Facebook & Instagram Drop Support For WordPress Embeds via @MattGSouthern

A change which is set to roll out on October 24 will break embedded Facebook and Instagram content on WordPress sites.

To be specific, an upcoming API update will remove support for unauthenticated Facebook and Instagram embeds.

That means, after October 24, embedded content will only be supported for publishers with a Facebook developer account and a registered Facebook app.

The change is retroactive, so all Facebook and Instagram embeds on the sites of unauthenticated publishers will soon become broken. This has the potential to affect millions of sites.

Meeting Facebook’s new requirements for embedded content is not an option for all publishers. Creating a Facebook developer account and registering a Facebook app is far from being a practical solution.

So what are publishers to do if they want to embed content from Facebook and Instagram on their web pages?

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Here’s more about what’s changing, why it’s changing, and what publishers can do to prepare for it.

Changes to Facebook oEmbed Endpoints

In developer terms – the current oEmbed endpoints for embeddable Facebook content will be deprecated on October 24, 2020.

oEmbed is an open format designed to allow embedding content from a website into another page.

Facebook oEmbed endpoints allow you to get embed HTML and basic metadata for pages, posts, and videos in order to display them in another website or app.

There’s currently an oEmbed endpoint built into Facebook’s API, which has allowed publishers to easily embed content from Facebook and Instagram on their web pages.

Facebook’s API will soon be dropping support for that endpoint.

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Further, in response to Facebook’s API change, WordPress is removing Facebook and Instagram as an oEmbed source.

What does this all mean for publishers?

In plain language – the combination of these changes from Facebook, Instagram, and WordPress means a whole lot of content will be broken.

If you have ever embedded content from Facebook and Instagram on your WordPress website, then this change affects you.

Facebook only offers one solution, which is to meet its stringent set of new requirements.

New requirements include:

  • A Facebook Developer account, which you can create at developers.facebook.com
  • A registered Facebook app
  • The oEmbed Product added to the app
  • An Access Token
  • The Facebook app must be in Live Mode

If that sounds at all like a realistic solution for you, then you can get more information on the Facebook developer blog.

Thankfully, there are more realistic solutions available though the use of WordPress plugins.

Fix Facebook & Instagram Embeds With Plugins

While this change hasn’t rolled out yet, plugin developers have been working hard to prepare simple solutions for site owners.

Here are a couple of options available so far.

oEmbed Plus

A new plugin called oEmbed Plus, by developer Ayesh Karunaratne, brings back support for Facebook and Instagram content embedding.

Even with this plugin installed, publishers will have to register a Facebook developer account and “create” an app.

Note that you will not have to actually create a real app, it will only exist on paper.

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Check out the walkthrough here to see what’s involved.

Although there are a few hoops to jump through, this plugin does make the process easier than doing everything on your own.

Smash Balloon Plugins

A development company called Smash Balloon, whose plugins are used on over 1.4 million sites, offers an even easier solution.

The company has updated its existing plugins with fixes for broken Facebook and Instagram embeds.

With the plugins from Smash Balloon you will not have to go through the process of registering a Facebook developer account and creating an app.

That’s because Smash Balloon already has the API key required to create custom feeds for both Facebook and Instagram. There’s no additional authentication needed to restore embedded content.

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Smash Balloon offers dedicated plugins Instagram and Facebook.

After installing the plugins go to the oEmbed navigation menu and then click on the Connect button.

All plugins mentioned in this article are free.

Sources: Facebook for Developers (1, 2), core.trac.wordpress.org, WordPress Tavern

Numerai Hedge Fund Offers $50M in NMR Tokens for Fresh Stock Market ‘Signals’

Hedge fund Numerai is offering $50 million of its numeraire (NMR) token to quants, researchers and even fellow funds that provide original stock market “signals” into its data clearinghouse, Numerai Signals.

UPDATE (10/12/20 19:32 UTC): This article has been updated to reflect who can utilize Numerai and how the payout mechanism works.

Decentralized Governance in the Wild – Lessons From the KuCoin Hack

Blockchain-based networks provide a unique and unprecedented opportunity to experiment with new forms of organization – both organization of information and software processes as well as governing human action. But nobody ever said creating new forms of organization would be easy, or glitch-free.

When a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs or developers design a new blockchain-based network – figuring out the consensus mechanisms, the economic logic and the governance – it’s difficult to predict how their encoded schemes will function once released into the wild. A blockchain isn’t just a collection of software processes interacting according to preprogrammed logic. It’s a system embedded in the world of humans, businesses and governments, which is fiendishly diverse and constantly evolving.

