A new Overwatch comic delves into the early days of Blackwatch

Blackwatch was a small, secret sub-unit of Overwatch, headed up by Gabriel "Reaper" Reyes, that did the dirty work the front-facing organization could not. Overwatch played by the book; Blackwatch played it by ear. It’s the sort of arrangement that inevitably goes bad sooner or later, and also the subject of the new Overwatch comic, a retelling of the Oslo Incident called Retribution.

McCree is the star of the show this time around, while Moira and Genji make cameo appearances. But it’s Reyes and Overwatch commander Jack Morrison, known these days as Soldier: 76, who carry the show: Reyes wants revenge for the attack on the Blackwatch facility, but Morrison is deeply reluctant. He eventually gives his tacit approval, but clearly recognizes that compromising his morality means compromising Overwatch. 

The comic ties in with an "archive" of news posted yesterday about the Oslo Incident, in which Morrison told reporters that an investigation into the attack had begun, but that it was too early to identify any suspects. And that takes us back to an Overwatch developer update video from earlier this week, in which Jeff Kaplan revealed that last year’s Uprising event will be renamed to Overwatch Archives for this year, and hinted (as we already suspected) that it could include a new PvE mission taken from Overwatch’s history.

Is a new mission drawn from Overwatch’s deep, dark past in the offing? Hey, I’m not saying we’re going to Italy—but we’re going to Italy.

See two minutes of Star Control: Origins gameplay in an exclusive new trailer

The original Star Control, developed by Toys for Bob and published by Accolade, was released in 1990, followed by Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters in 1992 and the largely forgettable Star Control 3, by Legend Entertainment, in 1996. And that was the end of it until 2013, when Stardock announced that a reboot was in the works, officially revealed in 2016 as Star Control: Origins. 

Origins is set long before the events of the first games, when humanity was just beginning its journey to the stars. At that point in its history the human race only has one interplanetary exploration vessel, and it doesn’t even have FTL capabilities when the game begins. That situation will presumably change fairly early on, however, as you’ll be traveling to other star systems to explore alien worlds and meet the weirdos who live on them—not the sort of thing you can do with conventional engines. 

The "the heart of the game" is the stories it tells in both the overall arc and "one-off adventures," Stardock said. "You aren’t exploring for the sake of exploring.  You have a purpose and your actions will have profound consequences across the known galaxy." 

A Fleet Battles beta demonstrating the game’s outer space combat has been available to people who preorder the game for a while now, and Stardock expects to have a second beta ready to go by the end of April. But the new trailer makes it clear that there’s a lot more to the game than simply blowing up bad guys—exploration, discovery, and character interactions are what made the originals so great, and Origins appears to be following the same path.

During the development of Origins, Stardock has been involved in a legal dispute with Star Control creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche. Ford and Reiche assert that they hold the rights to Star Control and are marketing their new game, Ghosts of the Precursors, as a direct sequel to Star Control 2; Stardock says that it acquired the rights and assets to the series from Atari in 2013 (Atari acquired Accolade in 1999) and that the Toys for Bob campaign is causing confusion with Star Control: Origins. 

So far, neither side has shown a public inclination to settle; in March, Reiche and Ford went public with the terms of its settlement offer to Stardock, which was rejected, at dogarandkazon.com. Stardock maintains its own lawsuit Q&A on the Star Control forums. Both games are still in development.

Star Control: Origins doesn’t currently have a release date, but it’s available for prepurchase on Steam and expected to be out later this year. More info is available at starcontrol.com.

Motherboard makers pounce on new and cheaper 300-series chipsets for Coffee Lake

Intel has finally introduced some additional chipsets for its Coffee Lake processors, which will widen the field of motherboard options when building a new system. Just as importantly, if not more so, the new chipsets pave the way for cheaper options in the marketplace.

It always seemed weird to pair, say, a lower end Core i3-8100 CPU with a top shelf Z370-chipset motherboard. Sure, you could readily find Z370 motherboards in the $110 range, but it’s still a flagship chipset. 

Now Intel is offering a handful of additional chipsets that support Coffee Lake—H370, H310, Q370, and B360. Here is an outline of features for each one:

These new chipsets open the door for more affordable builds that are more price competitive with AMD’s less expensive options. We’ll have to wait for things to flesh out a bit more in the retail sector, but in the early going, here’s a Gigabyte H370 HD3 motherboard selling for $100 on Amazon.

It’s obviously a small sample size, but the above listing suggests that motherboards based on the highest end of the new chipsets (H370) will cost roughly the same as the least expensive Z370 motherboards. That means we should see some affordable options priced well below $100, when utilizing the other chipsets.

