TIME apps

For a Few Hours, Uber Riders Could Learn Their Client Rating

An Uber app is seen on an iPhone in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 19, 2013.
An Uber app is seen on an iPhone in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 19, 2013. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

The app's software team quickly repaired the glitch, and passenger rankings were once again controversially private

Uber, as Valleywag’s Sam Biddle writes, “doesn’t care about being hated.” After all, the taxi service application earned a cool $18.2 billion valuation last month, in spite of a gallery of controversial corporate practices that has prompted critics of Silicon Valley to make a litany of accusations. Uber incommensurately raises prices during peak hours, holidays and weather emergencies. Uber sabotages its competition. Uber ranks its customers.

It ranks its customers, yes. At the end of a ride, the application asks the passenger to give his or her driver a ranking on a five star system; the drivers, as the internet has only recently learned, are asked the same of their clients. The underlying logic is obvious and not really anything new — if your credit score is bad, a bank is going to hesitate before doing business with you — but users were nonetheless kind of perturbed, given the secrecy surrounding the passenger rankings. (“Uber Anxiety,” New York Magazine calls it.)

On Sunday, however, a software engineer named Aaron Landy posted to Medium step-by-step instructions on how a client can find his or her aggregate score, via some very simple skullduggery on the app’s mobile website. Uber’s programming team naturally caught wind of this and quickly swooped in to patch things up, but not before a number of Uber riders sought revelation.

By early Monday morning, one user’s attempts to learn his worth in the eyes of the benevolent transit god proved futile.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.39.06 PM

Uber is, however, exploring ways of sharing passenger ratings in future versions of the app, or so they say. Meanwhile, the company expands — they celebrated the launch of service in Hong Kong and mainland China in the last few weeks — with the habit of incurring the wrath of local taxi drivers in each new territory.

TIME Tech Policy

Meet the Woman Keeping Silicon Valley in Check

Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez Cade Martin 2014

Edith Ramirez is probably not the most popular person in Seattle right now. As the chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, she’s currently suing two of the city’s biggest tech companies: Amazon, for allegedly making it too easy for kids to rack up in-app purchases on their parents’ Kindles, and T-Mobile, for allegedly cramming unwanted charges into customers’ phone bills. That’s to say nothing of the recent settlements with Snapchat over false marketing and Apple over in-app purchases. It’s all come under the watchful eye of Ramirez, who assumed the chairwoman’s position in March 2013 and has taken a laser focus to the activities of tech companies, particularly in regards to mobile.

The new FTC head talked to TIME about the hidden permissions lurking in terms of service agreements, Facebook’s controversial mood study and whether Americans should ever expect a “right to be forgotten” online. An edited version of the conversation is below.

TIME: How important is the technology sector as a whole for the FTC right now? Is it an area of focus for you personally?

Ramirez: Our fundamental mission is to protect consumers and promote competition and so we are going to be wherever consumers are. The reality is that technology has been playing a critically important role for the agency for a number of years. Because we see consumers really gravitating to mobile devices, it’s crucial that the agency be very much informed about and keenly aware of what’s happening in the mobile sphere.

TIME: What are the biggest challenges or dangerous that consumers can face with the rise of mobile?

Ramirez: You want consumers to be able to partake in all of the terrific innovation we see in the marketplace. One way to assure that is to make sure the products that are out there take into account what’s of concern to consumers—that includes, among other things, taking into account concerns about data security and privacy, and also making sure that some of the basic protections that we’re all used to when we walk into a grocery store or a local convenience store, that we also have those basic protections available to us when we’re engaging in a transaction on our smartphone.

Data security is paramount in my view. The more connected we are, the more information and data that is being gathered by all sorts of different companies. It’s crucial that this personal information that is being collected and being used, that companies take reasonable steps to ensure that data is protected.

TIME: We live in this era now where people sign up for services and they don’t read the fine print. Do you think there’s a base level of privacy or control that Internet companies should be affording their customers?

Ramirez: I do. We realize that consumers aren’t going to be poring over long, confusing privacy policies. Now that we’re in a mobile world, what’s the likelihood that anyone’s going to be scrolling through on a mobile device some lengthy privacy policy? That’s become increasingly unlikely.

