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AI

An AI Is Finally Trouncing The World's Best Poker Players (cmu.edu) 140

Halfway through the "Brains vs. AI" poker competition, an AI named Libratus is trouncing its human opponents, who are four of the world's top professional players. One of the pros, Jimmy Chou, said he and his colleagues initially underestimated Libratus, but have come to regard it as one tough player. "The bot gets better and better every day," Chou said. "It's like a tougher version of us"... Chou said he and the other pros have shared notes and tips each day, looking for weaknesses they can each exploit. "The first couple of days, we had high hopes," Chou said. "But every time we find a weakness, it learns from us and the weakness disappears the next day."
By Saturday, the AI had amassed a lead of $693,531 after 56,732 hands in the 120,000-hand match (which is being livestreamed by the Rivers Casino on Twitch). "I'm feeling good," said Tuomas Sandholm, the computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who co-created the AI. "The algorithms are performing great. They're better at solving strategy ahead of time, better at driving strategy during play and better at improving strategy on the fly."
PlayStation (Games)

Report: PS4 Is Selling Twice As Well As Xbox One (arstechnica.com) 132

The latest numbers released by analysts suggest that the Sony PlayStation 4 is selling twice as many units worldwide as the Xbox One since both systems launched in late 2013. The data comes from a new SuperData report on the Nintendo Switch, which is backed up by Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad. SuperData mentions an installed base of 26 million Xbox One units and 55 million PS4 units. Ars Technica reports: Ahmad's chart suggests that Microsoft may have sold slightly more than half of the 53.4 million PS4 units that Sony recently announced it had sold through January 1. Specific numbers aside, though, it's clear Microsoft has done little to close its console sales gap with Sony over the past year -- and may have actually lost ground in that time. The last time we did our own estimate of worldwide console sales, through the end of 2015, we showed the Xbox One with about 57 percent as many systems sold as the PS4 (21.49 million vs. 37.7 million). That lines up broadly with numbers leaked by EA at the time, which suggest the Xbox One had sold about 52.9 percent as well as the PS4 (19 million vs. 35.9 million). One year later, that ratio has dipped to just above or even a bit below 50 percent, according to these reports. The relative sales performance of the Xbox One and PS4 doesn't say anything direct about the health or quality of those platforms, of course. Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any danger of abandoning the Xbox One platform any time soon and has, in fact, recently committed to upgrading it via Project Scorpio later this year. The gap between PS4 and Xbox One sales becomes important only if it becomes so big that publishers start to consider the Xbox One market as a minor afterthought that can be safely ignored for everything but niche games.
Nintendo

Don't Call Switch a Tablet, Also It's Not Here To Oust the 3DS, Says Nintendo (cnet.com) 116

An anonymous reader shares a report on CNET: Don't call the new Nintendo Switch a tablet. And don't assume the shape-shifting device for gamers will replace the company's popular 3DS handheld, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in an interview with CNET. With its latest gadget, Nintendo is playing to win the same game it has for decades: the one that takes place in your living room. "The form factor may be that it looks like [a tablet]," he said. "But...it's a home console that you can take with you and play anywhere with anyone." [...] "With Zelda, with Kart, with Xenoblade, I think the initial consumer for Switch will be more young adults with disposable incomes, given the price points and the large library," Fils-Aime said. That doesn't mean Nintendo is ditching its core audience. The company will continue to skew toward a younger crowd with the 3DS. "In the end, we want people of all ages engaging with Mario and Zelda and the content that's available across both platforms," Fils-Aime said.
The Courts

How A Professional Poker Player Conned a Casino Out of $9.6 Million (washingtonpost.com) 405

Phil Ivey is a professional poker player who's won ten World Series of Poker bracelets -- but he's also got a new game. An anonymous reader write: In 2012, Ivey requested that the Borgata casino let him play baccarat with an assistant named Cheng Yin Sun while using a specific brand of playing cards -- purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards -- and an automatic shuffler. He then proceeded to win $9.6 million over four visits. The pair would rotate certain cards 180 degrees, which allowed them to recognize those cards the next time they passed through the deck. (They were exploiting a minute lack of a symmetry in the pattern on the backs of the cards...)

