‘Diablo IV’ review: A mechanically perfect romp through a shallow world

In an interview with The Guardian more than a decade ago, Warren Spector, the director and producer of Deus Ex, said his dream game would take place in one city block. “There are people who are trying to simulate massive worlds at a level of an inch per mile,” Spector told journalist Keith Stuart. “I don’t get it. I really want deep worlds that you can interact with.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about those comments while playing Diablo IV. Blizzard’s latest is easily one of the best games the studio has released in about a decade, but I can’t help imagining what Diablo IV could have been if it were a smaller, more focused experience.

The story of Diablo IV opens decades after the end of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, with the world of Sanctuary still reeling from the events of that game. Structurally, the narrative that unfolds is similar to Diablo II. Following a visit to a remote village, your character sets off after the demon Lilith – who is the daughter of Mephisto, one of the Prime Evils you defeated in Diablo II. More often than not, your character finds they’re one step behind Lilith, leading to predictably dire results.

I won’t say much more about Diablo IV’s story other than to note Blizzard smartly grounded it in the tragedy of its human characters. When the narrative calls on elements from past games, it does so in ways that feel natural and earned. Lilith is also a great antagonist. Every time she appeared on-screen, I felt a sense of unease waiting to see what kind of calculated cruelty she’d inflict on those unlucky enough to cross her path. If you only end up playing Diablo IV for its story, I think you will enjoy the experience, but if you decide to veer off its critical path, be prepared to play through a lot of uninspired content.

If you tried Diablo IV during one of the open betas Blizzard held in recent months, you’ve seen most of what the game’s open world has to offer as you’re leveling your character. Did you encounter a world event in the Fractured Peaks that tasked you with protecting a group of villagers hiding under their carts? Guess what – you’ll find another group just like that one again in Scosglen, the game’s second zone, and in other areas, too. I bet you played through a few optional dungeons. Well, there are more than 100 in the full game, and most feature a limited combination of layouts and objectives. World bosses and camps are more fun to complete, but there are far fewer of them than all the other content present in the game. The post-campaign adds more things to do like helltides and nightmare dungeons, but those increase the difficulty of the content, rather than introducing something substantially new.

Sometimes you’ll discover some interesting lore, a nifty bit of environmental storytelling or a named enemy that will drop an item with unique flavor text, but those moments are few and far between. I kept waiting for Diablo IV’s world to surprise me, to do something unexpected. The closest the game came to scratching that itch was when it sent the Butcher, a boss that shows up in nearly every Diablo game, to murder my character in an optional dungeon I was exploring. Even though my barbarian didn’t survive the encounter, I wanted more moments like that. Instead, the game seemed dead set on offering me an endless checklist of samey content if I ever decided to strike off on my own.

Screenshot of the Dry Steppes, one of the areas players can visit in Diablo IV. The environment of the Dry Steppes is characterized by desert and dry shrub.
Blizzard Entertainment

That frustration is palpable while playing Diablo IV because so much of the game is immediately compelling. Nearly every inch of its open world is striking, with some of the most detailed and creative assets Blizzard has ever produced. Add to that a soundtrack that is haunting and evocative, and you have an experience that’s begging for players to inhabit it.

Maybe it’s my fault for expecting a live service game to offer something more substantive, but everywhere in Diablo IV, you see evidence that the people who spent years of their lives working on this project wanted the same thing. Just look at character creation. Clearly, the intention here was to allow players to make their druid, barbarian, sorcerer, rogue or necromancer look exactly like they’ve always appeared in their imaginations. Diablo IV offers a dizzying amount of visual customization for each class. In addition to all of the items, you can give your character different hairstyles and tattoos, and modify their skin tone, eye color and other attributes. Add in the transmog system, which allows you to transform the appearance of items to make them look like ones you’ve found in the past, and I can guarantee no two characters will look alike.

Blizzard obviously also put a lot of thought into player agency, allowing each class to be played in a variety of ways. The Aspects system is one of Diablo IV’s most compelling features: By completing dungeons and finding legendary items, you will collect item affixes that modify how skills work, and they’re transferable among your inventory. Some of these can completely change how your build functions. After some initial frustration, I found a build that allowed my barbarian to make short work of both hordes of monsters and Diablo IV’s spongy bosses, and I had a lot of fun with the game. I just wish there was more to do in Diablo IV’s world other than kill countless monster hordes. After all, role-playing has always been part of the ARPG genre.

