News Hightech

EA patches 'Star Wars Battlefront II' to address technical issues

EA has faced a Star Destroyer's worth of trouble over the just-released Star Wars Battlefront II, most notably the backlash over the micro transactions that were panned as too expensive while also encouraging a pay-to-win vibe. EA subsequently pulled...

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ProPublica: Facebook advertisers can still discriminate by race

A year ago, ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers select who would see ads based on 'ethnic affinity.' Because the social network doesn't ask users to disclose their racial identity, Facebook collects data and assigns each a preference...

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Harley Quinn animated series slated for DC's streaming service

If you've been hankering for some more animation from comics juggernaut DC, or if you simply love Harley Quinn (originally created for Batman: The Animated Series herself), then you'll dig the news from Warner Bros. According to Deadline, the villain...

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Apple's HomePod has been in and out of development since 2012

Have you wondered why it took Apple 3 years to come up with an answer to the Amazon Echo in the form of the HomePod? Apparently, it's because it wasn't really meant as an answer to the Echo. Bloomberg sources claim that work on the HomePod started...

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What to expect from the FCC's net neutrality proposal

Today, senior FCC officials outlined the net neutrality draft proposal that will be released by the commission tomorrow. As has been discussed for months, if the new proposal is accepted by the FCC, broadband internet service will cease being subject...

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EA patches 'Star Wars Battlefront II' to address technical issues

EA has faced a Star Destroyer's worth of trouble over the just-released Star Wars Battlefront II, most notably the backlash over the micro transactions that were panned as too expensive while also encouraging a pay-to-win vibe. EA subsequently pulled...

Read more »


Video games

The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of How Sonic 2 Became Sega’s Ace In The Hole

