TIME Video Games

Why You Probably Can’t Play the New Call of Duty Game

Activision's first online-only Call of Duty goes into public beta today, but only for gamers in China

The biggest experiment in games magnate Activision’s history is underway right now. No, it’s not Bungie’s Destiny, nor Blizzard’s latest World of Warcraft expansion. And it’s not a resurgent live-streaming version of Guitar Hero, nor is it the world’s first toy-game (Skylanders) MMO.

I’m talking about something bigger still, and, ironically, something most of you reading this can’t play at all.

It’s Call of Duty Online, a bona fide free-to-play, PC-only multiplayer version of Activision’s popular Call of Duty shooter franchise that’s shifting from open beta to what Activision calls a “public open beta” today.

The catch: it’s for China, and China only.


Surprised? Don’t be. China is a gaming behemoth. The country is home to an estimated 368 million video game players. That’s more than the entire population of the United States. The surprise would be a company as affluent and internationally beholden as Activision not launching a major project like this in China.

Call of Duty Online isn’t “World of Warcraft with guns,” nor is it a geographically continuous first-person shooter drawn from predominantly fresh content.

Instead, longtime Call of Duty developer Raven Software and Activision Shanghai have cobbled together material from the Black Ops and Modern Warfare series subsets, folding them into a kind of multiplayer anthology. Imagine the top competitive maps and modes from the Black Ops and Modern Warfare games rolled into a single package and flavored with localized content, then shoehorned into a free-to-play framework with connective character-building tissue.

And the game’s local network host? Shenzen-based Tencent, the fourth-largest Internet company in the world after Amazon, Google and eBay.

Not that moving from West to East could have been simple. Consider the Western obsession with shambling corpses in books, films, TV shows–and in several of the Call of Duty games.

“We discovered a few interesting differences along the way,” Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg said when I asked him to list some of the cultural challenges in making the game. “For example, zombies play a big role in Call of Duty in the West, but culturally, characters that are undead have a very different cultural meaning in China.”

In the West, zombies are generally depicted as brainless, shambling husks. In China, the undead, or “jiangshi,” are rigor mortis-stiffened corpses that ambulate by hopping. The solution for Call of Duty Online? Zombies are out, cyborgs are in.

What about China’s so-called “anti-fatigue” system? This is China’s state-mandated watchdog approach to limiting how much time players can spend playing games, rolled out in 2007. An Activision spokesperson confirmed to me that yes, in fact, Call of Duty Online is fully compliant with Chinese playtime requirements (a curious requirement that presumably impacts Activision’s revenues).

Chinese gamers have had access to the game for at least a year, of course, making this more of a transitional event. What’s the difference between an “open beta” and an “open public beta” anyway?

“This is the first time it’s really out in the wild,” said Hirshberg. “Everything we’ve done up to now has been for more controlled, finite audiences.”

So why tease Western gamers with a game they can’t play? Hirshberg says it’s simply because there’s been a lot of curiosity in the West about the new title. Not that anyone’s saying Call of Duty Online won’t eventually visit other regions. As Hirshberg himself noted a year ago, speaking about what his company stands to learn from a Call of Duty game spun in microtransactive form: “[There] are a few other regions where that would be very relevant.”

Read next: Why 2014 Was the Year Sex Got Real in Video Games

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TIME Social Media

Men Who Share Selfies Online Show More Signs of Psychopathy, Study Says

man holding up mobile to take selfie
Tara Moore—Getty Images

Also signs of narcissism and self-objectification

Men who post lots of selfies on social media networks are more likely to show signs of psychopathy, a personality disorder characterized by anti-social behavior, a new study says.

The research, which surveyed 800 men ages 18 to 40, also confirmed a common belief that men who share selfies online are more likely to be narcissistic, according to the study, published recently in Personality and Individual Differences. Narcissism and self-objectification were also linked to men who edit their selfies before posting them online.

“It’s not surprising that men who post a lot of selfies and spend more time editing them are more narcissistic, but this is the first time it has actually been confirmed in a study,” Jesse Fox, the study’s lead author and assistant professor at The Ohio State University, said in a statement. “The more interesting finding is that they also score higher on this other anti-social personality trait, psychopathy, and are more prone to self-objectification.”

Fox noted that the levels of psychopathy, self-objectification and narcissism — a set of personality traits known as the Dark Triad — were within average means. In fact, moderate amounts of these traits might not be such a bad thing: the study found that men who post selfies online may actually appear more attractive to others.

