Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
jones_supa writes "More great news for Linux gamers: following the footsteps of Steam, GOG.com is preparing delivery of Linux games. They expect to start doing so this autumn. The officially supported distributions will be Ubuntu and Mint. Right now, they are performing testing on various configurations, training up their teams on Linux-speak, and generally preparing for the rollout of at least 100 titles — DRM-free, as usual. This will update some of the catalog's existing games with a Linux port and bring new ones to the collection. Further information on specific games is yet not known, but GOG invites fans and customers to their community wishlist for discussion."
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."
An anonymous reader writes "Last year Valve announced a new game controller that was trying to innovate on the designs that have been with us for over a decade now. The biggest changes were replacing analog sticks with circular touchpads and plopping a small touchscreen into the middle of the controller. Valve has now revamped their prototype hardware, and the touchscreen is nowhere to be seen. In its place are stop/play buttons (which appear similar to start/select buttons) and a bigger Steam logo button. They've also moved around the directional and ABXY buttons, reverting to a more traditional layout (picture). They'll be demonstrating the latest prototype next week at GDC."
An anonymous reader writes "Carbine Studios, a game company founded by former Blizzard developers, has been working on a new sci-fi MMORPG called Wildstar. The game has now gotten a release date: June 3rd. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's preview described the game thus: 'it's trying to out-MMO every other MMO. Not with big talk of moving narratives or ever-changing worlds, but by ramping up the unreal theme pack nature of its peers and predecessors. This is a game where you're constantly presented with a legion of things to do, numbers to increase, boxes to tick, things to collect, factions to impress, points to earn, monsters air-dropped in to battle without warning and/or preferably all of the above simultaneously. It might even be too much, too overwhelming in its parade of sideshows.'"
probain was the first to submit news that Crytek has officially announced the port of their CRYENGINE game engine to Linux and will be demoing it at the Game Developers Conference next week. Quoting: "During presentations and hands-on demos at Crytek's GDC booth, attendees can see for the first time ever full native Linux support in the new CRYENGINE. The CRYENGINE all-in-one game engine is also updated with the innovative features used to recreate the stunning Roman Empire seen in Ryse – including the brand new Physically Based Shading render pipeline, which uses real-world physics simulation to create amazingly realistic lighting and materials in CRYENGINE games."
jones_supa writes "A bit surprisingly, Valve Software has uploaded their Direct3D to OpenGL translation layer onto GitHub as open source. It is provided as-is and with no support, under the MIT license allowing you to do pretty much anything with it. Taken directly from the DOTA2 source tree, the translation layer supports limited subset of D3D 9.0c, bytecode-level HLSL to GLSL translator, and some SM3 support. It will require some tinkering to get it to compile, and there is some hardcoded Source-specific stuff included. The project might bring some value to developers who are planning to port their product from Windows to Linux."
jones_supa writes "Valve has recently released Portal 2 on Steam for Linux and opened a GitHub entry to gather all the bugs from the community. When one of the Valve developers closed a bug related to Portal 2 recommending that the users disable a security feature, the Linux community reacted. A crash is caused by the game's interaction with SELinux, the Linux kernel subsystem that deals with access control security policies. Portal 2 uses the third-party Miles Sound System MP3 decoder which, in turn, uses execheap, a feature that is normally disabled by SELinux. Like its name suggests, execheap allows a program to map a part of the memory so that it is both writable and executable. This could be a problem if someone chose to use that particular memory section for buffer overflow attacks; that would eventually permit the hacker to gain access to the system by running code. In the end, Valve developer David W. took responsibility of the problem: 'I apologize for the mis-communication: Some underlying infrastructure our games rely on is incompatible with SELinux. We are hoping to correct this. Of course closing this bug isn't appropriate and I am re-opening it.' This is more of an upstream problem for Valve. It's not something that they can fix directly, and most likely they will have to talk with the Miles developers and try to repair the problem from that direction."
An anonymous reader writes "An upcoming VR game for the Oculus Rift aims to let players 'be a Hollywood Hacker.' Listing inspirations from 'Johnny Mnemonic, Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, and the TRON films,' Polygon claims that the game 'does an amazing job at exploring those hacking tropes and often silly visuals to give the player a sense of control and power. This is "real life" hacking as filtered through a Michael Bay fever dream.'"
