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Windows

No Man's Sky Launches On Steam and GOG and It's Off To A Rocky Start (arstechnica.com) 157

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: No Man's Sky, an indie "video game that promises 18 quintillion planets" from a "small development team," has launched today for Windows PC gamers via Steam or GOG. Unfortunately, the "worldwide simultaneous launch on all kinds of PCs" is off to a rocky start -- as evidenced by the "mostly negative" Steam reviews. Many gamers have complained about frame rate hitches and total system crashes. Ars Technica reports: "Even users with high-end solutions like the GTX 1080 or two GTX 980Ti cards in SLI mode are reporting major stutters -- on a game that runs on a comparatively so-so PS4 console with a mostly consistent 30 FPS refresh. The game's PC version defaults to a 30 FPS cap, which can be disabled in the normal options menus. But with this setting turned on, the game can't help but hitch down to an apparent 20 FPS on a regular basis, not to mention throw up frequent display hitches of half a second at a time. Removing that frame rate cap can get play up to a smooth 60 frames per second, and we enjoyed more consistent frame rates without the cap. But even those frame rates can bounce down to 30 or less at random intervals. The game also suffers from freezing hitches, even without apparent spikes in visible geometry like creatures or spaceships." Ars also mentions that the on-screen prompts don't update the button remapping accordingly. There's been some frustration among PC gamers who have had to learn the hard way that the game's floating-menu interface was built with joysticks in mind. Mouse scroll wheels don't seem to work to scroll through text and between menus, and players are required to hold-to-confirm every menu interaction in the game. What's more is that alt-tabbing out of the game is a "guaranteed crash." For those looking for more information about the game, The Atlantic has a captivating report describing the game as if it were like reading a book.
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Beam Game Streaming Service, Embracing Alternative To Amazon's Twitch (geekwire.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a GeekWire report: Microsoft's Xbox group announced Thursday that it has acquired Seattle-based interactive game streaming service Beam, bringing the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant into an arena dominated by Amazon's Twitch. Microsoft said in a blog post the deal will help make Xbox more social and interactive. Beam launched in January, with a goal of giving people watching gamers the ability to participate in the experience. Viewers can affect gameplay by presenting new challenges and quests using visual controls.
The Almighty Buck

They Quite Literally Don't Make Games the Way They Used To (theguardian.com) 158

The days of two developers making games in a shed are over, an article on The Guardian says. Spend any time with your grandparents and at some stage the age-old phase "they don't make them like they use to" will pop up as nostalgia gets the better of them. Usually it's just the rose-tinted glasses talking, but for video games it's a fact: they quite literally don't make them like they used to. Back in the 1980s, when the industry was in its infancy, games were often created by two-person teams consisting of one programmer and one artist. In the 1990s, sprites gave way to 3D modelling, and development teams mushroomed in size, hoovering up specialists in disciplines across animation, level design, character modelling and artificial intelligence. Today, creating the most advanced, triple-A games has become too big a task for a single developer leading to the rise of what is best described as a modular approach, where different developers work on different parts of a single game. The article adds: One developer that is pioneering the modern modular approach is no spring chicken. Set up in 1984, Newcastle-based Reflections swiftly established a reputation for bringing cutting-edge graphics to side-scrollers such as Shadow of the Beast and the gloriously named Brian the Lion. It then morphed into a driving-game specialist, thanks primarily to the Destruction Derby and Driver franchises. French publisher Ubisoft acquired the studio in 2006, expanding its remit way beyond its previous practice of churning out a new Driver game every three years or so. Reflections is crafting the vehicle components of the upcoming Watch Dogs 2 and Ghost Recon Wildlands and has just finished the Underground downloadable content (DLC) pack for The Division. It's finishing Grow Up, the sequel to 2015's Grow Home -- ironically, a small, innovative download game made by a 90s-style 10-person team.
Amiga

Internet Archive Posted 10,000 Browser-Playable Amiga Titles (techcrunch.com) 83

The folks behind the Internet Archive have added a huge trove of Amiga games and programs to the site, bringing the total to more than 10,000. All these games can be played on your web browser. The non-profit library first began adding Amiga software to its catalog in 2013. TechCrunch adds: We can't vouch for the quality of all of the Amiga titles that were recently posted up on Archive.org, but there sure as heck are a lot of them -- 10,000+, by the site's count, including favorites as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, King's Quest and Double Dragon, along with what looks to be a fair amount of redundancy. I'm not really sure what the difference is between Deluxe Pac Man v1.1 and Deluxe Pac Man v1.7a, but I suspect it's fairly minor, even for completists.
Chrome

Google: Chrome 53 Will 'De-Emphasize Flash In Favor of HTML5' Next Month (venturebeat.com) 68

Google announced in a blog post today that Chrome will officially start to "de-emphasize Flash in favor of HTML5." VentureBeat reports: "In September 2016, Chrome will block Flash content that loads behind the scenes, which the company estimates accounts for more than 90 percent of the Flash on the web. In December, Chrome will make HTML5 the default experience for central content, such as games and videos, except on sites that only support Flash." Google detailed next month's plan (design doc), when Chrome 53 will be released: "In September 2015, we made 'Detect and run important plugin content' the default plugin setting in Chrome, automatically pausing any cross-origin plugin content smaller than 400px in width or 300px in height. This behavior has an exception for any plugin content that is 5x5 or smaller or is an undefined size, because there was no canonical way of detecting viewability until Intersection Observer was standardized and implemented. We would now like to remove this exception and instead not load tiny, cross-origin content. If the user has their plugin setting set to the default of 'Detect and run important plugin content,' the browser will not instantiate cross-origin plugin content that is roughly 5x5 or smaller or has an undefined size. An icon will be displayed in the URL bar indicating that plugin content is not running, allowing the user to reload the page with plugin content running or open settings to add a site-wide exception. Other choices of the plugin content setting are unaffected by this launch."
DRM

