Businesses

Atari Is Back In the Hardware Business, Unveils Ataribox (hothardware.com) 110

Reader MojoKid writes: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais confirmed the company was working on a brand new console back in June this year at E3, but today the company has officially unveiled the product. The new Ataribox console draws on some of the classic styling of the original Atari 2600 console but with a modernized flare, though still sporting that tasty wood grain front panel. Atari is also looking to make the Ataribox a bit more user-friendly and expandable than its Nintendo rivals through the addition of an SD card slot and four USB ports (in addition the requisite HDMI port). The new console will be based on PC component technologies but will be available with a number of classic games to let you bask in the early days of console gaming. However, Atari will also be bringing what is being billed as "current content" to the console as well. So, we can expect to see brand new licensed games for the Ataribox, although it's hard to say, given just its size to go on, what sort of horsepower is lurking under the Ataribox's hood. "We know you are hungry for more details; on specs, games, pricing, timing," said Atari in a statement sent via email. "We're not teasing you intentionally; we want to get this right, so we've opted to share things step by step as we bring this to life, and to listen closely to the Atari community feedback as we do so."
Businesses

The Oculus Rift Still Isn't Selling, In a Worrying Sign For VR (technologyreview.com) 413

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: Despite Mark Zuckerberg's early enthusiasm for virtual reality, the technology has stubbornly remained a hard sell for Facebook. Now, in yet another sign that VR is failing to capture the imagination of the public, the company has just cut the price of its Oculus Rift hardware for the second time this year. For the next six weeks, the Oculus Rift headset and its matching controllers will cost just $399. That's $400 less than when it first hit the market, and $200 less than when its price was first slashed in March. It means that the Rift now costs less than the package offered by its cheapest rival, Sony, whose PlayStation VR currently totals $460 including headset and controllers. Even so, it's not clear that it will be enough to lure people into buying a Rift. Jason Rubin, vice president for content at Oculus, tells Reuters that the reduction isn't a sign of weak product sales, but rather a decision to give the headset more mass market appeal now that more games are available.
PlayStation (Games)

Young Men Are Working Less. Some Economists Think It's Because They're Home Playing Video Games. (nytimes.com) 283

Video games are instrumental in understanding why younger men are working fewer hours, according to a paper published Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. From an article: By 2015, American men 31 to 55 were working about 163 fewer hours a year than that same age group did in 2000. Men 21 to 30 were working 203 fewer hours a year. One puzzle is why the working hours for young men fell so much more than those of their older counterparts. The gap between the two groups grew by about 40 hours a year, or a full workweek on average. Other experts have pointed to a host of reasons -- globalization, technological change, the shift to service work -- that employers may not be hiring young men. Instead of looking at why employers don't want young men, this group of economists considered a different question: Why don't young men want to work? Economists Erik Hurst and his colleagues estimate that, since 2004, video games have been responsible for reducing the amount of work that young men do by 15 to 30 hours over the course of a year (syndicated source). Using the recession as a natural experiment, the authors studied how people who suddenly found themselves with extra time spent their leisure hours, then estimated how increases in video game time affected work. Between 2004 and 2015, young men's leisure time grew by 2.3 hours a week. A majority of that increase -- 60 percent -- was spent playing video games, according to government time use surveys. In contrast, young women's leisure time grew by 1.4 hours a week. A negligible amount of that extra time was spent on video games. Likewise for older men and older women: Neither group reported having spent any meaningful extra free time playing video games.
Sony

Sony Suspends Thousands Of PlayStation Network Accounts in UK, Allegedly Because Of Issue With PayPal (kotaku.co.uk) 35

An anonymous reader writes: PlayStation Network (PSN) users in the UK who've paid via PayPal have had their accounts suspended. 'Thousands' of users this week received an automatic refund for purchases they made with the US money transfer service. According to game blog Kotaku, since Sony hasn't received money from those users, their accounts have been suspended. Neither Sony nor Paypal have addressed the issue yet.
Piracy

Indie Game Developer Shares Free Keys on The Pirate Bay (torrentfreak.com) 130

Jacob Janerka, developer of the popular indie adventure game 'Paradigm,' recently spotted a cracked copy of his title on The Pirate Bay. But, instead of being filled with anger and rage while running to the nearest anti-piracy outfit, Janerka decided to reach out to the pirates. Not to school or scold them, but to offer a few free keys. From a report: "Hey everyone, I'm Jacob, the creator of Paradigm. I know some of you legitimately can't afford the game and I'm glad you get to still play it :D," Janerka's comment on TPB reads. Having downloaded many pirated games himself in the past, Janerka knows that some people simply don't have the means to buy all the games they want to play. So he's certainly not going to condemn others for doing the same now, although it would be nice if some bought it later. "If you like the game, please tell your friends and maybe even consider buying it later," he added.
Nintendo

