The Range Rover is the priciest and best-known member of Land Rover’s family of SUVs, and it’s undergone an interesting journey that has seen it graduate from farm-hand to franchise player among the super-luxury set.
It’s been an endless offseason, Overwatch League fans. But the thrill of competition is finally coming back.
The Overwatch League announced today that its fourth season will begin on April 16. Additionally, the league revealed tons of information about the upcoming 2021 season, including standardized broadcast times, three-day game weekends, and competitive online play featuring global tournament brackets.
The 2021 season will operate entirely around four standalone tournaments, beginning with the May Melee. The June Joust, Summer Showdown, and Countdown Cup will follow as the season rolls on.
Teams will play four matches in each tournament cycle to qualify for the final tournament. This means that all Overwatch League teams will be playing a minimum of 16 regular season games in 2021, but most will play more.
Since the league is divided into two regions, East and West, teams will have to play knockout matches in their respective regions to advance to the double-elimination global bracket. For each tournament, the top-six West teams will play knockout matches, while only the top-four East teams will do so.
The real fun begins when two teams from each region conquer their competition. Safety permitting, the two West region teams will travel to Hawaii for lower ping to play the top two East teams in a double-elimination bracket. One team will be crowned the winner of that tournament and will bring home $100,000, as well as additional “League Points” for postseason qualification.
Last year, COVID-19 and the pressure of online competition appeared to take a toll on players. In response to this, every team will receive a bye week during the three-week tournament qualification cycle. This means teams will play two games per week during their “active” weeks.
For viewers, variable game times resulted in missed matches and broken hearts in 2020. This year, games won’t deviate from a standardized start time in each region.
Games with West teams will always begin at 2pm CT and East region games will begin at 3am CT (or 6pm Korea Standard Time). Broadcasts will happen over three days each week, most often from Friday to Sunday.
To better track and reward wins as the season goes on, the Overwatch League has implemented a points system for the 2021 season.
The “League Points” system gives teams one point for each win during tournament qualification games. First, second, and third-place winners in each tournament will receive bonus points in the same way additional “wins” racked up last year. First-place teams nab three additional points, second place gets two, and third-place teams earn one extra point.
League Points will be tallied up and used to determine seeding and qualification for the season playoffs.
It wouldn’t be an Overwatch League season without a few curveballs. Hero Pools will be returning to the league during two of the monthly tournaments, the June Joust and the Countdown Cup.
The pools will operate the same way they did in 2020. For each tournament cycle, one support, one tank, and two damage heroes will be removed from the competition. Only heroes with a play rate of 10 percent or higher can be removed and for the first time, no hero can be removed twice during the Overwatch League season.
Map pools will also continue the way they have in previous seasons. Each tournament cycle will feature a set of maps to help teams refine strategies. This will include all Control maps and three options from Escort, Assault, and Hybrid. Selected maps will shift after each tournament cycle.
Patches have also been a big concern for teams in past Overwatch League seasons. This year, patch updates will only be implemented into the league between tournament cycles. That means entire tournaments will be played on a single patch for competitive integrity.
Competition is fun, but at the end of the day, it’s all about that cash money.
First-place teams in each of the four tournaments will take home $100,000. Second-place teams will get $75,000 and third and fourth place will go home with $35,000 and $20,000, respectively.
This year, the Overwatch League season playoffs will be more valuable than ever. The 2021 champions will win a whopping $1.5 million to accompany their shining trophy. With a total playoff prize pool of over $3.35 million, teams will be giving it their all to end up in the season finals.
The fourth season of the Overwatch League kicks off on April 16. The opening weekend will include a Battle for Texas between the Houston Outlaws and the Dallas Fuel, as well as a grudge match between 2020 champions San Francisco Shock and their California rivals, the Los Angeles Gladiators.
Yesterday, a controversial article made the rounds from VentureBeat about how Activision Blizzard was losing the “PR war” in the wake of horrific allegations about the mistreatment of women at the company over the years. Author Dean Takahashi has since apologized for the perception that he was being insensitive to the victims, and explained he was trying to analyze the situation on the business side of things.
