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There’s a tennis game hidden in Google right now; here’s how to find it – TechCrunch

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Google loves a good Easter egg. From cutesie Douglas Adams references to the search results for “askew” being just a liiiiittle bit crooked, there’s all sorts of stuff hiding in the search engine if you know the right thing to type or the right buttons to push.

The latest addition — a fun little tennis game hidden within certain search results pages — is in honor of the Wimbledon tennis tournament. With Wimbledon wrapping up this weekend, though, this egg might not be around for long.

It’s not too hard to find, but it’s just tucked away enough that most people probably won’t stumble upon it accidentally.

Here’s how to find it:

  • See that purple box that pops up? See the nav bar that says “Men’s Singles,” “Women’s Singles,” etc.? Grab that and drag it all the way to the left to scroll to the end.

tennis 2

  • At the very end is a little tennis ball icon. Tap that, and the game should fire right up.

tennis 3b

Once you’ve got it up, it’s pretty much Pong minus the paddles. Move to serve, then try to get your player in front of the ball to rally it back and forth. I’m not sure if it’s possible to actually get the ball past the computer player — I haven’t seen it happen. But just successfully returning the ball will get you a point. Once you miss a return, it’s game over.

It’ll work on both mobile or desktop, but I’ve found it’s a helluva lot easier to play on the latter.

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Creator or Creature? A Nightmare Wakes dramatizes the birth of Frankenstein

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Alix Wilton Regan stars as Mary Shelley in the throes of creating her timeless literary masterpiece in A Nightmare Wakes.

It’s one of the most famous origin stories in literary history. One summer night in 1816 in Geneva, Lord Byron hosted a gathering of his fellow Romantics, including Percy Shelley and his lover (soon-to-be wife), Mary Godwin. The incessant rain confined the party indoors for days at a time, and one night, over dinner at the Villa Diodati, Byron propose that everyone write a ghost story to amuse themselves. The result was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the classic Gothic horror tale of a mad scientist who creates a monster—arguably the first science fiction novel.

That fateful summer is the subject of A Nightmare Wakes, the first feature film from writer/director Nora Unkel. It’s been portrayed before, most recently in a 2020 episode of Doctor Who, but Unkel’s film delves particularly into Mary Shelley’s inner state of mind and the process of creation, as the world of her imagination begins to bleed into her reality. Per the official premise: “While composing her famous novel, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (Alix Wilton Regan) descends into an opium-fueled fever dream while carrying on a torrid love affair with Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello). As she writes, the characters of her novel come to life and begin to plague her relationship with Percy. Before long, she must choose between true love and her literary masterpiece.”

(Mild spoilers below)

Born August 30, 1797, Mary Shelley had a nontraditional upbringing. She was the daughter of William Godwin, an anarchist political philosopher, and feminist activist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after Mary was born. Driven by a great desire for knowledge, she was educated by her father and various private tutors, and she first tried her hand at writing during a stay with radical William Baxter and his family Scotland.

Mary likely met the aristocratic poet/philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley in late 1812 or 1813; they were most certainly involved by 1814. Percy had separated from his pregnant wife, Harriet, and that, plus his radical political views, had estranged him from his wealthy family. Legend has it that Mary lost her virginity to Percy in the cemetery where they regularly met in secret. William Godwin may have had radical views on politics, marriage, and “free love,” but these attitudes did not extend to his daughter, it seems. He disapproved of her relationship with Percy. So the pair eloped to France in July 1814, taking Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont (by then Byron’s mistress), with them.

Many travels followed, during which Mary became pregnant and miscarried, and Percy may have taken up with Claire. Mary ascribed to free love in principle, but she seems to have remained faithful to Percy for the duration of their relationship and was secretly jealous of Percy’s dalliances. Her writings reveal that Mary struggled with depression and visions of her lost baby, but Mary gave birth to a son, William, in January 1816. That summer, she, Percy, their son, and Claire joined Byron and a young physician named John Polidori in Geneva.

