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10
Feb

Cheap Android phones shouldn’t be disposable


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Cheap phones deserve to be supported, and so do the people who are buying them.

We all know someone who has whatever phone was cheapest — or, let’s face it, free — from their carrier. Not everyone is into smartphones and sometimes I envy people who can let go when it comes to pocket-sized tech. There’s a good chance that person was also happy with it when they got it and as long as it still works the same way, still are. There’s an equally good chance that they hate their phone because it’s sluggish or won’t do the things they thought it could do when they saw a commercial from the phone company.

Updates to fix bugs or patch security holes should be the norm, no matter the price.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for very budget-orientated smartphones that never had any of the cool features we all like to talk about and never will. The idea of a “real” $50 smartphone is something nobody should ever forget about and a thing that needs to happen. But when that price jumps to $200, or $300, or even more, the way devices and the users who bought them are forgotten is ridiculous.

Most of the names we all know make a “cheap” smartphone. Hell, even Apple tried it, though the iPhone 5C wasn’t exactly cheap and Apple quickly changed course. That’s because there are a lot of people who don’t want to spend $500 or $600 or even more on a phone. Service providers still want their business, so T-Mobile courts LG and Verizon talks with Samsung and freebies are made and delivered to carrier stores around the country, only to be left behind because somehow they aren’t as worthy of customer support as the $800 phones are.

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Not every phone should have animated emoji or depth-sensing cameras or built-in personal digital assistants. Just like not every car should have onboard computers or DVD players in the passenger headrest. Those are luxury additions that should be part of the price of luxury items. But just as every car should have anti-lock brakes, all smartphones should be able to benefit from progress in how we stay in touch during its normal lifetime.

That’s why most people have a phone, to be able to talk or text or message the people they need to talk, text, or message with. When the phone you have paid for, and even “free” phones are paid for with outrageous service fees, has features that are broken or can give away your identity because you clicked a bad link in a message we have a serious problem.

We focus on the Pixels and Galaxy phones, but there are a lot of people satisfied with phones like the LG Stylo 3.

Don’t scoff. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean that your friend with the LG Stylo 3 that T-Mobile gave him for free when he got a postpaid account isn’t at risk, and when he clicks to send a multimedia message the app should work as advertised. We all focus on the expensive phones when it comes to software updates. You see discussions about waiting for updates because that new feature is a thing we all want, but when looking at the bigger picture that’s trivial. What’s not so trivial is that when someone finds out the next easy way to siphon the money from another’s bank account or use their name to rent a car or any other form of identity theft, the only recourse for your friend with his LG Stylo is to toss it and buy a new phone or to just risk it. Nobody deserves to have to risk anything when the solution has been found and is so easy to distribute.

It’s money. It’s always money. And it’s time to remember just who values money over their customer’s needs when there is such an easy alternative. In the U.S., almost every phone is bought from a carrier store. In our LG Stylo 3 example — which is not a terrible phone (CNET rightfully calls it a cheap Note 8 alternative) — T-Mobile bought a slew of them from LG and then resold them to customers. I’m not sure you can even buy an LG Stylo 3 unlocked directly from LG. It’s now T-Mobile’s responsibility to let its customers know that its phone places them at risk when they click a link in a message, and what they can do about it. LG can be held responsible when T-Mobile is willing to do what it takes to provide an acceptable level of service to its customers and asks it to patch the messaging client. That’s the way the chain works and a lot of grief directed to the company that manufactured a phone should be pointed towards the company that took your money instead.

It’s always about the money and always will be. We control the money.

I’m picking on the LG Stylo 3 for a reason. It’s a new phone, released in the winter of 2017 with Android 7.0 for Boost Mobile, Cricket, Simple Mobile, Verizon (prepaid) and T-Mobile. Each version is heavily customized for the operator that ordered it from LG, and the Simple Mobile version is easily unlocked and ready for use on most carriers in Latin America. So far, it sounds like a standard cheap phone that carriers can give away or sell at a low price. But last week the T-Mobile version got updated with “bug fixes and security enhancements”.

