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December 8, 2020

🎄 Good morning! Finally Cyberpunk is in the hands of game reviewers and there's a lot to like, and a lot to digest.

Cyberpunk 2077, due out this week on December 10, is the biggest game in years: 

  • That’s both in terms of wait, expectations, hype, and the size of the game itself. 
  • It represents gaming’s most ambitious open-world approach to date, in the vast Night City, where Los Angeles is reimagined in a retrofuturistic sense and you play as V, with three “lifepath” options and a promise of no two storylines being the same for any player.

It’s also a game that’s seen an unreal amount of drama emerge since its announcement way back in 2012, with trophies along the way like winning over one hundred awards at E3 2018. 

  • The studio behind the game, CD Projekt Red, has forced employees(reportedly a team of 500) to work extended hours to get it done. While that’s not uncommon, reports are that it’s been that way for more than a year. 
  • That wouldn’t be a major point in a story about the game, but CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński told Kotaku back in 2019 that his company thought of itself as “more humane” than others in the industry. Spare a thought for the game developers out there.
  • The other element has been the prolonged wait for the game after the initial April 16, 2020 release date, a brief eruption about microtransactions in the game (later clarified: not in the game), the enticing role of Keanu Reeves, and a bunch more about the innumerable and perhaps slightly odd character creation customization possibilities, and more.

Finally here:

It’s not that none of that matters now. But come Thursday, the game will be available across PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Stadia, — with next-gen support for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S in 2021, but playable via backwards compatibility for now. And it’s worth the wait, say reviews.

Review embargoes have dropped, and the universal critical reception is something like: it’s brilliant, but flawed, but incredible, has wonderful characters and gameplay, but has loads of bugs, but you’re going to buy it if you’re into gaming at all and have any one of the platforms required.

And, crucially, everyone expects (and the developers have long promised) that the game will keep being patched, fixed, and made better with downloadable content updates and features, including online-play coming at some point. 

  • If it’s anything like Grand Theft Auto 5, which was released in 2013 but remains super popular due to its open-world and online play, people are going to be playing Cyberpunk 2077 for years and years.

Response:

Early reviews are pointing at why exactly there’s so much potential, and why already it’s incredible. Metacritic is showing a 91/100 score, but there are dissenting opinions, too. A quick look:

  • Although not a gaming site, TechCrunch has the perfect summary of what you should know about the game and its early reviews: “Practically speaking, it’s nearly impossible to offer a real review of Cyberpunk 2077, … In the first place, it’s so big that the few days I’ve had with it aren’t enough to realistically evaluate the game; second, it’s so buggy and janky now that it feels wrong to review it before it becomes the game I know it will be; and finally, everyone’s going to buy it anyway.
  • The likes of IGN and GameInformer went for 9/10 reviews for the outstanding sidequests and core RPG glory, but pointed at the uneven play and there’s so much talk about the bleak neon lights of Night City, and the beauty of the tough, vile and occasionally overwhelming world.
  • GameSpot, though, went a little harder at the lack of purpose to much of the world. Giving such a hyped game a 7/10 after 50 hours of play requires a certain metal in the hyper-reactionary world of expectant gamers, but hey: the review says it’s “phenomenally buggy,” and while the RPG mechanics are amazing, there’s too much that’s just superfluous.
  • At least one YouTuber is rebelling completely (Twitter) against the console review requirements and embargo on using their own footage versus supplied footage from the developer. This is a whole thing that seems to be preventing the insane amount of bugs being shown on YouTube before orders finally commence.

Better when it’s done: Gaming is probably one of the most unique industries in the world, where you pay good money ($50-$60 depending) while knowing it’s not done and the big hope is it gets fixed fast.

Still, once multiplayer is incorporated, late 2020 reviews will be relics — single-player is hardly where gaming is at in the world of lockdowns, and gaming/hangouts like Fortnite, PUBG, Among Us, and so on. Cyberpunk will probably have to get that right to make this an enduring gaming icon that has been promised for so long.

📸 Here’s what the Galaxy S21’s design looks like in real life, apparently. There’s talk now of a January 14th announcement, too (Android Authority).

📉 LG hopes to revive phone sales by handing off work on mid-range and low budget models: outsourcing to original design manufacturers, instead of its own people and plant, which will be saved for its high-end range (Android Authority).

📲 Google is rolling out a December feature drop for much of the Pixel line, with many Pixel 5 features coming to Pixel 3 and newer phones (including the Pixel 4, 4a and 4a 5G), plus an extra treat for The Mandalorian fans (Android Authority).

🔌 Aukey Omnia 100W PD GaN charger: Powerful and compact (Android Authority).

🌆 Google promises “spectacular” city GPS improvement with 3D building data(Ars Technica).

😬 P–nhub might finally lose Visa and Mastercard after New York Times exposé (Gizmodo).

▶ Google Stadia will let all users livestream games directly to YouTube as of today, one of the original promises (The Verge).

💸 Uber abandons dreams of self-driving domination, sells its struggling self-driving unit to Aurora by paying $400M in cash, and taking a minority stake. Aurora, founded by a former Googler, pivoted to long-haul trucking in mid-2019 as the first application of its tech, but has been working with Hyundai and Kia in an alliance, and Toyota. Robotaxis: hard (Ars Technica).

📺 “Live, social, and shoppable”: The future of video, this interesting piece argues, is in next-gen social media that are video-first, and range from shopping to skill sharing. Many of us have learned something via YouTube, but what about live video instructors? (A16z).

🍔 XPrize launches a new $15 million contest to develop alternative meats (Engadget).

🌋 The Moon is a volcanic freak and China is trying to find out why (Wired).

🚀 SpaceX will launch its Starship for the first time this morning, aiming for a 12-15km altitude test from Texas. SpaceX is going live on YouTube about two hours after this newsletter goes out (YouTube).

😢 Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to overcome the sound barrier, has died at 97. The legend of Yeager is pretty significant — I’d enjoyed his Twitter account for a few years (@GenChuckYeager) where he regularly answered questions about his feats.

🌡”ELI5: Why does it feel colder inside in the winter even though the thermostat says the temperature is the same?” (r/explainlikeimfive).

Chart Tuesday

Here’s what all the ships on earth* look like at any one point in time:

  • Ok it’s tiny in this newsletter, so jump to the original post on r/dataisbeautiful here and zoom in.
  • *By doing so you’ll spot a few “boats” in odd places, and no boats where they should be, like dots in the middle of the actual Sahara desert, and there are none on the Nile river. 
  • Plus, some ships turn off their AIS for reasons ranging from avoiding pirates to, well, being a pirate themselves.
  • So, take it all with a grain of salt, but it’s still intensely interesting to see the flow of cargos around the world.
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