TIME Smartphones

iPhone Separation Anxiety Makes You Dumber, Study Finds

iPhone lovers who didn't have their phones performed poorly on cognitive tasks

Ever feel anxious when you’re not around your iPhone at school or at work? That separation anxiety might be impacting your cognitive abilities, a recent study found.

Researchers discovered that iPhone users solving a series of puzzles performed better when they had their iPhones with them, according to a Thursday statement by the University of Missouri. When deprived of their iPhones, the study’s participants experienced significant physical changes — elevated heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety — alongside poorer cognitive performance.

There’s very little research on the effects of cell phone separation, according to the study, which was published in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. But the researchers’ recommendation isn’t to kick your cell-phone checking habit — instead, they suggest iPhone lovers should avoid separating themselves from their phones if they’re taking tests, attending meetings or during other activities that require a great deal of attention.

“The results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state,” Russell Clayton, the study’s lead author, said in the statement.

Read next: Men Who Share Selfies Online Show More Signs of Psychopathy, Study Says

Listen to the most important stories of the day.


Watch ‘Connected Cars’ Take Center Stage at CES

James Bond might be envious

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Nevada, several companies unveiled concept cars containing some seriously high-tech gadgets.

Audi, Mercedes-Benz and VW all showed demos of automated car technology, from driverless or “piloted” cars, to smartwatch apps.

TIME space

Watch TIME’s Jeff Kluger Talk About the History and Impact of SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch early Saturday was a success, despite the failed soft landing attempt of the rocket booster at sea.

See TIME’s senior science writer and editor at large, Jeff Kluger, explain the history and importance of SpaceX.

TIME Video Games

The 10 Best Classic PC Games You Can Play Right Now

Oregon Trail
Internet Archive Oregon Trail

These 10 MS-DOS titles load up in your browser — no floppy disks required.

In the 1980s and 1990s, before Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis invaded our living rooms, PC games earned the highest scores with gamers. And while classic titles like Super Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog have been re-released, until recently classic computer games were only available to those willing to download emulators and track down files (or people somehow still sporting floppy drives).

Earlier this week, the Internet Archive tanked the world’s productivity by re-releasing almost 2,400 classic PC titles, all playable within a web browser. With that many games, you can bet there’s a lot of bad ones, and sadly, some of the best titles don’t work. (I’m looking at you, Pool of Radiance—there’s no way I can “Insert Disk 3” in 2015!)

But these ten favorites not only function, they’re still fun:

AD&D Eye of the Beholder: Roll the dice in this 1991 Dungeons & Dragons role playing game that was among the earliest titles to offer character creation. Sure, a lot of today’s games have this, and have leveled up to modern graphics, but there’s nothing like the nostalgia of being a chaotic good paladin roaming the dark passages beneath the city of Waterdeep. Look out, Kobolds!

Burgertime: Move over, Candy Crush, here comes the main course. Guide Peter Pepper in this hamburger assembling action game as he tries to build the biggest mouthfuls while being chased by enemy eggs, pickles and hot dogs. Back those bad guys off with a blast of pepper, chef, and stack those burgers as high as you can.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Riding the wave of Indy’s last adventure (because we all agree that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never happened, right?), this 1989 title was a Holy Grail for gamers, because it gave you control of one of the 80’s coolest characters. Among LucasArts’ earliest games, this browser version is easy to play using a keyboard, but it’s difficult to beat because Dr. Jones is a bit of a pushover.

The Hobbit: Open door. Go East. Enjoy game. Sure, after six movies, you might be sick of those tricksy little hobbitses today, but when this game was released in 1983, Tolkein fans only had the books, a 1977 cartoon, and some Led Zeppelin songs to tide them over. This text-based game barely has graphics — and if you want to go really old school you can even play without them, as you guide Bilbo through Middle Earth using only your imagination as your eyes.

Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Back in the day, Sierra games were some of the most popular 8-bit adventures around. Today, through some copyright craziness, you can hardly find the old classics anywhere. (King’s Quest, the company’s first and biggest hit, is missing from this archive, for instance.) But this adult-oriented title follows the exploits of Larry Laffer as he strolls the city of Lost Wages, looking for love. Tame by today’s standards, it was the Grand Theft Auto of its time.

Lemmings 2: The Tribes: For some reason the original Lemmings didn’t make the online arcade, but this sequel still scratches the itch for people looking to save as many suicidal critters as they can. A cute puzzler, the object of this game is to lead the little rodents to safety, using lemmings’ specialized digging, blasting, and building skills to navigate the landscape of each level. Or, if you were a wicked child, you can still just guide them to elaborate, untimely demises.

