Sea Of Thieves Was The Most Downloaded PlayStation 5 Game In May

Sony released the list of its highest-downloaded games across all its platforms in May, and Rare’s Sea of Thieves has topped the PS5 charts in two territories. The former Xbox exclusive first arrived on the platform on April 30. 

A PlayStation Blog post reveals that Sea of Thieves was the best-selling PS5 title across the US/Canada and the EU, beating out top-performing games like Grand Theft Auto V, Madden NFL 24, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. That’s quite the debut and shows that PlayStation owners have an appetite for the open-world co-op pirate game. It’s also worth noting that Grounded, another first-party Xbox exclusive that was brought to PlayStation in April, placed 11th on this list (for the US/Canada). 

Here’s the full list of top 20 best-selling PS5 games in the US/Canada for May:

  • Sea of Thieves
  • Madden NFL 24
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III
  • Helldivers 2
  • NBA 2K24
  • MLB The Show 24
  • Stellar Blade
  • Fallout 4
  • Who’s Your Daddy?!
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
  • Grounded
  • Another Crab’s Treasure
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • NHL 24
  • Killer Klown’s From Outer Space: The Game
  • Rise of the Ronin
  • Assassin’s Creed Mirage
  • WWE 2K24
  • Elden Ring

For more on Sea of Thieves, we spoke to Rare to reflect on the series shortly before its PS5 launch. You can read that retrospective here.

[Source: PlayStation Blog]

Astro Bot Preview – Bigger And Bot-ter – Game Informer

When I first played Astro’s Playroom on the PlayStation 5, I was blown away by its gorgeous art style, engaging level design, and overwhelming charm. Each level was so carefully packed with easter eggs and fun platforming challenges that I assumed it was a positive side-effect of the game’s short playtime; the only way so much delight could be crammed into each stage was because the development team only had so many levels to work with, so a longer game would probably feel less impressive. But after going hands-on with Astro Bot, the full-fledged sequel from Team Asobi, I can confidently assert this was not the case. If the rest of the game is anything like the short snippet I played, it’s teeming with joy.

The game opens in the world map, the void of outer space. Astro can maneuver the area using a spaceship shaped like a Dualsense controller and visit one of six galaxies: a red octopus, a blue gorilla, a purple bird, a yellow lizard, a green snake, or a rainbow swirl. Most of the options are locked for the demo, so I head into the only one I can, the red octopus, and start the first level, Sky Garden. 

A floating tropical paradise, Sky Garden is a level made of beaches, palm trees, and pools of water. The gameplay starts with a short flying segment in a sky full of flamingos and Astro’s ship, which I control by tilting my Dualsense controller. As soon as we touch down, I refamiliarize myself with the controls, which are unchanged from the tech demo. I can punch robot enemies to pieces or hover over them to blast them with my laser feet, and both abilities feel as good as I remember. As I progress through the level, I go down a huge water slide, accompanied by a happy horde of brightly colored beach balls.

It’s here I encounter the first power-up – a beach ball backpack ability that sends Astro hurtling into the sky. I use it to reach a puzzle piece being carried by a flying flamingo, and you can even use it underwater to rapidly ascend to the top. The underwater ascension is particularly helpful after I discover a hidden Astro Bot (there are seven total in the level to rescue) at the deepest part of a lake and need to return to the surface. The experience of activating the ability with R2, which offers just enough resistance to feel significant, elevates the whole section, and I fly through the end of the level.

The second stage is called Construction Derby, and is set in a planet consisting of an active construction zone. After a few seconds of exploring the area, a massive robot gorilla emerges in the distance, wrecking buildings in its wake. It leaves, and I expect a boss fight to come at the end of the level, but I am greeted with no such encounter – perhaps it’s the same gorilla I saw in the blue galaxy on the overworld map.

The stage is a blast to explore, complete with little gorilla-themed enemies, a magnet item I use to throw clusters of iron ingots at targets, and a dog backpack ability, which allows me to blast forward through the air to break certain objects and complete platforming challenges. This is the second power-up in as many levels, and it feels just as good as the first. I also find my way into a hidden room where I have to use paint to coat otherwise invisible platforms, which allows me to climb to the top and meet a bot dressed as Parappa the Rapper. When the level comes to an end, that bot and the other bots I saved blast off with Astro back into the overworld map. Meanwhile, my dog backpack gets a cute little robot doghouse, which it is understandably thrilled about.

