An anonymous reader writes: This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Dungeons & Dragons, and it's getting a lot of mainstream attention. Long-time and former players are examining the game's influence and its legacy, even as it's being introduced to yet another generation of kids. "For countless players, Dungeons & Dragons redirected teen-age miseries and energies that might have been put to more destructive uses. How many depressed and lonely kids turned away from suicide because they found community and escape in role-playing games? How many acts of bullying or vandalism were sublimated into dice-driven combat? ... How many underage D.U.I.s never came to pass because spell tables were being consulted late into the night?" Meanwhile, as people who played the game long ago have grown into adults producing their own works, our culture has reaped the benefits of D&D's influence. "The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the 'weird fiction' author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Dan Harmon (Community) and Chris Weitz (American Pie)."
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An anonymous reader writes After a series of investigations, lawsuits, and fines over how in-app purchases are advertised and communicated to users, Google has agreed to stop labeling games that use in-app purchases as "Free." This change is the result of a request by the European Commission to stop misleading customers about the costs involved with using certain apps. "Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them; Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent." The EC notes that Apple has not yet done anything to address these concerns.
An anonymous reader writes Icelandic studio CCP is better known for EVE Online, but its first foray into virtual reality with space shooter Valkyrie has caused a stir, and is widely seen as a flagship game for the Oculus Rift headset. In a new interview, Valkyrie executive producer Owen O'Brien explains what advantages the game will have when played with a headset — and gives his view on why a dogfighter is better suited to VR than a first person shooter: "People have hacked it together, but it doesn't really work," he says. "The basic problem is Simulator Sickness. In Valkyrie or any cockpit game or driving game, what you're doing in the real world, assuming you're sitting down, more or less mimics what your brain is telling you you're doing in the game. So you don't get that disconnect, and it's that disconnect that causes sickness. So, the problem with first-person shooters is that you're running or crouching or jumping in the game but not in the real world, and because it's so realistic it can make some people (not everybody) feel nauseated if they start doing it for extended periods of time."
First time accepted submitter Dragoness Eclectic writes Early Tuesday, gamers woke up to find out that they couldn't log in to any Sony Online Entertainment games--no Everquest, no Planetside 2, none of them. Oddly, the forums where company reps might have posted some explanation weren't reachable, either. A bit of journalistic investigation by EQ2Wire came across the explanation: SOE forgot to renew the domain registration on SonyOnline.net, the hidden domain that holds all their nameservers. After 7 weeks of non-payment post-expiration, NetworkSolutions reclaimed the domain, sending all access to Sony's games into an internet black hole. Sony has since paid up. SOE's president, John Smedley, has admitted that the expiration notices were being sent to an "unread email" address.
mrspoonsi sends this BBC report: Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, is suing Call of Duty's video games publisher. The ex-military ruler is seeking lost profits and damages after a character based on him featured in Activision's 2012 title Black Ops II. The 80-year-old is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed during his time in power, including the murder of critics. One lawyer said this was the latest in a growing trend of such lawsuits. "In the U.S., individuals have what's called the right to publicity, which gives them control over how their person is depicted in commerce including video games," explained Jas Purewal, an interactive entertainment lawyer. "There's also been a very well-known action by a whole series of college athletes against Electronic Arts, and the American band No Doubt took action against Activision over this issue among other cases. "It all focuses upon the American legal ability for an individual to be only depicted with their permission, which in practice means payment of a fee. "But Noriega isn't a US citizen or even a resident. This means that his legal claim becomes questionable, because it's unclear on what legal basis he can actually bring a case against Activision."
theodp writes The good news, writes Michael Thomas, is that wired kids are learning chess at an unprecedented rate. Young children learning chess from tablets can quickly become more knowledgeable than their parents. But the bad news, laments Thomas, is there is so much demand for scholastic chess that there are not enough experienced chess facilitators to go around. Could technology like RFID-tagged chess pieces or services like ChessStream.com be employed to referee second-grader chess matches, Thomas wonders, or are more well-meaning-but-not-necessarily-expert human facilitators — a la T-ball coaches — the answer?
hypnosec writes After several controversies arising about in-app purchases, a Chinese couple has done the unthinkable by selling their sons to buy in-app items. An unmarried couple, A Hui and A Mei, severely addicted to online games, were accused of selling their sons and were arrested. In an interview with Guangdong TV, they revealed that they chose to sell their sons to child traffickers. A Hui said A Mei is fond of playing online games and likes to buy game items. As he could not give up his in-app purchases, he was not able to support his first son and they sold him to Fujian-based child traffickers. When the wife bore another son, they felt they would not be able to support their second child either, and they again sold him to the traffickers.
An anonymous reader writes: As news that Cliff Bleszkinski, Epic Games' legendary former creative, sets off to found his own studio, a new article takes a look at how six other gaming auteurs have fared after leaving a major developer or publisher to go it alone. The results, surprisingly, are mixed: while some, such as Double Fine's Tim Schafer, have gone on to far greater success, it doesn't always work out that way: just look at John Romero's Daikatana. The article also makes a good point that Peter Molyneux is striking out with a start-up for the third in his career now, but it may not be third time the charm: Godus has been far less well received than Black & White or Fable. Can Cliffy B avoid making the same mistakes?
