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Sony Overtakes Rival Nintendo In Console Sales 127

An anonymous reader writes "For the first time in eight years, Sony has overtaken Nintendo on the total number of game consoles sold. Sony sold 18.7 million consoles in the last financial year, compared to Nintendo sales of 16.3 million. Sony's PlayStation 4 has emerged as the bestselling 'new-gen' console. But demand for Nintendo's Wii U — with its touchscreen controller — has lagged far behind the original Wii, which was the most popular hardware of the last generation."

Report: Watch Dogs Game May Have Influenced Highway Sign Hacking 154

An anonymous reader writes 'Earlier this month, at least three U.S. states reported that a hacker had broken into electronic road signs above major highways, with the hacker leaving messages for people to follow him on Twitter. The Multi-State Information Sharing an Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) produced an intelligence report blaming a Saudi Arabian hacker that the organization says likely got the idea from Watch Dogs, a new video in which game play revolves around "hacking," with a focus on hacking critical infrastructure-based electronic devices in particular. "Watch Dogs allows players to hack electronic road signs, closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs), street lights, cell phones and other systems. On May 27, 2014, the malicious actor posted an image of the game on his Twitter feed, demonstrating his interest in the game, and the compromise of road signs occurs during game play. CIS believes it is likely that a small percentage of Watch Dogs players will experiment with compromising computers and electronic systems outside of game play, and that this activity will likely affect SSLT [state, local, tribal and territorial] government systems and Department of Transportation (DOT) systems in particular." The signs allowed telnet and were secured with weak or default passwords. The report came out on the same day that The Homeland Security Department cautioned transportation operators about a security hole in some electronic freeway billboards that could let hackers display bogus warnings to drivers.'
Classic Games (Games)

id Software's Original 'Softdisk' Games Open Sourced 100

An anonymous reader writes "The original games developed by John Carmack, John Romero, and Adrian Carmack at Softdisk, where the legendary programmers originally met and went on to start id Software, have been open-sourced under the GPLv2. The games are now owned by Flat Rock Software and the open-source titles available are Catacomb, The Catacomb, Catacomb 3D, Catacomb Abyss, and Hovertank3D. The oldest of these games are written in Borland Turbo Pascal while the others are in Borland C++. The source-code can be downloaded from GitHub."
XBox (Games)

Microsoft Confirms Disconnecting Kinect Gives Devs 10% More GPU Horsepower 174

MojoKid (1002251) writes 'Microsoft confirmed a development rumor that's been swirling around its next-generation console ever since it announced Kinect would become an optional add-on rather than a mandatory boat anchor. Lifting that requirement will give game developers 10 percent additional graphics power to play with and help close the gap between the Xbox One and PS4. The story kicked off when Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeted that June's Xbox One dev kit gave devs access to more GPU bandwidth. Further, another Microsoft representative then confirmed that the performance improvement coming in the next version of the Xbox SDK was the result of making Kinect an optional accessory. No matter how Microsoft may try to spin it, cancelling Kinect isn't just a matter of giving game developers freedom, it's a tacit admission that game developers have no significant projects in play that are expected to meaningfully tap Kinect to deliver a great game experience — and they need those GPU cycles back.' Also on the Xbox capabilities front: Reader BogenDorpher (2008682) writes 'In August of last year, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the Xbox One controller will be compatible for PC users sometime in 2014. That time has finally come. Windows gamers can now use the Xbox One controller to play games on their computer. If a game supports a USB gamepad or the Xbox 360 controller, it will also support the Xbox One controller.'
Portables (Games)

Sony Winding Down the PSP 85

Linnen writes "Sony has started the process of phasing out its PSP handheld console. From The Guardian: 'Shipments to the U.S. ended this year, and they are closing in Japan soon. European stores will see their last arrivals toward Christmas. Launched in Japan in December 2004, it is almost 10 years old – not a bad achievement for a handheld that was almost written off early in its lifespan. ... The console struggled with high piracy levels of its titles, which meant the likes of EA, Activision and Ubisoft were reticent about committing to major development projects. However, the ease with which hackers were able to break the device's security system also meant that it became a favorite with the homebrew development scene, and amateur coders are still producing games and demos for the platform. Some look back on the machine as a failure beside the all-conquering Nintendo DS, but this is unfair. The console sold 80m units, a figure boosted by a series of excellent hardware and featureset updates, including the slimmer PSP-2000 and PSP-3000 models. '"

