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Hearthstone Launches Duels, A Brand New Game Mode Today In Early Access

Hearthstone is adding a brand-new game mode today in early access, called Duels, which is described by the developer as a PVP take on the popular Dungeon Runner solo content. In Duels, you will build a custom deck using parts of your collection, but also with new, powerful abilities and cards only available in this mode to go up against other players.

The first step is for you to choose a Hero Power and then a signature treasure, and from there you build a starting deck. You will be able to use cards from your own collection from a list of allowable sets, the first of which will include Scholomance, Karazhan, Naxxramas, and the Basic and Classic card pools.


Much like Arena, you will face off against other players with these special decks until you lose three times. Unlike Arena, however, every win will allow you to add new, unique cards to your deck, with the goal of reaching 12 wins for the greatest rewards and bragging rights.

During early access, which begins today, you will have access to a single hero power and signature treasure, but as soon as the Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion launches on November 17, this will expand to allow for a broader range of decks and creativity. With new expansions in the future, sets of allowable cards will rotate and new abilities will be added to keep the mode fresh and exciting.

For those who become pros at the new mode, Heroic Duels will be available to offer higher stakes challenges. Much Arena or Heroic Tavern Brawls, these will be a premium feature with an entry fee but correspondingly better rewards.

Duels is an interesting design choice by Blizzard, not only because it gives players yet another way to flex their deck-building muscles, but also because it might encourage more players to try out Wild mode.

Since the pool of available cards will rotate often and we are already beginning with two sets that are normally only available in Wild, Naxxramas and Karazhan, crafting or buying Wild packs now has more utility and may be worth the gold, dust, or money to acquire.

Since the Duels is now available in Hearthstone, the best way to learn is to try, so jump in and test out the newest mode to get a jump on the competition when it formally launches on November 17!

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Reviews

Horror-Comedy Hello Puppets! Continues Performance on Steam

Otherworld Interactive loves to scare virtual reality (VR) gamers, originally launching Sisters for mobile VR and then Hello Puppets! arrived for Oculus Rift last year. Just in time for the spooky season, the studio has now expanded Hello Puppets! support to Steam.

There’s nothing like a dead-eye puppet suddenly appearing in your peripheral vision and with Hello Puppets! there are loads to watch out for. With a back story involving a failed children’s show called Mortimer’s Handeemen which used hand puppets, a fire destroying the studio killing eight people and a magic spell gone wrong, the scene is set for an amusingly terrifying experience.

You play a college reporter who goes to the dilapidated location to see if the rumours that it’s haunted are true. Events take a turn for the worse where you end up with a puppet called Scout attached to your non-dominant hand. The foul-mouthed sentient puppet might swear a lot but she’s there to help you, and as the developer says, only: “slightly less evil” than all the other murderous puppets.

Hello Puppets! is filled with puzzles to solve as you look for a way to escape the horror , and the jump scares. A “Puppet Mode” will let you see the world from Scout’s eyes, with the new perspective helping to solve puzzles, uncover secrets and escape the many enemies lurking in the dark.

You’ll also have to watch out how you treat Scout as she remembers your interactions, depending on what she thinks of you she’ll react differently.

Hello Puppets! is available now via Steam for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Valve Index, with a 10% discount available until 29th October. For further updates from Otherworld Interactive, keep reading VRFocus.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=MlAw-JuPYzQ%3Fwmode%3Dtransparent%26rel%3D0%26feature%3Doembed
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Tech

Microsoft and MITRE release framework to help fend off adversarial AI attacks

Microsoft, the nonprofit MITRE Corporation, and 11 organizations including IBM, Nvidia, Airbus, and Bosch today released the Adversarial ML Threat Matrix, an industry-focused open framework designed to help security analysts to detect, respond to, and remediate threats against machine learning systems. Microsoft says it worked with MITRE to build a schema that organizes the approaches employed by malicious actors in subverting machine learning models, toward the goal of bolstering monitoring strategies around organizations’ mission-critical systems.

According to a Gartner report, through 2022, 30% of all AI cyberattacks will leverage training-data poisoning, model theft, or adversarial samples to attack machine learning-powered systems. Despite these reasons to secure systems, Microsoft claims its internal studies find most industry practitioners have yet to come to terms with adversarial machine learning. Twenty-five out of the 28 businesses responding to the Seattle company’s recent survey indicated they don’t have the right tools in place to secure their machine learning models.

