Irrational Games Co-Founder Unveils Sci-Fi Strategy Shooter ‘Void Bastards’

Indie developer Blue Manchu and Humble Bundle revealed “Void Bastards,” a new strategy shooter led by Irrational Games co-founder Jonathan Chey.

The upcoming game finds players dropped into the role of the leader of several “misfit prisoners” as they navigate the Sargasso Nebula. Important decisions will need to be made, tasks delegated, and more than a few enemies dispatched, of course. “Void Bastards” is about taking charge of your team as you plan out missions while taking your ship’s layout into account as well as other ship systems and terminals you can use against the enemies that lie in wait out in space.

The game will include survival elements that will task players with finding supplies and making decisions based on control systems found throughout the area, which will help color specific decisions. You can choose your battles, as well as “when to run” and “when just to be a bastard.” Void whale, pirates, robs-kitties, and hungry hermits will all be out to get you and your crew – surviving is crucial, obviously.

The game will feature a 12-15 hour campaign that you’ll be able to complete with an “endless supply” of prisoner characters, which looks to add a rogue like element to the game. When one passes away, another takes their place, and your progress will carry over from one character to another.

“Void Bastards” is coming to Xbox One and PC in early 2019.

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Everything Microsoft announced at its XO18 Mexico City event

Everything Microsoft announced at its XO18 Mexico City event

Microsoft is throwing a big fan bash in Mexico City, and it made a lot of news announcements about new games, services, and acquisitions at its XO18 fan event. We’ve summarized what happened at the event here:

Above: Brian Fargo announces that Microsoft is buying InXile and he is not retiring anymore.

Image Credit: Microsoft

At the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo event, Microsoft acquired four development studios and opened a new one. And today, it announced it had brought in InXile Entertainment, the maker of the Wasteland and The Bard’s Tale series. InXile’s head is game pioneer Brian Fargo.

The deal is part of Microsoft’s strategy, headed by executive Matt Booty, to bring more exclusives to the Xbox platform.  As part of Microsoft Studios, InXile will have the support and freedom to fully realize its creative ambitions on both existing franchises and new projects, Microsoft said.

The studio will continue to operate autonomously, with a focus on role-playing games.

“We’re excited to have the team, the people, the craft,” Booty said on stage. In a video, Fargo said, “I am not retiring anymore soon,” even though he previously announced he would.

Above: Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire hits the Fig crowdfunding platform today.

Image Credit: Obsidian Entertainment

Microsoft also said it is acquiring Obsidian Entertainment.

The Irvine, California-based Obsidian Entertainment was founded in 2003 by industry veterans from Black Isle Studios (similar to InXile). It quickly made a name for itself with the Xbox exclusive Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Over the last fifteen years, the studio has delivered genre-defining RPGs to players on both console and PC through titles including Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Pillars of Eternity.

Microsoft said it will let studio to preserve its unique culture and build on its talent and vision to fully realize their creative ambitions. Both Obsidian and InXile will continue to operate independently.

Together, the two new studios bolster Microsoft Studios to now include 13 distinct development teams.

Crackdown 3 Chemical Plant

Above: Crackdown 3 Chemical Plant

Image Credit: Microsoft

Crackdown 3 will finally ship on February 15, 2019. Microsoft also showed off Crackdown 3’s Wrecking Zone multiplayer mode.

In Wrecking Zone, environmental destruction is a weapon you can use to take down your enemies.  Developed by Microsoft Studios in collaboration with Sumo Digital and Elbow Rocket, Crackdown 3 will bring super-powered agents to New Providence, an action-packed open-world.

Your job is to take down a criminal corporation using an explosive set of weapons and abilities. You can play the campaign in single-player mode or in co-op with a friend.

Crackdown 3 is available at launch with Xbox Game Pass and globally on Xbox One and Windows 10.

Microsoft will give the original Crackdown, enhanced for Xbox One, to all fans free of charge from now until November 30. Microsoft also showed new content from Just Cause 4, Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and many more. Microsoft now has a total of 327 titles enhanced for Xbox One X console.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has crossed 10 million daily active users.

Above: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Image Credit: PUBG Corp.

Microsoft said that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) will be coming to its Xbox Game Pass, a monthly subscription service that costs $10 a month.

Microsoft is adding 16 new games at varying dates to Xbox Game Pass, bringing the total to more than 100 titles. If you sign up today through January 3, you can get the first month for just $1.