Despite an avalanche of entries since its original release in 1991, many still consider Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the pinnacle of the series. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was showered with praise upon release in 1992 and surprisingly, that sterling reputation hasn't faded 25 years later. We asked the people behind the game's success to share how Sonic's second outing became one of Sega's driving forces in its fight against Nintendo. Coming off of the massive success of the Japan-developed Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega relocated development efforts for the sequel to the newly founded Sega Technical Institute in the U.S. Sega tapped Mark Cerny to lead the STI, who has since gone on to help create other mascots like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Key members of the original development team, such as series creator Yuji Naka, moved stateside to work on the sequel to Genesis' flagship title. "The development team moved to San Francisco when developing Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and we were able to recognize the great [power] of our title in the U.S. and hear opinions from children," Naka says. "I think it was good influence for the development team." Al Nilsen, former director of marketing at Sega of America, says that the team decided to go all out to ensure it could follow up its mascot's debut with another smash hit. "The thing about sequels - whether it's a book, a movie, or video game - is that sequels don't always deliver and in a lot of cases they suck," he says. The development team knew it had to up the ante for the anticipated sequel, and Naka's team had plenty of ideas. However, one major defining trait had to remain. "What stayed the same was Sonic's pursuit to speed," Naka says. "In Sonic The Hedgehog 2, we lifted up the limit of speed from the previous title. I think this proved our passion for speed. This game also had a 2P mode that we tried to install in Sonic The Hedgehog at the later phase of development. I'm very glad that we continued this and achieved it in the sequel." Former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske, who worked closely with the development team alongside Nilsen and former product manager Madeline Schroeder, says that the constant communication between the product team and the development team helped the process in those days. Nilsen says that feedback loop helped the team refine Sonic 2 down to the lauded game we have today. "The game probably could have been three times the size if we left in everything that was there," he says. "Naka and team really did a phenomenal job of editing what was going to be in the game, and weren't afraid to say, 'I've been working on this for four months, it's not working. Let's take it out.' [In] a lot of games, that isn't going to happen. It was just a great management of the project." Nilsen claims that Sonic 2 looked like a big success earlier than almost any other game the company had seen. Because of this confidence, the marketing team began drafting elaborate promotions like "Sonic 2sday" and a teaser poster with the slogan "Are You Up 2 It?" Sega bet big that it had a massive hit on its hands and wanted to this be as much a celebration as it was a product launch. With Sonic 2, the stakes were so high for Sega that the game was polished up until the last possible moment then flown to Japan for production by two people on two separate planes - just in case something went wrong with one plane. The code arrived in Japan without issue, but despite Sega's confidence, the question of whether or not it would live up to the hype in the eyes of the public remained. When posed with the question of what it would have meant for Sega if Sonic 2 failed, Nilsen pauses for a long time before saying that it's hard to imagine. "I think that it would have meant a shifting of focus for us," he says. "We could have pulled the plug on Sonic 2sday going up to May of '92, so we felt pretty good about what we had seen in Sonic 2 to know that it wasn't just going to be an ordinary sequel, it was going to be a much better sequel. [...]But if it hadn't [been good], we would have figured something else out. We're Sega! I just don't know what it is, and I don't want to have to think about that, but we would have done something else." Thankfully for Nilsen, Sega didn't need to worry about coming up with a plan B. The game ended up being considered one of the best 2D platforming games of the '90s by both fans and critics. It boosted sales of Genesis hardware to the point that it was nearly Nintendo's equal in terms of market share. The polished, challenging, and inventive stages gave players a greater playground to speed through. The inclusion of Sonic's mainstay spin dash move added substantially to players' gameplay options, and the game serves as the introduction of Tails, the series' most popular companion to this day. "They delivered not just a good game, but a phenomenal game with new elements making it bigger and better," Nilsen says. Current head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka didn't work on the game, but he acknowledges how special Sonic 2 is. "As someone who worked on Sonic 3, it kind of hurts me to say it, but I do feel that Sonic 2 really is the best of the classic Sonic series," he says. "The level design is just really, really solid. There are a lot of reasons why I think a lot of people still gravitate toward Sonic 2. Sonic 2 happened in America with the perfect mixture of U.S. development staff along with Japanese development staff and everyone talking, discussing, and working together where all of the staff would say it was a great game for Japanese tastes but also a great game for American tastes. Sonic 2 really captured that global sense of game design and level design." Sonic 2's legacy lives on today, as it appears on a multitude of platforms and serves as the gold standard for all 2D Sonic games. One of those titles is the recently released Sonic Mania, which pays homage to the classic games in the franchise at every turn. Sonic Mania ensures the legacy lives on, as it not only reviewed well, but performed well for Sega, ranking highly in digital storefronts like Nintendo's eShop for months following its release. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an undeniably special title that solidified Sega's blue blur as a true contender to Mario, and to this day, fans, critics, and its creators look back at the speedy hedgehog's sophomore effort with great affection.

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L.A. Noire Switch Review – The Gumshoe Diaries

