Few things bring me greater joy than suppressing cackles as I chase down my friends in a prop hunt game, cornering them despite their best efforts at camouflage and trickery. Midnight Ghost Hunt has that feeling in spades, plus layers of weapon loadouts and special skills and twists on top. It's headed into another closed beta this weekend, which you can sign up for if you'd like to try a bit of ghostly inanimate object shenanigans yourself.
I've not yet gotten to try Midnight Ghost Hunt with my own friends, but I did get the chance to take my spectral skills for a spin with the developers recently. I played on team of four (there are also 2v2 matches) as either the ghosts, who start by picking an object on the map to possess, or as one of the hunters tasked with tracking them down. A full match gives each team one turn as ghosts and one as hunters, lasting a breezy 15 minutes or so.
As a hunter I picked one weapon, one gadget, and a perk for my loadout. There's a salt shotgun, a sledgehammer, a flamethrower, a ghost vacuum, and a radar to detect the ghosts, to name just a handful of the many weapons and tools that each have their own benefits. To stay hidden until midnight, ghosts have their own spooky skill loadouts, which make for better laughs than just possessing the smallest object possible and wiggling into an unreachable spot. I was able to turn myself into a hunter's doppleganger to sow confusion, telekinetically move nearby objects as a distraction, leave fake footprints, and more.
The hunters only have five minutes to search and destroy the ghosts until the clock strikes midnight. If they haven't defeated the entire ghost team in that time the round doesn't stop—instead the tables turn and the ghosts get an opportunity to hunt the hunters. The hunters are then stuck hiding or defending themselves from angry ghost players for four minutes until evac arrives. During my first match in the haunted mansion map I was chased up the stairs by a deadly table lamp.
More intense was the pirate ship, where a vengeful ghost player possessed a giant cannon and chased us around the deck shooting cannonballs.
As a newbie ghost I relied heavily on the basic right-click leap attack, which I could have used to aggressively throw myself at hunters but mostly used as an escape tactic instead. On the large theater map I was able to hurl my tiny bucket body from the main floor up to the top balcony, which was a seriously satisfying trick shot.
It was also a handy move for lowering my ectoplasm buildup: an ectoplasm meter fills up the longer a ghost hides in the same spot, discouraging camping by making them more obvious to ghost-tracking tools.
Midnight Ghost Hunt is an action-y take on prop hunting. Ghosts have offensive abilities and excuses to use them, while hunters aren't punished for shooting at random and making a mess. It's a fun slapstick FPS with occasional tense moments of hide-and-seek.
Learning the maps and generating creative strategies is a challenge in a one hour play session, but the weekend playtest will be an opportunity to dig into some high level haunting skills. You can request access over on the Midnight Ghost Hunt Steam page. The closed beta begins Friday, running from January 28-30. Over in its development blog, Vaulted Sky Games explains that this weekend's test includes a bunch of upgrades from the last event in October, including map reworks, AI players, and changes to both matchmaking and server browsing.
Midnight Ghost Hunt doesn't have a final release date yet, but is planning to launch in Early Access later this year.
Hyper Scape, Ubisoft's free-to-play battle royale, is shutting down less than two years after it launched. The developer announced the decision in a short blog post published today. Servers are scheduled to shut down on April 28.
“We have made the difficult decision to end development of Hyper Scape and shut the game down as of April 28th. We set out to create a vertical, close-quarters, and fast-paced shooter experience and we are extremely grateful to our community for joining us on our journey. We will be taking key learnings from this game into future products,” the post reads.
After making a splash on Twitch during its beta period (thanks in no small part to having to watch streams to earn a beta key), Hyper Scape launched to little fanfare in August 2020. The 100-player battle royale aimed to stand out with its high mobility, futuristic city map, and unique take on the “circle” mechanic that'd slowly shut down certain zones, but many (myself included) were turned off by its punishing combat. A few months after launch, Ubisoft admitted that Hyper Scape was too hard and kind of boring.
Video: A match of Hyper Scape recorded before its release in 2020.