Thief of Thieves, is available starting today. Other titles on the list starting in December include Ori and the Blind the Blind Forest, Kingdom Two Crowns and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. On November 22, Microsoft is adding Agents of Mayhem, MXGP3, and Thomas Was Alone. And new indie games coming for the holidays include Aftercharge, Supermarket Shriek, Mutant Year Zero, Pathologic 2, The Good Life, Void Bastards, and Secret Neighbor. Next year, Ori and the Will of the Wisps will be added.

Black Friday deals

Above: Xbox Black Friday deals

Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft said it is offering discounts of up to $100 off select Xbox One console deals. The lowest price Xbox One X will be available for $400. You can save $10 on Xbox Wireless controllers, and there are a bunch of game discounts, like 35 percent off PUBG.

Forza Horizon 4 Fortune Island expansion

Above: Fortune Island

Image Credit: Microsoft

Ben Thaker-Fell, chief designer of the Forza Horizon series, announced the first expansion for Forza
Horizon 4, Fortune Island, which will release on December 13 on Xbox and Windows 10 PCs.

It takes players on to the remote northern reaches of the British Isles, where they will encounter extreme conditions including fierce lightning storms, perilous cliff side dirt roads, and sweeping paved mountain switchbacks under the glow of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).

Forza Horizon 4 players will also be able to drive all five of Ken Block’s high-powered, custom-built Ford
vehicles from the upcoming GymkhanaTEN, the 10th installment of the Gymkhana viral video franchise.

These rides began rolling out in Forza Horizon 4 earlier this month for Car Pass members with the release of the 1977 Ford GymkhanaTEN, F-150 Hoonitruck and the 1993 Ford Escort Cosworth Group A. Coming in November for all players are the 1965 Ford Hoonicorn Mustang V2 and the 2017 Ford Fiesta RS and arriving in December is the 2016 Ford GymkhanaTEN Focus RS RX.

Forza Horizon 4 Fortune Island will be available as part of the Forza Horizon 4 Expansions Bundle
which provides players with two game expansions at a reduced cost of $35. Owners of Forza Horizon
4 Ultimate Edition and Forza Horizon 4 Ultimate Add-Ons Bundle will receive Fortune Island at no
additional cost.

Minecraft Marketplace expansion

Above: Minecraft’s Cats and Pandas.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Helen Chiang, head of Minecraft, said the game now has surpassed 91 million monthly players.

She showed off the contributions of one partner, PixelHeads, to the Minecraft Marketplace. There are now a total of 77 partners who have driven more than 13 million purchases for their creations since the marketplace launched last June.

Viewers also got a look at the history behind Cats and Pandas in Minecraft, which will be released next month. There’s a new game coming, dubbed Minecraft Dungeons.

Battle rival crews in The Arena in Sea of Thieves

Above: Sea of Thieves

Image Credit: Microsoft

Sea of Thieves will see its fifth free content update since launch. The Arena will release in early 2019, with a new competitive game mode that allows players to test their pirating skills in fast-paced matches against rival crews.

Each match is a race to find treasure that brings together all the most exciting elements of Sea of Thieves. The Arena also includes a new-tavern area together with a new Trading Company – the Sea
Dogs – which will offer new goals, rewards and opportunities to progress to Pirate Legend.

State of Decay 2’s free Zedhunter pack

Above: Zedhunter is the new expansion for State of Decay 2.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft showed the next content pack for State of Decay 2 launching November 16: The Zedhunter Pack.

This new pack adds the powerful and silent crossbow as a new zombie-slaying weapon along with additional melee weapons, facilities, blood plague consumables, and gameplay updates like
the ability to respect your skills all into the main game.

State of Decay 2 has four million players, and Microsoft will make Zedhunter available for free to all of them. The crossbows let you take out zombies quietly without bringing a horde down upon you.

Void Bastards exclusive

Above: Void Bastards

Image Credit: Blue Manchu

Inspired by BioShock and System Shock 2, Void Bastards is a strategy-shooter that will test your wits as well as exercise your aim. It is coming to Xbox as a console launch exclusive.

In the game, your job is to lead the misfit prisoners of the Void Ark through the derelict spaceships and myriad dangers of the Sargasso Nebula. You have to choose where to go, master combat, manage ship controls, scavenge supplies, and craft improvised tools. The campaign will last 12 to 15 hours.