The police procedural is a wildly popular literary, television, and film genre, but relatively few game developers have successfully captured the thrill of cracking a case. Of the few interactive experiences that have tried to match the intrigue of classic detective stories like The Big Sleep and Chinatown, the Rockstar Games and Team Bondi collaboration L.A. Noire stands out most clearly in the lineup. Six years after its original release, the heady crime drama surprisingly arrives on Switch.  Set in 1940s Los Angeles, L.A. Noire puts you in the fedora of war-hero-turned-detective Cole Phelps, an ambitious LAPD officer still struggling with the trauma of his war memories. Along the course of Phelps’ rise up the ranks, you tackle cases that expose the seedy underbelly of the City of Angels, ranging from crimes of passion to full-scale government corruption. All of the original cases plus the DLC additions are included in the Switch version.  Though it’s set in an open world, the heart of the L.A. Noire experience is arriving at a crime scene, gathering clues, and interrogating witnesses and suspects. These conversations serve as a showcase for the impressive MotionScan technology, which still delivers some of the most believable facial expressions we’ve seen in interactive entertainment to date. Each person of interest’s shifty glances or lack of eye contact fuels the intrigue as you try to discern whether they are coming clean or hiding something. The original game’s Truth/Doubt/Lie conversation options often resulted in unpredictable, over-the-top responses from Phelps (played by Mad Men actor Aaron Staton). For the Switch and remastered versions, Rockstar changed these options to Good Cop/Bad Cop/Accuse, which delivers responses more in line with expectations. Phelps’ strong-arm tactics are still chuckle-worthy sometimes, but they no longer feel misaligned. I still wish you had more variable responses based on the circumstances, but these options generally work well.  (Please visit the site to view this media) The minute-to-minute casework keeps L.A. Noire thrilling from beginning to end, but it’s also a game of missed opportunities, the primary culprit being the underused open world. Rockstar and Team Bondi painstakingly recreated 1940s Los Angeles, which is a treat to drive around. However, outside of some limited sightseeing and bevy of collectibles, it doesn’t take advantage of this setting the way most other Rockstar Games do. The only meaningful side activities to pursue are the random street crimes.  The transition to the Switch also brings along some technological shortcomings. Pop-up is pervasive both in handheld and docked modes, with trees, pedestrians, and full buildings springing up right in front of your eyes only a few blocks ahead. A lack of anti-aliasing also results in a lot of jaggy edges along buildings, telephone wires, and vehicles. These issues are most noticeable when playing in the docked mode, but I still noticed them in the handheld mode as well.  Rockstar parent company Take-Two has repeatedly said it considers L.A. Noire a candidate for becoming a recurring franchise, and replaying the game six years after its initial launch proves its crime-solving formula holds up. The Switch version may suffer visually, but the modular nature of this narrative makes it a perfect companion for gaming on the go.

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Science-Fiction Weekly – Star Wars Battlefront II, Solo, Justice League, Superman

