The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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C'mon, how can you deny Keanu?

C’mon, how can you deny Keanu? (credit: Xbox / Microsoft)

LOS ANGELES—There’s no getting around it: Walking through the Los Angeles Convention Center for 2019’s Electronic Entertainment Expo felt weird. This year’s new Sony-sized hole compounded the fact that Xbox and EA held events elsewhere (and Activision, once again, didn’t really show up).

As a result, this year’s E3 was the most thinly attended iteration we’ve seen in years—but that was by no means the fault of the games on offer. We left E3 2019 impressed by a variety of games old and new. While we’re still working through a backlog of hands-on impressions, the Ars gaming braintrust is already ready to name its favorite games of the show—all of which were games shown with real, live gameplay. Admittedly, narrow preview builds mean devs could still be fooling us with some smoke and mirrors—this is E3, land of unfinished games—but

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Guidemaster: Ars picks 11 gifts you can get Dad for Father’s Day 2019


This post is by Valentina Palladino from Ars Technica


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These kids evidently got their dad a tie or some kind of parking lot toy... were wireless, noise-cancelling headphones not yet a thing?

Enlarge / These kids evidently got their dad a tie or some kind of parking lot toy… were wireless, noise-cancelling headphones not yet a thing? (credit: Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis)

The annual day devoted to dads is approaching yet again, so it’s time to start thinking (if you haven’t already) about what you can do to make your father figure feel special. In addition to spending quality time with Dad, a gift that shows how much you care for him (and how much you listen to him) can make the day even better.

We’ve combed through our recent reviews, guides, and personal testing to pick out 11 possible tech gifts for Father’s Day that we heartily recommend. Some of these ideas have full Ars reviews available to peruse while others are devices that we’ve personally used, loved, and simply thought would be great additions to any dad’s life. And in

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DOOM Eternal gameplay world premiere: Devil horns in the air—literally


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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SANTA MONICA, Calif.—I don’t often get as jazzed about an in-development video game the way I have about DOOM Eternal. After playing its 20-minute E3 demo to completion for my first time, I yelled, “AGAIN! AGAIN!” like a child unwilling to get off of a rollercoaster (and was thankfully granted another go at the fun). Upon getting home and preparing this article before Bethesda’s Sunday E3 press conference, I combed through a full playthrough video provided by the developers like a sad ex flipping through a photo album. I had to look again. I wanted to remember.

That’s not my normal way; I’m a gaming curmudgeon to put it lightly. And yet I am struck by

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EverQuest’s long, strange 20-year trip still has no end in sight


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Twenty years ago, a company in Southern California launched an online game that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going today.

No, this isn’t about World of Warcraft—that game only turns 15 in 2019. Before there was WoW, there was the MMO pioneer EverQuest. This sword-and-sorcery-based game was developed by a small company, 989 Studios, but it eventually reached its pinnacle under Sony Online Entertainment after SOE acquired that studio roughly a year after the game’s launch. Today, EQ marches on with a dedicated player base and another developer, Daybreak Games, at the helm.

I’ve been a dedicated player since the early days,

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War Stories: How Subnautica made players love being hunted by sea creatures


This post is by Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica


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Directed by Sean Dacanay, edited by Jeremy Smolik. Transcript available shortly.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, game designer Charlie Cleveland had a goal: he wanted to make a game that wasn’t built around guns and combat. The underwater exploration game he and the folks at Unknown Worlds Entertainment eventually built is a sleeper masterpiece—a game that manages to evoke awe and wonder while also not really requiring you to kill anything.

But getting from prototype to release took years of iterating, including an Early Access period for pulling in lots of player feedback. Cleveland’s core idea was to build a game focused on what he calls “the thrill of the unknown”—created by giving players a seemingly depthless underwater world to explore and by filling that world with wonder and mysteries and “creatures” rather than “monsters.” Cleveland names fellow designer Jenova Chen (of Flower and Journey

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Lenovo Smart Clock review: A small smart display that doesn’t display much


This post is by Valentina Palladino from Ars Technica


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Lenovo Smart Clock review: A small smart display that doesn’t display much

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the like want to convince you that you need a smart display. But as we’ve explored in previous reviews, most smart displays are luxury versions of their screen-less counterparts. Everything that you can do with an Amazon Echo or a Google Home can be done with a comparable smart display, but the latter can show you visual information and (in some cases) videos. If you don’t care much for visual information in such a device, why spring for a smart display? These devices are hard sells, particularly because most cost $150 or more.