MojoKid writes "Buzz has been building for the last week that Microsoft would soon unveil the next version of DirectX at the upcoming Games Developer Conference (GDC). Microsoft has now confirmed that its discussion forums at the show won't just be to discuss updates to DX11, but that the company is putting a full court press behind DirectX 12. The company responded sharply over a year ago, when an AMD executive claimed that future versions of the API were essentially dead, but it has been over four years since DX11 debuted. To date, Microsoft has only revealed a few details of the next-generation API. Like AMD's Mantle, it will focus on giving developers "close-to-metal" GPU resource access and reducing CPU overhead. Like Mantle, the goal of DirectX 12 is to give programmers more control over performance tuning, with an eye towards better multi-threading and multi-GPU scaling. Unlike Mantle, DirectX 12 will undoubtedly support a full range of GPUs from AMD, Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm. Qualcomm's presence is interesting. With Windows RT all but moribund, Qualcomm's interest in that market may have seemed incidental. However, the fact that the company is involved with the DX12 standard could mean that the handset and tablet developer is serious about the Windows market in the long term."
An anonymous reader writes "In a Q&A session on Reddit last night with Valve's Gabe Newell, the founder confirmed that the company is in the process of getting the highly anticipated Source 2 game engine 'working well with VR.' Valve's Alex Vlachos, Senior Graphics Programmer, is apparently leading the charge. Still no word on when the engine may ship. Valve, who is openly collaborating with Oculus VR, demonstrated a VR headset prototype in January at Steam Dev Days. The company also launched a beta version of SteamVR which offers Steam's 'Big Picture' mode in a format compatible with the Oculus Rift VR headset. A developer who got to experiment with Valve's VR prototype says it's very impressive, even more so than the original Oculus VR dev kit."
An anonymous reader writes "Last week Valve made an interesting but seemingly innocuous announcement: they're giving game developers control of their own pricing on Steam. Nicholas Lovell now claims that this has effectively kicked off a race to zero for PC game pricing. He says what's starting to happen now will mirror what's happened to mobile gaming over the past several years. Quoting: 'Free is the dominant price point on mobile platforms. Why? Because the two main players don't care much about making money from the sale of software, or even In-App Purchases. The AppStore is less than 1% of Apple's revenue. Apple has become one of the most valuable companies in the world on the strength of making high-margin, well-designed, highly-desirable hardware. ... Google didn't create Android to sell software. It built Android to create an economic moat. ... In the case of both iOS and Android, keeping prices high for software would have been in direct opposition to the core businesses of Apple (hardware) and Google (search-related advertising). The only reason that ebooks are not yet free is that Amazon's core business is retail, not hardware. ... Which brings me to Steam. The Steambox is a competitor to consoles, created by Valve. It is supposed to provide an out-of-the-box PC gaming experience, although it struggles to compete on either price or on marketing with the consoles. It doesn't seem as if Steam is keen to subsidize the costs of the box, not to the level that Microsoft and Sony are. But what if Steam's [unique selling point] was thousands or tens of thousands of games for free?'"
An anonymous reader writes "The Principal Graphics Programmer for BioShock Infinite has put up a post about how the game's lighting was developed. We don't usually get this kind of look into the creation of AAA game releases, but the studio shut down recently, so ex-employees are more willing to explain. The game uses a hybrid lighting system: direct lighting is dynamic, indirect uses lightmaps, shadows are a mix. 'Dynamic lighting was handled primarily with a deferred lighting/light-pre pass renderer. This met our goals of high contrast/high saturation — direct lighting baked into lightmaps tends to be flat, mostly because the specular approximations available were fairly limited.' It's interesting how much detail goes into something you don't really think about when you're playing through the game. 'We came up with a system that supported baked shadows but put a fixed upper bound on the storage required for baked shadows. The key observation was that if two lights do not overlap in 3D space, they will never overlap in texture space. We made a graph of lights and their overlaps. Lights were the vertices in the graph and the edges were present if two lights' falloff shapes overlapped in 3D space. We could then use this graph to do a vertex coloring to assign one of four shadow channels (R,G,B,A) to each light. Overlapping lights would be placed in different channels, but lights which did not overlap could reuse the same channel. This allowed us to pack a theoretically infinite number of lights in a single baked shadow texture as long as the graph was 4-colorable.'"
curtwoodward writes "Long before Steve Jobs kicked off the modern mobile gaming revolution with the iPhone, a Harvard astrophysicist got kids obsessed with chasing electronic lights and sounds with their fingers. Bob Doyle was the inventor behind Merlin, and built the early versions with his wife and brother-in-law. As the more sophisticated cousin of raw memory game Simon, Merlin offered games like blackjack, tic-tac-toe, and even an early music program. Doyle, now 77, got 5 percent royalties on each sale, money that paid for the rest of his projects over the years." Using those royalties, Bob Doyle spends his time writing things online.
cagraham writes "According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), over 85% of daily tasks will include game elements by 2020. The organization, whose motto is 'Advancing Technology for Humanity,' looked at the growth of games in fields such as healthcare, education, and enterprise when preparing their report. Member Tom Coughlin summarized the findings, saying that 'by 2020, however many points you have at work will help determine the kind of raise you get or which office you sit in.'"
