The Morning After: The biggest announcements from Nintendo Direct

Nintendo sidestepped sharing the spotlight with all the other gaming companies at Summer Game Fest last week, promising its own Direct later in June. And that happened yesterday, teasing a lot of new games with Nintendo favorites. Mario games, yes. Zelda games, yes, and even a new Metroid game, confirmed. (More on that below the fold).

The funny thing is the new Zelda game is all about… Zelda. You play as the princess in The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom. It opens where most Zelda games finish, with Link defeating Ganon. But just as he frees Princess Zelda, our usual hero is sucked into an alternate dimension. The game is played top-down and borrows the art style of the Link’s Awakening remake. However, Zelda’s main weapon and tool is the trirod. With this, she can copy many items and use these “echoes” to navigate the world. You can even create echoes of monsters to fight for Zelda.

Nintendo’s 40-minute update also included release dates for the forthcoming Dragon Quest remake, a new Mario Party title and news that feline adventure Stray is coming to Switch.

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Here are all of the just-announced Copilot+ PCs with Snapdragon X chips

Black Myth: Wukong is pretty, intriguing and as challenging as it looks

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The Solo Buds cover the basics, but that’s about it. Audio quality is flat, unless you’re listening to Dolby Atmos content in Apple Music, but at least the earbuds are comfy with long battery life. Then again, they only cost 80 bucks.

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Fisker has officially declared bankruptcy. The US-based startup filed for Chapter 11 protections and plans to restructure its debt and sell its assets. This means the Alaska EV with a designated cowboy hat space — not a joke — will likely never happen. Fisker revealed in a recent report that it had produced 10,193 units of its sole EV available, the Ocean SUV, in 2023, but only delivered 4,929 vehicles.

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Habbo Hotel: Origins, on Mac today, revives the 2005 PC game in all its nostalgic glory. If you never played Habbo Hotel 20 years ago, the game is an online community, in the format of, well, a hotel. Your avatar can chat with your friends in the virtual hotel lobby and spend in-game credits on furniture and accessories.

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After 18 years and a complete reboot, Samus Aran will return in Metroid Prime 4: Beyond, next year. We got our first glimpse of the game too, with Samus duking it out with aliens in typical Metroid style. The teaser ends with the reveal of a new big bad. It’s wearing a suit like our hero but is flanked by two floating metroids. Ominous? Yes.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-the-biggest-announcements-from-nintendo-direct-111547910.html?src=rss

Netflix House will open two locations in Texas and Pennsylvania in 2025

Netflix announced that Dalla and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania will host the first incarnations of its Netflix House entertainment complex concept. The Netflix blog Tudum posted the announcement Tuesday morning along with an artist’s rendering of one of the locations. Both will open sometime next year.

Netflix House is the streaming giant’s first attempt at a brick-and-mortar retail business. The Dallas and King of Prussia locations will offer dining, live events and interactive sets and experiences based on some of Netflix’s most popular shows and movies.

The “experiential entertainment venue” will let fans of shows like Bridgerton, Money Heist, Stranger Things and Squid Game interact with some of its most iconic scenes and settings. The announcement promises that guests can do things like “waltzing with your partner to an orchestral cover of a Taylor Swift song on a replication of the Bridgerton set.” Then you can enter another area of Netflix House and “compete in the Glass Bridge challenge from Squid Game” presumably without experiencing a really messy death in the end.

Presumably, no high concept entertainment experience is complete without taking a forced path through a gift shop. You can pick up special merchandise like a Hellfire Club T-shirt, a copy of The Queen’s Gambit board game or an “I survived a rich guy’s game of death” coffee mug from Squid Game. Don’t forget to check out the clearance bin for a Too Hot to Handle oven mitt.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/netflix-house-will-open-two-locations-in-texas-and-pennsylvania-in-2025-213033751.html?src=rss

Habbo Hotel Origins brings the original PC game back to life

Finnish developer Sulake has officially launched Habbo Hotel: Origins on Mac today, reviving the 2005 PC game in all its nostalgic glory. If you never played Habbo Hotel 20 years ago, the game is an online community that is very much a pixelated version of Roblox or Club Penguin where your avatar can chat with your friends in the virtual hotel lobby, spend in-game credits on furniture and accessories, decorate your Guest Room with said digital furniture and invite people over to your Guest Room for a chat. You could also message your friends with a little virtual phone. Now you can experience the game as it was originally made in Habbo Hotel: Origins thanks to the game’s creator Macklebee stumbling across the files by sweet serendipity.

