Garmin’s Varia radar warns cyclists about traffic they can’t see

imageSix months. That’s apparently how long it takes to buy a company, retool their product, and sell it under a new name. Garmin’s new Varia Rearview Bike Radar is a rear light that scans up to 140m behind a bicycle for traffic. It then hands that data o…

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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round online functionality delayed again

Dead or Alive 5 last round

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round for PC was a bit of a disaster when it released in March. Not only did it launch without an online mode, but it also suffered graphics equivalent to the PS3 version: not a good look for something marketed as a remaster. While the latter isn’t going to change, Team Ninja did promise it would implement online functionality by June. After a recent beta, though, the studio has decided it needs more time.

“Due to major issues found during the beta test, we will be postponing the release of the update,” Team Ninja wrote. “We apologize for the last minute notification and regret deeply the trouble we have caused our Steam customers who were looking forward to the online functionality. We will update the website with a new release date as soon as it is set.”

Those in the beta are free to keep playing it, though the studio also offered instructions for players keen to opt out of it. 

It’s hard to see a future for Dead or Alive on PC: this launch didn’t go down especially well with PC gamers, and nor did we obey Team Ninja when they said not to mod nudes into the already underdressed series. 

Cheers, Polygon.

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Heroes of the Storm’s new battleground brings a whole lot of Diablo

The Immortal for Battlefield of Eternity's Heaven side.
The Immortal for Battlefield of Eternity’s Heaven side.

Heroes of the Storm’s newest battleground, The Battlefield of Eternity, is the first in the game to be based on an existing Blizzard universe; Diablo. Until now, all of the maps have been part of the Nexus—a new world first introduced with Heroes of the Storm—and are very much in line with the game’s brightly colored, slightly cartoony aesthetic. One has an Egyptian setting, another has a pirate theme, but they all share a core style despite their thematic differences. All, that is, until The Battlefield of Eternity.

When I first heard Blizzard would be making a Diablo-themed map, I assumed it would share the familiar style of Heroes of the Storm’s other maps only with a Diablo flavor. But The Battlefield of Eternity goes far beyond flavor, almost entirely abandoning the look of the Nexus maps in favor of being a true Diablo battleground.

Heroes of the Storm Heaven and Hell

The map is a large battlefield (as the name would imply) split down the center with one team fighting for the armies of Heaven and the other for Hell. Minions and mercenaries aren’t just reskinned to be angels and demons, they are completely new models that look like they’ve been taken straight out of Diablo 3. Your core isn’t the usual statue, but a giant angelic/demonic warrior who explodes into piles of gold and loot when destroyed. And the centerpiece of the map is a battle between an Angel and a Demon, called Immortals.

Immortals’ fighting area

Immortal Spawn Heroes of the StormClick the arrows to enlarge.

The Immortals start in the circles on their respective sides. When one reaches 50% health, they move to the two circles in the middle.

In terms of gameplay, The Battlefield of Eternity has only two true lanes; one at the top and one at the bottom. The center is a large area with various obstacles and winding paths that plays host to the Immortal’s confrontation. Your team has to kill your opponent’s Immortal before they can kill yours, but the two aren’t right next to each other, meaning you’ll need to split your focus between attacking and defending. Once one Immortal has reached half health, the two clash in a series of scripted animations before reappearing in slightly different spots. When one has been defeated, the surviving Immortal will head to a lane and push down enemy structures.

The entire map seems to be about splitting your team’s resources. In The Haunted Mines, the only other two lane map, the lanes are close enough that you can go between them quickly if anything goes wrong—but getting from one side of The Battlefield of Eternity to the other will take significantly longer. When the Immortals are fighting, your whole team can’t be together without being absent from another important part of the map. Heroes with teleports and jumps such as Brightwing and Falstad are going to be very helpful during the laning periods of a match.

