Sunday, June 13, 2021

Ubisoft Brings Rocksmith As A Subscription Service Back, Today closed Beta Sign-ups Start

During Ubisoft's E3 presentation, the publisher announced it's getting back in the guitar tutorial business with Rocksmith+. This new version of the decade-old franchise was given ample spotlight during the live stream, as Ubisoft San Francisco explained how is transforming it from a standalone product into a robust subscription service.Arthur Von Nagel, a Ubisoft producer, discussed some of the enhancements and changes coming to Rocksmith+. He noted how aspiring musicians can learn to play guitar or bass by connecting their instrument of choice to a PC, console, or mobile device. Because Rocksmith+ is able to use your phone as a microphone, acoustic guitar players and those using electric guitars with amplifiers can play without additional equipment. The appropriate app is all that’s needed to be downloaded on a mobile device and synced to whichever platform the user chooses. The music library was described as having “a huge amount of songs at launch,” featuring master recording and will grow each week with “new, authentic arrangements.” Genres mentioned in the presentation include pop, hip-hop, country, R&B, Latin, and metal subgenres. “It’s the most diverse song library ever seen in music learning software,” claims Nagel. There’s even going to be a way for users to create and add their own arrangements using a new tool called Rocksmith Workshop. Nagel also announced a bunch of new ways for people to learn strum or shred from Rocksmith+. Chord charts will be included for those who prefer to stick to rhythm guitar as well as the more accurate note-for-note style of past versions of Rocksmith. New this time around is a tablature view to read the music as one would with traditional sheet music. An enhanced recommendation system and better progress tracking have been added to allow for a more personalized learning experience for beginner and intermediate musicians. In a press release after the show, Ubisoft announced pricing details: $14.99 for a 1-month subscription, $39.99 for a 3-month subscription, and $99.99 for a 12-month subscription. Sign-ups for the Rocksmith+ "closed beta" start today, and the full launch of the service is expected later this year. You can check out the rest of Ubisoft’s big announcements at our E3 hub, and watch the reveals from other publishers along with the Game Informer team live on Twitch!
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    Rainbow Six Extraction Release Date & Cross-Play Revealed

    Ubisoft kicked off its Ubisoft Forward event with a Rainbow Six Extraction release date reveal. The co-op sci-fi shooter will be out on September 16, 2021 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. All systems will be able to play together with cross-play, which Ubisoft also confirmed.MORE: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Getting Expansions in 2022, Discovery Tour Soon[embedded content]The above gameplay deep dive showcases the game in action for the first time. It shows the known Rainbow Six Siege gameplay, but with more future technology and parasitic aliens called the Archæns which will be divided into 10 different enemies. Up to three players can squad up and choose from 18 different Operators. Each will have different gadgets and abilities. Those who also own Rainbow Six Siege and Extraction will instantly get access to the 18 operators in Siege as well as some cosmetic bundles. There will also be 12 unique maps.MORE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Drop Into Brawlhalla This Month

    Riders Republic GETS A Beta

    Today during the Ubisoft E3 Showcase, the open-world action sports game Riders Republic made an appearance, showing off various game modes alongside a hub where players can take on missions, check in-game news, and more. Registration for a multiplayer beta was also announced. A new snowboarding game mode was also unveiled, requiring players to trick over obstacles to change their colors to correspond with the team's color.  The trailer showcased various different terrains and sports that will be available in Riders Republic – including snow-capped snowboarding and skiing courses, deep chasms for wingsuit and parachute racing, and desert mountains for BMX races. Ubisoft closed out the trailer promising more sports, courses, and game modes, but didn't specify what they were or when we'd learn more. Registration for the game's beta was also announced, but the publisher didn't say when that would go live.  You can see the new trailer in full below: Riders Republic was first announced last September as an open-world multiplayer take on the action sports genre. The game is set to be released on September 2 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia. Originally, the game was supposed to be released on February 25 of this year, but was delayed back in January to allow more time for development. Riders Republic is being developed by Ubisoft Annecy, which prior to this game developed Steep, an open world winter sports game that was released in 2016. The studio has also worked in some capacity on The Division and Splinter Cell series in the past. For more news from Ubisoft's E3 presentation, where the company also gave extended new looks at Rainbow Six Extraction, Far Cry 6, Rocksmith, and many more, make sure to check to check out our ever-updating E3 hub page.

