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Life is Strange maker Dontnod moves into third-party game publishing

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Tell Me Why features the twins Tyler and Alyson.

Dontnod has given a nod to third-party publishing, as the maker of the Life is Strange series said it will start publishing games for other game developers.

The first third-party publishing project is with Denmark’s PortaPlay. The two companies will co-produce an original game that meshes with Dontnod‘s own values. Those values are about creating emotionally charged story-based games about real people in realistic settings with the added touch of the supernatural. At least that’s what the Life is Strange series, which has sold millions of units, is like.

PortaPlay’s Hans von Knut Skovfoged said his Copenhagen-based studio is focusing on games with meaning, combining game mechanics and storytelling about people in crisis and facing moral dilemmas. Dontnod added more publishing and marketing functions last year to get ready for this expansion.

“As a publisher, we want to offer players experiences that are both accessible to the wider audience, while setting the bar high regarding themes and quality of design,” said Xavier Spinat, head of publishing at Dontnod, in a statement. “From our first discussions with PortaPlay, it became clear to us that co-producing and publishing this original creation would allow us to expand our portfolio with a game complementary to our in-house productions, while remaining true to our DNA. We will be able to bring to our partner with our know-how and our knowledge of the market, in line with our communities’ expectations.”

Above: Tell Me Why features the twins Tyler and Alyson. Tyler is transgender.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Dontnod CEO Oskar Guilbert told GamesIndustry.biz last November that the studio wanted to be “as independent as possible” going forward. The company’s latest game, Twin Mirror, was the first title they self-published, having previously worked in partnership with Square Enix, Focus Home Interactive, and Microsoft for previous titles.

PortaPlay has about 10 people. Dontnod has also raised money and expanded its own internal publishing plans. Late last year, Dontnod had two big games. Microsoft published Dontnod’s Tell Me Why in August and September. And Dontnod self-published a second game, Twin Mirror.

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The RetroBeat — Diablo II: Resurrected gives a diabolically good first impression

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Seeing this guy makes me feel like 13-year-old again.

After the disappointing Warcraft III: Reforged, I wondered if I really wanted a Diablo II remake. When Blizzard announced Diablo II: Resurrected earlier this year, I wanted to remain skeptical. It felt a little better learning that Vicarious Visions, which created fantastic remakes for Crash Bandicoot and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, was working on the project. Still, I was worried Blizzard would mess things up again.

Now that I’ve been playing a bit of Resurrected, I feel better. Blizzard has launched a PC technical alpha that runs through the weekend. It gives access to the first two of the game’s five acts. I can play as three of the seven classes: Barbarian, Amazon, and Sorceress. It’s only for single-player, so we can’t try out online multiplayer.

The full game comes out later this year for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One along with PC. And I’m going to let myself be excited now.

Above: Seeing this guy makes me feel like a 13-year-old again.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Diablo II is still good

I love the original Diablo II. I played it back in 2000 and had an incredible, dark adventure with my Barbarian. Heck, I still remember the giant, orange-glowing bastard sword that I found toward the end of Act 2 that I ended up using for most of the game. I recalled the dozens of times I had to use a scroll to teleportation so I could go back to town and buy more health potions during my fight with Diablo. It’s one of my favorite game experiences.

That was a bit more than 20 years ago. Starting Diablo II again, everything came back to me. When I was in town but my health wasn’t full, I suddenly remembered that I had to talk to a specific NPC in the camp if I wanted to be healed. I began organizing my equipment the same way I did in 2000, putting my tomes on the far right slots and leaving the far left area for new loot.

It’s all an incredible wave of nostalgia. But Diablo II is more than that. It’s still a great game. It’s less flashy and slower than many modern action-RPGs, especially when compared to Diablo III. But that works in its favor. Yes, your inventory space is extremely small. You will not be spamming dozens of special abilities with dazzling particle effects during fights.

Combat, especially early on, is simple. You click on enemies and swing your weapon at them. As far as I can tell from my memory, it’s the same as it was in 2000. You have a stamina bar, and it limits how often your character can run instead of walk. Diablo II is restrictive. But it works. It just feels a bit more gritty than what we’re used to today. It doesn’t hold your hand and go out of its way to make things easy for you, which makes your victories feel more satisfying.

Never thought that a place called The Den of Evil could be so comforting.

Above: Never thought that a place called The Den of Evil could be so comforting.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Remade

So, yes, Diablo II was great, and it’s still great. But we’ve seen Blizzard ruin a classic before with Warcraft III: Reforged. Thankfully, the effort appears much more polished this time. Resurrected looks updated while retaining the spirit of the original. It’s still a dark, dreary world. It’s just less pixelated and jagged. And if you like your jagged pixels, which I know I do, you can still switch to the old graphics by pushing a single button. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between the two, having fun comparing the old characters with their updated looks.

There are also some nice quality of life changes. The transparent map, which used to take up most of the screen, now nestles itself in the corner. You can still have it use the full screen if you want, you adorable purist you, but I like it just fine in its new position. Resurrected also has an option to have you pick up gold automatically when you walk over it. That’s nice. I mean, who ever doesn’t want to pick up gold?

Performance hasn’t been perfect. My framerate has suffered when loading new areas. It also drops when I’m standing on a waypoint. Of course, this is a technical alpha, so I’m not all that worried about it.

There’s a reason so many people had been asking for a Diablo II remake. It’s a special game. It’s something that I probably should have replayed on my own years ago. This remake just gives me a good excuse to do so.