Upcoming hero King Leoric fighting Battlefield of Eternity's bruiser mercs,
Upcoming hero King Leoric fighting Battlefield of Eternity’s bruiser mercs,

The clashing animations for the Immortals are some of the most cinematic and beautiful things added to Heroes of the Storm so far, incomparable to any other animation in the game, but I’m not sure how I feel about the stark graphical difference otherwise. I’ve become so accustomed to how minions and mercenaries look, that seeing entirely new ones is a little jarring. I imagine I would have been happy with a Diablo themed set of merc camps, similar to previous maps, but maybe that formula would begin to feel tedious a few battlegrounds down the line. The unique looking minions may be Blizzard’s attempt at being proactive about this problem, and might mean it aims to vary the map objectives more consistently down the line.

One thing’s for sure: The Battlefield of Eternity battleground is undeniably Diablo—a faction of Blizzard’s roster that has so far been disappointingly under-represented. I haven’t played on the map enough to really see how the gameplay stacks up against the others, but you’ll see that it instantly distinguishes itself graphically. The changes may seem stark now, but they show that Blizzard isn’t afraid to bring its other worlds into Heroes of the Storm for more than just characters, and make me interested in what other new maps we might see in the future.

The Immortal for Battlefield of Eternity's Hell side.
The Immortal for Battlefield of Eternity’s Hell side.

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Sprint’s ‘all-in’ plan gives you a phone and service for $80

imageSprint has been experimenting with including phone leases in your plan for a while, and it’s clearly enraptured with the idea — enough so that it’s making the lease a part of its everyday service. The carrier’s new All-In plan gives you a phone and …

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PIQ golf sensor marries swing tracking with game analysis

imageThere are golf sensors out there that track your swing and others that give you yardage and stats, but wouldn’t it be nice to have one that did both? That’s the theory behind the PIQ golf sensor, which comes equipped with NFC, GPS, Bluetooth and a 13…

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Star Citizen FPS module is delayed for the foreseeable future

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Those eager to jump into Star Citizen’s first-person shooter module will need to wait, because the feature has been delayed indefinitely. In a blogpost on the Robert Space Industries website, Chris Roberts writes that the current FPS build, officially known as Star Marine, ”doesn’t live up to the standards we want to achieve with Star Citizen”. He doesn’t know for sure when the module will be ready for public consumption.

According to Roberts, ”technical blockers and gameplay issues” can be blamed for Star Marine’s delay, which was initially scheduled to release some time after PAX East in April. He can’t predict when the features will be rolled out, but the studio has allocated ”additional resources and increased cross-studio focus on the FPS portion of the game”.

The blogpost is quite thorough in describing the problems RSI is facing with Star Marine. Roberts says the protracted development period won’t dramatically affect the Star Citizen roadmap, though there will be some impact. “Integrating the FPS properly will help move every part of Star Citizen forward, as the tech will help form the blood and sinews of the whole game,” Roberts writes.

“But I can’t stress enough that two additional months spent on Star Marine are not the same thing as two months of a delay for Star Citizen.”

Check out the full post here

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What’s on your HDTV: Women’s World Cup, ‘Zoo’, ‘Vanilla Sky’ Blu-ray

imageThis week the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup will conclude, and the USWNT is taking on Germany Tuesday night. Beyond that, Cameron Crowe fans (still sticking around since the release of Aloha) can finally see Vanilla Sky on Blu-ray complete with an exte…

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Putting the Seal on Sivir

Sivir, League of Legends

Does League of Legends currently have a Sivir problem? She’s been a dominant presence across multiple continents, boasting a win rate that verges on making her ban-worthy. Yet it’s hard to immediately identify why this is so.

On paper, she isn’t the most intimidating AD carry. Her short auto-attack range is relatively unsafe, and though her poke is pretty good, her overall burst damage is usually outmatched by other options. Were it safety in fights, you’d usually want the long auto-attack range from Caitlyn, Jinx, Ashe or Kog’maw—with a good tank line, it’s difficult to trap them with any form of crowd control. Were it raw damage, Vayne, Kalista and Corki offer execution power that leaves Sivir in the pale. Her attack steroids are nothing much to boast of either, compared to the attack speed bonuses offered by other carries.

Yet to analyze Sivir based off her combat stats alone is to miss the forest for the trees. Certain pro players might dismiss her contributions as “just a Sivir comp,” but it says a lot about their own ignorance to treat it with such low priority despite its proven success.