The Adversarial ML Threat Matrix — which was modeled after the MITRE ATT&CK Framework — aims to address this with a curated set of vulnerabilities and adversary behaviors that Microsoft and MITRE vetted to be effective against production systems. With input from researchers at the University of Toronto, Cardiff University, and the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Microsoft and MITRE created a list of tactics that correspond to broad categories of adversary action. Techniques in the schema fall within one tactic and are illustrated by a series of case studies covering how well-known attacks such as the Microsoft Tay poisoning, the Proofpoint evasion attack, and other attacks could be analyzed using the Threat Matrix.

Above: The Adversarial ML Threat Matrix.

“The Adversarial Machine Learning Threat Matrix will … help security analysts think holistically. While there’s excellent work happening in the academic community that looks at specific vulnerabilities, it’s important to think about how these things play off one another,” Mikel Rodriguez, who oversees MITRE’s decision science research programs, said in a statement. “Also, by giving a common language or taxonomy of the different vulnerabilities, the threat matrix will spur better communication and collaboration across organizations.”

Microsoft and MITRE say they will solicit contributions from the community via GitHub, where the Adversarial ML Threat Matrix is now available. Researchers can submit studies detailing exploits that compromise the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of machine learning systems running on Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud AI, IBM Watson, or embedded in client or edge device. Those who submit research will retain the permission to share and republish their work, Microsoft says.

“We think that securing machine learning systems is an infosec problem,” Microsoft Azure engineer Ram Shankar Siva Kumar and CVP Ann Johnson wrote in a blog post. “The goal of the Adversarial ML Threat Matrix is to position attacks on machine learning systems in a framework that security analysts can orient themselves in these new and upcoming threat … It’s aimed at security analysts and the broader security community: the matrix and the case studies are meant to help in strategizing protection and detection; the framework seeds attacks on machine learning systems, so that they can carefully carry out similar exercises in their organizations and validate the monitoring strategies.”

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News

This Early Concept Art For Black Myth: Wukong Is Incredible

A couple of months ago, we got our first look at Black Myth: Wukong, an upcoming action-adventure RPG from Chinese studio Game Science.

The game is definitely set in Chinese mythology as it sees the player take control of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, as he sets off on a journey of redemption to regain his place in the Chinese pantheon. Or maybe he’s just going out to murder a bunch of demons–it’s not entirely clear from the first trailer.

Industry analyst and Asian games specialist Daniel Ahmad has some new Black Myth: Wukong concept art to share with us today from Game Science art director Yang Qi. These beautiful pieces show us the art style that inspired Black Myth’s otherworldly and definitively Chinese aesthetic, but with clean, modern lines.

First, we have a wet monkey, then we have an iron state, followed by a multi-headed rock demon. Finally, there’s a white and wounded dragon that seems to be recuperating on the side of a mountain. All of these images all look like modern takes on ancient imagery, which is exactly the sort of style that Game Science is going for in Black Myth: Wukong.

In case you missed it the first time around, Game Science revealed Black Myth Wukong in a 13-minute long trailer back in August. Besides the fact that this was easily the longest initial reveal trailer of any game, ever, it also showcased so many of the game’s mechanics and opening cinematics that it caused a real stir.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=oRLhCxC886o

Although the game appears to be fairly far along, Ahmad said that Game Science expects that Black Myth: Wukong is still roughly two years away from release. There’s also no mention if the game will be a worldwide release or if this will stay strictly for the Chinese market, although the trailer makes it seem like Game Science has worldwide aspirations.

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3 Simple Reasons Mortal Kombat Remains A Perfect Video Game Movie

It’s the summer of 1995. I anxiously fidget in a movie theater seat alongside my parents and equally excited brother for what was sure to be the singular defining cinematic event of my young life. Mortal Kombat, the film based on my favorite fighting game, was about to bombard my senses with assured awesomeness. I fell in love with Midway’s original arcade game and spent my childhood years battling friends and trading Fatality secrets. I couldn’t wait to finally see my beloved murderers martial artists on the big screen.

It didn’t disappoint. Mortal Kombat captured everything I loved about the games. It also managed to remix and ground certain elements just enough to make them seem new again without ruining them. After suffering disappointments in the form of Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter, someone finally made a good movie about a series that still excites me to this day. 