Testing 65 Different GPUs On Linux With Open Source Drivers 134

An anonymous reader writes "How good are open source graphics drivers in 2014 given all the Linux gaming and desktop attention? Phoronix has tested 65 different GPUs using the latest open source drivers covering Intel HD Graphics, NVIDIA GeForce, AMD Radeon, and AMD FirePro hardware. Of the 65 GPUs tested, only 50 of them had good enough open source driver support for running OpenGL games and benchmarks. Across the NVIDIA and AMD hardware were several pages of caveats with different driver issues encountered on Linux 3.15 and Mesa 10.3 loaded on Ubuntu 14.04. Intel graphics on Linux were reliable but slow while AMD's open-source Linux support was recommended over the NVIDIA support that doesn't currently allow for suitable graphics card re-clocking. Similar tests are now being done with the proprietary Linux drivers."

AMD, NVIDIA, and Developers Weigh In On GameWorks Controversy 80

Dputiger writes: "Since NVIDIA debuted its GameWorks libraries there's been allegations that they unfairly disadvantaged AMD users or prevented developers from optimizing code. We've taken these questions to developers themselves and asked them to weigh in on how games get optimized, why NVIDIA built this program, and whether its an attempt to harm AMD customers. 'The first thing to understand about [developer/GPU manufacturer] relations is that the process of game optimization is nuanced and complex. The reason AMD and NVIDIA are taking different positions on this topic isn't because one of them is lying, it’s because AMD genuinely tends to focus more on helping developers optimize their own engines, while NVIDIA puts more effort into performing tasks in-driver. This is a difference of degree — AMD absolutely can perform its own driver-side optimization and NVIDIA's Tony Tamasi acknowledged on the phone that there are some bugs that can only be fixed by looking at the source. ... Some of this difference in approach is cultural but much of it is driven by necessity. In 2012 (the last year before AMD's graphics revenue was rolled into the console business), AMD made about $1.4 billion off the Radeon division. For the same period, NVIDIA made more than $4.2 billion. Some of that was Tegra-related and it's a testament to AMD's hardware engineering that it competes effectively with Nvidia with a much smaller revenue share, but it also means that Team Green has far more money to spend on optimizing every aspect of the driver stack.'"

New Valve Prototype VR Headset Shows Up At VR Meetup In Boston 41

An anonymous reader writes "The last time we saw Valve's prototype VR headset, which they said was built to the spec that could be found in a consumer product by 2015, it was a using an 'inside-out' tracking approach where a camera mounted on the VR headset tracked markers placed all over the walls and ceiling of the demo room. This week, at a VR meetup in Boston, Valve had a new prototype to show, featuring an 'outside-in' tracking approaching where a single camera trackings IR-LEDs built into the case of the VR headset, much like the forthcoming Oculus Rift DK2. Valve's latest prototype is thought to be using two 1080p displays in portrait orientation, compared to a single 1080p display in the Oculus Rift DK2."

Apple's 2014 WWDC Keynote Will Be Streamed Live; Hopes For a Microconsole? 147

SlappingOysters (1344355) writes "Grab It is reporting that Apple will stream its 2014 WWDC keynote live at 10am PST on June 2. The site speculates that a recent update to showcase title and previous keynote star Real Racing 3 could confirm a rumoured microconsole announcement. The App Store has seen a dramatic rise in the quality and frequency of AAA spin-off titles over the last year, giving Apple a good platform to make a move into this emerging space."
Input Devices

Valve's Steam Machines Delayed, Won't Be Coming In 2014 134

sfcrazy (1542989) writes "Valve has announced that its Steam Machines won't be available in the market anytime in 2014. The company delayed the release due to ongoing work on the Steam Controller. Valve's Eric Hope explains on Steam Forums why the work on controller is causing the delay: 'We're now using wireless prototype controllers to conduct live playtests, with everyone from industry professionals to die-hard gamers to casual gamers. It's generating a ton of useful feedback, and it means we'll be able to make the controller a lot better. Of course, it's also keeping us pretty busy making all those improvements. Realistically, we're now looking at a release window of 2015, not 2014.'"

