An anonymous reader writes "GamePolitics reports that the Postal Regulatory Commission has ordered [PDF] the U.S. Postal Service to equalize the rates paid by mailers who send round trip DVDs, and concluding (sort of) a dispute that has been underway for more than four years. The new postage rates take effect on September 30th. Some mailers, prominantly Netflix, send their round-trip movie DVDs as 'letters,' but GameFly's gaming disks are sent in slightly bigger envelopes as 'flats' to avoid breakage, and so GameFly has paid a much higher postage rate. GameFly argued that this was unfair discriminatory treatment because USPS was providing special hand-sorting treatment for Netflix disks without charging Netflix for the extra handling. But now there's a new twist: the Postal Service wants to reclassify DVD mailing [PDF] as a competitive product, where the prices would not be limited by the rate of inflation, because it says that mailed DVDs compete with the internet, streaming services, and kiosks such as Redbox. The regulatory agency is accepting responses [PDF] from interested persons until September 11th to the Postal Service's latest comments on its request [PDF]."
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Dave Knott writes "Microsoft announced today that its upcoming Xbox One console will launch later this year on November 22 in 13 territories, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States. This is exactly one week after the announced street date for Sony's PlayStation 4, ending speculation about whether Microsoft would try to launch ahead of their closest rival's next-generation console. It is also the same day that the Xbox 360 launched in 2005." The supply of pre-order consoles is mostly exhausted already.
New submitter MeatoBurrito writes "The latest iteration of Mechwarrior was crowdfunded (without Kickstarter) as a free-to-play first-person mech simulator. However, despite promises to the founders, the game has been shifted to a third-person arcade shooter and now the community is rioting. This followed a series of other unpopular decisions; the developers decided to sell an item for real money that had a significant impact on gameplay, crossing the line separating cosmetic/convenience items and 'pay-to-win.' Then they added a confusing game mechanic to limit its use, which had the unfortunate side effect of making some strategies completely useless. From the article: 'PGI’s community practices showcase a fundamental misunderstanding of both freemium development and community management. The developer has never had to deal with such a large player base before, and it has never had to deal with the strains of continuous development before. Rather, PGI seems to be handling Mechwarrior Online in much the same way they might a AAA game: by keeping quiet and only discussing its work in vague terms. ... Mechwarrior Online’s road to launch is a cautionary consumer tale, fraught with anger and betrayal. It shows how a company can take a fan base dedicated to an old IP and completely alienate it through lack of communication, unpopular features, and oathbreaking. It shows how players need to be cautious of supporting a project based solely on the IP backing it.'"
The launch of the new SimCity back in March made headlines for the problems caused by the game's always-online DRM. EA Maxis even decided that people who bought the game early deserved a free game for their trouble. They also decided to postpone the launch of the Mac version of the game. Well, the delay is over; SimCity has arrived for Macs, and players are now facing a whole new set of installation and launch problems. "Those issues include a 'mutexAlert' error, which can be resolved by switching the OS to English. Another simply doesn't allow a player to install the game once downloaded. The suggested solution for that is to re-install Origin and opt in to the new Beta version. The game also apparently doesn't currently support Mac OS X 10.7.4 nor the upcoming 10.9 beta release." There are also reports that the game won't function on high-resolution display settings.
barlevg writes "A new paper is out in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence which shows no positive correlation between playing violent video games and acts of aggression. The study of 377 children with attention deficit and depressive symptoms in fact showed a slight negative correlation between video game-playing and aggressive behavior such as bullying, which the researchers posit is due to the games awarding some measure of catharsis. The full paper is available online (PDF)."
Today Nintendo announced a new handheld gaming console called the 2DS. It will play all games from the DS and the 3DS, but games from the latter will be shown in 2-D (essentially as if the 3DS's depth slider was turned all the way down). The 2DS abandons the clamshell design of the earlier handhelds; instead, the device is a slightly wedge-shaped tablet with two small LCD screens — thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom. "It's a design that seems calculated to reduce manufacturing costs and durability issues, but it also seems fated to make the system nearly impossible to fit inside most pants pockets. The buttons and controls that were on the bottom half of previous DS and 3DS systems are now shifted toward the top, so you can reach the shoulder buttons that now rest above the top screen. This means you grip the 2DS from the sides rather than supporting it from the bottom with the corners resting in palm of your hand, like previous DS models." Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the new console is target at younger children, as the 3DS is recommended for players age 7 and up. It's also cheaper than the other models at $130.