Screenshot of the Diablo IV shop, showing the Lion of Arreat cosmetic set for barbarians.
Blizzard Entertainment

One last thing I want to note is that I played a version of Diablo IV that did not include any of the microtransactions the final build will feature. If you haven’t followed that aspect of the game’s development, I wrote about Blizzard’s monetization plans for Diablo IV last year. In short, Diablo IV is a full-priced game that also happens to feature an in-game shop and seasonal passes. Blizzard has promised that none of the cosmetic items you can buy in the shop or earn by completing the paid track of a season pass will grant “direct or indirect” gameplay advantages. The studio was also quick to note the shop and season pass will offer “more diversity of choices, not systematically better choices” for customizing your character. After Diablo Immortal, I’m fine with this setup, but I know some people will be put off by the presence of a season pass.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression of my time with Diablo IV; I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. In a lot of ways, it’s the Diablo game I’ve been dreaming of ever since I first set foot in the world of Sanctuary back in 1997. But it is also a reminder of all the ways Blizzard has changed since I first encountered its games. There’s no way the company that released Diablo II in 2000 and even Diablo III in 2012 could have created a game of Diablo IV’s scale, but sheer size is not what makes Diablo IV enjoyable. So often, that scale works against the game, resulting in a world that is, as Warren Spector might say, simulated at a level of an inch per mile.

Diablo IV will be available on PC, PlayStation and Xbox on June 6th.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/diablo-iv-review-a-mechanically-perfect-romp-through-a-shallow-world-160017353.html?src=rss

Japan will try to beam solar power from space by 2025

Japan and JAXA, the country’s space administration, have spent decades trying to make it possible to beam solar energy from space. In 2015, the nation made a breakthrough when JAXA scientists successfully beamed 1.8 kilowatts of power, enough energy to power an electric kettle, more than 50 meters to a wireless receiver. Now, Japan is poised to bring the technology one step closer to reality.

Nikkei reports a Japanese public-private partnership will attempt to beam solar energy from space as early as 2025. The project, led by Naoki Shinohara, a Kyoto University professor who has been working on space-based solar energy since 2009, will attempt to deploy a series of small satellites in orbit. Those will then try to beam the solar energy the arrays collect to ground-based receiving stations hundreds of miles away.

Using orbital solar panels and microwaves to send energy to Earth was first proposed in 1968. Since then, a few countries, including China and the US, have spent time and money pursuing the idea. The technology is appealing because orbital solar arrays represent a potentially unlimited renewable energy supply. In space, solar panels can collect energy no matter the time of day, and by using microwaves to beam the power they produce, clouds aren’t a concern either. However, even if Japan successfully deploys a set of orbital solar arrays, the tech would still be closer to science fiction than fact. That’s because producing an array that can generate 1 gigawatt of power – or about the output of one nuclear reactor – would cost about $7 billion with currently available technologies.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/japan-will-try-to-beam-solar-power-from-space-by-2025-214338244.html?src=rss

Portugal considers banning Huawei from national 5G networks

Portugal could become the latest country to effectively ban Huawei and other Chinese firms from participating in its 5G buildouts. As reported by Bloomberg, the government of Portugal this week recommended barring local carriers from sourcing 5G equipment from suppliers based outside of the European Union or from countries that aren’t part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED).

In a statement Portugal’s Higher Council for Cybersecurity shared on Thursday, the government said firms outside those jurisdictions pose a “high risk” to the security of the country’s wireless networks. The document didn’t call out Huawei specifically, but as China isn’t a member of NATO, the OCED or the EU, the company, alongside other Chinese suppliers like ZTE, would effectively be excluded from participating in Portugal’s 5G networks should the country’s cabinet approve the security council’s recommendation.

“Huawei has no prior knowledge of, and hasn’t been consulted about, this matter,” a Huawei spokesperson told the Financial Times. “Over the past two decades, Huawei has worked with Portuguese carriers to build out wireless networks and provide quality services that connect millions of people. We will continue to comply with all applicable laws and regulations, and serve Portuguese customers and partners who rely on our products and services.”

Banning Chinese companies from participating in its 5G networks would be an abrupt turnaround for Portugal, which has enjoyed close relations with the East Asian superpower for years. As the Financial Times notes, Portugal has been one of the biggest per capita recipients of Chinese investment in recent years. Altice Portugal, the country’s largest wireless carrier, signed a deal in 2018 to use Huawei equipment for part of its 5G rollout. If Portugal moves forward with a ban, it would join Canada and a handful of other European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, that have recently barred the company from participating in their 5G networks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/portugal-considers-banning-huawei-from-national-5g-networks-201102160.html?src=rss

A lawyer faces sanctions after he used ChatGPT to write a brief riddled with fake citations

With the hype around AI reaching a fever pitch in recent months, many people fear programs like ChatGPT will one day put them out of a job. For one New York lawyer, that nightmare could become a reality sooner than expected, but not for the reasons you might think. As reported by The New York Times, attorney Steven Schwartz of the law firm Levidow, Levidow and Oberman recently turned to OpenAI’s chatbot for assistance with writing a legal brief, with predictably disastrous results.

