If You Said Anything Weird In Front Of Your Xbox One, Microsoft Probably Heard It

Microsoft contractors have listened to audio recordings of Xbox users speaking in their homes, a report by Motherboard has revealed. Audio from Xbox One users was sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake when contractors were working to improve the console’s voice command functions.

The practise began at the beginning of the Xbox One’s life cycle but was only meant to capture audio following voice commands like “Xbox” or “Hey Cortana.” It’s the latest example of contractors working on behalf of Microsoft to listen to audio captured by several of the company’s products. An earlier Motherboard report revealed that human contractors were listening to some Skype calls and audio recorded by Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana.

“Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did,” one former contractor told Motherboard. “Most of the Xbox related stuff I can recall doing was obviously unintentional activations with people telling Cortana ‘No’ as they were obviously in the middle of a game and doing normal game chat,” a current contractor said. Each contractor signed an NDA so Motherboard has kept them anonymous to protect their identities.

The Xbox One launched in 2013 with the capability to be controlled via voice commands using Kinect. At the time, many were concerned with the idea of Kinect listening to Xbox users, but Microsoft released a statement addressing privacy concerns saying that “Kinect for Xbox 360 was designed and built with strong privacy protections in place and the new Kinect will continue this commitment.”

“The Xbox stuff was actually a bit of a welcome respite, honestly,” the former contractor added. “It was frequently the same games. Same DLCs. Same types of commands, ‘Xbox give me all the games for free’ or ‘Xbox download [newest Minecraft skins pack]’ or whatever. Occasionally I heard ‘Xbox, tell Solas to heal,’ or something similar, which would be a command for Dragon Age: Inquisition.”

The former contractor said that most of the voices they heard were of children, and that listening continued as the Xbox One moved from using Kinect for voice commands over to Cortana in 2016. A current contractor provided Motherboard with a document, describing how workers should work with different types of Cortana audio, including Xbox voice commands.

“A domain for controlling gaming features, such as finding friends lists, creating a ‘party,’ inviting players to a party. Most Xbox controlling will belong to this domain,” the document reads. A “domain” is a topic that transcribed Cortana audio should be sorted into to improve the system.

Microsoft has now owned up to these issues, and the service did gradually improve. “As time went on, we got less apparently accidental stuff as the feature improved,” the former contractor said. Microsoft removed Cortana from Xbox One back in July, but the virtual assistant can still be used to control the console via the Cortana Android and iOS apps.

A Microsoft spokesperson responded to Motherboard’s report, saying that the company recently stopped listening to audio to improve its products. “We stopped reviewing any voice content taken through Xbox for product improvement purposes a number of months ago, as we no longer felt it was necessary, and we have no plans to re-start those reviews,” the spokesperson said. “We occasionally review a low volume of voice recordings sent from one Xbox user to another when there are reports that a recording violated our terms of service and we need to investigate. This is done to keep the Xbox community safe and is clearly stated in our Xbox terms of service.”

“We’ve recently updated our privacy statement to add greater clarity that people sometimes review this data as part of the product improvement process,” the company added. “We always get customer permission before collecting voice data, we take steps to de-identify voice snippets being reviewed to protect people’s privacy, and we require that handling of this data be held to the highest privacy standards in the law. At the same time, we’re actively working on additional steps we can take to give customers more transparency and more control over how their data is used to improve products.”

Microsoft offers a dedicated page for users to delete any audio captured by the company’s products.

Borderlands 3: 21 Hilarious NPC Death Dialogue Lines

The Borderlands series is famous for its sense of humor, and Borderlands 3 doesn’t miss a comedy-beat, absolutely oozing with jokes. The laugh-out-loud hilarity of the Borderlands series colors every part of the game, from its gun names, to character dialogue, and basically everything in between.

Even the NPCs can’t resist a hilarious quip when they’re knocking on the doors of death. When you take out a bandit or other NPC in the game, their last living words are often a hilarious phrase or lobbed insult. Check out the video above to see (and hear) 21 hilarious death-dialogue lines from Borderlands 3.

Borderlands 3 is our IGN First game of August 2019, and we’ve been bringing you first looks and previews of Gearbox’s upcoming looter shooter. From the first 14 minutes of Borderlands 3 to the process behind creating literally 1 billion Borderlands guns, we’ve got the goods all month on what’s likely to be September’s biggest release.

Continue reading…

The Mandalorian: First Poster Revealed for Star Wars Disney+ Show

Disney has revealed the first poster for the highly anticipated Star Wars spinoff series, The Mandalorian.

Shared on a new Instagram account for Disney+, the poster shows off Pedro Pascal as the lone Mandalorian gunfighter himself, on what one can assume is the planet of Mandalore – a place that was once connected with the Sith, where they partnered with the Mandalorians to create a war against the Jedi Order and the Old Republic.

mandalorianEverything about this ancient planet can be read in our breakdown of what this environment is that both Boba Fett and the Mandalorian have called their home.