Companies need to be thinking about privacy from the get-go, when they first start conceiving of any new product or service. If you’re developing an app that’s a flashlight app, do you really need to have access to my contacts? Do you really need to have access to my geolocation? If they want to access information that goes beyond what one would expect, they ought to be asking for permission to do that.

I think we’ve seen a tremendous improvement, even in the course of the time I’ve been at the agency. We’ve seen companies realize that consumers really do care very deeply about maintaining their information [security] and they want to also exercise greater control. At the same time I think a lot more needs to be done in this area. A lot in this area still continues to take place behind the scenes in a black box. Consumers may not fully appreciate the extent of data-sharing that’s taking place.

TIME: Last month people were upset because Facebook did this experiment where they were altering people’s News Feeds to change their mood in some way. Do you think that experiment was appropriate for them to do?

Ramirez: I can’t really comment on the specifics of what Facebook did, but I think what it does show is again the need for consumers to be in the driver’s seat. They want to know what companies are doing, how they’re using the information that they’re sharing. It just goes to show that consumers don’t want to be in the dark about this. That’s a basic responsibility companies have—they ought to be transparent about what they’re doing, they ought to give consumers an opportunity to have control over how their information is being used, what information is being collected. Simply because [consumers] are receiving a service, and even it happens to be free, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be in control.

TIME: Does the FTC plan to investigate the Facebook issue formally?

Ramirez: We can’t comment on how investigations we conduct. What I can tell you is these are issues we are concerned about and we are monitoring the marketplace.

TIME: In Europe, the courts recently enshrined a “right to be forgotten,” so people can delete articles about themselves from search results. Do you think that’s something Americans should have the right to for privacy reasons?

Ramirez: Of course we’re operating here in the U.S. under a very different legal regime than folks are in Europe. An expansive “right to be forgotten” is not something that’s likely to pass Constitutional muster here in the United States because there is a First Amendment right to both access to public information and freedom of expression. At the same time, I do understand the need for us to think about controlling our own information. By way of example, I know that consumers want to be able to delete information. If they’re on a particular platform, they will want to be able to be assured that if they close out their account that their information will be deleted. This is exactly an element of an order we have with Facebook. It’s not an expansive right to be forgotten, but there are certain controls and tools that I think U.S. consumers would like to have.

TIME: As we see these tech companies like Google and Amazon getting bigger and bigger, taking up a larger portion of their sectors, do you think there are antitrust issues with these companies as they continue to grow?

Ramirez: With any large company, if they have market power, monopoly power, we would be looking closely at how they use that. We did conduct an investigation relative to Google a couple of years back. In that particular investigation, we opted not to take action.

TIME: A lot of times when FTC settlements come out, people see the dollar figure, and it seems like a slap on the wrist to these companies that are generating billions of dollars in revenue every year. Are the actions you take actual deterrents to stop companies from abusing consumers in various ways?

Ramirez: We do not have general civil penalty authority. We can’t assess a fine when we find a violation of law under our general statute. What we can do is seek to obtain consumer redress or we can, if appropriate, ask a company to disgorge any unlawful gains that resulted from the unlawful conduct.

In any particular case, the amount that you may see, you may think, ‘Well how does that compare to the profits of a company?” But that’s not really the analysis. The analysis on our end is, “Are we successfully recovering money that would compensate consumers for the damage that they have suffered.”

I think our enforcement work is sending important signals to the marketplace. In the privacy arena, Facebook, Google, Twitter [are] under order. It’s sent important signals to them, and I think as a result of the action that we’ve taken, companies are more aware of what their responsibilities are.

TIME: How are you able to strike a balance between this goal of consumer protection and allowing companies to innovate and try new things?

Ramirez: Whether it’s having information about what you’re paying for, whether it’s knowing what information an app might want to have access to when I’m downloading it—all of these things really work side by side with innovation. I don’t think consumers should have to sacrifice their privacy, the security of their information…when they avail themselves of all these terrific products that we see today. In fact I think for companies to flourish, it’s really important that consumers feel they can trust the products that they’re using, that they feel that they know the full extent of what is happening when they download a service. Companies will flourish all the more if they provide basic protections.

