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Minecraft gains Star Wars DLC themed after original trilogy and The Mandolorian
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Minecraft is no stranger to crossovers, and the latest one to be introduced to the behemoth block-based sandbox title is from a galaxy far, far away. The official Minecraft Star Wars DLC Mojang Studios unveiled today has skins, a licensed soundtrack, flyable vehicles, locations, and much more from the sci-fi universe.
The new Mash-up Pack contains content from the original trilogy - A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi -, and The Mandalorian series. This includes Star Wars-themed UI and audio elements, skins for players, mobs, and items, plus a pre-built map full of iconic locations that present various scenes from the franchise.
Moreover, Mojang has included X-wings, Tie Fighters, and the Razor Crest as flyable ships that let players jump to locations like Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, Nevarro, and the Death Stars.
The Star Wars DLC for Minecraft is now available for purchase via the Minecraft Marketplace. Also, this is not the only Microsoft and Disney partnership that has cropped up recently, as the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription currently offers a 30-day trial of Disney+ for free.
Minecraft Java Edition will soon require a Microsoft account
by João Carrasqueira
The original release of Minecraft, now called Minecraft: Java Edition, is soon going to require a Microsoft account to play. The announcement was made on the Minecraft blog, and it means that existing players will start to be moved to Microsoft accounts next year. The move will be mandatory, so you won't be able to play the game if you don't switch to the new account.
To justify the decision to move its player base, Minecraft developer Mojang said that Microsoft accounts offer a range of benefits compared to a regular account. These include additional security thanks to two-factor authentication, linking different games in the Minecraft universe to the same account, improved parental controls, and the ability to block chat messages and invitations.
Aside from using a Microsoft account, there won't be any big changes with the transition. Existing skins and mods will continue to work, and users get to keep their current username. In fact, Microsoft is giving players a small reward for going through the process - a special cape for your character. The company is also teasing that more rewards may be revealed later. You can learn more about the transition in this FAQ.
For new players, the Microsoft account requirement will come into place this fall, meaning you'll need one to create a new account. Because there are a lot of players on the Java Edition of Minecraft (in 2019, the company reported that 30 million copies of the game had been sold), existing players will be moved in batches starting next year. Users will receive emails with instructions on how to make the move when their turn comes.
Microsoft Weekly: Steve in Smash, Surface Laptop Go, and surprising updates
by Florin Bodnarescu
This week brought a surprising announcement for fans of Smash Bros. Ultimate, a newer and smaller Surface Laptop, and a long overdue addition of a storage health feature to Windows. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of September 27 - October 2.
Steve in Smash
Obviously, the biggest news of the week wasn’t the unveil of the new Microsoft hardware. The biggest news was that Minecraft protagonist Steve is going to be added to the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster. Joining him are Alex, Zombie, and Enderman from the same blocky sandbox game, though it's unclear in what capacity they will be joining.
In other Minecraft news, the next major update, dubbed Caves and Cliffs, is set to land in 2021, and will bring lakes, tunnels, caverns, waterfalls and more to caves, some with different mini-biomes inside. Furthermore, there’s a new archeology system, new ores, improved map generation, mountain goats, sculk sensor blocks, and much more. The target for launch is summer 2021.
Until then however, there are Deals with Gold to explore, Games with Gold to claim – like Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut, Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, Maid of Sker, and Costume Quest -, as well as an update for Grounded which adds ziplines, a biome remap, and more.
As far as game launches are concerned, Torchlight III will release on all platforms (including the Xbox One) on October 13, cross-play support in Apex Legends is set to be enabled between PC, PS4, and Xbox One next week, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s release date has been moved up to November 10 on consoles and PC, with the PS5 getting the game on March 2, 2021.
And speaking of the November 10 release of the Series X and Series S, there’s now a 60 fps+ badge for supported games on the Microsoft Store, and EA Play titles are set to join Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on the same day in November.
Since we’re on the subject of Game Pass, it’s prudent to end with the fact that Doom Eternal is now available on the Android and Console variants of the subscription, with Drake Hollow also being playable by the folks on PC. On October 8, you’ll be able to play Brütal Legend via Game Pass for Console, Forza Motorsport 7 via Xbox, PC, or your Android device (through xCloud), and Ikenfell on Xbox and PC.
While Dishonored 2 is no longer being removed from the subscription, Microsoft having bought ZeniMax, come October 15, Felix the Reaper, Metro 2033 Redux, and Minit will be removed from the subscription on both PC and Xbox, with Saints Row IV Re-Elected and State of Mind leaving the PC subscription.
Surface Laptop Go
After being rumored for a while, then having its name leaked a few days before Microsoft’s event, the 12.5-inch Surface Laptop Go made its debut earlier this week, starting at $549. The base configuration however is far from stellar, packing a Core i5-1035G1, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMCC storage.
As expected, Microsoft also refreshed the Surface Pro X, giving it a new SQ2 processor, as well as a Platinum color option to better match with the rest of the Surface lineup. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this may be the Pro X 2, but it’s not. Microsoft says this is actually a different SKU of the same first-gen product. Even though it has a better processor, but we’ll gloss over that.
If you’re interested in either of the devices above, you can pre-order the Laptop Go already, and pick it up on October 13, while the new Pro X configs don’t really have any dates listed, just prices. And as far as one of the pain points of the Pro X, Microsoft confirmed that x64 emulation is coming to Windows on ARM.
This being a hardware event, Microsoft also unveiled a new keyboard, new mice, as well as a display adapter. The firm went one step further though, and instead of adding even more hardware to the mix, it actually removed some. Specifically, the Surface Duo’s bigger counterpart, the Neo, is now gone from Microsoft’s website. This comes after the specific product page had the ‘Holiday 2020’ disclaimer scrubbed off a few weeks ago. It’ll be interesting to see if the device will actually materialize for sale at a later date, or if it’ll go the way of Courier.
