Classic ethereal weapons return to ‘Diablo III’ for upcoming 24th Season

Diablo Immortal Blizzard
Diablo Immortal on Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard Entertainment has released details of Diablo III‘s upcoming Season 24 loot drops in their latest preview blog.

The post on Blizzard’s website reads: “Season 24 introduces Ethereals, a new weapon-type that players will be able to acquire and hunt for in their upcoming seasonal journey.”

“Ethereals will roll a powerful set of affixes,” it continues, “a random Class Weapon Legendary Power and a random Class Passive Power. Ethereals will have unique icons, names, item types, and sounds originally found in Diablo II.”

A developer note on the post adds: “Diablo II left us with fond memories when it released more than 20 years ago, and with Diablo II: Resurrected coming soon, we’d like to introduce a feature to honor that legacy.”

“For this seasonal theme, our inspiration took shape by reimagining how Ethereal items could manifest in Diablo III. In Season 24, Ethereals are rare, powerful, and fleeting items, with 21 iconic weapons from Diablo II making a return.”

Players collect all 21 Ethereal weapons during the season will be rewarded with the feat of strength, Ethereal Recollection.

Public testing on Diablo III: Season 24 will kick off on June 17 lasting for two weeks. Diablo II: Resurrected is expected to be released on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S in 2021.

Meanwhile during the recent Summer Game Fest stream, Blizzard revealed new Overwatch 2 skins for Baptiste and Sombra.  Director Aaron Keller said that the 5v5 PvP “should feel new yet familiar to fans.”

In other news, an upcoming update to the original Overwatch will finally allow cross platform play across consoles and PC but won’t be available for competitive modes.

Sony Music Entertainment to waive debts for thousands of artists

Sony Music Rob Stringer
Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer CREDIT: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sony Music will pay royalties from streaming and other revenue streams to thousands of artists who signed deals with the label before 2000 and have yet to recoup their advances.

The major label reportedly sent out a letter to artists today (June 11) announcing the new policy change, which is part of a new initiative called “Artists Forward”.

While the acts’ existing contracts will not be modified, Sony will instead “pay through on existing unrecouped balances to increase the ability of those who qualify to receive more money from uses of their music”.

Some artists never make enough money to repay their advances, sometimes due to the royalty rates set out for them in their contracts. It’s an issue that has particularly affected heritage Black artists and, last summer, US artist manager and attorney Ron Sweeney called on major labels to “zero out their unrecouped royalty balances and let their royalties flow to them so they can support themselves”.

Sony’s new policy will pay royalty earnings retroactively from January 1, 2021 to “eligible artists and participants globally who signed to SME prior to the year 2000 and have not received an advance from the year 2000 forward”.

The balances will still remain on the record company’s accounts to help keep track of an artist’s reversion rights, according to Music Business Worldwide. Reversion rights allow acts to obtain some or all of the rights to their work once their advance has been recouped.

The Legacy Unrecouped Balance Program will not just apply to artists, but to producers, joint venture partners and distributed labels that have had direct deals with Sony. Anyone eligible will be notified in the coming weeks.

In the letter sent out today, Sony are said to have written: “We’re driven by our mission to provide artists with the best levels of service. The program we are announcing today is part of that continuing work and further builds on our initiatives and investments in modernised contracts, flexible deal options, advanced data and analytics insights for creators and more.”

In a statement, Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the Music Managers Forum (MMF), said: “This is a very important, timely and welcome initiative from Sony Music. The MMF have been calling for a more progressive approach to tackling outdated contractual terms for some time, including a write-off of historic un-recouped balances.

“It is imperative that artists signed in an analogue era can also benefit from the boom in online streaming.  We hope forward-thinking moves by companies like Sony, BMG and Beggars will help accelerate the pace of reform across the entire industry. The momentum for change really feels like it’s picking up pace.”

The Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) also issued a statement on the new policy on their social media pages, saying they “look forward to the rest of the recorded music industry following suit”.

