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Games

In 5 Years, Games Experience Will Move From Discrete To Indiscrete, Says EA CEO (theverge.com) 182

The Verge has an insightful interview of Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts. In the wide-ranging interview, Wilson has talked about how the landscape of video games have changed over the years, and where it will be in the next few years. One remarkable comment he has made is about how video games will move from discrete experience that we have today to indiscrete experience in the next coming years. From the article (condensed): The biggest shift I think we'll see is games moving from being a discrete experience to an indiscrete experience. When I was 15 years old, if I wanted to listen to music, I had a couple of choices. I could sit up all night and hope they'd play what I liked on the radio, or I could go down to the record store. [...] Today, by virtue of the fact that almost every device I own plays me music, and services like Spotify curate and cultivate and personalize that music for me, music permeates almost every aspect of my life. It's moved from being something I have to make a conscious decision to engage with, to something that really surrounds every aspect of my life from the minute I get up in the morning to the minute I go to bed at night. When we think about games today -- already we've got more people playing more games on more platforms in more geographies around the world than ever before. It's not just a console business, or a PC business, or even a mobile business. We've now got virtual reality and augmented reality and streaming, too. Now fast-forward that to the future, and you think about what the world looks like with a 5G network streaming latency-free gaming to every device you own. It's really easy to imagine that games would permeate our lives much the way digital music does today. From the minute I get up in the morning, everything I do has an impact on my gaming life, both discrete and indiscrete. The amount of eggs I have in my internet-enabled fridge might mean my Sims are better off in my game. That length of distance I drive in my Tesla on the way to work might mean that I get more juice in Need for Speed. If I go to soccer practice in the afternoon, by virtue of internet-enabled soccer boots, that might give me juice or new cards in my FIFA product. This world where games and life start to blend I think really comes into play in the not-too-distant future, and almost certainly by 2021.
Games

Hacker Charged With Fraud After 'Stealing' In-game FIFA Currency (cnet.com) 149

The FBI said it believes a group of hackers made millions off a scam to defraud publisher Electronic Arts. From a report on CNET: A US man is facing felony wire fraud charges for the theft of digital currency from game developer Electronic Arts. According to an FBI indictment, Anthony Clark and his co-defendants are being charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for "stealing" in-game currency in multiplayer football game FIFA Ultimate Team for Xbox One, PS4 and PC. The indictment details that Clark and three others, named as Ricky Miller, Nicholas Castellucci and Eaton Zveare, members of hacking group RANE Developments, designed an app using the game's source code and developer kit. This app fraudulently told EA's servers that thousands of matches had been completed in the game. These completion reports were rewarded with FIFA coins, which the group sold to what the FBI called "black market" coin dealers. Between them, the group earned $15-$18 million.
Robotics

Robot Solves Rubik's Cube In Less Than a Second (livescience.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from LiveScience: In just over half of a second (0.637 seconds), the Sub1 Reloaded robot made each side of the Rubik's Cube show a single color. This breaks the previous record of 0.887 seconds achieved by an earlier version of the same machine using a different processor. German technology company Infineon staged the record attempt at the Electronica trade fair in Munich this week, as a way to highlight its self-driving-car technology. The company provided one of the Sub1 Reloaded robot's microchips. Infineon said more than 43 quintillion combinations of the Rubik's Cube's colored squares are possible. That same number of cubes would cover Earth in 275 layers, resulting in an approximately 65.6-foot-high (20 meters) layer of Rubik's Cubes, the company added. The record-breaking attempt began with the press of a button. Sensor cameras on the machine had their shutters removed, and the computer was then able to detect how the cube was scrambled. The computing chip, or the "brain" of the machine as Infineon called it, then determined the fastest solution. Commands to execute the solution were sent to six motor-controlled arms. "It takes tremendous computing power to solve such a highly complex puzzle with a machine," Infineon said in a statement. "In the case of 'Sub1 Reloaded,' the power for motor control was supplied by a microcontroller from Infineon's AURIX family, similar to the one used in driver assistance systems."
Software

Dungeons & Dragons Inducted Into Toy Hall of Fame (npr.org) 51

Snowgen writes: NPR reports that Dungeons and Dragons has been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY: "The nomination process for the Toy Hall of Fame is open to the public -- but to get in, a toy has to be approved by 'historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers.'" "More than any other game, Dungeons and Dragons paved the way for older children and adults to experience imaginative play," says Curator Nic Ricketts. "It was groundbreaking. And it opened the door for other kinds of table games that borrow many of its unique mechanics. But most importantly, Dungeons and Dragons' mechanics lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft." The report adds: "The list of 12 finalists for this year's honors had included bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, the coloring book, Nerf ball, pinball, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Transformers and Uno. When it emerged in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was groundbreaking, says curator Nic Ricketts of The Strong. In addition to its own merits, the game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson established a pattern for how similar role-playing games might work -- both on table-tops and, eventually, on computers and other devices."
The Almighty Buck