“After discovering an old decrepit server with some long-lost files at the beginning of this year, over the past six months or so long-time Habbo developer and player Macklebee has lovingly restored an old version of Habbo Hotel first released in 2005,” the developer said in a blog post.

Sulake said Habbo Hotel: Origins is developed with a “fresh, community-led approach.” This means they have converted Infobus Park from the original game into a “kind of democratic forum” where they’ll answer players’ questions about the game’s development and direction. Infobus Park was a Public Room that served as a waiting area for players to board the bus, which only operated for a few hours a day.

Habbo Hotel: Origins sets the age limit to create a new account for 18 instead of 13. This is because the chat rooms in the original game were filled with pornographic and graphic messages, as a Channel 4 News reporter discovered while playing the game posing as an 11-year-old girl in 2012. There were also phishing scams, one of which resulted in a Dutch teenager getting arrested for stealing €4,000 worth of virtual furniture. If you played Habbo Hotel back then, you’ll probably want to keep your kids away from this revival.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/habbo-hotel-origins-brings-the-original-pc-game-back-to-life-205536943.html?src=rss

The Dragon Quest 3 HD-2D Remake arrives on November 14

Square-Enix’s old-meets-new reworking of Dragon Quest III arrives on November 14 on Switch. In addition, the HD-2D remake will be joined next year by reissues of its two predecessors in the trilogy, Dragon Quest I and Dragon Quest II, using the same innovative engine. The announcements came in Tuesday’s Nintendo Direct, which also brought news of The Legend of Zelda: Echoes of Wisdom, Metroid Prime 4 and Donkey Kong Country Returns.

The Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake trailer and screenshots showcase the game engine’s marvels, combining 16-bit-style sprites and textures with modern environmental effects. The engine stays true to vintage games’ original look and feel but uses modern touches to make them prettier. Square-Enix has already used the tech in Octopath Traveller and its sequel, along with Triangle Strategy, the Live a Live remake and the opera scene in Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster.

Battle screen from the Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake. Three hero characters (foreground) line up to battle four enemies (background). 16-bit graphical style with modern touches.
Square-Enix

Launching the third game in the trilogy first sounds odd, but the prequel, originally released in 1988, was the first chronologically within the game’s universe. The HD-2D remakes of the first two entries, initially available in 1986 and 1987, will arrive as one game sometime in 2025.

You can check out the nostalgic-meets-modern Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake trailer below. It launches on November 14 and will be available on Switch, PS5/PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC (Steam).

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-dragon-quest-3-hd-2d-remake-arrives-on-november-14-160136678.html?src=rss

Google DeepMind’s new AI tech will generate soundtracks for videos

Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence laboratory is working on a new technology that can generate soundtracks, even dialogue, to go along with videos. The lab has shared its progress on the video-to-audio (V2A) technology project, which can be paired with Google Veo and other video creation tools like OpenAI's Sora. In its blog post, the DeepMind team explains that the system can understand raw pixels and combine that information with text prompts to create sound effects for what's happening onscreen. To note, the tool can also be used to make soundtracks for traditional footage, such as silent films and any other video without sound. 

DeepMind's researchers trained the technology on videos, audios and AI-generated annotations that contain detailed descriptions of sounds and dialogue transcripts. They said that by doing so, the technology learned to associate specific sounds with visual scenes. As TechCrunch notes, DeepMind's team isn't the first to release an AI tool that can generate sound effects — ElevenLabs released one recently, as well — and it won't be the last. "Our research stands out from existing video-to-audio solutions because it can understand raw pixels and adding a text prompt is optional," the team writes.

While the text prompt is optional, it can be used to shape and refine the final product so that it's as accurate and as realistic as possible. You can enter positive prompts to steer the output towards creating sounds you want, for instance, or negative prompts to steer it away from the sounds you don't want. In the sample below, the team used the prompt: "Cinematic, thriller, horror film, music, tension, ambience, footsteps on concrete.

