Yes, folks. Step right up. It's the 2013 Texas Pinball Festival, except... Whoops! You missed it. But don't despair, because Tim Lord was there with his camcorder to interview organizer Paul McKinney and to point his lens lovingly at pinball machines new and old, complete with whistles and bells, oh my! It was a riotous time, with players of all ages. Pinball machines were played, bought, and sold. There were plenty of exhibitors, including some with shiny-new machines. The most interesting of these may have been Multimorphic, which is making "the world's first modular, multi-game, pinball platform." In other words, one machine that can become many games, sort of like a video game console. There's a separate, short, "bonus video" about Multimorphic (with no transcript), for anyone who is interested in their open source, "open platform" pinball machine concept -- and that may not be just old fogies trying to recapture their youth, when they had the high score on the Evel Knievel machine at a local pool hall, because McKinney says the people coming to the Texas Pinball Festival are younger every year.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
jones_supa writes "The gutting of LucasArts was a tragic loss for the video game industry, but for many of us, it was more than that. By most accounts the last truly great LucasArts game was released almost 15 years ago, and yet, many in the industry still hold these titles as the benchmark. But why is that? Why is it that we still consider these games among our pinnacle achievements as an industry? Why do developers still namedrop Monkey Island in pitch meetings when discussing their proposed game's story? Why do we all continue to mentally associate the word "LucasArts" as the splash screen we see before a graphical adventure game, even though the company hadn't released one in over a decade? Gamasutra has collected a good majority of the answers. Following these responses, as a special treat, Lucasfilm Games veteran David Fox attempts to answer that question with his own insider perspective."
First time accepted submitter jakimfett writes "On April 13th, The Linux Game Tome will be going dark, but there's hope yet. The admin, BobZ, has an update for the community: 'To everyone who is expressing interest in helping to continue The Linux Game Tome: thank you! But don't tell me, tell the community! After this site is shut down, I will walk away from it. I have no plans to be involved in any effort to continue the Linux Game Tome legacy. If you are interested in continuing the legacy, please organize and make it happen.' Following the announcement was an email with some 'Linux Game Tome 3.0' information. In response to the email, I've set up a site that can act as a discussion platform for anyone interested in contributing to the project."
Dawn Kawamoto writes "LucasArts employees held a wake Friday night, days after Darth Vader Disney slayed their studio. Taking the high road, two LucasArts employees put together a eulogy that offers a retrospective on the culture, memories and accomplishments of the team. Most of us who've witnessed a blood bath at the workplace aren't as charitable. Darth Vader Disney is expected to strike again in the next two weeks at its studio and consumer product divisions."
hypnosec writes "Developer units of Android based gaming console on-a-stick GameStick have already been shipped but, the units meant for early Kickstarter backers have been delayed by two months and will now ship by late June, PlayJam has revealed. The reason, according to PlayJam, is that the consoles would require stronger tooling as compared to silicon based moulds of the dev consoles, which would be finished sometime by June 10. Further, because of the sheer increase in the number of units, PlayJam has said that it won't be able to afford the air freight and will be going for sea freight instead, which will delay the shipments to June."
dartttt writes "Dell has launched a new Ubuntu gaming desktop (first ever?) . Alienware customers can now choose either Windows or Ubuntu when buying a new X51. Ubuntu option is initially available to U.S. customers only and the price starts from $599." Also in Ubuntu news: Canonical announced on Friday the final beta release of Ubuntu 13.04, aka Raring Ringtail (the main release, as well as the growing flock of other *buntus).
Adam Orth, creative director of Microsoft Studios, on Thursday tweeted that "doesn't get" objections to DRM schemes that require always-on internet connection to play console games. An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft on Friday released an official statement regarding the tweets: 'We apologize for the inappropriate comments made by an employee on Twitter yesterday. This person is not a spokesperson for Microsoft, and his personal views do not reflect the customer centric approach we take to our products or how we would communicate directly with our loyal consumers. We are very sorry if this offended anyone, however we have not made any announcements about our product roadmap, and have no further comment on this matter.'" I can't help reading those tweets in the voice of Sterling Archer.
beerdragoon writes "Electronic Arts CEO Peter Moore has responded to the company's appearance in the finals of the Consumerist's Worst Company In America poll. Moore accepts some responsibility for some of EA's past failings: 'I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn’t meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this.' However, he ignores or contests many of the common complaints about the company — issues that earned it a spot in the finals for the second year in a row. Quoting: 'Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period. ... Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming. Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games."
ducomputergeek writes "Since the assault weapons ban seems to have died in Congress, it looks like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) now turning her attention to video games...again. '"If Sandy Hook doesn't [make game publishers change] then maybe we have to proceed, but that is in the future," said Feinstein. She went on to claim that video games play "a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that."' Yet, as the article points out, since the introduction of games like DOOM, the crime rate in the U.S. has gone down. Dramatically. Correlation != causation, and all that jazz, but there are a lot of violent video games these days and yet crime has continued to go down."