An anonymous reader writes "Kickstarter's helped start all sorts of indie games, but few as unusual as Lacuna Passage, an adventure game set on Mars with a vast open world that's been painstakingly recreated from NASA satellite data. You're able to explore twenty five square miles of the Red Planet in all its barren glory as you attempt to solve the mystery of the first, vanished, manned mission to mars. A new piece today on the making of the game — which is being made by an elementary school teacher and a team of a dozen volunteers — looks at how it came about, and why their quest for authenticity led to even urine analysis being included in the gameplay."
Lemeowski writes "Game studios go to great lengths to protect their IP. But board game designer Daniel Solis doesn't subscribe to that philosophy. He has spent the past ten years blogging his game design process, posting all of his concepts and prototypes on his blog. Daniel shares four things he's learned after designing games in public, saying paranoia about your ideas being stolen "is just an excuse not to do the work." His article provides a solid gut check for game designers and other creatives who may let pride give them weird expectations."
First time accepted submitter TimBur1e6 writes "Suppose you had just moved 1000 miles away from your significant other, but you wanted to continue to create shared life experiences. You could text, or talk by voice, or even video chat. And those would all be good things to do. However, there's a difference between telling someone about your day, and actually spending time together. What are some fun and constructive ways of spending time together on the net? In particular, what are good things to do with a significant other who is less into combat, and more into collaboration, exploration, creativity, and storytelling?"
New submitter cadenceaniya sends this excerpt from Polygon: "Online games are a 'playground' for organized crime and cyber criminals, JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro said following the news that League of Legends accounts were compromised. Earlier this week, account information — usernames, email addresses, salted password hashes, and some first and last names — for some North American League of Legends players were 'compromised' by hackers. Riot was also 'investigating that approximately 120,000 transaction records from 2011 that contained hashed and salted credit card numbers have been accessed.' The increase of free-to-play online gaming across all platforms over the years 'have opened the doors to micro-transactions in-game.' The simple and functional systems created so players can spend money effortlessly creates 'playgrounds' for cyber criminals take advantage of. 'Game platforms can have millions of users all storing sensitive information or code access for more features,' Sherry said. 'These are highly sought after in the cyber-crime underground for trading and selling in the black market. These platforms can fall victim to cyber-attacks just like any organization, especially if they have vulnerabilities that go unpatched.'"
Today at Gamescom in Germany, Blizzard announced the first expansion to Diablo III, titled Reaper of Souls. The story will follow a fallen archangel called Mathael who has returned as the Angel of Death. The level cap will increase to 70, and the expansion will bring a new playable class to the game called the Crusader, whom they described as a "natural walking tank." Reaper of Souls will also bring vast improvements to the loot system; in addition to having a better chance to find good, useful gear for the character you're playing, the items themselves are getting an overhaul to make for more interesting gameplay. Instead of being simply loaded down with combat stats, legendary items will include unique ways to modify how your character functions. They're also implementing something the community has been asking for since shortly after the game came out: randomized dungeons. Further, the Paragon leveling system, put in place after launch as a way to provide character progression after reaching the level cap, will be made account-wide, rather than on a per-character basis. A new profession NPC has been added as well: the Mystic, which lets players reroll one of the stats on a powerful item. As you might expect, Blizzard did not mention a release date. The Reaper of Souls opening cinematic is available on YouTube, as is a brief gameplay video.
Today Sony announced the official release dates of the PlayStation 4 console: November 15 in North America and November 29 in Europe. From the article: "The system will be available for $399/€399/£349 in 32 countries by the end of the year, the company said. The date comes just days before the Black Friday post-Thanksgiving sales, but given the strong pre-order interest for the system already, the PS4 might be hard to find on store shelves in the days after it drops. Sony revealed that one million PS4 systems have already been pre-ordered worldwide. The company notably did not mention a release date or price point for the system's launch in its native Japan."
New submitter herbalt writes "The code of the free FPS game Urban Terror (a standalone game based on a Quake 3 mod), has been stolen. The development team, Frozen Sand, at first stated their Git Repository had been hacked, but later issued an announcement stating the perpetrator of the leak was a member of the development team. Frozen Sand also states they have found chat logs indicating there had been 'a plot to get B1naryTh1ef to steal the code so they could sell Urban Terror under a different name on Steam.'"
