When artist Hari Conner got their copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there was no question as to what their island would be called: Forest Town. “I’m disabled with a lot of mobility problems, so it’s very rare I can actually be out in nature in real life,” said Conner, whose illustrations often feature lush greenery, in an email to Polygon.
Conner quickly got to work planting trees to make their vision happen. Their friends, who knew about Conner’s love of nature, also contributed to the project by sending over forest-themed flooring and wallpaper. One pal even sent Conner an in-game wheelchair. All was going well with Conner’s theme … until they spoke to Isabelle, keeper of the game’s island rating.
While New Horizons lets you decorate your island however you’d like, behind the scenes, the life simulator is always quietly analyzing your aesthetic choices. The game judges those choices through a five-star rating system, which also gates the unlocking of late-game features like getting K.K. Slider to visit your island. While the game never outright tells you what the rules are for getting a better rating, it does vaguely encourage you to try and fill up your island with decorations from head to toe, while also reminding you to install a variety of different arrangements.
Isabelle’s verdict on Forest Town? Conner should consider getting rid of some trees, she said, because the current setup might be “too rural” for residents to enjoy. The game didn’t care that it was intentional. As far as New Horizons was concerned, the natural splendor of Conner’s island was a problem.
Based on Polygon’s conversations with a few dozen players, Conner isn’t the only one clashing with this system. Fans who check their ratings often find themselves butting heads against New Horizons’ decoration demands, which help give the game structure while also limiting what people do on their islands.
It’s a particular hindrance for anyone looking to retain some of their island’s natural beauty. Jean Ketterling, a runner who is feeling cooped up thanks to social distancing measures that have closed down her routes, was hoping to recreate the look and feel of trails she would normally enjoy. New Horizons didn’t like that.
“Isabelle was like ‘everyone hates your trees and gets lost in the woods,’” Ketterling recalled.
It’s not just a matter of aesthetics for some players. By defining a “good” island, New Horizons also makes a moral judgment of sorts. And sometimes, those judgments go against progressive gardening practices.
Ryan Gott, a player who helps manage pests at a real-world conservatory and botanical garden, was hoping to translate some of his landscaping skills to the game, which meant retaining as much of his island’s native flora as possible. He designed gardens that could encourage pollinators and invertebrates, provided old wood shelters for detritivores, and considered the best layout for waterways.
But Gott found that New Horizons didn’t initially understand his desire to “promote healthy ecological functions,” as he said, and instead diminished his thoughtful approach as yet another case of “too many weeds.”
New Horizons’ narrow definition of a five-star island doesn’t just reject eco-friendly islands. It also gets in the way of wider player habits and customs. The game dings you for having too much garbage, which makes sense, until you consider what falls under that category.
Turnips, which players buy in bulk every week, will lower your star rating if you drop them outside — something that players often do, because you can’t keep the veggies in storage. Since the game randomizes its DIY recipes, players often find themselves with dupes, but in the spirit of generosity, many fans keep these extras to share with friends via swap meets. Players also like to hold cataloging parties, where pals will come over to pick up and drop items they don’t yet own. These traditions are some of the best the community has to offer … but Isabelle hates all of them, too.
“I have a large trading post on my island,” New Horizons player Elise Toyer told Polygon, “which bumped my star rating down for ‘too many items laying around.’”
Creative players also like to make use of items that the game doesn’t categorize as decorative but can still be used for that purpose. Brigid Christison, for instance, wanted to build an in-game archaeological dig site, and the finishing touch on this concept meant laying down fossils and shells. When fossils aren’t “placed,” they look like bones. Perfect! Well, except for the fact that the game thought Christison was just cluttering up her island.
Another issue that several players flagged to Polygon is Isabelle’s love for fencing. This is admittedly my biggest personal gripe with the game — every time I check my rating, Isabelle suggests fences. But I don’t want fences. I like running around everywhere, and fences literally stand in the way of that.
The most depressing aspect of the star system is that it inadvertently encourages uniformity. While there are hundreds of items, the Nook Miles store is limited, and the game always tells you to purchase its stock to build out your island. Some players I spoke to said they wanted to make strange islands with no rhyme or reason, but felt that they couldn’t truly experiment or go wild without having the game punish and judge them for it.