Ben Goertzel is founder and CEO of SingularityNET, a blockchain-based AI marketplace project.

Once a network is launched, the consequences of the inevitable mismatches between the real world and the network’s logic become apparent. And, assuming the network has some capability for self-modification and growth built into it, one also has the chance to improve and adapt.

For me and the other leaders of the SingularityNET blockchain-based AI network, the KuCoin hack that occurred on Sept. 25 provided an opportunity to re-evaluate the assumptions underlying some of our governance mechanisms, and think about how they might be augmented for superior functioning in future situations. Specifically, the attack led us to think hard about how liquid democracy mechanisms might be used to enable emergency response that is decentralized and democratic and also rapid.

Confronting KuCoin

In the recent security breach (“hack”) of KuCoin, a centralized token exchange, approximately $150 million worth of various ERC-20 tokens were transferred out of the exchange fraudulently. Among the stolen coins were 43 million AGI tokens, corresponding to the SingularityNET project I co-founded in 2017 and currently lead, equivalent in value to around $2 million, or close to 5% of the total current market cap.

This event was entirely isolated to the KuCoin exchange and did not affect the security of our platform or any of our decentralized apps (dapps). But still, it seriously affected a reasonably significant subset of our community. 

A number of other blockchain-based networks similarly affected by this security breach chose to use centralized control mechanisms built into their smart contracts to rapidly pause trading of their tokens, and then hard-fork their token smart contracts, thus eliminating or reducing the hacker’s ability to profit from their theft. 

A centralized ‘off switch’ or a centrally coordinated hard fork seemed against the decentralized ethos

We very seriously discussed this option but weren’t so certain it was the right path. Making a centralized decision to hard fork seemed against the decentralized ethos of the project, and setting the precedent of hard-forking in response to hacks on exchanges or other third-party repositories seemed undesirable.

Also, we quickly realized that if we were going to hard fork, we would need to come to this decision in a democratic way rather than purely as a centralized foundation decision. 

With this in mind, we began planning an AGI Hard Fork Voting event, to solicit community input regarding whether a hard-fork was an appropriate response to the KuCoin hack.

While these preparations were underway, however, we discussed the situation further with KuCoin, which assured us that their insurance policy would recompense stolen tokens. At the same time, we observed the hacker liquidating a significant fraction of the stolen tokens – thus eliminating much of the value of a hard fork.

Ultimately we decided not to hard-fork the AGI token smart contract or take any other drastic action. Reaction in our community was mixed. Folks whose KuCoin accounts were frozen were impatient to get their AGI tokens out. Based on conversation happening within our Telegram community, many token-holders were pleased with the strict adherence to decentralized principles. A centralized “off switch” or a centrally coordinated hard fork seemed against the decentralized ethos within which most current blockchain-based networks were founded.

See also: Compound Extends DeFi Ethos to Itself, Launches Governance Token

Streamlining decentralized democratic governance

The KuCoin hack highlights the interesting and problematic nature of the intersection between democratic governance and rapid emergency response.

It clearly would have been possible to respond more quickly – and execute a hard-fork before significant liquidation of the stolen tokens occurred – had we made a strong and rapid centralized decision, as some other blockchain-based projects did. 

But there might well arise future situations where rapid action of similar magnitude is required, and it would be desirable to have a way to respond effectively without sacrificing democracy or inclusiveness.

One theoretical approach to achieving this end would be to introduce a rapid response voting mechanism so that one is always poised to launch a vote immediately. This is perfectly feasible technically, but problematic socially. In actual, human fact, the members of the voting community will not always be available on short notice.

Another option would be to formulate, and have the community approve by vote, a set of guidelines specifying the circumstances under which the SingularityNET Foundation leadership should take drastic emergency action in the absence of a vote.

Obviously, leaders of democratic national governments have the ability to achieve such powers via declaring “state of emergency.”  However, these mechanisms are complicated to get right and, as history shows, are highly subject to abuse.

After more consideration we arrived at the somewhat obvious conclusion that the best solution to effective, democratic and decentralized emergency response is most likely liquid democracy.

See also: Jake Yocom-Piatt – It’s Time to Walk-the-Talk on Decentralized Governance

Liquid democracy

Liquid democracy is when voters delegate their votes to various other parties in a flexible way, rather than voting directly or appointing representatives for everyone. 