The final level is a boss fight against a formidable red robot octopus, Wako Tako. Luckily, I am armed with my third power-up of the demo, a pair of robot frog gloves that I can use to punch, grab, and swing on things in the distance. But Wako Tako is no joke – it assaults me with boxing gloves on its tentacles, which come from above and below, shooting up through the sand that makes up the island I’m standing on. Luckily, I’m able to hit weak points on its gloves and snorkel, causing it to retreat and force me into a platforming gauntlet where I have to make sure to avoid sweeping tidal waves that one-shot me if I’m too low to the ground.

When I finally reach it, there’s just one more phase. I smash both of its eyeballs, grab ahold of its tears, and use the frog gloves to slingshot me into its face, blasting it into the distance Team Rocket-style. If Astro wasn’t an adorable little cartoon, this would be pretty brutal.

Now that Wako Tako is gone, I can see a capsized rowboat in the distance, so I approach it. When I flip it over, Kratos and Atreus appear, grateful that I saved them from the monster, and the three of us hop on the Dualsense controller and rocket off into the sky. Back on the hub world, I see that a new level has been unlocked, and it appears to be based on God of War: Ragnarök. Sadly, I can’t access it during this demo, so I’ll have to wait for the full game’s release to see what it’s like.

The last thing I do is visit two new levels that appear, one based on a red circle and another on a blue X, and each is a small platforming challenge. Once you practice and properly learn how to do them, you can beat each level in just under a minute, but they’re much more difficult than the base levels and take some getting used to. I manage to clear the red level, which is based around icy floating circles, but I don’t get a chance to beat the time-slowing challenge in the blue level before my demo time is up.

I entered the preview with high expectations, but as I left, those expectations were somehow exceeded. Astro Bot is poised to be one of the highlights of the PS5’s already impressive library, and the sections I played were easily comparable to some of the other titans of 3D platformers. The game will launch on September 6 as a PS5-exclusive.

Destiny 2: The Final Shape Review – For The Guardians – Game Informer

After 10 years of storytelling, the overarching saga that was introduced in the original launch of Destiny has finally concluded. With The Final Shape, Bungie ties a bow on the vast majority of its lingering plotlines and questions and sets the stage for a new direction in subsequent releases. Ahead of that, this concluding chapter is extremely satisfying, offering a rousing, heartfelt, and character-driven wrap-up that does right by what has come before. From narrative to gameplay, this is not the installment that welcomes newcomers. But for every hour (or thousands of hours) a player has invested in this adventure, the ending on offer is that much more potent.

The Final Shape expansion transports Guardians into the mysterious interior of the massive spherical Traveler, a space of liminal and surreal environments halfway between real and imagined. In a decade of strong location design, this new destination is the most unusual and artistically striking, regularly nodding to places we’ve visited before and combining them with strange organic shapes like giant hands and faces carved in rock.

The campaign is set up as a non-stop journey from point A to B, with waypoints that act as moments of anguish and catharsis for the most important players in the story over the last decade. It’s the most human and relatable storytelling the franchise has yet managed.

Thanks to the delightfully dangerous Dread faction of enemies, and a number of raid-like mechanics, the missions feature a satisfying mix of intense action and gunplay while requiring careful observation. The story lands with a satisfying punch of exhilaration and emotion by weaving the raid completion and one final concluding activity together. Grand and epic storytelling demands a clever mix of bombast and poetic sensibility, and this is one of those times when a game has hit the mark.

The new prismatic subclasses – alongside a range of other new abilities – make this expansion the most mechanically complex the franchise has yet dared. Build-crafting and experimentation are necessities for high-level play. Despite some efforts to simplify, the glut of currencies and interwoven progression systems has grown painfully convoluted even for veteran players. It’s hard to even imagine how a newcomer would pierce the veil and get up to speed.

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Nonetheless, Bungie deserves props for trying to explain systems in-game and providing guidance on how to improve. Alongside some awesome new exotics and legendary weapons (that almost feel like exotics), players have an enormous array of options to tweak and play how they want. The sandbox is vast, and we have plenty of unique ways to play inside.