“I’m deliberately not looking up how to improve my star rating,” said Twitter user @lyanporto, “but it’s frustrating that even though I love what I’m doing, the game doesn’t value what I value.”
Based on my conversations with players, most people don’t let the star rating get in the way of what they want to do. The system is unobtrusive, and players can ignore it completely (as long as they don’t mind K.K. Slider never showing up). Many fans choose to offset their “bad” choices with more decorations that the game recognizes as “good.” The funny thing is, though, spiffing up your town in the ways New Horizons asks you to doesn’t always result in a more beautiful island.
Lillian Goulston would know. Earlier this year, the mischievous Animal Crossing player found her island rating plateauing no matter what she did, but rather than giving up, she peeked behind the curtain. Using a guide, she found out exactly how the game rates islands. Broadly speaking, New Horizons likes it when you have furniture spread across the island from a variety of different sources, from shopping to crafting. Goulston decided to game the system.
“I figured out the most resource and space-efficient objects I could craft and buy,” Goulston said. She ended up placing 50 campfires, 20 stone stools, 15 log stakes, and 10 streetlamps across her island. Then, she haphazardly put down cheap fencing in silly formations, because Isabelle is obsessed with fencing. Goulston topped all of this off by tapping into her storage, pulling out stuff that she knew she was never going to use.
“Whenever I needed guidance, I ran back to Isabelle for an island evaluation, following her advice [as] ridiculously as possible,” Goulston said.
She got the coveted five stars and a golden watering can for her trouble. And her island looked horrible.
Implicit in this experiment, Goulston said, is the question of whether a video game can truly judge something as subjective as beauty.
“What I did wasn’t enjoyable, it was tedious,” Goulston said. “A big part of Animal Crossing is in self-expression. A mechanic that incentivizes checklist completion runs counter to the fun of the game.”
Nintendo Switch consoles are often sold out, but you can still pick up the handheld-only Switch Lite, which is perfect for portable gaming.
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Apple iOS 13.5.5 Can’t Come Soon Enough: Here Are 3 Reasons Why – Forbes
The next updates for Apple’s iPhone and iPad will be iOS 13.5.5 and iPadOS 13.5.5 (unless a bug appears that needs squishing quickly before then). They can’t be far off, because the first developers’ betas and public betas have appeared, but along with bug fixes there are features which are going to be highly useful.
To get new features at this stage in an OS’s cycle is pretty rare, so here are the three standouts which it’s worth looking out for.
Sure, it’s only days since the latest iOS update dropped – iOS 13.5.1, which was also when iPadOS 13.5.1 arrived. But that update had one specific purpose: to patch a vulnerability which allowed anyone to jailbreak their iPhone – and risked bad actors exploiting the weakness, too.
So, the last new features came with iOS 13.5, back in May. Here are the three headline extras of iOS 13.5.5. that we know about – or think we do.
News+ to gain audio
How do you consume your news features?
For a lot of people it’s a combination of radio, TV, online newspapers, apps and podcasts. Ah, yes, podcasts. The Apple News+ subscription service could do with some of those. The subscription price of $9.99 a month is good value for so many magazines and newspapers, but even so, shouldn’t you expect audio as well?
The iOS 13.5.5 beta shows a new tab in the Apple News app that reads “Audio”. Because it’s only in beta, there’s no actual playable content just yet, even for those signed up for the public beta.
When it’s live, it will almost certainly mean there will be audio versions of curated articles from publications available in Apple News+.
It will have an interface similar to the Podcasts app, according to Jeff Benjamin from 9to5Mac.
It seems that non-subscribers will be able to access little bits of audio but you’ll need the full subscription to hear everything.
Apple is doubtless still sorting licensing issues for this right now. Choosing the articles, employing the actors to read them and recording the audio versions will take time, so don’t expect a full library of audible goodness on day one. But it will be a big step forward for the News+ platform. After all, it’s believed that Apple News+ hasn’t taken off quite the way the company would have liked. Which brings us to the second feature I’m looking forward to.
Apple News+ and other services bundles
Forensic examination of code in iOS 13.5.5. beta by Filipe Espósito at 9to5Mac suggests that we may soon be able to buy Apple services together for a lower price.
This is something that’s been rumored since 2019, but references to a “bundle offer” and to a “bundle subscription” appearing in the code are new, apparently.
