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PC

This pumpkin carving sim is a real delight

Over the weekend, I got together with friends — via Discord — and carved pumpkins. Each October, I always seem to forget how messy and hard pumpkin carving is; typically, I end up giving up halfway through. This year, I persisted, and actually carved my favorite ghost-type Pokémon into a massive, massive pumpkin. I immediately put it outside so that my neighbors could admire my handiwork.

The next morning, I opened the front door and saw a large squirrel hobbling away from my pumpkin. The Pokémon had been decimated — almost unrecognizable. (The squirrels also ate nearly all the teeth out of my partner’s pumpkin, too.)

Believe it or not, he once had a full set of chompers
Image: Nicole Carpenter/Polygon

Mourning the destruction of my pumpkins, I loaded up A Short Hike developer Adam Robinson-Yu’s Mayor Bones Proudly Presents Ghost Town’s 999th Annual Pumpkin Festival, a pumpkin carving simulation game that he released on Wednesday. I planned to test it out by re-creating the pumpkins we carved over the weekend, but I ended up staying much, much longer. Robinson-Yu’s pumpkin carving tool and pumpkin festival is an absolute delight.

The game is available on Linux, Mac, and Windows PC via itch.io, where it’s offered with a name-your-own-price option. There are two locations, essentially. First is the pumpkin carving station, where you’re able to use two separate tools — a scraper and a knife — to create pumpkin masterpieces. There are a variety of different pumpkin types and colors to choose from, too. Once your pumpkin is finished, you can pop over to the pumpkin festival, which is where other real-life users have already displayed their pumpkins. You can place yours, too.

Image: Adam Robinson-Yu via Polygon

At the festival, you can change lighting — daytime or nighttime — and check out pumpkin creations that were placed by users. Other festival goers hover around in real time with you, all represented on screen as cute white-sheet ghosts.

There are so many fantastic creations at the festival already, and the grounds are just teeming with pumpkins. It feels magical to wander around the yard with strangers. I bobbed and weaved around the screen, trying to communicate with the other player I was wandering with: Come this way! I want to show you my pumpkin.

You’re allowed to place three pumpkins on the server, but can replace old ones if you want. Robinson-Yu said on the pumpkin carver itch.io page that the online festival area will only remain online for “a limited time” — probably until a few weeks after Halloween. However long this game remains up, it’s one you’re going to want to check out. Just like Robinson-Yu’s A Short Hike before it, it’s a true, simple delight.


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Tech

Intel Geospatial is a cloud platform for AI-powered imagery analytics

Intel today quietly launched Intel Geopspatial, a cloud platform that features data engineering solutions, 3D visualizations, and basic analytics tools for geovisual workloads. Intel says it’s designed to provide access to 2D and 3D geospatial data and apps through an ecosystem of partners, addressing use cases like vegetation management, fire risk assessment and inspection, and more.

The geospatial analytics market is large and growing, with a recent Markets and Markets report estimating it’ll be worth $96.34 billion by 2025. Geospatial imagery can help companies manage assets, for example network assets prone to damage during powerful storms. Moreover, satellite imagery and the AI algorithms trained to analyze it have applications in weather prediction, defense, transportation, insurance, and even health care, namely because of their ability to capture and model environments over extended periods of time.

Using Intel Geospatial, which is powered by Intel datacenters, customers can ingest and manage geovisual data from a mobile- and desktop-accessible web portal. They’re able to view slope, elevation, and other data layers in a 3D environment with zoom, pan, and tilt controls and auto-updated time and date stamps. Moreover, they can analyze the state of various target assets as well as run analytics to extract insights that can then be passed to existing enterprise systems.

Intel Geospatial

Intel Geospatial offers data from satellites, manned aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like drones, with data from Mobileye — Intel’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary — available upon request. The platform’s user interface auto-populates with area-specific datasets and allows for search based on street addresses or GPS coordinates, which are standardized for analytics.

Intel Geospatial offers out-of-the-box algorithms for risk classification, object counting, distance measuring, and public and private record reconciliation. Intel says it’s leveraging startup Enview’s AI to power 3D geospatial classification for faster lidar analytics turnaround. Meanwhile, LiveEO is delivering algorithmic monitoring for railway, electricity, and pipelines.