I think the main issue is framing this as a “PR problem,” which at the very least, the headline did, even if the article parsed it differently. But if we’re talking about what this current scandal could do to Activision as a company, the implications could reach far beyond poor perception of the corporate entity or its CEO, Bobby Kotick, who let me tell you, has not exactly been winning any PR wars for a very long time now.
The stories that are coming out about Activision Blizzard’s history with women are nauseating, and require content warnings for abuse and suicide. There were many terrible stories in the original lawsuit filling, but the one that stood out there was of a woman who died by suicide on a business trip, who had been in a relationship with a superior and had in the past, had photos of her genitals circulated around by employees at a holiday party.
Since that story broke, others outside of the lawsuit have emerged, including one where an Activision Blizzard employee was convinced of setting up cameras in bathrooms, and another where a woman was asked if she “liked to be penetrated” at job fair by a recruiter with the company.
What has been revealed to this point about the environment at Activision Blizzard has raised real moral questions for potential employees, journalists and fans.
As the original VentureBeat piece said, Activision Blizzard currently has thousands of open jobs they need to fill to actually keep making video games, and with the entire industry on a hiring spree, after this, it’s hard to know why many people would specifically seek out a job there, knowing everything that’s gone on. Especially women, which could make their current diversity problems even worse.
For journalists, we face the question of the moral responsibility of covering future releases from Activision Blizzard. Every outlet is handling this differently as we try to parse the behavior of management with the on-the-ground employees who are often victims, and who might be hurt more through blackouts or bans. Some outlets have said outright they’ll be covering Activision Blizzard games less, or not at all. What happens when say, hypothetically, the big, splashy Call of Duty Game Informer cover no longer materializes this year because of the objections of staff?
Fans are asking themselves something similar. It is always hard to hold “fan boycotts” to their word as they rarely pan out on a larger scale, but these allegations are so significant and severe that at least anecdotally, there have been reports of many people say, cancelling their long-term WoW subscription in protest. Some content creators have vowed to stop covering the games, even if they’re their bread and butter.
This is all happening at an extremely precarious moment for Activision Blizzard, the Blizzard side especially. Call of Duty has a cushion, given how well it sells, but it is supposed to reveal its new game soon, and it is now forced to do so in the midst of this. For Blizzard, this is a developer that is the main focus of many of these allegations, and even before this, has slipped in the eyes of fans as a top tier studio. They need to roll out Diablo 2 Resurrected this fall, and they’re continuing to work on Overwatch 2, which has raised questions about “performative” inclusivity with its diverse characters juxtaposed with Blizzard’s treatment of women and minorities. Diablo 4, still years away, is a must-win for them, but that team is full of many “old guard” veterans that were around when many of these most severe allegations were taking place.
The moral side of this is the business side, in many ways. Because of its treatment of women, Activision Blizzard will find it harder to hire employees, gain coverage for its games and convince fans to buy them over alternatives. Activision Blizzard and Kotick have already been on thin ice with many for years, but these allegations have splintered it, if not shattered it. And yet, a main problem remains that the only people that really seem to matter are the company’s investors. Stocks have dropped this past week, yes, but are still 10 points above the yearly low for Activision stock. This hasn’t produced some massive crash, and the corporate response to the lawsuit seems designed to placate investors, not employees or fans. Bobby Kotick only issued his first statement about any of this after the stock finally started to drop, and did so on the Activision investor page, even if it was addressed to his employees.
Things have quieted down a bit with no more corporate statements, even after the recent walkout by Activision Blizzard employees that does not seem to have produced a meaningful response by management. As for the longer term implications, we won’t know how that shakes out until they get back to actually trying to launch new games this fall, and we’ll see how that’s received.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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The Range Rover is the priciest and best-known member of Land Rover’s family of SUVs, and it’s undergone an interesting journey that has seen it graduate from farm-hand to franchise player among the super-luxury set.
Along the way, there have been more twists and turns in the Range Rover story than you’ll find in perhaps any other SUV’s origins, as the truck found itself buffeted by the economic realities of 1990s Britain before twirling in the winds of international ownership like some kind of 4×4 hot potato.