Oregon Trail: B-A-N-G. Nostalgia for this stalwart of elementary school libraries has never faded — probably because they’ve relaunched the game so many times. Originally released in 1971, the Internet Archive’s edition is from 1990, but don’t worry, you can still die of dysentery in it. Some players have reported it freezes up, but others say claim if you load the page using the Firefox web browser, you’ll be on your way to the Willamette River Valley in no time.

Prince of Persia: Today’s kids will know this as the game that launched a Jake Gyllenhaal movie, but children of the 1990s fondly recall this as a top-notch adventure game, with great graphics and gameplay (at least for the time). Sure, it’s your typical rescue-the-princess plot, but the run-and-jump platformer has one thing that never gets old: infinite lives.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?: That’s a great question, but here’s an even better one: How come Interpol needs entry-level detectives to locate a woman wearing a red trench coat and hat? Regardless, this educational title rocked elementary school kids’ worlds back in the 1980s, putting their geography and history smarts to the test. Perhaps the best part of this game is its throwback sound effects, which you can hear in the browser without having to install a Sound Blaster card.

Wolfenstein 3D: The game that ushered in the first-person shooter category, this 1992 title was the precursor to Doom, Quake, and many of the gore-fests roaring across consoles today. Rated “PC-13” (for “profound carnage”), Wolfenstein has you, as allied spy B.J. Blazkowicz, racing to escape the Nazis’ clutches. Want a real challenge? Beat it using just the pistol, or even better, the knife. Guten tag!

TIME apps

5 iPhone App Deals You Just Can’t Miss This Weekend

Shoppers And Product Displays Inside The Apple Inc. Store At China Central Mall
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Customers try out Apple Inc. iPhone 6 smartphones at an Apple store in the China Central Mall in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

Try Routina, a beautiful reminder app that'll notify you for recurring appointments

Looking to download a few great iPhone apps while saving some money this weekend? Check out these five, all on sale or free right now.

Van Gogh: Painted With Words

With plenty of apps released by the world’s largest museums, you might think there’s little room for apps focused on a single artist. But this Van Gogh app is a true work of complete adoration for the artist, which makes as much apparent in the final product. Not only is the app amazingly interactive, with complete timelines of the artist’s works and biographical information, but it includes some of the less-well-known elements of his life, including letters with his brother Theo. The world would be a slightly smarter place if all apps about art were designed so well.

Van Gogh: Painted With Words is temporarily free in the App Store.

Beer Buddy

An app that allows you to scan barcodes on beer bottles in order to learn more about your beverage, Beer Buddy is perhaps much more useful than many would like to admit. It’s a constant struggle to remember the name of a beer you once had at that place after your buddy’s thing that time a year ago. It all seems so vague, but you remember the label was green and that it tasted good. Beer Buddy takes care of that problem, making it easy to get information about your drink and put together a favorites list based on your scans.

Beer Buddy is on sale for $0.99 in the App Store.

File Hub

A great app for storing or managing files, File Hub allows you to monitor all your cloud services, like Google Drive and Dropbox. The app provides a single uniform platform to access your files across those services, complete with a PDF reader, a music and video player, and a few ways of transferring files when necessary.

File Hub is temporarily free in the App Store.


Routina is a completely different kind of productivity/reminder app. It’s not a grocery list or a workflow organizer; rather, Routina reminds you of recurring events. Simply tell your app to remind you to pay rent every month, visit the doctor twice a year, or visit your grandmother once every 2 weeks, and the app will send you an alert at the right moment. It also happens to be really pleasant to look at.

Routina is on sale for $0.99 in the App Store.


NewsBar is a very customizable RSS reader that allows you to curate news based on source, keyword, or interest, publishing updates to your phone the moment a story goes live. No swipe and load—the app sends you a notification that stories have been loaded to your device. Definitely one of the better mobile-optimized RSS readers.

NewsBar is on Sale for $2.99 in the App Store.

TIME ces 2015

The 15 Most Bizarre Moments From the Consumer Electronics Show

This year's CES was filled with unusual technology and bizarre presentations.