That’s not the case with Lenovo’s new Smart Clock. It’s the first Google-Assistant answer to Amazon’s Echo Spot, serving as a tiny smart screen that shows the time by default and can be used to set alarms and do everything a regular Google Home device does. It could be

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“WHAT HAPPENED????” How a remote tech writing gig proved to be an old-school scam


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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Maybe this is the "Mark Taylor" I seek...

Enlarge / Maybe this is the “Mark Taylor” I seek… (credit: Getty Images | vladru)

After a layoff dumped me into the job market for the first time in more than a decade, I had an all-too-close encounter with a new breed of digital fraudsters who prey on the unemployed. These high-tech predators use a new twist on an old scam to “hire” the victim in order to gain access to their bank account. The scheme was cleverly engineered, but a couple of small irregularities tipped me off to my would-be assailants’ plans before they could steal anything more than two days’ worth of my time. Once alerted, I was even able to use some of their own tactics to inflict a bit of pain on the folks who sought to scam me.

Embarrassing as it might be, I’m sharing my experiences in the hope that they might help you

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War Stories: How This War of Mine manipulates your emotions


This post is by Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica


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This video contains some minor spoilers for a non-critical location in the game.

Video shot by Dawid Kurowski, edited by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

Chances are good that you already have This War of Mine in your Steam library. The side-view, survival-horror adventure game is a perennial favorite on various Steam sales, and at least 4.5 million people have picked up a copy since its release in 2014. But as with many Steam sale titles, it’s perhaps a bit less likely that you’ve played the game—and if you haven’t, that’s a shame, because it’s damn good.

But it’s also a hard game to experience—and I’m not talking about the difficulty level. This War of Mine’s developers are Polish, and they come from a country and a culture that still bears the scars of post-war Nazi occupation. Lead programmer Aleksander Kauch explained that one of the primary things

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One week with the Valve Index: A VR game-changer with a few question marks


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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My introduction to the Index, Valve’s first-ever top-to-bottom PC virtual reality system, was a whirlwind of numbers and demos. Valve’s three-hour hands-on event in April came with a considerable blast of specs, claims, and pre-release software, but while those ranged from puzzling to impressive, none of them stayed with me like one off-hand comment from the day.

During an informal Valve Q&A after my tests, I talked about how impressed I’d already been by the Oculus Quest’s “good enough” performance as a wireless, standalone VR headset. How would the pricier, wired, more demanding Valve Index fit into that kind of marketplace, I asked?

“I don’t use VR for 30 minutes a day,” one Valve engineer said in response. “I use VR hours a day. What’s good enough for 20 minutes, 30 minutes,

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Guidemaster: Ars tests and picks the best e-readers for every budget


This post is by Valentina Palladino from Ars Technica


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The 2018 Kindle Paperwhite leaning against a shelf of books.

Enlarge / The new Kindle Paperwhite. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

If you want to not only read more, but read better, an e-reader may be for you. Yes, it has become easy to find material to read and to get it on any of the numerous devices we have in our electronic arsenals—smartphones, tablets, computers, and the like. But even in a world full of versatile devices, e-readers are still favorites among dedicated readers open to getting their hands on e-books and digital publications in many ways. Ultimately, it may be freedom through limitation: E-readers help you focus on the reading rather than the distractions that are oh-so easily accessible through other electronics.

But that’s just one perk to having a dedicated reading device that either replaces or supplements your physical library. While e-reader technology hasn’t radically changed much in the past few years, companies have updated to their

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An exhaustive look at Oculus Quest’s first day of great, wireless VR software


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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An exhaustive look at Oculus Quest’s first day of great, wireless VR software

Enlarge (credit: Oculus / Aurich Lawson)

Three weeks ago, I had many positive things to say in my Oculus Quest VR system review. It’s wireless, it’s simple to use, and it runs on the bleeding edge of just powerful enough for engrossing “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF) virtual reality.