Byron proposed his famous challenge while the group was sitting around the fire at the villa reading German ghost stories. Polidori ended up writing a short story called “The Vampyre,” but Mary struggled to find inspiration, until a chance discussion on the nature of life and the science of galvanism stirred her creative juices. In the early hours of June 26, Shelley experienced a “waking dream,” as moonlight “struggled to get through” the closed shutters in her room.

As she recalled in the 1831 introduction to Frankenstein:

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was initially a short story, but Mary expanded it to a full-length novel at Percy’s urging. It was published anonymously in January 1818, mostly to critical acclaim. Mary was not identified as the author until the publication of the second edition in 1823, so many people initially assumed it had been written by Percy.

Despite her literary success, Mary’s life was checkered by multiple tragedies. Both Mary’s half-sister, Fanny, and Percy’s estranged wife committed suicide—Fanny by a laudanum overdose, Harriet by drowning. Percy and Mary got married shortly after Harriet’s death, but despite several pregnancies, only one child survived to adulthood: Percy Florence. In the summer of 1882, while in Italy, Mary miscarried yet again and nearly died from loss of blood. A quick-thinking Percy placed her in an ice bath to staunch the bleeding and likely saved her life. Alas, Percy drowned in a boating accident later that same summer, devastating an already depressed Mary.

Frankenstein is the book for which she is justly famous, but she built a fine literary career as a writer and editor. Shelley never remarried, despite the occasionally suitor, and died on February 1, 1851, at 53, possibly from a brain tumor.

Most of the above aspects of Shelley’s life find their way into A Nightmare Wakes—Unkel strove to be historically accurate even with regard to the lighting and production design—albeit reimagined and condensed for narrative purposes, since most of the film takes place in the summer of 1816. In this telling, Mary is pregnant with her first child when she, Percy, and Claire arrive in Geneva, and she tragically miscarries. Out of this tragedy comes the inspiration for Victor Frankenstein, driven to create a Creature stitched together from dead cadavers and “reanimated” during a dramatic thunderstorm. Philippe Bowgen plays Byron, Claire Glassford plays Claire Clairmont, and Lee Garrett plays Polidori.

“Shelley’s struggle with love, loss, abandonment by society and family, and her own sanity, had yet to be captured fully on-screen,” Unkel said of what drove her to make the film. “She lived a colorful life of love, drugs, and freedom, alongside some of the most celebrated artists of her day.” Ars sat down with Unkel to learn more.

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Report: Stadia undershot to the tune of “hundreds of thousands” of users

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Enlarge / As we learn more about Stadia’s inner workings, we’ve begun adding some “flair” to this Stadia-branded PUBG parachute.

PUBG / Getty Images / Aurich Lawson

In the wake of Google shutting down its Stadia Games & Entertainment (SG&E) group, leaks about the underwhelming game-streaming service have started to emerge. A Friday Bloomberg report, citing unnamed Stadia sources, attaches a new number to the failures: “hundreds of thousands” fewer controllers sold and “monthly active users” (MAU) logging in than Google had anticipated.

The controller sales figure is central to the story told Friday by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier: that internally, Google was of two minds about how Stadia should launch. One idea looked back at some of the company’s biggest successes, particularly Gmail, which launched softly in a public, momentum-building beta while watching how it was received over time. The other, championed by Stadia lead Phil Harrison, was to treat Stadia like a console, complete with some form of hardware that could be hyped and pre-sold. In Stadia’s case, the latter won out, with Harrison bullishly selling a Stadia Founder’s Bundle—and this worked out to be a $129.99 gate to the service. Without it, you couldn’t access Stadia for its first few months.

As Schreier reports, Harrison and the Stadia leadership team “had come from the world of traditional console development and wanted to follow the route they knew.”

Stadiamagotchi?

