Rocket League is finally going free-to-play. Developer Psyonix announced that the game would soon be free for everyone back in July, but it’s officially happening on Sept. 23, when the game makes the move to the Epic Games Store.
In a new developer post about the move to free-to-play and the game’s new PC home, Psyonix reminded players that they can link their current Rocket League accounts to their Epic Games account in order to carry over their progression and tie in cross-platform progression. On top of that, players who already own the game are now eligible for “Legacy Status” which will give them a few items with the game’s next update.
Psyonix and Epic are offering Rocket League players a few extra bonuses to celebrate the game’s new home as well. Any player who adds Rocket League to their Epic Games Store library between Sept. 23 and Oct. 23 will get a free $10 Epic Games Store coupon that can be used on anything $14.99 and up in the store. Players will also get two unique cosmetics added to their inventory once they launch the game.
There will also be a new in-game event called Llama-Rama starting sometime shortly after Rocket League’s Epic Games Store launch. The event seems to be Fortnite-related, since it’s using the game’s signature Llamas, but Psyonix won’t go into details on the event until sometime next week.
Our unannounced Google Chromecast didn’t come with Stadia, but it sure does work
Yesterday, we bought the new Google Chromecast, even though it hasn’t yet been announced. Weirdly, it didn’t come with Google Stadia — of the 12 streaming services prominently pictured on the front of the box, Google’s own cloud gaming service wasn’t one of them. We didn’t find it pre-installed on the device, either.
But we can confirm that Stadia absolutely does work on the new “Google TV” device. When The Sports Grind Entertainment’s Chris Welch sideloaded the Stadia Android app onto his new Chromecast, it fired up our existing cloud games quite nicely. That suggests Google shouldn’t have much issue bringing official support to the Chromecast, assuming it isn’t already doing so at the Google hardware event tomorrow.
And, assuming the $50 price we paid for the new Chromecast holds, it means you’ll probably soon be able to play Stadia on your TV for $20 less than previously. Originally, Google limited Stadia on TV to the $69.99 Chromecast Ultra. Admittedly, the new Chromecast doesn’t come with an Ethernet adapter in the box, though we can confirm that at least one third-party USB-C adapter does work.
If you’re looking to try this yourself, know that sideloading apps onto Android TV does take a bit of doing; in addition to flicking the typical “Unknown Sources” switch in your settings page, you’ll need to find and trust an APK with your device, and figure out a way to sling the file to your dongle. There are apps that’ll do it wirelessly or via the cloud, or you can go the old-fashioned ADB route. You may also need to tick this flag in the Stadia app:
And even then, we can’t yet say how well the experience will work. With the best-case scenario of a Wi-Fi router right next to the TV, it feels pretty responsive, and it did automatically put our TV into low-latency mode. But we can’t seem to buy games in the app yet — trying to do so causes Stadia to crash — and we’re testing with an Xbox controller instead of the official Stadia one.
But as Android Police points out, Google seems to have been rapidly improving the Stadia app’s quiet compatibility with Android TVs, so we’d be surprised if the company doesn’t announce an official Android TV launch for Stadia before long.
Utopia review: The most unlucky show of the year
The first thing you see when you begin streaming Utopia on Amazon Prime is a disclaimer. It informs you that the show is a work of fiction not based on “actual, related, or current events.” How strange, you might wonder. What could that mean?
In time, you will discover that, among other things, Utopia is about a conspiracy unfolding across a viral pandemic, after which the disclaimer changes to warn you that Utopia is “not based on an actual pandemic or related events.” It is a show that has the terrible misfortune of being accidentally of this moment, and completely wrong about all of it.
Utopia also bears the burden of being a remake of a bona fide cult hit that aired on Channel 4 in the UK. The British Utopia was stylish, unsettling, and arresting in a way that still holds up — were it to drop on a streaming platform today, it’d be one of the best shows you could watch right now. Amazon’s remake, however? It’s just another streaming show, straightforward where the other is oblique, with a muted palette and plain eye in contrast to the UK show’s clever Technicolor.