Intel’s new service joins the list of geospatial products already offered by companies including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Google’s BigQuery GIS lets Google Cloud Platform customers analyze and visualize geospatial data in BigQuery. Microsoft offers Azure Maps, a set of geospatial APIs to add spatial analytics and mobility solutions to apps. Amazon provides a registry of open geospatial datasets on Amazon Web Services. And Here Technologies, the company behind a popular location and navigation platform, has a service called XYZ that enables anyone to upload their geospatial data — such as points, lines, polygons, and related metadata — and create apps equipped with real-time maps.

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News

Microsoft Is Releasing An Official Mandalorian Controller

Releasing on December 31, the Mandalorian wireless Xbox One controller is coupled with a charging stand and retails for $160. It’s not made of beskar steel, but it looks like it is, and carries many of the signature armor designs of the famed bounty hunter. If you flip the controller over, you’ll see an image of “The Child,” who is wanted and on the run with the Mandalorian. Most people call him Baby Yoda, but Lucasfilm has gone with “The Child” as his official title until his name is officially revealed.

Given the timing of release in December, it’s a shame this controller doesn’t have the share button or the new directional pad of the Xbox Series X/S, but it is compatible with these systems. Along with the unique artistic design, this controller has textured grips and charges through a magnetic contact system.

Interestingly, if you run out of battery during play, you can connect the controller to the stand, and, as Microsoft puts it in the official description, engage in “one-handed play while you charge.” We don’t know how this one-handed functionality is formatted, but the option is there if you need to use it.

The controller and stand are priced much higher than we’d like to see (the standard wireless controller is $60 and the stand is $40). It’s even higher priced than the previous Star Wars controller and stand bundle for Jedi: Fallen Order, which retailed for $140, but is now out of stock.

The Mandalorian is hot right now, with the first episode of the second season hitting Disney+ this week, but we shouldn’t have to pay so much more than the original asking prices just to be reminded of this show when we game. It’s a cool collectible though. The gallery below gives you a good look at the controller, it’s back, and the charging stand that comes with it.




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News

Star Wars: Squadrons Is Adding Free 'The Mandalorian' Loot To Game

The Mandalorian was a hit when season one dropped earlier this year on Disney+ and now that a new season is here, the team over at Motive is celebrating the hit show with exclusive themed content for Star Wars: Squadrons. Despite saying no additional gear would be dropping, the studio is adding The Mandalorian loot to Star Wars: Squadrons. Don’t worry, there are no surprise loot box moves here, everything announced is completely earnable. 

Kicking off on October 28, Star Wars: Squadrons players will be able to earn eight new (and completely free) cosmetic items to make those Starfighters even more badass thanks to The Mandalorian. New cockpit cosmetics are included in the new drop, one for each faction. This includes one new hologram, a new decal, dashboard flair, and a hanging flair; one set for both the New Republic and the Imperial fleet. 





The “Mysterious Creature” is also getting some love. According to Motive, “Paying homage to the iconic character, we’ve made sure to create this wonderful new dashboard decoration based on a “Mysterious Creature.” This figure can adorn any dashboard across the New Republic’s starfighters, meaning the fan-favorite Tuggtar bobblehead now has a rival! Both factions will receive one hologram, one decal, one dashboard flair, and one hanging flair, meaning eight new cosmetics in total for you to unlock.”

While Motive and EA previously mentioend that there would be no new post-launch content for Star Wars: Squadrons because they didn’t want players to have to pay more than what the base game costs, it’s nice to see free surprises like this pop out of nowhere. Given The Mandolorian’s popularity, we’re going to go out on a limb and assume fans of the show are going to be excited for the new drop. We are! 

As for season 2 of The Mandalorian on Disney+, the new episodes arrive on October 30th! Are you excited for a new season of the hit show? What about the freebie drops for Star Wars: Squadrons? Sound off in the comment section below! 

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News

Among Us VR Is A Thing Thanks To This Fan Creation

Among Us is an older game that randomly saw a massive surge of popularity this month and that popularity? Well deserved. This “sus” driven adventure is hilariously deceptive and is basically this gen’s Monopoly and Halo MP regarding ruined friendships. Currently, it’s only available on PC and mobile, but thanks to one fan it’s also now a VR experience. 

The Among Us VR experience comes by way of a new map creation in VRChat, a popular social experience in VR that allows players to create their own avatars and basically dive all-in on the weirdness that the Internet provides. Sometimes, though, it comes out with gems like this and it surprisingly works! 