As part of his Stadia-launch mission, Harrison approved deals costing “tens of millions of dollars” to woo publishers like Take-Two and Ubisoft to launch their games on Stadia, Schreier reports. Exactly how many millions of dollars Stadia spent on these deals is unknown, but Schreier claims that “the amount of money Google was willing to spend came as a shock to veteran game developers,” which implies a figure larger than $10 million.

Even with such a financial incentive in his pocket, however, Take-Two CEO Stauss Zelnick eventually admitted to shareholders that gamer uptake for Stadia didn’t meet his previously optimistic expectations. As he said in June 2020: “The launch of Stadia has been slow. I think there was some overpromising on what the technology could deliver and some consumer disappointment as a result.”

The article mostly retreads the messy, public history of how Stadia missed the mark with critics and potential buyers, including the service’s lack of transferable game ownership and its lack of a clear à la carte subscription option made popular by video-streaming services like Netflix. The report hints at least one game project that was canceled as part of SG&E’s dissolution earlier this month: “a cross between a Google Assistant and a Tamagotchi pet, allowing players to interact with smart creatures in all sorts of fun ways.” This digital-pet game would have leaned in part on Stadia’s server infrastructure and would have “only worked on a cloud platform,” Schreier says.

Also on Friday, Wired’s Cecilia D’Anastasio published a report citing additional, unnamed sources on the woes of Stadia development. According to that report, Google forbade game developers in the SG&E group from “using certain game development software,” which D’Anastasio likened to “roadblocks on the very fundamentals of game-making.” Additionally, she reports that Stadia’s ambitious goals for internal game studios were hamstrung by serious issues with Google infrastructure:

Google’s famously long and involved hiring process can take six to nine months. And it took time for Google to broaden its hiring standards to accommodate skill sets necessary for game development rather than its traditional fields. The goal was to bring in 2,000 people over five years to work on developing games for Stadia, two sources say.

That “five year” count aligns with previous SG&E Director Jade Raymond’s claim that Stadia needed “four years” to turn around ambitious games, far beyond the less than two years those teams were actually given.

D’Anastasio’s report also backs up Schreier’s allegations about Stadia user counts, claiming that the service “did not meet internal expectations in 2020” and amounted to “unremarkable subscription numbers.” And both reports go into detail about how unique Stadia features, particularly the “State Share” option to jump directly into a mid-game moment, were hyped and advertised well before any game had actually implemented them, thus depressing fan interest.

Savage launch for Savage Planet

This news follows a messy interruption to one of SG&E’s only game launches before its dissolution: a Stadia port of the PC and console game Journey to the Savage Planet. The game was developed by Typhoon Studios, a studio that Google acquired in late 2019 and folded into SG&E, but days after the game’s Stadia version launched as part of the Stadia Pro paid subscription service, SG&E had shut down. In the days that followed, Stadia Pro subscribers began complaining that the game would freeze on its opening “press start” menu, and players had no recourse in terms of changing the game’s save file or toggling other settings.

Questions mounted about who might be able to fix the issue, and one Reddit thread catalogued how Stadia support pointed fingers at the game’s prior publisher, 505 Games. This prompted a 505 representative to tell an affected fan, “Reach out to Stadia support again and inform them that the publisher for that version of JttSP is actually them.”

On Monday, February 22, weeks after the bug was first discovered (and days after the Reddit thread spread far and wide), the game received an update fixing the issue. Stadia representatives declined to answer Ars Technica’s questions about who exactly patched the game or whether the game’s original developers at Typhoon were still employed at Google.

That work to keep the game maintained is a reminder, at the very least, that Stadia continues to operate as a home for third-party games streamed from Google’s servers to players’ homes. Paid $10/mo Stadia Pro subscriptions include access to a library of over two dozen games, while “free” accounts can either buy Stadia game licenses à la carte or access free-to-play software like Destiny 2.