Super Nintendo Classic Coming in September (hollywoodreporter.com) 127

Rumors are true. Nintendo is gearing up to launch the SNES Classic, a miniaturized version of the glorious original Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console will include 21 games when it launches September 29. A report adds: Among the big surprises: a never-before released Star Fox 2 is in the mix. Here's the full list of games: Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting, Super Punch Out, Super Castlevania IV, Donkey Kong Country, Mega Man X, Kirby Super Star, Final Fantasy III, Kirby's Dream Course, Star Fox, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Secret of Mana, EarthBound, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts. It will retail at a price point of $80.
Classic Games (Games)

Gaming Group Seeks Volunteers To Create Accessibility Guidelines For Tabletop Games (meeplelikeus.co.uk) 75

Meeple Like Us is a group of gaming academics, developers, hobbyists and enthusiasts with a keen interest in board games, tabletop games, video games, and all things in-between, co-founded by long-time Slashdot reader drakkos. Today he reminds us that accessibility "has become an increasingly visible part of video game development." It's even become something of a selling point for many games, with Naughty Dog's focus on the accessibility of Uncharted 4 gaining it pages and pages of enthusiastic support across the industry. Tabletop games, despite being much older an entertainment format, lag behind video games in many respects.

Meeple Like Us has for the last year been working hard to identify the accessibility issues in tabletop gaming, and is currently recruiting for volunteers for a working group aimed at developing v1.0 of the Tabletop Accessibility Guidellines.

Classic Games (Games)

Original Colossal Cave Adventure Now Playable On Alexa (amazon.com) 36

Last month Eric Raymond announced the open sourcing of the world's very first text adventure. Now Slashdot reader teri1337 brings news about their own special project: A few old-timers here may recall with fond memories the phrase "Somewhere nearby is Colossal Cave..." Well, a voice-playable version of Colossal Cave "Adventure" is now available on Amazon Echo devices as a [free] Alexa Skill. This is a port of the original 1976 text adventure game written by Willie Crowther and Don Woods, which started the interactive fiction genre and led to later games like Infocom's Zork. This version was written from scratch as an AWS Lamda function incorporating the original 350-point game database, and made available with permission from Don Woods.
Businesses

Atari CEO Confirms the Company Is Working On a New Game Console (venturebeat.com) 91

Dean Takahashi, reporting for VentureBeat: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais told GamesBeat in an exclusive interview that his fabled video game company is working on a new game console. In doing so, the New York company might be cashing in on the popularity of retro games and Nintendo's NES Classic Edition, which turned out to be surprisingly popular for providing a method to easily play old games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda in HD on a TV. Last week, Atari began teasing a new product called the Ataribox. The video released on a non-Atari web site showed a picture of some kind of hardware product, but many people wondered if the teaser was fake. Others had no idea what the video was showing about a "brand new Atari product years in the making."
Software

GTA V Flooded With Negative Reviews On Steam After OpenIV Modding Tool Shuts Down (kotaku.com) 127

OpenIV, a popular modding tool used by tons of GTA V fans, is shutting down. After nearly 10 years of operation, the creators claim they have received a cease and desist from Take-Two Interactive -- the publisher of Grand Theft Auto. The news has shocked the PC Grand Theft Auto community, who use OpenIV to add thousands of mods into GTA V. Many upset modders have retaliated by flooding GTA V with negative reviews on Steam. Kotaku reports: According to a post on the official OpenIV website, the alleged cease and desist came on June 5th 2017. The supposed problem, OpenIV's creators say, is that the program allows "third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two's rights." After discussing their options, the team behind the tool says they decided it was not worth their time to fight back. "Yes, we can go to court and yet again prove that modding is fair use and our actions are legal," creator GooD-NTS wrote. "Yes, we could. But we decided not to. Going to court will take at least few months of our time and huge amount of efforts, and, at best, we'll get absolutely nothing. Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can't compensate the loss of time. So, we decided to agree with their claims and we're stopping distribution of OpenIV."
Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
AI

Robots Are Coming For Our Ms. Pac-Man High Scores (fastcompany.com) 74

A Microsoft-made AI system has achieved a perfect score of 999,990 points on the Atari 2600 version of the classic 'Ms. Pac-Man.' From a report: Researchers at the Microsoft-owned deep learning company Maluuba have used an AI system to break the all-time Ms. Pac-Man record. In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that, "using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities," Maluuba's AI was able to record a perfect Ms. Pac-Man score of 999,990 on the Atari 2600 version of the game, breaking the all-time record of 933,580.
IOS