But last month a U.S. district judge ruled that Ivey and his partner had a "mutual obligation" to the casino, in which their "primary obligation" was to not use cards whose values would be known to them -- and ordered them to return the $9.6 million [PDF]. "What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game," Ivey's attorney told the AP, adding that the judge's ruling will be appealed.

The judge also ruled Ivey had to return the money he later won playing craps with his winnings from the baccarat game -- though the judge denied the casino's request for restitution over the additional $250,000 worth of goods and services they'd "comped" Ivey during his stay.
Facebook

Facebook No Longer Clearly Labels Edited Posts (mashable.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Have you ever made a cringeworthy mistake in a Facebook post? Don't lie, the answer is yes. If you have a sense of shame, Facebook at least allows you to go back and correct your gaffe by editing the post, a feature that certain other social media networks still haven't added. But evidence of your slip-up lived on with the tiny "Edited" label on the bottom of the post, signaling to your followers that you cared just enough to correct yourself on the internet. Sad. Apparently, however, that's no longer the case. It seems that Facebook has removed the on-post edited label, making it much more difficult to know when someone actually took the time to fix their mistake. In order to actually know whether or not your eyes were playing tricks on you when a friend's rant no longer has 15 spelling errors the second time you see it, you'll need to do some digging. Here's how the new editing looks, courtesy of my colleague Raymond Wong and his doubts about how cool the upcoming Nintendo Switch actually is. I noticed that he added a comment about the Switch, so I checked out the post information, via the drop-down menu. To see what happened, I have to view the edit history. When I look at his edit history, I can see all the changes that were made. In most cases, this type of editing isn't a big deal, but the move to hide post edit labels takes away one of the few features that provided any transparency for our online behavior.
Microsoft

Microsoft's New Windows 10 Game Mode Will Maximize Gaming Performance (mspoweruser.com) 129

Microsoft has started officially testing a new Game Mode feature in Windows 10. From a report: Traces of the new option were found back in December, but the most recent test build of Windows 10 (15007) includes Game Mode in the Xbox app. MSPoweruser has supplied some screenshots of how you can enable the option, but Microsoft has not yet officially unveiled Game Mode for everyone to test. Microsoft's description lists the feature as a mode to let a PC make gaming the "top priority to improve your game's quality." It's still not clear exactly how Game Mode will improve gaming performance, but it's likely that Windows 10 will simply suppress system processes and other apps from taking too many CPU, GPU, and RAM resources away from the primary game being played.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Will Launch On March 3rd For $299, Won't Feature Region-Locking Software (cnet.com) 166

Nintendo has released more details about its upcoming Nintendo Switch gaming console. We have learned that the console will be launching on March 3rd worldwide, and in North America the console will be available for $299.99. What's more is that it won't feature region-locking for software, meaning you can play games from any region no matter where you buy your console. CNET reports: There will also be a Nintendo Switch online service that will be a paid service. It will launch as a trial with pricing to be announced later in 2017. For fans of imports of Japanese exclusives, it was announced the new system will have no region locking -- a big break from tradition for Nintendo. The Switch itself is said to have battery life from 2.5 to 6 hours and can be charged over USB-C. Nintendo says it will have portable battery accessories also available to charge on the go. The Joy-con is the name for new controller, usable in a combined controller style or separated into two halves to let two players play together. It will also be available in a range of colors for people who want to mix things up. The Joy-con has a whole bunch of clever tricks -- motion control, IR sensor, haptic feedback -- and a series of 'versus' game ideas called "1, 2, Switch" that let you play games (like a quick draw shooting game) without needing to look at the screen, just face each other down with the Joy-con controllers. Other games announced that need you to keep the full Joy-con all to yourself include 'Arms', a robotic boxing battle game, and Splatoon 2. Plus the new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, which aims to deliver a 'sandbox' experience across many realms outside the Mushroom kingdom, including the real world. And this time his cap has come to life. For the more serious RPG fans, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was also announced for the Nintendo Switch. Followed by a very small tease for Fire Emblem Warriors. All up, Nintendo says there are over 80 games in development for the Nintendo Switch. If you live in New York, "a limited quantity of pre-orders for the #NintendoSwitch will begin on 1/13 at 9AM while supplies last," Nintendo NY tweeted.
The Internet