That will depend on the specific model, of course. Asus introduced a handful of new models under its Strix branding, including three full-size ATX motherboards, a micro-ATX model, and two mini-ITX boards. Prices range from $110 to $140. It also unveiled two TUF branded models priced at $130 and $135, and a Prime H370M Plus micro-ATX board for $100.

ASRock, Gigabyte/Aorus, and MSI all have new models on tap as well, though there is not much in the way of pricing details. However, we did spot Gigabyte’s new H370M D3H selling for $90 on Newegg.

The Z370 remains Intel’s flagship solution, and it offers the most PCI 3.0 lanes (40) to accommodate graphics cards and high-speed storage. It’s also the only one of the bunch to support overclocking. So, it’s still the go-to option for an enthusiast build. That said, the new chipsets support things like wake-on-voice and Optane memory, the latter of which Intel seems to be pushing pretty aggressively with today’s announcements. It’s also worth noting that Intel baked in support for Wireless-AC 2×2 160MHz. With a compatible router, speeds can hit up to 1,733Mbps.

These new chipsets and motherboards coincide with the expansion of Intel’s desktop Coffee Lake processor family. Here are the new additions: 

Now Intel has more than a dozen total Core i3, i5, and i7 chips based on Coffee Lake to choose from, including lower power options. Everything from the Core i3-8100T to the Core i7-8700T has a 35W TDP, with prices ranging from $117 to $303. Sitting above those are three 65W chips, the Core i3-8300 ($138), Core i5-8500 ($192), and Core i5-8600 ($213).

Intel is also pushed out a spattering of Pentium Gold and Celeron processors, all of which are dual-core chips. The Pentium Gold takes over from the previous generation Core i3 parts, and offers Hyper-Threading to double the number of threads, while the Celeron chips remain 2-core/2-thread options for extreme budget builds.

Between the new CPUs and chipsets, builders now have plenty of options for piecing together a Coffee Lake system.

Chrono Trigger's old graphics are coming back

JRPG darling Chrono Trigger took its time coming to PC. 23 years, in fact. Lamentably, the version we got was a mobile port, itself based on the DS port, laden with an awful UI that was designed for touch screens, ugly “high-resolution” graphics and some extra bugs for good measure. This put something of a damper on its surprise arrival. There’s still some hope for it yet, however, as a series of updates were just announced. 

“We have been working on addressing the issues that you’ve raised, and will be releasing a number of patches over the coming months as we continue to support Chrono Trigger on Steam,” the update on the Steam page explains.

The first patch is due out in the first half of this month and will introduce the option to switch between the mobile graphics and the “original graphical style” of Chrono Trigger. 

A full list of changes will be posted when the patch appears. The other two will drop over the coming months. Here’s hoping this will inspire similar updates for some of the equally-maligned Final Fantasy ports. 

Dell and HP are taking orders for laptops running hybrid Intel-AMD chips

The first systems featuring new processors that combine Intel Kaby Lake-G CPU cores with AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics are available to order, with the first wave being 15-inch convertibles. They include Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1 and HP’s Spectre x360.

As you might recall, Intel announced last November that it was working with rival AMD to build new Core processors with custom Radeon graphics inside a single chip package, with an emphasis on gaming performance. While not a death knell for Intel’s own integrated graphics, we viewed this as one of the most exciting pieces of hardware news in the last decade. We wrote about what this partnership could mean for PC gaming—short version, the team-up potentially has far reaching ramifications.

Read more: Intel Core i7-9700K review

Starting with Dell, this is the first time it has offered an XPS 2-in-1 in a 15-inch body. The least expensive configuration costs $1,500 and is built around an Intel Core i5-8305G processor, a 4-core/8-thread chip clocked at 2.8GHz to 3.8GHz, with 6MB of L3 cache. On the GPU side, this multi-chip module sports AMD’s Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics with 20 compute units, running at 931MHz to 1,011MHz. Based on some early testing, the Vega M GL is roughly comparable to a laptop with Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB graphics onboard. It also has integrated Intel HD 630 graphics.

Configurations built around the higher end Core i7-8705G processor option start at $1,700. This is also a 4-core/8-thread chip, but clocked at 3.1GHz to 4.1GHz with 8MB of L3 cache. It uses the same Radeon RX Vega M GL graphics.

I recently spent some hands-on time with a fully loaded model, running some benchmarks and analysis for HotHardware. It ran circles around other 2-in-1 devices, proving faster in gaming than devices equipped with Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 GPU, and also systems with mobile Ryzen chips featuring Radeon Vega 8 graphics. In Grid Autosport, for example, it averaged nearly 96 frames per second at 1920×1080 with the graphics settings cranked up, and 46 fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not too shabby.