Just as smart contracts allow value transactions and persistent economic and other formal relationships to be scripted in flexible and automated ways, similarly liquid democracy allows delegation of voting power to be scripted according to arbitrary logic.

In the domain of emergency response, liquid democracy could work as follows: Each participant in the network could nominate a handful of network participants as “emergency delegates,”  and specify that, if a network emergency occurs and a rapid vote is needed, any one of these emergency delegates should be considered able to submit their vote for them. When a network participant votes on an emergency matter, then, their vote counts not only for themselves but for anyone else who has nominated them as an emergency delegate.

Numerous software implementations of liquid democracy have been created, for instance the Catalyst system within the Cardano blockchain framework is used for liquid democracy-based allocation of development funds.

Adapting liquid-democracy to serve emergency response would require a nontrivial amount of work. But it is something we are giving serious consideration in the SingularityNET community, especially since we are currently planning to shift SingularityNET from an Ethereum-based to a multi-chain infrastructure, and in this context port a large fraction of SingularityNET’s current ERC-20 tokens to corresponding Cardano-based tokens.

The slowness of traditional, non-liquid democracy is inadequate for emergency response. On the other hand, centralized response mechanisms like many other blockchain networks utilized to cope with the KuCoin hack are going to be decreasingly viable as these networks gain traction and become more and more truly decentralize.   

This is why agile software development methodology exists, and it’s why the design of blockchain-based networks needs to be agile as well and get progressively adapted based on the experience of releasing these networks into the wild.

See also: Stephanie Hurder – The Fourth Era of Blockchain Governance

Disclosure

How HBCUs Are Prepping Black Students for Blockchain Careers

Dozens of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are exploring the next phase of decentralized technologies in a bid to put Black students at the forefront of new blockchain protocols. 

“These schools see it as a way to participate in Web 3.0,” said Tonya Evans, chairperson of the MakerDAO Foundation and visiting professor at Penn State’s Dickinson Law School. “We were not participating in the dot-com era. Most of the Black community didn’t know about it at the time.”

This story is part of the CoinDesk U series about blockchain at universities. See our ranking of U.S. universities here.

With many programs being only a couple years old, few schools have dedicated blockchain courses, even as students from blockchain groups have started to teach themselves. But efforts are mounting, according to educators contacted by CoinDesk, with many universities looking to deepen their relationships with the crypto industry.

“On the East Coast, certain majority-white colleges do this with their spare time anyway,” said Ryan Cooper, a graduate of Bowie State University who started the blockchain group at Bowie. “At HBCUs, you have to incentivize this.”

For instance, blockchain will likely remain just a part of courses at Howard University and not become a full-blown major “until there is a killer research rationale for doing so,” said Todd Shurn, a professor of computer science at Howard University. 

Read more: Looking for a Job in Crypto? Here Are 5 Skills You Need

Morgan State’s FinTech Center started a blockchain group in 2019 and had a multimillion-dollar investment from Ripple in February of that year. The school teaches a blockchain fundamentals course but is still a few years away from a certification program, said Judith Schnidman, the FinTech Center’s program coordinator. Morgan State has taught the course three times, and students at the end of the course have to create a decentralized application on Ethereum.

“We’d like every university to have a blockchain major,” Schnidman said. “We want students to graduate with enough skills to break into this field.” The university is also in the process of creating a post-secondary certification, which can be done as a minor or a focus in the school’s MBA program.

Inter-campus efforts

Several universities are talking about collaborating to create a major, Schnidman added.

“The whole world is different because of online,” she said. “Even before the whole COVID thing, we were talking about doing a multi-university, multi-disciplinary blockchain major.”

Last year at the HBCU Blockchain Curriculum Development Institute, Morgan State brought 45 faculty from roughly 30 universities who had to submit course proposals to teach new courses or modify a course to include blockchain education. The winners were invited to New Orleans for a three-day working conference to turn their proposals into courses, one of whom was a genetics professor who wanted to incorporate blockchain into his genome projects, Schnidman said. 

While Morgan State already offers a class, the university would have to make many decisions about which blockchains to include before creating a blockchain major, said Ali Emdad, associate dean of the Graves Business School at Morgan State. At the moment, the market is fragmented. 

Corporate engagement

Morgan State’s most recent endeavor is a partnership with Binance US, enrolling 42 students in a crypto trading program where the exchange gave each student $200 in crypto to trade. The students started the challenge on Sept. 14 and it will end on Nov. 8, and the student who makes the most from trading will give a presentation at the end of the challenge about his or her strategies.  

