Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time. The dawning of a year means a little more of what was once the near-future is now the present. While most games set in 2018 squandered this just-out-of-reach year by simply speculating that sports teams might […]

Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 was never able to escape that long shadow cast by Mario Kart. While the game got a remake for the DS, it never got a true successor. And if we’re being honest, it probably never will. Fortunately there’s a fan video to help fill the void left by its eternal absence.

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Josef Fares, director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and the upcoming A Way Out, delivered a spirited, invigorated, profanity-powered speech at The Game Awards this evening, covering his real and true feelings on the Oscars and loot boxes. I can’t do it justice. Just watch and enjoy.

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Animation studio Pixar has since 1995 released a total of 19 feature films. Some have been excellent. Others have not.

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EA and DICE have detailed the contents of the new update for Star Wars Battlefront II, patch 1.03. It doesn't do much in the way of introducing new features, instead focusing on resolving bugs and making other small tweaks. Perhaps most notably, it addresses complaints about the awards screen presented at the end of a round.

Previously, this screen recognized the player who earned a certain distinction--MVP, most kills, longest killstreak, and so on. Because of the specifics awards that it hands out, this oftentimes results in the screen being dominated by a single player (or sometimes two) who earned all five awards. Update 1.03 makes a change to simply acknowledge players by their score, which means more of them will be recognized.

Spawn points and the combat area on a number of maps have been adjusted, as have some specifics of how objectives can be captured. Most notably, Boba Fett can no longer hover high up in the air and make progress toward capturing an objective. Additionally, some collision issues have also been addressed on Jakku, Endor, and Kashyyyk. "This means that movement [is] now more fluent and no weird or invisible barriers are stopping your movement," DICE said.

Other changes of note include a fix for the error when quitting games, an increase to reinforcements earned after each stage of a Galactic Assault match, and a reduction to the time needed to interact with objectives.

The update is out now to PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You can check out the full patch notes below or on Battlefront's forums. This isn't the only change coming to Battlefront II soon, as The Last Jedi-themed content is on the way to coincide with the movie's release. Additionally, if a dataminer's findings are accurate, cosmetic customization options may be on the way--perhaps to make up for the game's temporary removal of microtransactions.

Star Wars Battlefront II Update 1.03 Patch Notes

  • Reduced the amount of Score and Battle points gained by using the Disruptor Shot mod for the NT-242 when used against vehicles.
  • Reduced the amount of Score and Battle points gained by using the LAAT Gunship against vehicles.
  • Reduced the amount of damage the Stinger Pistol ability does against Heroes & Villains.
  • Boba Fett can no longer capture objectives while hovering high above the objective.
  • Blocked of some areas on Kamino and Naboo where players could use aerial units to gain an unfair advantage over other players.
  • Tweaked the spawning positions when playing Strike on Kamino.
  • Tweaked the combat area on Tatooine when playing Strike.
  • Tweaked the combat area on Endor when playing Blast.
  • Tweaked the combat area on Hoth when playing Blast.
  • Tweaked the spawning positions of Starfighters when playing Galactic Assault on Tatooine.
  • Tweaked the spawn positions of the AAT when playing Galactic Assault on Kashyyyk.
  • Fixed several collision and traversal issues on Jakku.
  • Fixed several collision and traversal issues on Kashyyyk.
  • Fixed several collision and traversal issues on Endor.
  • Fixed several collision issues on the Death Star II.
  • Fixed several UI issues in the spawn screen when playing Heroes vs Villains.
  • Fixed an issue where the objective markers would not update correctly during Galactic Assault on Endor.
  • Fixed an issue where some automatic doors would not open when approached by Villains in Heroes vs Villains.
  • Fixed an issue where texture was missing near the East Gate Control when playing Strike on Yavin IV.
  • Fixed an issue where the reticule from Lando's Sharp Shot ability would remain active longer than intended.
  • Reduced the amount of the damage the NT-242 with the Disruptor Shot mod does against the AT-ST.
  • Fixed an issue where the Scan Dart ability would not work correctly when used on doors.
  • Players will no longer be able to start a round if the pre-round requirements are not met.
  • Fixed an issue where the HUD would indicate that friendly forces are taking damage when being hit with by the Ion Charge ability on the AT-RT.
  • The Heavy Trooper's Impact Grenade ability VFX now works as intended.
  • The DLT-20A Targeting Rifle VFX now works as intended.
  • The Pulse Cannon ability VFX now works as intended.
  • Fixed several issues with the End of Round screen where tall characters would not fit in the screen.
  • Fixed an issue where the players could not Zoom after switching weapons from an overheated TL50.
  • Fixed several clipping issues that occurred during the campaign.
  • Fixed an issue where Iden's Star Cards will display their multiplayer stats during the Campaign.
  • Fixed several animation issues for Heroes and Villains.
  • Fixed several texture issues in Arcade mode.
  • Fixed several collision issues in Arcade mode.
  • The End of Round screen now gives feedback to players on Rank Up that they are awarded with Credits.
  • More reinforcements are awarded after each phase in Galactic Assault.
  • Time required to complete interact objectives has been reduced.