AMD and NVIDIA Trade Allegations, Denials Over Shady Tactics 69

crookedvulture writes "In an article published by Forbes earlier this week, AMD lashed out at NVIDIA's GameWorks program, which includes Watch Dogs and other popular titles, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV, and Batman: Arkham Origins. Technical communications lead for PC graphics Robert Hallock alleged that GameWorks deliberately cripples performance on AMD hardware. He also claimed that developers are prevented from working with AMD on game optimizations. The Forbes piece was fairly incriminating, but it didn't include any commentary from the other side of the fence. NVIDIA has now responded to the allegations, and as one might expect, it denies them outright. Director of engineering for developer technology Cem Cebenoyan says NVIDIA has never barred developers from working with AMD. In fact, he claims that AMD's own developer relations efforts have prevented NVIDIA from getting its hands on early builds of some games. AMD has said in the past that it makes no effort to prevent developers from working with NVIDIA. So, we have another round of he said, she said, with gamers caught in the middle and performance in newer titles hanging in the balance."

Nintendo To Split Ad Revenue With Streaming Gamers 110

An anonymous reader writes "Over the past several years, as computers and networks have improved to handle heavier loads, it's become popular for people to stream video game footage over sites like YouTube and Twitch. Last year, Nintendo aggressively went after the players doing this for their games, hijacking the ad revenue generated through YouTube. It angered the gaming community, and was actively hostile to the people who were Nintendo's biggest fans. Now, Nintendo has partly walked back their position: they've agreed to share some of the advertising profits with the streamer. It's still hostile to the people actively putting Nintendo game playthroughs out there for others to watch, but it's a step in the right direction."
PC Games (Games)

Watch Dogs Released, DRM Troubles 123

Today marked the launch of Watch Dogs, a highly-anticipated action-adventure game from Ubisoft. Early reviews for the game are fairly good, but not without complaints. Eurogamer said, 'Combat encounters also draw inspiration from existing games, with slightly stiff but workable sneaking and cover mechanics and decent if unremarkable gunplay. ... There's a sense of sterility beneath the surface, though. As dazzling as the game can look, this Chicago feels like a place you travel through rather than a world you inhabit. Pedestrians gasp and gawp at car crashes, but exhibit no real life.' Polygon's review complimented the bits of structure within the open-world game: "More than any stealth game I can think of, Watch Dogs does a remarkable job in allowing for proper preparation. It creates a universal environment of constant puzzle solving, which sits cozily next to all the action on display." Rock, Paper, Shotgun added, "It feels churlish to complain about something which is only magical 90% of the time, but in some things, ten percent can seep out and render the rest infuriating and useless." It's worth noting that some users are running into problems even playing game, thanks to authentication issues with Ubisoft's UPlay digital distribution service.
Portables (Games)

Google Glass and the Future of Wearable Gaming 39

An anonymous reader writes "Google Glass is now becoming more widely available, but developers are only just starting to tap into the augmented reality specs' potential for gaming. A new report looks at some of the early experiments with the tech — leading the charge is indie developer Mind Pirate, the first studio to release a mobile game simultaneously on iPhone and Google Glass. But will others get on board? Will the explosion in popularity of virtual reality headsets help or hinder it? It's still a wild wild west.

'The potential of wearables will only be realized through thoughtful integration of hardware and software,' says Mind Pirate CEO Shawn Hardin. Right now, 'much of the mature infrastructure of the mobile arena' is missing in the world of wearables. The 'myriad of unique sensor and hardware configurations atop increasingly diverse operating systems' makes it particularly difficult for developers to get started."

Hands-On With Sony's VR Headset 46

It wasn't long after the rise of the Oculus Rift that Sony hopped on the virtual reality bandwagon and announced a headset of their own. Now, Eurogamer has had a chance to operate and test Sony's hardware, which they say "has its own distinct vision for VR," as well as a distinct focus on console gaming. "On the 640x768 per eye first-gen Rift, the result was the perception of a disappointingly minuscule resolution, with a highly distracting "screen door" effect where you could see between the pixels. This is far less of an issue with Morpheus, and we were pleasantly surprised by how good image quality is in an environment where resolution remains at a premium. In discussing the situation with Sony, it's clear that some effort has gone into judging how to best apply the fisheye lens effect that distorts the image, with a stronger focus on retaining resolution in the key focus area. Over and above that, we wouldn't be surprised if the narrower field of view also contributes to improving image integrity. ... However, in comparing Morpheus to what we've seen from Oculus VR, it's perhaps surprising to discover that a truly transformative element of the proposition comes from a piece of hardware that you might already own: PlayStation Move. Our aspirations for the hardware were never fully realized, but the hook-up with Morpheus is a match made in heaven - in fact, if there is to be a struggle for market leadership with Oculus (and potentially Microsoft), the existing motion controller is undoubtedly one of the strongest weapons in Sony's arsenal."