Continue reading…

Destiny 2 Mars Community Challenge Details: What To Do And Rewards You’ll Get

Bungie has announced a new upcoming Destiny 2 event, known as a Community Challenge, that will have the entire playerbase working together toward a set of goals. Guardians that decide to take them on will be heading to Mars, where the war against the Hive continues. According to a Bungie blog post, September’s challenges are a good opportunity to prepare for Shadowkeep, where players will return to the Moon to fight the Hive.

On Mars, Guardians will need to join forces to complete a Community Objective, which will be available starting September 3 at 10 AM PDT / 1 PM EDT / 6 PM BST / 3 AM AEST on September 4. Bungie will also release a quality-of-life update on September 3 that will impact the Mars content, but the studio didn’t go into detail about what this will entail. You can find more details on the Community Objectives below.

Destiny 2 September 3 Community Objectives

  • Defeat 175 thousand Wave 7 Escalation Protocol bosses
  • Defeat 300 million Hive on Mars
  • Mars Nightfalls
    • Defeat Nokris 150 thousand times
    • Defeat Xol 100 thousand times
  • Use 300 thousand Override Frequencies

If all the objectives are completed during this event, any player that has completed at least one Nightfall during the period will be given a unique emblem (pictured below). This, Bungie says, will mark you as a Guardian that “rose to the Mars challenge.” Emperor Calus will also unlock additional rewards for successful Menagerie completions. Starting from when the goals are met, players are guaranteed to get two rewards when slotting their runes and opening a chest. Each Friday for the rest of the season, an additional reward will be added.

The emblem reward for September's Destiny 2 Community ChallengeThe emblem reward for September’s Destiny 2 Community Challenge

It’s been an exciting week for Destiny 2 players as Bungie launched cross-save on August 22. This allows players to continue developing their Guardians regardless of what platform they’re playing on. Of course, the details of how to do this and full-extent of which characters you can shift around are a little more complicated, but we’ve got a detailed breakdown on how Destiny 2’s cross-saves work.

Somewhat expectedly, Destiny 2’s cross-save rollout had some teething problems, but you should stick with it because it’s a fantastic addition to the game.

Preorder and Save on Godzilla, Batman and More Blu-ray Special Editions

Physical media remains my preferred type of media. There’s a lot to be said for the convenience of digital, but I like to hold something in my hands and display it on my shelves.

Right now there are some absolutely incredible Blu-ray collections available for preorder, but better still, their prices are reduced to entice you into claiming one for your own. Amazon’s preorder price guarantee is pretty slick: basically, if you preorder now and the price drops between the time you placed your order and the release date, Amazon will honor the lower price. If you wait too long and the price goes back up, you’re out of luck. What I’m saying is, order now. Amazon doesn’t charge you until the item ships.

Continue reading…

Marvel’s Avengers: 53 New Details About Gameplay, DLC, and More

Marvel’s Avengers is shaping up to be one of 2020’s biggest games for PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC, and we finally got hands-on time (and gameplay video) from at Gamescom 2019. The demo of Marvel’s Avengers is exactly what was shown off during Square-Enix’s E3 2019 press conference, but there were many Marvel’s Avengers details revealed at Gamescom 2019 that gave us some insight into what to expect from Marvel’s Avengers’ story, character customization, gear, multiplayer, DLC, and more.

Marvel’s Avengers Setting

  1. The game takes place five years after the cinematic trailer that we saw during E3, where the Avengers were blamed for a tragedy that struck the San Francisco Bay Area. Your task is to reassemble each of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
  2. Continue reading…

Wreckfest Review

After a generation jam-packed with realistic racers that have made it their mission to teach us to drive clean and race fair, Wreckfest arrives like a sharp but needed kick in the shins. Forget driving etiquette; this is the automotive equivalent of a bar brawl, and it’s absolutely outstanding. Assembled by Finnish destruction racing specialists Bugbear, Wreckfest rekindles the door-slamming spirit of their original FlatOut games and brings it back to life inside the best demolition derby game in over a decade.

Don’t be deceived by Wreckfest’s overt focus on wildly exaggerated, metal-rending mayhem. This isn’t a strictly arcade smash-’em-up carved from the Burnout block; it’s a true successor to the likes of Destruction Derby, the original FlatOut, and the criminally underrated Test Drive: Eve of Destruction (known as Driven to Destruction to those of us outside North America).

Continue reading…

Gears Tactics Coming To Xbox, Says Coalition Head

When Rod Fergusson appeared on stage to debut Gears Tactics at E3 2018, he called it “a true Gears of War PC experience in a completely different genre.” That appeared to imply that it would be a PC exclusive, but now Fergusson has said that it’s coming to Xbox too.

In response to a fan on Twitter, Fergusson said that Splash Damage is working on the game. That studio is known for its work on Gears of War 4 and the Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, so it has experience in the Gears universe. In response to a second question, whether the game will ever come to Xbox, he simply says “yes.”

