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Rare details the Sea of Thieves Seasons battle pass system
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Rare announced last month that Sea of Thieves will be going through another major overhaul soon after the new year, and that time has almost arrived. The game is moving to a seasonal content delivery system and gaining a battle pass like many other live-service titles. Today, Rare provided the first complete look at the new systems coming to the pirate adventure game later this week.
Each season will last around three months, containing an injection of new features at the start as well as events, quality of life changes, and other updates while it is active. Players will have 100 levels of Renown to climb through while a season is active, with each one offering Gold, Doubloons, and various cosmetic rewards for pirates and ships.
Simply playing the game is enough to climb levels, as almost every action - pirate or not - provides Renown. There are also special challenges named Trials that players can complete for a boost of Renown. These can include deeds such as setting skeletons on fire or simply catching a certain fish in a certain area. Pirate Legends have a few special items just for them to unlock too.
"This move to a Seasonal structure is designed to enrich the game and provide players with the freedom to enjoy Sea of Thieves their way, while making sure that a feeling of progression is present throughout a whole gameplay session," said Rare. "We know how frustrated some of you have felt when something’s gone awry and you’ve lost loot, so Seasonal play is there to let you make progress and leave satisfied every time you set sail."
Interestingly, everything mentioned above is free to achieve for all players without needing a premium pass. There is an optional paid option available named the Plunder Pass - which costs $10 in Ancient Coins - but only 11 additional premium items are given out during the first season. These items will remain exclusive to the Plunder Pass until a season is over and then arrive at the Pirate Emporium later.
Sea of Thieves Season One is slated to kick off on January 28 across PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S for players that own the game or play it via Xbox Game Pass.
Nvidia 461.40 WHQL driver carries support for RTX 30 series laptops and The Medium
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The second graphics driver update of the year from Nvidia has landed. Unlike the previous one that only carried security updates and a few bug fixes, the WHQL-certified 461.40 Game Ready driver carries support for Nvidia's new line of GeForce RTX 30 series laptop GPUs as well as the upcoming title The Medium.
Owners of new laptops with RTX 3080, RTX 3070, and RTX 3060 series GPUs are recommended to install this driver. These new GPUs deliver massive performance increases over the RTX 20 series according to Nvidia, promising up to 50% better frame rates.
Meanwhile, Bloober Team's horror game The Medium is slated to land on January 28, and thanks to Nvidia's support, the game is coming with ray tracing and DLSS technologies.
Here are all the bug fixes listed for this release, which also includes the much-awaited SteamVR stutter fix:
The known issues are as follows:
A number of gaming monitors have received G-Sync compatibility validation as well, with the XB253Q GP, XB273GZ, and XV272S from Acer, the Asus VG279QR, the Lenovo G27Q-20 and MSI G273Q, as well as the Philips MAG251RX now gaining support.
The 461.40 WHQL Game Ready driver can be downloaded through Nvidia's GeForce Experience app or the links listed below. The release notes for this release can be seen here.
Download: Windows 7, 8, 8.1 | Windows 10 – Standard / DCH
Download: Windows 7, 8, 8.1 | Windows 10 - Standard / DCH
By Usama Jawad96
Konami denies shutting down its gaming division
by Usama Jawad
Konami used to be a very well-known name in the gaming industry, highlighted by its work with the Silent Hill and Metal Gear Solid franchises. However, with no major releases from these popular franchises making their way to gamers in recent years, the company has not been in the spotlight for quite some time. The firm's PES football games are still being released in their usual annual release cadence, but have a relatively smaller playerbase compared to EA's FIFA.
Recently, rumors emerged that Konami has shut down its gaming division, but the firm has now swiftly denied these allegations.
Reports of the closure of Konami's gaming division emerged based on an official news release from January 15, in which the company highlighted some internal restructuring and personnel changes. What triggered the rumor was a statement at the bottom, which stated that Konami is dissolving three of its "Product Divisions", which were considered to be the company's game development divisions.