Chess.com Has Stopped Working On 32bit iPads After the Site Hit 2^31 Game Sessions (chess.com) 271

Apple's decision to go all in on 64bit-capable devices, OS and apps has caused some trouble for Chess.com, a popular online website where people go to play chess. Users with a 32bit iPad are unable to play games on the website, according to numerous complaints posted over the weekend and on Monday. Erik, the CEO of Chess.com said in a statement, "Thanks for noticing. Obviously this is embarrassing and I'm sorry about it. As a non-developer I can't really explain how or why this happened, but I can say that we do our best and are sorry when that falls short." Hours later, he had an explanation: The reason that some iOS devices are unable to connect to live chess games is because of a limit in 32bit devices which cannot handle gameIDs above 2,147,483,647. So, literally, once we hit more than 2 billion games, older iOS devices fail to interpret that number! This was obviously an unforeseen bug that was nearly impossible to anticipate and we apologize for the frustration. We are currently working on a fix and should have it resolved within 48 hours.
The Courts

Microsoft Wins Xbox Class-Action Fight at US Supreme Court (reuters.com) 26

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Microsoft in its bid to fend off class action claims by Xbox 360 owners who said the popular videogame console gouges discs because of a design defect. From a report: The court, in a 8-0 ruling, overturned a 2015 decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed console owners to appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit by a federal judge in Seattle in 2012. Typically parties cannot appeal a class certification ruling until the entire case has reached a conclusion. But the 9th Circuit allowed the console owners to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit so they could immediately appeal the denial of a class certification. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing on behalf of the court, said such a move was not permitted because a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit is not a final decision and thus cannot be appealed. The approach sought by the plaintiffs would undermine litigation rules "designed to guard against piecemeal appeals," Ginsburg wrote.
AI

Microsoft's AI Is the First to Reach a Perfect Ms. Pac-Man Score (theverge.com) 59

Maluuba, a deep-learning team acquired by Microsoft in January, has created an AI system that has achieved the perfect score for Ms. Pac-Man. According to The Verge, the AI system "learned how to reach the game's maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method." From the report: Though AI has conquered a wealth of retro games, Ms. Pac-Man has remained elusive for years, due to the game's intentional lack of predictability. Turns out it's a toughie for humans as well. Many have tried to reach Ms. Pac-Man's top score, only coming as close as 266,330 on the Atari 2600 version. The game's elusive 999,900 number though, has so far only been achieved by mortals via cheats. Maluuba was able to use AI to beat the game by tasking out responsibilities, breaking it up into bite-sized jobs assigned to over 150 agents. The team then taught the AI using what they call Hybrid Reward Architecture -- a combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method. Individual agents were assigned piecemeal tasks -- like finding a specific pellet -- which worked in tandem with other agents to achieve greater goals. Maluuba then designated a top agent (Microsoft likens this to a senior manager at a company) that took suggestions from all the agents in order to inform decisions on where to move Ms. Pac-Man. The best results came when individual agents "acted very egotistically" and the top agent focused on what was best for the overall team, taking into account not only how many agents wanted to go in a particular direction, but the importance of that direction.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils The Smallest Xbox Ever -- The Xbox One X (theverge.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: After months of speculation, Microsoft is unveiling its "Project Scorpio" games console today, and it's officially named Xbox One X. Microsoft's Xbox One X naming comes just days after the company trademarked a mysterious S logo, and started dropping Scorpio hints in its E3 teaser videos. Microsoft is planning to launch the Xbox One X on November 7th worldwide. All existing Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is even planning to use "super sampling" on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs. [YouTube] The new console will ship with 6 teraflops of graphical power, more than its main competitor, the PS4 Pro, with 4.2 teraflops. Microsoft is using a custom GPU engine on Scorpio that runs at 1172MHz, a big increase over the Xbox One's 853MHz and even Sony's 911MHz found on the PS4 Pro.
Microsoft says the new Xbox One X is the "smallest Xbox ever."
Television

That Time Adam West, TV's 'Batman', Also Advocated For Videogames (twitter.com) 38

Adam West, star of the 1960s TV series Batman, has died at age 88. An anonymous reader shares a memory of that time the 53-year-old actor wrote an op-ed for a 1982 issue of Videogame and Computer Gaming Illustrated. "I've been playing with computers longer than most," West wrote on page 6. [PDF] "I had onboard computers in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, having learned in an episode of TV's The Outer Limits that you can't survive on the Red Planet without them. Then, of course, I was up to my cowl in computers as television's Batman... In 1966, when the series began its three season run, all of that was science fiction. Computers were playthings of the researchers at MIT... Today, a lot of the apparatus we had in Batman -- dressed, of course, in less imposing names -- is fact. And we're lucky this is so."