Games That Make Players Act Like Psychopaths 212

An article at Wired takes a look at two multiplayer survival games, DayZ and Rust, and at the behavior of players when their actions are freed from a civilized moral code. 'Violence wouldn't bother a psychopath, [Dr. Adam Perkins] says, but they might have another incentive to avoid violence: the consequences of getting caught. Most psychopaths are logical people, he says, and understand that actions bring consequences. The threat of repercussions — say, for example, prison — might keep them from acting out. Such disincentives do not exist in virtual worlds. Absent a sense of empathy, you're free to rob and kill at will. What we do with this reveals something about us.

Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test, says imagining ourselves doing something horrible is a way to see ourselves in a new light. "One of the ways we keep ourselves moral is to imagine the terrible things we could do, but then don't do," Ronson says. "You stand on a train platform and think, 'I could push that person in front of the train.' That thought pops into your head, and it doesn't make you a lunatic. It makes you a good person, because what you're actually saying is, 'Oh my god, I’m capable of doing a terrible thing, but I would never actually do it.'" ... But we're still left with the big question: Are our actions in a virtual world tantamount to imagining those things we could do in real life but never would? Or are we merely behaving as we would in real life if there were no consequences for our actions?'

Sony Bringing PlayStation To China 41

VentureBeat reports that one market formerly closed to console makers is opening up in a big way. An excerpt: "One month after Microsoft announced its launching the Xbox One in China this September, Sony today announced that its PlayStation business is coming to the world’s most populous country. It’s unclear which PlayStation hardware and games will come to China — or when — but it’s reasonable to assume Sony will bring its PlayStation 4 console (and perhaps its PlayStation Vita handheld) to China later this year. The Chinese game industry is already worth $13 billion, most of which gets spent on PC and mobile. That’s not console makers’ fault: China implemented a console ban in 2000, saying it would protect children from violent video games. As soon as the Chinese Ministry of Culture said it would begin working on new rules, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony all expressed interest in bringing their consoles to the country. Like Microsoft, which is working with Chinese media firm BesTV to bring the Xbox One to China, Sony also has a local partner: Shanghai Oriental Pearl Culture Development (OPCD). Both OPCD and BesTV are subsidiaries of China’s Shanghai Media Group."

This Is Your Brain While Videogaming Stoned 168

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Pot and video games have long been bound together in hazy, wedded bliss—as well as in compulsion and codependency. Many a World of Warcraft binger has been found in the darkest hours of the night with clouds of sweet, milk-white smoke curling around him, a bong next to the keyboard. But the way these lovers, games and weed, commingle has only rarely been studied, and when done so, usually exclusively in the context of substance abuse and how it relates to what is known as PVP: 'problem video game playing.'" Motherboard takes a different look.

Report: Samsung Building VR Headset For Its Phones & Tablets 49

An anonymous reader writes "Engadget reports that Samsung is working on virtual reality technology to compete with the Oculus Rift. Their work is fairly far along, and it's expected to be announced this year. It's being built to function in tandem with Samsung's flagship mobile devices, most likely their upcoming Galaxy phones and tablets. From the article: 'We're told it has an OLED screen, as good or better than in the second Rift dev kit; it's not clear how the headset connects to your phone/tablet, but we're guessing it's a wired connection rather than wireless. ...This is a device meant for use with games. What type of games? Android games! Sure, but which ones? That's certainly the question. Great games make the platform, and VR games are especially tough to crack given the newness of the medium. One thing's for sure: most major games won't work on VR as direct ports.' The report also suggests Samsung is targeting a lower price point than its competitors. True or not, it will hopefully help drive down prices for all upcoming VR tech." Meanwhile, DARPA is experimenting with the Oculus Rift for cyberwar visualization.