sync data reset, PDF and autofill improvements, and more. As for Edge for Linux users, there is no word on when that version will receive features like history sync.