West called videogames "an ideal means to broaden the imaginations of young people," saying the medium "can expand our awareness of the world as it is, was, or might be. The medium is still in its infancy, but read this again in a few years and see if this prediction hasn't come true: as videogaming grows, we will grow."

My favorite story is how West was cast as Batman after the show's producer spotted his performance as super-spy Agent Q in a commercial for Nestle Quik. And CNN also remembers that "later in life, West made appearances on the animated series 'Family Guy' as Mayor Adam West, the oddball leader of Quahog, Rhode Island."
Entertainment

For the First Time, a Video Game Trailer Is Eligible To Be Nominated For an Academy Award (eurogamer.net) 71

For the first time in 90-year Oscar history, a video game is eligible for an Academy Award, specifically the recently-released game Everything. From a report: The 11-minute trailer for philosophical pontificating simulator Everything is eligible for an Academy Award -- a first for a video game promotion, boasted game developer David OReilly. The marketing material in question is included under the Academy's category "[best] animated short film," which it became eligible for after winning the Jury Prize for animation at the VIS Vienna Shorts film festival. Everything's lengthy trailer focuses on the correlation between the universe's smallest, biggest, and most remote entities, all while being narrated by the late British philosopher Alan Watts.
Emulation (Games)

Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation (hothardware.com) 197

MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Qualcomm and Microsoft are on the verge of ushering in a new class of always-connected mobile devices that run full-blown Windows 10. The two are enabling ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processors to run Windows 10 with full x86 emulation, meaning that devices will be capable of not only running Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store, but legacy win32 apps as well. There is little question, Intel is likely none too pleased with it and PC OEM heavyweights Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and ASUS have also signed-on to deliver Windows 10 notebooks and 2-in-1 convertibles powered by Qualcomm. Until now, Intel sat by quietly while all of this unfolded, but the company today took the opportunity to get a bit passive-aggressive while announcing the fast-approaching 40th anniversary of the world's first x86 microprocessor. The majority of the press release reads like a trip down memory lane. However, Intel shifts into serious mama bear mode, with significant legal posturing, touting its willingness to protect its "x86 innovations." Intel goes on to say that Transmeta tried and ultimately failed in the marketplace, and has been dead and buried for a decade. The company then pivots, almost daring Microsoft and Qualcomm to challenge it by making Windows on ARM devices commercially available. "Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition... However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights."
Stats

New Threat To Traditional Sports Leagues: Millennials Prefer Watching eSports (venturebeat.com) 189

Professional sports leagues "officially have a millennial problem," writes VentureBeat, citing some interesting findings from L.E.K. Consulting.
  • 40% of millennials prefer watching esports to traditional sports
  • 26% of millennial eSports enthusiasts reported a significant uptick in eSports viewing over the past year
  • 61% of esports followers said they spent less time watching TV over the past 12 months, and 45% said they had cut back on traditional sports viewing
  • Together millennials -- ages 17-34 -- and Generation Z peers -- age 16 and under -- comprise 45% of America's consumer base

"At a certain point, this comes down to a new form of media better serving an upcoming generation of consumers," concludes VentureBeat. "Esports leagues are all online. Most matches stream for free on sites like Twitch. They are available on the web or through smartphone apps. Competitive gaming is easily accessible, and it lives where Millennials are already spending their time."

Maybe that's why Major League Baseball's video streaming company recently paid $300 million for the right to stream League of Legends through 2023.


DRM

'Rime' Developer Keeps Promise, Removes Denuvo DRM After Game Gets Cracked (cinemablend.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes CinemaBlend: Tequila Works and Grey Box had previously announced that the DRM for the PC version of Rime would be removed if it were cracked. Well, in just five days the DRM was cracked and a cracked version of the game was made available online. So, now the DRM will be removed...

Five days after the PC launch of Rime, the cracking scene managed to get into the executable and spill all of its guts, removing the DRM and putting the exe back together so it could be distributed across the usual sites. One of the things noted by the cracker was that he found Denuvo executing hundreds of triggers a second, which caused major slowdown in the performance of Rime on PC. This form of digital rights management resulted in every legitimate customer having to deal with a lot of slowdown and performance hiccups... The sad reality was that those who pirated Rime and used the cracked file essentially gained access to a game that had improved performance and frame-rates over those who actually paid for the game.