The tweet seems self-explanatory, though it’s notable that the one-word answer doesn’t promise the Xbox version will launch alongside the PC version. It doesn’t even necessarily promise the game for Xbox One, so there’s a chance it could be targeting the next generation Xbox Scarlett. GameSpot has reached out to Microsoft for clarification.

Targeting both platforms makes sense, though, as much of Microsoft’s first-party line-up has been dual platform recently. It also would add value to the Xbox Game Pass, which gives access to both Xbox and PC games (plus a Gold subscription) with its “Ultimate” tier.

Gears Tactics is a prequel that takes place 12 years before the first Gears of War game, and it was one of three Gears games that debuted at E3 2018. The other two were Gears Pop, a mobile game based on the cute collectibles that has just released recently, and Gears 5, the next numbered entry that is due in September.

Fortnite Has Finally Nerfed The B.R.U.T.E. Mech

Fortnite: Battle Royale‘s overpowered mechs have finally been cut down a peg or two. An update recently went live for the multiplayer shooter, introducing sweeping changes that nerf the B.R.U.T.E. mech’s powerful weaponry and expansive movement.

The new mech has been a source of much chagrin in the Fortnite community since its introduction at the beginning of Season 10. An earlier patch reduced the frequency with which the mech would appear in competitive game modes, and Epic followed this up by explaining that they added the controversial vehicle to help players who were struggling to win. After further outcry, however, Epic has now addressed some of the player base’s vocal concerns. The mech hasn’t been vaulted as many had hoped, but this is a positive step in the right direction.

In a blog post last night, Epic detailed the balance adjustments recently applied to the pesky metal killing machines. The B.R.U.T.E.s now fire six rockets in a single charge as opposed to 10, and have seen the blast radius shrink by 42%. Rockets also now fire 56% slower, which Epic says will “allow the players on the receiving end of the missile volley to have more time to react and protect themselves.” The developer added that “B.R.U.T.E.s will continue to be a strong option against structures, but less lethal against players.”

No Caption Provided

In terms of movement, the dash cooldown has been increased by two seconds, while boosting in the air will give you decreased velocity by 33%. “The adjustment here reduces the ability to close gaps quickly while in the B.R.U.T.E. while also increasing the ability to land shots on target for players facing the B.R.U.T.E.,” Epic added. “In general we hope to shift B.R.U.T.E.s away from being highly mobile and put more emphasis on their already defensive nature.”

The B.R.U.T.E. no longer grants materials to the driver and passenger when stomping or dashing through the environment, either. “Our goal is to add more tension between being in and out of a B.R.U.T.E. as well as reduce instances where players can farm faster than intended without exposing themselves to danger.”

Finally, mech spawn rates have been changed in Fortnite’s core modes after the change was previously implemented in its competitive modes. There’s now a possibility that no mechs will spawn at the beginning of each storm phase, and if they do there will be fewer than before.

As a counter to all of these nerfs, the mech has also received some slight buffs. The material cost of using the gunner’s overshield has been decreased from 200 to 75, and the mech’s overall health has seen a slight boost from 1000 up to 1250. This plays into Epic’s reworking of the mechs as a defensive vehicle. “With the above changes, users of the B.R.U.T.E. need to play a bit more strategic than before, so we want to give a little bit longer of a window to do so.”

These changes probably won’t placate everyone, but they should hopefully lead to Fortnite matches feeling a little bit fairer.

Star Wars TV Show The Mandalorian’s Stylish First Poster Released

The first poster for The Mandalorian has been revealed. The first ever live-action Star Wars TV show will premiere on Disney+ on November 12, which is the launch day of the upcoming streaming platform.

It’s a simple but stylish poster, that shows the main character, a lone gunman played by Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) walking away from his ship on a desert planet with the sun setting–or possibly rising–behind him. The character’s Mandalorian armor will be very familiar to fans, as it’s the same type as worn by Boba and Jango Fett in the Star Wars movies. Check it out below.

The first trailer for The Mandalorian is yet to be released online, but likely to appear very soon. The show will focus at this weekend’s Disney’s annual D23 convention. However, fans at Star Wars Celebration back in April were given an early look at the show–check out GameSpot’s report on this first teaser.

The Mandalorian also stars Gina Carano (Deadpool), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Emily Swallow (Supernatural), Carl Weathers (Predator), Omid Abtahi (American Gods), Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), and Nick Nolte (Affliction). The showrunner is Lion King director Jon Favreau, and the line-up of directors for individual episodes includes Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok), Deborah Chow (Jessica Jones), Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), and Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard.

In related news, it was reported last week that Ewan McGregor is in talks to reprise his role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for another potential Disney+ Star Wars show. There’s also a show centered around the Rogue One character of Cassian Andor in the works for the service. For more on Disney+, check out GameSpot’s guide to everything that will be available on day one.