“You can be anywhere you want and work at any hour you want,” Emdad said. “The goal is to inform and educate our students on an area of fintech that is changing very fast.”

Emdad said he sees the project serving as a focus group for Binance US and an opportunity for students to learn crypto trading and maybe join a crypto exchange or crypto startup in the future. Since the trading resembles what goes on in traditional markets, Emdad also said the challenge may be wrapped into future finance courses at Morgan State.

Blockchain, cyber or robotics? 

One of the current barriers to creating blockchain programs at HBCUs is a lack of funding. 

“There are so many technologies that have the potential for impact and they’re competing for space in these student’s heads,” said Shurn, the professor at Howard. “It’s tough particularly in COVID times because budgets are even tighter than they were. … Do you add a blockchain course or a cybersecurity course?”

At Howard, blockchain plays a large role in the intro to engineering class and is a part of the senior project for computer science majors at the school, Shurn said. The program is split between computer science and business at Howard, with the computer science department focusing more on coding and consensus algorithms while the business department focuses more on blockchain workflows and crypto trading.

Read more: The Best Blockchain University Programs Actually Pay Students to Learn

“We’re more interested in blockchain and blockchain applications then we are in crypto,” Shurn said. “That isn’t as relevant to us as writing code behind a smart contract.”

Howard was in the middle of applying for grants from fintech companies and fintech accelerators before the pandemic hit, Shurn said, and the university was going to put on a blockchain event that would have involved stakeholders who could have helped fund the blockchain program at the school.

“Momentum for blockchain at Howard won’t really occur until there is some investment by a third party in a collaborative project,” Shurn said. “It could be IBM, it could be a startup, but it would have to be some major collaboration between some funded source and the university.”

Disclosure

Cougar Argo Gaming Chair Review

Gaming chairs are evolving. For years, racing-style bucket seats have dominated the gaming space, but the pendulum has swung the opposite direction, making ergonomics a big part of what’s next for gaming chairs. Swapping bolsters for a mesh back doesn’t mean your chair needs to be boring. That’s where the Cougar Argo comes in. With its unique style and suite of comfort customizations, should this $499 gaming chair make its way onto your wishlist?

Cougar Argo Review

Cougar Argo – Design and Features

The Cougar Argo is a strange hybrid, split down the middle between its gaming styling and ergonomic features. It stands apart from most gaming chairs because of that ergonomic design more in line with an office chair, but is clearly built with gamers in mind. The bright orange frame and bold logos make that much clear right away. This isn’t the kind of chair you would take into an office and expect to blend in (though the black version will come closer).At the same time, when someone refers to a gaming chair, the Argo isn’t what comes to mind. Gone is the thick memory foam and full PU leather upholstery. Gone are the bolsters and racing stripes. It trades those features for a mesh seat and back, a flexible (and big) lumbar support, and extra adjustments to help you game in comfort, even through an entire workday.

Cougar is striking a middle ground with the Argo and has absolutely nailed it. While other companies are embracing the “sleek and elegant” approach (see: Cooler Master Ergo L, Vertagear Triigger 350), Cougar is out to remind us that ergo doesn’t have to mean boring. From the small details, like the subtle orange accent stitching, to the striking and unique wheel-base, this chair just looks cool.

If you sit at a PC for long hours like I do, you probably already know that even expensive racing chairs can leave your body fatigued at the end of the day. Many of them chalk up lumbar support to a small pillow thrown in the box and call it a day. Depending on your brand, the foam can be entirely hit or miss and almost always holds too much heat. Gaming in short bursts, these aren’t major issues, but after an entire workday, my body feels tired and strained.

The Argo goes in the opposite direction, swapping memory foam for mesh. After sitting in my Secret Lab Titan XL, the change felt strange at first and I felt the missing padding. This faded after a couple of days, and I really grew to appreciate how supportive the mesh is and how well contoured the chair is overall. The material is slightly elastic and flexed under my weight, but was taut enough to adapt to my body and support me without feeling too firm. The seat also has a waterfall edge to support circulation throughout your legs. I’ve never had an issue with my legs falling asleep at my desk, but I’m happy to see any design that can prevent blood clots later in life.

The back comes in three parts: the mesh back, the dynamic lumbar support, and the headrest. The lumbar support is the most forward I’ve ever used, but moves on a spring to adapt to your sitting style. I liked that it flexed but the spring was too tight for my taste. Working at my desk, it really encouraged me to sit upright. Unless I completely sat back or reclined, my back rarely touched the mesh. The headrest made a great second point of contact. It moves on two hinges for height and angle, and between the two, I was able to find a comfortable position that was relaxed, but awkward at first.