Decades later it remains my favorite video game film. Pleasant surprises like Sonic the Hedgehog or Detective Pikachu have approached that benchmark. Even those miss the mark in by one way or another. Mortal Kombat is no cinematic masterpiece but it doesn’t seem to get its due despite being a textbook example of a video game adaptation done right. Don’t believe me? First and foremost, go watch the film. All done? Pretty dope, right? Okay, now let’s break down why it works. 

1. It Nails The Source Material

Watching video game films without much video game in them feels like eating Lucky Charms. You have to tolerate a lot of crap (the crunchy, non-gamey stuff) to get to the good stuff (the sweet and colorful video game goodness). Remaining wholly faithful to the source material is easier said than done, but Mortal Kombat enthusiastically leans into its source material in a way similar movies often feel afraid or ashamed to. Every stupid (read: amazing) thing that makes Mortal Kombat work as a game is present. It has a mystical death tournament for the fate of entire realms; explosive, over-the-top gore; and ninjas, ninjas, and more ninjas! It even has the four-armed Goro himself. That’s particularly impressive, as I could easily see the Shokan prince being cut in the name of being too fantastical/challenging to pull off, especially back then. Yet here he is in all his nightmare-inducing glory. 

Besides retaining tangible elements of the franchise, Mortal Kombat successfully replicates the series’ amazing tonal balance of self-serious badassery and self-aware silliness. You go from being terrified of Goro’s mere presence to laughing at him when Johnny Cage famously low-blows him – and somehow, it works! Capturing the look of a video game on film isn’t necessarily hard; the 1994 Street Fighter film certainly resembles Capcom’s fighter at a glance (and with the volume on mute). But it’s another thing to actually capture the vibe and atmosphere of the source material. In that sense, Mortal Kombat achieves a flawless victory. 

2. It Appeals To Non-Fans

Some diehards may explode into 47 rib cages when they read this but it must be stated: The best adaptations accommodate even the most clueless watcher. Despite catering to the fans, Mortal Kombat also takes its time laying out its absurd premise so that no one watching gets left behind. The film does a great job introducing the main characters, their motivations, and the stakes of the tournament long before the opening bout begins. Here’s Sonya Blade, a soldier obsessively hunting an international killer named Kano. Meet Johnny Cage, a narcissistic actor looking to prove his martial arts legitimacy. Even new fighters are introduced (like what’s-his-face above) to give someone we can all ask “who dat?” The film never assumes its viewers know a Brutality from a Friendship just because they bought a ticket. 

One big reason it pulls this off is by keeping its scope relatively simple. Mortal Kombat III launched months before the movie’s release, but the film pretty much sticks to the small cast of the first game (plus Kitana, of course). By doing this, Mortal Kombat doesn’t fall into the trap that some adaptations have (including its own terrible sequel): Trying to cram in as much fan service as possible and saying, “Hey nerds, y’all know what this is right? Good, ‘cause we’re not tellin’.”

3. The Changes Are Actually Good

Film adaptations of any property inevitably deviate from the source material in some form or fashion. Quite literally in the latter sense: Shang Tsung’s leather jacket ensemble manages to make him appropriately menacing without looking as flamboyant as his in-game counterpart. But beyond that, Mortal Kombat tweaks its weirdness in the right ways to make it work in a new light. Johnny Cage fights in expensive dress clothes instead of his trademark fighting gear because he’s a pretty boy no matter what. He also ruined his luggage exiting a canoe but you get the idea. Changing Liu Kang’s original motivation of fighting purely out of duty to having him avenge his slain brother adds a more personal reason to connect to him emotionally. 

Perhaps the best, and most surprising, change-for-the-better is the film’s interpretation of Raiden. Portrayed by Christopher Lambert, the cinematic Thunder God is a dry, charming smartass instead of a stoic deity who obsessively consults with his brethren. This should have been a disaster but Elder Gods above is this version of Raiden awesome. The most enduring change to come from this film, though, is Kano’s Aussie accent. That just worked, to the point that the character has remained a canonical Aussie ever since. Mortal Kombat’s changes feel logical and subtle and not merely for the sake of change unlike so many other films.  

Hopefully films like the upcoming Monster Hunter, Uncharted, and the farther-off animated Mario film can nail these principles. Video games films overall have mostly risen into the “acceptable” category of late. But let it be known that Mortal Kombat was and is the video game film that all others should climb the ladder to reach. 