Space

Take-Two Acquires Kerbal Space Program 85

Eloking quotes a report from Polygon: Take-Two Interactive has purchased physics-based space simulation Kerbal Space Program, according to announcements from publisher Take-Two and developer Squad. "We have been impressed with Kerbal Space Program since its launch, and we are committed to grow this unique experience while continuing to support its passionate community," said Michael Worosz, senior vice president, head of corporate development and independent publishing at Take-Two, in a release. "We view Kerbal Space Program as a new, long-term franchise that adds a well-respected and beloved IP to Take-Two's portfolio as we continue to explore opportunities across the independent development landscape." Kerbal Space Program officially launched on PC in 2015. The game had been available through Steam's Early Access program since 2013. It has since gone on to sell more than 2 million copies on console and PC. Developer Squad said in a statement that the acquisition won't alter its plan for continued development of Kerbal Space Program. The developer is currently working on the Making History Expansion for the game.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Ships Its Last Ever PlayStation 3 In Japan (engadget.com) 64

After 11 years, Sony has stopped shipping the PlayStation 3 to retailers in Japan. The country stopped production on the 500GB model in December last year, but now a recent update on PlayStation Japan's website suggests that the other lingering units have all been shipped as well. It's only a matter of time before the console stops being produced altogether in other parts of the world. Engadget reports: Selling over 70 million units in just seven years, the PlayStation 3 was certainly a console to be reckoned with. Yet, for all its achievements, the long-surviving gaming machine initially made a name for itself for all the wrong reasons. With Sony riding high on the PlayStation 2's market-leading sales numbers, its successor launched at the eye-watering price of $499 -- and consumers weren't too happy about it. Luckily for Sony, publishers stuck with the pricey console, and exclusive games like Uncharted, Heavy Rain, The Last Of Us and Metal Gear Solid 4 helped to right the course of Sony's initially water-riddled ship. With the sun-setting on the aging console in the East, the news doesn't bode well for the future of the PlayStation 3 across the rest of the world. Sony has previously announced that PS Now will soon move exclusively to PS4 and PC. While few players will be mourning the loss of the pricey service, there are many PS3 owners still benefitting from free games on PlayStation Plus and downloading new content from the PS Store. As Sony slowly begins to start winding the console down, it's unlikely that gamers will be able to continue to use these services for much longer on the aging gaming system.
Classic Games (Games)

ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure (ibiblio.org) 118

An anonymous reader writes: Open source guru Eric S. Raymond added something special to his GitHub page: an open source version of the world's first text adventure. "Colossal Cave Adventure" was first written in 1977, and Raymond remembers it as "the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation...because PDP-10 filenames were limited to six characters of uppercase)...

"Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now, that is. With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure."

Calling it one of the great artifacts of hacker history, ESR writes about "what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software," ultimately concluding version control lets you preserve the original and continue improving it "as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

"Despite all the energy Crowther and Woods had to spend fighting ancient constraints, ADVENT was a tremendous imaginative leap; there had been nothing like it before, and no text adventure that followed it would be innovative to quite the same degree."
AI

Google AI AlphaGo Wins Again, Leaves Humans In the Dust (cnet.com) 136

Google's AlphaGo has defeated the world's best Go player in the second out of three games, scoring an overall win for the artificial intelligence algorithm in the fiendishly complex board game. CNET adds: The human gave it his all. "Incredible," wrote DeepMind founder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter while the match was underway. "According to AlphaGo evaluations Ke Jie is playing perfectly at the moment." The match took place over a year after AlphaGo bested Lee Sedol, one of the world's top Go players, in four out of five matches in March 2016. It also beat European champion Fan Hui 5-0 in October 2015. The match was being played in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. The government, however, isn't a big fan of letting its citizens know about the battle and has censored all the livestreams in the country.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch Its Netflix-Style Game Pass On June 1; Live Gold Subscribers Get Early Access (polygon.com) 36

Microsoft announced today that Xbox Game Pass, a new subscription service that would allow Xbox One owners to download and play a selection of games for a flat monthly fee, will launch on June 1. From a report: Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, can access the service starting today, May 24. Microsoft is offering a 14-day free trial of Xbox Game Pass, giving Gold subscribers a chance to preview the service at no cost prior to launch. Xbox Game Pass offers "unlimited access to over one hundred great Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles" for $9.99 per month.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Google

Google's AlphaGo AI Defeats the World's Best Human Go Player (engadget.com) 186

It isn't looking good for humanity. Google's AI AlphaGo on Tuesday defeated Ke Jie, the world's number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. The new win comes a year after AlphaGo beat Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of AI to date. Adding insult to the injury, AlphaGo scored the victory over humanity's best candidate in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. Engadget adds: After the match, Google's DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis explained that this was how AlphaGo was programmed: to maximise its winning chances, rather than the winning margin. This latest iteration of the AI player, nicknamed Master, apparently uses 10 times less computational power than its predecessor that beat Lee Sedol, working from a single PC connected to Google's cloud server. [...] The AI player picked up a 10-15 point lead early on, which limited the possibilities for Jie to respond. Jie was occasionally winning during the flow of the match, but AlphaGo would soon reclaim the lead, ensuring that his human opponent had limited options to win as the game progressed.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 202