TIME Rumors

That 5.5-Inch iPhone Is Still Pretty Mysterious

A larger iPhone seems likely for this fall, but don't bet on an even larger "phablet" version just yet.

There comes a time in every Apple rumor’s life when it starts to feel like inevitability–when the sum of insider information, leaked images and “supply chain” speculation becomes too difficult to dismiss.

That seems to have happened with the 4.7-inch “iPhone 6,” which is widely expected to arrive this fall. But that’s not the only iPhone that Apple is reportedly working on. Reports of a 5.5-inch iPhone have been circulating since last year, and they’re starting to reach that threshold of inevitability as new reports keep rolling in.

Still, looking at the dozen or so rumors about the extra-large iPhone, there’s little consensus on when the phone would arrive, how it would differ from the 4.7-inch iPhone and what the larger screen would mean for apps and software. Until we get answers to more of these questions, it’s foolish to assume an iPhone “phablet” is imminent.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was telling its suppliers to prepare for a record number of iPhones, including 4.7- and 5.5-inch models. But the paper also said that Apple was struggling to get good production yields from the larger model, which may not enter mass production until a month after the smaller iPhone.

We’ve seen other publications make similar claims, but the timing is always murky. 9to5Mac, for instance, says that Apple hasn’t decided whether to debut the 5.5-inch iPhone in September along with its smaller sibling. Chinese media sources claim that mass production on the larger model won’t even start until September. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo–a hit-or-miss source for Apple rumors lately–believes the 5.5-inch iPhone won’t arrive until after October, or possibly next year.

As for the phone itself, there isn’t much corroborating evidence on how it would be different from the 4.7-inch model aside from screen size alone. Kuo has speculated that it would be the only iPhone with a scratch-resistant sapphire display and optical image stabilization, but without corroboration from more reliable sources, I’m skeptical.

The other big question is how screen resolution would change with the larger display. It’s unlikely that Apple would stretch the screen without increasing the number pixels as well, but there hasn’t been much discussion to address this issue.

None of this leaves me feeling confident that a 5.5-inch iPhone is coming any time soon. If you’re only interested in phones with gigantic displays, and absolutely can’t wait longer than a couple months, you might want to consider other options.

TIME policy

Unlocking Your Cellphone Is About to Be Legal Again

Internet Addiction
Artur Debat—Moment Editorial/Getty Images

A 2012 Copyright Office decision effectively outlawed the practice, which allows consumers to switch carriers without buying a new device, without carriers' approval

President Barack Obama is set to sign into law a bill that will make it easier for you to switch mobile carriers without buying a new phone.

The bill, dubbed the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” makes it legal for Americans to unlock their cellphones without carriers’ permission. Unlocking a phone frees it for use with a wireless carrier other than the one on which it was initially sold. For example, if you bought your cellphone from AT&T, unlocking it could make it usable on T-Mobile.

“The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget,” said Obama in a Friday statement. “I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.”

Congress’ final bill was first passed by the Senate earlier this month. After deliberation over some controversial language, the House agreed to pass the Senate’s version of the bill on Friday.

The unlocking bill came about after a 2012 decision by the U.S. Copyright Office effectively outlawed unlocking without carriers’ permission. That move sparked outrage among consumer watchdog groups, who argued the move reduced consumer choice. More than 114,000 people also signed an online White House petition against the move.

“It took 19 months of activism and advocacy, but we’re finally very close to consumers regaining the right to unlock the phones they’ve legally bought,” said Sina Khanifar, who wrote the original White House petition on the issue, in a Friday statement. “I’m looking forward to seeing this bill finally become law – it’s been a long road against powerful, entrenched interests – but it’s great to see citizen advocacy work.”

TIME Music

Bose Is Suing Beats Over Headphone Patents

Apple Said To Be In Talks To Purchase Beats Headphones Company
Beats headphones in an Apple store on May 9, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

As Beats is being bought by Apple

Bose is suing Beats Electronics over the noise-canceling technology in Beats’ headphones.

Bose filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Delaware Friday, claiming that Beats violated five different patents in the manufacture of its line of Studio noise-canceling headphones. The patents in question are for technology such as “Dynamically Configurable ANR Filter Block Technology” and “Digital High Frequency Phase Compensation.”

Bose is seeking an injunction to prevent Beats from selling the products it says violate its patents, as well as an award for damages.