The Sega Genesis Is Officially Back In Production (dailydot.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Daily Dot: Sega may be done making the Genesis (known as the Mega Drive outside of the U.S.), but that doesn't mean people aren't still buying them. In Brazil, the 16-bit system is still hugely popular, and now it's being brought back into production. TecToy, which produces all manner of gadgets and toys, has launched preorders for all-new Sega Mega Drive stock, complete with support for the original game library and controllers. But what's even more astounding about the announcement is that it's all being done with Sega's blessing, making these official, brand new, Sega-branded consoles. The new consoles are spitting images of the originals, aside from the addition of an SD card slot, which makes it great for emulation. They're even complete with support for A/V cables, though there's no HDMI or other bells or whistles. That might seem like a bad move, but for the Brazilian market, it's a perfect fit, not to mention that you can easily pick up an A/V-to-HDMI converter for fairly cheap. The system costs roughly $125 (BRL399) and includes a SD card with 22 games.
Security

Microsoft Promises To Defend World Chess Champion From Russian Hackers (telegraph.co.uk) 131

"World chess champion Magnus Carlsen has asked Microsoft to protect him against Russian hackers, as he expects to become the target of cyber attacks launched before the match with grandmaster Sergey Karjakin next week," reports Softpedia. An anonymous reader shares more details from The Telegraph: The man dubbed the 'Mozart of chess' has spent months using high-powered chess computers to meticulously prepare moves for his grueling 12-game match against challenger Sergey Karjakin. But any leak of his analysis would hand a significant advantage to Crimean-born Karjakin, the fiercely-patriotic darling of Russian president Vladimir Putin... "The element of surprise is vitally important in chess," explained the Vibeke Hansen, from Microsoft Norway... She said Microsoft Norway will "ensure that he has a safe training environment and secure communication and collaboration tools".
First Person Shooters (Games)

Windows 10's Store Locks 'Call of Duty' Purchasers Into Windows-10-Only Battles (vice.com) 174

An anonymous reader writes: Two Call of Duty games have been remastered for Windows 10, but if you buy them through the Windows 10 Store there's a problem. "Windows 10 Store players will be isolated from other PC versions of the game," reports the Windows Central site, noting a statement from Microsoft which implies that the decision was made by Activision.

"For unknown reasons, Windows 10 Store customers are segregated from customers who bought the game from Steam, which is by far the most popular platform on PC," reports Motherboard. "Call of Duty fans who made the unfortunate of mistake of giving Microsoft their cash are left sitting in lonely multiplayer lobbies waiting for games that'll never start."

Motherboard reports that at least one player successfully requested a refund, calling the situation "another black eye for a digital storefront that PC gamers already avoid like the plague."
First Person Shooters (Games)

Blizzard Launches A Professional Sports League For 'Overwatch' (usatoday.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: One of Blizzard Entertainment's hottest video games is making the jump into a professional sports league. [Blizzard] announced Friday the launch of Overwatch League, a professional video gaming league kicking off its inaugural season during the second half of 2017... Blizzard says the league will combine competitive video gaming -- better known as eSports with hallmarks of professional sports leagues like the National Football League, complete with teams based in various cities worldwide featuring owners who will cultivate team and player development... Blizzard will start by recruiting prospective owners representing cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia and other parts of the globe... Players who get picked up by a team are guaranteed contracts complete with benefits, and owners will be required to take steps to develop their players and grow their fan bases.
Overwatch already has 20 million players after just four months. Could professional videogame competitions someday become more popular than football?
Classic Games (Games)

The NES Classic is a $60 Single Board Computer Running Linux 121

"Nintendo's accurate NES emulator apparently needs no less than a quad-core CPU," joked Ars Technica. "The next step, of course, is unscrewing of the nostalgic little box to see how it ticks -- and whether its limited functionality might ever be expanded, either officially or by hackers." Slashdot reader romiz summarizes what's inside Nintendo's new miniature emulator for classic games: With a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, 256 MB of RAM, and 512 MB of NAND Flash, it is typical of the hardware found in Linux single board computers, like the Raspberry Pi 2. Surprisingly for Nintendo, there does not seem to be any custom components in it, and it looks like it even does run Linux. [YouTube video] The GPL license for the kernel and many other open source components is visible in the legal information screen. The source, however, is not yet available on Nintendo's open source page.

But it is the re-edition a 1980s video console: there is no network access, no hardware expansion port, and the 30 games cannot be changed. Changing the system running on it will probably be difficult.
AI

Google's DeepMind AI Plans To Take On StarCraft II (venturebeat.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google and Blizzard are opening up StarCraft II to anyone who wants to teach artificial intelligence systems how to conduct warfare. Researchers can now use Google's DeepMind A.I. to test various theories for ways that machines can learn to make sense of complicated systems, in this case Blizzard's beloved real-time strategy game. In StarCraft II, players fight against one another by gathering resources to pay for defensive and offensive units. It has a healthy competitive community that is known for having a ludicrously high skill level. But considering that DeepMind A.I. has previously conquered complicated turn-based games like chess and go, a real-time strategy game makes sense as the next frontier. The companies announced the collaboration today at the BlizzCon fan event in Anaheim, California, and Google's DeepMind A.I. division posted a blog about the partnership and why StarCraft II is so ideal for machine-learning research. If you're wondering how much humans will have to teach A.I. about how to play and win at StarCraft, the answer is very little. DeepMind learned to beat the best go players in the world by teaching itself through trial and error. All the researchers had to do was explain how to determine success, and the A.I. can then begin playing games against itself on a loop while always reinforcing any strategies that lead to more success. For StarCraft, that will likely mean asking the A.I. to prioritize how long it survives and/or how much damage it does to the enemy's primary base. Or, maybe, researchers will find that defining success in a more abstract way will lead to better results, discovering the answers to all of this is the entire point of Google and Blizzard teaming up.
Facebook