LG is willing and ready to do what they can to extend the life of the Stylo 3. Apparently, T-Mobile feels it is worth the money to provide this service to their customers. I was told that Verizon will be doing the same shortly, but that leaves a large number of people who are on a prepaid carrier or who unlocked a prepaid version without that important update. Boost or Simple Mobile is probably never going to update the Stylo 3, or if they do it will be once during the life of it and be missing some vital patches. We shouldn’t be willing to accept this, and in the end, it’s partially our own fault for continuing to buy products that companies treat as disposable.

LG can’t fix this. Google can’t fix this. Individually, T-Mobile or Verizon can’t fix this. It’s indicative of a greater problem in the entire industry, where the goals are to move as much product as possible and never look back.

The LG Stylo 3 deserves better, and we deserve better.

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10
Feb

Recommended Reading: The excess of the Olympics


How the Olympics got Disneyfied
Michael Weinreb,
The Atlantic

No matter which country hosts the Olympics, the Opening Ceremony is always jam-packed with over-the-top futuristic visuals and tons of culture. It’s a display “financial and cultural excess,” as The Atlantic’s Michael Weinreb describes it, and it all got started in the US during the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

How Facebook is killing comedy
Sarah Aswell, Splitsider

The Facebook effect on sites like Funny or Die is real, especially when it comes to getting content out to their audience.

Four days, $245 million: How Waymo v. Uber came to an end
Dara Kerr, CNET

CNET’s Dara Kerr closely followed the court proceedings this week and offers a quick rundown of how the two companies reached a settlement.

10
Feb

How to Use Spotify With HomePod Through AirPlay


Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker is designed primarily for Apple devices, and it’s heavily tied to the Apple ecosystem. Natively, you can only stream music on the HomePod through an Apple Music subscription, iTunes purchases, or iTunes Match content uploaded to iCloud Music Library.

It might sound like you’re out of luck if you subscribe to a third-party music service like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, or another option, but it’s not impossible – you can still play content from these services to HomePod, you’ll just need to use AirPlay to do it.

With most music apps, you can start up a song and then choose a device to play to right from within the app. These instructions will be specific to Spotify.

Open Spotify and choose a track to play.
On the main screen that shows song details, tap on “Devices Available.”
Choose “More Devices.”
Tap on the icon for your HomePod, and music will be streamed directly to it.
Here’s an alternative method that works with Spotify and all other music apps:

Start a song in Spotify or another app.
Open the Control Center on the iPhone or iPad.
3D Touch or long press on the music widget.
Tap on the AirPlay icon in the upper right side of the widget.
Select the HomePod icon.
It will take a few seconds for the iPhone or iPad to connect to HomePod, but once it’s connected, your music will be streamed to HomePod from your iPhone.

Unfortunately, you do need to have an Apple device to stream music to the HomePod, so it’s not a device that can be used on its own or with a Bluetooth connection because streaming to HomePod only works via AirPlay.

When streaming music to HomePod through AirPlay, you’re not going to have full Siri support so you’ll need to use your iOS device to control your music.

Related Roundup: HomePodBuyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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10
Feb

How to Use the HomePod’s Physical Controls


As a smart speaker, HomePod comes with built-in Siri support, so you can use it without ever touching it, but Apple did include a touch panel at the top of the device that supports several gestures.

HomePod gestures can activate Siri, control the volume of what’s playing, skip to the next song, pause/play and more. All of the touch gestures you can use with the HomePod are below.

Volume

Volume up – Tap on the “+” button to raise volume by one level, or touch and hold to increase the volume by several levels.

Volume down – Tap on the “-” button to lower the volume by one level, or touch and hold to decrease the volume by several levels.

Playback

Pause or resume playback – Tap in the middle of the HomePod to pause your music and tap it again to unpause.

Go to the next track – When a song is playing, double tap in the middle of the HomePod to skip a song.

Replay the previous track – When a song is playing from a playlist or an album, triple tap in the middle of the HomePod to go back to the previous song that was playing.

Siri

To activate Siri, place a place a finger on the top of the HomePod and hold it there until the visual Siri waveform appears. From there, you can speak your Siri command.

Other Available Gestures

Dismiss an alarm – If an alarm is going off on the HomePod, tap in the middle of it to stop it.