The researchers admit that they're still trying to address their V2A technology's existing limitations, like the drop in the output's audio quality that can happen if there are distortions in the source video. They're also still working on improving lip synchronizations for generated dialogue. In addition, they vow to put the technology through "rigorous safety assessments and testing" before releasing it to the world. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/google-deepminds-new-ai-tech-will-generate-soundtracks-for-videos-113100908.html?src=rss

Amazon is developing a live action Totally Spies series

A live-action adaptation of Totally Spies is now in production at Amazon. According to a report from Variety, Will Ferrell is the executive producer of the live-action series based on the popular 2000s animated series from French media company Banijay Kids, formerly known as Marathon Media.

The live-action Totally Spies will follow Sam, Clover and Alex as they balance saving the world as international spies working for the agency WOOHP with tackling schoolwork and social lives as college freshmen. No actors have been cast as any of the iconic girls, nor are writers attached to the project just yet.

The original Totally Spies was created by Vincent Chalvon-Demersay and David Michel, and it revolved around the three aforementioned teenage girls from Beverly Hills, California as they are recruited by WOOHP to solve worsening crimes that arise around the world. They’re equipped with spy gear disguised as women’s accessories such as hair dryers, high-heel shoes and lipstick. It’s like an animated Charlie’s Angels, except the girls actually see their boss in person.

Since its premiere in 2002, the series aired over 180 episodes, as well as spawned a prequel movie and a spin-off show, The Amazing Spiez. The seventh season of Totally Spies premiered in France last month after a nearly ten-year break, and it will air on Cartoon Network and Max in the US later this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-is-developing-a-live-action-totally-spies-series-201623189.html?src=rss

YouTube’s community notes feature rips a page out of X’s playbook

YouTube is borrowing a page from X (Twitter) and adding a community notes feature ahead of the 2024 US election. The company wants the short viewer-created blurbs to add relevant context to videos, such as pointing out misinformation or old footage passed off as new.

Notes will roll out initially as a pilot program for “a limited number of eligible contributors,” who will receive an invitation via email or Creator Studio. The invited participants will need to have an active YouTube account in good standing.

During the pilot phase, “third-party evaluators” will rate notes’ helpfulness to help train the system. YouTube says it wants to launch notes gradually to test and fine-tune the feature before making it more widely available. Look no further than YouTube’s often toxic video comments to see why that’s necessary.

Once the feature is calibrated and widely available, you’ll see them under videos “if they’re found to be broadly helpful.” Viewers will be asked to rate notes as “helpful,” “somewhat helpful” or “unhelpful” — and tell them why (for example, it cites good sources or is written clearly).

Note ratings will be determined by a bridging-based algorithm, which looks for connections among disparate groups. For example, if people who have historically rated things differently agree on a particular note’s helpfulness, that one will more likely appear. It sounds like the system could still be abused, especially considering how many online tribes today share an unflinching belief in the same debunked misinformation. But hey, we’ll reserve judgment until we see it in action.

The feature is awfully similar to one that was rolled out initially under the Jack Dorsey era of Twitter and expanded globally after Elon Musk bought the company in 2022. At the time, Musk described the feature as “a gamechanger for improving accuracy on Twitter.” X, as it’s known today, isn’t exactly known for its accuracy, but YouTube apparently saw something worth copying in the crowd-sourced context.

As for when you will see community notes, YouTube says the pilot will launch on mobile in the US first. The company anticipates mistakes during this test phase as it tweaks its algorithms. Everyone else in the US can expect to see notes appear “in the coming weeks and months.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/youtubes-community-notes-feature-rips-a-page-out-of-xs-playbook-162145673.html?src=rss

Neopets is back with a new storyline that’s meant to foster inclusivity

Neopets has been trying to get back its once substantial userbase over the past year by fixing and relaunching its classic games, holding timely events and releasing new features meant to get people hooked on the virtual website again. Today, Neopets is launching a new storyline — or as the website calls it, a new "plot" — which is typically a site event that requires players to solve puzzles, fight opponents in the Battledome and do other activities in order to participate. Neopets says it spent the past three years crafting a narrative that "resonates with players from all walks of life" for the plot called "The Void Within."