Apple agreed to buy Beats for $3 billion in May. The deal is still pending regulatory approval.

TIME Video Games

With Firefly Cast Reuniting, Firefly Online Sounds Like the Franchise’s Next Big Thing

The cast of Joss Whedon's fan-loved Firefly will reprise their roles in the upcoming Firefly Online video game.

First you wanted a Firefly movie, and then you got one (and hey, it was pretty good). Then you got a comic — actually several comics, plus a roleplaying game, plus a novelization of the movie. After that, you made your own documentary about the series, and then you went and made an unofficial sequel to the movie that made over $100,000 for five separate charities. How the heck, short of creator Joss Whedon himself announcing another Firefly movie or TV-quel, do you top any of that?

Maybe the cast of the show reuniting, and not for another misty-eyed convention wingding, but as characters you’ll be able to interact with in Quantum Mechanix and Spark Plug Games’ upcoming Firefly Online, due out this summer for PC, Mac, iOS and Android?

Okay, maybe that doesn’t top a series part deux, but then if you’re partial to games over TV shows or movies, perhaps it does. And it’s really happening: i09 reports (via Comic-Con, transpiring now through Sunday) that all of the original Firefly stars will reprise their roles in the game, including Alan Tudyk, which is significant if you’ve seen Serenity. In the game, players captain their own customizable ships, assemble crews, then create jobs for each other while playing through various narratives and exploring a universe with hundreds of visitable worlds.

No pressure, development teams: as one commenter put it to i09, “If this game is bad the developers better prepare for pitchforks and torches outside their office.” Indeed, fandom is fickle, though the appetite for new Firefly content may be enough to help the game over any preliminary rough spots if the underlying concept measures up.

You can check out the game and read more about it at the game’s official website, keepflying.com, and here’s the first gameplay trailer, just released.

TIME

This Supercut Shows What Cheesy 80’s Movies Thought Computer Hacking Looked Like

Bring on the cliches

There’s a series of electronic beeps over a Tron soundtrack. The screen is filled with a series of green letters and then a psychedelic interface. This is computer hacking, as told to you by any number of 1980’s computer films, oozing with cheesy perfection.

FoundItemClothing.com made the video, which features scenes from Real Genius, War Games, and Spies Like Us, to name a few.

TIME privacy

How to Manage Your Online Reputation

There’s plenty you can do to make sure the best parts of your virtual self pop up on that first page of search results.

When was the last time you Googled your name? If you haven’t, it’s a good habit to get into, because it’s exactly what a potential employer is likely to do when they’re sifting through a pile of resumes. “The stuff people care most about is what they find when they Google you,” says Michael Fertik, CEO and founder of online reputation-management firm Reputation.com.

That’s why it’s important that you own what you look like online. Depending on what you (or others) post on social networks or personal sites, what a search engine turns up may not reflect the accurate or professional picture you want it to.

But there’s plenty you can do to make sure the best parts of your virtual self pop up on that first page of a Google search. Here, we’ll walk you through how to do everything from maintaining current social media profiles to ensuring that your professional information appears first.

Decide What You Want Out There

While Facebook posts and photos might be for the eyes of friends and family only, privacy settings on more-public networks such as LinkedIn or Twitter can be more beneficial when relaxed. After all, you don’t want to be completely invisible on the Internet. “It’s weird for people in this day and age not to have an online profile,” Fertik says.

But if you haven’t been refining your Internet footprint over the years, your online profile may also include nuggets like ancient MySpace photos, an out-of-date company staff page, even out-of-context rants on old blogs — all of which can give someone the wrong impression.

Deleting these may not necessarily clear the Internet of the detritus. In an age of retweets, shares, and linkbacks, the same photo can exist on many sites across the web. So instead of wasting time and energy cleaning up a digital backlog, focus on strengthening existing profiles, which will help them beat the less-flattering stuff to the top of the search page.

Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Surveys indicate that anywhere from 88% to 97% of recruiters go to LinkedIn to find candidates. LinkedIn profiles also turn up very high in Google search results, most likely due to the site’s high traffic, how often it’s linked to, and the amount of content users post everyday. So it’s not only a good idea to have a public LinkedIn profile, but to also ensure that it’s accurate, current, and grabby.