The VRChat creation even features the dreaded Admin card swipe, which only adds to the true-to-source nature of this particular fan nod. Players can even equip toons that look like those adorable jelly bean astronauts while murdering all of those crewmates like souls aren’t a thing. 

Harsh. 

Don’t have a VR headset? No problem! You can actually play VRChat outside of virtual reality and given that this map is 3D-rendered, it’ll still be a unique spin on Among Us even when playing on a simple PC monitor. Even better? VRChat is free, so download it on Steam, VR headset or not, and get to betraying. 

Better late than never, but we recently reviewed Among Us after the indie title escaped our radar at launch. It’s surprisingly addictive and even more fun with friends. You can check out our full review here, with a small blurb below: 

Developed by InnerSloth, the foundation of Among Us is simple: a social deduction game where a player is either a crewmate or the lone imposter. The imposter must pretend to do the assigned daily tasks in the game while stealthily killing off each crewmate one by one. If a body is discovered, a crewmate can call an Emergency Meeting to have a group chat trying to figure out who the imposter truly is.

Diving into Among Us, I see the charm despite its simplicity, and I can’t help but to love the way this game makes me look at everyone as if they are super sus. Among Us is what it is, and unapologetically so. This year may be bad, but having fun experiences definitely isn’t; Among Us provides a much-needed reprieve from reality without taking itself too seriously.

Interested in checking out an Among Us VR experience? You can scoop up this map right here. Feel free to also drop those thoughts on VR, Among Us, and murderous jelly beans in the comment section below! 

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News

Kojima Productions Is Currently Recording Music For "Undisclosed Project"

Kojima Productions is already recording music for its next game, according to job listings and a social media post.

At first, the post seems like an unassuming picture of an orchestra getting set up by composer Ludvig Forssell. But if you look to the left, you will see a wild Hideo Kojima giving a thumbs up to the camera. He is the director of Death Stranding and the founder of the studio.

The Japanese company is currently looking for “best-in-class talent” to add to the Tokyo team, and this will include programmers, artists, writers, project managers, sound and game designers, and producers. It sounds like you shouldn’t expect this game to come out anytime soon; it has been only a year since Death Stranding came out after all.

With these hirings in mind, it’s strange that the music is being recorded now as opposed to much later. In a typical development cycle, music is one of the last components to be worked on for a game after most of the assets have been made. This leads to the thought that perhaps Wednesday’s compositions from Forssell may be used in a reveal trailer of some kind. The Game Awards is just around the corner on December 10, and Hideo Kojima is known to reveal his games during Geoff Keighley’s events…

Death Stranding just had its release for PC via Steam and Epic Games Store over the summer, and its features have impressed fans of Kojima’s work. It has a high frame rate, ultra-wide support, 4K resolution support, and a photo mode. It also reminded Steam players that Valve used to make games with some cross-over Half-Life content for Death Stranding. This complex and bewildering experience from Kojima is currently 30% off on the Epic Games Store and 25% off on the PlayStation Store. Despite its high production values, Death Stranding still made a profit for the studio.

As for what his next project is, Konami fans have been clamoring for a return to a game like P.T, an innovative demo for a Silent Hill project that never surfaced. Konami has since taken the game down and has clarified that it will not be backwards compatible with the PS5. Let’s hope Kojima can innovate the horror genre once again.

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News

Minecraft Steve Is No Longer Packing Meat After Smash Bros. Patch

It’s a sad day for Smash Bros. fans, as one of the most powerful things in the game has been nerfed. Newcomer Steve, of Minecraft fame, had a victory animation where he ate meat. But the way he held it was a little… suggestive. It quickly became a big joke on the internet, and Nintendo apparently noticed. The latest patch for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate robs poor Steve of his big, stiff meat.

The theft of Steve’s meat was noticed almost immediately after Smash Ultimate Patch 9.0.1 dropped earlier in the evening. The animation in question was from Steve’s victory pose. He used to munch on the meat and then lower it as the other fighters appeared to give him a courtesy clap. Now he apparently finished the meal and puts his arms politely by his sides.

Twitter user @Plun_Yu recorded the sequence on video below.

Patch 9.0.1 is a small one, and entirely focused on Steve. It fixes a well-known issue where Steve’s crafted blocks could cause fighters to fall through the stage. But no one’s really talking about that. They’re too busy mourning the loss of Steve’s meat.