It continued: “We have long campaigned for unrecouped balances on advances to be written off after a fixed time period. It is therefore welcome that Sony has taken steps to do this today. We welcome this move towards a more artist-friendly model, and expect that Sony will apply this adjustment on a rolling basis.

“Tackling the problem of outdated and heinous contractual terms, such as decades old balances and regressive royalty rates, is at the forefront of the FAC’s agenda. These old-era contractual terms are completely unfit for the modern age, and we passionately believe that challenging these contracts holds the key to a fairer future for artists.”

Both the MMF and FAC recommended wiping unrecouped balances to the recent Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing on streaming.

Beggars Group, which owns the likes of XL, 4AD, Rough Trade and more, already operates on the basis that unrecouped credit will be written off 15 years after an “active relationship” with an artist ends.

Migos – ‘Culture III’ review: rap’s premier trio end trilogy on a high note

They must’ve forgot we the Migos,” Takeoff pointedly notes during his very first verse on the long-awaited new Migos album, ‘Culture III’. The rapper is within his rights to respond to the indefatigable accusations that Migos have “fallen off” in recent times – but then again, it has been nearly three-and-a-half years since their last studio album, ‘Culture II’.

The Atlanta trio’s reduced activity since ‘Culture II’ is surprising given that, in their early days, they were more than capable of dropping at least two quality projects a year. Their mainstream-saturating streak of 2016-18 – as Migos joined rap’s top table through a slew of hit singles, big-name collaborations and major festival bookings – saw Takeoff, Offset and Quavo brush off controversy, criticism and critique to assume superstar status.

Rather than swiftly completing the ‘Culture’ album trilogy, however, the three Migos went their separate ways following ‘Culture II’, with each member dropping a debut solo album.  The yearning to reunite and finish the job with ‘Culture III’ didn’t abate, though, and the album surely would’ve surfaced last year without the coronavirus pandemic. Migos held back by dropping a number of singles instead and insisting in any interview they gave that their forthcoming album was a) definitely on the way and b) their best yet. Offset recently declared that ‘Culture III’ would have Migos “leading the pack” once more.

You’d might imagine such lofty pre-game ambitions would result in an all-guns-blazing approach, but no: the first song we hear on ‘Culture III’ is built around a smooth and rather classy interpolation of The Temptations’ ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’. Opening track ‘Avalanche’ is a highly effective chorus-less curveball which gives the three Migos the chance to reintroduce themselves in their favoured braggadocious manner (“I am the shit, can’t find a fit, my neck is a fridge,” Takeoff notes of his “icy” jewellery collection).

The trio then yield the floor to Drake on the triumphant ‘Having Our Way’, with the Toronto rapper awarded the luxury of having over two minutes of airtime to himself as he ups the boastful ante: “Told myself that I would get through this verse and I’m not gonna mention the plane,” Drake winks about his private jet. “But look at the plane.”

As was the case with ‘Culture II’, Migos’ bountiful clout has once again given them first-pick when it comes to guest collaborators. Cardi B, who reconciled with her husband Offset last year, turns up on ‘Type Shit’ to deliver a typically rambunctious verse, while Future’s love of auto-tune slots seamlessly into the signature Migos sound on the flute-driven ‘Picasso’. Justin Bieber even provides a hook on the surprisingly affectionate ‘What You See’; a fine example of how ‘Culture III’’s A-list collaborators will further boost the album’s already strong streaming projections.

Migos also pay tribute to two fallen rap stars through posthumous collaborations with Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke. “Pop Smoke, rest in peace, wish I could put him under my wing,” Quavo sings about his late friend on the mournful ‘Antisocial’ as Juice, who died after an accidental overdose in 2019, candidly sings in the chorus about his battle with drug addiction and “drownin’ in my feelings”. Pop Smoke’s unmistakable husky vocal style dominates the thrilling ‘Light It Up’ as Migos compellingly adapt to a Brooklyn-style drill beat, with Quavo declaring: “New York drippin’, it’s straight out the faucet”.