HP has started taking orders for its 15-inch model Spectre x360 with Intel’s Core i7-8705G processor inside. Pricing starts at $1,490. It comes standard with a 4K resolution panel, whereas Dell offers both Full HD 1080p and 4K options. I haven’t spent any time with one that is based on one of these hybrid chips, but I imagine performance would be similar.

HP’s pricing is more attractive at the moment. Configuring a Spectre x360 with an Core i7-8705G processor, 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, and 1TB NVMe SSD costs $1,970. A similar configured Dell XPS 2-in-1 with a 4K resolution panel runs $2,750.

If you’re interested in one of these systems, or just want to window shop, follow this link to check out Dell’s XPS 15 2-in-1 configurations and this link for HP’s Spectre x360.

Rise of Mordor, a Lord of the Rings conversion mod for Total War: Attila, hits first public alpha

Total War: Rise of Mordor is a conversion mod for Total War: Attila that, in its final form, will let you play through a newly-crafted campaign featuring 19 factions from Middle Earth. You can take your first peek at it now thanks to a public alpha released this week that will hand you control over some of the factions and let you play around with custom units that are based on the ones you’ll have seen in the films.

The background story of the campaign will be "accurate to the books", but could still be a while off yet. First, the team will finish off the factions and add custom settlements into the mod. 

The grand strategy and large-scale battles of the Total War series make it ripe for Lord of the Rings conversions, and Rise of Mordor isn’t the first to attempt it. Third Age does something similar for Medieval 2: Total War, and it does it very well (making it onto Tom’s list of essential Total War mods a while back). But that game is more than 10 years old now, so I’m curious to see if working on a newer title like Attila will help create something better.

You can download the alpha of Rise of Mordor from its ModDB page.

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine was a 'commercial disaster,' dev says in painful post

 Where The Water Tastes Like Wine 

 Where The Water Tastes Like Wine 

Story adventure game Where The Water Tastes Like Wine struggled critically and flopped commercially, lead developer Johnnemann Nordhagen said today in a post-mortem of the game, in which he argues that its difficulties don’t bode well for experimental indie games. 

"Commercially, it’s a disaster," Nordhagen said. "I can’t discuss exact numbers, but in the first few weeks fewer people bought the game than I have Twitter followers, and I don’t have a lot of Twitter followers." (At the time of writing, Nordhagen has 4,272 followers.) 

Although Nordhagen received support from publisher Good Shepherd to complete and market the game, Where The Water Tastes Like Wine has yet to break even. "So far, I have made $0 from the game," he said. "That may look like a high number, but consider that it took four years to make — that works out to approximately $0/year … And then once you factor in the ~$140,000 I spent paying my contractors and collaborators for the game, you begin to see that maybe it wasn’t, financially speaking, worth it."

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine

"Joking aside — that’s dismal. And terrifying," Nordhagen said. "At the end of the day it’s astounding that a game that got this much attention from the press, that won awards, that had an all-star cast of writers and performers, that had a bizarre celebrity guest appearance(!) failed this hard. It scares me." 

I’m not sure that games like this one can continue to be made in the current market.

Johnnemann Nordhagen

To Nordhagen, it’s evidence of a growing trend for indie games: quality, acclaim, and attention aren’t guarantees of success. "That last part should be worrying for anyone in the indie games industry," Nordhagen said. "[Where The Water Tastes Like Wine] could have been a non-commercial game, but it would have had to be very different. It would be far less polished, it wouldn’t have had the collaborators that it did, I could not have paid people who couldn’t afford to work for revenue share or for the love of the game (thus, I fear, cutting out some of the most valuable voices that this game was a platform for). I could have developed it as a side project, but it took me four years as is. Basically, I’m not sure that games like this one can continue to be made in the current market." 

Nordhagen also discussed the development factors he believes contributed to Where The Water Tastes Like Wine’s uphill battle. For example, it received relatively little playtesting, especially close to launch, and it abruptly lost both of its main artists mid-development. "I didn’t originally have the knowledge I needed to tackle many of the issues I encountered during development," he said, adding that the game itself "was too much to take on as a solo dev, and especially too much to take on as a commercial product." 

Gone Home

Gone Home

Nordhagen previously worked as lead programmer on Gone Home, which was well-received when it released in 2014. Encouraged by Gone Home’s success, Nordhagen was optimistic about Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. However, in 2018, he’s unsure if creating games like these is even feasible.  

"In 2014, starting a similar project seemed like a good creative and financial risk," he said. "Four years later, making any commercial game at all seems like a bad idea, and taking on the risk of an experimental, ambitious game like Where the Water Tastes Like Wine sounds terrifying."  