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller apparently hold no grudges against Disney and Lucasfilm for being jettisoned as directors of Solo: A Star Wars Story. According to Vulture, Miller and Lord discussed leaving the Star Wars universe behind during a panel for their Clone High animated series. They seem completely comfortable with what happened.“The experience of shooting the movie was wonderful,” Lord said. “We had the most incredible cast and crew and collaborators. I think in terms of us leaving the project, I think everybody went in with really good intentions and our approach to making the movie was different than theirs. That was a really big gap to bridge, and it proved to be too big. Sometimes people break up, and it’s really sad, and it’s really disappointing, but it happens and we learned a lot from our collaborators and we’re better filmmakers for it. We’re really proud of the work we did on the movie and we wish everybody the best.” You’ll see Lando Calrissian in Solo, but don’t expect a cameo by this beloved smuggler in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film’s director Rian Johnson said that fans won’t see him in any capacity. “No, and I don’t want fans to get their hopes up,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “He’s not in the film and it was never really something that came up. I mean, I loved that character. It would have been fun to see him, but it’s just not something that ever really had a place in the story.”For those of you that want the new films to focus on the new characters more, this is good news. Now we just need to see how closely the story follows the flow of The Empire Strikes Back. I still have a bad feeling about this trilogy being created as an homage to the classics.I saw Justice League last weekend, and had a good time with it. The heroes rightfully stole the show, and I walked out of the theater wanting to see more from each of them. Wonder Woman and Aquaman were continually entertaining, but I thought Cyborg’s character showed the most promise. The film didn’t fulfill a tease (of him potentially being an untrustworthy hero), but that potential is still there. I just wish Justice League had a better threat to combat. Steppenwolf was certainly powerful – and I loved the crazy dynamics of the first battle we saw him in – but his story went nowhere. The threat went nowhere. We were there for the heroes, and that’s okay for a first go. The film is far better than Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but doesn't come close to being in the same league as Wonder Woman. Side note: All of the fuss about Superman’s weird GC upper lip are real. Since actor Henry Cavill needed his mustache for another film he was shooting, he couldn’t shave it off. They thought a little post-production trickery would remove it easily. They were wrong. He looks like an alien at times, which I guess works, given he’s from Krypton. My advice for you: Sit as far back from the screen as you can. That might help. DC hasn't revealed future plans for Superman yet, but Cavill hopes another standalone film is in the cards. “There’s a wonderful opportunity to tell the Superman story,” he told the LA Times during an interview. “Now there is a fantastic chance to show Superman in his full colors and tell a very complex, character-driven movie that is based on story and have that wonderful sensation of hope and happiness. A feel-good movie with lessons laced in there as well.” Cavill's contract is for one more film. Will it be a Justice League sequel or something else? Here's hoping he signs on for anything calling for Superman to return. He plays the character well. I'd hate to see someone else dawn the shield at this point. The big science-fiction news for games is still Star Wars Battlefront II, which continues to turn its destructive Death Star laser upon itself. Even after removing the insidious microtransaction model from the mix, progression in the game is flawed, and players are now learning in-game currency dries up significantly after logging roughly 20 hours into multiplayer. The class-specific challenges don't have many tiers, and many can be completed quickly, leaving players with few ways to earn credit, outside of playing matches (which don't offer much). Just picture how frustrating this would be if the heroes still cost 60,000 credits, and if the microtransactions were still there. Players would go ballistic, and for good reason. DICE's general manager, Oskar Gabrielson, says the studio didn't foresee microtransactions or Star Cards as problems. "This was never out intention," he wrote in an official Battlefront II blog post. Yeah, right. We can now see exactly how EA was trying to drive people to spend real money to buy loot crates. They weren't subtle about it. The good news that came out of this, if you want to call it that, is your voice carrying significant weight. EA heard you. They made changes. More are needed, but they are definitely looking at what the community is saying, and are trying to make the game better. I hope Battlefront II is the turning point for evil microtransaction practices in games. The industry is watching, and as EA continues to step in the bantha droppings, things should get better for gamers. The latest mistake: EA saying the removal of microtransactions "is not expected to have a material impact on EA’s fiscal year 2018 financial guidance" in an earnings report. We've heard time and time again from various developers that microtransactions help pay for game development, as costs have gone up. This is probably true for most games, but EA saying that it won't impact earnings doesn't make it look like they matter. This is ammo gamers will undoubtedly use for future games, and not just those developed by EA. What a mess. The worst part of all of this: Battlefront II could be great without all of that junk messing up the experience.

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Square-Enix Wants Switch To Be A Home For All Kinds Of The Publisher's Titles

As part of their financial quarter Q&A, which has only just been translated, Square-Enix president Yosuke Matsuda was asked about the Nintendo Switch and how Square-Enix plans to support the system in the future. Matsuda believes that Nintendo's new console is a prime candidate for multiplatform titles, new IP, old IP, and mid-sized titles. When referring to mid-sized titles, Matsuda is talking about games like Octopath Traveler or their handheld output in the DS and PSP era.  While Matsuda does refer to multiplatform titles, this doesn't necessarily mean something like Final Fantasy XV or further games in the series. It does mean that, where multiplatform games do apply, they want to add the Switch to the consoles they want to prioritize. So something like an HD remaster might include the Switch now, where it previously didn't. They also see the Switch as a useful avenue for both new IPs and leveraging old ones and they are planning to be proactive in both these fields. What games do you want to see Square-Enix put on the Switch? [Source: Square-Enix Q&A]   Our TakeSquare-Enix seems like a good fit for the Switch and they're probably expecting big things from Octopath and Dragon Quest XI. Considering how many of their games focus on high production values, it will be interesting to see what games they consider porting to Switch, as well.