Likely fueled by Konami's quiet presence in the gaming industry, many considered this to be a submission of defeat from the firm, and an announcement that it is phasing out of game development. However, in a statement to IGN, the company has denied these rumors, saying that:
The brief but clear statement indicates that this is a mere restructuring and Konami is not shutting down its game studios. However, it remains to be seen what major titles the company has in store for gamers, especially with the advent of a new console generation.
Source: Konami via IGN
Microsoft Weekly: Price fluctuations, Win32 reloaded, and hardware availability
by Florin Bodnarescu
This last week has brought a bit of indecisiveness from Microsoft in regards to Xbox Live Gold pricing, a commitment to Win32, and an expansion in hardware availability. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of January 17 – 23.
On Friday, Microsoft caused a bit of a reaction from its player base as it decided to unceremoniously – and rather randomly – bump up the price for Xbox Live Gold. The monthly membership was increased by $1 to $10.99, the three-month price by $5 to $29.99, and the six-month membership was bumped up to $59.99. The latter price is the same the service used to cost for an entire year, which means that in effect, Microsoft doubled the price for Gold at the yearly level.
Not surprisingly, the reaction was swift and angry, at which point the company thankfully backpedaled on this decision, further stating that pricing will remain that same, and that free-to-play multiplayer games will not require a subscription.
It is however very possible that the company was trying to make Xbox Game Pass Ultimate a no-brainer deal at $180 per year, versus the (previously new) $120 per year for Xbox Live Gold. In case you had any doubts that Microsoft really wants folks to adopt Game Pass, you get 12 months of Game Pass Ultimate and a Razer Kishi Controller when buying a Galaxy S21 from the UK’s EE wireless carrier.
And speaking of such things, the Games with Gold for February have been revealed, and they include Gears 5, Resident Evil, Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, as well as Lost Planet 2.
For folks that do however prefer Game Pass, Remedy’s Control is now available to play as part of the subscription, along with a slew of other titles like The Medium, Desperados III, and many more. For the full lineup of titles, as well as games leaving the subscription, be sure to check out this link.
Finally, in more app news than anything else, the YouTube app on Xbox now has HDR support for videos.
As you’d imagine, Microsoft was busy handing out Insider preview builds this week as well, with build 21296 making its way to the Dev channel. Don’t get too excited though, as it includes two minor changes to the Clipboard and Storage Spaces, as well as a laundry list of fixes, but even more known issues. The vast majority of known issues are related to the newly introduced news and interests feature from the taskbar.
There’s also build 20285 for folks previewing Server builds, a build which currently has no changelog attached to it.
In other Insider news, build 19042.782 made its way to testers in the Beta and Release Preview channels, bringing about a substantial number of fixes, despite it being a mere cumulative update. On a somewhat related note, there are reports that Microsoft may start testing Windows 10 21H1 beginning with build 19043. To the surprise of few, this will most likely be an enablement package, just like 1909 and 20H2.
And speaking of those, Microsoft did also release some out of band updates for at least one of those versions, namely 1909. The Knowledge Base number for this update is KB4598298, and bumps the build number up to 18363.1350. There are a lot of fixes included, but the bug related to system and user certificates is still present. For its part, 1809 got KB4598296, which brings the build number up to 17763.1728 with the singular known issue listed as being the “0x800f0982 – PSFX_E_MATCHING_COMPONENT_NOT_FOUND” message related to Asian language packs.
Finally, we’ll end with the story that’s hinted at in the title of this section, namely the Redmond firm’s commitment to Win32. It would appear that indeed, reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated, despite Microsoft’s best efforts to supplant it via Windows 8’s Metro UI and companion WinRT toolset, or Windows 10’s UWP approach. There’s also Project Reunion which aims to unify all of the disparate libraries and APIs, as well as Windows 10X which is still yet to prove itself – as it hasn’t even come out.
To aid with the transitionary period though, there’s now a toolset called win32metadata, which allows devs to more easily wrap Win32 APIs in order to take advantage of them for apps not written in C or C++. As to how successful this will be, remains to be seen
Folks following the company closely may know that it recently released its Surface Pro 7+ hardware refresh, but it’s worth noting that the “previous” generation is still up for grabs. Specifically, there’s now a Surface Pro 7 + Type Cover (with Fingerprint ID) which would normally cost $2,059.98 being sold for $1,699.98. If you’re in the market for such a device, this bundle will save you about $360.