    Watched IN THE HOME: Top Streaming Films for the Week of June 5

    Ahoy, fellow couch potatoes! These last several weeks have been a lot of fun as DEG’s Watched at Home Top 20 has consistently been inconsistent with its list. This week, for example, sees a new champion: Four Good Days, the Glenn Close/Mila Kunis drama based upon Eli Sallows 2016 Washington Post article, “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and an American Addiction.” The film made its debut on the list a few weeks ago and rose to No. 3 last week, but finally claims the top spot — at least for now — over Tom and Jerry (No. 2), The Marksman (No. 3) and new addition The Courier (No. 4).RELATED: Interview: Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’s Daniel Mertzlufft & Kate LeonardSpeaking of new, the TV comedy Friends: S1-10 made its debut at No. 17 coinciding with HBO Max’s Friends: The Reunion, while the family adventure The Water Man appeared at No. 20.All three seasons of Yellowstone also made the list as viewers brace themselves for Season 4.Top 201. Four Good Days (Vertical Entertainment)2. Tom and Jerry (Warner Bros.)3. The Marksman (Universal)4. The Courier (Lionsgate)5. Chaos Walking (Lionsgate)6. The Little Things (Warner Bros.)7. The Dry (IFC)8. Yellowstone: S1 (Paramount)9. The Unholy (Sony Pictures)10. The Croods: A New Age (Universal)11. Above Suspicion (Lionsgate)12. Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection (Warner Bros.)13. Yellowstone: S3 (Paramount)14. Minari (A24)15. Yellowstone: S2 (Paramount)16. The Father (Sony Pictures)17. Friends: S1-10 (Warner Bros.)18. News of the World (Universal)19. Nomadland (Disney)20. The Water Man (RLJ Entertainment)

    Ubisoft Forward E3 2021 Watch ALONGSIDE Game Informer

    [embedded content]Can you feel that excitement? E3 2021 is in full force, and the hype train continues today with the house of Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, and Sam Fisher crossovers no one asked for. Outside of a little bit of projection there, we are so excited to watch this year's Ubisoft Forward digital event with the GI Community. The Council of Alexes (Van Aken and Stadnik) will be streaming the event live with you to react to all the biggest news, reveals, and hopefully a Splinter Cell game. As the party animals we are, we're kicking the show off early at 1:45 p.m. CT to give you our hopes and dreams before Yves Guillemot crushes them and doesn't give us the spy thriller that we all want. But what will we actually see at today's event? Far Cry 6 is one of Ubisoft's huge titles for 2021, and the publisher has stated we're set to get another look at Giancarlo Esposito's new villain and Dani Rojas' quest through the war-torn island of Yara. Riders Republic is also set to be at the show, highlighting more from Ubi's open-world extreme sports title. Also, while still unconfirmed by the publisher, the new Mario + Rabbids game has leaked ahead of the day's festivities. Popping up early on the Nintendo eShop, Sparks Of Hope is set to drop in 2022 and features more of the bonkers tactical action featured in the original 2017 title. On top of all that, we can expect updates on Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Rainbow Six Siege, and hopefully some additional surprises on the way as well. The party doesn't stop today, friends. We're in the midst of the video game industry's biggest week of the year, and we're celebrating in style. We're live streaming all the biggest conferences with you, giving our spicy reactions on the YouTube channel, and filling a huge E3 hub with all the content you could dream of. Thanks for watching!

    Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope Announced, Gets First Trailer

    Update: The game has officially been announced, check out the official trailer below!A sequel to Ubisoft Paris’ 2017 Nintendo Switch hit Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will be announced later today at the publisher’s press conference.Unfortunately for the development team, the sequel, which is called Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, leaked earlier today due to a Nintendo website listing going up early. The strategy game will once again see Mario and other iconic Nintendo characters teaming up with the zany Rabbids from Rayman. The game is slated to release in 2022 and will once again be published by Ubisoft.RELATED: Nintendo E3 2021 Direct and Treehouse Show Dates Confirmed“Team up with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi, and their friends on a galactic journey to defeat a malevolent entity and save your Spark companions,” the listing read on Nintendo’s official website. “Explore planets throughout the galaxy as you uncover mysterious secrets and compelling quests!”The store page also listed the following bullet points as features in Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope:Build your dream team with three heroes from an eclectic roster of nine.Take down all new bosses, along with some familiar enemies throughout the galaxy.Rescue the adorable Sparks throughout the galaxy, who provide distinct powers that will help you in battle.Unleash your heroes’ skills but be strategic as you dash your enemies, team jump on your allies, and hide behind covers.Check out more screenshots and the key art for Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope in the gallery below: We’ll have more on the Mario + Rabbids sequel as more details become available later today.RELATED: Nintendo Planning to Build Historical Gallery in Japan

    Phil Spencer's E3 2016 Speech IN COMPARISON TO E3 2021 Shows Xbox&#039 Meaningfully;s Growth