It’s not clear when this might come – some sources say not until 2021 – or which services might be included. After all, although Apple launched TV+ alongside the Apple Arcade games subscription, that wouldn’t be the best fit, perhaps. Either Apple Music ($9.99 a month) or Apple TV+ ($4.99 a month) could make a tempting combo with Apple News+, especially if the price is right.
iPad Keyboard backlighting
The third feature is something I think about, well, every time I use my iPad Pro with its spectacular Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard, unlike Smart Keyboards from Apple that have preceded it, is backlit. So you can use it in a dark room without squinting crazily or tipping the iPad screen toward the keys to try and make out which key is which.
But adjusting the brightness of the keyboard isn’t quite as simple as it might be. I mean, it’s designed so it adjusts the brightness automatically based on the lighting conditions, but your idea of what’s right and the keyboard’s aren’t always the same thing.
There’s no row of function keys on the Magic Keyboard, you see, so that’s not where you go to adjust brightness as you might on a regular laptop. Instead, you need to stop what you’re doing, open the Settings app, go to General, then Keyboard and then Hardware Keyboard.
Only then do you reach a screen where you can adjust the brightness.
According to 9to5Mac, iPadOS 13.5.5 has references in the code which suggest that there will be keyboard shortcuts to offer the capabilities which would normally fall to the function keys.
It looks like the shortcuts will allow simple, quick adjustment of the Keyboard backlighting, iPad display brightness and more.
They’re not active in the software beta so it’s not clear if they will be customizable or exactly how they will work.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not clear whether, though the code is in place in iPadOS 13.5.5, if that’s when it will debut or whether we’ll have to wait for iPadOS 14. Let’s hope it’s coming soon.
The final release of the software is imminent. When it launches, I’ll report on exactly what is, and what isn’t, included.
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Raptors Uprising down Nets GC to improve to 7-0 in NBA 2K league esports play – moosejawtoday.com
TORONTO — Raptors Uprising GC continued its perfect start to the NBA 2K League esports season, sweeping Nets GC in its best-of-three series Friday to improve to 7-0.
The Raptors raced out to an early lead in Game 1 but had to rally to take Game 2.
Toronto downed Brooklyn 84-71 in Game 1 and 79-72 in Game 2 with star point guard Kenneth (Kenny Got Work) Hailey, an early MVP candidate, racking up 75 points in the Raptors’ two wins.
Hailey was averaging 32.9 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.1 steals going into Friday’s game.
The Nets, who had won three straight, fell to 3-2.
Hailey led the way with 32 points — and zero turnovers — in Game 1 while rookie power forward Maurice (ReeceMode) Flowers added 25 points. Centre Jerry (Sick One) Knapp recorded his fourth triple-double of the season with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Point guard Josh (Choc) Humphries led the Nets with 32 points and 10 assists. Humphries, the ninth overall pick in the February draft, was averaging 31.6 points and 8.3 assists per game prior to Friday’s play.
In Game 2, the Nets rallied to lead 18-15 after the first quarter — with Humphries accounting for 14 of Brooklyn’s points— and 36-32 at the half. Hailey, who had 14 points in the half, hit a late three-pointer to reduce the Raptors’ deficit.
But Toronto reeled off a 22-7 run to open the third quarter and led 60-50 going into the final quarter.
Brooklyn had some connectivity issues in Game 1, according to the NBA 2K official broadcast feed.
The NBA 2K League’s third season was to have started March 24 but was postponed until May 5 because of the global pandemic. The first six weeks of the rescheduled season are being played remotely rather than at the league’s New York City studio although the league has yet to say what happens beyond Week 6.
It was the fourth game in four days for Brooklyn, which did not open its season until May 29. In contrast, Toronto began play May 5.
Toronto, which has now swept five of its first seven series, hadn’t played in 15 days following a Week 4 bye. The Raptors snapped Hawks Talon GC’s three-game win streak last time they played on May 21.
Friday marked the second ever meeting between the two teams. Toronto won 54-42 in week 3 last season. That game saw former Raptors centre Seanquai (KingQuai614)Harris pull down a franchise-record 20 rebounds to go along with 10 points.
Toronto plays Blazer5 Gaming on June 11 and Celtics Crossover Gaming on June 12.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
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