Moving on to the more traditional laptop form factor, the Laptop Go is now available in India, while the Laptop 3 may soon receive another variant, as it’s been spotted passing through Bluetooth certification.
In terms of the education market, Microsoft has also released five new inexpensive options from partners, all of which support 4G LTE and range in price from $185 to $329. There’s also the Classroom Pen 2, which is now being sold for $19.99.
Microsoft, Cruise, and GM have teamed up to commercialize self-driving vehicles. Microsoft Lists is now available for iOS. An event centered on Azure SQL and Data Factory will kick off on February 3. The Redmond giant will hold a free Azure Quantum Dev Workshop on February 2. You can now receive notifications from Yammer communities in Teams. Microsoft To Do’s web app now supports AI-based task suggestions. Windows Terminal is set to gain a settings UI in its next version. Teams will be integrated into SAP solutions. Microsoft has stopped PAC donations. Logging off
We’re at the edge of this weekly column, so how else would we end, other than talking about Microsoft’s eponymous browser.
Kicking things off with some Insider news, folks in possession of a HoloLens 2 can now test out the brand-new version of Edge inside the AR environment, joining testers who’ve had access to it on other platforms for quite a while.
For example, Edge Dev’s build 89.0.767.0 is now out, adding minor autofill improvements, with the stable channel getting Edge 88 complete with history sync, sidebar search, and more. Also part of this release is Password Monitor, a built-in tool that lets you know whether your passwords have been compromised.
And lastly, if you find the default look of the browser a tad boring, there’s always the option to change things up a bit via custom themes. Yes, the browser has been able to add Chrome themes for a while, but now custom ones, based on Microsoft properties like Ori and the Will of Wisps have been added to Edge’s add-on store.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
Weekend PC Game Deals: EA Play for cheap, a bundle of Humble survivors, and more
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Weekend PC Game Deals is where the hottest gaming deals from all over the internet are gathered into one place, every week, for your consumption. So kick back, relax, and hold on to your wallets.
Humble ended its gaming bundle hiatus this week, bringing in a collection filled with survival-related titles. Considering the store's winter sales are still going on, it's an uncommon sight to have a gaming bundle show up while a major promotion is active.
The new Built to Survive bundle offers only a single game in its $1 tier, with a copy of Deadly Days being included. The 'pay more than the average tier', which is currently going for around $8.60, adds four more games to the pile, them being Generation Zero, Mad Max, Memories of Mars, and Life is Feudal: Your Own.
The reason for the average price being so high is the final tier, which adds on copies of World War Z - GOTY Edition and Genesis Alpha One Deluxe Edition for $10.
The giveaways of Epic returned right on schedule this week with Galactic Civilizations III taking the freebie slot over from Battlefront II.
The civilization builder offers a 4X turn-based experience set in space where you can go against up to 100 opponents. Usual strategy mechanics of the genre apply here, though with a futuristic-space flair, with you being tasked with exploring space, expanding your empire, exploiting resources, and exterminating any threatening factions.
This freebie will end its promotion on January 28, which is when the metroidvania Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition will take its place.
The free events space is bustling again this weekend after a rather long slow period, offering you more than a few experiences to try out. Beginning with sole Uplay game, Ubisoft is currently running a free event for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, opening the cooperative tactical shooter to everyone until January 25
Meanwhile on Steam, there is another event promoting demos, this time highlighting a massive number of upcoming indie adventure games. Standard free events are numerous too, with Amplitude Studios' 4X games Endless Legend and Endless Space 2, plus its rogue-like Dungeon of the Endless having free weekends right now.
Moreover, the cooperative train track building party game Unrailed as well as Saber Interactive's arcade fighting game WWE 2K Battlegrounds are having Steam free weekend promotions right now.