This design is a good thing for back health, but it means the chair doesn’t support lazy sitting as easily as a gaming chair. There are times when I just want to slide down and prop my feet up, but the lumbar support often got in the way forcing me to change positions several times before I got comfortable. The Argo wants you to practice good posture and accomplishes that by making it the easiest way to sit while typing on a keyboard. It takes some getting used to, but I was surprised at how well it worked to fend off fatigue, even after eight hours at my desk.

The Cougar Argo wants you to practice good posture and it encourages you to sit upright


When it comes to adjustments, the Argo has most things you would expect from an ergo chair and some things you wouldn’t. You can adjust the height, lock the recline in three angles, adjust the rocking tension, and even adjust the seat depth so your back touches the lumbar at the most comfortable angle. It was a neat surprise to find that, all of these, except rocking tension, are handled with triggers on the side of the seat. Making quick adjustments is faster and easier than most gaming chairs since you can actually see the label on each trigger. I was also impressed with the armrests, which are just soft enough to be comfortable while remaining firm, and offer full 4D adjustment for height, angle, and depth.

Unlike the Vertagear Triigger 350 or NeueChair, however, you can’t adjust the height of the lumbar, which could be a make or break feature for some users. At 5”8’ its position worked well for me, but taller gamers might find that it sits too low.

There’s also another drawback: the Argo sits low. The total height, not including headrest, maxes out at 43.1 inches. On paper, this is less than an inch shorter than the Vertagear Triigger 350 SE, but it left me feeling too low for the position of my monitor. My desk is a little tall, so this is likely to vary between setups, but the Triigger handled it fine while the Argo left me looking for a taller gas life.

Low height and lumbar adjustments aside, the Argo is still a very solid package that is well-built and superbly stylish.

Cougar Argo – Unboxing and Assembly

Like most gaming chairs, the Argo arrived in a very large and heavy box. Mine was a bit beat up from shipping, but Cougar’s packaging was excellent with each piece individually wrapped so they came out pristine. At this price, I’m sensitive to marks in the finish and there wasn’t a single one I could find.

Getting it put together is straightforward. There are a couple of extra steps compared to some of the more expensive ergonomic chairs on the market, but it’s still much easier than your average racing chair. I consulted the manual once to double-check which screws to use, but it would be difficult to assemble incorrectly. Everything has an easily identifiable slot and because of the trigger adjustment system, the base comes pre-attached. Using an electric screwdriver, I was done within ten minutes making it the fastest and easiest chair I’ve ever built.

Cougar Argo – Performance

Even more than a normal gaming chair, the Argo has a lot to live up to. It’s packed with ergonomic features and costs significantly more because of it, so the expectations for a comfortable experience are high. It didn’t disappoint.

I used the chair for the better part of a week. A short day at the computer is 3-4 hours, but most were upwards of six. It took some time to dial in the perfect “angle of attack” for my back with the seat depth, but once I did I was able to find a comfortable position I could stick with for hours at a time. Being forced to sit upright when I wanted to slouch was occasionally annoying, but it also helped me unlearn years of bad habits while also making me feel more poised and responsive behind the keyboard. This was especially true for shooters where lazy sitting often translates to worse play for me.

I was slightly less satisfied when it came to gaming with an Xbox controller. The lumbar support sometimes felt like it was in the way when I would try to sit back and relax. I found myself playing with the seat depth, loosening the tension knob, or straight up reclining in one of its three locked positions. All of these are fairly minor, as I was always able to get comfortable, but it felt more limiting than a racing chair.

That said, I was a big fan of the head and armrests for controller play, which are both soft and comfy. The headrest was easy to adjust, and because it uses hinges, adjusting the height also changes depth for extra support when reclining. The armrests were also great with a surprising amount of give that warded off elbow pain.

The sum total of all of those ergonomic features is how much better it left me feeling at the end of each day. Even after a marathon eight hour stretch of work and play, I was able to lay down in bed without the usual aches and fatigue that gaming chairs leave me with. Even though I wished the lumbar support had a little more give, there’s no mistaking that it works. In the tail end of my review time, I spent a couple days suffering from a pinched nerve in my back. The Argo’s lumbar support let me sit at my desk when I was otherwise locked to the couch. Even my thousand dollar Vertagear Triigger couldn’t do that.