Activate VoiceOver – If you have VoiceOver enabled in the Accessibility settings, double tap to activate it. With VoiceOver enabled, all other gestures will require one extra tap, so pausing, for example will require two taps.

End a call – When using your HomePod as a speakerphone, you can end a call by tapping on the green light on top of the HomePod.

Switch calls – If you’re using HomePod as a speakerphone on a call and a second call comes in, you can touch and hold on the green light to put a hold on call. Switch between calls by double tapping.

Related Roundup: HomePodBuyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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10
Feb

How to delete games from your PlayStation 4


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Need to know how to delete some games from your PlayStation 4? We have you covered.

It happens to those with even the most spacious of hard drives. Sometimes you just run out of space and some of those old games have to go. Or maybe it’s as simple as a terrible game in your library and every time you look at it you are reminded of what a terrible waste of money it was.

No matter the reason, there are times where you need to delete some games from your PlayStation 4. There are two ways to do it and both of them are easy as pie. Let’s take a look.

Deleting games directly from your library

From the main page of your PS4, scroll all the way to the right and select Library.20180208170250.jpg?itok=aaMv36gc

Once in your library, find the game targeted for elimination. 20180208170327.jpg?itok=umITk_vD

Push the Options button on your PS4 controller. 20180208170340.jpg?itok=tTCwK5Er

A menu will pop up on the right. Scroll all the way down to Delete and select it. 20180208170347.jpg?itok=6m4MXZxH

You will then be presented with a screen letting you know you’re about to delete the game. Select OK and POOF it’s gone.

Deleting games from the Storage Menu

From the main page of your PS4, go to Settings. 20180208170355.jpg?itok=jf1UBiOK

Within the Settings menu, scroll down to Storage. 20180208170402.jpg?itok=JWuKW-2D

Choose the drive you would like to delete games from.20180208170416.jpg?itok=SAqL2qT3

Select Applications.20180208170424.jpg?itok=pUXpY-_0

You will then be presented with a list of all games and applications on that drive. Scroll down to the one you would like to delete. 20180208170435.jpg?itok=ACpQCU3G

One your cursor is on the game you would like to delete, push the options button on your PS4 controller.20180208170450.jpg?itok=27t8TdGR

Select the Delete option and that game is whisked away to the nether realm.

One thing to note is that if you accidentally delete a game or you decide that you want it back later, you can always download it again from your Library page.

What games are you deleting?

Why are we reviewing PlayStation 4 games on Android Central? Let us explain.

PlayStation 4

ps4-controllers.jpg

  • PS4 vs. PS4 Slim vs. PS4 Pro: Which should you buy?
  • PlayStation VR Review
  • Playing PS4 games through your phone is awesome

Amazon

10
Feb

SquareHome 2 launcher brings Windows 10’s Live Tiles to Android


There’s a range of interesting Windows phone-like launchers for Android available. Today, we’re taking a look at SquareHome 2.

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Previously, we took at a look at Launcher 10, which does its best to emulate Windows 10 Mobile’s Live tiles and app drawer, mimicking animations and styles while bringing in some of Android’s rich customization features. Thanks to recommendations from you guys, I picked up SquareHome 2, which seems to be popular with other Windows phone refugees.

Here’s a quick look at what you can expect from the app, which comes with a range of free features, and a 14-day trial for the premium ones.

What you’ll love about SquareHome 2 for Android

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The best aspects of SquareHome 2 pertain to its customizability, which goes far beyond those offered by Windows 10 Mobile.

While the obvious limitations of Android prevent all apps from enjoying a rich Live Tile-like experience, you can create your own “tiles” from Android widgets, matching their dimensions to that of the column widths set by other tiles. In this way, you can create those interactive tiles Microsoft was experimenting with that never materialized.

Additionally, you can create Windows 10 PC-like 3D cubes comprised of multiple apps, into a single tile. This is a novel take on the folder functionality, and it looks quite nice, giving your home screen that animated-look that made the Windows Phone OS so fun.

SquareHome 2 comes with a few system-level “Live Tiles” that allow you to experience some of Windows Phone’s uniqueness. For example, the Calendar tile provides a rich view of your system calendar events. You can also set the calendar tile to open Outlook Calendar instead of the default one on Android, if you want.