Facebook Officially Announces Gameroom, Its PC Steam Competitor (techcrunch.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After losing mobile gaming to iOS and Android, Facebook is making a big push into playing on PC with today's developer launch of its Gameroom Windows desktop gaming platform. After months of name changes, beta tests and dev solicitation, Facebook opened up the beta build for all developers and officially named it Gameroom. The app is openly available for users to download on Windows 7 and up. Gameroom let users play web, ported mobile and native Gameroom games in a dedicated PC app free from the distractions of the News Feed. Gameroom will have to fight a steep uphill battle again Valve's Steam platform, which has well over 125 million active users, with millions actually playing at any given moment. Facebook will need to convince developers that Gameroom will share its social network's massive reach and is therefore worth their while. Then it will have to persuade gamers that a more social experience is worth diving into a new platform. If Facebook succeeds, there are plenty of potential benefits to owning a gaming destination. Facebook announced the launch and name change from "Facebook Games Arcade" today at Unity's game development platform conference. Unity 5.6 shipping next year will allow devs to export their games directly to Facebook Gameroom, as well as to the WebGL standard. Facebook's director of global games platform, Leo Olebe, touted how Facebook will feature new games in the Gameroom to give developers a leg up.
DRM

EA Blocks 'Origin' Access In Six Countries, Citing US Embargoes (pcgamer.com) 121

An anonymous reader writes: "In compliance with US embargoes and sanctions laws, Origin is not available in Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine (Crimea region)," a community manager from EA posted in September. Engadget calls it "a reminder of the risks you take when buying copy-protected game downloads... Even if you started your account elsewhere, you aren't allowed to either visit the Origin store or use any of your purchased games."

Sunday an employee at EA's Origin game store commented "This isn't an EA-specific issue -- it's an issue that impacts all companies offering services that are covered by trade embargoes." But since the U.S. lifted sanctions on Myanmar in September, EA "is internally reviewing the situation... It's unclear to me whether we can do anything for residents of other countries that are still similarly embargoed, but I'll bring the topic up for discussion internally."

Emulation (Games)

Archive.org Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (sfchronicle.com) 42

20 years ago this week, Archive.org started with just 500,000 sites. An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle: Now, the nonprofit San Francisco organization -- which celebrated the milestone with a party Wednesday night -- curates a vast digital archive that includes more than 370 million websites and 273 billion pages, many captured before they disappeared forever. It's more than an archive of Internet sites. The organization, founded by computer scientist and entrepreneur Brewster Kahle, now has a virtual storehouse ranging from digitally converted books and historic film to funny memes and audio recordings of Grateful Dead concerts...

The Internet Archive has survived through community donations and by working with about 1,000 libraries around the world that pay the group to help digitize books and other material. But the site itself remains free.

We've written about Archive.org over the years, and its collection of 2,400 DOS games, over 10,000 Amiga games (and other software) and a massive collection of arcade machine emulators. And here's what Slashdot looked like back in 1998. But what's your favorite page on Archive.org?
Classic Games (Games)

New Text Adventures Compete In 22nd 'Interactive Fiction Competition' (ifcomp.org) 25

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: 58 brand-new text adventures are now available free online for the 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. The public is encouraged to play the games, and on November 16th the contest's organizers will announce which ones received the highest average ratings. After 22 years, the contest is now under "the auspices of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new, charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the technologies and services that enable IF creation and play..." according to the contest's organizers. "[T]he competition now runs on servers paid for by the IF-loving public, and for this I feel sincere gratitude."
Classic Games (Games)

Super Mario 'Speed Runners' Are Setting New World Records (fivethirtyeight.com) 62

Virginia software engineer Brad Myers has played Super Mario 22,000 times, and just set a new speed record earlier this month -- 4 minutes and 56.878 seconds. An anonymous Slashdot reader summarizes a new article at FiveThirtyEight: "In this 31-year-old video game, there is a full-on, high-speed assault on Bowser's castle under way right now..." writes Oliver Roeder, describing a collaborative community of both theorists and experimentalists "who test the theories in game after callus-creating game... 'Everything in my run, so many people contributed so much knowledge at various points in the game's history,' Myers told me. 'Now someone can come along and use that as their starting point.'"

Online broadcasts form a kind of peer-review system, with an ever-expanding canon of tricks -- for example, intentionally bumping into objects for a slight increase in speed. But the success rate for the maneuver is estimated at 3%, meaning speed runners spend most of their time stating over. "On average, about 1 out of 1,000 times does a record-setting campaign continue beyond its halfway point..."

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