StarCraft remaster unveiled, and original SD version becomes free-as-in-beer

A long-rumored StarCraft remaster for computers was finally unveiled on Saturday by Blizzard Entertainment, set for launch in “summer 2017.” No pricing info was announced, but Blizzard has confirmed quite a few other details about the 4K-friendly release.

For one, it will be preceded by a patch to the 19-year-old StarCraft: Brood War client, and this new 1.18a client will reportedly not change the mechanics of the game. To prove that out, this patched version will still be able to connect to players using the existing 1.16 patch (which came out all the way back in 2009). Among other tweaks, like better compatibility with newer versions of Windows, the new patch will include two important updates: the ability to connect to and play against owners of the upcoming remastered version, and the change to a wholly free product. Once the patch goes live, the original StarCraft Anthology will be free-as-in-beer to download and play in both single- and multiplayer modes.

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Mythos Tales: Probe Arkham’s darkest doings in this Lovecraft deduction game

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think.

You’re just an ordinary 1930s inhabitant of the ordinary town of Arkham, Massachusetts—a plain New England place where nothing unusual ever happens. Well, except for that one infestation of hood-wearing cultists hoping to usher an angry Elder God into our world. Or that little problem with the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. Or those 17th-century witches who don’t seem to be quite dead yet. Or that matter of the snake god Yig.

When occult trouble threatens, Miskatonic University’s aging librarian, Professor Henry Armitage—the kind of man who runs a “restricted section” featuring books like the human-skin-covered Necromomicon—beckons you to his office. In his kindly way, he asks if you would be so good as to poke around Arkham, ask some questions, visit a few locations—in other words, clear this whole mystery up. Of course, it’s probably nothing…

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Roam free: A history of open-world gaming

Open-world video games bear the impossible promise—offering compelling, enjoyable open-endedness and freedom within the constraints of what is, by necessity of the medium, an extremely limited set of possible actions. These games provide a list of (predominantly violent) verbs that’s minuscule in comparison to the options you would face in identical real-life situations. Yet, we can’t get enough of them.

In spite of their many obvious failings or limitations, we’ve been losing ourselves within open worlds for some 30-odd years. Today, nearly every big release is set in an open world. We delight in their unspoken possibility and shrug at their quirks.

Those quirks, by the way, are not merely a consequence of current technology. The oddities of modern open-world games have origins in the games that came before. We’re not talking about just the earlier Grand Theft Autos—even the first GTA built on the foundations set by more than a decade of prior open-world games.

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Nintendo Switch “vertical” mode found in Neo-Geo games—are more coming?

Sam Machkovech

The Nintendo Switch may not have a full-blown Virtual Console collection yet, but its eShop has a few emulated classics already. This week, fans finally noticed that its current, small slate of ’80s and ’90s games had a surprise tucked inside ever since the system’s launch: a vertical orientation option.

The only classic games available for purchase on the Switch’s eShop come from the Neo-Geo system, and this week’s launch of Neo Turf Masters should have gone by as a minor blip. This title wasn’t a major Neo-Geo hit, nor a rare curio. But for whatever reason, this game, as opposed to the other Neo-Geo games launched thus far, got someone to post video of the emulator’s “display settings menu.”

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GameStop expects the Switch to be hard to find through 2017

The successful launch of the Nintendo Switch earlier this month is already creating retail shortages and steep markups on the secondary market. Now, major retailer GameStop says it expects those kinds of shortages and nearly instant sell-through of shipments to last throughout 2017 in its more than 7,000 retail stores.

“The demand is incredibly strong for this [Switch] column,” GameStop COO Tony Bartel said in an earnings call yesterday evening. “As soon as we get into our stores, it’s out within hours. We anticipate that we’re going to be chasing supply this entire year.”

CEO Paul Raines said elsewhere in the call that the retailer’s initial shipment of Switch systems sold out in two days and that “multiple replenishments since the launch… have sold out in hours.” Bartel added that “there is tremendous demand for this, and we just don’t know how high it is because every time we get it out in our stores it’s literally gone.”

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Power Rangers film would’ve been better as a CW series

If you think Marvel and DC superheroes receive too many reboots, you clearly haven’t kept tabs on the Power Rangers TV series. What began as an excuse to reuse costumed-battling footage from the Japanese show Super Sentai has spawned 24 incarnations since 1993. Twenty-four! Who knows—if Batman had gotten close to that number, Val Kilmer might have worn the suit a second time.

Despite all of those years and versions, Power Rangers waited until this week for its first motion-picture treatment (well, okay, not really, but the less said about the1995 film, the better). Weirdly, the results don’t feel all that interesting as a film. Instead, viewers get a taste of what could have been the best TV treatment the series has ever seen.

Mighty Friday Night Lights?

The film follows five small-town teens going through various adolescent crises. The town’s football hero falls from grace after a prank goes awry. The popular girl burns all bridges with an ill-advised text. One autistic kid misses his dead father in a big way, while two others have very different stressful issues with their own parents.

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Decrypted: The Expanse: “Well, this is off to a good start”

In this week’s episode of The Expanse, our gang wants to get to Ganymede, but the Rocinante is a little too recognizable. Pretending to be a Martian Navy boarding party, Holden and Amos commandeer a Belter freighter, the Weeping Sonambulist, which was transporting relief supplies to the crippled agricultural outpost. Things get worse for the Sonambulist’s owners when the local cops on Ganymede decides to alter the terms of their bargain, taking all the relief supplies instead of a smaller cut. It’s a tough life out there among the asteroids for the little person.

Bobbie Draper finally gets to ride a dropship down Earth’s gravity well, but it isn’t the ride she always pictured. The Martians are visiting Manhattan to attend the peace conference. There’s obviously little good faith between the two delegations, and plenty of posturing from both sides. Much to Gunny Draper’s disgust, the Martians accept responsibility for causing the Battle of Ganymede, offering up the late private Travis as a scapegoat. But Avasarala isn’t buying it, and even though Draper was told to keep it quiet she spills the beans about the man without the pressure suit.

The show does a good job this week of conveying just how alien Earth is to the Martians. Bright sunlight, oppressive gravity, and vast horizons would surely be disconcerting to someone used to life in the subterranean tunnels of Mars. It also gives you a good sense of how much contempt the Martians feel for Earth, filled with disgust at a civilization they think has squandered its resources and lies around in idle poverty.

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Capcom needs PC gamers’ help to test online Street Fighter V fixes

Ars’ review of Street Fighter V in February of last year began with this simple declaration: “Definitely good, definitely unfinished.” Now 13 months later, Capcom is finally tiptoeing toward the fighting game’s complete state as one of the game’s most crucial elements will get a major unveil next weekend: a full netcode rehaul.

“We understand that Street Fighter V’s server performance has been a less than optimal experience for many of our players,” a Capcom staffer frankly admitted at the company’s official blog on Thursday. That comment was followed by an announcement of the “Capcom Fighters Network” (basically, the game’s underlying matchmaking and connectivity system) receiving a full overhaul—and a week-long freebie to put money where Capcom’s mouth is.

To prove the upgrades out, Capcom will unlock the game’s online modes for everyone in the world as a separate, free download via Steam starting Tuesday, March 28. If you already own the game, the beta will carry over your current online stats; if you don’t, you’ll start fresh. Either way, it’s free for all Windows Steam gamers until the beta closes on Monday, April 3, and all current characters from both SFV seasons will be unlocked for free as well. The beta will simultaneously test the latest balance tweaks set to reach the official game.

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