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It also comes with a special photos tile that you can set up with a dedicated folder of pictures, which more closely matches its functionality on Windows 10. It’s also a 3D-style cube tile, which brings it more closely in line with PC than Windows 10 Mobile. It’s a nice touch.

Speaking of which, you can customize any tile vigorously, changing icons, tap and long-tap events, tile sizes, colors, and much more. You can set up multiple start screens, too, customizing styles and backgrounds at will.

If you unlock the capabilities to do so, tiles will also show recent notification numbers and notification text, providing a Live Tile-like experience across the board.

What you won’t love about SquareHome 2 for Android

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While SquareHome 2 has more features than Launcher 10, the overall execution feels less polished generally, with overlapping settings, some janky positioning oddities, and an app drawer that looks like it was designed as an afterthought. The app drawer for SquareHome 2 has this huge ugly “Applications” text that looks like a placeholder. Launcher 10 much more closely emulates Windows 10 Mobile, both in style and functionality.

There’s also the annoyance of not being able to set a default calendar, which is possibly an Android limitation. Since the BlackBerry KEYone doesn’t seem to play nice with Outlook at a system-level, I wasn’t able to pull my events into SquareHome 2’s calendar tile. It would be nice if it simply used the Microsoft APIs for signing in to achieve this functionality.

Also, I’ve found that these types of apps seem to impact battery life more aggressively than some less “animated” launchers. That’s to be expected, given the extra work the launcher does in setting up notification text and producing more visually intense effects. But if you’re concerned about battery life, you might want to stick with something else.

The best Android launchers

Overall thoughts on SquareHome 2 for Android

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Overall, SquareHome 2 is a tremendous launcher with a rich feature set that fans of customization will enjoy. It beats some competing apps at creating a “true” Windows phone-like Android experience, thanks to its customizable photo slideshow tile, its rich calendar tile, and the way it intuitively incorporates Android widgets.

Limitations of Android itself hold it back, like any launcher of this type, and while I didn’t enjoy the app drawer experience, it gets the job done.

SquareHome 2 is available for free with a 14-day trial of its premium features, which cost around $5 to buy.

Download: SquareHome 2 launcher (free w/IAPs)

10
Feb

‘Altered Carbon’ is more than just a ‘Blade Runner’ ripoff


Altered Carbon is the very definition of a guilty pleasure. The show, adapted by Laeta Kalogridis from Richard Morgan’s novel, isn’t exactly well written. And, like most Netflix joints, it goes on for way too long. But it’s gorgeous, it’s filled with charismatic actors and its cyberpunk aesthetic feels like a ’90s anime brought to life. (That’s a good thing — to me, at least.) Altered Carbon is simply a lot of fun. And while it owes an obvious debt to Blade Runner, I was surprised that underneath the ultraviolence and gratuitous Cinemax-esque sex scenes, it’s also an intriguing exploration of where digital consciousness could take us.

Minor spoilers for the first few episodes of Altered Carbon ahead.

In Altered Carbon, death is obsolete. Physical bodies are merely containers, or “sleeves,” used for hosting “cortical stacks,” futuristic storage devices that hold your memories and consciousness. If your body dies, your stack (assuming it hasn’t been destroyed) can easily be moved over to a different sleeve. They plug into slots at the back of your neck, in a nod to the Matrix.

While this new technology is certainly miraculous, it also introduces an entirely new set of social issues. Anyone technically can be immortal, but only the rich have access to high-quality bodies, while everyone else has to make do with what they can afford. If you’re poor, a hospital might just stick you into an old and decrepit sleeve. The richest of the rich, or Meths (a shortened reference to Methuselah, from the Bible), naturally end up living the longest. They’ve built a paradise in huge skyscrapers above the clouds, far above the rain- and smog-filled surface world.

Humans being humans, the introduction of practical immortality also means that the rich inevitably end up with more power and influence than before. We’re introduced to the world through the eyes of Takeshi Kovacs, a former rebel who’s awakened, 250 years after his last sleeve died, in a new body (played by Joel Kinnaman). It turns out one of the very wealthy, Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), needs help solving his own murder. Trippy, I know. At that point, we see yet another advantage of the super-rich. Bancroft can actually back up his consciousness to a secure satellite, which means it isn’t game over if his stack is destroyed. Going a step further, he can also download himself into clones of his original body. Voilà: true immortality.