A while ago you had a chance to ask composer George Sanger about making music and sound effects for games, television, and film. Below you'll find "The Fat Man's" answers to those questions.
Nerval's Lobster writes "As founder and CEO of the Ouya (pronounced "OOO-yah") game company, Julie Uhrman's mission has been to lure gamers back to their living room televisions. Touch-screen gaming on a smartphone or tablet is nice, she suggests, but a big screen, coupled with the precision of a controller with buttons and analog sticks, offers the best platform for immersive, emotionally engaging experiences. Soon enough, though, you shouldn't need an Ouya console to play Ouya games. Later this week, Uhrman plans to announce 'Ouya Everywhere,' an initiative to bring Ouya games to television sets that aren't connected to Ouya hardware. As a company, Ouya remains vague about just how Ouya Everywhere will work; but in an interview with Slashdot, Uhrman provided a rough idea of what to expect: 'It could be another set-top [box],' she said. 'It could be the TV itself. There's a number of different ways that games can be played on the television, and we're actively exploring all of them.' To be clear, Ouya isn't getting out of the hardware business. The company has promised relatively frequent hardware refreshes, and already upgraded the original Ouya's controller to address early complaints. The next version of the Ouya hardware 'at a minimum will have a higher performing chipset,' she said. 'We have done a lot of work on our controller and we feel like there is even more work to do. Those are the two big things we're focused on.' But while her company builds hardware, Uhrman insists that Ouya is 'really a software company. The largest team inside Ouya is software engineers.' (Ouya has 49 employees, 19 of them engineers.) Ouya arrived with great fanfare in 2012, after a $950,000 Kickstarter campaign met its goal in just eight hours. The fundraiser ended up raising $8.6 million, and Kickstarter backers received their consoles in March 2013."
An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kuchera at Polygon ponders the surveillance capabilities of our gaming consoles in light of recent NSA and GCHQ revelations. 'Xbox One Kinect can see in the dark. It can keep a moving human being in focus without motors. It knows how to isolate voices from background noise. The privacy implications of having a device that originally couldn't be removed pointed at your living room at all times was always kind of scary, and that fear has been at least partially justified.' Kuchera, like many of us, habitually disconnects cameras and microphones not currently in use. But he also feels a sense of inevitability about the whole thing: 'If the government wants this information they're going to get it, no matter what we do with our gaming consoles. It's important to pay attention to what our government is doing, but this issue is much bigger than our gaming consoles, and we open ourselves up to much greater forms of intrusion on a daily basis.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Have you ever seen a goofy microtransaction for a mobile game you play and wondered, 'Does anyone actually buy that junk?' As it turns out, few players actually do. A new study found that only 1.5% of players actually spend money on in-app purchases. Of those who do, more than 50% of the money is spent by the top 10%. 'Some game companies talk openly about the fact that they have whales, but others shy away from discussing them publicly. It costs money to develop and keep a game running, just like those fancy decorations and free drinks at a casino; whales, like gambling addicts, subsidize fun for everyone else.' Eric Johnson at Re/code says he talked to a game company who actually assigned an employee to one particular player who dropped $10,000 every month on in-app purchases." Meanwhile, in-app purchases have come to the attention of the European Commission, and they'll be discussing a set of standards for consumer rights at upcoming meetings. They say, 'Games advertised as "free" should not mislead consumers about the true costs involved.'
Nerval's Lobster writes "Flappy Bird might be kaput, but its hilariously awkward hero is serving another useful purpose in its afterlife: teaching people how to code. Flappy Bird, a free mobile game for Android and iOS that asks the player to guide the titular avian through an obstacle course of vertical pipes, became a sensation earlier this year, seizing the top spots on the Apple and Google Play app stores. Its creator, Dong Nguyen, said the game earned him an average of $50,000 a day through in-app advertising — but that didn't stop him from yanking the game offline in early February. Now Code.org has resurrected Flappy Bird, Phoenix-style, from the smoking wreckage, with a free tutorial that allows anyone with a bit of time to code his or her very own version of the game. There's no actual code to learn, thanks to a visual interface that allows budding developers to drag 'blocks' of commands into place. 'Flappy Bird recently met its untimely death. We might've been tempted to cry all day and give up on spreading computer science (not really, but R.I.P Flappy Bird),' read a note on Code.org's blog. 'Instead, we built a new drag-and-drop tutorial that lets you build your own Flappy game — whether it's Flappy Bird, or Flappy Easter Bunny, Flappy Santa, Flappy Shark with Lasers, Flappy Fairy or Flappy Underwater Unicorn.' Childish? Maybe. But it could help draw people into coding for fun or profit."