The guests on ‘Culture III’ were always going to be a major talking point, but Migos also appear intent on reminding everyone that this album is still very much their party by going it alone on 11 of its 19 tracks. There’s recent single ‘Straightenin’, a back-to-basics cut co-produced by Migos’ longtime DJ and collaborator DJ Durel, where Quavo successfully nails a pandemic pun in regards to their come-up story (“turn a pandemic into a bandemic”), while the admittedly on-the-nose ‘Vaccine’ charms with its bouncing Buddah Bless-produced beat and a very-Migos hook about “makin’ money in quarantine” (Quavo also claims he’s “bigger than Bill Gates”). Migos’ latest reunion with producer Zaytoven, who helmed their 2013 hit ‘Versace’, is also very welcome here: the insistent ‘Roadrunner’ see Quavo, Offset and Takeoff exercising their trademark triplet flow.

‘Culture III’ is more focused than its exhausting 24-track-long predecessor, but a stricter edit here could’ve enhanced the experience even further: ‘Birthday’, ‘Why Not’ and ‘Handle My Business’ hamper the album’s pace towards the end. Quantity over quality would have been a tempting tactic for Migos after their unusually long period away, but it would have been refreshing had ‘Culture III’ been presented as a strong and compact dozen-track experience.

Such grievances don’t detract, however, from the overall impression that, with ‘Culture III’, Migos have successfully picked up from where they left off in 2018. This latest chapter in the trio’s career certainly seems unlikely to be overlooked by the masses who have embraced the group for the best part of a decade. Takeoff can rest easy, then.


Migos - 'Culture III'

Release date: June 11

Release label: Quality Control Music / Motown Records / UMG Recordings

‘Aquaman’ director confirms sequel’s title: ‘Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom’

Jason Momoa Aquaman
Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman' (Credit: Warner Bros)

Director James Wan has confirmed that Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom will be the title of the DC sequel.

The filmmaker took to his Instagram to reveal that the title. “The tide is rising,” he wrote on the post.

Wan, who directed the original Aquaman, will reprise his collaboration with Jason Momoa as leading man Arthur Curry.

Amber Heard as Mera and Dolph Lundgren, who plays King Nereus of the Xebellian people, will also be coming back.

Patrick Wilson as King Orm, who Aquaman defeated in the first film, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as supervillain Black Manta will also return. Game Of Thrones actor Pilou Asbaek has joined the cast in an undisclosed role.

The screenplay will be written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, who co-wrote the screenplay for the first Aquaman, and also co-wrote the story for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.

The film’s plot details have yet to be confirmed, but its title suggests that the mythology of Aquaman and Atlantis specifically will be explored.

The next DC movie to hit the big screen will be James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad in July. Dwayne Johnson-fronted Black Adam will be reaching cinemas in 2022, as will Ezra Miller’s standalone film The Flash.

In April, it was confirmed that Michael Keaton has been cast as Batman in the forthcoming DC movie opposite Miller.

Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom is currently scheduled for release on December 16, 2022.

‘Jedi: Fallen Order’ has surprise dropped a next-gen upgrade

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Credit: Respawn Entertainment

Respawn Entertainment has announced that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has had its next-gen upgrade released today.

The update will be free for owners of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions, or available to buy separately. Owners of physical copies can contact EA via their help site and provide their account information to get the upgrade for free as well.

All players need to do is then select their platform, choose “codes and promotions”, complete a form and provide proof of purchase to get a code. Respawn did confirm that the upgrade would be coming back in April, but didn’t give a release date until today.

Respawn has made it clear that they want players who own the disc version of the original release to still be able to get the game digitally for their Xbox Series X|S or PlayStation 5, by visiting the above link.

According to EA’s blog post this version of the game will feature:

  • Higher Resolution Textures & Assets
  • 4K/HDR Resolution
  • Improved 60 FPS Performance
  • Significantly Faster Loading Times

This new version of the game will also include a performance mode. This caps the game at 1440p resolution and 60 FPS. This doesn’t apply to the Xbox Series S however, with that being locked at 1080p resolution and 60 FPS.

Star Wars
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Credit EA

Game saves are also transferable, with Xbox Series X|S using cloud saves, whilst on PS5 players will need to have their PS4 save data on their PS5, where an option will appear to import in-game.