Monopoly May Replace Iconic Pieces With Emoji Faces and Hashtags (cnet.com) 123

Hasbro, the toymaker behind Monopoly, is letting the public decide whether or not they should replace the game's iconic game pieces with new pieces inspired by pop culture and social media. CNNMoney reports: Gamers can visit the Vote Monopoly site and choose from more than 50 new options. The old tokens, including the thimble, top hat and Scottie dog, are also on the table. The voting takes place inside a digital house with shelves and furniture stocked with both classic and newfangled token options. Jazzy music plays in the background as you explore and take a closer look at the figurines. Some aren't too surprising. There's a horse, a sailboat, an airplane, a bike and a helicopter. Two of the stranger options are sliced bread and a fuzzy bunny slipper. Hasbro is offering up a number of tokens that may appeal to tech consumers. There's a cell phone that looks like it came out of the '80s, a television that looks very '50s, and a computer with keyboard that vaguely resembles the first flat-screen iMac. Internet denizens can also vote for a hashtag and emoji options, including a winking smiley-face, thumbs-up symbol, crying-laughing face and a Rich Uncle Pennybags version of an emoji face. Voting is open to internet users worldwide until January 31. The chosen tokens will be part of a fresh Monopoly game due to hit stores this summer, so think long and hard about whether you want to stare at a kissy-face emoji for the next decade or so. A special edition called Token Madness will offer the original tokens as well as the new winners.
NES (Games)

Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable (arstechnica.com) 86

Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.
Android

Fake Malware-Filled Super Mario Run Apps Take Advantage of Android Absence (silicon.co.uk) 34

Mickeycaskill writes: Nintendo's Super Mario Run was downloaded more than 40 million times in the first four days it was available. But an Android version has yet to materialize. An official release is on the way, but cybercriminals are taking advantage of this vacuum by spreading malicious apps masquerading as the real thing. The "Android Marcher trojan" appears as a fake landing page advertising the release of the game, where it can be downloaded onto users' devices. It then targets financial and banking apps and can modify your settings and read your contacts. The popularity of Pokemon GO last year saw similar scams emerge as users waited for the game.
Microsoft

Minecraft Has Now Sold Over 25 Million Copies on PC and Mac (neowin.net) 90

An anonymous reader shares a Neowin article: Minecraft is a 3D video game created by Markus Persson, and published on PC by Mojang back in 2011. Ever since its release, it's been very popular and has become a global phenomenon. Received positively by reviewers and consumers alike, it has been a commercial success. In fact, its continuing popularity prompted Microsoft to buy Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014. It so happens that the game has sold over 25 million copies on PC and Mac to-date. According to the latest statistics publicly available on Mojang's website, Minecraft has sold 25,072,545 copies on PC and Mac.
Encryption

'Forza Horizon 3' Update Accidentally Published Unencrypted Build of the Game (vice.com) 70

An employee at Forza Horizon 3 developer Playground Games accidentally green-lighted the wrong update file for PC players, who found themselves downloading a whopping 53GB download that turned out to be an unencrypted future build (.37.2) of the entire game intended for developers. Motherboard reports: Naturally, players who'd managed to download it yesterday had a field day leaking the information within, right down to massive posts on Imgur showing all the new cars and forum threads detailing the Porsches thought to come in an future unannounced pack. Since Forza Horizon 3 requires a constant online connection and works off of a constantly refreshing save file, anyone who played the new patch on PC found themselves slapped with an error saying their Forza profiles were no longer available. Playing it with the new build would thus effectively mean starting a new game from scratch, even if they'd dumped dozens of hours into Forza Horizon 3 since its release last September. But starting over is exactly what players shouldn't have done. The best thing they could do was shut down the game, walk away, and wait for a fix. "PC players who completed the download of .37.2 and then started a new game save will have a corrupted saved game," wrote Brian Ekberg, Forza's community manager, in a forum post. "Avoid creating a new saved game on .37.2, and only play on .35.2 to avoid this issue. As long as you have an existing save and have not created a new one on .37.2, your saved game will work correctly once the update is available."
AI