Nintendo must have forgotten that, when it comes to the internet, trying to erase something only calls more attention to it. The Streisand Effect is in full swing here as Steve’s missing meat is the undisputed highlight of Patch 9.0.1. Farewell, sweet meat, we hardly knew ye.

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PC

Fallout 76 Is Free To Play This Week, And Heavily Discounted

In the world of Fallout, October 23 marks the day that the bombs first fell. While that might seem like an odd anniversary to celebrate, Fallout 76 is doing just that with a free-to-play week, which is active from now until October 26.

You can currently play the full game–including the Wastelanders and Nuclear Winter expansions–for free on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Any players who enjoy their time in the wastelands and decide to keep going after this week will find that their progress carries over, and the game is discounted by 60% until October 27. The exact price will vary depending on your region.

There are some other discounts running in-game during this event, so all players can pick up Atom Packs at a discount:

  • 500 Atoms: 20% off base price
  • 1000 Atoms (+100 bonus Atoms): 25% off base price
  • 2000 Atoms (+400 bonus Atoms): 30% off base price
  • 4000 Atoms (+1000 bonus Atoms): 35% off base price

Furthermore, all players will be able to access a preview of Fallout 1st, the subscription service that gives you private servers. Until October 26, you can find a preview available to purchase in the Atomic Shop, which will give you some of the membership benefits for the rest of the free-to-play period. You’ll gain access to the Scrapbox and Survival Tent.

Fallout 4 is also on sale this week, with the base game and GOTY edition discounted by 70%, and the Season Pass and DLC packs cut by 60%. It’s worth remembering, though, that if you’re buying a PS5 and subscribe to PS Plus, you’ll get Fallout 4 through the new Plus Collection.

Fallout 76 has struggled since launch to hold our attention, although the Wastelanders expansion saw a marginal improvement–check out GameSpot’s 5/10 review. The game is also on Xbox Game Pass, so subscribers to that service will still be able to access the game after this trial.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

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PC

Video game architecture is full of secrets

Architecture plays a huge role in games. It’s most obviously associated with aesthetics. Think the Art Deco underwater city of Rapture in Bioshock, or the Brutalist concrete in Control.

But architecture is more than surface-deep. It keeps players immersed, it reinforces story, it tells us how to play, and it messes with our emotions. The cool thing is, it does all that in real life, too.

Architects consider every single part of a building, from the layers of material in a wall to where your toilet will go. They measure the light that enters each room, and they think about how people will behave in the finished space.

And with the advent of new game technologies like ray-tracing, architecture and game design are more simpatico than ever. We spoke to several architects, as well as Stuart Macdonald, the world designer for Remedy’s Control, about how the secret language of architecture manifests in games. Watch the video above to see how game designers, thinking like architects, are changing the way you play.

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News

Where Cards Fall Is Coming To Switch And PC Early 2021

Where Cards Fall, the narrative puzzler from developer The Game Band, most recently known for its viral hit Blaseball, is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC in early 2021, publisher Snowman and The Game Band tell Game Informer in an exclusive interview. The game was originally released exclusively on Apple Arcade back in September 2019.

Upon release, Where Cards Fall was met with warm reception from critics, and also won Best Mobile Game from the 2019 Unity Awards and an Apple Design Award in 2020. In it, players assume the role of a nameless protagonist, navigating them through the highs and lows of growing up, graduating high school, and attending college. The hook of Where Cards Fall is its central puzzle mechanic, which requires the player to construct houses of cards throughout each level in order to navigate its terrain and overcome obstacles. 

Neither Snowman nor The Game Band will divulge specifics around their deal with Apple for Where Cards Fall – nor will they talk how many times the game was downloaded on the service – so we weren’t able to learn specifically how their exclusivity deal was structured. In March 2019, however, the game was re-announced as “exclusively” for Apple Arcade (in 2017 it was announced for PC and iOS), but both Snowman and The Game Band agree that a safer way to look at the deal is that it was actually a timed exclusive.

“Apple Arcade, it’s what gave our game its start,” says Sam Rosenthal, the founder and creative director of The Game Band. “Like, Where Cards Fall would not have existed in its current form without Apple Arcade because of the way that they work , and they’ve made it public that they do fund the game. So, it allowed us to make the game that we really wanted to make.” 

