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Graphics

NVIDIA Lifts Veil On GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Performance Reviews, Which Show Faster Speeds Than Titan X (hothardware.com) 51

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference and pre-orders began shortly thereafter. However, the cards will begin shipping today and NVIDIA has lifted the veil on performance reviews. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus NVIDIA's previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with a combination of refinement and the brute force of higher memory clocks, based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler. For gamers, the good news is, the 1080 Ti retails for $699, versus $1200 for the Titan X, and it is in fact faster, for the most part. Throughout a battery of game tests and benchmarks, regardless of the resolution or settings used, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35% better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Versus AMD's current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X, there is no competition; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was nearly 2x faster than the Fury X in some cases.
Microsoft

Project Scorpio Next-Generation Xbox Gaming Console Debuts In Microsoft Store (betanews.com) 65

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Microsoft's next generation of video game console is currently called "Project Scorpio." This will be a truly new console, although it will be backwards compatible with all Xbox One games -- nice. In fact, you will even be able to use your Xbox One controllers and other accessories. While we do not have a definitive date of when it will go on sale, today the next Xbox console makes its debut in the Microsoft Store. We even get a slightly better idea of when it will be in stores. Microsoft reaffirms its prior stance that the console will launch in time for the 2017 Holiday season, giving us more confidence that it will launch then. Beyond that, we are none the wiser regarding a date. Heck, we don't even know definitively if it will use the "Xbox" branding (although it probably will). One thing is for sure, though -- simply putting the game system in the Microsoft Store is an important step leading up to the ability to pre-order. You can view Project Scorpio's Microsoft Store page here.
PlayStation (Games)

PlayStation 4.5 Update Brings HDD Support, PS4 Pro 'Boost Mode' (theinquirer.net) 40

Sony has officially pushed out the PlayStation 4.5 System Update, codenamed "Susuke," which brings a new Boost Mode for PS4 Pro owners and lets PS4 owners download and install games directly to USB 3.0 hard drives up to 8TB in size. The INQUIRER reports: PS4 Pro owners are also being treated to a new Boost Mode, will offer improved performance for PS4 games released before the Pro console. "This feature has been designed to provide better performance for select legacy titles that have not been patched to take advantage of the PS4 Pro's faster CPU and its faster and double-sized GPU," Sony said in a blog post. "This can provide a noticeable frame rate boost to some games with variable frame rates, and can provide frame rate stability for games that are programmed to run at 30 Hz or 60 Hz." The PS 4.5 update brings an improved 2D mode to owners of Sony's PlayStation VR headset, which the firm claims will improve the resolution of the system screen displayed on your TV is significantly better when you're out of VR mode. The resolution of Cinematic Mode on PlayStation VR is also getting a boost, with Sony noting "if your PS VR screen size is set to Small or Medium, the frame rate of content viewed in Cinematic Mode goes up from 90Hz to 120Hz with this update." Other new features include added support for voice chat when using Remote Play on Windows, Mac or an Xperia device, an 'Off Console' icon that tells gamers when a friend is logged in but away from their device and updates to the PS Messages and PS Communities apps on iOS and Android.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Owners Complain About Dead Pixels, Nintendo Says They're 'Normal' (theguardian.com) 241

Nintendo says the dead or stuck pixels Switch owners are complaining about are "normal" and not defects. "New Switch players have taken to online discussion boards, including a 2,000-comment strong Reddit post, to complain of screen issues distracting play, unbecoming of a $300 handheld gaming machine," reports The Guardian. From the report: In a support document entitled "There are black or bright dots on the Nintendo Switch screen that do not go away, or there are dark or light patches on the screen," Nintendo said: "Small numbers of stuck or dead pixels are a characteristic of LCD screens. These are normal and should not be considered a defect." Customers wishing to swap their Switch consoles with defective screens will get no support from Nintendo. A similar issue happened with the Nintendo DS at launch in the U.S., but the Japanese gaming company eventually relented after complaints from buyers, begrudgingly offering replacements under warranty. Nintendo also warned users that using the Switch near an aquarium or within a meter of another wireless device, including laptops, wireless headsets, wireless printers, microwaves, cordless phones or even USB-3.0 compatible devices "such as hard drives, thumb drives, LAN adapters, etc," might cause the Joy-Con controllers to disconnect from the Switch.
Displays