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New Gameplay Today – Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris' Mercury Activities

Destiny 2's public events are a fun way to break up the game's action while you're out and about, Guardian-ing it up. With the upcoming Curse of Osiris expansion, those events are getting more involved. Don't believe me? Check out our latest episode of NGT and watch as Suriel Vasquez walks Leo and me through one of those events on Mercury, and also explore the world in general. The same basic structure is in place – be at the right place at the right time, when a countdown begins – the actual tasks are a bit more complicated and ambitious. In this particular event, you'll get to see how you're not necessarily rooted to one general location, as you have to move through a fair amount of real estate to complete the task.  (Please visit the site to view this media) Look for the Curse of Osiris on December 5 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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The Behind-The-Scenes Story Of How Sonic 2 Became Sega’s Ace In The Hole

Despite an avalanche of entries since its original release in 1991, many still consider Sonic the Hedgehog 2 the pinnacle of the series. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was showered with praise upon release in 1992 and surprisingly, that sterling reputation hasn't faded 25 years later. We asked the people behind the game's success to share how Sonic's second outing became one of Sega's driving forces in its fight against Nintendo. Coming off of the massive success of the Japan-developed Sonic the Hedgehog, Sega relocated development efforts for the sequel to the newly founded Sega Technical Institute in the U.S. Sega tapped Mark Cerny to lead the STI, who has since gone on to help create other mascots like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Key members of the original development team, such as series creator Yuji Naka, moved stateside to work on the sequel to Genesis' flagship title. "The development team moved to San Francisco when developing Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and we were able to recognize the great [power] of our title in the U.S. and hear opinions from children," Naka says. "I think it was good influence for the development team." Al Nilsen, former director of marketing at Sega of America, says that the team decided to go all out to ensure it could follow up its mascot's debut with another smash hit. "The thing about sequels - whether it's a book, a movie, or video game - is that sequels don't always deliver and in a lot of cases they suck," he says. The development team knew it had to up the ante for the anticipated sequel, and Naka's team had plenty of ideas. However, one major defining trait had to remain. "What stayed the same was Sonic's pursuit to speed," Naka says. "In Sonic The Hedgehog 2, we lifted up the limit of speed from the previous title. I think this proved our passion for speed. This game also had a 2P mode that we tried to install in Sonic The Hedgehog at the later phase of development. I'm very glad that we continued this and achieved it in the sequel." Former Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske, who worked closely with the development team alongside Nilsen and former product manager Madeline Schroeder, says that the constant communication between the product team and the development team helped the process in those days. Nilsen says that feedback loop helped the team refine Sonic 2 down to the lauded game we have today. "The game probably could have been three times the size if we left in everything that was there," he says. "Naka and team really did a phenomenal job of editing what was going to be in the game, and weren't afraid to say, 'I've been working on this for four months, it's not working. Let's take it out.' [In] a lot of games, that isn't going to happen. It was just a great management of the project." Nilsen claims that Sonic 2 looked like a big success earlier than almost any other game the company had seen. Because of this confidence, the marketing team began drafting elaborate promotions like "Sonic 2sday" and a teaser poster with the slogan "Are You Up 2 It?" Sega bet big that it had a massive hit on its hands and wanted to this be as much a celebration as it was a product launch. With Sonic 2, the stakes were so high for Sega that the game was polished up until the last possible moment then flown to Japan for production by two people on two separate planes - just in case something went wrong with one plane. The code arrived in Japan without issue, but despite Sega's confidence, the question of whether or not it would live up to the hype in the eyes of the public remained. When posed with the question of what it would have meant for Sega if Sonic 2 failed, Nilsen pauses for a long time before saying that it's hard to imagine. "I think that it would have meant a shifting of focus for us," he says. "We could have pulled the plug on Sonic 2sday going up to May of '92, so we felt pretty good about what we had seen in Sonic 2 to know that it wasn't just going to be an ordinary sequel, it was going to be a much better sequel. [...]But if it hadn't [been good], we would have figured something else out. We're Sega! I just don't know what it is, and I don't want to have to think about that, but we would have done something else." Thankfully for Nilsen, Sega didn't need to worry about coming up with a plan B. The game ended up being considered one of the best 2D platforming games of the '90s by both fans and critics. It boosted sales of Genesis hardware to the point that it was nearly Nintendo's equal in terms of market share. The polished, challenging, and inventive stages gave players a greater playground to speed through. The inclusion of Sonic's mainstay spin dash move added substantially to players' gameplay options, and the game serves as the introduction of Tails, the series' most popular companion to this day. "They delivered not just a good game, but a phenomenal game with new elements making it bigger and better," Nilsen says. Current head of Sonic Team Takashi Iizuka didn't work on the game, but he acknowledges how special Sonic 2 is. "As someone who worked on Sonic 3, it kind of hurts me to say it, but I do feel that Sonic 2 really is the best of the classic Sonic series," he says. "The level design is just really, really solid. There are a lot of reasons why I think a lot of people still gravitate toward Sonic 2. Sonic 2 happened in America with the perfect mixture of U.S. development staff along with Japanese development staff and everyone talking, discussing, and working together where all of the staff would say it was a great game for Japanese tastes but also a great game for American tastes. Sonic 2 really captured that global sense of game design and level design." Sonic 2's legacy lives on today, as it appears on a multitude of platforms and serves as the gold standard for all 2D Sonic games. One of those titles is the recently released Sonic Mania, which pays homage to the classic games in the franchise at every turn. Sonic Mania ensures the legacy lives on, as it not only reviewed well, but performed well for Sega, ranking highly in digital storefronts like Nintendo's eShop for months following its release. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an undeniably special title that solidified Sega's blue blur as a true contender to Mario, and to this day, fans, critics, and its creators look back at the speedy hedgehog's sophomore effort with great affection.