New submitter SoVi3t points out comments from Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth about the debate over always-online DRM, brought to the fore recently by the disastrous launch of SimCity and rumors that the next-gen Xbox console will require it. "Don't want a gaming console that requires a persistent internet connection? 'Deal with it,' says Microsoft Studio's creative director. In what he later termed a 'fun lunch break,' Orth took to Twitter to express his shock at people who take umbrage with the idea of an always-on console. When quizzed by other Twitter users about people with no internet connection, he suggested that they should get one, as it is 'awesome.' He then likened people who worry about intermittent internet connectivity being an issue as the same as someone not buying a vacuum cleaner because the electricity sometimes goes out. While Orth later apologized, saying it had being a bit of banter with friends, it did raise awareness that there are more than a few people who are very unhappy with the possibility of an always-on future version of the Xbox. Orth has also now switched his Twitter account settings to private."
First time accepted submitter Patch86 writes "The team behind the Android-based OUYA games console have announced last week that they have begun shipping their first consoles. As the console originated as a Kickstarter project the first consoles will be shipped to backers; the console is due to be released for general sale for the 4th of June with a $99 price tag. As the BBC notes, this is the first of a series of major new entrants into the games console market, with others on the horizon including fellow Kickstarter Android project Gamestick, Nvidia's CES surprise Project Shield, and of course Valve's 'Steambox.'"
littlekorea writes "Mining companies are developing new systems for automating blasting of iron ore using the same open source physics engines adapted for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. The same engine that determines 3D collision detection and soft body/rigid body dynamics in gaming will be applied to building 3D blast movement models — which will predict where blasted materials will land and distinguish between ore and waste. Predictive blast fragmentation models used in the past have typically been either numerical or empirical, [mining engineer Alan Cocker] said. Numerical models such as discrete element method, he noted, are onerous to configure and demanding of resources — both computing and human — and are generally not appropriate for operational use at mines. 'The problem with empirical models, by contrast, is that they tend to operate at a scale too coarse to give results useful for optimizations,' he added, noting typical Kuz-Ram-based fragmentation models (PDF) (widely used to estimate fragmentation from blasting) assume homogeneous geology (the same type of materials) throughout a blast."
An anonymous reader sends news that Disney is closing LucasArts. The game studio has been around since 1982, and brought us classics such as Labyrinth, The Secret of Monkey Island, X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Star Wars: Battlefront. They also published Star Wars: Galaxies, Knights of the Old Republic, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The company held a meeting today informing employees of the layoffs. "In some ways, the news is not a surprise. LucasArts had seemed directionless in recent years. The company's core business of games based on the Star Wars license have been largely disappointing in both quality and sales. While the company had some success with games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and the Battlefront series, both of those franchises seemed to have died on the vine. The cancellation of Star Wars Battlefront III was particularly ugly, which led to nasty public fingerpointing between LucasArts and developer Free Radical. ... LucasArt's other big franchise, Indiana Jones, has failed to make much of a dent in games in recent years, with the exception of Traveller's Tales LEGO Indiana Jones series that, once again, was not developed by LucasArts. Meanwhile, series like Uncharted and Tomb Raider, which are both heavily influenced by the Indiana Jones films, have thrived." If only they hadn't abandoned the X-Wing series of games. I would have bought a new one of those in a heartbeat. Update: 04/04 18:09 GMT by T : Dice.com's news service (Dice.com is the corporate parent of Slashdot) mentions one small silver lining for those employees who stuck it out to the end: the best kind of parting gift. "Soon after the acquisition, a number of people departed LucasArts, deciding the time was right to head out in search of a new job. Many others remained, encouraged to hang on as long as they could by talk of generous severance packages. Sources among those laid off say the packages were, indeed, generous."
An anonymous reader writes "In preparation for the "Steam Box" game console that will make necessary their own Linux-based software platform, Valve developers have started publishing Debian packages for their platform which looks like their first-generation operating system will be derived from Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS. So far the packages being published include a new "Plymouth" boot splash screen as the operating system loads, a Steam desktop wallpaper, auto-updating system scripts, and experimental NVIDIA Linux graphics drivers."
