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Feature: How Savvy Innovators Are Plugging Gaps In Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo Life

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© Gillette

In a recent Instagram post, Nicole Cuddihy told her audience that creating more inclusive patterns for Animal Crossing: New Horizons characters has helped her accept her own skin, including “spots, blemishes and stretch marks.”

Cuddihy is a New Horizons pattern designer who collaborated with Gillette Venus to create the Skinclusive Summer Line. Cuddihy and the Gillette team created patterns for character’s faces and bodies with vitiligo, psoriasis, cesarean scarring and bigger curves than default avatars have. Cuddihy, who has been playing Animal Crossing since the original U.S. Gamecube release, has grown a following for her work and is one of a few creators trying to bridge gaps in features and designs the game hasn’t already created.

In a previous Nintendo Life video, our very own Alex Olney confessed he hadn’t played Animal Crossing in a month but was coming back to the game after the summer update that included diving, Pascal and fireworks shows. Based on the comments under the video and opinions in similar reviews, some players have burned out a bit on the game or feel it wasn’t complete at launch.

In this Crossing Channel video, players wrote in “unpopular opinions” about the game, including that interactions with villagers are repetitive and don’t have enough text variation and that diving update only adds a “few minutes of gameplay.” One player complained about terraforming causing players to “get sick of the game easily.” Other common complaints include a lack of NPCs from previous games, like Harriet and Brewster.

While many players hope for additional updates that return favourite characters or fix gameplay issues – like having to craft items one at a time, even when you want multiples – artists and fans like Cuddihy are creating solutions that address some of the missing features.

Cuddihy said fan responses to the Skinclusive line have been incredibly positive and said she has heard from players who felt included and reflected in the game for the first time. When asked if she felt the project was especially timely given its wide array of skin tones, Cuddihy said she thinks it’s been released at a crucial moment for players and hopes to see more skin tone representation in gaming generally. “This project hopefully allows people to still relax on their digital island, without having to put their identity on pause,” Cuddihy said.

Animal Crossing character design has certainly come a long way – never forget the iconic and mandatory pointy, triangular hats – but that doesn’t mean it’s complete. In the original GameCube version, facial features were determined by a short quiz and were not changeable unless a player started a new game. Later, players could tan on the beach to darken their skin but never looked anything other than white. Skin tone changes by using a Mii mask were added to later games, but New Horizons is the first Animal Crossing game to truly support a range of skin colours.

Cuddihy said adding features that more closely reflect what players look like in real life has been one of the most meaningful projects of her life, and has helped her become more confident. “Seeing a character that I related to surprisingly filled me with a sense of confidence and self-acceptance. I wanted to share that feeling with others,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Gillette Venus.”

Cuddihy isn’t the only creator working to fill gaps in New Horizons; Ben of the Crossing Channel recently built a new dream island feature that was included in New Leaf but not released in New Horizons. With the recent summer update, players could once again visit other islands in their dreams, assisted by the NPC Luna. Players lie down on the special bed gifted by Luna, go to sleep, and wake up on another island – provided they have the code to visit.

Ben’s Dream Code Randomiser Tool allows players to visit random islands by collecting dream codes submitted by players around the world. Ben, who films Animal Crossing reviews, tours and gameplay tips, said he worked alongside two other developers to create the project. “The tool is a replacement for the feature that was in New Leaf, but got taken out in New Horizons. I honestly don’t know why they took it out,” Ben said.

Ben said some fans have asked if he was frustrated he had to create the feature himself, but told Nintendo Life the process was fun. He said he’ll be looking for features left out of future updates and find creative ways to adapt. He’s also going to continue creating content and videos for New Horizons players since he feels this helps them overcome boredom or burnout.

“I’m trying to make content that will hopefully help people who are maybe feeling a little bored or burnt out with the game at the moment, and I think that’s working,” Ben said. “I’m so happy people still care about what I do after all of this time, especially given how much content there is for the game now!”

With the growing popularity of DLC, creators may continue to fill holes in unfinished games, bring back missing features or simply bridge the gaps until an update is released. While that hasn’t always been necessary for the Animal Crossing series, things are changing. Ben said he fully expects to produce more content for the game.

“This wouldn’t be the first time fans have made a tool to complement the game, and it won’t be the last,” he said.

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The best resources and tips for customizing your iOS 14 Home Screen – AppleInsider

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Whether you want to create your own icons or are looking to find some ready-made ones, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you customize your iOS 14 Home Screen.

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, the iOS 14 subreddit is currently filled to bursting with people showing off their custom home screen designs. We’re also really digging this gorgeous Animal Crossing theme that Twitter user Okpng has made.

Creating your own iOS app icons

Creating your own app icons is easy enough, provided you have access to graphic design or photo-editing software of some sort. You can use whatever you prefer— Pixelmator Pro, Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, Affinity Design.

And there are advantages to making your own icons, too. After all, it doesn’t get more one-of-a-kind than handmade icons and wallpapers. We’ve seen vintage iPhone, Windows 3.1, and even Playstation memory card themed iPhone home screens.