Best Gaming Chairs

Cougar Argo – Purchasing Guide

The Cougar Argo is available for $499 at Amazon and Newegg.Source

Level-5 Reportedly Ends North American Operations

Publisher and developer Level-5 appear to be ending operations in North America. There are currently no concrete plans to release any more games outside of Japan.As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, Level-5 International America and smaller spin-off studio Level-5 Abby began laying off the majority of its of employees sometime in the middle of 2019, although the exact number of employees is unknown.

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds Screenshots

There is no indication as to why Level-5 is shutting down outside Japan, but employees from the Abby location were “given every indication” that the studio would be ceasing operations. Only a couple employees remained to maintain day-to-day operations while Level-5 focused its attention on the Japan office.

Level-5 is known primarily for the Ni no Kuni series of games as well as the popular Yo-Kai Watch titles, both of which feature games as well as anime adaptations.

Earlier this year Level-5 confirmed the third mainline installment of the Ni no Kuni series is currently in development with a tentative 2020 release date in Japan, although no updates have been given as to the status of development.

Additionally, a mobile spin-off of the Ni no Kuni series, titled Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds, was revealed recently during Tokyo Games Show. Gameplay shown during the presentation was later uploaded to YouTube along with English subtitles. No official announcement was made indicating it would be coming stateside, however.

Netflix recently added a Ni no Kuni feature-length film to its catalog (stylized as NiNoKuni) featuring a new cast of characters and an original story.

Yo-Kai Watch 4 was announced for Nintendo Switch in 2018 with a launch in Japan in late 2019. There are currently no plans to release the sequel outside of Japan at this time, although it’s unlikely we’ll see any of the recent on in-development titles localized now.

Matthew Adler is a Features, News, Previews, and Review writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @MatthewAdler and watch him stream on Twitch.Source

Baldur’s Gate 3’s Inevitable Save Wipe Frees You to Be an Agent of Chaos

Your Baldur’s Gate 3 save is already doomed. Due to the significant amount of additions, iterations, and changes coming as part of its early access period, progress files for Larian’s latest RPG will be incompatible with the final release version. That means your character is fated to the digital ether, and for many players that may make Baldur’s Gate 3’s current incarnation a pointless endeavor. Why start a huge journey you can never finish?If that’s how you feel, I ask you to consider it from a different perspective: with no conclusion, there are no consequences. And with no consequences, you can explore beyond your personal comfort zone and discover new things without ‘ruining’ your ideal playthrough. That’s how I’ve tackled my first outing with Baldur’s Gate 3, and the results have been outstanding. Typically, I’m a Lawful Good (albeit sassy) adventurer, but for this outing everything changed. With zero context (as to preserve the game’s story), here are a few things that I’ve done thanks to my decision to throw all caution to the wind: I underwent an ametuer lobotomy. I forced a monster to kill its friends and then eat itself. I catapulted an innocent gnome over the horizon using a windmill. I helped an army of goblins besiege and attack some people who definitely didn’t deserve it. And, in undeniably my worst crime, I killed a dog.

Had I played this character how I usually play my RPGs, I would never have seen any of this, or the consequences of these actions. Chances are the same applies to you: in a promotional livestream back in August, Baldur’s Gate 3’s Senior Writer, Adam Smith, noted that statistics show that most players opt for good, heroic choices. This perspective is also supported by a study revealed back at GDC 2015, where Microsoft’s Amanda Lange said that her research showed that 60% of players opt for good routes, with just 5% exclusively making evil choices.

But Smith encouraged players to take an evil path through the game. “Some of my favorite situations and characters in this game you may not even speak to if you don’t try those evil routes,” he said. This sparked my curiosity, as I typically find the evil side of RPGs to be rather underbaked. Even during BioWare’s peak years, “evil” routes often boil down to playing identical missions but electing to shoot someone in the face rather than setting them free. So what exactly does an evil playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3’s first act look like? It’s an experiment that not only revealed the depths of the game’s branching narratives, but also some of the most interesting quirks of its simulation-driven world – some that will undoubtedly come in handy during my ‘proper’ playthrough of its fully-released version.

Being evil is less of a choice made at a pivotal moment, and more of a lifestyle.