In Blade Runner, we explored our humanity through cyborgs with limited lifespans. Blade Runner 2049 went even deeper, giving us a cyborg lead who might be more human than he thinks. I didn’t expect Altered Carbon to add much to the conversation, but its rendering of a world where humans no longer fear death seems just as meaningful. Futurists like Ray Kurzweil theorize that we’ll eventually be able to upload our consciousness to computers, which would grant us a sort of digital immortality. Of course, doing so requires us to fully understand how our minds work, which we’re nowhere near grasping yet.

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Katie Yu/Netflix

Naturally, not everyone is cool with the idea of living forever. Religious groups in Altered Carbon consider the practice unholy, and their followers opt out of having their stacks rebooted. The show brings up the obvious counterpoint: Couldn’t something as astounding as living forever be considered a miracle? Unfortunately, it doesn’t spend much time delving much deeper.

For something so rooted in questions of identity, it’s a shame that Altered Carbon doesn’t have much to say about obvious representation issues in its narrative. We’re introduced to Kovacs in his original Asian body, but he never comments on being rebooted into the body of a white man. Still, at least we get a decent chunk of time with Kovacs’ two Asian sleeves, played by Byron Mann and Will Yun Lee, and the show has a diverse supporting cast as well. From what I’ve read, the show also seems to do a better job of focusing on Kovacs’ Asian bodies than the book does. The issue is certainly less egregious than the whitewashing controversy in the recent Ghost in the Shell remake.

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Katie Yu/Netflix

If this sort of body swapping were actually possible, you can be sure there’d be philosophical explorations about what it means to hop into the shoes of other races and genders. The show gives us glimpses — we see a young girl who ends up being rebooted into the body of an old woman, and a grandmother who finds herself in the body of a tattooed gangster bro. But there’s definitely room for more nuance in future seasons.

Altered Carbon’s take on VR is, not surprisingly, reminiscent of The Matrix. Since your consciousness is fully digitized, you end up perceiving virtual worlds just as realistically as the physical world. That opens up entirely new avenues for guilt-free adult recreation, but it also means you can actually get hurt in VR. Virtual torture ends up being as effective as the real thing — even more so, since you could go through the experience of being killed over and over. VR could also be seen as a form of prison for any conscious being. One subplot in the show involves a character who goes through the trauma of being killed and whose digital psyche ends up being broken in the process.

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Katie Yu/Netflix

While I didn’t expect much from Altered Carbon at first, the show ultimately won me over. It’s cyberpunk in the truest sense — it’s a dirty, sometimes excessive exploration of technology’s impact on society. It’s no work of art, like the Blade Runner films. But it will make you think amid the mayhem.

10
Feb

How to Access Your HomePod’s Settings


If you’re new to HomePod and don’t regularly use the “Home” app for HomeKit devices, you might be wondering how you get to the HomePod’s settings, because it’s not immediately obvious.

HomePod is controlled entirely through Apple’s Home app, much like any other HomeKit-compatible accessory. Accessing HomePod settings is simple once you know where to go, so here’s how:

Open the Home app.
You’ll see a main page that says “My Home” or “[Your Name]’s Home,” with either a series of icons or just the HomePod icon if it’s your only HomeKit device.
3D Touch or long press on the HomePod icon.
Tap “Details.”
When you’re done looking at the settings of your HomePod, you can get back to the main Home screen by tapping on “Done” and then tapping again on the HomePod screen in the app.

Available HomePod Settings

After tapping on details, you get access to a whole selection of HomePod settings. You can change the name of your HomePod (tap where it says HomePod), change your Siri settings, activate Accessibility features, turn off your Listening history, and more.