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News

Facebook’s long-delayed content removal Oversight Board is now accepting appeals

(Reuters) — Facebook’s Oversight Board, which can overrule the company’s decisions on whether content should have been removed, said on Thursday it was now accepting cases for review.

The long-delayed Oversight Board, created by Facebook in response to criticism of its handling of problematic content, is open for cases both from users who have exhausted the company’s appeals process and from Facebook itself, less than two weeks before the U.S. presidential election in November.

However, Facebook’s director of governance and global affairs Brent Harris said on a call with reporters the company would not submit a case for expedited review before the election.

The board, which has been criticized for its narrow remit, also aims to hear cases about content that has been left up as well as taken down on Facebook and Instagram starting in early 2021, the board’s director of administration Thomas Hughes said.

Users globally will begin to be able to submit cases through the board’s website from Thursday, though the board said it may take some weeks for all users to have this option. Facebook, which can refer cases on whether content should remain up or come down and on a wider range of issues like ads or Facebook groups, can also ask for policy recommendations.

The board, which will only be able to review a small slice of cases, said it would share details on the first cases it is considering in the coming weeks and would also open a public comment process.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Chris Reese)

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Rambo Spills First Blood In Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate Gameplay Reveal

Many an eyebrow was raised at the reveal of John Rambo in Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, but the tortured war veteran looks right at home on his new battlefield. A new gameplay trailer shows how MK’s latest guest fighter employs his guerrilla tactics to his fantastical adversaries. 

Action-fans were first introduced to Rambo in the 1982 classic First Blood. Besides being a brutal action flick, the film explored the troubling reality of veteran post-traumatic stress and the challenges they face re-assimilating into the society. Its acclaim and popularity spawned a huge media franchise and numerous sequels, including 2019’s Rambo: Last Blood. While it’s unlikely Rambo will deliver an emotional monologue about his horrific service in Vietnam and move Scorpion to tears, it’s exciting to see what he brings to the table in Mortal Kombat regardless. 

Armed with his signature combat knife, bow, and, of course, machine gun, Rambo is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Seeing how Netherrealm incorporated Rambo’s penchant for stealthy traps shows the same attention to detail paid to previous guest characters. To that end, Slyvester Stallone reprising the role serves as the cherry on top of this blood-topped sundae. It should be hilarious hearing Sly rage about Outworld and ninjas from Hell. While it is a little strange to see Rambo throwing kicks, at least his Fatality feels fitting. Plus there’s just no beating that signature battle cry. 

For more on what’s coming to Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, check out Rain’s gameplay trailer as well as its limited Sub-Zero themed Kolletor’s Edition. The DLC pack and full game arrives November 17 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC with free upgrades to the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Seriex X/S versions. 

How does Rambo measure up? Are you excited to hear Sylvester Stallone tackle the character one more time? Let us know in the comments! 

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Mobile

Hearthstone Brings Back The Old Gods In "Madness At The Darkmoon Faire"

Hearthstone’s next expansion will bring back a fan-favorite foursome of larger-than-life cards, alongside a new keyword and a new game mode. The Madness at the Darkmoon Faire expansion is themed around a creepy carnival, and to match the occasion, the set will mark the return of the Old Gods–albeit with different effects than we saw in the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion.

As before, the Old Gods are powerful 10-Mana Legendary minions with game-changing effects that encourage you to build a deck around their central mechanics. C’Thun, N’Zoth, Yogg-Saron, and Y’Shaarj are all neutral minions, so you’ll be able to fit them into any type of deck. New Old God Artifact cards will also bring back the flavor of the original Old Gods.

A new Corrupt mechanic is coming into play in the Darkmoon Faire as well. Cards with the new keyword get a powerful upgrade if you play a higher-cost card while they’re in your hand.

The new expansion is coming alongside a new game mode, called Duels. The new mode uses the unique hero powers and powerful treasures of the popular Dungeon Run single-player mode and mixes in some standard deck-building and Arena-like rewards. Preordering the new expansion will get you early access to the Duels mode, starting today. If you don’t preorder, you can play when it opens for everyone upon the launch of Darkmoon Faire. Finally, both Darkmoon Faire and Duels are coming alongside a revamped rewards system that uses a battle pass-like structure.

