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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) 167

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?
Open Source

Postal, the Legendarily Violent Video Game by Running With Scissors, Is Now Open Source (ndtv.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: Video game developer Running With Scissors has announced that it is open sourcing the original version of its most popular title-Postal, which was released back in 1997. Even though violence in video games has been a topic of debate for over decades now, Postal has been one of the most criticised games out of the lot. Running With Scissors has published the code for the game on Bitbucket under the GPL2 license and further said that it is entrusting the fans with the fate of its game. "Anyone with the time and skills can now tweak/change/update/modify anything in the game at all!" the company was quoted as saying in the report. Postal is popularly known for being termed "digital poison" by US Senator Joe Lieberman but developed an audience for itself over the years. Earlier this year, a high-definition remaster of the game called Postal Redux was released on Steam as well as PS4.
Android

Nintendo's Super Mario Run For Android is Coming Soon (venturebeat.com) 44

Following its huge launch on iOS this month, Nintendo's Mario auto-runner, Super Mario Run, comes to Android in 2017. We still don't have a specific release date, but Nintendo has now announced that Android users can now pre-register to learn precisely when the game will be available. From a report: Super Mario Run is up for pre-registration on the Google Play Store. To ensure that that you get a notification when Nintendo launches the mobile platformer, you can sign up for alerts on the game's market page. Once Super Mario Run launches on Android, you can grab it immediately as a free download, but then you will need to pay $10 to unlock the rest of its content after the third stage. Nintendo has already seen huge success with Super Mario Run on iOS. The publisher confirmed that iPhone and iPad owners downloaded it more than 50 million times in a matter of days, which makes it the fastest downloaded app ever in the $36.6 billion mobile gaming industry.
Advertising

Ask Slashdot: Is Computing As Cool and Fun As It Once Was? 449

dryriver writes: I got together with old computer nerd friends the other day. All of us have been at it since the 8-bit/1980s days of Amstrad, Atari, Commodore 64-type home computers. Everybody at the meeting agreed on one thing -- computing is just not as cool and as much fun as it once was. One person lamented that computer games nowadays are tied to internet DRM like Steam, that some crucial DCC software is available to rent only now (e.g. Photoshop) and that many "basic freedoms" of the old-school computer nerd are increasingly disappearing. Another said that Windows 10's spyware aspects made him give up on his beloved PC platform and that he will use Linux and Android devices only from now on, using consoles to game on instead of a PC because of this. A third complained about zero privacy online, internet advertising, viruses, ransomware, hacking, crapware. I lamented that the hardware industry still hasn't given us anything resembling photorealistic realtime 3D graphics, and that the current VR trend arrived a full decade later than it should have. A point of general agreement was that big tech companies in particular don't treat computer users with enough respect anymore. What do Slashdotters think? Is computing still as cool and fun as it once was, or has something "become irreversibly lost" as computing evolved into a multi-billion dollar global business?
Android

North Korea's Android Tablet Takes a Screenshot Every Time You Open an App (vice.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: When you think of North Korea, the first thing that springs to mind is probably not a well-featured tablet PC. But that's just what researchers at the Chaos Communication Congress hacking festival revealed on Tuesday. Called Woolim, this tablet is designed to limit the distribution of contraband media, track its users, and generally act as a propaganda platform for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Woolim is a small, white Android device that looks like a fairly standard tablet. The hardware itself is made by Chinese manufacturer Hoozo, but the North Korean government has removed some components such as those for wi-fi and bluetooth, and put its own bespoke software on top. After the researchers presented work covering RedStar OS, North Korea's Linux-based operating system, a South Korean NGO offered the tablet to the group. Woolim is just one of several tablets designed for North Korea, but Woolim appears to be the most recent, likely dating from 2015. The tablet has PDFs on how to use it; various propaganda texts for users to read as well as the capability to play local TV and connect to the country's own internet, and it also comes with a slew of educational apps, such as French, Russian, and Chinese dictionaries. There's even an app for kids which teaches them how to type with a keyboard, and video games such as Angry Birds that have been lightly customized. The tablet only allows specific files to be used or played: users cannot just load whatever they want onto the device. Woolim also constantly keeps tabs on what its users are up to. Whenever a user opens an app, the tablet takes a screenshot. These screenshots are then available for viewing in another app, but they can't be deleted.
Windows

Windows 10 Getting a Game Mode That Would Improve Game Performance - Report (gamespot.com) 164

Microsoft may have plans to improve gaming experience on Windows 10. The speculation comes after long time watcher @h0x0d found a new "gamemode.dll" in the latest Windows 10 developer build, reports GameSpot. The feature appears to allow Windows 10 to adjust CPU and GPU resources when running a game to allocate more power for the game that's running instead of toward any background apps. From the article: The feature will reportedly launch as part of the Creators update and will be enabled for Windows Insider users soon. What's unclear is exactly which games this is compatible with. It's possible it could be limited to only to those downloaded from the Windows Store, or it might be much more far-reaching. We should know more once Windows Insiders testers get their hands on the feature.

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