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[VIDEO GAMES] Assassin’s Creed Origins

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Assassin’s Creed Origins is an action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the tenth major installment in the Assassin’s Creed series and the successor to 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. It was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 27, 2017.

The game is set in Ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic period and recounts the secret fictional history of real-world events. The story explores the origins of the centuries-long conflict between the Brotherhood of Assassins, who fight for peace by promoting liberty and The Order of the Ancients—forerunners to the Templar Order—who desire peace through the forceful imposition of order. Origins received positive reviews from critics, who praised the story, voice acting, immersive world of Egypt and visuals, while criticizing some of the pacing and technical issues. Despite this, some critics called it the best installment of the series since 2013’s Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed Origins is an action-adventure stealth game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete quests—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story, earn experience points, and acquire new skills. Outside of quests, players can freely roam the open world environment on foot, horseback, camel-back or boat to explore locations, complete optional side-quests and unlock weapons and equipment.

The “eagle vision” mode, which was used by the franchise to give players the ability to scout an area by highlighting enemies and objects, has been replaced by a Bonelli’s eagle named Senu as a companion.Players are able to take control of Senu and scout an area in advance, highlighting enemies which will then be visible when they return to controlling Bayek, the game’s main character. Players can also tame various predators which will serve as a companion for the players and assist them against enemies. Naval combat, underwater exploration and tomb raiding return to the series. However, unlike previous games in the series, Origins Does not include many tall structures for climbing to unlock areas of the map.

The game also features revised combat mechanics. Previous titles in the Assassin’s Creed series used a “paired animation system” whereby the player character would engage with an enemy and combat would be dictated by a series of predeterminted animations based on player inputs and scripted AI movements. Assassin’s Creed Origins will move to a “hit-box system”. When the player wields a weapon, they will strike at whatever is in range, allowing them to hit enemies directly, injure individual body parts, and creating the possibility of missing an enemy entirely. Complementing this is the way weapons fall into different categories and are rated on their damage dealt, speed and range. Enemies will be drawn from several basic archetypes that use a variety of tactics in combat which, combined with the hit-box system, will require players to learn the attributes of individual weapons and tailor their playing style to succeed in combat. As enemy combat is also dictated by the hit-box system, the player will be equipped with a shield and will need to balance their offensive and defensive capabilities. Locations within the game world will be designed to enable players to choose their playing style by offering stealth and open combat as equally-viable choices for completing objectives.

Origins introduces an arena-based combat system where the player fights waves of increasingly-difficult combinations of enemies culminating in a boss fight. While the introduction to the arena is incorporated into the main story, the arena mode stands alone from the wider narrative. The game world features several arenas, with a variety of enemy combinations and unique bosses not found in the game world. Players will be able to unlock additional weapons and equipment by completing arena fights.

A future update to the game will add “Discovery Tour”, a sandbox mode allowing players to freely explore the open world with no objectives or combat, and embark on guided tours that highlight aspects of Egyptian history

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[TECH NEWS] Spotify could be valued at $20 billion when it goes public

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Spotify could eventually hit $100 billion: GP Bullhound

Spotify could eventually hit $100 billion: GP Bullhound  

Spotify could be valued at $20 billion when it goes public and eventually be worth $100 billion, according to one investment bank.

GP Bullhound, which is an investor in Spotify, laid out a thesis on Monday that could see Spotify’s valuation rise to $55 billion by 2020, before reaching the $100 billion mark, which would make it one of the most valuable stocks in the world.

A number of reasons could be behind the valuation from faster-than-expected subscriber growth to increased penetration in the emerging markets and better deals with music labels, GP Bullhound said in a report.

100 million subscribers

Spotify announced in July that it had hit 60 million paying users. GP Bullhound sees this hitting 100 million by mid-2018, quicker than it had originally thought. And by 2020, the user base could hit 500 million, with 200 million users being premium subscribers.

This will be achieved by penetrating new markets, but along with that will come fewer paying subscribers as a percentage of total users, and perhaps lower average revenue per customer, due to a dilution effect of cheaper subscription plans.

“Spotify have introduced family plans and student discounts and if we factor in that emerging markets have a much lower average revenue per premium subscriber we believe that Spotify will see a steady decline in revenue per premium subscriber moving towards 2020 compared to today’s value,” GP Bullhound said in its report.