    The Xbox One generation did a lot to hinder Team Green. Under previous leadership, the gaming brand lost its identity and its meaningful contribution to the community overall. Where the original Xbox and 360 excelled, Xbox One's focus was too far-spread when looking at being an all-in-one entertainment system, something that is now common place. So widespread, in fact, that the vision lost one critical component: the games. Then Phil Spencer took the helm and we started to see change, but the scope of the shift in place takes time, patience, and strategic moves. We've previously broken down Xbox's strategy, which you can find here, in comparison to other big-name companies, but as we head into E3 2021's Xbox showcase, we can't help but to reflect back on when Spencer first revealed a new tide for the Xbox platform. A few of us here at Game Informer were talking about this last night, looking back on previous Xbox showcases from Spencer's time and beyond. When looking back during the Xbox "Scorpio" talks during E3 2016, we can't help but to notice how true to the vision Spencer and his team has been through the years. Now that we're in 2021, we see the fruits of the labor he talks about in the showcase clip seen below, something that wasn't necessarily evident at the time after the burned trust over the Xbox One generation.  [embedded content] In Spencer's speech above, he addresses a few major talking points recently expressed in a pre-E3 brief we covered earlier this week. In his time in the spotlight, Spencer says that this was the moment that "marks the beginning of gaming beyond limitations." Gaming not limited by hardware, not limited by memberships. We've seen that with the impressive Cloud gaming strides Xbox has been making, especially so with the recently laid out goals of full Xbox TV integration, removing the need for a console (which is great for financial accessibility, as well, which we dove into here). That doesn't mean Xbox is abandoning consoles, far from it, but more options are being developed so that the statement of "gaming is for everyone" can ring true. xCloud takes some of the biggest games on the market and brings them into the hands of mobile devices in a way that maintains integrity without having to lug around a massive system.  Project xCloud, when first revealed, impressed gamers with its high-quality mobile experience for some of the biggest console games to hit the library. Being able to play Gears 5 on the go had a special appeal to many, especially so for hardcore Xbox fans, but another aspect of this feature has a payoff that many might not realize at first.  Back in the day, I used to do marketing with companies like Barnes & Noble to outreach consumers on a global scale. I will never forget when I was working on a project rooted in Recife, Brazil, and learned how incredibly different the pricing of electronics was over there. A console for us that costs $400 can cost up to 1,300 USD in Brazil, and that's not uncommon in many areas worldwide. Consoles, cell phones, laptops — the price difference is astronomical for many, so buying every console on the market is a lot harder to do.  With xCloud gaming, mobile users can have access to over 100 titles without having to spend $1000+ for different systems. This makes the barrier of entry into gaming, including next-gen, a lot lower in areas normally used to massive price spikes.   The above speech continues with him talking about how most gamers play on more than one device, which speaks to the Cloud gaming going on now as well as the PC streamline that allows for players to bounce between console and PC without fear of losing progress.  He also spoke to a diverse gaming library, which is pushed through with the Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass is a phenomenal feature and has been a major buying point in the last year for consumers. It allows players to opt into a subscription fee versus the full-on cost of games, especially when more and more are announced with that $70 price tag. Day one launch titles are added, largely, to the Xbox Game Pass on the same day (at no additional cost), as well as surprise additions like we saw with MLB The Show 21.  Spencer regaled players with the desire to have the "freedom to play the games you want with the people you want on the device you want." The PC / Xbox integration is largely referenced here now in the past 18 months, as well as Xbox being a leading company pushing for more cross-play opportunities, even when Sony was initially incredibly hesitant.  For me, the part that just really slapped me in the face (in a good way) is when he talked about how he and his team believes that "gaming is for everyone." We talked a little bit about the financial side of that equation, but Xbox has been the leading brand pushing for accessibility in games, both in terms of epilepsy, physical 'challenges', and more. The company has even made an entire resource hub for developers to see if their games meet certain standards, particularly with epilepsy, which is still largely overlooked in the gaming space beyond a sometimes-present warning label.  He also promised players technology that is designed to impress with features designed to make it even easier to get lost into the immersive world of video games. Like Sony, this includes massively reduced loading times, backwards compatibility so that older games don't need to be left behind, smart delivery, and more.  Sony and Microsoft are both doing wildly different things in the gaming space, and that's a good thing. Gaming is for everyone, and that means making sure all areas of the market are covered. With two of the leading gaming brands doing two very different things with the same goal in mind, that means innovation is continuously being pushed to the limits and that's a good thing for the community, for studios, and for gaming as an art form in itself. 