Respawn also mentioned how many players Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has had. They said: “As of today, more than 20million players worldwide have played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order across all consoles, platforms and subscription services.”

According to Respawn, the upgrade is incorrectly showing up as paid for some players, they are currently working on a fix for the issue.


Slipknot’s Clown says he’s ready to share the band’s unreleased Paul Gray tribute song

Slipknot Clown
Slipknot’s Shawn “Clown” Crahan CREDIT: Getty Images

Slipknot’s Shawn “Clown” Crahan has spoken about the band’s unreleased tribute to Paul Gray, saying he’s now ready to share it.

Gray was the original bassist and a founding member of the band, but died in 2010 at the age of 38. An autopsy report later confirmed he died from an overdose of morphine and fentanyl, and had signs of “significant heart disease”.

Speaking to Minneapolis radio station 93X, Clown said the band had “many songs that have never been released because they get taken up to a point, and they’re doing good, but then they just sort of fall short”.

He continued: “We have a song that we wrote for Paul Gray called ‘Without the Gray,’ and it’s probably my fault, but I’ve held it for a long time,” he said. “I don’t know why. It was too close in the beginning and it seemed like it needed to be for us more than for everyone else.

“And now I don’t care, I want it to be for everyone else instead of us.”

At present, it isn’t clear when ‘Without The Gray’ might be released or if it will feature on Slipknot’s next album.

Clown has said that the band are near completion on that new record, which will be the follow-up to 2019’s ‘We Are Not Your Kind’, and could have it finished by the end of next month.

“I believe that this album is… It’s God music, man,” he said. “It’s the centre of the beast for me. This is a whole other element. We still have a lot of time to complete this. We’re hoping to be done by the end of July.”

Meanwhile, Slipknot will return to the festival stage this summer, with an appearance confirmed for Rocklahoma, alongside Rob Zombie and Limp Bizkit. They will also take their Knotfest Roadshow back on the road in North America for 28 dates, kicking off in Des Moines on September 25.

Playdate is going to make me love handheld games again

Crankin's Time Travel Adventure on Playdate. Credit: Uvula, Panic.

I am a lover of constraint. Ok, maybe rephrase that. I think constraints are cool. Wait, don’t leave, I promise we’re still talking about video games here. Earlier this week, there was a pre-E3 conference that may have flown under your radar for a hot new gaming device called the Playdate.

This bright yellow gaming handheld has been designed by Panic and OP-1 synth design demigods Teenage Engineering. The Playdate has a little 1-bit screen, a D-pad, two buttons and a crank on the side.

And that’s it! How refreshing. It fits in your pocket and you get two free games every week for twelve weeks after you buy it. What are the games? It can be a surprise if you want, but they’re being made by some of the most creative game designers on the planet.

Lucas Pope of Papers Please is working on a game where you peer into windows and speak to monsters. Sweet Baby Inc is creating a marble platformer/visual novel. Xalavier Nelson Jr. has a game called Recommendation Dog on there. What’s it about? I don’t want to know until it lands on my Playdate, but I trust that it’s going to be brilliant.

How do you play with it? Keita Takahashi of Katamari’s Playdate game has been front and centre in the device’s marketing. You turn the crank to manipulate time and ensure a rickety robot isn’t late for a date with his girlfriend. Writing that sentence made my heart want to explode. Who else is doing it like this? Point me towards anything with a more charming elevator pitch than that in the AAA space. You can’t because there’s always someone breathing down their neck.

With such interesting constraints to work with and no expectations to meet, it’s open season for creativity with the Playdate, and I think that’s beautiful. Most of all, I love the freedom it seems to be providing developers to simply fool around and find the fun. Lucas Pope said, “There’s no timeline and it’s still pretty early … It’s not much and I can’t say I know what I’m doing”. This really made me smile, as this is the bedrock process for most creative endeavours, something we can all relate to. This is likely how all game developers felt when they tried to make their first game. Imagine if AAA developers were that honest about their ambitions in major conferences? I think we’d have a more healthy industry.