As player numbers dwindled, Hyper Scape adapted by lowering the player count from 100 to 60 and emphasizing its well-received deathmatch mode. The game has mostly sat forgotten in the collective gaming consciousness as competitors like Apex Legends and Call of Duty: Warzone have grown. We don't have player numbers on Hyper Scape (an easy thing to check on Steam, but it's only on Epic and Uplay), but judging by Reddit posts citing small lobbies, it doesn't sound like it has many players.
Hyper Scape might get a small jolt of players in the months leading up to its demise. There is a lot to enjoy there on a curious night of gaming—the map is unique, it's fun to freely double jump in a battle royale game, and I remember a weird powerup where you turn into a ball.
April will mark the end of Ubisoft's first battle royale experiment. Hyper Scape is a good reminder that battle royale games are an inherently risky business: the genre demands a high player count that can be incredibly hard to maintain unless the game is immediately popular. Ubi launched Hyper Scape into an already crowded field of good battle royale games with dedicated player bases. It takes a lot more than “pretty good” to pull people away from Fortnite, Warzone, and Apex and fill those 100-player lobbies, as it turns out.
Sometimes you're scrolling through TikTok and you find a man who claims he has “the most scuffed mouse ever,” who then proceeds to explain how he cut it in half with a hacksaw.
“I hold the mouse like this, I like to do precision movements with my fingers. I don't need the fucking back,” TikTok user boneyttv, a claw grip user, says in a video that's been watched by more than 166,000 people.
Boneyttv goes on to explain how he “modded” a mouse to improve his gaming and shows footage of him using it. “It might seem like shit, but I have a few top 100 KovaaK's scores with this thing,” he said. He's referring to the leaderboards on a popular aim training game on Steam. Half of a Glorious Model O Wireless got him there, along with some double-sided gel tape and X-Acto knife marks, “just for grip.”
Boneyttv said he did it to save money on buying a new, more comfortable mouse because the Model O was “way too narrow” and it cramped his hand.
The self-proclaimed owner of the most scuffed mouse ever followed up on his original video to answer common questions, such as how he managed to split his mouse in two and why it, surprisingly, isn't as light as you might think. The Model O starts at 69g, then dropped to 57g when boneyttv bisected it. With the custom grips and the Frankensteined mouse feet added on, the mouse comes in at 62g. That puts it in direct competition with the Logitech G Pro X Superlight, which is one of our favorite light gaming mice—and it even comes whole, which now seems like a real bargain.
We're in an ongoing semiconductor shortage and graphics cards are more expensive than entire computers; boneyttv is clearly a man of the times who found a way to save some money where he could. In one of his more recent videos, boneyttv reacts to another TikTok user introducing him to professionally sliced mice for claw grippers, like the G-Wolves Husky. In response, boneyttv whips open his wallet to find no money to spend. It seems like he's content to stick with his custom model for now.
Path Of Exile, like football, is a game of two halves—its lengthy main story campaign and its sprawling, non-linear Atlas Of Worlds endgame. I’d probably watch more football if the first half involved deicide on a massive scale and the latter was a dimension-hopping hunt for loot and glory, but I digress: the important thing is that Path Of Exile’s latter half is due for a shake-up, and Grinding Gear Games aim to deliver that with the free Siege of the Atlas expansion, landing on February 4th.
Path of Exile's Atlas Of Worlds is a multidimensional nexus where all things can and will happen. In gameplay terms, it’s a second campaign, less structured than the first, but throwing all the content from the main game (and a sack of new stuff besides) into the mix for nigh-endless replayability. First introduced in 2016, it has seen three major expansions since, each with their own story arc and a slab of new content. Siege of the Atlas is the fourth, and one of the biggest shake-ups mechanically.
One of the big things defining Path Of Exile is its quarterly ‘challenge leagues’. Every three months, a new side-story or gameplay modifier is thrown into the mix to help freshen up the experience of getting through the main story for new characters. While a couple of the oldest and least popular leagues have recently been retired, the vast majority are still playable through the Atlas. A major focus of this expansion is letting you create your own endgame experience by letting you pick and mix past league content into the Atlas as you progress.
While PoE’s main story has remained largely static (balance tweaks aside) since 2017, the Atlas has been a much livelier place, going through several story arcs, each introducing new extradimensional villains to beat up and loot. Siege of the Atlas introduces two more, each one set on devouring all of existence.