Polaroid CEO: We’re Now ‘Curators of Innovation’

Polaroid Socialmatic
Polaroid Polaroid Socialmatic

Polaroid is staging a comeback leveraging its iconic brand to sell novel instant photography gadgets

Polaroid, as a company that designs and builds some of the most iconic instant cameras and film in photographic history, is dead. The primary culprit was a too-slow adaptation to the digital age. But also to blame were bankruptcy proceedings and years-long legal battles that began in 2001 and weren’t sorted out until 2009—meaning Polaroid spent nearly a decade too distracted to make a serious effort to revitalize itself.

But Polaroid’s checkered past is now exactly that—history. The company’s new owners, Gordon Brothers Brands and Hilco Consumer Capital (The Pohlad Family Capital Fund has also invested), have had half-a-decade to renew the Polaroid brand, and those efforts are finally beginning to bear fruit. Instead of a company that researches and designs cameras and other gear in-house, the new Polaroid is setting itself up as a lifestyle brand, working with outside designers and other partners to put Polaroid’s iconic branding on products that match the company’s ethos—which CEO Scott Hardy described to TIME as being about fun, share-ability, ease-of-use and affordability.

“We’re no longer this large vertical operating company that has factories making film and thousands of employees around the world,” Hardy said Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We’re really curators of innovation.”

Polaroid used this year’s CES to showcase four new products that perfectly demonstrate that new mentality: The Cube, an entry-level action camera about the size of four casino dice stacked together and designed by Ammunition, a California-based firm headed up by former Apple designer Robert Brunner; the Zip, an inkless mobile printer that makes two-by-three inch, sticky-back prints of your smartphone snaps; the iZone, a tiny zoom camera that uses your cellphone as a viewfinder; and the Socialmatic, a rectangular, Android-powered smart camera with a built-in inkless printer that harkens back to Polaroid’s days of yore.

Polaroid Cube
Polaroid Zip

All are novel, colorful products aimed squarely at photography-obsessed millennials and teens. And while you might not expect digitally-native kids to care much about instant-print photography in the days of Instagram and Snapchat, Hardy said his new products have been a hit, though he didn’t share precise sales numbers.

“[Teens] have been born into digital, born into touchscreens and having cameras with you on your phone,” Hardy said. “So to them, to see a single-purpose device designed to print the photograph you just took is magic. The biggest purchasers of our instant products are very much this teenage demographic who love instant photograph. And what they’re doing is, they’re taking photographs using our instant cameras, and then they take those hard photos they just got and they get their phone out and they take a picture and upload it to Instagram.”

Polaroid’s getting in on the software game, too. Just before CES, it announced a partnership with Blipfoto, an online photography community that limits users to uploading only a single photo every day. Blipfoto’s biggest selling point for users is that it can automatically cook up coffee table photo books after users are on the service for a year. Those photo books, says Hardy, give new value to users’ photographs in a time when the sheer number of images we capture makes each one a little more ephemeral and a little less valuable.

“[Blipfoto] goes back to this concept of curation, sharing and documenting and annotating something that has treasured value,” Hardy said. “It’s not locked in your shoebox in the attic anymore, it’s something that you can now share publicly but also turn into something physical.” Blipfoto Founder Joe Tree told TIME that his users’ response to the Polaroid parternship, which turned Blipfoto into Polaroid Blipfoto, has been “overwhelmingly positive,” a rare reaction in tight-knit Internet communities so often resistive to change of any kind.

Polaroid has no guarantee of instant success. While some young users might flock to its new Socialmatic and Zip instant-printing devices, it remains to be seen just how many millennials and teens really want tangible copies of their mobile photos—especially when the Socialmatic costs $299, the Zip $129 and the paper for either around $20 for 30 sheets. And shortly after Polaroid introduced the $99 Cube camera, GoPro, which dominates the action camera market, announced a $129 entry-level model called the Hero. Still, Hardy is confident there’s plenty of room for the new Polaroid to keep developing.

“We weren’t surprised that GoPro felt like it needed to respond,” he said. “We just feel like our product addresses a much different demographic. We’re here to grow the market, not steal share. If we wanted to do a me-too product, we would have. There are guys out there that do me-too type products that don’t have a brand and don’t have any kind of DNA around them. From our perspective that’s just not how we want to go to market.”


Self-driving Cars Are No Longer a Thing of the Future

But how long will it be until your car no longer needs you?

Driverless automobiles made flashy appearances at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, although nobody expects them to take over the roads anytime soon. And I know one big reason why that won’t happen. The Department of Motor Vehicles. I recently became one of the first people on the planet to earn an all-new license from the California DMV that allows me to drive a car that drives itself. Just one of the wacky bits of bureaucracy that comes with disruptive new technologies like self-driving automobiles.