LinkedIn trainer and speaker Viveka von Rosen says that the Headline field (the line beneath your name) is the easiest — and most-often overlooked — place to grab attention when building a profile. “Rather than going with the default (your title at your current company) take the opportunity to say what it is that you do. Something like, ‘graphic artist working with startups in the Sudan,’” Von Rosen suggests.

Using keywords related to your field when describing yourself in the Summary and Experience sections can also help your profile turn up on Google if someone is searching for particular skills.

Once your profile is spruced up, you want to make sure it’s visible on the web. Head into Settings and select Edit Your Public Profile. Then check that reads “Make my public profile visible to everyone.” You can then reveal (or conceal) specific information within your public profile.

Von Rosen suggests allowing your Name, Photo, Headline and Summary to be open, while remaining cautious about revealing too much. “With identity theft, I limit what’s visible publicly – for example, in a page of Google search results,” she says.

Get Active on Twitter

If you’re on Twitter, regular posts relevant to your field can help build up your online profile for prospective employers. Like LinkedIn, Twitter profiles often turn up on the first page of Google search due to the site’s traffic and content flow.

Reputation.com’s Fertik suggests picking a Twitter username as close to your real name as possible. That way when someone searches for your name, it’s your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles that pop up alongside your personal website and company blog.

Changing your username is simple: Head to Account and enter the new name. If it’s available, it’s yours.

If your Twitter page is very personal — say, intended for friends and home to some off-color opinions — it might make more sense to limit access to only followers you approve.

Being cautious in that way can do a lot to boost your chances. A CareerBuilder survey found that two in five employers check social-media during the hiring process. Forty-three percent of employers rejected candidates based on inappropriate or discriminatory content on their profiles. On the flipside, 19% of recruiters who scanned social-media profiles hired candidates based on positives they found within.

To stop your off-color Twitter feed from showing up on Google, head to Settings, then Security and Privacy, and select Protect. Bonus: This also prevents the Library of Congress from archiving your tweets.

Dial Up the Facebook Privacy Settings

“Recruiters use Twitter to post jobs, LinkedIn to source candidates, and Facebook to eliminate candidates,” von Rosen says.

Many employers take Facebook profiles into account, even if they shouldn’t. A North Carolina State University study mapped Facebook behavior against personality traits. The researchers found that there’s often little correlation between a person’s real-life personality and how they portray themselves on Facebook, so employers could likely misjudge a candidate based on his or her profile alone.

To keep your Facebook profile out of search engine results, head into Settings, Privacy and select “No” in response to “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?” question.

Facebook no longer allows users to hide their profiles from the website’s own search, but you can control how much of your profile will show up. For example, changing who can see your posts and photos to “Friends Only” means that a potential boss would see only your cover photo, profile photo, plus any About info — where you live, work, or went to school — that you’ve allowed to be public.

If a potential boss is in your extended Facebook network, you might want to change who can see future and past posts. We recommend setting updates as viewable to Friends Only — at least during the application process.

You can also clean up your feed post-by-post. Under Settings, Timeline and Tagging, there’s an option to check how your timeline looks to the public (note that this includes anyone logged into their Facebook account). If the photos and statuses displayed aren’t career-friendly, you can change individual visibility by selecting the photo or status, clicking edit, then changing “Public” to “Friends” or “Only Me” from the drop down menu.

If you have a fan page or are the administrator for a group with a lot of fans, allowing these pages to hit the search engines is good for boosting your online profile. For these pages, head to Settings, General, and make sure that “post targeting and privacy” is turned off. You can also lift any country or age restrictions (the page default settings are open and public).

For more on Facebook privacy settings, including how to limit what’s shown to the Facebook public, check out our comprehensive guide.

Pull Up the Positive, Push Down the Negative

Outside your own profiles, there’s content on the web that’s out of your immediate control. Things like rants from ex-employees, customer complaints, or unwanted photos from a past flame can paint a negative picture.

If you find an unflattering photo or inaccurate info on someone else’s site, the best first step is to contact the site owner and request it be removed or updated. In most cases, the site owner will comply.