The contours of the new show are different, but its major beats are the same. It begins with a group of fans obsessed with a comic book called Dystopia — an obscure one-off that seems to have hidden in its pages the secrets of a vast conspiracy theory behind every major catastrophe in recent history. Connecting over the internet, they learn something that compels them to finally meet in person for the first time: A sequel comic, Utopia, has been uncovered, and it’s for sale. Unfortunately for them, they’re not the only ones after it, and some of their competition is a little on the murder-y side.
Put in 2020 vernacular, it’s a bit like watching a show about QAnon believers. The series explores the idea — fun until a few years ago — of what it might look like if the conspiracy theorists were right. Held against current events it couldn’t possibly anticipate, the ironies stack up in a way that makes it difficult to take the show on its own terms. It’s become hard to take the truth on its own terms.
The American relationship with the difference between fact and fiction has thoroughly corroded. Formerly neutral institutions like the CDC have been co-opted for political purposes, the advice of scientists and doctors has been sidelined during a pandemic, and open believers in the QAnon delusion are winning primary elections. Saying something is real requires more work than it ever has, if only just because it requires anticipating and debunking countless nonsensical claims about how the sky isn’t blue.
This makes Utopia look terribly naïve in a way that’s not really anyone’s fault, although it can be criticized for having little to say about the erosion of truth and the appeal of conspiracy theories. (It seems more interested in knocking gatekeeping male comic book nerds who take their favored medium too seriously, using an early scene to have one woman dress them down at length.) In its bigger diversions from the source material, it grazes uniquely American criticisms of entitlement, the disproportionate amount of power held by private corporations, and how the language of “freedom” is used to garner popular support for devious ends.
It all mostly falls flat, though, with characters that fail to hold your attention even as they do shocking things. There’s a parade of murder, dismemberment, and torture in the early episodes of Utopia that is legitimately numbing, and there is so much plot that there is precious little time to really get to know any of its characters.
It’s shocking, then, when Ian (Dan Byrd), one of the main characters, cracks a joke — he’s funny? Since when? Another member of the main crew, Becky (Ashleigh LaThrop) is barely characterized beyond her chronic illness. In fact, of the main group of nerds who are in over their heads, the only one who registers is Wilson Wilson (Desmin Borges), mostly for being the most paranoid in a group of conspiracy theorists.
As this group becomes more and more entangled in the conspiracy that seems increasingly real, the players get bigger and more severe: operatives from a secret program of trained killers, the head of a pharmaceutical company (John Cusack), an agent from the Department of Homeland Security (Sonja Sohn). It goes, as they say, all the way to the top.
And perhaps this is the reason Utopia is so unsatisfying: the allure of conspiracy theories is that there is some order to this chaos, that even if we are miserable, it is because of the actions of a ruthless few who have exerted an unjust control on us. Except, when that really exists, it’s no longer a conspiracy, it’s corruption, and it occurs in plain sight. All that hidden stuff, where we string together newspaper clippings looking for Pepe Silvia? It’s tiresome, and wholly unnecessary. Evil is right there, in plain sight.
I was taken hostage in a cunning Sea of Thieves heist
Sea of Thieves allows you to make alliances with other players, spreading a fleet across the high seas in search of mutual profit. But players can still betray each other, and often do, in search of even greater gains.
One fall evening, I found myself as part of a full five-ship alliance, which meant the entire server was united under the same flag. This is an ideal version of the alliance; everyone makes a cut of the other ships’ profits, and there’s zero risk of player attacks.
There was just one problem: There was a traitor in the Alliance’s midst the entire time, and he had taken me hostage aboard my own ship. He had a plan, and I had become his unwitting pawn.
Setting the scene
I first met this bold pirate near Ancient Spire Outpost. I had plans to start an Athena’s Fortune voyage and sail the day away as a solo sloop. I saw a rare grouping of ships: two galleons, a brigantine, and a sloop. It’s not often you see the entire server together, so I approached cautiously, and when they said they wanted to talk, I decided to listen.