Void Bastards will also come to Xbox Game Pass coinciding with its launch on Xbox One. It is coming from developer Jonathan Chey’s Blue Manchu, a new studio in Australia, and Humble Bundle.

Other announcements

The Forge expansion

Above: Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s The Forge expansion

Image Credit: Microsoft

There are downloadable content expansions coming for Shadow of the Tomb Raider in the first of seven month updates. The first one is called The Forge, and it has new attack modes and weapons.

Microsoft said there are also visual enhancements coming from EA for Battlefield V on the Xbox One X game console. The game will support 4K Ultra HD and HDR on the Xbox One X.

Above: Hideaki Itsuno

Image Credit: Microsoft

Capcom showed off Devil May Cry 5’s Void Mode, a training mode. It lets you experiment with moves and attacks. You can practice in The Void mode without damaging your Devil Breaker ability. You can use the Sweet Surrender Devil Breaker to heal yourself in combat, and you can also use Mega Man’s arm in the game.

Bandai Namco has added two new Dragon Ball fighters — SSGSS Vegeta and Golden Frieza — to the Jump Force roster. These characters will have super-powered modes and special moves.

Kingdom Hearts III revealed Winnie the Pooh as a new character. And Microsoft said it has now added Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII to its backward compatibility list for the Xbox One X.

Above: Fortnite will get mouse and keyboard support on the Xbox One.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Next week, Xbox One support for the mouse and keyboard will arrive next week. There are a bunch of new games like Fortnite, Vigor, War Thunder, Xmorph Defense, and others that will support the mouse and keyboard. Fortnite will only match players who use mouse and keyboard functions in the same match, meaning it won’t mix mouse-keyboard and Xbox controller players in the same match. It will be effective on November 14. Razer will have some accessories available, starting at CES in January.

And the Xbox Adaptive Controller will be available in 17 new markets in 2019.

Chris Charla of Microsoft said that ID@Xbox now has more than 1,000 indie games available, and they have been played more than 4 billion hours. He said some of the exciting new ones are Ooblets, Tunic, and Winter of Arcade (with multiple games).

Above: #GiveWithXbox will help gaming charities.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Lastly, Microsoft’s #givewithXbox campaign will donate $5 of Xbox products for every photo shared on social media about “what gaming together means” with the hashtag. The donations will be split among four inspirational charities: Child’s Play, Gamers Outreach, SpecialEffect and Operation Supply Drop.

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Apple pumps up its Amazon listings with iPhones, iPads and more

Apple pumps up its Amazon listings with iPhones, iPads and more

The new iPhone XR will soon be available directly through Amazon.

James Martin/CNET

Amazon has signed a deal to expand the selection of Apple products on its sites worldwide. The world’s largest e-commerce company said Friday it’ll soon start selling more Apple products directly and have access to Apple’s latest devices, including the new iPad Pro, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and Apple Watch Series 4, as well as Apple’s lineup of Beats headphones. The Amazon-Apple deal encompasses the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and India, with the new products hitting Amazon sites in the coming weeks.

Only Apple-authorized resellers will now be allowed to sell Apple and Beats products on Amazon’s marketplace.

Currently, many of these Apple products are either unavailable on Amazon or are on sale only through its third-party marketplace at varied prices and conditions. Amazon does already directly sell some Apple devices, such as MacBook laptops and Beats headphones.

“Amazon is constantly working to enhance the customer experience, and one of the ways we do this is by increasing selection of the products we know customers want,” an Amazon spokesperson said Friday in a statement. “We look forward to expanding our assortment of Apple and Beats products globally.”

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With the new deal, customers should expect to see a  greater selection of new Apple products and at standard prices. Also, the agreement offers a big win for Amazon just ahead of the holiday shopping season, giving it more electronics from a leading device maker with highly sought-after products. For Apple, the deal could help it sell more devices worldwide.

The agreement also points to relations between the two tech giants improving, after Amazon in 2015 removed Apple TV video streamers from its site, then brought the devices back last year. At the same time last year, Amazon said it was also bringing back Google’s Chromecast streamers, but they are still unavailable amid shaky relations with Google.

“We’re working with Amazon to improve the experience for Apple customers on their site,” said Apple spokesman Nick Leahy, “and we look forward to those customers having another great way to buy iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac and more.”