The storyline will feature a new protagonist named Nyx who'll embark on a journey with players to explore "themes of community, family, inclusion, well-being and identity." Together, they'll have to find a way to banish the gray curse that's killing all the colors across the Neopets universe. As part of the event, players will get access to new items, like a range of diverse hairstyles, as well as pride and accessibility customization options, for their characters. The website has also removed outdated terms and lore used years ago, has given the Library Faerie a wheelchair and has introduced new social media mascots with accessibility items like hearing aids. 

The Void Within starts rolling out today, with more episodes coming out one by one until early 2025. Neopets is also advising old players to log in if they haven't visited in recent years, because it's removing accounts that have been inactive for a decade by October, ahead of its 25th anniversary.  

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/neopets-is-back-with-a-new-storyline-thats-meant-to-foster-inclusivity-161213313.html?src=rss

A Quiet Place: The Road Ahead is coming to PC, PlayStation and Xbox this year

The premise of A Quiet Place always seemed like great fodder for a game: make too much of a racket and a blind, noise-sensitive alien will most probably kill you. Six years after the original movie hit theaters, a video game spinoff is almost here. A Quiet Place: The Road Ahead is coming to PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S later this year.

Developer Stormind Games (Remothered, Batora: Lost Haven) has crafted a first-person horror adventure based on the movies. You'll play as a young woman who attempts to steer clear of those terrifying creatures while dealing with her inner fears and family turmoil. All you'll have to help you survive the aliens is whatever tools you can find, such as a flashlight or homemade noise detector. But as the movies and game trailer make clear, just a single noise can spell doom.

Publisher Saber Interactive first announced a video game version of A Quiet Place in 2021 and initially planned to release it in 2022. It took an extra couple of years and perhaps a change of studio (Saber initially said iLLOGIKA and EP1T0ME were working on the project), but The Road Ahead now seems to be just a few months away.

Meanwhile, a prequel movie will hit theaters later this month. A Quiet Place: Day One stars the brilliant Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn of Stranger Things fame.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-quiet-place-the-road-ahead-is-coming-to-pc-playstation-and-xbox-this-year-150813192.html?src=rss

TikTok’s gen AI avatars are based on real people and that only makes them more creepy

Back in April, The Information reported that TikTok was working on AI-generated avatars that advertisers could use to sell their products on the platform. Now, the company has made those plans public, announcing new AI-created “digital avatars” that it will begin offering to creators and brands on the app.

According to TikTok, the AI personas are meant to make it easier for creators and businesses to create branded content that still has a “human feel” but without the time and resources that would go into making a typical highly produced and edited ad.

TikTok is starting out with two kinds of avatars: stock avatars that are based on paid actors and custom avatars based on existing creators and brand spokespeople. These avatars will then star in TikTok videos promoting products and can be customized to speak different languages based on the intended audience.

The company says the new feature shows how generative AI can help creators reach even more people on its platform (and, presumably, generate more ad revenue for the company). But after looking at a couple of examples of these, I’m not that excited for a bunch of AI-generated creators to take over my For You feed.

Take the above example of a custom avatar shared by TikTok. The digital persona seems to be based on TikTok exec Adrienne Lahens. But while the avatar looks like her, the speaking style and movements aren’t… quite right. If you watch closely, you’ll notice there’s a slight jerkiness to the head and hand movements that is giving M3GAN vibes. And, speaking of creepy robots, there’s something extremely unnerving about the eyes on AI Adrienne.

Now, I’ve chatted with Lahens before and can confirm she speaks much more warmly and naturally than her AI avatar. Even the still shot of an AI avatar based off of creator O’Neil Thomas at the top of this article has an off-putting 1,000 yard stare that doesn’t seem to be representative of Thomas’ actual persona.

TikTok is far from the first company to experiment with “realistic” AI and come up with something that feels a little bit uncomfortable even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. At least, the company’s own rules require that this kind of content gets prominent disclosures. And maybe the new avatars will help creators sell more TikTok Shop gadgets or other supposedly “viral” products. I just hope TikTok can do something to make those AI-generated eyeballs feel a tad less creepy.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tiktoks-gen-ai-avatars-are-based-on-real-people-and-that-only-makes-them-more-creepy-130033649.html?src=rss