    Axiom Verge 2 Confirmed For PlayStation Consoles

    Axiom Verge 2 is coming to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. Creator Thomas Happ confirmed the news Thursday with a post on the PlayStation Blog. Since the game’s announcement in December 2019 it has only been confirmed for Switch and PC as an Epic Store Exclusive.The game was recently delayed from its vague launch in the first half of 2021 to Q3 2021, which would place the release date between July and September. In the blog post, Thomas doesn’t have a release date to share, only stating it’s arriving “later this summer.” Whenever Axiom Verge 2 does release, Happ states that it will arrive on PS4 on the same day as Switch and PC. However, that guarantee may not extend to the PS5 version.  “I am going to try my best to get the PS5 version ready for launch, but that might take a bit longer since I really want to take advantage of that in-game hints system!” says Happ. It’s worth noting that Happ is the sole developer on Axiom Verge 2, as he was with its predecessor. The sequel serves as both a follow-up and prequel but stars a new protagonist, Indra, a billionaire tech genus. While the first game was set on an alien planet, Axiom Verge 2 uses an alternate version of Earth as a backdrop. That doesn’t mean it won’t be just as weird as the original. Players have access to a brand new arsenal of alien weaponry not to mention a new mystery to uncover. Gameplay retains its Super Metroid-inspired DNA, with labyrinthian level design and, of course, its 16-bit aesthetic. Happ shared additional gameplay details addressing the game’s difficulty. First, instead of choosing “Easy, Normal, Hard” at the start, players can instead adjust how much damage they deal to enemies, and in turn, how hard enemies can hit them. Furthermore, every boss in the game is optional. You’ll be rewarded for beating them, but none of the bosses serve as hard obstacles to the critical path.  Axiom Verge 2 sounds substantially bigger than the first game but Happ has repeatedly stated that it’s merely another slice of a grander mythos. He even name drops Axiom Verge 3 in the blog post, saying fans won't know how the first two games relate until the third act. For a deeper dive into how Axiom Verge 2 plays, check out this April hands-on preview.  Are you excited to see Axiom Verge 2 come to PlayStation? What do you think about it’s approach to difficulty and bosses? Let us know in the comments!  [Source: PlayStation Blog]

    Interview: Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical’s Daniel Mertzlufft & Kate Leonard