Technically, my license is an “autonomous vehicle testing” permit. That sounds a bit less sexy that a driverless license, but actually it means that I’m one of the first people, ever, to be allowed to not touch the steering wheel of a moving car for extended periods of time.

Cool, right? Texting, iPad movies and long naps—here I come. Maybe not—at least not in the foreseeable future. Even though I was chauffeured earlier this week by a prototype Audi from Silicon Valley all the way to Vegas, I still had to pay attention when I was behind the wheel—because in a Stage 3 autonomous car like the Audi (there are five stages, the fifth being a completely robotic taxi) things could still go very wrong. “Really, this is an important responsibility,” Volkswagen group senior engineer—VW owns Audi— and co-passenger Daniel Lipinski told me sternly. “In an emergency you have to take control immediately.”

It may all sound futuristic, but driverless autos are already here. Carmakers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla are testing them on public roads around the U.S., readying technology that will change the way we commute, not to mention pizza deliveries. Audi timed its road trip, and our exclusive first drive, to the start of the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, where Mercedes-Benz and Ford also made announcements about autonomous technology.

There’s no doubt that auto autos will become mainstream. But despite a chorus of sunny pronouncements from companies like Google, don’t book your robotic Uber ride just yet. “We won’t see piloted driving on the freeway until the next decade,” said Jörg Schlinkheider, head of driver assistance systems for the VW of America. “And fully autonomous driving with no human assistance is far, far away.”

This statement was a bit stark, considering I’d just spent more than two hours schussing south down Interstate 5 towards Bakersfield, Calif., in a prototype Audi A7 sedan that drove itself. Traffic was thick, and yet the Audi handled itself capably, changing lanes and keeping up with the flow of traffic. Even at speeds of 70 m.p.h., my hands were in my lap and my feet tucked out of the way. It was eerie at first, but then I relaxed. Perhaps too much. I stopped paying keen attention to traffic, even turning to chat with the unnerved passenger in the back seat. (Sorry, Daniel.)

The 550-mile road trip was a powerhouse display meant to show how far Audi’s technology has come. The car uses an array of sensors, radars and a front-facing camera to negotiate traffic. At this point, the system works only on the freeway and cannot handle construction zones or areas with poor lane markings. When the car reaches a construction zone or the end of a highway, a voice orders you to take the wheel back. You’ve got about 10 seconds to do so before an array of LED lights goes from blue to amber, and then flashing red. You need only grab the wheel or apply the gas or brake to resume control.

If the technology still needs to evolve, the laws governing autonomous cars must evolve even more. The federal government does not yet have specific laws pertaining to the subject, leaving individual states to create their own mandates. California is easily the most proactive, allowing carmakers to test cars under specific circumstances. “California is taking this very seriously,” said Schlinkheider. Still, Audi is hoping the laws will become clearer when federal agencies eventually step in. “We can’t deal with 50 different states and 50 different sets of regulations. Right now we have to take special steps for drivers in California, but anyone with a driver’s license can pilot a prototype in Michigan.”

One of California’s stipulations is that drivers receive special instruction in how not to drive. I got mine at the VW Group’s semi-secret testing grounds outside of Phoenix. (Imagine a desert spy lab surrounded by high hedges and walls.) The training included basics like turning the system on and off and learning the circumstances in which it could be used. The rest was about handling emergencies, such as making lane changes to avoid crashing. Not that anything would go wrong, the Audi execs stressed (I briefly had visions of a Skynet takeover). Better to be over-prepared, they said. In all, it was far more difficult and involved than a regular driving test.

Average buyers will not need such training. That’s because the roll-out will be slow. In Audi’s case, it will be with a program that allows the car to operate itself in stop-and-go highway traffic jams. When the jam clears, though, the driver will have to take the wheel again. We’ll likely see that within the next couple of years, said Schlinkheider. As for the kind of high-speed freeway driving that I experienced, Audi will not release it “until the next decade.”

“It makes me happy to hear a major manufacturer saying that,” said Dr. Jeffrey Miller, an associate professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in intelligent transportation systems. “We’ve got these players like Google with very ambitious timelines, but I think Audi’s timeline is spot on. Not only does tech need to mature more, so does driver acceptance.”

Even better, he also thought my license was pretty cool. “A lot of people will say licenses — and drivers — will be obsolete, but that’s not the case. The driver will always have to take over in case of a failure.”

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