Here’s what we think of each and every generation of the Land Rover Range Rover, as we rank the family tree of one of the most interesting sport-utilities ever built.
The truck that made Land Rover’s reputation in North America took an astonishingly long time to get here—’officially,’ that is. After just over a decade of sales as a two-door, utility-focused hauler suited for country-dwelling Brits and their open-minded European counterparts, Land Rover added an extra set of entry points to the Range Rover and watched as the rest of the world began to import the rugged, yet stylish SUV in surprisingly large numbers.
Convinced of their potential in the United States thanks to this healthy grey market, Land Rover began official sales on this side of the Atlantic in 1987. All of those vehicles featured four doors and were initially outfitted with a 3.5-liter 150-horsepower V8 engine (with a larger 4.2-liter mill available by the end of its product run; and a 3.9-liter unit appearing as a bridge in 1989). Older trucks and Euro-sourced models had a wider range of drivetrains to choose from, but no version of the Range Rover could ever be accused of being a speed demon.
Instead, the Range Rover delivered go-anywhere ruggedness paired with an increasingly comfortable interior and an exclusivity not found in any of the Detroit- or Japan-built sport-utilities of the era. Featuring full-time four-wheel-drive and a four-speed automatic transmission, Land Rover’s leading light introduced an entire generation to genteel off-roading and played a major role in building an audience for its expanding line of SUVs in the 1990s.
From the first to the last: the current version of the Land Rover Range Rover is by far the best of the breed, and only takes second spot in our rankings due to the cultural and business significant of its original ancestor.
When it appeared as a 2013 model the fourth-generation Range Rover (known internally as the L405) it was a veritable revolution for the brand’s top-tier truck. Now featuring an entirely-aluminum body, the Range Rover was nearly 700 pounds lighter than the third-gen SUV without sacrificing any strength or rigidity. It carried over the older model’s 5.0-liter 375-horsepower V8 engine that could also be had in a 510-horsepower supercharged edition, but it felt much fleeter of foot thanks to its serious weight drop. A supercharged V6 eventually took the place of the base V8 (nearly matching its output), and a turbodiesel and hybrid four-cylinder also found themselves entering the line-up. A long-wheelbase model further satisfied the needs of those for whom more is never enough.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the current Range Rover is how well suited it feels to almost any driving mission. As a plush daily, it’s perfect, but it’s just as nimble parsing difficult terrain as it is pulling up to the valet stand. Quick enough to startle a sports sedan, quiet enough inside to enjoy the faintest strains of your favourite symphony over its stereo, and with enough room to haul whatever doesn’t fit into the Ferrari parked beside it in the garage, the latest Range Rover is perhaps the most versatile flagship ever conceived.
Things got weird for Land Rover in the early 2000s as the company’s ownership changed hands from BMW to Ford to Tata, all in the space of the L322 Range Rover’s lifetime. As a result, despite having been initially developed under BMW’s watchful eye, the vehicle’s engine bay was also graced by Ford-derived Jaguar power plants. This included a number of V8 and turbodiesel options, depending on which market it was sold in, generally creating a confusing mess for second-hand owners at the parts counter.
That being said, the L322 was nearly as important as the Classic in terms of putting the Range Rover over with a new set of buyers. With dramatic looks that eschewed the conservatism that had come before it and a new performance mandate that considered straight-line speed and on-tarmac handling to be as important as fording streams and climbing over boulders, Land Rover was able to get the L322 in front of deep-pocketed customers who couldn’t find anything else like it on the market. It’s a short leap from this model Range Rover to the serious upshift in power and presence from Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the SUV segment starting in the late 2000s.
That production overlap you’re noticing with the Classic? It’s a reflection of the somewhat turbulent state of affairs at Land Rover in the mid-’90s. The second-generation Range Rover claimed to be a complete redesign versus the Classic, but its subdued looks (the result of a tight budget) didn’t push any boundaries in terms of style, nor did the vehicle follow through on any of the fantastical drivetrain promises made (V12 SUV, anyone?) in its early development stages.