The Searing Exarch is fire-themed, planning on burning reality to a crisp, and the Eater Of Worlds is an all-consuming Cthuloid sort that prefers its universes rare. Each one also has a similarly themed second-in-command that you’ll have to take down before you can think of challenging the big bad.
None pizza with left beef
Rather than lurking in specific locations, in each Atlas excursion you’ll be able to pick which of the two new villains to pursue. Their influence will increase on each hunt, eventually leading to their respective boss battles. The Atlas had grown a bit overcomplicated in previous expansions, with unlocking new areas being gated behind collecting Watchstones and slotting them into the Atlas itself. Now progression is simpler and more freeform, with each of the four current ‘pinnacle’ bosses (the two new ones, plus the Maven and the Uber Elder) dropping Voidstones which you can use to raise the level of all content in the Atlas, or disable if you want to take it easy.
If that sounds too simple for Path Of Exile—it is.
Every single map on the Atlas has a bonus objective, and completing it earns you a point to spend on a gigantic skill grid of Atlas modifiers. Rather than alter your character, it modifies the content encountered across the Atlas. Liked the big battles of Legion? Pick upgrades that boost the chances of Legion content appearing anywhere in your Atlas, along with some perks to increase the quality of the loot you’ll get from it. There are only so many points to go around and a huge number of potential unlocks, so each player should end up with their own personalized endgame, with their favorite monsters & loot sprinkled into every environment type.
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New content means new loot, too, and new ways to tinker with your existing items. Each of the new bosses has a chance to drop their own unique gear, and monsters in areas under their influence have a chance to drop new Eldritch currency items, which will let you imbue regular items with new perks of varying strengths. Items can hold one perk each from the new flame and abyss-themed pools related to the new bosses, giving you incentive to go after both and opening up new min-maxing options.
And if it seems a bit strange that I’ve gone all this time without talking about the new challenge league, it’s because there’s not much to talk about. The Archnemesis league scatters four petrified mini-bosses into every area in the game. They can be woken up and fought by modding them with various perks and loot modifiers that drop from regular enemies. Each successive miniboss fought in an area has the mods from previous ones already activated.
Fighting all four means you’ll get the rewards from the first modifier 4 times, the second modifier thrice, the third twice, and the fourth modifier once, potentially giving early-game players mountains of extra gear. You won’t even need to sacrifice extra inventory space for these monster modifiers, either. The Archnemesis league introduces a new league-specific inventory panel specifically for them. It's a cute quality-of-life improvement.
Gross prophet margin
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Not even Path Of Exile can grow infinitely, and with Siege of the Atlas, Grinding Gear Games are retiring yet another older challenge league. This time it’s the Prophecy content, so you won’t be collecting silver coins to trade in for tiny sidequests anymore. I don't think many players will miss it, but we will be saying goodbye to Navali and her spooky monkey friend.
Beyond that, nothing else is getting axed. The previous story bosses in the Atlas are still accessible (albeit via obscure means, in some cases), and Grinding Gear Games even found time to tune up the difficulty a bit on Act 2 of the main story, so you can put those FOMO worries to bed.
It all seems to be positive growth with this expansion. While there’s been a couple minor nerfs thrown at a couple of game-breakingly powerful character builds, the developers have mostly been focused on buffing up some underpowered archetypes.
The only concern I have with Siege of the Atlas is that it requires players to get through the main game to access the majority of the new content. When I talked with studio head Chris Wilson, he admitted that a completely new player going in blind and figuring everything out as they go is looking at dozens of hours of play to finish the main story. Still, knowledge is power in Path Of Exile, and those who look up guides and recommended character builds will have a much easier time. Even running in the punishing Solo Self Found mode (disabling co-op, trading and stashes), players frequently clear the story in a single afternoon.
The Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas expansion launches as a free update on February 4th. A new character will be needed to join the Archnemesis league, but the Atlas Of Worlds changes are available to all.
The Epic Games Store gave away over 765 million free games in 2021—even more than it handed out in 2020—and in its new year-in-review roundup, Epic confirmed that it will continue with the freebies through 2022.