    Ratatouille: The Musical is a unique social media experience that brought together a number of creative individuals, including Daniel Mertzlufft & Kate Leonard, who were kind enough to speak to ComingSoon.net about their experience adapting the popular Pixar animated film.Based on the Disney/Pixar film, Ratatouille, the musical sensation is an unprecedented, community-written, Broadway-caliber special event that first hatched when TikTok creator Emily Jacobsen’s musical Ratatouille-inspired post was discovered by fellow TikTok creator and composer Daniel Mertzlufft, who arranged her melody into an Alan Menken style musical finale last October. Jacobsen and Mertzlufft’s work inspired hundreds of content creators to create videos and songs under the hashtag #ratatouillethemusical.Mertzlufft’s post also caught the attention of Tony-winning Seaview Productions, who hired a range of talented theater creatives including Mertzlufft to produce an hour-long production inspired by the creators and featuring expanded versions of some of their songs. This became Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, which premiered online on New Year’s Day. The Broadway Sinfonietta, an all-female-identifying, majority women-of-color orchestra showcasing BIPOC female musicians that was founded by the show’s co-music director and orchestrator, Macy Schmidt, recorded the show’s score.It’s the first TikTok production to be eligible for an Emmy and also recently won the Webby People’s Voice Award for Television & Film, Social Video (Social). Starring Wayne Brady, Tituss Burgess, and Adam Lambert with a full production team behind it, the musical raised over $2 million in COVID relief for The Actors Fund.Ames: Thanks for talking to us about Ratatouille the TikTok musical!Dan Mertzlufft: Of course!Kate Leonard: I’m so excited to talk about it!How did each of you get involved with this unique production? Because this is something unprecedented, right?Dan: Yeah. I mean, it’s quite a long story, to be honest. And it all started in October when I stumbled across Emily Jacobsen’s original video called “Ode to Remy,” where she sang a cute little funny meme song about our dear friend Remy. And I listened to it, thought it was really funny and the song had been doing really well. I’ve had a couple of other things go viral on TikToK that were musical parodies. So, I was like, “Oh, you know what? This just strikes me as a big end of Act II Disney finale, ala Alan Menkin. So, I decided to go with a big, huge orchestra. I mean there’s strings and horns and bells and lots of percussion and then a huge choir that is actually just 15 of me and 15 of my friend Corey Jasper, who actually is also one of the ensemble members in this production. I put that video together pretty quickly, posted it on Tik Tok, and hoped it would do pretty well, but didn’t realize that it would literally launch an entire Ratatouille musical movement that started online.So, then a couple of months later, when I got an email from Greg Nobile and Carly Callahan at SeaView Productions saying, “Hey, we got the approval from Disney to do a concert benefit for the actors fund. Do you want to be music supervisor? One, I just could not believe the words I was reading. And two, I said, “Yes, of course!”Kate: So, I joined later on and Dan had already been working on the project for a while, and one of the pieces that was missing when they were compiling all of the different songs from TikTok was an, “I Want” song for Remy; and he’s the main character, it’s a musical convention, we need to know what he wants and hear about it in song. So, Dan turned the little “Ode to Remy” 15-second clip into this beautiful, sweeping number that didn’t have any words. So, he contacted me and asked if I could write the lyrics for it. And then, later on, I ended up adding some lyrics to a few other songs here and there that needed to be filled out from the original TikToks.Were you surprised by the enormous reaction from so many talented individuals with this project?Kate: Oh, absolutely. I was not on TikTok prior to this project — I still am just a lurker — and I didn’t realize how massive it had grown just within the platform. And then seeing how that expanded into the wider world after we did the production, it was mind-blowing.How much of this reaction stems from Ratatouille being a beloved Pixar film, or TikTok being this unique platform that gives people the freedom to do so many creative things? Or is it a mixture of both?Dan: I think the reason that it did so well was a combination of lots and lots and lots of different things. And I do think the two main things are that Ratatouille is a beloved story and that its story rings true, but also just TikTok itself — and especially in the middle of a pandemic — the way that the platform works allows for collaboration.So, I’ll break those down really quick, but with Ratatouille itself, it’s a story about teamwork and it says, I mean, “Anyone can cook, anyone can create, anyone can do anything that you put your mind to!” So, I think a lot of people feel that way, especially in theater. There’s no reason that Linguini and Remy should have worked; and then working together, their collaboration allows them to make magic. And I think that that’s a good analogy for how theater works, but then also with TikTok itself, it is just a collaborative platform in a way that no other social media platform is, specifically with its uses of sound so that people can reuse other sounds, the uses of duets so that people can add onto different videos; and then the “For you” page itself, which just doesn’t exist on any other platform. You have the discover page on Instagram and you can see other people’s retweets on Twitter, but specifically, with TikTok, it’s tracking every single thing you interact with and then showing you more stuff in that world. So, it’s very easy to have five followers and have a video go viral because it just doesn’t matter about followers. If your content is good and people relate to it, it’s going to do well.So, I think a combination of all of that underneath the umbrella of a pandemic is really why Emily and I’s videos could launch a movement of thousands of creators.Is this a new form of entertainment you could see growth within the online community?Kate: Well, after Ratatouille started gaining steam, you saw so many other versions of big jointed efforts to put together musical adaptations on TikTok. There was one for Lilo and Stitch, I think I saw Bridgerton, which was very well known at this point — that was primarily two songwriters, but other people contributed ideas.I think that this collaborative spirit, especially enabled by this technology that so many young people are excited about and spending all their time on anyway is kind of … it’s not necessarily where all theater and all of adaptation is going, but it’s definitely one of the avenues that is available now that has not been available in the past.This seems like a real opportunity for people who normally wouldn’t get the chance to share their talents to really show off what they can do.Dan: I just think it’s so interesting when you say that, because I think beyond just the thinking, “Is this a way to create new theater,” I think we need to completely rethink what theater can be. And this is exactly what Ratatouille was. Prior to it being the concert production with SeaView, it still was a tangible show that we all experienced and felt. Did we all sit down in the theater and see it? No, but you still felt like you were a part of it. You still felt part of the fandom. And that means that every single person from Emily and I’s videos are just as important as the kid in Missouri, who duetted one of the videos and sang along with it. Every single person who contributed to it is also part of that movement, and that’s a real, tangible thing. And I think that it’s also not a complete rethinking of what musical theater can be as we move forward in these opportunities of collaborations online; and I’m also hoping that not only we as an online community believe that, but that it also reaches around the world, and even in, “professional theater,” that this is valid and this is real and anyone can create.Speaking along those same lines, people who don’t normally go to the theater might have an opportunity to be introduced to it via social media as well, right?Kate: I think that’s totally true. I encounter people pretty often who say they don’t like musicals as though musicals are one style of music. It’s an art form and it has all different musical styles and all different narrative storytelling styles. And there are many different ways that you can structure a theatrical piece that uses music to propel character and plot forward. And one of the nice things about these collaborative things that we’re seeing come up on TikTok, like Ratatouille, is that all of these people with diverse tastes are coming together and bringing their own musical flavor and their own lyrical concepts; and we’re putting together something that has all of these little spices from here and there to make one large dish of Ratatouille if you will.Is there a specific film story of production you would want to see adapted as a TikTok musical?Dan: That’s an amazing question because the list is limitless. I’m constantly thinking of new things that would be an amazing musical. One of the first things that I ever worked on TikTok was writing songs for Avatar: The Last Airbender musical, which is a show that I’ve loved for many, many, many years. I mean, there was a whole community of people that we’re writing songs for this fictional Avatar show that was sort of the precursor to Ratatouille, I think in my mind. There’re hundreds of things that I would love to adapt, but Avatar was definitely really special. It already happened. And I’m proud of those songs that we put out.Kate: Yes, there are so many different properties that would be incredible to develop. Um, one of the really nice things about Ratatouille is that our adaptation ended up being sanctioned in the specific context by Disney and in general adaptations that get to a certain point. You know, if you want to have, a paying audience to support a full production, you have to get the rights. And that’s always going to be a tricky thing for a lot of these big beloved stories that many people are familiar with. And that’s why you see so many fairytale adaptations in Greek myth adaptations and biblical story adaptations because they’re not rights protected. And so there is an endless list of properties that are, you know, behind a gate, but I’d love to get access to, but there are also so many beautiful stories that are out there for the taking, um, that, or to shine a new light on that haven’t been seen in a modern adaptation before, but it’s been around for a very long time.This is the first TikTok production to be eligible for an Emmy nomination. What would it mean to receive a nomination for your work here?Kate: Oh, goodness. That’s the dream, isn’t it? To have people appreciate something that you do and recognize it in a formal capacity? I worked in television for years before I transitioned into theater. So there’s a little bit of goofy irony for me in this situation. But it would be such an incredible gift and honor for Ratatouille to be nominated, especially considering it’s something that we put together on such a quick timeline just because we were passionate about it; and didn’t have any expectations about how people would react to the outcome of our work.Dan: Yeah, it’s exactly what Kate said, but specifically it is all for and thanks to the TikTok users. Especially “Remember My Name,” which is the song that Kate and I are eligible to be nominated for —that only exists because of the love that the entire TikTok community put into it. And I know when we were writing, that was something we were always acutely aware of is that this is all for that community and we just want to do that community right. And while, of course, it would be really incredible for us to get that, it is also on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of users and creators who supported Ratatouille on the platform who contributed in huge and small ways and engaged in it. So, it would be very exciting for us, but I think also for everyone who was able to be a part of it.Here’s a final question for each of you, and this is a tricky one, and you gotta be honest about this. Have either of you ever eaten ratatouille?Kate: Yes! The night of the Ratatouille musical premiere, January 1, my family and I made the ratatouille dish from Ratatouille. I believe the recipe for how to do it that specific way came from Smitten Kitchen. And it was phenomenal! It was so delicious. It’s fantastic. It’s one of my sister’s go-to recipes.Dan: I’m going to say that I ate what was attempted Ratatouille, but I don’t know if it was successful. I tried it, but I don’t know if it was accurate to what Ratatouille was supposed to be.