Instead, the P38 Range Rover kept on keepin’ on with pretty much the same set of attributes as the vehicle it replaced, featuring the choice of either diesel power; or one of two V8 engines that topped out at 225 horses. Interior trappings were modernized, and the vehicle’s air suspension system carried over from later versions of the Classic, where it was given a set of finicky computer controls for ride height adjustment.
Is there anything ‘wrong’ with the P38? Not really, aside from its glaring lack of reliability, a feature common to almost every Range Rover generation. Rather, it’s the lack of imagination behind the design that seems destined to keep the second go-around languishing at the back of the used car lot rather than claiming a front-row position at the local show-and-shine.
Twitter has announced its first algorithmic bias bounty challenge, offering cash prices ranging from $500 to $3,500 for those who can help the social media giant identify a range of issues.
After significant backlash last year, the company admitted in May that its automatic cropping algorithm repeatedly cropped out Black faces in favor of White ones. It also favored men over women, according to research from Twitter. Multiple Twitter users proved this fact using pictures of themselves or of famous figures, like former President Barack Obama.
Rumman Chowdhury, director of Twitter META, explained that the company decided to change the algorithm and admitted that companies like Twitter often “find out about unintended ethical harms once they’ve already reached the public.”
On Friday, Chowdhury and Twitter META product manager Jutta Williams unveiled the algorithmic bias bounty competition, which they said was part of this year’s DEF CON AI Village.
“In May, we shared our approach to identifying bias in our saliency algorithm (also known as our image cropping algorithm), and we made our code available for others to reproduce our work. We want to take this work a step further by inviting and incentivizing the community to help identify potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves,” the two said.
In creating the program, they were inspired by how the research and hacker communities helped the security field establish best practices for identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in order to protect the public.
They said Twitter wanted to build out a similar community but one focused on machine learning ethics that will help the company “identify a broader range of issues than we would be able to on our own.”
“With this challenge we aim to set a precedent at Twitter, and in the industry, for proactive and collective identification of algorithmic harms,” Chowdhury and Williams wrote.
“For this challenge, we are re-sharing our saliency model and the code used to generate a crop of an image given a predicted maximally salient point and asking participants to build their own assessment. Successful entries will consider both quantitative and qualitative methods in their approach.”
There is a submission page on HackerOne where people can find more information, the rubric used to score each entry and details on how to enter. The entries will be judged by Ariel Herbert-Voss, Matt Mitchell, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, and Patrick Hall.
The first place winner will get $3,500, the second place winner gets $1,000 and third place gets $500. There will also be $1,000 rewards for most innovative and most generalizable. Winners of the competition will be announced at the DEF CON AI Village workshop on August 8.
Williams told ZDNet that other than learning more about the photo cropping feature, she is expecting to learn what people think “harm” entails.
“As a product manager, I endeavor to put myself in the shoes of people who use or are affected by our products to understand what a word like that means. Traditionally, we hear from people already looking at algorithmic bias — and I’m expecting that we’ll hear from a much broader community of people who will share a lot of perspective on what harm means to them,” Williams said.
“Rumman floated the idea with me and our CTO after a conversation with the AI Village organizers — it takes a pretty risk-tolerant company to go first on something like this. Twitter leadership was willing — enthusiastic even. We didn’t have a lot of time to make the deadline for DEFCON, so the two of us got right into brainstorming how to scope something that we could release within the few weeks we had to make a go/no-go decision.”
She added that the competition will make Twitter much wiser about how the next event should run and be instructive in making it easier for participants and more inclusive.
The company is also hoping to learn more about how their technology may need to be immediately corrected, Williams explained, and more about how they can better prevent harm. The team will gain a better understanding of how to test and assess algorithms for biases, Williams said.
Williams noted that there are many unknowns in the emerging field of study on machine learning bias and few programs actively address algorithmic risks.
“I have hope we’ll have a few more unknowns that we can start working on solving. Most importantly, maybe, we’re going to learn about working with this community, ways to better measure and classify harms, what it takes to validate reports, ways to mitigate and/or prevent new harms in the future — all of which we can share back to the community,” Williams said.
“This wasn’t run for our benefit alone — I wouldn’t personally have put the sweat equity into it if it weren’t for the goal of ultimate transparency.”
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