What the Death of CRT Display Means For Classic Arcade Machines (venturebeat.com) 184

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report:The cathode-ray-tube technology that powered the monitors for nearly every classic arcade game in the twentieth century is defunct. Sony, Samsung, and others have left it behind for skinnier and more lucrative LCDs and plasmas, and the CRTs that are left are about to sell out. The current stock of new 29-inch CRT monitors is dwindling. Online arcade cabinet and parts supplier Dream Arcades has fewer than 30 of those large displays sitting on its shelves. When it sells out of the current inventory, it will never get another shipment in that size again. "We've secured enough [of the other sizes] to get us all the way through next year," says Michael Ware, founder of Dream Arcades. "After that, that's it." The future of arcade-cabinet restoration is looking bleak. "The old arcade games are like aging people," says Walter Day, founder of high-score-keeping site Twin Galaxies. "They have old livers and aging kidneys. There will come a day when very few arcade cabinets have original components. Time will wear them out." To be clear, it's not that games like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man will suddenly become unplayable. The games can run on newer LCD screens, but they may not look as the developers intended.
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If All Software Ran On All Platforms? 383

Slashdot reader dryriver writes: We live in a computing world where the OS you use -- Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, others -- often determines what software can and cannot be run on a given electronic device. (Let us pretend for a moment that emulators and other options don't exist). What if -- magically -- such a thing as as Universally Compatible Software Application were possible. Software, in other words, that is magically capable of running on any electronic device equipped with enough CPU, GPU and memory capacity to run the software in a usable way.

Example: 3D CAD software that runs on Windows 14, Playstation 7, an Android Smartphone, Nintendo's latest handheld gaming device and an Ubuntu PC in exactly the same way with no compatibility problems whatsoever occurring. What would and would not change in such a computing world?

He also asks an even more important question: will this ever be possible or feasible from a technical standpoint? So leave your best answers in the comments. Will it ever be possible to run all software on all platforms -- and what would happen if we could?
Nintendo

Strange New Social Media Trend: Licking Nintendo Switch Cartridges (macon.com) 117

Now that the Nintendo Switch has launched, "lots of people are just licking their video games," reports McClatchy. According to IGN, the tech company coated the cartridges, which are roughly the size of a SIM card, in a bittering agent called denatonium benzoate, which is also used in rat poison and antifreeze to deter human consumption. The chemical is also used to deter nail-biting, per the Telegraph. Nintendo used the chemical as a safety measure to stop small children and pets from eating the cartridges. While there is no adverse health effects from consuming denatonium benzoate, it does leave a sour, bitter taste that lasts for hours, according to taste testers from BBC News, Quartz and IGN. But even as more and more people take to social media to let others know how bad the cartridges taste, more and more people seem determined to try it in what some are calling the Nintendo cartridge challenge...
"Humanity deserves no faith," opines Slashdot reader RavenLrD20k. But meanwhile on Twitter, one gamer was already complaining that their morning coffee tasted like a Nintendo Switch cartridge.
Canada

Canadian DMCA In Action: Court Awards Massive Damages In Modchip Case (michaelgeist.ca) 65

New submitter google20000 shares a report from Michael Geist: The Federal Court of Canada has issued a massive damage award in the first major Canadian digital lock copyright ruling involving circumvention of technological protection measures. The ruling, which is the first to conduct an extensive examination of the anti-circumvention rules established in 2012, adopts expansive interpretations to the digital lock protections and narrow views of the exceptions. The case launched by Nintendo confirms that Canada has tough anti-piracy laws with one of the most aggressive digital lock laws in the world and will fuel calls to re-examine the effectiveness of the anti-circumvention exceptions in the 2017 copyright review. The case stems from a lawsuit launched by video game maker Nintendo against Go Cyber Shopping, a modchip seller that operated a retail store in Waterloo, Ontario and several online stores. Go Cyber Shopping offered a wide range of products that allow users to circumvent the digital lock controls on the Nintendo gaming console (such as the Wii) and play unauthorized games including "homebrew" games. Go Cyber Shopping argued that it provided other services but the court says that it did not tender any evidence in that regard. The court concluded that the modchip seller engaged in copyright infringement and circumvented technological protection measures. In fact, it went out of its way to emphasize the importance of TPM protection. It adopted a broad interpretation of a technological protection measure -- rejecting a UK case that used a narrower interpretation -- in favor of an approach that covers access controls that go beyond restrictions on copying.
Games