Schwartz’s firm has been suing the Colombian airline Avianca on behalf of Roberto Mata, who claims he was injured on a flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. When the airline recently asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, Mata’s lawyers filed a 10-page brief arguing why the suit should proceed. The document cited more than half a dozen court decisions, including “Varghese v. China Southern Airlines,” “Martinez v. Delta Airlines” and “Miller v. United Airlines.” Unfortunately for everyone involved, no one who read the brief could find any of the court decisions cited by Mata’s lawyers. Why? Because ChatGPT fabricated all of them. Oops.

In an affidavit filed on Thursday, Schwartz said he had used the chatbot to “supplement” his research for the case. Schwartz wrote he was "unaware of the possibility that [ChatGPT’s] content could be false.” He even shared screenshots showing that he had asked ChatGPT if the cases it cited were real. The program responded they were, claiming the decisions could be found in “reputable legal databases,” including Westlaw and LexisNexis. 

Schwartz said he “greatly regrets” using ChatGPT “and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.” Whether he has another chance to write a legal brief is up in the air. The judge overseeing the case has ordered a June 8th hearing to discuss potential sanctions for the “unprecedented circumstance” created by Schwartz’s actions.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-lawyer-faces-sanctions-after-he-used-chatgpt-to-write-a-brief-riddled-with-fake-citations-175720636.html?src=rss

Meta’s Quest 3 headset could feature color cameras for more lifelike pass-through video

Meta’s Quest 3 VR headset won’t arrive until later this year. However, now we have a better idea of what to expect from the device courtesy of Bloomberg’sMark Gurman, who says he went hands-on with a prototype to better understand how Quest 3 will stack up against Apple’s forthcoming mixed-reality headset. Gurman reports the prototype, codenamed Eureka, “feels far lighter and thinner” than its predecessor. He says the head strap “seems a bit stronger,” too, and uses fabric on the sides instead of plastic like the Quest 2.

More consequentially, the front of the device reportedly features a new design incorporating an enhanced sensor suite. Three “vertical pill-shaped sensor areas” house two color video pass-through cameras, two standard cameras and a depth sensor. As Gurman notes, that’s a significant upgrade from the Quest 2, which doesn’t come with color pass-through or a depth sensor. The presence of the former means you won’t need to designate the walls in your play space.

The front lower sides of the headset feature tracking cameras, while the bottom has a volume rocker and a wheel to adjust interpupillary distance. That means you can tweak the Quest 3’s IPD without taking the headset off, something you can’t do with the Quest 2.

“The actual clarity and VR displays within the Quest 3 feel similar to those in the Quest 2 — despite the resolution being rumored to be slightly higher,” Gurman writes, while noting pass-through for mixed reality applications and overall performance is significantly improved over the Quest 2. Speaking to the former, he says there’s a “night-and-day improvement” thanks to the added dual RGB cameras. “I was even able to use my phone while wearing the headset, something that often feels impossible on a Quest 2,” he adds. As for performance, Quest 3 reportedly features Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon XR2 chipset, leading to shorter app launch times and more consistent frame rates in games. 

Notably, Gurman says the Quest 3 doesn’t include face and eye tracking, which means the headset won’t support foveated rendering. That’s a feature you can find on the Quest Pro. It allows the system to prioritize its limited computing resources on areas where you’re looking. Another feature the Quest 3 won’t carry over from the Quest Pro is controller-mounted cameras, though Gurman says Meta is trying to improve peripheral tracking in other ways.

“Meta hasn’t yet settled on pricing for the device, but people involved in its development believe it may come in higher than the Quest 2’s $400,” Gurman notes, adding the company could keep the Quest 2 around “at a lower price.” He adds Meta doesn’t plan to release a new Quest Pro “anytime soon since the first version bombed.” The company reportedly plans to announce the Quest 3 sometime in October, which aligns with what company executives have said in the past when asked when consumers can expect a new Quest headset.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/metas-quest-3-headset-could-feature-color-cameras-for-more-lifelike-pass-through-video-155645837.html?src=rss

US judge grants final approval to Apple’s $50 million ‘butterfly’ keyboard settlement

A US federal court this week gave final approval to the $50 million class-action settlement Apple came to last July resolving claims the company knew about and concealed the unreliable nature of keyboards on MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro computers released between 2015 and 2019. Per Reuters (via 9to5Mac), Judge Edward Davila on Thursday called the settlement involving Apple’s infamous “butterfly” keyboards “fair, adequate and reasonable.” Under the agreement, MacBook users impacted by the saga will receive settlements between $50 and $395. More than 86,000 claims for class member payments were made before the application deadline last March, Judge Davila wrote in his ruling.