Some new systems, like the new Pathfinder system, are fascinating ideas that nonetheless remain too prescriptive, often demanding styles of play that some players aren’t interested in trying. That said, many of the new public events, matchmade activities, and post-campaign missions are fun and thoughtfully built to allow for extensive and enjoyable replay. Many of the current high-tier activities, including the new raid and certain gear chases, are extremely challenging, and should offer a meaningful mountain to climb for most endgame players for many weeks ahead.

As if to remind players that one story’s conclusion is just the start of another, The Final Shape wasted little time in launching its new episodic structure to replace seasons. The full reach and potential of that new rollout approach goes beyond the scope of this review and will stretch into future months. However, it’s enough to know that a pleasing follow-through already awaits those who smash through the saga’s ending and are ready to keep going, with new activities and rewards, like exotic class items, waiting to be chased.

Over the years, Destiny 2 has ballooned into a massive and unwieldy beast, filled with cooperative and competitive experiences, hundreds of named characters and organizations, and an often-unapproachable vernacular that can take a long time to learn to speak and play. With The Final Shape, Bungie makes no apologies for the complexity but does finally offer purposeful punctuation to mark an endpoint. Largely unencumbered by what has come before, the frontiers ahead are now open to be revealed.

Optimize LLM with DSPy : A Step-by-Step Guide to build, optimize, and evaluate AI systems

As the capabilities of large language models (LLMs) continue to expand, developing robust AI systems that leverage their potential has become increasingly complex. Conventional approaches often involve intricate prompting techniques, data generation for fine-tuning, and manual guidance to ensure adherence to domain-specific constraints. However, this process…

Optimizing AI Workflows: Leveraging Multi-Agent Systems for Efficient Task Execution

In the domain of Artificial Intelligence (AI), workflows are essential, connecting various tasks from initial data preprocessing to the final stages of model deployment. These structured processes are necessary for developing robust and effective AI systems. Across fields such as Natural Language Processing (NLP), computer vision,…

With programmable pixels, novel sensor improves imaging of neural activity

Neurons communicate electrically, so to understand how they produce such brain functions as memory, neuroscientists must track how their voltage changes — sometimes subtly — on the timescale of milliseconds. In a new open-access paper in Nature Communications, MIT researchers describe a novel image sensor with the capability to substantially increase that ability.

The invention led by Jie Zhang, a postdoc in the lab of Matt Wilson, who is the Sherman Fairchild Professor at MIT and member of The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, is a new take on the standard “CMOS” (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology used in scientific imaging. In that standard approach, all pixels turn on and off at the same time — a configuration with an inherent trade-off in which fast sampling means capturing less light. The new chip enables each pixel’s timing to be controlled individually. That arrangement provides a “best of both worlds” in which neighboring pixels can essentially complement each other to capture all the available light without sacrificing speed.

In experiments described in the study, Zhang and Wilson’s team demonstrates how “pixelwise” programmability enabled them to improve visualization of neural voltage “spikes,” which are the signals neurons use to communicate with each other, and even the more subtle, momentary fluctuations in their voltage that constantly occur between those spiking events.

“Measuring with single-spike resolution is really important as part of our research approach,” says senior author Wilson, a professor in MIT’s departments of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS), whose lab studies how the brain encodes and refines spatial memories both during wakeful exploration and during sleep. “Thinking about the encoding processes within the brain, single spikes and the timing of those spikes is important in understanding how the brain processes information.”

For decades, Wilson has helped to drive innovations in the use of electrodes to tap into neural electrical signals in real time, but like many researchers he has also sought visual readouts of electrical activity because they can highlight large areas of tissue and still show which exact neurons are electrically active at any given moment. Being able to identify which neurons are active can enable researchers to learn which types of neurons are participating in memory processes, providing important clues about how brain circuits work.

In recent years, neuroscientists including co-senior author Ed Boyden, the Y. Eva Tan Professor of Neurotechnology in BCS and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and a Picower Institute affiliate, have worked to meet that need by inventing “genetically encoded voltage indicators” (GEVIs) that make cells glow as their voltage changes in real time. But as Zhang and Wilson have tried to employ GEVIs in their research, they’ve found that conventional CMOS image sensors were missing a lot of the action. If they operated too fast, they wouldn’t gather enough light. If they operated too slowly, they’d miss rapid changes.