Whenever you design your icon, you’ll need to make sure the image is a square. Apple suggests that a 180px by 180px icon for the iPhone. Don’t forget that Apple icons have rounded corners as well, so you’ll need to be mindful of where you place your design.

Additionally, you can’t use transparent icons for your app, either. In the event that you’d like your background to show through — such as a retro Windows 98 layout — you’ll need to match the color of the icon to your iPhone’s wallpaper to fake it.

When saving icons, we suggest saving as a PNG, though a JPG will work, too — it may just come with some unwanted compression. Once your icons are saved, get them to your iPhone’s Camera Roll.

After you save your icon set to your iPhone’s Camera Roll, you can use the Shortcuts app to set them to whatever app you’d like.

Important: Because you’re executing an app through a shortcut rather than directly, there will be a slight delay — especially on older iPhones. However, this is currently the only Apple-approved way to set your own custom icons.

How to set custom icons for apps in iOS 14 (it should also work in iOS 13!)

  1. Open Shortcuts
  2. Tap +
  3. Tap Add Action
  4. Tap Scripting
  5. Tap Open App
  6. Tap the app you wish to customize
  7. Name the app
  8. Tap Done
  9. Tap
  10. Tap (again)
  11. Tap Add to Home Screen
  12. Tap the icon under Home Screen Name and Icon
  13. Select the image from your camera roll
  14. Tap Add

Creating your own widgets

As we’d discussed in How to customize your Home Screen on iOS 14, you can use an app called Widgetsmith to make your own widgets. This includes setting custom photographs on your home screen, which can provide some interesting layout elements.

Finding ready-made icons

Of course, you don’t need to make your own icons, either. The internet is flush with plenty of icons that you can download to use. Here are a few of our favorite places.

Important: You’ll likely still need access to an image editor of some sort to resize the icons to fit on your iPhone. You may also need to add an opaque background, as the iPhone will render transparent portions of images as black pixels.

FiatIcon

FiatIcon is a great resource for those who are looking for themed icons. Most icons available here are free for personal use, too.

App-style icons available at The Noun Project

App-style icons available at The Noun Project

The Noun Project

If you’re looking for bold, minimalism-inspired icons, The Noun Project is the place for you. Free for personal use, The Noun Project has hundreds of thousands of icons you can download and begin using immediately.

Doodle icons at Icon8

Doodle icons at Icon8

Icon8

Another huge repository for icons, Icon8 boasts tons of icons with a wide variety of themes to choose from.

Icon Rewind icons

Icon Rewind icons

IconRewind

If you love the look of old Apple icons and you don’t want to fuss with the Shortcuts app, you can visit iconrewind.co via Safari on your iPhone to set shortcuts with one tap. They have plenty of icons available, as well.

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Xbox’s Bethesda acquisition is evidence of blockbuster gaming’s volatility – VentureBeat

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Microsoft’s Xbox gaming division is acquiring The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim publisher Bethesda for $7.5 billion. And it’s difficult to overstate how much this changes gaming. The easiest way for me to think about this is that Xbox just bought one of the only other companies that actually has a major media presentation during E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show) each year. This has led to a lot of talk about what the purchase means for Xbox and its Game Pass subscription service. But the deal tells us just as much about how unsustainable the triple-A blockbuster gaming business is.

Bethesda is one of gaming’s main publishing companies. Like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two, it built a business by creating studios and releasing games for PC and consoles. Its biggest releases are megahits like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. And yet the owners of ZeniMax Media — the parent corporation of Bethesda — sold off their interests in the gaming business to Xbox. Why? What is happening in games that would make ZeniMax stakeholders want to cash in?

Well, the explanation is evident in the recent history of Bethesda, and it speaks to the challenges facing the entire games-publishing business.

One flop away from failure

Making video games is a difficult and volatile business. Blockbuster budgets inflated over the last 10 years to well over $100 million for a single, top-tier release. And that makes every game a massive bet that could prove disastrous.

On top of this, publishers and developers struggle to predict what consumers will want. The audience has fickle tastes. And even when a studio is working on something with proven appeal, like a military shooter, they must compete against ingrained properties often from teams with even bigger budgets.

This leads to escalating investment costs as studios try to compete. Is your game not as pretty as Red Dead and not as big as Assassin’s Creed? Well, that sounds like a game I can wait to play until it’s on sale.

Live-service games come for us all

The especially tough thing for publishers is that even if they launch a high-quality game to good reviews, it’s often not enough to pull an audience away from their chosen live-service games. More players are returning to evergreen hits like Fortnite, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Warframe repeatedly for months and years at a time.

In that environment, it often seems like only the most prestige single-player narrative-driven games breakout from the crowd. This raises the threshold for what games can succeed. This is why you’ll often hear people lamenting that the middle-tier game is disappearing. The threshold for success is higher than ever. On the PlayStation 2 and then the Xbox 360, a “B” game could make a return on its investment. Now, they struggle to pull any attention away from whatever is hot on Twitch at the moment.

That can leave publishers feeling like the only safe bet against this trend is their own live-service games. But these are just as hit driven as any other game. The only upside is that developers have a better chance of slowly building a service game into something more appealing over time.