In Baldur’s Gate 3, being evil is less of a choice made at a pivotal moment, and more of a lifestyle. This means that your choices tend not to dictate the outcome of a quest, but the structure of the quest itself. For example, the aforementioned army of goblins will certainly not be your allies should you opt to be a more heroic personality, and thus the entire goal of that questline is completely changed. Not just that questline, but adjacent ones, too (you’ll need to put in the work through entirely different quests and locations to be in the position to become a part of the goblins’ plans). That makes for a significant shift in the narrative; characters you may never have met on a good path become vital allies, while traditionally important NPCs become corpses on the end of your blade. It’s an advancement on the school of thinking that powers something like Fallout: New Vegas’ multi-faction branching gameplay, and a demonstration of a narrative so malleable that it adjusts to your intentions rather than tallying up several binary choices.

While this early access build is limited to just the prologue and the game’s first area – and thus frees you of the long-term consequences of playing an agent of chaos – there is plenty here to demonstrate Baldur’s Gate 3’s more immediate repercussions. Much like in Telltale’s games, your companions react with approval or distaste to your own choices. For one character, my evil actions were just too much, and they straight up noped themselves out of my party. This put me a fighter down, and – thanks to the experimental brain surgery I previously mentioned – my character also had a permanent combat disadvantage, which further reduced my party’s battle effectiveness. Both are mistakes I won’t be making in my playthrough at release, not just because I now know the consequences, but because without the freedom to be careless granted by this lack of permanence, I wouldn’t have been daring enough to push the game that far anyway. I’m very glad to have seen these actions play out here, though, as they provide some of Act 1’s most memorable moments.

Baldur’s Gate 3 – Character Creation Screenshots

These are examples of Baldur’s Gate 3’s grander, scripted elements of chaos, but my quest to push all of the buttons revealed that there’s maniacal fun in messing with the simulation that powers the world, as well. Faerûn operates almost like an isometric Dishonored, rather than the static worlds of a BioWare RPG. For instance, rather than approaching a pair of adventurers for a conversation, I used a warlock spell to blast a rock suspended above them, the falling of which not only forced the pair to depart this mortal coil, but also caused the ground beneath them to collapse and provide an entrance to a dungeon that I’d previously been unable to unlock. Clearly there’s benefit in being the very opposite of polite to folk you meet on the road.

Down in that dungeon, I decided I’d may as well ignore traditional advice of showing respect for the dead and use the freshly-created corpses as meaty javelins. Yes, you can throw quite literally anything in the world – provided your strength stat is up to it – and that includes bodies. It also includes your own party members, and considering this doomed playthrough meant I cared little for my companions’ opinion of me, I experimented with them as fleshy projectiles (result: minimal damage, but a very handy tactic for flanking enemies, and it won’t affect your relationships).

All of this, of course, is possible in the classic “second playthrough”; the mythical pure evil run that I’m never quite sure how people find the time to complete. So why do it now, in an incomplete version, rather than later? Well, firstly, if you’re anything like me, you’ll only have to harbour guilt for 20 hours rather than 100. But, more importantly, tooling around in this version of the game with no concern for the end results has taught me much more about its systems, narrative construction, and possibilities than playing it ‘by the book’ ever could have. In my second playthrough of Dishonored I realised there was so much to its reactive world that I completely ignored the first time because I strictly followed the rules of hiding in the shadows and avoiding guards. I want my first, true playthrough of Baldur’s Gate 3 to make the most of everything it has to offer. And by blowing up the D&D chemistry set now, I’ll know how to make best use of it when it releases in full. Maybe you’ll benefit from that knowledge, too.

Plus, for all my guilt as I play against my better nature, I can’t deny that there’s joy in hurling a gnome over the horizon using a windmill. Sometimes it does pay off to let loose once in a while.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer. His tabletop D&D character is an Aarakocra occult detective who would never murder a dog.Source

US Navy holds remembrance of 2000 USS Cole terror attack

A ceremony has been held to honor the 17 sailors who died during the terrorist attack on the USS Cole 20 years ago

NORFOLK, Va. — A ceremony has been held to honor the 17 sailors who died in the terrorist bombing attack on the USS Cole 20 years ago.

The Virginian-Pilot reports the ship’s bell tolled Monday morning for each sailor who died.

A sailor from the destroyer solemnly read aloud each victim’s name and hometown. The crew was lined up in dress blues on every deck and snapped a salute. A rifle squad fired a three-volley salute.

The remembrance was held at Naval Station Norfolk near Virginia’s coast. Old shipmates and families who lost loved ones gathered together. And they saw how the legacy of the Oct. 12, 2000, tragedy remains alive.

The ship’s current captain, Cmdr. Edward Pledger, told the families and old crew members that the 17 golden stars on the bulkhead by the ship’s mess line are kept polished and shining. He said they continue to inspire his own shipmates today.

The Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in an explosives-laden boat while refueling at the Yemeni port of Aden.

Retired Adm. Rob Natter recalled how isolated the Cole’s sailors were right after the attack and how they were unsure if another attack was coming.

But he said the Cole’s sailors answered the call of duty that day. And “after two backbreaking, sweltering weeks, they got Cole underway, sending a clear unmistakable message … she left with her battle ensign flying high and our national anthem blaring … everyone in and around Aden Harbor knew that Cole was coming back.”

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Rights groups oppose China, Russia, Saudis on UN rights body

Human rights groups are urging the U.N.’s 193 member nations to oppose seats on the world organization’s premiere rights body for China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and others because of their dismal rights records

Except for the Asia-Pacific contest, the election of 15 members to the 47-member Human Rights Council has been all but decided because all the other regional groups have uncontested slates, which virtually assures that the candidates victory.

Under the council’s rules, seats are allocated to regions to ensure geographical representation.

Four countries are seeking four Africa seats: Ivory Coast, Malawi, Gabon and Senegal. Russia and Ukraine are the only candidates for two East European seats. In the Latin American and Caribbean group, Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia are running unopposed for three seats. And Britain and France are the sole candidates for two seats for the Western European and others group.

“We need for states to have a choice,” said Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch. “They don’t want competition. … Essentially these are backroom deals that are worked out among the regional groups.”

“When states don’t have a choice, the worst candidates easily find their way on to the council,” he said at a briefing last week. “This is an unfortunate political reality, but we keep hammering the message that we need competition and a real election, not a fake election.”

Last week, a coalition of human rights groups from Europe, the United States and Canada called on U.N. member states to oppose the election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, saying their human rights records make them “unqualified.”

“Electing these dictatorships as U.N. judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

The Geneva-based rights organization published a 30-page joint report with the Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights evaluating candidates for council seats. The report lists Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Malawi, Mexico, Senegal and Ukraine as having “questionable” credentials due to problematic human rights and U.N. voting records that need improvement. It gave “qualified” ratings only to the United Kingdom and France.

Human Rights Watch pointed to an unprecedented call by 50 U.N. experts on June 26 for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China,” warning about its mass rights violations in Hong Kong and Tibet and against ethnic Uighurs in the Chinese province of Xinjiang as well as attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and government critics. Their call was echoed by over 400 civil society groups from more than 60 countries.

Despite announced reform plans by Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said that nation continues to target human rights defenders, dissidents and women’s rights activists and has demonstrated little accountability for past abuses, including the killing of Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two years ago.

The rights group said Russia’s military operations with the Syrian government “have deliberately or indiscriminately killed civilians and destroyed hospitals and other protected civilian infrastructure in violation of international humanitarian law,” and noted Russia’s veto of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria, including blocking Damascus’ referral to the International Criminal Court.

The Geneva-based Human Rights Council can spotlight abuses and has special monitors watching certain countries and issues. It also periodically reviews human rights in every U.N. member country.

Created in 2006 to replace a commission discredited because of some members’ poor rights records, the new council soon came to face similar criticism.

The United States announced its withdrawal from the council in June 2018 partly because it considered the body a forum for hypocrisy about human rights, though also because Washington says the council is anti-Israel.

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Missing U. of South Carolina student found dead near quarry

Officials say a University of South Carolina student who went missing over the weekend has been found dead near a quarry after a two-day search

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A University of South Carolina student who went missing while walking home with friends over the weekend was found dead near a quarry after a two-day search by air and foot, according to authorities.

Rescue crews in Columbia found a body matching the description of Samuel Laundon, 19, around 5 p.m. Sunday, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

Coroner Gary Watts confirmed Monday the body found near the Vulcan Material Company Quarry was Laundon, a sophomore from Cary, North Carolina. The student died from blunt force trauma to the head and body, Watts determined.

Laundon was last seen at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday walking with friends in a neighborhood just over a mile (2 kilometers) from the university campus, Columbia police said. The group got lost and Laundon jumped a fence “to reach his destination faster,” the sheriff’s department said.

His friends called a ride to pick them up, but Laundon declined to join, officials said.

Laundon’s body was discovered in an area that officials said was difficult to reach by foot and included a view obstructed by shrubbery.

University President Bob Caslen confirmed the student’s death in a statement Monday, extending “deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers” to Laundon’s family and friends. He added that counseling services would be available to the campus community.

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