Apple debuted the butterfly keyboard in 2015 with the 12-inch MacBook. At the time, former design chief Jony Ive boasted that the mechanism would allow the company to build ever-slimmer laptops without compromising on stability or typing feel. As Apple re-engineered more of its computers to incorporate the butterfly keyboard, Mac users found the design was susceptible to dust and other debris. The company introduced multiple revisions to make the mechanism more resilient before eventually returning to a more conventional keyboard design with the 16-inch MacBook Pro in late 2019.

Apple won’t have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement. Before this week, some members of the class action lawsuit attempted to challenge the deal on the grounds that a proposed $125 payout for one group in the class was not enough, an appeal Judge Davila rejected. “The possibility that a better settlement may have been reached — or that the benefits provided under the settlement will not make class members 'whole' — are insufficient grounds to deny approval,” Davila wrote in his ruling. The judge also rejected a request for compensation from MacBook owners who experienced keyboard failures but did not get their computers serviced by Apple. There’s no word when claimants can expect their payment to be sent out, but the lawyers involved in the case said they “look forward to getting the money out to our clients.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/us-judge-grants-final-approval-to-apples-50-million-butterfly-keyboard-settlement-141223797.html?src=rss

Apple’s free My Photo Stream service will shut down on July 26th

Apple plans to shut down its My Photo Stream service on July 26th, 2023, the company announced on Friday. The free service has been available since the release of iCloud in 2011. You can use My Photo Stream to upload the last 30 days of images and videos – up to a limit of 1,000 – from your Apple devices to iCloud. My Photo Stream predates iCloud Photos and gave Apple users a way to access their images and video clips on more than one device. Notably, content uploaded to iCloud through My Photo Stream do not count against your iCloud storage cap, though they’re not saved at full resolution.

In a support document spotted by MacRumors, Apple says My Photo Stream will stop automatically uploading photos to the company’s servers on June 26th, 2023. At that point, your photos and videos will remain on iCloud for 30 days until the official shutdown on July 26th. Since every image and video uploaded to iCloud through My Photo Stream is stored in its original format and resolution on at least one of your Apple devices, you won’t lose any cherished memories as part of the shutdown process. That said, if you want to have access to a specific image on a particular device, Apple recommends you save it to that device’s Photo Library before July 26th.

On iPhone and iPad, you can save an image from your My Photo Stream by opening the Photos app, navigating to the My Photo Stream album, selecting the photo you want to save and then tapping the Share button to save it to your Library. Apple ends the support document by noting, “iCloud Photos is the best way to keep the photos and videos you take up to date across all your devices and safely stored in iCloud.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apples-free-my-photo-stream-service-will-shut-down-on-july-26th-211650923.html?src=rss

Dolphin emulator Steam release delayed indefinitely following Nintendo DMCA notice

Valve has delisted Dolphin from Steam after receiving a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice from Nintendo. In late March, the developers of Dolphin, an open source emulator that can run most GameCube and Wii titles, said they were planning to bring the free app to Valve’s storefront later this year. In a May 26th legal notice seen by PC Gamer, Nintendo's legal team asked Valve to remove Dolphin from Steam, claiming the emulator violates the company’s intellectual property rights.

"Because the Dolphin emulator violates Nintendo’s intellectual property rights, including but not limited to its rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)’s Anti-Circumvention and AntiTrafficking provisions, 17 U.S.C. § 1201, we provide this notice to you of your obligation to remove the offering of the Dolphin emulator from the Steam store," the document states.

With the notice, the Dolphin team has two options on how to move forward. It can either file a counter-claim with Valve, arguing the emulator doesn’t violate the DMCA as claimed by Nintendo, or it can choose to comply with the takedown notice. If the team files a counter-notice, Nintendo would have two weeks to decide whether to file a lawsuit. As PC Gamer notes, it’s unclear if the company actually intends to pursue legal action against Dolphin. However, if a case were to go to court, it could have far-reaching implications for emulators. For the time being, the Dolphin team says it’s deciding what to do next.