Thankfully, that review was driven by a variety of pre-release software—which means we didn’t have to guess how the hardware’s strengths and weaknesses bore out for retail games and apps. But in the time since that article went live, Oculus has dumped even more software into our devices.

So much software, in fact, that we decided to do something we haven’t done in a while: a launch-day software guide for a game platform’s launch. The last platform to get such an Ars treatment, coincidentally, was Sony’s PlayStation VR in 2016but that was a “buy, try, avoid” breakdown of its

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War Stories: Lucas Pope and what almost sunk Return of the Obra Dinn


This post is by Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica


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Video shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Click here for transcript.

Lucas Pope is an important name in modern gaming—not only did he help bring us Uncharted and Uncharted 2, but he’s also responsible for the indie smash hit Papers, Please, which managed to pack a surprising amount of storytelling and emotion into what is effectively a document stamping simulator.

But we’re particularly fond of Pope’s 2018 murder mystery Return of the Obra Dinn, where players must figure out what happened to all 60 souls aboard a ship that has turned up in port bereft of life (think sort of a mash-up of Clue and Event Horizon). The game’s low-fi monochrome graphical style is meant to evoke 80s- and 90s-era Macintosh adventure games, and it works stunningly well—the stark polygonal shapes and 1-bit stipple-shading are instantly evocative of the era. (For me, firing up Obra Dinn

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Opera Reborn 3: No modern browser is perfect, but this may be as close as it gets


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When Opera Software unveiled a new look and feel for its browser earlier this year, the company made a big deal of the impending changes. “We put Web content at center stage,” the Opera team declared on its blog. And early previews of the design appeared to be quite pared down, allowing users to browse “unhindered by unnecessary distractions” as the Opera team put it.

Well Opera recently released what the company refers to as Reborn 3, the latest version of its flagship desktop browser, and it’s tempting to dismiss the name as little more than marketing hype. But given the relentless and utterly unspectacular updates that the Chromium project releases every six weeks, it can also be hard to denote actual big releases of browsers based on Chromium—hence the “Reborn” moniker. After spending some time with Reborn 3, however, the name seems accurate. For Opera, this is a significant update

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Guidemaster: Ars picks the best wireless keyboards you can buy in 2019


This post is by Valentina Palladino from Ars Technica


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Guidemaster: Ars picks the best wireless keyboards you can buy in 2019

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Sometimes the default just doesn’t cut it, and that’s often true when it comes to keyboards. Whether you’re working on a desktop or a laptop, the keyboard you were given or the keyboard built into the machine may not be the best for your working style. If that’s the case, you may benefit from re-organizing your workspace to fit a wireless keyboard that connects to your machine via Bluetooth or a USB receiver.

But there are scores of wireless keyboards to choose from these days. Big PC companies as well as big accessory manufacturers all make wireless keyboards for various kinds of uses from stationary desk typing to on-the-go working. Luckily, we recently dove into the vast world of wireless keyboards head first. Maybe a modern wireless keyboard will never be as beloved as your old Model M, but there are good options out there—and

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The radio-navigation planes use to land safely is insecure and can be hacked


This post is by Dan Goodin from Ars Technica


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A plane in the researchers' demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway.

Enlarge / A plane in the researchers’ demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway. (credit: Sathaye et al.)

Just about every aircraft that has flown over the past 50 years—whether a single-engine Cessna or a 600-seat jumbo jet—relies on radios to safely land at airports. These instrument landing systems are considered precision approach systems, because unlike GPS and other navigation systems, they provide crucial real-time guidance about both the plane’s horizontal alignment with a runway and its vertical rate of descent. In many settings—particularly during foggy or rainy nighttime landings—this radio-based navigation is the primary means for ensuring planes touch down at the start of a runway and on its centerline.