More than games though, I feel the Playdate speaks to a different era that we’re now deeply nostalgic for. The advent of the smartphone has meant that we don’t really make handhelds anymore, and that sucks because they were always rich and reliable hubs for zany creative ideas. Hardware gimmicks like the Nintendo DS’s dual-screen and stylus led developers down interesting creative paths, rather than focusing too hard on fidelity and market research. But even the DS was somewhat consumed by the all-encompassing touchscreen input scheme. Buttons are bygone nowadays, never mind the Playdate’s crank. Teenage Engineering wanted to “break people out of their touch psychosis,” with the Playdate, and I feel this is a noble ambition.

Playdate handheld console Hello
Playdate Handheld. Credit: Panic.

I anticipate that the title of this piece may summon questions from you, like “well, don’t you have a Nintendo Switch?” and of course I do, I love it, but I wouldn’t class it as a handheld. I can’t fit it in my pocket, and it has an NVIDIA graphics chip inside of it. It can play The Witcher 3! It’s trying to dance with the big boys at the disco. Meanwhile, the Playdate is in the bathroom, doing some interpretative wiggling. When I’m fatigued from all of the prestige, that’s where I want to be.

I could play games on my iPhone, but again, it’s just so capable. I could also stream AAA games on it or emulate old ones. It’s not solely been built for play, there are several other criteria it wants to fulfill. So there’s no constraint there, and this is where the Playdate excels. I’m feeling confident that because of this, it’s going to make me cherish the wonder of handheld gaming once more. The last time I remember truly engaged with a handheld that didn’t have touch controls was the Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, which came out 18 years ago.

In another beautiful twist, the Playdate will also feature an accessible development toolkit so that everyone can get in the action. Known as Pulp, this is a browser-based suite for Playdate development that doesn’t require coding skills. It is directly inspired by Bitsy, another browser-based door-opening creative tool where you can make little stories and narratives. Of course, experienced coders will be able to get more out of the Pulp toolkit, but setting the bar so low is great for folks who want to get into development at the ground floor.

Playdate: Mars after Midnight
Playdate: mars After Midnight. Credit: Panic, Lucas Pope

Engines like Unity and Unreal have massive amounts of documentation and tutorials on the internet, but they’re still daunting at face value and might get in the way of a beginner’s creative vision. I can’t stress enough how exciting it is to be able to develop and share a game on an actual handheld without jumping through several hoops. Given that it’s already backed by some big names in game development, the community creative scene behind Playdate is something I’m going to keep a close eye on.

That’s if I can get my hands on one. Panic intonated that they were prepared for the demand, but I don’t want to jinx it. Pre-orders open in July, and it will cost $179. See you in the queue!

Riz Ahmed calls for urgent change in “toxic portrayals” of Muslims in Hollywood

Credit: Sharif Hamza

Riz Ahmed has spoken out about the “toxic portrayal” of Muslims on screen.

In a passionate speech posted on the actor’s YouTube channel, Ahmed addressed “racist” Hollywood films and described his own difficult experiences as a Muslim man.

He also spoke about the “bittersweet” experience of receiving his first Oscar nomination this year.

“I simultaneously wore that slightly dubious accolade with a sense of gratitude personally… I also felt tremendous sadness,” said Ahmed.

“How was it that out of 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, none of us had ever been in this position until now?”

Watch the video below.

Ahmed simultaneously spoke out about “frankly racist” Oscar-winning films like The Hurt Locker and Argo. He branded them “films that dehumanise and demonise Muslim characters, insofar as they are the perpetrators or victims of violence, unworthy of empathy or incapable of empathy”.

In a bid for change, the actor has co-launched the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, which will include funding and mentoring for Muslim storytellers in the early stages of their careers.

The $25,000 (£17,721) fellowships for young Muslim artists will be decided by an advisory committee that includes actors Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef, and comedian Hasan Minhaj.

Riz Ahmed Sound Of Metal
‘Sound Of Metal’ is nominated for six Oscars and four BAFTAs. CREDIT: Vertigo Releasing

“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” Ahmed said in a statement on the Pillars website.