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One adaptation got its first poster this weekend and there’s something a little off about it. Namely actor Tye Sheridan’s left leg which seems to stretch on into infinity.

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There has been a lot of news for Star Wars fans to keep up with over the past couple of months, from the change of director on Episode IX to the upcoming live-action TV show. But the biggest news was the announcement that Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is to make a new trilogy set within the Star Wars universe. Now, Johnson has been speaking about his plans for these movies.

In an interview with Collider, Johnson explained how plans for the new trilogy came about. "We were getting to the end of [The Last Jedi] and kind of getting sad that we had to stop working," he said. "But Kathy [Kennedy, Lucasfilm boss] and all the folks at Disney were just like, 'We've had a really good time. How do we keep this party going a little longer?'

"We were just generally talking about what could we do. I was like, 'What would be most interesting to me is...'--and it wasn't even a specific pitch, the pitch was--'a new trilogy. Three movies, one story. New characters, new places. Let's start fresh.' That was the most exciting thing I could possibly think of, and Kathy really responded to that, and we're gonna give it a shot."

No Caption Provided

Johnson went to explain that while he was developing the overall story for the new trilogy, he wouldn't necessarily direct all three films. "Honestly I don't know yet," he said. "I know I'm gonna come up with the whole thing. The idea is to come up with one big story, but I know I'm gonna write and direct at least the first one. Even the first one at this point we're still figuring out, so I don't know yet. But I know I want to come up with the whole thing and then we'll see."

Johnson also cleared up the rumor that he was in line to direct Episode IX following the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow in September. "It was totally separate; it was never in the cards for me to [direct Episode IX]. I was always gonna finish [The Last Jedi] and then hand it off to the next filmmaker." The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams will now direct the 2019 release.

The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15. A new international trailer was revealed today, which features the first look at the movie's casino planet Canto Bight. In addition, a new video of Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the movie, training to use a lightsaber was released last week.

Ridley has also revealed that she plans to leave the series after Episode IX in 2019. "I am really, really excited to do the third thing and round it out, because ultimately, what I was signing on to was three films," she said. "So in my head, it's three films. I think it will feel like the right time to round it out."

Publisher FoxNext has announced that a brand-new X-Files game, The X-Files: Deep State, will launch on iOS, Android, and Facebook early next year. It marks the TV series' first video game spin-off since The X-Files: Resist or Serve appeared on PS2 back in 2004.

You might want to temper your expectations just a little though; The X-Files: Deep State is a free-to-play "mystery investigation" adventure that, unsurprisingly, looks to lie at the more casual end of the gaming spectrum, offering something between an interactive novel and hidden object game. It also appears, judging by the teaser trailer at least, to be shorn of the TV series' iconic investigative duo, Mulder and Scully.

In Deep State, you play as an unnamed (but apparently customisable) FBI Agent, teaming up with the infuriatingly half-named Agent Dale to investigate "mysterious crime scenes that defy explanation". In more practical terms, you'll be exploring environments to uncover hidden clues, collect evidence, solve puzzles, and interrogate witnesses and suspects.