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.
Microsoft

Microsoft Job Posting Hints At VR MMO (roadtovr.com) 18

sqorbit writes: Microsoft has posted a job opening for a Senior Design Manager for a mixed-reality team. The posting states they are "looking to build a massively social gaming and entertainment experience for both the PC and the console." It looks like they are targeting both PC and Xbox Platforms for a VR socially geared development project. The requirements: "The Xbox Mixed Reality team is looking for an experienced senior design manager with deep expertise and passion around crafting immersive social systems and experiences. [...] Here is an opportunity to join a fun and collaborative team that experiments with the latest toys, works with state of the art tech, and crafts the future of entertainment." Road to VR notes that the company says they're looking for someone who has "Shipped at least 3 AAA consumer entertainment products" and has 7+ years using design tools; bonus points if they've got experience in "NUI, VR, AR, game design, art direction, and video storytelling."
AI

Star Trek Bridge Crew Gets IBM Watson-Powered Voice Commands (theverge.com) 61

PolygamousRanchKid writes: Star Trek Bridge Crew -- the VR game that puts you in the slip-on space shoes of a Starfleet officer -- already emphasizes vocal communication when you're playing with real humans, but it will soon allow you to use your voice to issue orders to computer-controlled characters, too. The feature has been made possible using IBM's VR Speech Sandbox. The software combines IBM Watson's Speech to Text and Conversation services with the company's Unity SDK, using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM's Watson software to parse your barked commands, and allow AI-controlled characters to act on them. Players will be able to launch photon torpedoes, jump to warp speed, or lock S-foils in attack formation (maybe not that last one) by requesting that your crew members push the relevant blinking buttons on their own command consoles. The feature will go live in beta form this summer, soon after the game's release on May 30th, and will allow players to complete missions across VR platforms and with a mixture of human and AI teammates.

Slashdot reader PolygamousRanchKid adds: "Let's just skip all that stuff, and cut right to the part where Kirk gets the girl... How well it actually works in practice, we'll see this summer, aboard our own starships. "Scotty, beam up the IBM stock price!" -- Posterior Admiral Ginni Rometty

Operating Systems

Windows 10 On ARM Will Support x86 Apps From Outside the Store (liliputing.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Liliputing: First announced last year, Microsoft provided an update on Windows 10 ARM at the MS Build developer conference today. And the company confirmed that not only would Windows 10 ARM be able to run legacy apps developed for computers with x86 processors but you'd be able to just download any old Win32 app from the internet, install it, and run it on a computer running Windows 10 ARM. In other words, Windows 10 S runs on devices with ARM or x86 processors, but only supports Windows Store apps. Windows 10 ARM only runs on devices with ARM chips... but supports apps from pretty much any source. Developers don't need to convert their software in any way, because Windows 10 ARM includes a built-in emulation layer that allows Win32 apps to run on an ARM-powered system. But Microsoft demonstrated how you could download a common program like 7zip from the internet and simply install it on a device with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Of course, developers can also package software optimized for ARM as Universal Windows Platform apps for distribution in the Windows Store. But they don't necessarily have to.
Emulation (Games)

How The 1997 'NESticle' Emulator Redefined Retro Gaming (vice.com) 83

Slashdot reader martiniturbide writes: For those who lived the console emulator and retrogaming boom on the late 90's there is this interesting article about the story of NESticle posted at Motherboard. NESticle was a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console emulator that had a huge success in the early internet era and helped to start the emulation scene. The author of the story, Ernie Smith, also posted an extra second part of the story... NESticle was "the product of a talented programmer who designed a hit shareware game while he was still in high school," according to the article, which credits the 1997 emulator with popularizing now-standard emulator features like movie recording and save states, as well as user modifications. Programmed in assembly code and C++ and targeting 468 processors, NESticle was followed by emulators for the Sega Genesis and the Capcom arcade platform before Icer Addis moved on to a professional career in the gaming industry, working for Electronic Arts and Zynga. Leave a comment if you're a fan of classic game emulators -- or if you just want to share your own fond memories of that late-'90s emulation scene.
Software

The World Video Game Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees (polygon.com) 73

