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Game Replay: All current World of Warcraft expansions now free
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May 19, 2016, 09:21 PM
Welcome to the Game Replay, the thrice-weekly look at the wider world of gaming by the staff of MacNN. In today's edition, Blizzard makes all current expansions for World of Warcraft free by rolling them into the base game, racism by Twitch viewers of a Hearthstone tournament prompts re-examination of moderation policies, Apple disagrees with a Palestinian game developer over game classification, and the creators of ransomware that typically aimed at gamers has given up the master encryption key to security researchers.

Blizzard rolls all current World of Warcraft expansions into base game

Blizzard is providing players of its long-running MMORPG all of the current expansions for free, in preparation for both the upcoming movie and expansion. World of Warcraft will now include all five expansions, including the most-recent "Warlords of Draenor" DLC, as part of the base game, with new players only needing to buy the original game to enjoy any of the expanded world.

The most recent expansion is no longer available to buy, neither by retailers nor from Blizzard itself, reports Polygon. The boost to level 90, included as part of the fifth expansion, is also no longer available, but can still be claimed by those who bought the expansion previously. The next expansion, Legion, will include a boost to level 100 when it arrives.

With the change, World of Warcraft now costs $20 for the base game and all expansions, plus a monthly subscription for service. Legion, arriving on August 30, will still be a paid expansion, priced at $50.

The rolling of previous expansions into the base game is a useful move for Blizzard in multiple ways. Current players who have resisted buying later expansions can now catch up with their fellow players before the next release, and it can also help ease new and returning players drawn to the game via the movie. In a number of regions, Blizzard is offering viewers of the movie in certain cinemas free copies of the base game, and 30 days of play time.

Gamer-targeting ransomware producers provide master encryption key

The producers of ransomware that primarily targeted gamers has seemingly had a change of heart, and has provided a way for victims to decrypt their encrypted files. The group behind Teslacrypt has released the master encryption key, an important code that can be used to decrypt any of the file affected by the software, and according to reports, it appears to have been a willing release from the hackers.

Geek.com reports security researchers at ESET have monitored the ransomware for a while, and noted changes in how it was managed, as if the project was being wound down. Networks that previously distributed Teslacrypt had switched to CryptXXX, another form of ransomware, suggesting it was being discontinued.

An expert going by the pseudonym BloodDolly asked the group if there was a way to get hold of the master key, since Teslacrypt was effectively ending. The group unexpectedly provided the master key, as well as issuing an apology for their actions.

With the new key, ESET has created a free decrypting tool, that can be used to unlock files affected by all variants of the ransomware. ESET also warns that ransomware "stays one of the largest threats at this moment, and prevention is essential to keep users safe."

Hearthstone tournament racism from Twitch viewers prompts action by Blizzard

A recent Hearthstone tournament has promoted Blizzard to step in, over abuse aimed at a participant. Terrence "TerrenceM" Miller, a professional player of the game who came in second place at the DreamHack Austin tournament, was the target of racist abuse from viewers of the tournament on Twitch, who filled the chat with numerous slurs and comments about the player, with seemingly little action towards the culprits from the moderation team.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime has responded to the abuse in a statement, received by PC Gamer, expressing that the company is "extremely disappointed by the hateful, offensive language used by some of the online viewers." Citing a company value of "Play Nice; Play Fair," Morhaime believes there's "no place for racism, sexism, harassment, or other discriminatory behavior, in or outside of the gaming community," noting there is "obviously a larger, societal problem that affects us on many levels."

After talking to players, streamers, and moderators from within its ranks, Twitch, DreamHack, and others, Morhaime claims the company is "investigating a pilot program that Twitch has in the works to streamline moderation and combat ban evasion." Tournament partner policies will also be updated with a "stronger system of checks, balances, and repercussions to provide a better chat experience around our content."

"This is ultimately an industry-wide issue, and it will take all of us to make a real impact."

Apple denies game from Palestinian developer from appearing in App Store 'games' category over content

Apple has prevented a game from a Palestinian developer cannot be listed in the App Store as a game. Rasheed Abueideh created Liyla and The Shadows of War, which has players controlling a girl surviving on the Gaza Strip, but Apple has advised it needs to be moved to another category entirely, and all references to it being a "game" taken out of any descriptive text about the app.

Posted on Twitter by the game's official account, spotted by Gamasutra, an image supposedly taken from a message from Apple advises the app is "not appropriate in the Games category. It would be more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference for example." While Apple has declined to define it as a game, it does appear on the Google Play Store as one, flagged as a "Mature 17+" title, and had previously won an award for indie games from one industry conference.

This is not the first time Apple has made App Store decisions based on political sensitivity. Praised indie game Papers, Please is said to have had some problems with the game's graphics when submitting it, but after a brief period of censorship, it still made it through without any changes. It also removed a number of apps for using the Confederate flag last year. Even so, Eurogamer notes that some games with politically-sensitive material still slip through, including an Angry Birds clone called Israeli Heroes, where players fire rockets at structures to destroy them.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; May 19, 2016 at 09:29 PM. )
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