SiriusXM to pay $3.5 billion for Pandora

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Pandora has agreed to be acquired by satellite company SiriusXM for $3.5 billion. The deal will expand SiriusXM’s reach. The satellite company has 36 million subscribers, while Pandora has more than 70 million monthly active users.

The companies say users shouldn’t expect any immediate changes, and Pandora will continue to operate as a separate service.

Pandora has amassed a massive audience, but the company has struggled financially due to long-running fights with music labels over music licensing rates. Recently it has lost ground to rivals Spotify and Apple Music, and last year it launched a Spotify-like premium on-demand service. The company has been looking for a buyer for a couple of years.

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Sex, violence, drugs get the axe in Apple’s upcoming original content

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Apple’s original shows are reportedly going through a lot of fine-tuning to fit the company’s family-friendly standards. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple has edited or axed some of its original programming plans because it doesn’t want shows to include “gratuitous sex, profanity, or violence.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly killed a semi-autobiographical drama about Dr. Dre’s life. Named Vital Signs, the drama had scenes that included drug use, sex, and guns. Those scenes were apparently too scandalous for Apple to feature.

The report details how picky Apple is being in regards to how shows are created and managed. The company replaced the showrunner on the series that stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. While Apple reportedly cited the executive producer’s inexperience, people familiar with the matter claim that the company also took issue with some of the humor written into the show, and Apple wanted a more upbeat show in general.

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Thrustmaster TPR: The best pedals you can buy in a store like a normal person

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Specs at a glance: Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder pedals
Manufacturer Thrustmaster
Device type Flight simulator rudder pedals with toe brakes
Axes Three
Sensor type 3D Hall effect magnetic
Controller precision 16-bit (all axis)
Interface USB type-B
Price $499.99 at Amazon

As someone who’s gone so far as to put money in a Polish bank account for a Belarusian man named Slaw in exchange for high quality pedals, I was overjoyed when Thrustmaster’s PR people reached out recently and offered to send a review sample of their new TPR rudder pedals. As a long-time Thrustmaster Warthog owner, the key question I had about the company’s new rudder pedals was about build quality: would they be worth the $499 MSRP, or would they be like the Warthog stick and throttle—beautiful on the outside but stuffed full of crazy wires and hot glue and plastic?

Let’s answer that question right up front: no, they’re not like the Warthog. I took the things apart, and there were no loose wires and no hot glue. It’s all neat and tidy in there (and we’ve got pictures and more details a little further down).

Overall, the TPR pedals are an impressive freshman effort by Thrustmaster in a niche field where they haven’t played before—that is, high-end rudder pedals. The quality is there, but the design itself feels less like a cohesive whole and more like a design-by-committee product. It gets the job done—very well, in fact!—but I don’t think anyone could call it pretty.

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Review: Founders of Gloomhaven groans beneath its own weight

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Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.

“In the age after the Demon War, the continent enjoys a period of prosperity. Humans have made peace with the Valrath and Inox. Quatryls and Orchids arrive from across the Misty Sea looking to trade. It is decided that a new city will be built on the eastern shores—a hub of trade and a symbol of many races working in harmony. Each race brings their own specialty to the city, and each race holds a desire for influence over the city by contributing the most to its construction.”

This, the opening paragraph of Founders of Gloomhaven’s bewilderingly dense manual, might mean something to hardcore board gamers—but to anyone who hasn’t played the original Gloomhaven, the current heavyweight champion of board gaming, it’s confusing (to say the least). As you’ll see, confusion and complexity are the order of the day with Founders.

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Newly discovered letter by Galileo resolves puzzling historical mystery

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Renowned astronomer Galileo Galilei has been lauded for centuries for his courageous principled stance against the Catholic Church. He argued in favor of the Earth moving around the Sun, rather than vice versa, in direct contradiction to church teachings at the time. But a long-lost letter has been discovered at the Royal Society in London indicating that Galileo tried to soften his initial claims to avoid the church’s wrath.