2021 was a big year for Epic. The number of games available on the Epic Store nearly doubled since the end of 2020 and now stands at 917, and the number of users has grown to 194 million, an increase of 34 million over the 2020 total. Spending on the store in 2021 went up to $840 million, an increase of 20% over 2020, but interestingly the percentage of that total spent on third-party games—that is, stuff not published by Epic, which I take to mean primarily Fortnite V-bucks—held roughly steady at 36%, versus 37% in 2020.
Epic also trumpeted the addition of a shopping cart to its store in 2021, which is definitely a plus (if somewhat overdue), as well as achievement support (currently offered in 25 games on the Epic Store) and a number of other improvements made over the year. 2022 will see continuing upgrades for both developers and customers, including a full release of self-publishing tools in 2022 “which will make the process of launching a game on the store more efficient and seamless,” and player profiles that “will give players a place to see all of their achievements in one place, track their playtime across their library, and more.”
“We’ve heard a lot of feedback from players regarding Library and Download management, and we’re going to be actively addressing those in the coming year,” Epic said. “That includes the ability to prioritize and queue selected games for downloads, more options to help you filter and organize your library, letting you see more of your games in the library view, and the functionality to view your library outside the launcher.”
Other improvements in the works include:
Continued iteration on social features including voice on platform with game agnostic parties
Community features starting with user driven Ratings and Polls
Game Hubs to stay up to date on game updates and news from publishers on the games you own or follow
Expanding Epic Wallet to the rest of the world
Continued improvements to launcher speed and performance
And, the big news amidst it all, the free games will continue to flow. I was half-wondering if Epic might decide to pull the plug on the program—after two years of giveaways, it's feeling a bit mundane—but it's not done yet: “We’re excited to confirm that weekly Free Games will continue in 2022,” Epic said.
(To be clear, I'm happy the giveaways will continue: Routine it may be, but I do like me some free games.)
Today also saw the kickoff of the Epic Store's Lunar New Year Sale, with discounts of up to 75% and a coupon for an extra $10 off any purchase over $14.99. The sale runs until February 10.
Fortnite Chapter 3 is rolling on, and for week eight's quest, Epic wants you to destroy different types of cactus plants around the map.
I don't know what these poor plants ever did to us, but smashing a few will net you an easy 20,000 XP and help you climb the battle pass ranks. The only tough part is figuring out where to find cactus plants. With a quarter of the Fortnite map being desert, there's a lot of ground to cover.
Thankfully, we've got you covered. Here's where to find different types of cactus plants in Fortnite Chapter 3.
Cactus plant locations in Fortnite
Head to the southwest region of the map, not too far from where the desert meets the grass. You may remember this spot (marked on the map) as a popular place to find a Klombo dinosaur.
Look for groupings of cactus plants (or as I like to say, cacti) of the following three types:
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Smash those three kinds of cactus plants and you'll complete the challenge, earning that easy 20,000 XP.
Check out our Fortnite guides page for more challenges, new skins, and more.
The previously announced PC version of Death Stranding Director's Cut will launch on March 30, 2022, on both Steam and the Epic Games Store. It will be priced at $39.99 standalone, or available as an upgrade to owners of the original for $9.99. On the latter point, Death Stranding is currently 70% off in the Steam Lunar Sale until February 3rd so, if you're interested and haven't got the original, buying that now and upgrading later would be the smart way to go about it.
Kojima Productions' games throughout its history at Konami were sometimes followed by deluxe editions that could fairly be called director's cuts: The likes of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and MGS3: Subsistence. Death Stranding Director's Cut looks to continue in that vein, adding some frankly bonkers elements and plenty of them, while also polishing up the game across-the-board: higher frame rates, ultrawide monitor support, and support for Intel's new Xe Super Sampling (XeSS) graphics technology
The 2022 Steam Lunar New Year has begun! This year's event has kicked off a couple weeks earlier than the 2021 sale, which got underway in mid-February, but we can't say that it caught us my surprise: Like virtually every Steam sale date, we've known about this one for awhile.
Steam's first sale of 2022 features discounts on thousands of games—and yes, we will be sharing some of our favorite deals once we've had a chance to dig through them—along with discounts in the Steam Points Shop. Free stickers for your Steam profile will also be given away each day during the sale.
The Steam Lunar New Year Sale runs until February 3.