Subscriptions and stores

The other way to compete is to start your own distribution store, your own subscription service, or both. If a company can directly monetize their audience, this can offset some of the increasing costs of development. No more sharing 30% with Steam. And establishing steadier and more predictable revenue streams.

But the challenge is that starting your own PC digital store is expensive. Epic Games continues to invest heavily into its Epic Games Store, and it’s still struggling to compete with Steam. And a subscription service requires a huge upfront investment to build content without any guarantee that players will stick around.

Bethesda tried everything

Bethesda ran into all of the problems I listed above.

It tried to compete with high-budget single-player experiences. At E3 2017, the company even had an initiative called #saveplayer1 about ensuring the future of solo games. That led to games like a Dishonored 2 expansion, The Evil Within 2, and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. But none of those games were huge financial successes, even if they all are beloved by their fans and received positive reviews.

Bethesda then tried to launch the live-service game Fallout 76, which had a disastrous release (although it’s slowly building an audience through updates that have improved the game). That game likely would have performed better if Bethesda would have delayed it, but — again — making games is difficult. That’s the point.

The publisher also tried its own store with the Bethesda Launcher on PC, only to witness EA soften its position toward running the EA Origin store. It also saw companies like Ubisoft and EA try their own subscription services. Bethesda knows how expensive and challenging it would be to get those programs off the ground. And in the end, Steam and Xbox Game Pass are probably still going to win in the end.

The reality is that the industry is going through a massive shift where publishers probably aren’t going to look like the company Bethesda grew into. That left its stakeholders with an option: Try to figure out the painful process of transforming Bethesda into something new, or sell Bethesda to a company that needs it. And Microsoft can use Bethesda because Game Pass is already a de facto industry standard with 15 million subscribers.

This deal ensures that the people and teams that make up Bethesda have a chance to remain together. The alternative under an independent ZeniMax Media was likely closures, layoffs, and fewer games. And I guess that’s the good news for fans. This deal will get you more games.

Meanwhile, if you’re one of the people on the receiving end of that $7.5 billion payday, take that money. In a few years, gaming’s tectonic plates will settle into place — at least momentarily. And then you can start your next gaming startup when you know what the future looks like.

Media consolidation is bad, but so is everything

Not to give into nihilism, but I can only get so worked up regarding concerns about media consolidation. This Microsoft move echoes Disney’s efforts in film and TV, but it’s not like the status quo in gaming has led to a dynamic and healthy market. And ZeniMax’s options here were likely shrinking down to either selling or aggressively reorganizing. Business as usual was probably not under consideration.

And the reorganizing option would have led to studio closures and layoffs. Under Microsoft, the plan (for now) is to let Bethesda keep operating as it always has. It seems like most of the people involved will continue in their current positions. The only difference is that Satya Nadella will sign their paychecks.

So yeah, media consolidation is bad and reduces competition. But game publishers are so afraid of the aforementioned risks that we don’t have a ton of competition in the blockbuster segment as is.

Ultimately, I view Microsoft’s Bethesda acquisition as an enabling move. It is purchasing eight new studios to empower them to keep making games. This is distinct from prohibitive moves where a company pays a publisher a fee to keep a game off of a competing platform.

It’s hard to say that the deal is good for the game industry, though. But for now, it’s probably better for the people making games at Bethesda.

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Heart Analyzer for iPhone and Apple Watch adds iOS 14 widget, blood oxygen data, more – 9to5Mac

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Heart Analyzer is one of the most powerful ways to visualize and access your Apple Watch heart data. A new update to Heart Analyzer this week brings integration with the Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen readings, iOS 14 home screen widgets, and more.

With this week’s update to Heart Analyzer, the app now supports Apple Watch Series 6 Blood Oxygen data. This includes a new complication for your watch face as well as tracking directly in the Heart Analyzer app on your Apple Watch. One of the new complications for Apple Watch is a full-size heart rate graph for the infograph modular watch face.

iOS 14 widgets have become a staple of app updates this week, and Heart Analyzer is no different. Heart Analyzer version 8.2 includes new home screen widgets for easily monitoring your heart rate without launching the app itself. Heart Analyzer has also extended the available data for heart rate tracking to four years.

Heart Analyzer also integrates with Apple Watch ECG recordings, including the ability to compare two readings side-by-side.

Here are the full release notes for today’s Heart Analyzer update:

  • Blood Oxygen Saturation support
  • Electrocardiogram viewing and comparison
  • A configurable Dashboard for App Customization users
  • Extended Data doubled up to four years of heart rate data
  • Brand new complications on Apple Watch
  • Blood Oxygen Saturation tracking in the Watch app including on a complication
  • Watch Face sharing support
  • New support for more workout types
  • The Heart Analyzer Guide, now available in the app for those wanting to broaden their app knowledge
  • Improvements to Heart Rate Recovery metrics in the Deep Analytics section
  • Dashboard interface tweaks for more intuitive navigation
  • A new option for complication privacy on the Watch Face

Heart Analyzer is available on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch. It’s a free download with in-app purchases for additional features.

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