The timing of the deal does raise questions, said eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman, adding that Amazon’s weaker-than-expected revenue in its latest quarter may have been a motivator for the company heading into the holidays. He said Apple could face some risk in providing sales data to Amazon.

“But the real threat there is in Amazon introducing a rival product. I’d say Apple is pretty safe there,” he said.

The arrangement does include a few caveats. Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, which competes against Amazon’s own Echo devices, isn’t included. Amazon doesn’t list either the HomePod or the rival Google Home speakers.

“We make assortment decisions all the time, based on terms and a large number of other factors,” Amazon’s spokesperson said about leaving out the HomePod.

Also, independent sellers who list new and used Apple products on Amazon will have those listings removed after Jan. 4, 2019. Those sellers will now have to apply with Apple to become authorized resellers on Amazon. An email to sellers about this change went out just after the deal was signed.

The agreement doesn’t impact Amazon’s Renewed program, which sells certified refurbished electronics.

The change will allow Apple and Amazon to have more control over inventory and pricing of Apple products. But, smaller sellers and folks who flip iPhones right after they go on sale are likely to be hurt by the deal. Also, customers shopping for used (but not refurbished) Apple products may find a much more limited selection on Amazon. In both cases, those sellers and customers will be more likely to go to rival online sites like eBay instead. 

Amazon has already been adding more restrictions to its marketplace over the years, making it harder for small sellers to put up products on Amazon if they aren’t working directly with the brands they list. Amazon inked a similar partnership with Nike last year that allowed both companies to reduce counterfeits on Amazon and gain stronger control over unauthorized third-party sales of Nike products.

Independent sellers with Apple inventory in Amazon warehouses after Jan. 4 will have to create a removal order, with Amazon offering to reimburse return or disposal fees until early February. Those sellers won’t be able to ship more Apple products to Amazon warehouses starting Dec. 1.

First published at 8:04 a.m. PT. on Nov. 9.
Updated, 8:55 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12:26 PT: Adds more information on the deal’s impact on independent sellers, as well as Apple’s and an analyst’s comments.

CNET’s Holiday Gift Guide: The place to find the best tech gifts for 2018.

Best Black Friday 2018 deals: The best discounts we’ve found so far.

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Microsoft acquires InXile to make role-playing games for Xbox, PC

Microsoft acquires InXile to make role-playing games for Xbox, PC

The Xbox team’s acquisition storm continues. The publisher revealed today that it is folding Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera studio InXile Entertainment into its portfolio of game development teams. InXile founder Brian Fargo helped revealed the partnership at Microsoft’s XO18 fan event in Mexico City today. I asked Fargo what the acquisition means for his company, and he explained that nothing is going to change except for the financial security of the company and the amount of money it can put into future projects.

“We could not be happier to have Microsoft’s support to allow us to keep making the games we love,” Fargo told GamesBeat. “They offer us the most precious thing a developer could have, time and resources. I’m energized like I’ve never been before.”

Fargo also addressed fans directly in a video message on YouTube. He talked in more detail about how this will free up his time to continue working on the projects that people want from InXile.

“One of my dreams has always been to create an environment where creativity can flourish,” he said. “And this is going to allow that to happen in a way that I’ve never had before. It’s going to allow me to spend 100 percent of my time in product development. It’s a luxury that very few development companies have, so I’m very excited.”

This is Microsoft’s sixth gaming acquisition of the year. It announced four acquisitions in June, it announced it was acquiring Obsidian in October, and now this. That’s on top of its brand new studio in Santa Monica. This gives the Xbox team more first-party power, and it also gives it more games to put into its Netflix-like Game Pass subscription for both Xbox One and PC.

Microsoft to the rescue

InXile started in 2002. Fargo founded it after leaving Interplay. The company began with the action role-playing game The Bard’s Tale in 2004, which is still one of its most beloved releases. After that it worked on puzzle games and ports through 2012, along with Hunted: The Demon’s Forge for Bethesda in 2011.

But InXile has had a resurgence over the last half decade. In 2012, the studio launched a Kickstarter to return to its computer RPG roots with Wasteland 2. At the end of that crowdfunding campaign, thousands of people ended up contributing nearly $3 million. Since then, it has relied on crowdfunding to launch games like Torment: Tides of Numenera and The Bard’s Tale IV: Barrows Deep.