Ubisoft has announced that it is ending development on its free-to-playbattle royale game, Hyper Scape. The company says it will shut down Hyper Scape servers April 28, just a few weeks shy of the two-year anniversary of its open beta.
“We have made the difficult decision to end development of Hyper Scape and shut the game down as of April 28th,” the Hyper Scape team says in a brief statement posted to the Ubisoft website today. “We set out to create a vertical, close-quarters, and fast-paced shooter experience and we are extremely grateful to our community for joining us on our journey.”
Ubisoft adds that lessons learned from Hyper Scape’s development and period of live service will be used to inform future projects, and extends its thanks to the community of players. “Thank you for your passion and dedication to the world of Neo Arcadia both inside and outside of the game,” Ubisoft says. “Your devotion to the game we built will always be cherished.”
A familiar threat lurks in the new Magic the Gathering set, Neon Dynasty, but everything else seems like total chaos. Jellyfish cybernetics? Transforming tanuki masks? Anything seems possible as Magic glides on neon rails into the cyberpunk future for the first time. With the set arriving soon—February 10th on Arena and MTGO ahead of the tabletop release February 18th—the previews start today, so I've spent the last few days wearing mirror shades and jacking into Magic's equivalent of cyberspace.
Things are already looking pretty weird in this modern version of Kamigawa—I’ve been around since before Magic’s first Ice Age, and I’ve never had to decide whether to plug a jellyfish into my brain or turn it loose on my enemies before now.
What happened to Kamigawa?
This set travels to the current day in Kamigawa's history. In the previous three visits—all the way back in 2004/2005 in our boring and dragon-free world—Kamigawa was 1,200 years in the past from the current Magic timeline. Having grown and healed from the events of the original sets, the plane of Kamigawa has seen technological innovation cram its landscape with skyscrapers and neon washed streets. Traditional structures and shrines nestle between the high tech monoliths of glass and steel, and samurai stride the streets.
This definitely isn’t the pastoral Kamigawa of memory.
What's the story like in Neon Dynasty?
We’re on a familiar plane with a well-known threat, but mysteries abound: a missing emperor, Kamigawa’s guardian kami attacked just some 10 years ago, and a decidedly Phyrexian-flavored conversion of people into machines. Kaito Shizuki—a childhood friend of the emperor and a ninja planeswalker—is the protagonist for the main story, which saw the emperor disappear after a man with a metal arm broke into the palace and attacked the guardian kami. Kaito has searched for her for 10 years, and has joined a group called the Futurists who push the boundaries of science forward. The planeswalker Tezzeret is on Kamigawa, collaborating with this group, but secretly he is allied with a Phyrexian praetor who has been experimenting on kami.
A pretty good cyber-hook, if you ask me.
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What prior mechanics are returning?
I'm most excited about the return of Ninjutsu, a favorite of mine from old Kamigawa, where unblocked attacking creatures can be swapped out for a creature in your hand by paying the Ninjutsu cost. Leading the pack of ninja are Silver-Fur Master, the dapper fellow who is totally a missed opportunity for a crossover card, the ninja-searching planeswalker Satoru Umezawa, and Kaito himself.
We’re also seeing enchantment creatures make a rare appearance outside of Theros—the Magic plane they were introduced on—as part of Neon Dynasty’s focus on enchantments as ‘tradition’ and artifacts as ‘progress’.
Sagas are also returning under the banner of tradition, but they have a twist this time around, as Neon Dynasty will see Sagas transform into creatures when they expire. Even a decent Saga becomes more playable when it flips into some kind of creature threat at the end, so there is an opening for some potential staples in this idea.
Appearing again are a new cycle of monocolor legendary spirit dragons, and as before they do something special when they die. Unlike the originals, the new cycle of spirit dragons give you a choice between different options when they die. What we’ve seen so far are strong, and the original Kokusho was powerful enough to be a staple for years, and he didn’t even give us a choice.
Though we have few examples so far, Wizards said that Shrines will be returning as well, and I always appreciate getting access to some more for my commander deck. I’m imagining it’s likely they will be another monocolor cycle, but it’s possible they could be multicolor as well.
There are no new previews of them yet, but we know Vehicles will be playing a big role in the set (and that white/blue is all about them) as well. Hopefully we get some cool cyberpunk supercar or something to crew up with goblins and tear around downtown.