“This is the reason why we have decreased our estimated average revenue per premium subscriber to $80 — compared to $88 in 2015 and $89 in 2016.”

But the investment bank said that advertising could lead to a higher revenue per non-premium subscriber than previously anticipated.

Profitability on the horizon?

Even though Spotify is set to grow quickly, it is likely to continue recording an operating loss which could “distract investors from the true value that is being created,” GP Bullhound said.

But the music streaming service’s return on investment should improve. Currently for every dollar it invests in a premium subscriber, it gets $3 back. The return could increase to $5 by 2020 as revenue per user stabilizes, churn decreases, and gross margin improves.

Gross margins will improve as Spotify strikes better deals with music labels thanks to its rising user base.

$100 billion valuation ahead?

GP Bullhound’s forecast of a valuation for Spotify of $20 billion after its initial public offering (IPO), is based on it having 70 million premium subscribers and 100 million non-premium users. Given that this will likely be reached in the next few months, the investment bank said its valuation thesis is “conservative”.

Eventually, the Swedish company could hit a $100 billion valuation.

“Given that Spotify’s growth continues and that emerging market growth keeps average revenue per premium subscriber relatively in shape we envision that Spotify has a long term potential of being valued at $100 billion,” GP Bullhound said.

It’s important to note that Spotify is not going to carry out a traditional IPO. Sources told CNBC earlier this year that Spotify is going to go public in a so-called direct listing.

During an IPO, the company offers investors shares before it goes public, which allows underwriters to set an initial share price. A direct listing only allows investors to buy shares through the open market, and no price is predetermined.

Apple threat?

GP Bullhound said it does not expect to see Apple outgrow Spotify anytime soon. The investment bank said that Spotify’s already large user base and simpler user interface when using the app, is better than rivals’.

But Spotify does face risks. If the industry moves towards more voice-dominated inputs like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, this could be a disadvantage. Spotify does not have its own voice assistant and it should see Apple’s HomePod smart speaker as a “threat”, GP Bullhound said.

To get around this, Spotify could partner with speaker hardware makers. But this could get expensive.

“Both points mentioned above could in turn require significant investment in both capital and time,” GP Bullhound concluded.

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[TECH NEWS] Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak: iPhone X is the first iPhone I won’t buy on ‘day one’

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said he’s not in a hurry to buy the next iPhone — even though he usually rushes out to upgrade on opening day.

“I’d rather wait and watch that one. I’m happy with my iPhone 8 — which is the same as the iPhone 7, which is the same as the iPhone 6, to me,” Wozniak said, speaking from the sidelines of the Money 20/20 conference. “For some reason, the iPhone X is going to be the first iPhone I didn’t — on day one — upgrade to. But my wife will, so I’ll be close enough to see it.”

Wozniak — who is known to carry several new phones at once — made the remarks just ahead of preorder sales, which open on Oct. 27.

For more than a year before it was released, the iPhone X was hailed as a revolutionary new form factor that could spark a “super cycle” of sales. The phone, unveiled in September, features an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch bright, sharp display, with a smaller chassis than the iPhone 8 Plus. It also has facial recognition.

But Wozniak also said he was skeptical that the Face ID feature would work the way it is supposed to.

Wozniak isn’t the only onlooker who’s uncertain about the new handset. Because the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X were not released at the same time this year, some analysts have struggled to get a handle on how well the phones will sell.

Surveys show that a high percentage of consumers plan to purchase a new iPhone in the next three months but that the iPhone 8 series is accounting for a smaller share of sales than the new iPhones this time last year, according to UBS analyst Steven Milunovich.

“This softness could be good or bad depending on whether users are waiting on the iPhone X,” Milunovich wrote in a Monday note.

Venture capitalist Gene Munster noted that Google searches for “iPhone” seem to have declined 10 percent year over year. But Munster said his firm’s surveys show “positive data points for Apple.”

“The release of the iPhone 8 was underwhelming compared to past iPhone launches, but this is not bad news for Apple. This year’s iPhone cycle will have its units and revenues split between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X,” Munster wrote. “Historically about half of the iPhones purchased in a given year are the most recently released model. This bodes well for iPhone revenue growth.”