The actor also made reference to Missing and Maligned, a study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that less than 10 percent of top-grossing films released from 2017-2019 from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand featured at least one speaking Muslim character.

The study showed that when they did feature, they were shown as outsiders, or threatening, or subservient. Roughly one-third of Muslim characters were perpetrators of violence.

“The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives,” said Ahmed.

‘Synthetik 2’ gets first raw gameplay footage ahead of early access launch


Flow Fire Games has released new gameplay footage for Synthetik 2, revealing that the shooter will be entering early access on August 19.

The video shows Alpha gameplay footage of a Riotguard Class character infiltrating what appears to be a futuristic power plant using no items, perks, attachments or modules. Synthetik 2 will get a full release sometime in 2022.

Developed by Berlin-based studio Flow Fire Games, Synthetik: Legion Rising was a top-down shooter with roguelike elements. Players chose from one of eight classes to battle their way through procedurally generated levels and defeat the Final Defender.

The most noticeable change with this upcoming sequel is the view has shifted to an isometric viewpoint. This time around, Flow Fire will also be using Unity for the game engine instead of Game Maker.

Another big change is the introduction of factions. According to the Synthetik Universe website, “The new SYNTHETIK Universe is built around all the different factions within the world, human and machine, which all have their own lore, units, strengths, weaknesses, doctrines and technological arsenals.”

“In S2 you play as part of the human defiance and (in Early Access) will encounter both the Machine Military and the Police with their respective sub-factions.”

It will nonetheless retain the same core gameplay as the original’s. Although Synthetik: Legion Rising was released on consoles, the FAQ adds, “We are primarily working on getting the PC release right.”

“Once that is done we can consider a release on consoles, earliest date for this will be the full launch.”

Synthetik 2 is available to wishlist now on Steam.

Elsehwhere, Xbox Summer Game Fest starts next week with over 40 game demos.

Wolf Alice score first UK Number One album with biggest opening week for a British group in 2021

Wolf Alice 2021
Wolf Alice. CREDIT: Jordan Hemingway/Press

Wolf Alice have scored their first UK Number One album with ‘Blue Weekend’ and have claimed the biggest opening week for a British group in 2021.

The London band’s new album, which arrived last week (June 4), debuted at the top spot with over 36,000 chart sales – 14,700 of which were vinyl copies.

In addition, the four-piece – who knocked Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’ down to Number Two – overtook Royal Blood to claim the biggest opening week for a British group in 2021 so far.

‘Blue Weekend’ was one of three new releases to land inside the Top Five, alongside James‘ ‘All The Colours Of You’ (Number Three) and Lil Baby & Lil Durk‘s ‘The Voice Of The Heroes’ (Number Five). Dua Lipa‘s ‘Future Nostalgia’ re-entered the Top Five landing at Number Four.

The band, whose first two albums (2015’s ‘My Love Is Cool’ and 2017’s ‘Visions Of A Life’) both previously peaked at Number Two on the UK Album Chart, said of their new album’s achievement: “Roses are red, violets are blue, we always thought we’d be Number 2 – but we’re not! YES!”

Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice CREDIT:


Elsewhere on the chart, Crowded House claimed their highest-charting LP in 14 years with ‘Dreamers Are Waiting’ at Number Six, while further down the Top 20, ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons landed at 18 with ‘Hardware’, and Rise Against opened at 19 with ‘Nowhere Generation’.

In a five-star review of the album, NME‘s Rhian Daly called ‘Blue Weekend’ “another stone-cold masterpiece that further cements [Wolf Alice’s] place at the very peak of British music.”

Wolf Alice will take the record on the road in the UK next January, when they’ll perform in Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, London and other cities over the course of the month. You can purchase any remaining tickets here.

“I can’t wait to play these new songs live they are gonna sound so gooooood,” the band said in a statement. “Joff’s pedal board literally sounds like an orchestra at the moment and you have no idea how sweet Theo’s falsetto is rn.”