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Developer Scott Ethington has announced Ripped Pants at Work, a "frantic stealth game about searching for new pants". That's the trouser kind, by the way.

Ripped Pants at Work begins when a routine pencil-retrieval operation goes badly wrong, causing your trousers to tear so vigorously that they explode clean off.

From there, with your undergarments embarrassingly exposed, you're tasked with slipping unseen through the bustling rooms and corridors of your workplace (eventually moving out into the city streets) in search of new trousers.

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There has been a lot of news for Star Wars fans to keep up with over the past couple of months, from the change of director on Episode IX to the upcoming live-action TV show. But the biggest news was the announcement that Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is to make a new trilogy set within the Star Wars universe. Now, Johnson has been speaking about his plans for these movies.

In an interview with Collider, Johnson explained how plans for the new trilogy came about. "We were getting to the end of [The Last Jedi] and kind of getting sad that we had to stop working," he said. "But Kathy [Kennedy, Lucasfilm boss] and all the folks at Disney were just like, 'We've had a really good time. How do we keep this party going a little longer?'

"We were just generally talking about what could we do. I was like, 'What would be most interesting to me is...'--and it wasn't even a specific pitch, the pitch was--'a new trilogy. Three movies, one story. New characters, new places. Let's start fresh.' That was the most exciting thing I could possibly think of, and Kathy really responded to that, and we're gonna give it a shot."

No Caption Provided

Johnson went to explain that while he was developing the overall story for the new trilogy, he wouldn't necessarily direct all three films. "Honestly I don't know yet," he said. "I know I'm gonna come up with the whole thing. The idea is to come up with one big story, but I know I'm gonna write and direct at least the first one. Even the first one at this point we're still figuring out, so I don't know yet. But I know I want to come up with the whole thing and then we'll see."

Johnson also cleared up the rumor that he was in line to direct Episode IX following the departure of original director Colin Trevorrow in September. "It was totally separate; it was never in the cards for me to [direct Episode IX]. I was always gonna finish [The Last Jedi] and then hand it off to the next filmmaker." The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams will now direct the 2019 release.

The Last Jedi hits theaters on December 15. A new international trailer was revealed today, which features the first look at the movie's casino planet Canto Bight. In addition, a new video of Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the movie, training to use a lightsaber was released last week.

Ridley has also revealed that she plans to leave the series after Episode IX in 2019. "I am really, really excited to do the third thing and round it out, because ultimately, what I was signing on to was three films," she said. "So in my head, it's three films. I think it will feel like the right time to round it out."

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Imaging What A New Diddy Kong Racing Might Look Like

Diddy Kong Racing for the N64 was never able to escape that long shadow cast by Mario Kart. While the game got a remake for the DS, it never got a true successor. And if we’re being honest, it probably never will. Fortunately there’s a fan video to help fill the void left by its eternal absence.

Read more...

Foreign governments are granting Trump projects big favors to get what they want from...

President Donald Trump purportedly stepped away from his business interests for the duration of his term as president, but Vanity Fair‘s Tina Nguyen says that foreign governments are granting favors and greasing the wheels for Trump-branded projects around the world.

Anita Kumar at McClatchy reported that the Indonesian government has chosen to build a new road to shorten the drive between the island chain’s main airport and the new Trump golf resort.

In Panama, the national government directly intervened in a lagging sewer project connected to the new Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City. The original contractor tasked with constructing the system went bankrupt, prompting the government to use its own money to construct sewage and water pipes connecting to the resort hotel.

“And in other countries,” Kumar wrote, “governments have donated public land, approved permits and eased environmental regulations for Trump-branded developments, creating a slew of potential conflicts as foreign leaders make investments that can be seen as gifts or attempts to gain access to the American president through his sprawling business empire.”

As Nguyen noted, all of this appears to place Trump squarely in violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts or anything that might be constituted as a bribe from foreign governments.

However, she said, “Just weeks after Trump won the election, the Argentinian government suddenly granted a permit for a long-delayed Trump Tower development in Buenos Aires. In September, Trump’s Middle Eastern business partners granted a company partially owned by the Chinese government a contract to build a road to Trump World Golf Club in Dubai, seemingly going against his pledge to not engage in foreign business transactions during his presidency. And, of course, there is the ongoing constitutional crisis that is the Trump International Hotel Washington D.C., which critics claim violates the Emoluments Clause on a regular basis.”