An anonymous reader writes "Video game designers and astronomers have been working different ends of the same problem: how to chart a galaxy full of stars. Astronomers start with observation, finding new and better ways to look into the sky and record what they can see. Game devs take the limited data we have as a starting point, and assume that everything else in the galaxy obeys roughly the same rules. They generate the rest of the galaxy procedurally from this data. But the information flow isn't simply one-way. As developers like David Braben improve their galaxy-creation models, astronomers can look at the models and see where they match (or not) with further observations, allowing them to improve their own scientific models in the process. "'The conflicts that show up are generally due to simplifications made in the models, for which new observations can provide improved guidelines. There's a continuously evolving and developing understanding of space, in which both models and observations play important roles.' ... Elite's model has expanded Braben's understanding of planet formation and distribution. Braben boasts that his games predicted extra-solar planets ('These were pretty close to those that have been since discovered, demonstrating that there is some validity in our algorithms'), and that the game's use of current planet-formation theories has shown the sheer number of different systems that can exist according to the rules, everything from nebulous gas giants to theoretically habitable worlds.""
MojoKid writes: One of the great universal truths of modern gaming is that preorder bonuses suck. The term refers to the practice of ordering a title at some point before it actually ships in order to get access to a variety of minor outfit tweaks, a few starting weapons, or boosts to early gameplay. Today, some publishers take this practice to truly ridiculous levels; the recent game Watch Dogs has no fewer than nine pre-order options. GameStop, perhaps sensing that there's pressure building against the model, wants to turn the dial up to 11 — and create preorder-locked, GameStop-specific content. According to financial analyst Colin Sebastian, "[GameStop] indicates that software publishers are more enthusiastic about partnering with it. For example, by offering exclusive content on each major game release and longer term, future models may include GameStop offering exclusive gameplay." GameStop is enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment. The company has captured a greater share of the Xbox One and PS4 market than it held at this point in the console cycle last time around and it's clearly looking to increase the attractiveness of its own business. That's fine but this kind of arbitrary lopping off of content to boost sales at particular shops simply isn't going to sit well with most gamers.
An anonymous reader writes Dwarf Fortress, the epic, ASCII text-based, roguelike citybuilding game, just released its biggest update in years. The game is notable for its incredible depth, and the new release only extends it. Here are the release notes — they won't make much sense if you don't play the game, but they'll give you a sense of how massively complex Dwarf Fortress is. It's also worth noting the a team of modders has recently released a new version Stonesense utility, which renders the game in 3-D from an isometric point of view. "[T]he utility relies on DFHack, a community-made library that reads the game's memory and can be parsed, thus allowing for additional utilities to render things while bypassing the initial ASCII output." If you're unfamiliar with the game, here's an illustrated depiction of an amazing story generated by the game.
MojoKid writes: Normally, the question of whether a game runs better on the PC or a console is a no-brainer, at least for PC users. Watch Dogs, however, with its problematic and taxing PC play, challenges that concept. And since the gap between consoles and PCs is typically smallest at the beginning of the console generation, HotHardware decided to take the Xbox One out for a head-to-head comparison against the PC with this long-awaited title. What was found may surprise you. Depending on just how much horsepower your PC has, the Xbox One (and possibly the PS4 though that wasn't compared) might be the better option. There's no question that the PC can look better, even before you factor in the mods that have been released to date, but unless you've spent $300 or more on a fairly recent GPU, you're not going to be able to run the game at sufficiently high detail to benefit from the enhanced image quality and resolution. If you have a Radeon HD 7950 / R9 280 or an NVIDIA card with greater than 4GB of RAM or a GeForce GTX 780 / 780 Ti, you can happily observe Watch Dogs make hash out of the Xbox One — but statistically, only a minority of gamers have this sort of high-end hardware. This comparison should be viewed in light of the recent allegations that the PC version's graphics were deliberately handicapped.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Technology writer Jon Brodkin sat down with a group of indie game developers (as well as a professor at the University of Southern California's game-design program) to talk about why they decided to launch their own small studios rather than stick with comfortable (albeit stressful) jobs at major firms like Disney or Zynga. The answer, as you'd expect, boils down to control. "Working for a bigger company is a good way to gain experience, and learn how games are made," said Graham Smith, one of the co-founders of Toronto-based DrinkBox Studios. "It's also nice to have a steady salary coming in as you learn the ropes. On the flip side, depending on the company, you might not have much control over the game's design, or even be making the types of games that you enjoy playing." But startups come with their own challenges, not the least of which is the prospect of an economic downturn quickly wiping you out, or not making your Kickstarter goal.
motang (1266566) writes Rob Pardo, Blizzard employee of 17 years who has worked on Warcraft and Diablo is leaving the company. "I'm looking forward to new challenges in my career, but I will always cherish the time I spent with you all and the amazing and collaborative teams at Blizzard," Pardo said. "It was both satisfying and humbling, and it made me a better developer and a better person. I look forward to playing Blizzard games as a player for many years to come. Most important, now I have plenty of time to learn how to build a competitive Hearthstone deck."
An anonymous reader writes with news about how Oculus is dealing with the reselling of dev kits in China. Bad news for those of you looking to get your hands on a preorder of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. A representative from Oculus recently confirmed that the company has had to stop selling its headsets in China as a result of an undisclosed amount of reselling. Which is to say, some of those preordering the developer edition of the virtual reality headset in China — not the consumer product, which hasn't been officially released in any capacity just yet — aren't actually looking to develop anything on the headsets. Nor are they even interested in getting a first look at the virtual reality capabilities of the $350 development kit. They're scalping, plain and simple, to take advantage of what appears to be a hefty amount of demand for the device.