In August, Salvatore Ricciardo, a postdoc in science history at the University of Bergamo in Italy, visited London and searched various British libraries for any handwritten comments on Galileo’s works. He was idly flipping through a catalogue at the Royal Society when he came across the letter Galileo wrote to a friend in 1613, outlining his arguments. According to Nature, which first reported the unexpected find, the letter “provides the strongest evidence yet that, at the start of his battle with the religious authorities, Galileo actively engaged in damage control and tried to spread a toned-down version of his claims.”

“I thought, ‘I can’t believe that I have discovered the letter that virtually all Galileo scholars thought to be hopelessly lost,’” Ricciardo told Nature. “It seemed even more incredible because the letter was not in an obscure library, but in the Royal Society library.”

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Telltale Games begins wave of layoffs, cancels Stranger Things game

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A wave of layoffs has apparently hit the video game studio Telltale Games, responsible for popular branching-narrative games based on the Walking Dead franchise. According to online reports, those affected by the layoffs have alleged that the studio is either shutting down entirely or staying afloat as a meager skeleton crew, ahead of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series‘ final season launch throughout this fall.

On Friday, independent reporter Andrea Ayres posted an allegation that the studio had shut down, based on feedback from a game-development Facebook community that simply said, “Telltale Games is closing their doors.” Shortly afterward, Telltale narrative designer Emily Grace Buck confirmed that she does “not have a job anymore” and added that she was looking for job opening information for “a lot of other amazing people I love dearly.”

After Gamasutra reported on the story by saying Telltale was “closing its doors,” The Verge followed up to indicate that a team of 25 staffers will remain on board—perhaps to usher the company’s remaining Walking Dead episodes to launch. USGamer separately reports that a new game in Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us series, and a previously announced series based on the Netflix show Stranger Things, have been canceled.

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Valkyria Chronicles 4 review: Same as it ever was

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Turn-based tactics with an action game twist: that’s the simple, potent blend that made the original Valkyria Chronicles so immediately striking back in 2008. Now, two PSP sequels and one ill-conceived pseudo-spin-off later, that formula returns to consoles in Valkyria Chronicles 4. It has the same hooks of that original game, including the watercolor-and-pencil graphics and plenty of anime relationships to tease out over 35-ish combat-heavy hours.

In fact, despite being the fourth game in the series, VC4 even returns to the series’ original conflict—a sort of Norse-flavored, alternate-history World War II. An evil empire (a fantastical mix of Nazi Germany and the USSR) is invading the “Atlantic Federation,” and a plucky crew of volunteers from Gallia (basically fantasy Holland) signs up to bring the fight back to the fascists, big tank in tow.

All of these beats feel so much like that first game that VC4 comes across almost as a soft reboot of the original rather than a side story.

The more things don’t change

Combat and progression have been simplified compared to the previous sequels. Battle begins from an overhead perspective but shifts to an over-the-shoulder view when you select a unit. From there you can move your units in real time, limited only by the soldier’s dwindling “Action Points.” While you line up shots as in any over-the-shoulder shooter, a weapon’s precise aim is out of your control. It’s up to the JRPG math behind the scenes—massaged by your reticle placement—to land blows and critical headshots.

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Matt Murdock is back and darker than ever in new trailer for Daredevil season 3

Marvel’s Daredevil season 3 trailer.

Man, Marvel is on a roll these days. Season two of Iron Fist just dropped a few weeks ago, and Marvel is already trotting out the teaser trailer for Daredevil’s third season. It’s clear Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock is in for a dark descent, psychologically, along with the regular beatings that leave him bloodied but unbowed. And could Kingpin be making a reprise as Matt’s arch nemesis?

(Mild spoilers for first two seasons below)

Daredevil S1 is among my favorite stories in the Defenders universe, second only to Jessica Jones S1, in large part because Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin, played to perfection by Vincent D’Onofrio) was such an incredibly complex and even occasionally sympathetic villain. Strong villains are key to these series’ success, and season two suffered a bit because of Fisk’s absence (apart from a brief prison appearance), focusing instead on introducing the Chinese crime syndicate the Hand in preparation for their role as the Big Bad in the first Defenders series. But a vast syndicate isn’t nearly as compelling as a violent psychopath with exquisite taste who also longs for love.

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