They informed me that I could join their server-wide alliance, or I could leave the server. It was a classic shakedown. I could either play by their terms, or they’d work together and sink me. I joined the alliance immediately. In Sea of Thieves, players have to join an Alliance by raising a specific flag near another member of the group. Every Captain keeps their profits from selling stuff, and an additional 50% trickles down to everyone else in the alliance.
The gentleman who welcomed me into the alliance got on his megaphone and sent orders to the rest of the ships. The two galleons and the brigantine would stick together, hitting the big server events that had the biggest hauls involved. The other sloop captain and I were charged with doing our own solo voyages for Athena’s Fortune. As long as everyone cooperated, no one would get hurt.
This seemed like a pretty good deal to me. I certainly wasn’t going to rise up against the man who had brought the rest of the server aboard with his plan. But what I didn’t know is that dissent was already festering in his ranks, and a member of the brigantine crew had climbed aboard my sloop.
A brewing rebellion
As I started preparing for my voyage, I heard someone equip the Eye of Reach, a long-ranged scoped rifle, and they were right behind me. Players in Alliances can hurt each other; there’s still friendly fire, unless you’re part of the same ship. Was this a griefer?
But he didn’t fire. “This is a hijacking,” the pirate said, revealing his voice. He sounded maybe sixteen. “I need your sloop.”
His plan was simple. This teenager decided he didn’t like having someone control an entire server, and he wanted to set things up to ensure he got the biggest slice of the pie. So, the brigantine’s crew conspired, and sent one of their own off to take a sloop and use it to stage a coup. He just needed that sloop captain to be aboard with his plan.
Even though he had a gun pointed at my face, at this point, we both knew I had all of the power. I could simply log off; I would lose nothing but a little bit of time. I could scuttle my ship or dodge his shot and murder him so he’d respawn on brigantine.
Or I could take part in his plot, and trade guaranteed profit for petty spite.
I chose the latter.
Betrayal (or bullying?)
We spent the next two hours sailing around and gathering supplies. At first, he kept the rifle trained on me, but I think that eventually got a little dull. We chatted to pass the time as we loaded up the sloop with explosive barrels, cursed cannonballs, fire bombs. We fished so we would have plenty of health-restoring food for the eventual showdown.
He told me he was Finnish, living in the States, and putting off doing online school homework. I showed him my array of pets, including my hideous purple monkey that I named Fortnite. I gave him advice on his outfits. I’d hear him checking in with his team over Discord, and eventually the time came.
The teen and I rolled up on the three ships. The two galleons were working on fighting an Ashen Lord on the shores; they never saw it coming. An Ashen Lord is a big skeleton who spawns on an item, marked by a fiery tornado, and it takes quite an investment to kill them. They have a whole arsenal of special boss abilities, many of which involve throwing flame around.
Frankly, we had over-prepared. While the other eight players from the two galleons focused on murdering the fiery skeleton boss, it was incredibly simple to line up explosive barrels in both galleon’s hulls.
The galleons were absolutely loaded with treasure, while the brigantine merely had a few chests and skulls aboard. We took a few pieces of treasure before the galleon crews noticed us. From there, everything immediately went to hell. The eight galleon players ran back towards us, yelling. The Ashen Lord followed, still going through his boss fight protocols. He opened up a portal to the sky, and fiery meteors rained down … onto the galleons, loaded with explosive barrels.
With their ships gone, it was easy for the brigantine crew and I to mop up the survivors, and then load their valuable cargo aboard our ship. We left the alliance and sailed to an outpost, but I wondered… what would have happened if I could have spoken to the galleon crews for a few hours? Would we have found a shared humanity? Would we have needed to turn on them?
But then I went to the store and bought like, six really cute dresses, so all in all? I consider being taken hostage a rousing success.
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