RougeFemme writes "Indies beat out mainstream studios for most of the Game Developers Choice Awards. FTL: Faster Than Light, an independent game financed by a Kickstarter campaign, won the award for Best Debut. Because of the growing success of the indies, Eric Zimmerman, game designer and instructor at the NYU Game Center, is canceling the Game Design Challenge that he's held at the conference for the last 10 years. 'The idea of doing strange, bizarre, experimental games is no longer strange, bizarre or experimental.'"
Hugh Pickens writes writes "The Guardian reports that Cuban programmers have unveiled a new 3D video game that puts a revolutionary twist on gaming, letting players recreate decisive clashes from the 1959 uprising in which many of their grandparents fought. 'The player identifies with the history of Cuba,' says Haylin Corujo, head of video game studies for Cuba's Youth Computing Club and leader of the team of developers who created Gesta Final – roughly translated as 'Final Heroic Deed'. 'You can be a participant in the battles that were fought in the war from '56 to '59.' The game begins with the user joining the 82 rebels who in 1956 sailed to Cuba from Mexico aboard the Granma. Players then fight their way through swamps shoulder-to-shoulder with bearded guerrillas clad in the olive green of Fidel Castro and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara to topple 1950s Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The game lets you pick from three player profiles, one in an olive hat similar to the one Fidel Castro was known for, another wearing a Guevara-style beret and the last with the kind of helmet worn by the ill-fated Camilo Cienfuegos in many revolution-era photographs. Rene Vargas, a 29-year-old gamer who tried his hand at 'Gesta Final' when it was presented at a technology fair in Havana last week, says the graphics were surprisingly sophisticated. 'Bearing in mind the level of technical support there is in Cuba, it looks pretty good,' says Vargas. There are about 783,000 computers in this country of some 11 million inhabitants, according to government statistics from 2011. Private ownership of computers is low, but many Cubans access them at work, school or cyber cafes. 'We developed (it) keeping in mind the purchasing power and reality of Cubans,' says Corujo. 'It doesn't require incredible technological features.'"
adeelarshad82 writes "After being tweaked and polished for months with the help of feedback from pro gamers and enthusiasts alike, Razer's Project Fiona has finally come of age. Re-named as Razer Edge Pro, this gaming tablet is way more than a mere plaything. Razer Edge Pro is a beast which packs a dual-core Intel Core i7-3517U Ivy Bridge processor with 8GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE graphics card with 2GB of dedicated memory. All this in a small 7 by 11 by 0.8 inches wide frame which weighs only 2.14 pounds. Comparing the Razer Edge to anything else is tough, considering that it doesn't necessarily have a true competitor. However in a series of performance comparisons with other powerful tablets and ultraportable gaming laptops, Razer Edge performed better than the tablets but wasn't at par with ultraportable gaming laptops. For instance when comparing scores from 3DMark 11, the Edge Pro scored 2,503 points at entry settings and 504 points in extreme mode putting it ahead of both competing tablets, the Microsoft Surface Pro (1,055 Entry, 206 Extreme) and Samsung ATIV SmartPC (1,044 Entry, couldn't run at Extreme mode), but behind the gaming-focused laptops, like the the Maingear Pulse 11 (3,868 Entry, 724 Extreme) and the Razer Blade (3,458 Entry, 716 Extreme). What's baffling is that with all accessories incuded (gamepad dock and the console dock) the final price of the tablet is a cool $1,870, which most expensive than not only the two tablets tested but also the two gaming gaming laptops compared. It remains to be seen whether the Razer Edge Pro is something special or just on the edge of it."
Yesterday, Sony gave a presentation explaining a bit about the new PS4 hardware, the development environment (Windows 7 based IDE), and the changes to the Dual Shock controller. From the article: "The system is also set up to run graphics and computational code synchronously, without suspending one to run the other. Norden says that Sony has worked to carefully balance the two processors to provide maximum graphics power of 1.843 teraFLOPS at an 800Mhz clock speed while still leaving enough room for computational tasks. The GPU will also be able to run arbitrary code, allowing developers to run hundreds or thousands of parallelized tasks with full access to the system's 8GB of unified memory. ... The DualShock 4 controller that's standard on the PS4 eliminates one feature that was seldom used on the PS3 —the analog face buttons..." The trackpad will support two touch points, the rumble motors can be controlled more finely, and the analog sticks were tweaked for "reduced dead zone and better feeling tension that grips your thumbs."