Darkmoon Faire will release on November 17. You can preorder a standard bundle that includes 45 Darkmoon Faire packs, one random Legendary card, a N’Zoth cardback, and Duels early access, for $40. A Mega Bundle is also available for $80, offering 80 packs, 5 golden packs, one random golden Legendary, and N’Zoth as a new Warlock hero portrait.

For more, check out our in-depth look at all the Hearthstone updates coming in the next few weeks, and view our gallery of all the Darkmoon Faire cards we’ve seen so far.

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Mobile

Pokemon Go Halloween 2020 Details: Mega Gengar, Shiny Spiritomb, Galarian Yamask, And More

Niantic has already hosted a variety of October events in Pokemon Go over the last few weeks, but the biggest is still yet to come. The game’s annual Halloween celebration returns later this week, starting October 23, and the studio has now revealed more details on what this year’s event will entail.

The Halloween event begins at 6 PM PT / 9 PM ET on Friday and runs until the same time on November 3. Throughout the event, Ghost-type Pokemon will appear more often in the wild, Raid Battles, and eggs. A handful of new Pokemon will also make their debut during the event, including costumed version of Gengar and Sableye, as well as Galarian Yamask. Unlike the standard Yamask, which normally evolves into Cofagrigus, Galarain Yamask evolves into Runerigus, making this your first chance to get one of those in Pokemon Go.

On top of the increased Pokemon spawns, Niantic will roll out a new Halloween-themed Special Research questline during the event. Completing this will lead to an encounter with the Ghost/Dark Pokemon Spiritomb, and there’s a chance it could be Shiny. Players who completed the Mega Buddy Challenge Timed Research will also get to take part in event-exclusive Timed Research and earn Gengar Mega Energy, which will give you a chance to Mega Evolve the Ghost Pokemon.

As part of the Halloween festivities, Niantic is also holding a new kind of “Catch Mastery” event in Pokemon Go on October 25. This one will fittingly revolve around Ghost Pokemon. Throughout the event, the Ghost-type monster Drifloon will appear in the wild more often than usual, and you’ll be able to encounter other Ghost Pokemon by completing event-exclusive Timed Research and Field Research. There will also be a special Raid Day event on Halloween–October 31–that features Alolan Marowak from 11 AM to 5 PM local time.

Finally, the Legendary Dark-type Darkrai is returning to five-star Raids as part of the Halloween event, and it wouldn’t be a true Halloween celebration if there weren’t Candy bonuses. You’ll receive twice the usual amount of Candy for catching and transferring Pokemon throughout the event. You can read more on the Pokemon Go website.

In the meantime, Origin Forme Giratina is also currently appearing in Raid Battles until October 23, while October’s Field Research tasks will be available through the end of the month. Niantic already has a few activities planned for November as well. The studio is partnering with GrubHub to hold a “Special Weekend” event for GrubHub+ members on November 2.

Pokemon Go News & Announcements

  • Pokemon Go October 2020 Community Day Detailed
  • Pokemon Go October Events: Shedinja Research Breakthrough, Halloween 2020, And More
  • Pokemon Go Mega Evolution Details: Release Date And How To Get Mega-Evolved Pokemon

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PS4

Apex Legends might be teasing Horizon, a new character

There may be a new Legend coming to the Apex Games. Over the last few days, Respawn Entertainment has released two short teaser videos for what seems to be a new character that may soon arrive in Apex Legends.

The teasers themselves don’t give much away. There’s almost nothing to go on in the first teaser, but the second gives us a little more room to work with. We hear a heavily-accented voice say, “A wee bit of betrayal, eh deary? I was so daft.” This is all captured in a static-filled video that looks like it may have come from a security camera.

While there hasn’t been any direct confirmation quite yet as to who this mysterious person is, it seems that the most likely candidate is Horizon, a new character to the Apex Legends/Titanfall universe who first showed up last week. Horizon sent players on special quests from her video screen in the firing range, but hasn’t officially done much more yet. There are a few pieces of evidence pointing toward Horizon, including the haircut of the person in the video matching Horizon’s, and the fact that they both seem to have Scottish accents.

Related

Apex Legends update nerfs Wraith’s Naruto run

As for what Horizon’s abilities might be, we’ll just have to wait until Respawn Entertainment officially reveals her.

Whoever’s coming to Apex Legends next, we shouldn’t have too long to wait until hey arrive. Season 6 is set to end sometime in early November, and season 7, along with its new Legend, should arrive shortly after.

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