However, negative reviews and undesired content that has been posted on sites like newspapers, Yelp, Amazon, or Angie’s List might be harder to take down. These larger companies are unlikely to grant a request unless you can prove the content is defamatory or inaccurate.

If they won’t budge, you can try what services like Reputation.com do: publish more content to push the offending article out of the first page of search results. For example, publish a blog post, put up a photo set on Flickr, or add information to a public social profile, such as LinkedIn or Google+. “Make sure your latest and greatest resume info is posted in short narrative and bullet format on a variety of resume sites,” Fertik says.

For bigger cleanup jobs, Reputation.com (and agencies like it) can take on the task for a fee (from $100 depending on the scale of virtual damage). Reputation.com uses patented algorithms to publish search engine optimized content. For example, the service might write and publish your professional details and biography at a selection of websites they say are picked especially for your field. By publishing lots of high-quality content with good keywords, the negative content should be pushed further down the search results list.

Depending on the industry you want to work in, other social network accounts on less popular portals, such as Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr, can help build an even more rounded online profile. If you work in fashion or design, for instance, a Pinterest profile can both show off your work and help you engage with fashion and design followers (i.e., potential customers).

Increasing the right kind of visibility — and diminishing what’s less appealing — is key to putting your best face forward online. “If you’re not findable by your subject matter and name,” says Fertik, “people aren’t going to be able to give you the opportunities.”

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

TIME Transportation

Lyft Launching in New York City Following 2-Week Delay

Ridesharing Salt Lake City
A Lyft car crosses Market Street in San Francisco, Jan. 17, 2013. Jeff Chiu—AP

Lyft will have to use commercial drivers in the five boroughs

After a two-week legal spat with state officials, ride-sharing service Lyft is finally taking off in New York City Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Unlike in other cities, where strangers can give rides to their neighbors using the Lyft app, the service in the five boroughs will be operated by commercial drivers only, according to a statement from the New York Attorney General’s office. The change in Lyft’s business model makes it compliant with the rules of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates taxis and black car services, such as Uber, in New York City.

Despite the deal, Lyft is not giving up on eventually bringing its original model to New York City. “This agreement is the first big step in finding a home for Lyft’s peer-to-peer model in New York,” the company said in a blog post. “We’ll continue to work with the TLC, Department of Financial Services, and the Attorney General’s office to craft new rules for peer-to-peer transportation in New York.”

As part of its agreement with the state, Lyft will suspend its operations in Buffalo and Rochester by August 1. The company says it will work with regulatory officials to comply with state law and relaunch in those communities later.

TIME Video Games

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Release Bumped Up a Week

October 7 was looking a little crowded. But September 30? Not so much.

Warner Bros. and developer Monolith’s upcoming attempt to make you a heroic Nazgul, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, is apparently coming along well enough to earn a rare release date bump: instead of October 7, the game will release on September 30 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, followed on October 2 by the PC version (via Steam).

The game’s PR team says that’s because of “fans’ excitement.” I’m speculating, but I’d wager the more likely reason is that Tuesday, October 7 was a little crowded. On that day, we’ll see major releases like Driveclub (PS4), Alien: Isolation, NBA 2K15 (the latter two for PC, PS3/4 and Xbox 360/One), NBA Live 15 and Project Spark (Xbox One). That, and two days prior, Activision’s Skylanders Trap Team hits. So I’d wager Warner Bros. and Monolith backed up to September 30 because it’s wide open: the only major rival that day is Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360/One).

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is about zipping around Tolkien’s “land of shadow” just after Sauron (nee The Necromancer) shows up and wreaks demigodly havoc. You play as Talion, a raised-from-the-dead ranger who can thus tap the same sort of eldritch otherworldly powers the Nazgul could (and since this is a game designed to make you feel ridiculously formidable, plenty more besides).

The twist involves something called the Nemesis System, which is developer Monolith’s way of making its world and the things you encounter in it feel procedural. Each adversary you encounter has unique attributes that feed an elaborate ecology of behaviors, and your encounters ripple through that ecology, changing your relationship to other enemies and ultimately creating your own personalized bosses. Every time you play, that deck reshuffles.

Whether the reshuffling feels lively and organic in the playing or too obviously generic remains to be seen, but expectations are high, as they ought to be, given the level of affection and esteem for Tolkien’s world.

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