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[Video Games] NBA 2K18 Release Date September 19

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NBA 2K18, this year’s entry in the Visual Concepts developed basketball sim from 2K Sports, look set to be another essential purchase for sports fans. In this article we’ll detail all there is to know about NBA 2K18, including the NBA 2K18 release date, NBA 2K18 pre-order info, details on the cover stars, NBA 2K18 All-Time Teams, and special editions

NBA 2K18 Release Date – PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch Versions

The NBA 2K18 release date is September 19, 2017. Anyone who pre-orders can get the game four days early on September 15. The latest iteration of the premiere basketball sim will be releasing for PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. 

Anyone still gaming on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 will also be able to buy NBA 2K18, but as these platforms are no longer the focus of development, chances are these editions will be very similar to the previous releases. 

NBA 2K18 Nintendo Switch Details and Hands-On Impressions

We recently got to go hands-on with NBA 2K18 at a special preview event in New York, and we can now confirm that the Nintendo Switch version of the game will be near enough identical to the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Every single mode, including MyGM, MyPlayer, and MyTeam will be included on the Switch version of the game, meaning you won’t be missing out on any features. 

The Switch version of NBA 2K18 will also feature Amiibo support, although we don’t currently know in what capacity, and the game will run at 30 frames per second in both docked and handheld mode. Check out our editor Kat Bailey’s quick impressions of the Switch version just below: 

NBA 2K18 New Neighborhood Social Club Feature

At the aforementioned preview event for NBA 2K18, we got our first glimpse at the new Neighborhood social hub feature for the game, which you can see a few snippets of just below. It looks set to be a forum for player avatars in the game, in the same way that Splatoon 2’s Inkopolis Square lets you show off your equipped clothing items and other accessories. 

NBA 2K18 Gameplay Trailers

The official NBA 2K YouTube channel recently published a video of behind the scenes developer interviews, while also giving us our first look at gameplay for the upcoming NBA 2K18. 

The full trailer, which you can see for yourself just below, highlights the focus on player accuracy in NBA 2K18, with the dev team having rebuilt the entire player body system from previous NBA 2K iterations, in order to accurately match the real life counterparts of the players in the game. 

The team then went into detail about MyPlayer, and about how the facial scan feature from past 2K games is returning in greater detail than ever. There’s now slated to be more options than ever before for when you’re customising your own character, and the team showed off some of the more advanced body proportion controls. 

On August 16, the NBA 2K YouTube account again posted a gameplay trailer for NBA 2K18, highlighting some of the flashier moves seen around the league on a nightly basis

The trailer at points gives some nice looks at defensive plays, as well as showing off some of the more emotional aspects of players on the court. Elsewhere, we could see the likes of Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and more doing what they do best. 

NBA 2K18 MyTeam Details Revealed

With less than a month to go until the worldwide release of NBA 2K18, a brand new developer diary on the MyTeam mode was recently posted to the NBA 2K Facebook page, where associate producer Peter Cornforth revealed some of the new details coming to this iteration of the flagship basketball sim. 

Cornforth outlined several new modes and features for NBA 2K18 MyTeam, all of which we’ve highlighted and detailed just below for you: 

  • Pack and Playoffs – In this mode, you’ll start by opening a pack and picking the coach for your team, and then opening successive packs to assemble your full squad, which you’ll then take into 5v5 matchups online with other assembled teams. The further you advance before being eliminated from this tournament, the bigger the prize.
  • MyTeam Super Max – This mode introduces a salary cap and season gameplay to online competition within MyTeam, with each player having to assemble a roster of players based on their salaries. If everyone uses one card, for example Steph Curry, then his value will go up, causing less people to use him in their teams.
  • Strategy Cards – These cards can be played during timeouts, and have certain affects on your team for a limited time only. The higher rank your coach is, the more Strategy Cards you can bring with you into a single game.
  • All-Time Domination – Think you’re good at 2K? You might want to think again, as 2K18’s MyTeam brings in the All-Time Domination mode, where you can take your team to play against lineups compromised of the best players in a franchise’s history. This means Kobe, Shaq, Kareem, Magic, Wilt, Jerry, and more can all be found in a single team, for you to take on.

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[NEWS] Spotify Removes Hate Music as Streaming Companies Struggle to Police Their Tunes

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Spotify says it has removed an array of white-supremacist acts from its streaming service that had been flagged as racist “hate bands” by the Southern Poverty Law Center three years ago.

