Category: author_name|Igor Bonifacic

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Punishing platformer ‘Ghostrunner’ adds accessibility mode

Ghostrunner was one of the best surprises of 2020. It’s a stylish first-person platformer that takes the best elements of Titanfall’s parkour mechanics and adds a cyberpunk twist to the proceedings. It’s also a challenging game that demands precision and purpose from the player. Make a single mistake, and you’ll need to replay a section of a level again. That can get frustrating fast, so developer One More Level is adding a new feature called Assist Mode.

Assist Mode introduces three options you can toggle on and off. You can opt to shorten your character’s ability cooldowns, slow down the game to give you more time to react and play with an extra life to make mistakes less punishing. Accessibility modes are becoming more common in video games, and it’s always good to see another developer find a way to allow more people to enjoy their work.

For experienced players, there’s a new feature called Wave Mode that is essentially Ghostrunner’s take on a roguelike. You’ll need to complete 20 rounds in succession, with each one featuring different enemies — even when you attempt the same one multiple times. Make it all the way to the end, and you’ll earn a fancy new katana for your character.

Both Assist and Wave modes are available today for free on the platforms where you can already buy Ghostrunner. That includes PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, the Epic Games Store and GOG. When the game makes its way to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S on September 28th, it will come with those modes included.

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Google adds shipping and return labels to product listings in search and shopping tool

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Google plans to surface the shipping and return policies of stores that list items on its platforms to help consumers quickly find out if they can get free delivery and returns on their purchases. You’ll see the labels appear across both free and paid listings. “Free delivery by Friday, December 24th,” says one of the example annotations the company shared. Merchants will need to meet a list of requirements before they can add the labels to their listings, so you won’t see them on every product.

Shipping and return annotations won’t dramatically change your shopping experience, but they make you decide to jump on a product you would have otherwise glossed over. Google has spent much of the last year adding these types of features to its shopping hubs. At I/O 2021, for example, it showed off a feature inside of Chrome that displayed shopping carts you abandoned before completing a purchase in a new tab.

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Maine bans facial recognition technology from schools and most police work

Maine has passed the strongest statewide law regulating government use of facial recognition to date. The state’s House and Senate voted unanimously in favor of rules that prohibit law enforcement from using the technology unless they have probable cause that an unidentified person in an image committed a serious crime. Once the law goes into effect later this year, it will also limit how police conduct facial ID searches. They won’t have direct access to the tech. Instead, they’ll need to go through the FBI and Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in the few instances where they’re sanctioned to use it.

Additionally, the law affords citizens the right to sue the state if they believe a government agency has used the technology unlawfully. It also prohibits Maine from deploying facial recognition systems in schools, and mandates that both Maine State Police and the BMV will need to maintain public records of search requests from law enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the bill “stands in sharp contrast” to Washington state’s SB 6280, the only other statewide law in the US governing the use of facial recognition. That bill was sponsored and primarily written by a current Microsoft employee. It has also been criticized by privacy advocates for giving police too many opportunities to use the technology for surveillance purposes. 

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Twitch Watch Parties now work on iOS and Android

Following last year’s expansion beyond the US, Twitch users can now access the platform’s "Watch Parties" feature on Android and iOS devices. Watch Parties allow Twitch users to stream content from Amazon Prime Video much like they would a video game. Viewers can follow along with the TV show or movie as it unfolds and take part in chat.

Previously, Watch Parties were only available through Twitch’s web client. As you might imagine, there are some limits in place to prevent people from watching Prime Video content for free. To start, both the person streaming the video and watching it need an active Prime Video subscription to take part. Regional restrictions also apply, so someone can’t stream a TV show or movie that’s not available in their local Prime Video library. But even when you take those restrictions into consideration, there aren’t a lot of features out there that match what Twitch has with Watch Parties. After all, it’s something the company can only offer because it’s owned by Amazon.

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Spotify is reportedly thinking about expanding into ticketed events

Spotify is reportedly “considering” expanding into events, according to The Information. The outlet reports the company could sell tickets for both virtual and live concerts as it looks to diversify its business. However, making money off of ticketed events isn’t necessarily Spotify’s short-term goal. Its more immediate plan is to use them as a way to improve its relationship with artists.

The Information suggests Spotify thinks there’s an opportunity to leverage the data it has to help musicians plan successful concerts in places most promoters avoid. In this way, the company is said to believe it can better show those artists it’s invested in their careers. It would also be a way for it to differentiate its platform from Apple Music.

Spotify has already dabbled in live events. This past spring, the company put on a handful of prerecorded virtual concerts featuring artists like The Black Keys and Leon Bridges. It sold tickets to those shows for $15 each. The Information reports the results of those concerts “validated” Spotify’s thinking on what events could do for it in the future, and it’s been thinking about next steps ever since. Of course, we wouldn't say that makes an expansion is a done deal. Selling tickets to concerts might make a lot of sense for a music streaming platform, but it would still represent a massive business shift for Spotify.    

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