These games have a loyal following, but this is a tough business for a studio the size of InXile. Creating games is getting more expensive — especially if you are trying to keep up with more well-funded outfits. And Fargo spoke vaguely about those pressures and implied that Microsoft rescued the studio from having to deal with them.

“One of the common themes that you’ve probably read about is the tenuous nature of survival for mid-sized game companies like ourselves,” Fargo said in his video to fans. “We live in this precarious position while we are simultaneously watching the audio, visual, and design capabilities grow at a breakneck pace. Joining the Microsoft team is going to let us spend all of our energies crafting the game experience.”

InXile says that in addition to having more money, it will also have all of Microsoft’s existing infrastructure at its disposal. The publisher has processes for doing quality assurance and localization, and InXile is going to take advantage of that.

Nothing is going to change

Fargo repeatedly insisted that InXile will continue to work on the stuff its fans have come to expect.

“Of course, we’re going to continue doing role-playing games,” he explained. “We love the world building. We love the sense of immersion. And we love when all of the game’s pieces come together. One of my favorite things about working on a great role-playing game is the vast number of emotions we can make a player feel. It’s really a great category to work on.”

He also confirmed that this acquisition shouldn’t derail the production of Wasteland 3, which is due out in 2019.

“Our studio is best known for our deep role-playing games, like Wasteland 2 and Tide of Numenera,” said Fargo. “Games that are centered around choice and consequence where your decisions change the world and narrative. Recently, we released The Bards Tale IV, where we modernized the classic dungeon-crawling experience. And we are just warming up with Wasteland with the upcoming Wasteland 3. At InXile, we love to write for the brutal world that makes the post-apocalyptic themes so fascinating.”

The question exciting question is what does the next game after Wasteland 3 look like for InXile? And Fargo hinted at that in his video.

“The bottom line is that we’re going to be able to make games that we would have never been able to make otherwise,” he said. “And even better, the DNA of the company will remain exactly the same. Microsoft wants to work with us because of who we are. They want us to keep doing what we are doing. They want to provide a stable home so we can be ambitious — allowing InXile to reach its full potential.”

So that likely means increased production values. I’m imagining a Bard’s Tale V with blockbuster-style visuals and voice acting. But who knows. Only one thing is certain.

As Fargo puts it, “This deal is going to allow us to make role-playing games for many years to come.”

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Xbox Game Pass Mobile App Released, 16 New Game Additions Announced

Xbox Game Pass Mobile App Released, 16 New Game Additions Announced

Microsoft has launched an Xbox Game Pass application for iOS and Android devices. As detailed during the X018 event, the app allows users to browse the library of titles available as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription and download them to their Xbox One console. This means that, while on the go, you can set games to be ready for you when you sit down in front of your console.

In addition to the new app, Microsoft detailed a number of new titles that are being added to the Xbox Game Pass library. For those that have a subscription to the service, these games can be downloaded and played at no further cost, and will be available to them for as long as they are subscribed–barring any decision Microsoft makes to remove their availability from the service.

The biggest new addition is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the popular battle royale title, which will be available from November 12. Thief of Thieves is available from today, and Agents of Mayhem, MXGP3, and Thomas Was Alone are set to be added on November 22.

In December, Ori and the Blind Forest, Kingdom Two Crowns, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will also be added to Xbox Game Pass. During the holiday season, indie titles Aftercharge, Supermarket Shriek, Mutant Year Zero, Pathologic 2, The Good Life, Void Bastards, and Secret Neighbor will be introduced to the Xbox Game Pass library the day they become available on the platform. Finally, Ori and the Will of the Wisps–the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest–will be available through Xbox Game Pass when it is released for Xbox One and PC in 2019.

To further entice people into subscribing, Microsoft is offering a discount on the price of a Xbox Game Pass. For the first month, subscriptions will be available for $1 from now through January 3. Microsoft is also discounting Xbox Live subscription prices down to $1 for the first month, so you could get set to download games and play online for a total of $2. Keep in mind that these are likely to be set to auto-renew at the full price, so make sure to cancel if you don’t want an ongoing membership.

The list of titles available as part of Xbox Game Pass is already significant and includes both first-party and third-party games from the Xbox One and Xbox 360 catalog. Recent highlights include Forza Horizon 4 and State of Decay 2. You can see the full list of Xbox Game Pass titles for a more comprehensive look at the library.

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