What are Neon Dynasty's new mechanics like?
Thankfully the much-maligned Bushido isn’t returning, but instead we’re getting a new tool for samurai to replace it. This new mechanic is one similar to Exalted where samurai creatures (and warriors) are rewarded for attacking alone, but doesn’t have a keyword. I’m hopeful to see some truly awesome samurai this time around, since in the original sets they were some of the worst creatures around.
Equipment creatures are new, functioning as sort of modular cards where you can use their new Reconfigure ability to swap between being an equipment or a creature. How useful these could be will vary from card to card, but any time Wizards adds versatility to a card it gets a pretty hefty increase in power level. Giving your equipment the ability to be a creature when you don’t have one to equip, or to be an equipment when you already have one, removes a lot of possible dead draw situations.
With Channel, you’ll get even more options, as you get the choice to pitch a card for a different effect. In the examples of Moonsnare Prototype and Greater Tanuki we’ve seen the Channel be both more and less expensive than the card itself, so the option to upscale an early game choice to deal with a bigger problem or get rid of a high cost creature for mana fixing are both shown off. Similar to Cycling, this can be a powerful effect to smooth out your gameplay if the right effects and mana costs are pinned to it.
I’m not sure how many cards we’ll see with it in the set given it seems to be exclusive to planeswalkers, but Compleated is a new type of mana symbol, combining the Phyrexian symbol with the split mana symbol. As a caveat, if you choose to pay the life, the rules reminder text tells us that the card enters with two fewer loyalty counters. It’s an interesting way to balance the power of getting a planeswalker a turn earlier than normal—but this may be more of a setup for the mechanic being used in future sets that interact with Phyrexia than a mechanic we’ll see a lot of in Neon Dynasty.
The last new keyword for the set is Modifications, which is a shorthand of saying ‘if this creature has an aura, equipment, or counter’. I like this keyword: it’s much better than some of the previous swings at this mechanic that focused on exclusively equipment or one of the others. It will interact better with future cards who may have slightly different themes.
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What about showcases, special frames, and alternate arts?
As has become standard for new sets, Magic is bringing an entire techno-bushel of showcase frames and alternate arts.
I asked Wizards if we were going to get any cyberpunk crossovers—perhaps Blade Runner, Cyberpunk 2077, or Ghost in the Shell for example—but they said while they had been tempted, they wanted to focus on Kamigawa and its stories because it had been so long since we’d seen the plane. So you won’t be finding any of them hanging out in your packs like we did with Dracula and his ilk in Crimson Vow.
Ninjas are getting their own frame, as are samurai. With ninjas you can expect around 22 creatures, plus the ninja planeswalkers we know of, and with samurai getting 21 creatures plus the Wandering Emperor getting the samurai frame treatment. This will include alternate art in addition to the frame, as usual.
Foil etch is returning in collector boosters, with yet another different look. In this case it’s basically a sort of ‘metallic’ effect that is applied sometimes to showcase cards as opposed to the normal rainbow foil. It’s also exclusive to collector boosters.
There will be two Phyrexian showcase cards, one that we know in Tamiyo, and both include the Phyrexian language text.
There will be extended art cards for every rare and mythic that isn’t a planeswalker.
There will also be borderless alt art of some of the cycles of cards. We know that the planeswalkers, legendary lands, and spirit dragons are getting it for sure.
Based on traditional wood block art, the Ukiyo-e basic lands won’t be replacing every land in the set, but will have a chance to be in every type of pack.
Many of the cards that have a showcase frame will be able to show up in a new ‘soft glow treatment’ frame (37 rares and 6 mythics to be exact).
And of course there’s also the really cool looking neon ink foil of Hidetsugu in four colors, with red green and blue appearing in collector boosters only, and the yellow Hidetsugu being an exclusive reward through the Wizards Play Network.
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What can we expect with Magic Arena?
There are the usual suite of cosmetic options coming with the release, including the fairly cute pets this time in Pompom—an origami cyber-tanuki—and also a pretty cool looking holographic koi. There are also new avatars and a new Kamigawa battlefield for you to show off your cards on like the best digital playmat I can think of.