    Facebook Acquires BigBox VR, A SIGNIFICANT Player In The Virtual Reality Space

    Facebook is no stranger to VR, nor is the company unfamiliar with delving into the world of gaming. With Sony and Microsoft both making big moves when it comes to acquisitions, it looks like the social media giant is gearing up to do the same. The latest move? Acquiring one of the biggest names in the VR space, BigBox VR. In a recent blog post over on the Oculus website, Mike Verdu, VP of content at Facebook Reality Labs, revealed the latest acquisition. In the post, he reflects on Population: One, the breakout battle royale title from BigBox VR. While there are tons of battle royale games out there, VR and non-VR alike, Population: One has been proven to be a successful endeavor, further challenging expectations of what VR can bring to gaming.  "[Population: One] stormed onto the VR scene just nine months ago and has consistently ranked as one the top-performing titles on the Oculus platform, bringing together up to 24 people at a time to connect, play, and compete in a virtual world," said Verdu. "And while social is bringing players into POP: ONE, the quirky humor, continual updates, and pure fun of the environment keeps them coming back time and time again—we’ve even seen players scheduling time to meet in-game for a synchronous social experience. BigBox VR may be small, but they are a mighty, nimble team of game industry vets who seamlessly nail the game development duality of craft and data-driven live service." The purpose of the acquisition, other than the obvious, is to give BigBox VR the resources needed to grow and nurture, both as a studio and for Population: One. From Facebook and Oculus Studios, BigBox will have a whole new world of funding and resources to continue building upon its battle royale experience while also venturing into new waters for the future ahead.  Regarding "why BigBox," the VP mentioned that Facebook is interested in investing in content that "fosters social connection." To Facebook and the Oculus branch, Population: One fits that bill perfectly, providing an engaging and enjoyable experience that contributes meaningfully to this PvP genre.  The entire BigBox team is confirmed to be joining Oculus Studios, though the company was quick to assuage possible worries of changing exclusivity. Verdu confirms that Population: One will remain on all of the platforms it is currently available on and will not be an Oculus-only adventure in the prepared statement.  To learn more, you can read the full statement here. 

    Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope TURNS UP On Nintendo's Eshop

    E3 is getting into full swing this weekend with announcements coming from most major game companies. Ubisoft is set to show off their slate of upcoming games this afternoon, however one unannounced sequel featuring Nintendo’s iconic plumber and Ubi’s chaotic Rabbids has shown up before the big Ubisoft Forward live stream.An early morning update on the Nintendo eShop revealed a new game in the tactical Mario + Rabbids series is on its way and is titled Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. A few screenshots accompanied some info on the new adventure. The store page gives this brief description of the game: “Team up with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Rabbid Peach, Rabbid Luigi, and their friends on a galactic journey to defeat a malevolent entity and save your Spark companions. Explore planets throughout the galaxy as you uncover mysterious secrets and compelling quests!” According to the details on the eShop page, this new game is expected to release on the Nintendo Switch sometime in 2022. Other details include using teams of three from “an eclectic roster of nine,” and will continue the X-COM-like gameplay of the original. Additionally, Mario and his Rabbid friends are going to be traveling through the galaxy to save the titular Sparks, who may be the Rabbid-fied Lumas in the screenshots and art on the Nintendo eShop page. The original Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was a goofy, tactical foray into the Mushroom Kingdom. Ubisoft’s unpredictable Rabbids found their way to Mario’s universe and wrought havoc on everything they touched. Check out the Game Informer review of Kingdom Battle in anticipation of knowing more of this new title. Given the timing of this page going live there will most likely be more information today at the Ubisoft Forward event streaming at 12 p.m. PT. Keep up with our coverage of the Ubisoft Forward showcase at our E3 hub to catch up on other great reveals, and watch the big showcases live with us on Twitch.

    THE SURFACE OF THE Table – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Of Venice