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Netflix drops extended Shadow and Bone teaser, announces release date

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Jessie Mei Li stars as Alina Starkov in Shadow and Bone, a new Netflix fantasy series adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling “Grishaverse” novels, premiering April 23.

Netflix unexpectedly dropped an extended teaser trailer for its forthcoming fantasy series Shadow and Bone during a panel at IGN Fan Fest. The hotly anticipated series is adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling “Grishaverse” novels and will premiere on April 23.

(Mild spoilers for the books below.)

Bardugo published Shadow and Bone, the first of a trilogy, in June 2012, followed by Siege and Storm in 2013 and Ruin and Rising in 2014. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2012 that she deliberately avoided the usual medieval fantasy motifs and drew inspiration instead from the Russian Empire in the early 1800s. “As much as I love broadswords and flagons of ale—and believe me, I do—I wanted to take readers someplace a little different,” she said. “Tsarist Russia gave me a different point of departure.”

Inspiration for the menacing Shadow Fold—the trilogy’s Big Bad—came from her decision to not treat “darkness” metaphorically, but literally. “What if darkness was a place?” she said. “What if the monsters lurking there were real and more horrible than anything you’d ever imagined beneath your bed or behind the closet door? What if you had to fight them on their own territory, blind and helpless in the dark? These ideas eventually became the Shadow Fold.”

In Shadow and Bone, teen orphan Alina Starkov of the Kingdom of Ravka is sent on an expedition across the Unsea (aka the Fold) to bring back provisions for her wealthy patron. Her best friend, Malyen “Mal” Oretsev, is also on the expedition. When monsters inhabiting the Unsea (called volcra) attack, Alina saves the day thanks to previously unsuspected “Grisha” powers—people who can manipulate the elements as weapons. This catches the attention of Grisha leader The Darkling, who brings her to the city of Os Alta, where she begins training with other Grisha to control her powers. But her tutor, Baghra, warns Alina that The Darkling cannot be trusted, and many harrowing adventures ensue.

In 2015, Bardugo published Six of Crows, followed by a sequel, Crooked Kingdom, the following year. The Hollywood Reporter has described the duology as “a blend of Ocean’s 11 and Game of Thrones.” These books are set in the 17th century equivalent of the Dutch Republic. Teenaged Kaz Brekker, aka “Dirthyhands,” is a thief in the city of Ketterdam, who is hired to rescue a scientist from a fortress known as the Ice Court. He recruits members of his street gang, the Dregs, to assist him, given the difficulty of the heist, and once again, many harrowing adventures ensue.

The Netflix adaptation will reportedly cover the events of the Shadow and Bone trilogy and serve as a prequel to the Six of Crows duology. Eric Heisserer (Arrival) heads the project as creator and showrunner, and language expert (“conlanger”) David J. Peterson (Game of Thrones, Doctor Strange, Thor: The Dark World) and Christian Thalmann, who helped Bardugo develop the fictional languages for her Grishaverse novels, will consult on the series. Bardugo herself is an executive producer. Per the official premise:

Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.

Jessie Mei Li (Last Night in Soho) stars as Alina Starkov, Ben Barnes (Westworld, The Punisher) plays General Kirigan, aka The Darkling, Archie Renaux (Hanna, The Gold Digger) plays Mal, and Zoe Wanamaker (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) plays Baghra, Alina’s tutor and mother to The Darkling. There are also several characters from Six of Crows who will appear in this first season: master thief Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter, Pennyworth); acrobat and knife expert Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman, Doctor WhoThe Outpost); sharpshooter Jesper Fahey (Kit Young, Endeavor), former brothel worker and “Heartrender” Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan, Game of Thrones), and former witchhunter Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman). Two major characters from the Six of Crows duology will not appear in this first season: Nikolai Lantsov and Wylan Van Eck, a merchant’s son and demolitions expert.

Shadow and Bone premieres on Netflix on April 23, 2021.

Listing image by YouTube/Netflix

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