Before we get to our usual big deals, you should know that EA is currently running a discount promotion for its EA Play (formerly Origin Access) subscription program. First-time subscribers can enter the membership for $0.99 for their first month until March, and we suggest getting the Origin version as it offers far more games than the EA Play offering on Steam.
And now, on to our list of highlights for this weekend:
CODE VEIN – $23.99 on Steam Raji: An Ancient Epic – $18.74 on Steam Final Fantasy XV – $17.49 on Humble Store Streets of Rage 4 – $17.49 on Steam WWE 2K Battlegrounds – $17.20 on GreenManGaming Karnage Chronicles VR – $16.74 on Steam Resident Evil 4/5/6 – $15.02 on Steam Monster Sanctuary – $14.99 on Steam Train Sim World 2 – $14.99 on Steam Volcanoids - Early Access – $14.99 on Steam Wreckfest – $14.99 on Humble Store F.E.A.R. Complete Pack – $13.74 on Humble Store Ghost Recon Wildlands – $13.49 on Fanatical Megaquarium – $12.49 on Steam Touhou Luna Nights – $12.05 on Steam RESIDENT EVIL 2 remake – $11.99 on GamesPlanet Assassin's Creed Origins – $10.79 on Fanatical Endless Space 2 - Digital Deluxe Edition – $9.99 on Steam Unrailed! – $9.99 on Steam Pine – $9.99 on Steam The Beast Inside – $9.99 on Steam SUPERHOT – $9.99 on Steam Observation – $9.99 on Humble Store Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – $9.99 on Humble Store Ghost Recon Breakpoint – $9.00 on Ubisoft Store RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard – $8.99 on Fanatical Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Edition – $8.99 on Steam DARQ: Complete Edition – $8.99 on Steam Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap – $7.99 on Steam Kerbal Space Program – $7.99 on IndieGala Shadow Warrior 2 – $7.99 on Humble Store Crysis + Warhead Maximum Edition – $7.49 on Steam Crysis 2 - Maximum Edition – $7.49 on Steam Battle Chasers: Nightwar – $7.49 on Steam Endless Legend - Emperor Edition – $7.49 on Steam The Legend of Bum-Bo – $7.49 on Steam IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad – $7.49 on Steam Gris – $6.79 on Humble Store Prey – $5.99 on Humble Store The Red Strings Club – $4.94 on Steam The End is Nigh – $3.74 on Steam Dungeon of the Endless - Crystal Edition – $2.99 on Steam Super Meat Boy – $2.99 on Steam 100% Orange Juice – $1.74 on Steam The Binding of Isaac – $0.99 on Steam Galactic Civilizations III – $0 on Epic Store DRM-free Goodness
A massive number of RPGs are on sale at GOG alongside a separate promotion of challenging games. Check out our DRM-free highlights list below:
Disco Elysium - $25.99 on GOG Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire - $19.99 on GOG Divinity: Original Sin 2 - Definitive Edition - $17.99 on GOG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - GOTY Edition - $14.99 on GOG Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! - $14.99 on GOG Pathfinder: Kingmaker - $13.99 on GOG Cultist Simulator - $13.39 on GOG Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition - $9.99 on GOG Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition - $9.99 on GOG Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition - $9.99 on GOG Opus Magnum - $9.99 on GOG Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - $8.99 on GOG SHENZHEN I/O - $7.49 on GOG Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition - $4.99 on GOG Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition - $4.99 on GOG Betrayal at Krondor Pack - $3.89 on GOG Spelunky - $2.99 on GOG Spacechem - $2.49 on GOG Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura - $1.49 on GOG Lands of Lore 1+2 - $1.49 on GOG Might and Magic 7: For Blood and Honor - $1.49 on GOG Super Hexagon - $1.01 on GOG Keep in mind that availability and pricing for some deals may vary depending on the region you're in.
And that is it for our pick of this weekend's PC game deals folks, and hopefully, some of you have enough self-restraint to not add even more games to your growing backlogs. Of course, there is an enormous amount of more deals ready and waiting all over the internet if you comb through it hard enough, so keep your eyes open for those, and have a fantastic weekend.