Two lawsuits have been brought against the Trump administration alleging these violations, one of which was dismissed by a judge just before Christmas.

Kumar spoke with Noah Bookbinder of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), who said, “If you have a foreign government providing a benefit to the Trump company that is going to violate emoluments clause of the Constitution.”

The president is reportedly receiving boons to his projects — which he claims he handed over to the management of his sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump — from the governments of Uruguay, India and the Philippines.

Read the full McClatchy report here.

Mormon leader Thomas Monson dies aged 90

Thomas S Monson, who served in top leadership councils for the Mormon church for 50 years and became its president in 2008, has died. He was 90.

Monson was a church bishop at 22 and in 1963 the Salt Lake City native became the youngest church apostle ever, at 36. He was a counselor for three church presidents before assuming leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monson died at his home in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins. The next president was not immediately named, but the job is expected to go to next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M Nelson, 93, per church protocol.

Monson’s presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity, including the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney. His most public acts were appearances at church conferences and devotionals as well as dedications of church temples.

He will be remembered for continuing the religion’s push to be more transparent about its past; his emphasis on humanitarian work; and lowering the minimum age for missionaries.

He will also be remembered for leading the faith’s involvement in the passage of a gay marriage ban in California in 2008. At his urging, Mormons were vigorous campaign donors and volunteers. That prompted a backlash against the church that included vandalism of church buildings, protest marches and demonstrations outside church temples nationwide.

In subsequent years, the church began utilizing a softer tone on the issue. In 2015, the church backed an anti-discrimination law in Utah that gave unprecedented protections for gay and transgender people while also protecting religious freedoms.

But the religion came under fire again in the fall of 2015 when it banned baptisms for children living with gay parents and instituted a requirement that those children disavow homosexual relationships before being allowed to serve a mission. The changes were designed to avoid putting children in a tug-of-war between their parents and church teachings, leaders said.

Thomas Monson attends a corner stone laying ceremony at the dedication of the Draper Utah Temple in Draper, Utah, in 2009.
Thomas Monson attends a corner stone laying ceremony at the Draper Utah Temple in Draper, Utah, in 2009. Photograph: George Frey/Reuters

The revisions triggered anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of LGBTQ-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for LGBTQ members.

Monson also continued the church’s push to be more open about some of the most sensitive aspect of the faith’s history and doctrine. A renovated church history museum reopened in 2015 with an exhibit acknowledging the religion’s early polygamous practices, a year after the church published an essay that for the first time chronicled founder Joseph Smith’s plural wives.

Other church essays issued during Monson’s tenure addressed other sensitive topics: sacred undergarments worn by devout members; a past ban on black men in the lay clergy; and the misconception that Mormons are taught they will get their own planet in the afterlife.

The growth and globalization of the religion continued under Monson, with membership swelling to nearly 15.9 million, with more than half outside the US. There were 71,000 church missionaries serving around the world at the end of 2016.

Mormons considered Monson a warm, caring, endearing and approachable leader, said Patrick Mason, associate professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University in California.

He put an emphasis on the humanitarian ethic of Mormons, evidenced by his expansion of the church’s disaster relief programs around the world, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

Monson often credited his mother, Gladys Condie Monson, for fostering his compassion. He said that during his childhood in the Depression of the 1930s their house in Salt Lake City was known to hobos riding the railroads as a place to get a meal and a kind word.

“President Monson always seemed more interested in what we do with our religion rather than in what we believe,” Mauss said.

A second world war veteran, Monson served in the navy and spent a year overseas before returning to get a business degree at the University of Utah and a master’s degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University.

Before being tabbed to join the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Monson worked for the church’s secular businesses, primarily in advertising, printing and publishing including the Deseret Morning News.

He married Frances Beverly Johnson in 1948. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Frances died in 2013 at the age of 85.

Monson was an avid fisherman who also raised homing pigeons, specifically, roller pigeons who twirled as they flew. He was known for his love of show tunes, Boy Scouts and the Utah Jazz.