“And the other thing you’re kind of fighting against is, if we had launched Where Cards Fall as a mobile game in the paid app store, we would have wanted to charge maybe 20 bucks for it,” says Ryan Cash, Snowman founder and CEO. “Because we want people to know that this is a substantial, serious product. However, if you go for $20, you’re not going to be able to reach that wide of an audience, because there aren’t that many people willing to fork over 20 bucks without trying something. So, Apple Arcade’s sort of like the best of both worlds.”

Historically, Snowman has been a mobile-only game publisher, starting in 2015 with its award-winning endless snowboarder Alto’s Adventure. However, in 2020, it’s begun making the move to other platforms, putting out The Alto Collection, which collects Adventure and its sequel Alto’s Odyssey into one package, in August 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and plans to bring it to Switch “soon.” Now, it’s making the jump with other titles.

That’s not to say that bringing Where Cards Fall to other platforms was a post-launch idea. As mentioned, it was originally announced for PC. And before its deal with Apple, it was shown on Switch to some press at shows like GDC. There were always ideas and plans for how Where Cards Fall would work beyond Apple devices. 

That last point is an important one to the teams at The Game Band and Snowman. In our interview, they insist numerous times that the Switch and PC versions of Where Cards Fall are not ports of a mobile game. Their goal is for anyone playing on the new platforms to not be able to tell they’re playing a game that originally launched on phones – and a lot of that comes down to the custom controls. 

“It’s always going to have unique controls on every platform that fits that platform,” says Joel Clark, a game designer and engineer at The Game Band. “I remember, our earliest controller prototypes were some of the most fun things. It didn’t make its way into the first release but playing this game on controller feels so good. And it just feels right for this game. It’s exciting to see it finally get to have that in this new release.”

“It shouldn’t feel at all when you’re playing it on Switch or PC like this is, you know, a port of a small mobile title,” Rosenthal says. “It is just a big, substantial, premium title that will be right at home on all these platforms. So, yes, it happened to start on Apple Arcade, but I think anybody that’s playing it for the very first time will be shocked to know that this ever was on mobile in the first place.”

Outside of the financial support Apple provided, Rosenthal says he gets the impression that people playing through Apple Arcade likely aren’t the average game players on Switch, PC, or other platforms; launching Where Cards Fall on Arcade afforded The Game Band an opportunity to put its game first and foremost in front of a different audience. But he adds he’s excited to bring the game to the “connoisseurs of games,” as he puts it.

“I think one thing you have with Apple Arcade or the App Store mobile is like, everyone has an iPhone or an iPad or whatever,” Cash says. “And so you’re kind of reaching everybody. Whereas a place like Steam, you might find a more niche audience who is already looking for something like Where Cards Fall. For a lot of people, they have an iPhone, they see Apple Arcade, they’re like, ‘This is cool,’ but they’re not necessarily the kind of person who wants to play, like, a 10 or 20-hour in-depth narrative puzzle game.”

Most simply, new platforms mean new players for Where Cards Fall. But 2020 is also a vastly different year for The Game Band than 2019. In July, the developer released Blaseball, a free web-based ARG where players bet on baseball games (it’s honestly a little confusing, but Polygon has a great explainer you should check out). It went very viral very quickly and rapidly “took over the internet,” as writers like to say, spawning fan art, communities, and its own lore. This success is not lost on The Game Band, and the members of the team we talked to say they hope the success of Blaseball and the new fans the developer has attracted can make their way back to Where Cards Fall. As Rosenthal puts it, the audience it’s reaching with Blaseball is likely a much different audience than that on Apple Arcade. 

“And one thing that we’ve definitely seen so far with the people that are attracted to the game is […] a lot of the people that are playing Blaseball also love, like, strange and interesting indie games,” Rosenthal says. “So, I think this being on Switch and PC, it seems like that’s where our audience for Blaseball naturally goes to discover cool indie games. I think it gives it another chance, a little bit of a second life in a way. And we’re excited for that. We do have some tie-ins coming for the two together. That, we’ll be doing very, very soon when we announce the new release of the game.”  

Snowman and The Game Band aren’t ready to announce a specific date yet, but people interested in checking out Where Cards Fall will have a chance to check the game out via a playthrough video on Steam and the Epic Game Store today. The video is narrated by Rosenthal, who walks players through the mechanics of the game and how to play. 

Where Cards Fall will be released on Switch and PC, via Steam and the Epic Game Store, early next year. 

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