Wild Hunt

Sivir’s team contributions exist along two fronts: map control and power amplification. The first is easy enough to understand: she deletes waves by pressing two buttons. A couple Boomerang Blade and Ricochet combos later, and the enemy bot lane duo’s stuck farming under the turret while she’s free to roam elsewhere.

Her wave control is especially relevant in organized play, where two-on-two bot lanes aren’t necessarily the guaranteed norm, nor are extended laning phases. Fast and reliable waveclear allows her team to focus on objectives early on and abuse early-game matchup advantages consistently. Either she gets an easy 2v1 lane, or she guarantees that her top laner has the better 1v1 option. In combination with the “sixth-man” pressure from the lane she’s pushed up, the enemy team will find themselves regularly split along two fronts, limiting their strategic options.

If they’re the sort of team that needs a long time to ramp up to their power spikes, that’s a deadly sort of pressure to face. Tear of the Goddess-using champions like mid lane Kog’maw or Cassiopeia, in particular, are pressed hard to find any sort of relevance—by the time they can afford to do anything but play defensively, their team will often be down the entire front line of towers as well as multiple Dragons.

But other AD carries can do a similar job without being nearly as dangerous as Sivir. Corki’s burst and poke can smash through minion waves just as well, after all, and he too is a powerful early-game pick. Unlike Sivir, however, Corki only has his own early game to rely on—he doesn’t bring a whole lot to everybody else’s kit.

On The Hunt might secretly be the best ultimate spell in the game. It might not do damage, nor does it offer or affect direct crowd control spells, but the powerful team-wide mobility does two extremely important things. Obviously it tips just-barely-infeasible champions into godlike status: the speed boost makes it much easier for champions like Rumble and Maokai to get into position for their spells, and makes even traditionally kite-able champions like Olaf into a real threat in the face of all of the dashes, blinks and Ghosts that litters the game. In a lot of cases, the only reason why a champion isn’t “good” is because of their lack of comparative mobility, and On The Hunt is a teamwide solution to that problem.

Related to that is the true secret to Sivir’s success: if her wave control can be considered a strategic seal on the enemy team, On The Hunt is an indirect form of crowd control that seals their micro-level tactical options too.

The best way to think about it is as a range extension to her allies’ own crowd control effects. Maokai’s Twisted Advance, Morgana’s Soul Shackles, Gragas’s Explosive Cask: it’s that much harder to stay out of their radii when Sivir is nearby to bolster their movement speed. Even before the first spell is cast, the enemy team finds their movement options sealed off as surely as if the choke points had been blocked off with Azir’s Emperor’s Divide.

Azir, League of Legends

Sealing Technique

Coincidentally, Azir’s exactly the sort of champion you want to run when facing a Sivir-reliant composition. Mass-knockback spells in general are the best tools versus On The Hunt, opening up vital space and movement options when Sivir’s team decides to engage. For that, you’d also want Gragas, Janna or Tristana—Explosive Cask, Monsoon and Buster Shot respectively.

Of course, while that opens up your team’s skirmish-level options, that doesn’t do enough in the face of Sivir’s map control—it’s nice to have when her team decides to force fights instead, but stopping them from simply out-rotating you is difficult at best.

For that, you want to fight fire with fire.

Righteous Glory’s one of the best options you can slap on a tank right now, thanks to the whopping 60% movement speed bonus it provides your team on activation, making it the equivalent of a mid-game On The Hunt. Area of Effect denial, like with Viktor’s Gravity Field, pre-empts Sivir’s movement options and denies her team critical chokepoints.

And then there’s the option of being so inherently mobile that even On The Hunt can’t close the gap for her team. Early-game Warrior junglers like Lee Sin and Jarvan are increasingly popular again, thanks to their huge inherent mobility and efficiency in shutting down Sivir early. But the most interesting choice I’ve seen so far’s back home in Taipei’s LoL Master Series, where mid lane maestro Westdoor’s fallen back to an old favorite.