The move came after Digital Music News posted a story headlined “I Just Found 27 White Supremacist Hate bands On Spotify,” bringing the content to Spotify’s attention.

A Spotify spokeswoman told Billboard in a statement that while the music in its catalog comes from hundreds of thousands of record companies and aggregators all over the world, and those are “at first hand responsible” for the content they deliver, “illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us.”

“Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified today, whilst urgently reviewing the remainder,” she said in the statement.

Spotify, which counts tens of millions of tracks, is also reviewing the possibility of blocking this type of content from future music recommendations, while pushing a new playlist called Patriotic Passion that includes a Jimi Hendrix rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, Lady Gaga’s “Americano,” and Khalid’s “American Teen.”

“It’s a soundtrack to an America worth fighting for,” the spokeswoman said in a separate statement.

In trying to keep hate music off their services, Spotify and other music-streaming companies face a tricky task in determining what to remove and what to protect from their vast libraries in the interest of free speech. Deciding whether such content is legal is difficult given the range of laws in different markets, and the task requires careful listening, given the often coded racist slang used in such tunes. There’s also a fear of bringing more attention to hate bands by making them into a legal issue, experts say. Deezer last year launched a site where users could report hate music and help it clean up questionable songs.

Most of the groups listed by Digital Music News had tiny followings and listen counts, but the site’s Paul Resnikoff wrote that “in the wake of violent clashes in Charlottesville and an increasingly vocal, post-Trump white supremacy voice, the presence of white supremacy music on Spotify takes on a different light.”

Resnikoff also pointed out that thanks to digital music services’ increasingly sophisticated recommendation engines, it “was pretty easy to find hate-oriented groups simply by referencing similar artists on Spotify itself.”

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UNCHARTED: The Lost Legacy Release Aug 22

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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is an action-adventure video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It is scheduled for release in August 2017 for the PlayStation 4, as a standalone expansion to the Uncharted series. Players control Chloe Frazer, who seeks the Tusk of Ganesh in the mountains of India in the midst of a civil war, with the help of mercenary Nadine Ross. The game is played from a third-person perspective; players use firearms, and can use melee combat and stealth to defend against hostile enemies. Players solve puzzles, incorporating several platformer elements to advance the narrative, and navigate the game world on-foot or by vehicle.

Development of The Lost Legacy began soon after the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in May 2016. Chloe became the central focus of the game, with the story, design and gameplay elements reflecting her character. Claudia Black and Laura Bailey reprised their roles as Chloe and Nadine through voice and motion capture, and assisted writer Josh Scherr and creative director Shaun Escayg with the development of the characters and story. The game builds upon gameplay elements established in previous Uncharted titles.

 

From award-winning developer Naughty Dog comes a brand new UNCHARTED game, starring Chloe Frazer.

In order to recover an ancient artifact and keep it out of the hands of a ruthless warmonger, Chloe must enlist the aid of renowned mercenary Nadine Ross and venture to India’s Western Ghats to locate the Golden Tusk of Ganesh. In Chloe’s greatest journey yet, she must confront her past and decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to forge her own legacy.

Owners of UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End Digital Deluxe Edition, UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End Triple Pack, and UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End Explorer’s Pack will receive UNCHARTED: The Lost Legacy as a download at launch.

 

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[GAMES] Madden 18 Release Date Aug 25th

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The NFL regular season is just a matter of weeks away, but for Madden players, competitive football games are just on the horizon.

On August 25, Madden 18 will hit stores and give football fans the most realistic, in-depth gaming experience they’ve ever had. As the game evolves, so does the Madden cover player.

Madden 18 will release on EA Access on August 17 for users with Xbox One consoles. For PS4 users, the game will be released on August 25.

Even though there is a stigma attached to being a cover athlete, more specifically “the Madden curse,” it appears that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is unfazed by being the face of the game.

With each game comes new faces and players to play with, mainly players coming from the collegiate ranks. But what stands out about this year’s edition of the game is the authenticity of it, including added animations and movements from players during a play that makes the user feel as if they are controlling every aspect of their team, as seen in the trailer below.

In addition to new player movements and mechanics, there is also enhanced gameplay for the user player, who will be able to take play-calling to a new level with more sophisticated in-game tactics and schemes to gain any little advantage they can over their opponent.