Dave Knott writes: The 2017 World Video Game Hall of Fame inductees have been announced. The Hall Of Fame "recognizes individual electronic games of all types -- arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile -- that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general." The 2017 inductees are: Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II. These four titles join the inaugural 2015 class, which included Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Doom and World of Warcraft, and the 2016 class which included Grand Theft Auto 3, The Legend of Zelda, The Oregon Trail, The Sims, Sonic the Hedgehog and Space Invaders.
Businesses

Colleges Are Starting Varsity Programs For Video Games (theoutline.com) 68

An anonymous reader shares an article: Professional esports -- competitive video game playing as a spectator sport -- is surging in the U.S., with revenues in the hundreds of millions and growing fast. So it's little surprise that collegiate esports -- in which universities field their own teams just as they would for baseball or basketball -- has been been growing as well, to the point where players are now sometimes earning scholarships that pay their entire tuition. Stephen's College, an all-women's college in Columbia, Missouri, announced a varsity esports program two weeks ago. The University of Utah did the same in early April. The growth of varsity esports teams is phenomenal, said Michael Brooks, executive director at the National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE), a non-profit organization that is working to set standards and build infrastructure for the scene. NACE launched in September to advocate for college esports, initiate communication between schools, and provide information to program directors interested in varsity esports programs. At the time, there were only seven varsity esports programs in North America. Now there are 34 varsity programs in total, and 31 are members of NACE. Brooks expects the number of varsity programs to double by August.
Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Sets Record As Fastest-Selling Game In the Franchise (polygon.com) 49

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the fastest-selling Mario Kart title ever, selling nearly half a million copies stateside when it went on sale last Friday. Polygon reports: Nintendo announced that the game beat out Mario Kart Wii as the series' fastest seller, with a little more than 459,000 copies sold in the U.S. on launch day alone. (The Switch has moved 2.7 million units worldwide since launch, for context.) Mario Kart Wii, which went on to be the best-selling entry of the Mario Kart series -- and second-biggest Mario game ever -- moved just under 434,000 copies at launch in 2008. Nearly half of those with a Switch already have Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, two months after the console's launch. That's a remarkable attach rate, even considering The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch has sold more copies than consoles shipped.
Nintendo

Nintendo Announces 2DS XL (theguardian.com) 52

The future for Nintendo is the Switch, or is it? Nintendo continues to keep things interesting. From a report: The ever-unpredictable hardware veteran has announced the Nintendo 2DS XL, a new version of the 2DS, which was itself a refreshed version of the 3DS. Featuring two enlarged displays, 4.88in on top and 4.18in on the bottom, and a clamshell design, the new format is lighter than the 3DS XL and of course lacks that machine's stereoscopic capabilities. Available in black and turquoise or white and orange and with built-in NFC support for amiibo cards and figures, it's a fully featured member of the extended 3DS family, even boasting the secondary C-pad nub like the New 3DS XL. It is priced at $150.
Nintendo

Early Nintendo Programmer Worked Without a Keyboard (arstechnica.com) 111

Much like IT guys, every programmer has a horror story about the extreme work environments that forced them to hack together things. But as ArsTechnica points out, not many of them can beat the keyboard-free coding environment that Masahiro Sakurai apparently used to create the first Kirby's Dream Land. From the story: The tidbit comes from a talk Sakurai gave ahead of a Japanese orchestral performance celebrating the 25th anniversary of the original Game Boy release of Kirby's Dream Land in 1992. Sakurai recalled how HAL Laboratory was using a Twin Famicom as a development kit at the time. Trying to program on the hardware, which combined a cartridge-based Famicom and the disk-based Famicom Disk System, was "like using a lunchbox to make lunch," Sakurai said. As if the limited power wasn't bad enough, Sakurai revealed that the Twin Famicom testbed they were using "didn't even have keyboard support, meaning values had to be input using a trackball and an on-screen keyboard."
XBox (Games)

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 142

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
Network

Gamers in Hawaii Can't Compete... Because of Latency (theoutline.com) 269

Sometimes it's very important to know that the servers of the web services you're using are situated somewhere in your neighbourhood. And it's not just because of privacy concerns. The Outline has a story this week in which it talks about gamers in Hawaii who're increasingly finding it difficult to compete in global tournaments because the games' servers are almost every time placed overseas. From the article: [...] The game's server is in Chicago. That means if you live in the Midwest, your computer can communicate with it almost instantaneously. If you're in L.A., it can take roughly 60 milliseconds. But if you're in Hawaii, it can take 120 milliseconds, with some players reporting as long as 200 milliseconds. And at the highest echelons of competitive video gaming, milliseconds matter. [...] In League and other eSports games, playing on a high ping is a big disadvantage. The goal of the game is to set up defenses to protect your base while pushing forward to capture the enemy's base, and there are typically lightning bolts and fireballs and slime-spitting dragons shooting across the screen. Playing on a high ping means players may not see all of the action that happens in a game. Latency can really screw things up for a young eSports scene, said Zack Johnson, who runs gg Circuit, a global tournament provider for gaming centers like PC Gamerz. Players on the mainland sometimes say they don't want to compete against Hawaii players, he said, because the high ping throws things off.
Transportation

Grand Theft Auto V Is Being Used To Help Teach Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team.