Sockatume writes "Marcus 'Notch' Persson of Minecraft fame has indefinitely postponed his planned space game, 0x10c. Taking time to chat during a streamed TF2 game, Notch explained that he didn't have the energy to keep up with the community's interest; fans had gone so far as to transcribe the source code from his development livestream. The game's development had been stalled since April this year, when Notch explained that it simply wasn't fun to play, but other staff at Mojang can resume the project if they wish. He intends to continue his pre-Minecraft habits and 'make small games and talk to other game developers about them'."
msheekhah writes "I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k. However, he wants to instead go work for Blizzard or some other game company as a game programmer. I've read enough on here and on other tech websites to know that he should take the job he's been offered. Can you share with me your experiences so I can give him real life examples to convince him to take this job? If your experience is contrary to mine, I'd appreciate that input as well."
chicksdaddy writes "Haters keep buyin' — that appears to be the dynamic playing out in the ever-hot video game industry, where game developers say harassment and trolling from their rabid fans is turning them off of development completely, according to a report over at Polygon.com. 'Fans are invested in the stories and worlds that developers create, and certain design decisions can be seen by fans to threaten those stories and worlds,' said Nathan Fisk, lecturer at the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and co-author of the book Bullying in the Age of Social Media. 'Harassment silences and repositions content creators in ways that protect the interests of certain fan groups, which again is no justification for the kinds of abusive behavior and language seen online today.' The problem is widespread enough that it may even pose a threat to the future of the industry. Developers, both named and those who wish to remain anonymous, tell Polygon that harassment by gamers is becoming an alarmingly regular expected element of game development. Some developers say the problem was among the reasons they left the industry, others tell Polygon that the problem is so ubiquitous that it distracts them from making games or that they're considering leaving the industry."
SmartAboutThings writes "Microsoft is definitely changing things in its gaming department: it has now announced in a support note on the Xbox site that it will be shutting down the Xbox.com PC Marketplace on August 22nd. This comes shortly after news that Microsoft hired former Steam boss Jason Holtman, whose mission at Redmond is to 'make Windows great for gaming.' The Microsoft Points system will be retired on August 22nd as well. The Games for Windows Live client software will not be affected, at least initially, letting you play previously purchased games."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Three years ago, game designer and author Jane McGonigal argued that saving the human race is going to require a major time investment—in playing video games. 'If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity, I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week [up from 3 billion today], by the end of the next decade,' she said in a TED talk. Her message was not ignored—and it has indirectly contributed to the formation of something called the Internet Response League (IRL). The small group has a big goal: to harness gamers' time and use it to save lives after disasters, natural or otherwise. The idea is to insert micro-tasks into games, specifically asking gamers to tag photos of disaster areas. With the IRL plugin, each image would be shown to at least three people, who tag the photo as showing no damage, mild damage, or severe damage. The Internet Response League has been in talks with a couple of indie developers, including one that's developing a new MMO. Mosur said they've tried to get in touch with World of Warcraft maker Blizzard, but haven't had any luck yet. Blizzard did not return a request for comment from Slashdot."
UnknowingFool writes "Microsoft has reversed course on another aspect of the Xbox One. Though Xbox One will come bundled with a Kinect sensor, the console will work without it. Critics were had suggested that an always-on video and audio sensor could be used to spy on users. Microsoft's Marc Whitten said, 'Games use Kinect in a variety of amazing ways from adding voice to control your squad mates to adding lean and other simple controls beyond the controller to full immersive gameplay. That said, like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn't plugged in, although you won't be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.' This is the latest reversal from Microsoft since they killed the phone-home DRM and made it region-free."
First time accepted submitter briglass writes "Imagine being a total non-gamer and then suddenly playing an hour of StarCraft a day for almost two months. A new study of mine demonstrates that a group of female gaming novices (seriously novice, as in 0 to 1 hour of gaming per week novice) demonstrated increased cognitive flexibility after playing StarCraft, a sort of fast-paced chess on steroids. The control group played The Sims. It's been well known that video gaming can lead to psychological benefits, such as faster perceptual information processing after playing first-person shooter games. But this new study, published in PLOS ONE, shows that video gaming can also affect higher-level cognitive functions. The StarCraft game was customized to be adaptive and remain challenging as the newly minted gamers honed their skills, and in-game behavior was recorded to determine what aspects of StarCraft leads to the boost in flexibility."