Razer Wants To Build the Best Linux Laptop, And It Needs Your Help (facebook.com) 220

Min-Liang Tan, a founder, CEO and creative director of gaming hardware company Razer, has assured enthusiasts that the company is looking into developing good -- the "best" he says -- Linux notebook. He writes in a post: The Razer Blade series have become the default coding machine for many out there and one of the most common asks is for us to support Linux on it. Well - we're looking at it and we're inviting all Linux enthusiasts to weigh in at the new Linux Corner on Insider to post feedback, suggestions and ideas on how we can make it the best notebook in the world that supports Linux. So if you're a Linux enthusiast, do check out the introductory thread.
XBox (Games)

GameStop Stock Price Tanks After Microsoft Announces New Digital-Gaming Service (venturebeat.com) 90

After Microsoft announced Xbox Game Pass earlier this week -- a monthly service coming this spring that will give you a selection of games you can download and play on your Xbox One for $9.99 a month, GameStop's stock price dropped nearly 8 percent. The news likely worries investors who view Xbox's instant game library a potential threat to GameStop's sales. VentureBeat reports: The brick-and-mortar retailer makes quite a lot of its money from secondhand sales where it resells products that consumers have traded in. If more people are playing digital games, that takes product out of the supply chain that could end up on GameStop store shelves. Additionally, Game Pass looks like it will primarily traffic in older games that people would typically would purchase used. Older releases like Mad Max, Saints Row IV, and Halo 5 are some of the big options that Microsoft is highlighting. Of course, GameStop isn't completely removed from the digital-gaming ecosystem. The retailer sells a lot of currency cards for the Xbox Store, the PlayStation Store, the Steam PC-gaming portal, and it's possible that people who don't like using a credit card will purchase cards to buy their subscription to Game Pass through GameStop. But that will likely not make up for a dearth of used-game sales or trade-ins if a lot of people adopt a Game Pass subscription.
Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review By Ars Technica (arstechnica.com) 59

Kyle Orland writes via Ars Technica: At this point, the Legend of Zelda series operates on a rhythm so predictable you can practically set your watch to it. In a Zelda game, after an extremely slow-paced tutorial, you progress from puzzle-filled dungeon to puzzle-filled dungeon, finding in each one a key item that -- coincidentally -- is crucial to beating the dungeon boss and to finding the next dungeon. Between dungeons, you face perfunctory battles with simple enemies on a vast overworld map dotted with small towns and occasional mini-games and side-quests. Most of these give you rewards that are already so plentiful as to be practically worthless (oh, goodie, more rupees to fill my already full wallet). By the time you reach Ganon, your circuitous trip from point A to point B has given you a set of required powers that help you take on the big bad boss threatening the kingdom. Individual Zelda games each make slight variations to this formula, but the basic rhythm is there every time. And then there's the new Breath of the Wild (BotW), a Zelda game that throws off this established rhythm so quickly, and with such force, that it practically feels like a whole new genre. In doing so, Breath of the Wild offers a compelling take on a stagnating series, bringing a sense of wonder and excitement back to Zelda that hasn't been felt this strongly since the original NES game. "Breath of the Wild is my new favorite 3D Zelda game and in contention for the top spot in the series overall," Orland writes in ending. "Don't miss it." You can read his full review here
Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Xbox Game Pass, Netflix-Style Gaming For the Xbox One (polygon.com) 33

Microsoft today announced it is moving into the world of Netflix-style game subscriptions with Xbox Game Pass, a monthly service coming this spring that will give you a selection of games you can download and play on your Xbox One for $9.99 a month. From a report on Polygon: The service will include "over 100 games," including Halo 5: Guardians, Payday 2, NBA 2K16 and SoulCalibur II. "One of the best things about Xbox Game Pass is that you can discover and download the full titles directly on your Xbox One," the official post states. Any game you buy through the service will be sold to you at a 20 percent discount. An alpha preview of the program begins today with "a very limited" number of games, and Xbox Live Gold subscribers will get first crack at the program this spring. It also sounds as if the service may be available, at least in part, on the PC.
Businesses