Read more »


News in brief

Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has resigned after 37 years in power

Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday, shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

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Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe: From liberation hero to autocrat

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe was feted as a liberation hero when he came to power by a nation that lived nearly a century under British rule. But while the West regarded him as an autocrat, some in Africa still saw him as an anti-colonial hero.

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'Patience!' Merkel coalition woes not the blow to EU some fear (or crave)

As coalition talks collapsed in Germany this week, delaying or even imperilling Angela Merkel’s fourth term as chancellor, observers across Europe have been atwitter about the possible knock-on effects.

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Hariri returns to Lebanon for first time since shock resignation

Saad al-Hariri landed in Beirut on Tuesday, his media office said, returning home for the first time since he resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia and plunged his country into political crisis.

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At least 50 killed in mosque attack in northeast Nigeria

At least 50 people were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a mosque in northeast Nigeria, police said, in an attack blamed on Boko Haram jihadists.

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Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe has resigned after 37 years in power

Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday, shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

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Sport

Are the Olympics worth the risk for Calgary?

Three decades after hosting the Winter Olympics, Calgary is considering doing it again. But, despite assurances from the IOC that costs can be contained, not everyone thinks it's a good bet for the city to make.

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Brian Gionta wants to add Olympic gold to hockey resumé

Longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta was a member of the U.S. men’s hockey team that finished eighth at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. The 38-year-old NHL free agent is hoping for another chance to win gold in February at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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TFC's Tosaint Ricketts has goal-scorer's killer instinct

Toronto FC goes into the opening leg of the Eastern Conference final without the services of star players Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. But with seven goals in just 22 games, Tosaint Ricketts has shown he's up to the task of filling their role.

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'He Broke his Neck in Two Places!' | Rob's Dream Job, Ep.3

Rob has returned to real life after jet-setting to Helsinki last week. Now he's in the edit suite, getting down to business, and letting you know who may be the best healer heading to the Olympics.

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Evgenia Medvedeva has broken foot, may miss Grand Prix final

World champion figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva says she may miss the Grand Prix Final next month because of a broken foot. Widely considered the favourite for the Olympic gold medal next year, Medvedeva is unbeaten in two years.

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Are the Olympics worth the risk for Calgary?

Three decades after hosting the Winter Olympics, Calgary is considering doing it again. But, despite assurances from the IOC that costs can be contained, not everyone thinks it's a good bet for the city to make.

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Money


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