Nintendo

Nintendo To Launch SNES Mini This Year, Reports Eurogamer (eurogamer.net) 94

Nintendo plans to release another console this year aimed at nostalgia-seekers. The iconic game company is working on a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) classic version that would launch in time for the holidays, according to Eurogamer, which cites sources with knowledge of the plans. The device is already under development and -- like its predecessor the NES Classic Edition -- will give gamers access to some of the console's biggest hits. From the article: Nintendo's plans for SNES mini are also a major reason why last year's NES mini did not see a reprieve from discontinuation, Eurogamer understands, despite the latter's continued popularity and sell-out status.
Desktops (Apple)

StarCraft Is Now Free, Nearly 20 Years After Its Release (techcrunch.com) 239

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Nearly two decades after its 1998 release, StarCraft is now free. Legally! Blizzard has just released the original game -- plus the Brood War expansion -- for free for both PC and Mac. You can find it here. Up until a few weeks ago, getting the game with its expansion would've cost $10-15 bucks. The company says they've also used this opportunity to improve the game's anti-cheat system, add "improved compatibility" with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, and fix a few long lasting bugs. So why now? The company is about to release a remastered version of the game in just a few months, its graphics/audio overhauled for modern systems. Once that version hits, the original will probably look a bit ancient by comparison -- so they might as well use it to win over a few new fans, right?
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 132

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
Nintendo

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is Now the Fastest-Selling Nintendo Launch Title of All Time (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: It's no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, a console that just had its strongest U.S. opening ever for the company. But managing to sell more copies than consoles that can actually play it? That's what's happened in the U.S., amazingly -- Nintendo just announced that it sold 906,000 Switch consoles in March along with 925,000 copies of Breath of the Wild. The Wii U version moved almost 460,000 units on top of that, making for total sales of over 1.3 million. Breath of the Wild is now the fastest-selling Nintendo launch title of all time and the fastest-selling Legend of Zelda game ever. Nintendo says it thinks the Switch attach rate of more than 100 percent might be explained by people who bought a limited edition version to collect and a regular version to actually play, though another possibility is that some bought the game before they could find the console itself in stock.
Nintendo

Nintendo Discontinues the NES Classic Edition (polygon.com) 104

A Nintendo representative has confirmed today that the company will be discontinuing the NES Classic Edition, "a plug-and-play console that became popular with collectors as soon as it launched last fall," reports Polygon. The last shipments of the consoles will hit stores this month. From the report: [Nintendo said in a statement to IGN:] "Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product." "NES Classic Edition wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans," it told IGN.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Digital Refunds in Xbox and Windows Stores (polygon.com) 15

Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.
AI

AI Wins $290,000 in Chinese Poker Competition (bbc.com) 81

An AI program has beaten a team of six poker players at a series of exhibition matches in China. From a report on BBC: The AI system, called Lengpudashi, won a landslide victory and $290,000 in the five-day competition. It is the second time this year that an AI program has beaten competitive poker players. An earlier version of the program, known as Libratus, beat four of the world's best poker pros during a 20-day game in January.
Canada

Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch (engadget.com) 78

The Bank of Canada has hid a "Konami Code" Easter egg on its website celebrating their new $10 bank note. The Konami Code is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games, allowing players to press a sequence of buttons on their game controller to enable the cheat. "The Bank of Canada's web team thought the Konami code [Easter egg] was a fun way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told CTV news. Engadget reports: On top of being laden with anti-counterfeiting tech that makes it extremely difficult to copy (holograms, raised ink, color-changing images and polymer materials), the new ten is a who's who and what's what of Canadian history. It features Canada's founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Agnes Macphail, first woman parliamentarian, and Indigenous peoples pioneer James Gladstone, known in his Blackfoot language as Akay-na-muka. It also shows Canada's prairies, the coastal mountains of British Columbia, the Canadian Shield, Atlantic coast, northern lights, Metis Assomption Sash, maple leaf and much more (no poutine, though). All of that is squeezed on the 152.4 x 69.85 mm note -- that's exactly 6 x 2.75 inches, because Canada uses the metric system but probably still buys its printing presses from the U.S. The Konami code is in keeping with Canada's tradition of doing cute, pop-culture things with its history.

Slashdot Top Deals