With new tackling and blocking controls, no longer will there be any confusion why elite pass-rushers get stuffed at the line of scrimmage for so often or why elite-level offensive linemen are beaten off the line of scrimmage with regularity.

The new blocking/tackling mechanics will make Madden feel as realistic as ever, even with the addition of new game modes.

The three new game modes (Arcade, Simulation, Competitive) will give the user new ways to enjoy the game. Arcade is a more intensified, fast-paced game where it’s all about style points and running up the scoreboard. Simulation sticks to the rules of football and is as real as it gets down to each player’s attributes and game-changing ability. Simulation will also serve as the default setting for connected franchise mode.

And last but not least, Competitive is, well, as competitive as it gets. A tournament-style gameplay experience will separate the true Madden superstars from the wannabe gamers. In this mode, there are no injuries or limited penalties, and there is no room for crying.

This year’s Madden is geared up to be the most realistic NFL video game yet. The only question is, are you ready to play?

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[TV]’Insecure’ Season 2: “Hella Great” Recap

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Season 2 of Insecure, our new favorite sit-com, kicked off last night (Sunday, July 23rd) with the premiere of episode 1 “Hella Great.” If you haven’t been on, let me put you on. Insecure is the HBO series by Issa Rae, also known as “The Awkward Black Girl,” that has been keeping fans like me on edge every Sunday for the past year. The series started in 2016 and we all fell in love with Issa and her friends as they are all revolutionary in their own right. Insecure illustrates the modern-day young black professional and the daily tasks that are faced in the workplace and social life. By tasks (italicized for emphasis), I mean dealing with micro-aggression’s, relationships, and dating.  In season 1 there are hooks ups, break ups, quick read’s, random freestyles, and those “laugh my ass off” moments that trigger memories. Now that we’ve been blessed with a second season and, spoiler alert, the premiere gives you all kinds of life, we get to see what happens after that cliff hanger of a finale from season one.

Already, season two, episode one, takes your emotions on a ride, a roller-coaster ride. One minute

you’re thinking, “Yes, they worked it out, love exists!” Then the next minute you’re engulfed with a relatable freestyle. All while trying to figure out what this season holds after the steamy season betwixt former lovers Issa and Lawrence, and boom; just like that the end credits start rolling. Will Issa and Lawrence get back together? Whatever happened to Daniel? Is the cute bank teller bae, Tasha, just Lawrence’s rebound? Will the counseling help Molly? There is so much given in the first episode that by the end of those, commercial free (Thank God for HBO on-demand), thirty-minutes, you’re deeply in your feelings.

Without saying too much, i’ll give my five (5) predictions, and i’m hoping that the series, finger’s crossed, doesn’t become predictable.

  1. Lawrence and Tasha will not last. She’s everything that Issa is not. She is something new, supportive of Lawrence’s start-up, supportive of the grind at Best Buy, and playful, however just a rebound. Tasha is really into Lawrence but Lawrence is fresh out of a relationship that ended like a near fatal car crash. Lawrence and Issa’s relationship is in intensive care right now as we speak, so don’t get too excited about bank teller bae.
  2. Molly is going to find love but in an unexpected way as she opens up in counseling. We get to see more of her story.
  3. Daniel and Issa have some serious unfinished business that may or may not spill over into the finale. (wink, wink)
  4. Tiffany’s husband is going to come out sooner or later and/or she’ll at least get suspicious and start to wonder if he’s gay. We see all of this in the first episode, watch closely, and in episode 8, Kelly playfully hints around to it. Just watch.
  5. Sorry, but I don’t think Issa and Lawrence are going to get back together. Here’s why: they’re both at two pivotal moments in their lives where exploration is the healthier option. Lawrence has a a great job opportunity and Issa is making moves in her department at the non-profit. If they were truly meant to be, then Issa wouldn’t have cheated, Lawrence would not have any interest in the bank teller, and we’d all still be back for Insecure Sunday’s at 10:30pm. The last scene in episode one was an itch that needed to be scratched.

Catch up with the cast below and make sure you tune in every Sunday at 10:30pm EST. on HBO to find out just what happens with Issa and her friend’s.

Also, are you #TeamIssa or #TeamLawrence

Insecure-HBO

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