Lastly, if you’re a Surface Book 3 or Pro 7 owner, there are some driver and firmware updates waiting for you, which should improve power consumption of the built-in cameras, as well as system stability.
Given the somewhat lackluster “launch” of the May 2020 Update, the recent stats from AdDuplex are pretty surprising. The – as of writing – latest update to land for general Windows 10 users is now the second most used version of the OS, behind only version 1909 (the November 2019 Update). Even so, the difference between these versions comes in at less than 1%. For those of you who have version 2004 (May 2020 Update) already installed, Microsoft also pushed out an update this week, namely KB4577063, which bumps the build revision number up to 19041.546 and has a bunch of Windows Mixed Reality fixes.
Flipping over to the Insider side, those in the Beta and Release Preview channels were offered build 19042.546 this week, which fixed an issue preventing devices from entering Modern Standby, as well as a reliability issue with Edge. This of course is the equivalent update for Windows 20H2, or to call it by its “friendlier” name, the October 2020 Update, soon to be released to everybody. Whether this is actually soon or Microsoft soon, we’ll have to wait and see.
And last but not least, testers in the Dev channel were given something to play with too, as build 20226 landed, bringing with it storage health monitoring. Be aware that theme syncing is disabled in this build for some reason, but that there is an otherwise rather lengthy set of fixes and known issues. In terms of the latter, some testers may still experience the bug whereby Windows Update would hang for a while.
Outlook for iPad now has drag and drop support, automatic conversion of handwritten text. Skype 8.65 is now up, adding “raise hand” and other improvements for Insiders. AstraZeneca makes use of PyTorch and Azure ML to speed up drug discovery. PowerToys 0.23 is now available, focusing on bug fixes. Here are all the features added to Teams in September. Outlook.com was down in certain regions this week, following a recent configuration update. Logging off
We end with some good news for Chromium Edge users, and some interesting news for fans of the Windows kernel.
In terms of Edge news, Microsoft is currently rolling out the ability to create a custom theme for your New Tab Page. This is currently being rolled out to those in the Stable and Beta channels.
Folks in the Dev and Canary channels can now take advantage of the new Web Capture feature – which is now live -, that allows you to save a screenshot of a particular web page to your clipboard. It isn’t quite as powerful as Legacy Edge’s annotation feature, but it’s getting there.
As far as something that may be relevant to devs, the Edge Dev Tools are now available for Visual Studio Code, and Edge Dev itself has been updated to build 87.0.654.0 with a couple of minor features and a lot of bug fixes.
Last but not least, given Microsoft’s recent affinity for Linux, open-source advocate Eric Raymond believes the company is ready to switch the Windows kernel for the Linux one. Raymond called Windows a “sideshow”, quoting its middling revenue in comparison to other parts of the company.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
Minecraft's next major update is Caves and Cliffs, landing in 2021
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
During the Minecraft Live digital event today, Mojang announced Caves and Cliffs to be the next major update coming to the sandbox title. As evident by the update's name, it will greatly enhance these two major portions with changes to terrain generation, addition of new systems like archeology as well as new mobs.
As part of the caves overhaul, Mojang is bringing in lakes, tunnels, caverns, waterfalls, and more to these underground retreats. Caves will also come in different flavors like lush and dripstone, making them their own mini-biomes to explore. The new archeology system ties into this, where players will be able to discover ancient artifacts in ruins, giving them the opportunity to carefully dig out these treasures using the new brush tool.
Other cave-related additions announced today include at least two new ore types - copper and geodes - plus the movement-activated hostile mob Warden and the friendly water-dwelling Axolotl mob.
Meanwhile, on the Cliffs side of the update, Mojang is once again implementing improved map generation for more extravagant mountains with icy tops and dangerous crevices. Mountain goats are incoming as new mobs too, who will scale mountainsides and headbutt players if given the chance.
While more information regarding what else is in this massive update will be revealed later, other announced additions today include sculk sensor blocks, which essentially enable wireless Redstone circuits, telescopes, lightning rods, and item bundles that allow for more carrying capacity. A specific release date isn't attached to the Minecraft Caves and Cliffs update, but Mojang is aiming to launch it during the summer of 2021.
The studio also revealed during the event that the Minecraft Dungeons ARPG spin-off is gaining another DLC campaign, Howling Peaks, in December alongside a season pass while cross-play will be enabled via a free update in November.
Steve from Minecraft is joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
by João Carrasqueira
Today, Nintendo held a new YouTube presentation to show off the next fighter to join the roster of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as part of the Fighters Pack Vol. 2 expansion. As it turns out, Nintendo and Microsoft are once again cozying up to each other, as the new character to be added to the brawler is Steve, from the blockbuster game Minecraft.
In fact, Steve isn't the only Minecraft character joining the fight. Alex, Zombie, and Enderman are all going to be added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, though the technicalities of how these characters will be implemented weren't detailed. It's likely that each character will be treated as an alternate costume for the same character slot, as we've never seen multiple characters being counted as a single addition to the roster.
Playing as the new characters, you'll see familar elements from Minecraft, such as the placement of blocks, which allow players to gain height or trap enemies in structures. It's also possible to craft explosives, swords, and other offensive items. Additionally, there also appear to be multiple stages, or variations of a stage, being added, building on the idea of different biomes and the ability to craft pathways.
The brief video didn't go into details of the character or stages, though the game's director explained that implementing Minecraft characters was a challenge due to the nature of the game, as existing stages had to be reworked to allow the placement of blocks. A new presentation will be held on October 3, just ahead of Minecraft Live, to show off the news in greater detail. We should also hear about a release date by then. This is the second Microsoft-owned character after Banjo and Kazooie were added last year.