Google's AlphaGo AI Secretively Won More Than 50 Straight Games Against World's Top Go Players (qz.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: When Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo made history by taking down Korea's Lee Sedol -- one of the world's best Go players -- in a landslide 4-1 victory in March, Chinese player Ke Jie was skeptical. He famously wrote on Weibo the next day, "Even if AlphaGo can defeat Lee Sedol, it can't beat me," and has since agreed to take on the AI at an undecided time. But now even Ke, the reigning top-ranked Go player, has acknowledged that human beings are no match for robots in the complex board game, after he lost three games to an AI that mysteriously popped up online in recent days. The AI turned out to be AlphaGo in disguise. On Jan. 4, after winning more than 50 games against several of the world's best Go players, Ke included, a user registered with an ID of "Master" on two Chinese board game platforms came forward to identify itself as AlphaGo. "I'm AlphaGo's Doctor Huang," the user "Master" wrote on foxwq.com, according to screenshots from Chinese media reports. Taiwanese developer Aja Huang is a member of Google's DeepMind team behind the AI. Since Dec. 29, Master has defeated a long list of top Go players including Korea's Park Jung-hwan (world No. 3), Japan's Iyama Yuta (No. 5) and Ke in fast-paced games. He won 51 games straight before his 52nd rival, Chen Yaoye, went offline, forcing the game to be recorded as a tie. By Jan. 4 when the test was completed, Master had racked up 60 wins, plus the one tie, and zero loss, according to numerous reports (link in Chinese).
First Person Shooters (Games)

Valve Reveals Steam's 2016 Top Earners -- Including 'No Man's Sky' (pcgamer.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes PC Gamer: In a surprise announcement today to kick off 2017, Valve has revealed the 100 best-selling Steam games of 2016... Although the "Top Sellers" section of Steam gives a constant sense of what's selling now, Valve hasn't previously compiled an annual list of which Steam games earned the most money... Rather than ranked in order from 1-100, the list is separated into tiers, from Platinum to Bronze, based on revenue (as opposed to copies sold)... Doom didn't crack the top 12, but it may have gotten close: it's ranked somewhere between 13th and 24th
That second-place Gold tier included more modern throwbacks to classic games, including Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20-Year Celebration. Meanwhile, No Man's Sky, which got off to a rocky start this summer before its massive November update, still turned up in the top "Platinum" tier for revenue earned in 2016. (And it's now discounted 40%.)

In fact, "As an extension of the Winter Sale, all but six of these games are on sale," reports PC Gamer. The other top-earning Steam games were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Grand Theft Auto V, Civilization VI, and DOTA 2 (which is free to play), as well as Rocket League, XCOM 2, Dark Souls III, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Total War: Warhammer, and Tom Clancy's The Division.
Software

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Some Great Games Panned and Some Inferior Games Praised? (soldnersecretwars.de) 145

dryriver writes: A few years ago I bought a multiplayer war game called Soldner: Secret Wars that I had never heard of before. (The game is entirely community maintained now and free to download and play at www.soldnersecretwars.de.) The professional reviews completely and utterly destroyed Soldner -- buggy, bad gameplay, no single-player mode, disappointing graphics, server problems and so on. For me and many other players who did give it a chance beyond the first 30 minutes, Soldner turned out to be the most fun, addictive, varied, satisfying and multi-featured multiplayer war game ever. It had innovative features that AAA titles like Battlefield and COD did not have at all at the time -- fully destructible terrain, walls and buildings, cool physics on everything from jeeps flying off mountaintops to Apache helicopters crashing into Hercules transport aircraft, to dozens of trees being blown down by explosions and then blocking an incoming tank's way. Soldner took a patch or three to become fully stable, but then was just fun, fun, fun to play. So much freedom, so much cool stuff you can do in-game, so many options and gadgets you can play with. By contrast, the far, far simpler -- but better looking -- Battlefield, COD, Medal Of Honor, CounterStrike war games got all the critical praise, made the tens of millions in profit per release, became longstanding franchises and are, to this day, not half the fun to play that Soldner is. How does this happen? How does a title like Soldner, that tried to do more new stuff than the other war games combined, get trashed by every reviewer, and then far less innovative and fun to play war games like BF, COD, CS sell tens of millions of copies per release and get rave reviews all around?

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