2013 I think was a very different time for smaller indie games

Steve Gaynor

Writer and designer Steve Gaynor, who also worked on Gone Home, made a similar point about experimental games when we spoke to him following the release of Fullbright’s Tacoma, a delightful narrative-driven game whose sales paled in comparison to Gone Home’s at launch.

"I think there were a lot of things about Gone Home’s launch that were kind of ‘lightning in a bottle,’" Gaynor said. "2013 I think was a very different time for smaller indie games coming out that were kind of reaching into the triple-A fidelity space. Also I think that we were lucky to be responding to what I think was a real desire for more games that were less violent or more focused on story or whatever. And so yeah, Tacoma’s release I think has been a much more realistic version of what launching a game is usually like."



Nordhagen’s post-mortem focuses on the game’s development and reception, but he’s not the only member of the team to look back on Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. Lead editor Laura Michet wrote a lengthy analysis of the herculean task of coordinating the game’s many writers, and several writers, like Emily Short, have explored how they wrote their individual characters. You can find more analyses in Nordhagen’s post. 

Linksys is changing hands again with Foxconn buying Belkin for $866 million

Wikimedia Commons via Nadkachna. Click for original.

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons via Nadkachna)

Linksys is getting a new owner, barring any regulatory roadblocks that might pop up. That’s because Foxconn, a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision, signed a definitive agreement to acquire Belkin for $866 million, the company announced.

Assuming the deal goes through, this will not be the first time that Linksys has changed hands. The brand’s roots trace back to 1988 when it was founded as a mom-and-pop startup in a garage in Irving, California. It grew to become a major player and producer of routers and switches. In 2003, Cisco acquired Linksys for $500 million, then sold the brand in 2013 to Belkin, along with its home networking division.

Belkin and its brands, which also include Wemo and Phyn, will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Foxconn, meaning you will still see products marketed and sold with the Linksys label.

"This move will accelerate our vision of delivering technology that makes the lives of people around the world better, more convenient, and more fulfilling. I am thrilled to take our brand portfolio of Belkin, Linksys, Wemo and Phyn to new heights," said Chet Pipkin, CEO and founder, Belkin International. "We see significant synergies with FIT, including leveraging its world-class manufacturing capability to enhance Belkin’s operating efficiency and competitiveness. The transaction also grants us access to more resources to invest in our people and to aggressively pursue opportunities in the marketplace."

It’s an interesting move for Foxconn. According to The Verge, half of Foxconn’s sales are said to come from Apple. Foxconn is a major contract manufacturer of iPhones and other products, along with various gadgets from other companies. By acquiring Belkin, it shifts part of its business from a manufacturing partner to an owner of some major consumer brands. While not without its risks, the move could be seen as a safety net of sorts, making Foxconn less reliant on Apple.

We will have to wait and see how this ultimately affects consumers. As it pertains to Linksys, the company has been very active in the high-end router space. Some of its models are specifically aimed at gamers, such as its WRT32X AC3200, which Linksys pitches as "the first router purpose-built to prioritize gaming."

Amazon is selling select PC gaming products for up to 50 percent off today

A whole bunch of PC gaming hardware is on sale today at Amazon, with discounts of up to 50 percent off select products. There is a wide variety to choose from, too—everything from monitors and mice, to routers and full blown systems, and more.

If it’s a new mouse you’re after, Corsair’s M65 Pro RGB can be had for $40. That’s not quite the lowest we’ve ever seen it sell for, but not far off either (it’s dipped to $35 a few times in the past). It’s a decent savings over the mouse’s $60 list price, and is a solid rodent with a 12,000 dpi sensor, adjustable weight tuning system, rugged scroll wheel, and eight programmable buttons, including an optimized sniper button on the side.

There are a few gaming headsets on sale as well, including Logitech’s G633 Artemis Spectrum. It’s going for $70 today, down from its $150 list price (it sells for closer to $100 at places like Best Buy), and offers up Dolby 7.1 or DTS Headphone: X surround sound with customizable RGB lighting.

If it’s a power supply you’re after, EVGA’s SuperNova 650W with 80 Plus Gold certification is on sale for $70, down from $110. This same unit sells for $85 on Newegg, and that’s after claiming a $20 mail-in-rebate. At Amazon, there are no rebate hoops to jump through.

There are deals on other core components too, like an Intel Core i7-7700K processor ($280, down from $350), an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 CPU for $150 (down from $189), and an Asus ROG Crosshair VI Hero AM4 motherboard for $200 (down from $260).

Some other highlights include:

There are several other items that are marked down as well. You can find them all by going to the main landing page.

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