The man expected to take Monson’s seat, the 93-year-old Nelson, has been a church apostle since April 1970. Nelson will choose two new counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve who will join him to form a three-person “presidency” that is the top of the religion’s governing hierarchy. Monson’s two counselors were Henry Eyring and Dieter Uchtdorf. They will go back to being regular members of the Quorum unless they are chosen again.

A Fixer Upper Cast Member Admits the House Isn’t Always Done on Reveal Day...

Crafty home blogger, mom, and Fixer Upper expert Rachel Teodoro is at it again with her great research into

How Donald Trump’s war on intelligence is destroying American national security

President Donald Trump’s insecurity over losing the popular vote and the salacious allegations in the Steele Dossier have prompted him to lash out at the intelligence community’s claims that Russia influenced the 2016 election. Now that war against the intelligence community is impacting American national security.

A Wednesday Washington Postreport revealed that the National Security Agency is hemorrhaging staff at an alarming rate. Some of these “highly skilled” staffers have become “disillusioned” with intelligence but the leadership and a reorganization effort under the new administration has sent many to update their resumes.

The work these experts do included monitoring a broad array of subjects including the Islamic State, Russian and North Korean hackers, and analyzing the intentions of foreign governments, and they were responsible for protecting the classified networks that carry such sensitive information. Yet, these staffers saying that they want a higher-paying job in the private sector or more flexible hours.

Since 2015, hundreds of hackers, engineers and data scientists have bailed on the NSA, former officials said. Now it’s reaching a level that national security can be impacted. Of the 17 spy agencies, the NSA is the largest and they’re responsible for collecting the information that goes into the presidential daily briefing that Trump doesn’t understand. Over the first year in office, aides have even been forced to tailor the briefing so it doesn’t include anything about Russian interference in the election so as to not anger Trump.

“Some synonym of the word ‘epidemic’ is the best way to describe it,” said former NSA senior researcher Ellison Anne Williams. She left her job at the NSA in 2016 to start her own data-security firm and took 10 NSA staff with her. “The agency is losing an amazing amount of its strongest technical talent, and to lose your best and brightest staff is a huge hit.”

The agency won’t disclose the number of vacancies over the last year, but it said there is 5.6 percent decrease in staff who specialize in science, technology and math. The NSA isn’t the only place the Trump administration has implemented the right-wing war on science. In Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency, scientists became the enemy. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was told never to say the words “climate change.” Losing the experts means new staff are filling the positions without the experience central to the NSA’s mission collecting huge swaths of data and analyzing it.

Former staff have complained that they felt their mission was marginalized by a restructuring of the agency. Others allege the reorganization was “an enormous distraction.” Some even call the pay structure and promotion program part of the problem. According to former staff, it prioritizes seniority over experience or expertise.

Another former employee alleged that the problems began with former contractor Edward Snowden and the arrest of former contractor Harold T. Martin III in 2016. Accessing data and information became more difficult for those trying to do their jobs. The witch hunt searching for leakers made things worse. An environment with collaboration has turned toward suspicion, a former staffer said.

“It comes down to death by a thousand cuts,” said a former employee, adding that people “tend to quit in packs. One person hits their breaking point, and once they leave, the dominoes start falling.”

NSA spokesman Tommy Groves didn’t discount the reports.

“If the price of security becomes that we drive away the very men and women that generate value in the first place, we now have a self-induced mission kill,” National Security Agency Director Administrator Michael Rogers said in a conference speech.

Trump’s attacks on the 17 intelligence agencies that confirmed the Russian interference couldn’t have made morale any better. After meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump swore that Russia didn’t do it.

“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters in November. “Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

Trump has also waged a war with the FBI, calling it “tainted” and alleging it is part of the “deep state” shadow government.

“It is also a possible obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, and it’s obstructing justice by saying to agents, ‘you better not dig too deep, you better not find anything because I will attack you,'” former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said to MSNBC.

The only way to maintain staff is to tape into the sense of duty “for God and country,” said former threat operations center chief Daniel Ennis. He thinks the agency will recover, because it always has.