    At first glance, Assassin’s Creed seems like a franchise ripe for tabletop adaptation. Rich in character and story, as well as setting options spread across all of history, it would be an exciting project for any designer to bring it to life as a board game. However, like the video games themselves, it’s also a wildly ambitious concept, which demands the combination of numerous mechanics, including stealth, combat, and traversal. And where to zero in within a franchise that has ballooned into dozens of unique mini-settings, heroes, and villains? Years after its initial announcement, and no doubt numerous iterations and improvements, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice is finally here, and sure enough, the resulting release is large, ambitious, and complex. It’s also remarkably fun.Even among dedicated tabletop enthusiasts, it’s important to perceive Brotherhood of Venice is a connoisseur’s game, squarely targeted at that cross-section of fans who both adore Assassin’s Creed and wish to invest dozens of hours into a shared cooperative board game campaign. For the many hours of fun it provides for one to four players, the core game’s price tag of over $200 can be justified, but no one is going to proclaim it cheap entertainment. The game works hard to earn that high cost of entry. The core release includes over 140 unpainted and highly detailed plastic miniatures. On cardboard tiles and excellent stock cards, the art is subtle and gorgeous. Dozens of distinct scenarios each offer new twists on the action and playstyle. And an over-arching story weaves together an intriguing new branch of Assassin’s Creed lore. The base game includes over 140 incredibly detailed miniatures After many hours exploring those scenarios and the unfolding narrative they present, the single feature that most impresses me is Brotherhood of Venice’s deep understanding of its source material. I’ve spent well over a decade enjoying Assassin’s Creed, both in my personal time, and also covering it professionally. Triton Noir has clearly worked closely with the franchise creators at Ubisoft to zero in on the vibe of the series. There’s the unique mix of stealth that suddenly overflows into bursts of action, represented by clever mechanics like dice rolls that move you from incognito into dangerously exposed status. In each mission (or Memory), the players work together to achieve optional objectives, and reach “100% sync” with the Animus. There’s even secret reveals and conspiracy elements that might not become apparent until many sessions into the campaign, looping in elements of the Assassin’s Creed fiction that both surprise and delight. The game even includes entirely optional missions, in place to offer backstory and context for each of the playable heroes. With the full spread of Assassin’s Creed fiction to draw from, the designers have here chosen to zero in on one period almost every enthusiast can agree on – the active Bureau in Venice after Ezio Auditore takes down Cesare Borgia. Players initially adopt the role of apprentices, and very soon named members as they work together to confront a new branch of the Templar/Assassin conflict. Sessions play out through individual but interconnected memory sequences, each of which is set up using several modular tile boards. Your rewards, failures, and successes often carry over from one session to the next. Through the use of action cubes to delineate a set number of things each character can do in a turn, and event cards that regularly change the conditions in the field and dictate enemy movement and actions, Brotherhood of Venice should feel familiar to experienced board gamers who have tackled recent “dungeon crawl” games. And while Brotherhood of Venice bears more than a passing similarity to some other dungeon crawling modular board games of recent years, the big difference here is the shift toward stealth. In most cases, outright combat is not the goal, but rather careful movement, positioning, equipment usage, and even retreat or hiding when things go wrong. It’s that focus on stealth that gives the game its distinct identity. Like in the video games, I thrilled at the mounting tension of a given retrieval, escape, or assassination attempt, and the rare moments where my team of Assassins slipped in and out unseen. Gameplay unfolds on a modular board of tiles, with a unique setup for each mission If its rich understanding of its source material is the game’s greatest strength, it’s the way the game teaches itself to you that deserves the second highest praise. Following in the vein of games like Pandemic Legacy or Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion, early chapters of Brotherhood of Venice are incredibly simple from a rules perspective. It’s very possible to open the game, and quickly move into an initial play, as the game is gradually tutorialized over the early missions – so long as all the players at the table are okay with the regular pausing required to look up newly introduced concepts as they arise. Helpfully, gameplay elements that require additional explanation are clearly marked with a blue diamond and a numerical reference in the rulebook, keeping the need for endless page-flipping to a minimum. Individual scenarios are explained through an included campaign book, while the new cards and other components required for that Memory are included in a sealed envelope, only to be opened when indicated. That approach allows for some fun surprises, such as unique rewards, like new gear, that only come into your possession upon completion of certain objectives. During gameplay, those detailed minis represent your Assassin as they range across the city (and other environs I won’t spoil), letting you drop down from rooftops, climb to high synchronization points, or even hide in hay bales. As you infiltrate a given locale, guards are constantly moving and watching, and you’re left to use the tools of the trade to keep things under wraps until the mission is complete. Fling florins to the ground to distract. Has your Brother been spotted? Toss out a smoke bomb to give him a chance to escape. Parachute down onto a hapless crossbowman and then hide his body before the alert goes out. Available actions and equipment might be different from one session to the next, but everything is clearly described by the scenario cards at hand, and often deals with the balancing act between stealth and all-out action. Each of the four playable characters has a unique ability, and even optional backstory elements to uncover While you’re given plenty of tools to improve your chances during combat, the exchanges themselves are often resolved through relatively simple dice roll exchanges. More often than not, success in combat is more determined by how you prepare for it, rather than what happens during the combat itself. For instance, if you insist on diving down to fight that dangerous boss character before neutralizing his many nearby bodyguards, you shouldn’t be surprised when your health is quickly whittled away. Because your Assassins can so quickly be overwhelmed, the focus on stealth, and the optional objectives that often suggest more careful play, Brotherhood of Venice certainly leans into its strategic elements, demanding you think ahead and plan each character’s move in advance. But I also like the way that event cards suddenly throw a kink in those plans. Your idea to wait for your chance on that nearby rooftop is all well and good, until the full moon comes out on one turn, leaving you dangerously exposed. The event deck grows with each passing scenario, as does the challenge it represents. While some events offer great advantages, many of the later possible event cards can be catastrophic. Thankfully, by then, it’s likely your Assassin has some great armor, weapons, and other toys to weather the storm. Between the wild vacillations of the event cards, and the reliance on dice for both the detection mechanic and combat, luck can factor strongly in the game – even with equipment and abilities that can mitigate its effects. That’s not to say that Brotherhood of Venice devalues strategic play, but rather that you can expect any given scenario to sometimes devolve into chaos (much as some of the video game sequences do), and you’re left to scramble to resolve the situation. That’s especially true as those nastier event cards enter the deck in later missions, and the challenge escalates. It’s frankly part of the fun to watch a carefully laid plan fall apart, and be forced to improvise, leading to some of the best moments the game has to offer. But I can imagine some players balking at the way those moments of bad luck take things off the rails. Throughout the game, its artists impressively capture the texture and historical action vibe of the series Like many campaign board games, I’m forced to hold back on talking about some of Brotherhood of Venice’s coolest twists, rules, and options. It’s enough to say that Triton Noir has looked closely at all the systems, narrative structures, and choices that are often found in the video games of this franchise, and done an admirable job of bringing them to life in a tabletop format. Many fans will be delighted by additional aspects of play, as well as characters, who come into the mix many sessions down the road, but the details of those discoveries are best left to you. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood of Venice had a long journey to come to completion, and the time commitment required to fully enjoy it, not to mention the financial investment, are both very reasonable causes to give pause before a purchase. With that said, the years of development have led to a nuanced and smart game that I found to be balanced and challenging, but infrequently frustrating. The rules and interlocking systems are eventually relatively complex, but I’ve rarely encountered a big game like this that so ably ramps you up into the challenge, without hurdles. Minis arrive unpainted, but enterprising painters can add a whole additional layer of beauty If you’ve always loved Assassin’s Creed, but hoped to find a way to experience one of these stories with your real-life friends at your side, this is a cooperative venture that can keep your group busy for many weeks of play, with new and exciting moments of discovery at regular intervals. While the dice-based combat and resolution mechanics fail the innovation test, the overall structure and focus on stealth is novel and engaging. Stack on some top-of-the-line production values and components, and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood of Venice is a success, well deserving of sharing in the legacy of one of the best new entertainment properties of the last two decades.  While Brotherhood of Venice is wonderful, there’s no shortage of other great tabletop experiences for you and your friends to explore next. If you’re looking for something more affordable or just in a different genre, feel free to peruse our backlog of Top of the Table recommendations, including selections for some of the Best Board Games of 2020, and some of the Best Tabletop RPGs of 2020. And as always, if you need some personalized suggestions to guide your next game selection, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
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