“It is with much disappointment that we have to announce that the Dolphin on Steam release has been indefinitely postponed,” the Dolphin Emulation Project said Friday. “We were notified by Valve that Nintendo has issued a cease and desist citing the DMCA against Dolphin's Steam page, and have removed Dolphin from Steam until the matter is settled. We are currently investigating our options and will have a more in-depth response in the near future.” As of the writing of this story, you can still download the Dolphin emulator from the project’s website and GitHub page. The Dolphin team did not receive a direct takedown notice from Nintendo.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/dolphin-emulator-steam-release-delayed-indefinitely-following-nintendo-dmca-notice-194601894.html?src=rss

Twitter pulls out of EU’s voluntary Code of Practice against disinformation

Twitter has withdrawn from a voluntary European Union agreement to combat online disinformation. In a tweet spotted by TechCrunch, Thierry Breton, the bloc’s internal market commissioner, said Twitter had pulled out of the EU’s “Code of Practice” against disinformation. “You can run but you can’t hide. Our teams are ready for enforcement,” Breton said, referring to the EU’s Digital Services Act. As of August 25th, the DSA will require “very large online platforms” like Twitter to be more proactive with content moderation.

Twitter does not operate a communications department Engadget could contact for comment. Before Elon Musk's takeover last October, Twitter signed onto the EU’s Code of Practice against disinformation in 2018, alongside companies like Facebook parent Meta, Google and TikTok. While the Code is voluntary, the EU announced in June 2022 that sticking to the agreement would count towards DSA compliance. As TechCrunch notes, Twitter’s decision to withdraw from the deal just three months before the EU starts enforcing the DSA would appear to suggest the company plans to skirt the bloc’s rules on content moderation.

However, ignoring the DSA could turn into an expensive fight for Twitter and Elon Musk. The legislation allows EU officials to hand out penalties of up to 10 percent of global annual turnover for infractions, with the potential for fines of up to 20 percent of worldwide turnover for repeat instances of non-compliance. The European Commission has also said that repeat non-compliance could lead to the EU blocking access to offending services.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/twitter-pulls-out-of-eus-voluntary-code-of-practice-against-disinformation-183726045.html?src=rss

Ron DeSantis had trouble announcing his presidential bid because Twitter’s servers were ‘kind of melting’

Ron DeSantis was supposed to take to Twitter Spaces today to officially announce his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Unfortunately for the governor of Florida, it appears Twitter was not prepared for the influx of people who were waiting to listen to the announcement. Shortly after the Space went live, the broadcast dropped and DeSantis had to wait before he could say he was running to become the president of the United States of America. 

"We've got so many people here that I think we are kind of melting the servers, which is a good sign," said Republican megadonor and Elon Musk confidant David Sacks said during a moment when the Space briefly returned before dropping again. The announcement eventually got underway after Twitter moved the Space to Sacks' account because Musk's "account was breaking the system." Sacks said the Space, with more than 500,000 people tuned in to listen at one point, was the largest group that had "ever met online," a claim that was quickly ridiculed.      

"When Elon Musk stepped up to purchase Twitter he paid a lot of money for it. And I'm sure because he's a good businessman — Elon, I'm sure you'll end up making money off it — but bottom line is you had to put your money where your mouth is," DeSantis said of Musk's purchase of Twitter after the Space finally got underway. 

Musk’s decision to personally give DeSantis a platform should put to bed any questions about his politics. Since his takeover of the platform last October, the billionaire has repeatedly engaged with and enabled fringe far-right voices. At the start of December, Twitter reinstated the account of Andrew Anglin, the creator of the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer. Before that, Musk elevated conspiracy theories about the attack on Paul Pelosi. More recently, he has publicly attacked Anthony Fauci and George Soros. In helping DeSantis announce his presidential bid, Musk is aligning himself with a politician who has signed legislation that has restricted access to abortion and banned transition care for minors.

Before today, Twitter, under its previous leadership, had never so directly engaged with a presidential candidate. At most, the platform's user-facing political outreach involved an election hub that pointed people to information on how to vote and livestreams devoted to debates between presidential candidates. Now the company plans to give former Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson a platform.

During Donald Trump's years as president, the public got used to seeing a US leader use Twitter as a personal megaphone. The former president was banned from the website in 2021 in the aftermath of the January 6th US Capitol riot. Last November, Musk appeared to make the decision to reinstate Trump’s account on the results of a Twitter poll. The company reinstated Trump’s account on November 19th, 2022, but even with some attempted public coaxing from Musk, the former president has not tweeted since before his ban.

The fact Twitter ran into technical difficulties should come as no surprise. Under Musk's leadership, the company has cut the majority of the workforce it had in place under former CEO Parag Agrawal, including much of the team responsible for its critical infrastructure.  

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ron-desantis-cant-announce-hes-running-for-president-because-twitters-servers-are-kind-of-melting-222437047.html?src=rss