Secondary HomePod Settings

Confusingly, there are actually two separate settings sections for the HomePod in the Home app, so if you want to get to options like accessing software updates, you need to go to another section of the app. This split will actually make more sense when there are more AirPlay 2 speakers on the market, which will also be controlled through the Home app, and it also makes sense if you have multiple HomePod speakers. Here’s how to get to the other settings:

On the main page of the Home app, tap the small arrow in the upper left corner.
Tap “Home Settings.”
Choose your home by tapping on it if you have more than one.
In this section of the app, you can see your list of home hubs, which includes the HomePod, and access the Software Update feature for downloading new software to the HomePod.


Even more settings are available if you tap on your HomeKit profile, which should be under your name. This is the area where you need to go to be able to turn off personal requests if you don’t want HomePod to be able to do things like read your messages, create notes, and more.

It’s not really clear why Apple has split HomeKit controls up into two distinct sections of the app because it makes it difficult to manage all of the different aspects of the HomePod, but hopefully this how to should help new HomePod owners find the settings they need.

Related Roundup: HomePodBuyer’s Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)
Discuss this article in our forums

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10
Feb

VLC 3.0 Update Adds Cross-Platform 4K and 8K Hardware Decoding, HDR10, Chromecast Support, and More


VideoLAN on Friday released VLC 3.0 “Vetinari”, a major update to the popular media player that is rolling out across all platforms, including macOS, iOS, and tvOS.

Version 3 includes a huge number of new features and improvements to the app, including automatic hardware decoding for 4K and 8K playback, support for 10-bit HDR, 360-degree video and 3D audio, and Chromecast streaming with support for non-native formats.

VLC now works with Blu-Ray Java menus and features network browsing support for local network and NAS drives, including those with SMB, FTP, SFTP, NFS filesystems. The iOS app has also been optimized for iPhone X displays, while on Mac, Chromecast streaming to supported devices can be found in the menu bar under Playback -> Renderer.

Among many other changes and improvements in VLC Vetinari, further standout features include: a redesigned and resizable fullscreen controller; a new status bar icon which displays metadata and play controls; support for keyboard blacklight dimming during fullscreen video playback; significant performance improvements in playlist handling; and a simplified preferences window. Check the online changelog for the complete list of updates.

VLC 3.0 is a free downloaded for Mac from the VideoLan website. (Note that version 3.0.0 of VLC removes support for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and requires Mac systems to run OS X 10.7 Lion or later.) VLC 3.0.0 is already available on the tvOS App Store, but the iPhone and iPad update still appears to be rolling out as of writing.

Tag: VLC
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10
Feb

‘Destiny 2’ Nightfall raids get an improved scoring system


Just a few days ago, Bungie released its Destiny 2 development road map, full of improvements to counter complaints about diminishing rewards. Now the company has announced a new scoring system for the game’s weekly Nightfall raids aimed at rewarding players for more fine-grained achievements instead of a simple time-based pass/fail mechanism.

Destiny 2‘s Senior Design Lead Tyson Green admits that the time limit for Nightfalls was driving players away. “It only acknowledges success as being a clear, with no degrees of success past that, so no competition exists in that space,” he said in a blog post. “It turns a lot of people off of Nightfall too, since it is both difficult and indexes performance solely on speed.”

Scoring is now team-based and the sum of individual performances, which should encourage teams to work together more. Scores will again be driven by kills and orb of light generation, a back-to-basics approach that won’t be cluttered up by special point awards like medals (though the team may add these back in the future). Finally, your score will slowly decrease over time (“score decay”) so that teams able to finish it faster will get a higher score than those who take their time. In addition, scoring points is cut in half after 15 minutes in a Nightfall, while no points can be scored after 18 minutes. These two changes are meant to make your score more meaningful than just the current pass/fail mechanic. In addition, once you complete a Nightfall run, you’ll get a Challenge Card that will help you tune the level to better match your fireteam’s ability. Plus, you’ll get new Nightfall Emblems so everyone can see their high score on specific Nightfalls. These emblems also give you a cool-looking aura if your personal score is higher than a certain global threshold.

So now, instead of racing through a Nightfall, you’ll want to be a bit more methodical. “With Nightfall strike scoring,” said designer John Favaro, “we were looking to give players a little more control, allowing them to modify their experiences to provide them the challenge they want and incentivize more methodical progression through the activities. People like big numbers, and the best way to get big numbers is to kill everything.”

Source: Bungie

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