Twitch Will Begin Selling Games You're Watching Later This Year (kotaku.com) 25

Twitch, home to millions of people who go to the site to watch games being player, is adding an e-commerce element to its game streaming platform. The Amazon-owned company announced today that it will sell video games directly on its site, which is already used by nearly 10 million daily active users. From a report: The new game sales program will allow stream viewers to click a "Buy Now" button at the bottom of the stream page to purchase the game they are viewing. Sales go through Twitch parent company Amazon, and while games will be available worldwide, only U.S. dollars will be supported as payment currency at launch
GameCube (Games)

Machine-Learning AI Now Beats Humans At Super Smash Bros. Melee (qz.com) 78

"The AI is definitely godlike," one professional player told Quartz. "I am not sure if anyone could beat it." An anonymous reader quotes their report about an AI's showdown with the best players of Super Smash Bros. Melee: Of 10 professionals that faced the bot, each one was killed more than they could kill the bot... But the bot was once only as good as a mere mortal. At first, Vlad Firoiu, creator and a competitive Smash player himself, couldn't train 'Phillip' to be as strong as the in-game bot, which he says even the worst players can beat fairly easily. Firoiu's solution? He started making the bot play itself over and over again, slowly learning which techniques fail and which succeed, called reinforcement learning. Then, he left it alone.

"I just sort of forgot about it for a week," said Firoiu, who coauthored an unreviewed paper with William F. Whitney, the NYU student [who helped him] on the work. "A week later I looked at it and I was just like, 'Oh my gosh.' I tried playing it and I couldn't beat it."

Business Insider points out that their AI read the players positions, velocities, and states directly from the game's memory, so the AI responds six times faster than a human player. To compensate it played as Captain Falcon, the game's slowest character, but there was one crucial glitch. "One particularly clever player found that the simple strategy of crouching at the edge of the stage caused the network to behave very oddly, refusing to attack and eventually KOing itself by falling off the other side of the stage."
Nintendo

$10K Package Of Super Nintendo Games Finally Found By Post Office (eurogamer.net) 155

A project to preserve (and validate) every Super Nintendo game ROM had been derailed when the post office lost a package containing 100 games from the PAL region. But now Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, reports that the package has been found. An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Byuu finally posted photos of the unboxing for the package that was shipped to him January 5th. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent." At the same time, Byuu writes that "My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March."

Byuu is now refunding donations he'd received to replace the missing games, and says he can now also resume work on the SNES Preservation Project. And going forward, according to Eurogamer, "Byuu has said he will be more cautious with shipping games in the future -- only using smaller shipments, or buying individual games to scan and archive then selling them on to get some money back."

Graphics

Valve Releases SteamVR For Linux (gamingonlinux.com) 61

New submitter JustNiz quotes a report from GamingOnLinux: Valve has launched SteamVR for Linux officially in beta form and they are keen to stress that this is a development release. You will need to run the latest Steam Beta Client for it to work at all, so be sure to opt-in if you want to play around with it. VR on Linux will exclusively use Vulkan, so it's going to be a pretty good push for Vulkan if VR becomes more popular. Those who are interested can head over to GitHub for more information.
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 151

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot (kotaku.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: "At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."
NES (Games)

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games (eurogamer.net) 172

A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."
Businesses

Thousands Of Disabled People Are Living In 'Virtual Utopias' In Second Life (backchannel.com) 55

"For many disabled residents, who may spend 12 hours a day or more in Second Life, the most important moments and relationships of their lives happen inside the virtual world," reports Backchanel. "For them, the fevered fantasies of a decade ago have become reality: Second Life is where they live." mirandakatz shares this article: Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher -- at as much as 50 percent... Abundant research shows imagining movement, without actually moving the body, can have positive effects on motor skills, balance, and learning... Studies suggest the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality extend beyond movement disorders -- to chronic pain, cognitive functioning in people with ADHD and PTSD, and social skills for people on the autism spectrum.
The article describes a 90-year-old former nurse, now living in a retirement community, who's spent eight years living in a Second Life archipelago called "Virtual Ability Island" with over a thousand other members. "Watching her avatar hike trails and dance gave her the confidence to try things in the physical world that she hadn't tried in a half decade -- like stepping off a curb or standing up without any help."

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