But image sensors have such fine resolution that many pixels are really looking at essentially the same place on the scale of a whole neuron, Wilson says. Recognizing that there was resolution to spare, Zhang applied his expertise in sensor design to invent an image sensor chip that would enable neighboring pixels to each have their own timing. Faster ones could capture rapid changes. Slower-working ones could gather more light. No action or photons would be missed. Zhang also cleverly engineered the required control electronics so they barely cut into the space available for light-sensitive elements on a pixels. This ensured the sensor’s high sensitivity under low light conditions, Zhang says.

In the study the researchers demonstrated two ways in which the chip improved imaging of voltage activity of mouse hippocampus neurons cultured in a dish. They ran their sensor head-to-head against an industry standard scientific CMOS image sensor chip.

In the first set of experiments, the team sought to image the fast dynamics of neural voltage. On the conventional CMOS chip, each pixel had a zippy 1.25 millisecond exposure time. On the pixelwise sensor each pixel in neighboring groups of four stayed on for 5 ms, but their start times were staggered so that each one turned on and off 1.25 seconds later than the next. In the study, the team shows that each pixel, because it was on longer, gathered more light, but because each one was capturing a new view every 1.25 ms, it was equivalent to simply having a fast temporal resolution. The result was a doubling of the signal-to-noise ratio for the pixelwise chip. This achieves high temporal resolution at a fraction of the sampling rate compared to conventional CMOS chips, Zhang says.

Moreover, the pixelwise chip detected neural spiking activities that the conventional sensor missed. And when the researchers compared the performance of each kind of sensor against the electrical readings made with a traditional patch clamp electrode, they found that the staggered pixelwise measurements better matched that of the patch clamp.

In the second set of experiments, the team sought to demonstrate that the pixelwise chip could capture both the fast dynamics and also the slower, more subtle “subthreshold” voltage variances neurons exhibit. To do so they varied the exposure durations of neighboring pixels in the pixelwise chip, ranging from 15.4 ms down to just 1.9 ms. In this way, fast pixels sampled every quick change (albeit faintly), while slower pixels integrated enough light over time to track even subtle slower fluctuations. By integrating the data from each pixel, the chip was indeed able to capture both fast spiking and slower subthreshold changes, the researchers reported.

The experiments with small clusters of neurons in a dish was only a proof of concept, Wilson says. His lab’s ultimate goal is to conduct brain-wide, real-time measurements of activity in distinct types of neurons in animals even as they are freely moving about and learning how to navigate mazes. The development of GEVIs and of image sensors like the pixelwise chip that can successfully take advantage of what they show is crucial to making that goal feasible.  

“That’s the idea of everything we want to put together: large-scale voltage imaging of genetically tagged neurons in freely behaving animals,” Wilson says.

To achieve this, Zhang adds, “We are already working on the next iteration of chips with lower noise, higher pixel counts, time-resolution of multiple kHz, and small form factors for imaging in freely behaving animals.”

The research is advancing pixel by pixel.

In addition to Zhang, Wilson, and Boyden, the paper’s other authors are Jonathan Newman, Zeguan Wang, Yong Qian, Pedro Feliciano-Ramos, Wei Guo, Takato Honda, Zhe Sage Chen, Changyang Linghu, Ralph-Etienne Cummings, and Eric Fossum.

The Picower Institute, The JPB Foundation, the Alana Foundation, The Louis B. Thalheimer Fund for Translational Research, the National Institutes of Health, HHMI, Lisa Yang, and John Doerr provided support for the research.

Life Is Strange: Double Exposure Video Shares Extended Gameplay And Reveals How It Acknowledges The Original Game’s Endings

Square Enix held a special livestream today for Life is Strange: Double Exposure, which was revealed during last week’s Xbox Games Showcase. The 48-minute presentation sits down with the game’s developers and performers to shed new light on Max Caulfield’s return to the franchise and her new powers while showing off extended gameplay. 

The story seemingly unfolds a few years after the events of Life is Strange. Max has moved far away from Arcadia Bay for a fresh start and now works as an artist-in-residence at Caledon University in upstate Vermont. She has sworn to never use her time-rewind ability again, and hasn’t since the first game’s conclusion. Despite this, Max’s power has evolved. She can now travel between two timelines, an ability called Shift. Unfortunately, she only discovers this power after stumbling upon the sudden murder of her new friend, Safi. 