Like many technologies built in earlier decades, the ILS was never designed to be secure from hacking. Radio signals, for instance, aren’t encrypted or authenticated. Instead, pilots simply

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Ubuntu 19.04: The Disco Dingo arrives and will really make your IT dept. happy


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Behold, the default desktop for the latest Canonical release: Ubuntu 19.04, gloriously nicknamed "Disco Dingo."

Enlarge / Behold, the default desktop for the latest Canonical release: Ubuntu 19.04, gloriously nicknamed “Disco Dingo.” (credit: Scott Gilbertson)

Canonical recently released Ubuntu 19.04, the latest version of its flagship GNOME-based Linux desktop. But if you’re a desktop user, you might be feeling a little left out.

The big points of emphasis in this latest release are on Ubuntu as a tool for infrastructure development, server deployment, and the good old Internet of Things. For the server version of Ubuntu, the OS ships with all the latest cloud computing tools. In fact, that’s already available in optimized builds on the major cloud services.

Elsewhere, the latest version of the venerable Ubuntu desktop packs quite a few additional, tempting reasons to upgrade for Linux gamers. Ubuntu 19.04 makes the leap to the Linux kernel 5.x series, for instance, which offers much improved graphics support.

Read

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HP Spectre 15 x360 2019 review: Carving a niche in a crowded space


This post is by Samuel Axon from Ars Technica


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The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out.

Enlarge / The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The HP Spectre 15 x360 is a good laptop, but it seemed we always found one or two things to quibble with.

With the 2017 model, we liked some key design decisions but felt let down by the performance and battery life. We were bigger fans of the 2018 update, which amped up performance while also improving battery life and making the 4K display standard. But we felt the trackpad was awfully small and didn’t like that the fingerprint reader and power button were separate.

Now we’re working with the 2019 model, and it brings a whole new design along with some faster internals and extras like clever port placement and a hardware webcam kill switch. At its heart, the 2019 HP Spectre 15 x360 still seeks to accomplish the same

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VW’s record-breaking electric car takes on world’s scariest racetrack, Nürburgring


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Romain Dumas at the wheel of the VW ID R electric car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Enlarge / Romain Dumas at the wheel of the VW ID R electric car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. (credit: Volkswagen Motorsport)

Although we make every effort to cover our own travel costs, in this case Volkswagen flew me to Germany and provided two nights in a hotel.

NÜRBURG, Germany—What do the race cars of Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship, NASCAR, and IndyCar all have in common? The answer is that each is built to comply with a specific set of rules. That’s understandable: rules in each series exist (ideally) to create a level playing field and to prevent cars from getting too fast and too powerful for the tracks upon which they race. But what if there were no rules? What if you could throw as much power and downforce onto a car as you could to make it go around a track faster than anything else?

This ethos

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Guidemaster: High-tech gift ideas for Mother’s Day


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The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wrist.

Enlarge / The Apple Watch Series 4. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

No physical item can repay your mother for all the love she’s sent your way, but Mother’s Day is still a good time to give Mom some token of your affection. So, as we’ve done in the past, we’ve rounded up a handful of Ars-y items that might make her life a little more pleasant.

Now, not all the gadgets, services, and books we’ve recommended will be great choices for your mom. Some people might enjoy a new fitness tracker, while others would prefer a trip to the spa. You know your mother better than we do. But we’re all about gear and practicality here at Ars, and any of the gift ideas below should serve Mom longer than flowers and chocolates.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Read 37

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What to expect from Google I/O 2019


This post is by Ron Amadeo from Ars Technica


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Shoreline Amphitheatre, as seen at Google I/O 2017.

Enlarge / Shoreline Amphitheatre, as seen at Google I/O 2017. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google I/O kicks off May 7 in Mountain View, California, where Google will be hosting a keynote and a million other sessions at the Shoreline Amphitheater. The keynote starts at 10am PT, and we’ll be there to cover everything announced at the show. But before we hop on a plane and fly down to Google HQ, we’ve prepared a likely list of things we anticipate Google will announce. If you want to know where the larger Google-verse is about to go, here are the rumors, expected updates on previously announced things, and notable schedule tidbits to keep an eye on at I/O 2019.

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