This is just a sample, but it’s a promising one. Resurrected isn’t just bringing back a classic. It could also help revive Blizzard’s retro gaming credentials.

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GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

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No password required: Mobile carrier exposes data for millions of accounts

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No password required: Mobile carrier exposes data for millions of accounts

Getty Images

Q Link Wireless, a provider of low-cost mobile phone and data services to 2 million US-based customers, has been making sensitive account data available to anyone who knows a valid phone number on the carrier’s network, an analysis of the company’s account management app shows.

Dania, Florida-based Q Link Wireless is what’s known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, meaning it doesn’t operate its own wireless network but rather buys services in bulk from other carriers and resells them. It provides government-subsidized phones and service to low-income consumers through the FCC’s Lifeline Program. It also offers a range of low-cost service plans through its Hello Mobile brand. In 2019, Q Link Wireless said it had 2 million customers.

The carrier offers an app called My Mobile Account (for both iOS and Android) that customers can use to monitor text and minutes histories, data and minute usage, or to buy additional minutes or data. The app also displays the customer’s:

  • First and last name
  • Home address
  • Phone call history (from/to)
  • Text message history (from/to)
  • Phone carrier account number needed for porting
  • Email address
  • Last four digits of the associated payment card

Screenshots from the iOS version look like this:

No password required . . . what?

Since at least December and possibly much earlier, My Mobile Account has been displaying this information for every customer account whenever it is presented with a valid Q Link Wireless phone number. That’s right—no password or anything else required.

When I first saw a Reddit thread discussing the app, I thought for sure there was some kind of mistake. So I installed the app, got the permission from another thread reader, and entered his phone number. I was immediately viewing his personal information, as the redacted images above demonstrate.

The person who started the Reddit thread said in an email that he first reported this glaring insecurity to Q Link Wireless sometime last year. Emails he provided show that he notified support twice again this year, first in February and again this month.

Feedback left in reviews for both the iOS and Android offerings also reported this issue, in several cases with a response from a Q Link Wireless representative thanking the person for the feedback.

Downright negligence

The data exposure is serious because phone numbers are so easy to come by. We give them to prospective employers, car mechanics, and other strangers. And of course, phone numbers are easily obtained by private detectives, abusive spouses, stalkers, and other people who have an interest in a particular person. Q Link Wireless making customer data freely available to anyone who knows a customer’s phone number is an act of downright negligence.

I began emailing the carrier about the insecurity on Wednesday and followed up with almost a dozen more messages. Q Link Wireless CEO and founder Issa Asad didn’t respond despite my noting that every hour he allowed the data exposure to continue compounded the risk to his customers.

Then late on Thursday, My Mobile Account stopped connecting to customers’ accounts. When presented with the number of a Q Link Wireless customer, the app responds with a message saying, “Phone number doesn’t match any account.” The iOS and Android versions of the app were last updated in February, suggesting that the fix is the result of a change Q Link Wireless made to a server.

number doesnt match

While My Mobile Account displayed customers’ personal information, it didn’t provide a means to change that data. The app also didn’t display passwords. That means a person couldn’t exploit this leak to perform a SIM swap or lock users out of their accounts, although the exposure might make it easier for a would-be SIM swapper to social engineer a Q Link Wireless employee into porting a number to a new phone.

There are no indications one way or the other that this leakage was actively exploited. Researchers from security firm Intel471 found no discussions in criminal forums about the available data, but there’s no way to know if it was abused on a smaller scale, say by someone a Q Link Wireless customer knows or has interacted with.

As phone users seeking low-cost, no-frills mobile service, Q Link Customers are a part of a population that may be least able to afford data breach services and other privacy services. The carrier has yet to notify customers of the data exposure. People using the service should consider any data displayed by the app to be available to anyone who has their phone number.

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Wargaming opens office for possibly hundreds of employees in Vilnius, Lithuania

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Wargaming opens office for possibly hundreds of employees in Vilnius, Lithuania

Wargaming said it has opened a new office in Vilnius, Lithuania, to strengthen the company’s distributed development model.

The office will employ developers and it will also act as a publishing arm for central and Eastern Europe. The new hub will be located in the city’s modern business district and will focus on current and future projects alike. Set in a rapidly expanding area of the capital, the studio will become a new working place for several hundred employees within three to four years.

For Wargaming’s MS-1 studio, Vilnius will become another key spot alongside the existing offices in Minsk and Moscow. While the flagship cross-platform shooter World of Tanks: Blitz boasts over 140 million global downloads, MS-1 will continue to create mid-core games for mobile and portable devices — with two unannounced titles in the development pipeline. The studio already has 325 people.

The studio is led by industry veteran Thaine Lyman, who has been with Wargaming since 2015. Prior to that, Thaine spent over 17 years at Activision, working as executive producer for the Call of Duty series on console and PC platforms, as well as vice president of of production overseeing games like Destiny and Marvel licensed product offerings.

Above: World of Tanks is a popular online game.

Image Credit: Wargaming

The plan for the MS-1 team in Lithuania is to be a multicultural melting pot, with employees from across the world. The team will utilize this variety to help deliver games that click with different audiences, while also offering a welcoming and representative work environment for new employees.

GamesBeat

GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it.

How will you do that? Membership includes access to:

  • Newsletters, such as DeanBeat
  • The wonderful, educational, and fun speakers at our events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Special members-only interviews, chats, and “open office” events with GamesBeat staff
  • Chatting with community members, GamesBeat staff, and other guests in our Discord
  • And maybe even a fun prize or two
  • Introductions to like-minded parties

Become a member

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