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Deck Nine, who developed Life is Strange: Before the Storm and True Colors, describes the game as a supernatural murder mystery. Max will travel across two realities: her present one and an alternate timeline where Safi is still alive but very much in danger. In the reality where Safi is killed, Max must find the culprit. In the timeline where Safi lives, she must prevent her murder. Solving and preventing the same crime involves searching for clues across both timelines and interacting with two versions of every character, whose behavior and relationship to Max changes based on the timelines, circumstances, and your choices. Like True Colors, Double Exposure is a single release divided into episodes. 

Of course, the million-dollar question for fans is how Double Exposure addresses Life Is Strange’s two endings. Deck Nine states the game includes a conversation between Max and Safi about Arcadia Bay, which will allow players to pick the ending they chose. This essentially determines Double Exposure’s canon, and your choice of ending will be reflected in Max’s thoughts, journals, text messages, and conversations with characters going forward. An example we see is a conversation where Safi asks Max who “the blue-haired girl” is to her, presenting a choice to establish Chloe’s relationship to Max. 

In terms of gameplay, Max has lost her original time-rewind power. Instead, she can instantaneously swap timelines in certain spots to explore two versions of the same space. She’ll use this power to solve puzzles and circumnavigate inaccessible spaces (for example, a locked door in one timeline may be unlocked—or Max learns how to unlock it—in the other one). She can also use a “pulse” ability to extend her supernatural senses to determine weak points between the timelines, allowing her to see and hear ghostly glimpses of people and objects in the alternate reality without Shifting to it. Using this, she can eavesdrop on characters in the other timeline for intel and stealthily track suspects. 

Of course, beyond the murder mystery, Max will have to deal with the social drama of working on a college campus. As its artist-in-residence, she serves as a mentor figure to younger students, which she may or may not use to her advantage. An extended gameplay video shows Max hanging out with Safi and her best friend Moses to watch a meteor shower. In addition to showing off some of the choices that can steer this scene in different directions, we also see Max’s camera come into play, where she can capture photos of her friends. We also see the events leading up to Safi’s murder. 

Life is Strange: Double Exposure looks promising, and as a fan of the original, I’m looking forward to hanging with Max again and solving a new mystery. It launches on October 29 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Apple is reportedly getting free ChatGPT access

Apple’s newly-announced partnership with OpenAI – which brings ChatGPT capabilities to iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia – comes without any direct money exchange. According to a Bloomberg report by Mark Gurman, “Apple isn’t paying OpenAI as part of the partnership.” Instead, the Cupertino-based company…

Featured video: Researchers discuss queer visibility in academia

“My identity as a scientist and my identity as a gay man are not contradictory, but complimentary,” says Jack Forman, PhD candidate in media arts and sciences and co-lead of LGBTQ+ Grad, a student group run by and for LGBTQ+ grad students and postdocs at MIT.

He and co-leads Miranda Dawson and Tunahan Aytas ’23 recently interviewed queer MIT faculty about their experiences and the importance of visibility in “Scientific InQueery,” a video meant to inspire young LBGTQ+ academics to take pride in the intersections of their identities and their academic work.

“In professional settings, people need to create spaces for researchers to be able to discuss their scientific work and also be queer,” says Nergis Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics and dean of the MIT School of Science. “That [space] gives a sense of safety [to say] ‘I can be successful in my profession; I can be queer; and I can be out here flying my rainbow flag.’”

“As queer graduate students, we find community in our peers. However, as one progresses up the academic ladder, it can be harder to find examples of queer people in higher positions. Bringing visibility to the queer faculty helps younger queer academics find a greater sense of community,” says Dawson, a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering. In her years as co-lead of LGBTQ+ Grad, she has been a visible advocate for LGBTQ+ graduate students across MIT.

“We would love it if a young queer person with curiosity and a love for learning saw this video and realized that they belong here, at a place like MIT,” says Dawson.

In addition to Aytas, Dawson, Forman, and Mavalvala, the video features Sebastian Lourido, associate professor of biology; Lorna Gibson, professor of materials science and engineering; and Bryan Bryson, associate professor of biological engineering.