Global and pseudo-global Teleport effects are the best forms of mobility money—or RP—can buy. Shen can almost literally be in two places at once, counteracting Sivir’s dominant map play, and his energy usage buffs have made the classic tank relevant again. But Twisted Fate is an even more interesting option. At first glance, his reliance on Gold Card to set up kills is a relatively poor choice versus Sivir, as she can simply Spell Shield it into oblivion (and give her extra mana for another Boomerang Blade at that). But the real threat from Twisted Fate is information.

Destiny is like having free wards up across the map. No matter what Sivir does, or how fast her team rotates, Westdoor’s Twisted Fate means they should never be able to catch the enemy team by surprise. Her wave control advantages are largely mitigated if the enemy team doesn’t actually have to choose between pushing a lane or fighting over Dragon, but gets to do both at the same time. Theoretically, Pantheon and Gangplank can do the same as well, thanks to their own global effects—though not Karthus, as Requiem is simply free mana for Sivir.

Twisted Fate, League of Legends

Threat Level

The big question at the moment: should Sivir be nerfed? In the face of her obvious strengths at the professional level, it’s tempting to say so. She has an extremely centralizing effect in the game at the moment—it’s hard to say otherwise when she isn’t just in every game, but actively sought after in the first couple pick rotations.

But hold that thought. Sivir’s centralization might suck for AD carries that are bored of basically playing a support role, but it’s hard to say that she’s bad for the game. As mentioned, she increases champion diversity for literally every other role, so even if the AD carries are bored, everybody else is having a grand old time dusting off champions that were formerly held back in a Sivir-less metagame.

What needs to be done, instead, is to decrease the current meta’s reliance on On The Hunt, and Riot’s already doing so. Improved gold gains with Ancient Coin makes Talisman of Ascension a much more feasible option for support players. Even better, the soft cap mechanic on movement speeds makes stacking their bonuses highly inefficient anyhow, so it’s not as if Sivir teams benefit even more from having the Talisman available on their side too.

In a rare once-a-year case, I have nothing to criticize about Riot’s balance plans… for now. If the lessons we’ve derived from Sivir’s current dominance is anything to go by, the upcoming item rebalances will do a lot to improve the game’s overall health.

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Ultima Underworld-inspired roguelike Barony out now

Barony

I was pretty excited about Ultima Underworld/System Shock/Nethack-inspired roguelike Barony a while back. And then I promptly forgot about it. And then I cooked a pizza, probably. And, hey, now Barony is out. I was excited because Ultima Underworld is the best thing ever, but with music and controls that make me want to walk into the sea rather than give it another go. System Shock is also the best thing ever, as is Nethack, probably, so a game that smushes them all together must be worth a look, right?

Barony is out now on Steam, and if you buy it in the next 30 hours or so you’ll get 15% off. Not pushing you to do that, but figured you might want to know, as I’m intrigued enough that I might stump up the cash myself. Sheridan Kane Rathbunhe’s game sure is ugly, but it’s as ambitious as anything, with four-player online co-op and a level editor sitting atop its randomly generated dungeon.

If you’re wondering why you’re in there, well:

“Barony tells the story of an undead lich named Baron Herx, who terrorized the town of Hamlet in a previous life and is now holding out in a vast subterranean complex known as the Devil’s Bastion. As a single hero or a group of adventurers, it is your mission to descend the depths of his abode, confront him in his hellish lair, and destroy him forever. Whether you will simply meet your doom in the dungeons as many have before you or rise to victory against the Baron and his hellspawn is ultimately up to you.”

I’d go for the latter option myself, but horses for courses and all that.

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Bombshell, the former Duke Nukem ARPG, gets a new trailer

If it weren’t for a legal scrap denying publisher 3D Realms access to the Duke Nukem brand, Bombshell would have been the meathead action hero’s first foray into the ARPG genre. That may end up a blessing though, because shorn of Duke’s baggage the footage above looks pretty promising. It looks like a Duke game in spirit – even some of the sound effects are uncannily familiar – but with a new protagonist and a crisper aesthetic (compared to this earlier trailer), Bombshell looks like it could stand on its own.

The work of Interceptor (the studio responsible for 2013′s rebooted Rise of the Triad), Bombshell will launch later this year. It’ll be playable at QuakeCon too, which takes place July 23-26. 

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