EFF Asks FTC To Demand 'Truth In Labeling' For DRM (techdirt.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: Interesting move by Cory Doctorow and the EFF in sending some letters to the FTC making a strong case that DRM requires some "truth in labeling" details in order to make sure people know what they're buying. The argument is pretty straightforward (PDF): "The legal force behind DRM makes the issue of advance notice especially pressing. It's bad enough when a product is designed to prevent its owner from engaging in lawful, legitimate, desirable conduct -- but when the owner is legally prohibited from reconfiguring the product to enable that conduct, it's vital that they be informed of this restriction before they make a purchase, so that they might make an informed decision. Though many companies sell products with DRM encumbrances, few provide notice of these encumbrances. Of those that do, fewer still enumerate the restrictions in plain, prominent language. Of the few who do so, none mention the ability of the manufacturer to change the rules of the game after the fact, by updating the DRM through non-negotiable updates that remove functionality that was present at the time of purchase." In a separate letter (PDF) from EFF, along with a number of other consumer interest groups, but also content creators like Baen Books, Humble Bundle and McSweeney's, they suggest some ways that a labeling notice might work.
Education

Positive Link Between Video Games and Academic Performance, Study Suggests (theguardian.com) 100

Here's another report reaffirming that playing online video games doesn't necessarily hinder one with their grades. According to an analysis of data from over 12,000 high school students in Australia, children who play online video games tend to do better in academic science, maths and reading tests. The study says kids who played online games almost every day scored 15 points above average in maths and reading tests and 17 points above average in science. "The analysis shows that those students who play online video games obtain higher scores on Pisa (Program for International Student Assessment -- internationally recognized tests that are administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)) tests, all other things being equal," said Alberto Posso, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology whp analyzed the data. "When you play online games you're solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you've been taught during the day." The Guardian reports: The cause of the association between game playing and academic success is not clear from the research. It is possible that children who are gifted at maths, science and reading are more likely to play online games. Alternatively, it could be that more proficient students work more efficiently, and therefore have more free time, making online gaming a marker of possible academic ability rather than something that actively boosts performance. Posso also looked at the correlation between social media use and Pisa scores. He concluded that users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter were more likely to score 4% lower on average, and the more frequent the social networking usage, the bigger the difference. 78% of the teenagers said they used social networks every day. Other studies have found a link between heavy users of social networking and a low attention span, which is also linked to poorer academic performance, but the evidence is less than conclusive.
Mars

NASA Celebrates Curiosity's Fourth Year On Mars With a Game (engadget.com) 35

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Engadget: In honor of Curiosity's fourth year on Mars, NASA has released a game. Engadget reports: "The glitch that shut down Curiosity in July was thankfully a temporary issue, else NASA would have mourned its loss rather than celebrating the rover's fourth year on Mars by releasing a game. It's simply called Mars Rover, and it's probably your only chance to pilot Curiosity. Mars Rover has a pretty straightforward gameplay -- you just have to press arrow keys to drive the vehicle and find underground pockets of water -- but it's harder than it seems. The virtual rover's wheels crack and break if they slam hard against rocks or heels, and when they do, it's game over. NASA derived these mechanics from Curiosity's actual mission and experiences on Mars."
Communications

1,000+ US Spies Are Protecting Rio Olympics, Says Report (nbcnews.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes from a report via NBC News: U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned more than 1,000 spies to security at the Rio 2016 Summer Games. NBC News reports: "The classified report outlines an operation that encompasses all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, including those of the armed services, and involves human intelligence, spy satellites, electronic eavesdropping, and cyber and social media monitoring. Areas of cooperation include vetting 10,000-plus athletes and 35,000-plus security and police personnel and others; monitoring terrorists' social media accounts; and offering U.S. help in securing computer networks, the review shows. 'U.S. intelligence agencies are working closely with Brazilian intelligence officials to support their efforts to identify and disrupt potential threats to the Olympic Games in Rio,' said Richard Kolko, a spokesman for National Intelligence Director James Clapper."
Databases

Pokemon Go DDoS Attacks Postponed As PoodleCorp Botnet Suffers Security Breach (softpedia.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: "The hacking crew [PoodleCorp] that promised to launch DDoS attacks on the Pokemon GO servers on August 1 suffered a major setback, after someone hacked their site, dumped the database, and shared it with data breach index service LeakedSource," reports Softpedia. "PoodleCorp responded to LeakedSource's announcement with what they knew best, a DDoS attack." When that happened, LeakedSource started looking at the leaked data and discovered full names for three of PoodleCorp's members, saying they intend to share it with authorities. Soon after, PoodleCorp stopped the DDoS against LeakedSource and went to annoy Blizzard gamers. "It's a terrible idea to attack a business that knows something about virtually everybody," a LeakedSource spokesperson said.
Microsoft

Xbox One S is the Best Xbox You Might Not Want To Buy (cnet.com) 114

The Xbox One S, successor to Microsoft's Xbox One gaming console, has begun shipping today. Media outlets, which had received the review unit a week ahead of the launch date, have put out the review. In short, everyone loves the Xbox One S' compact design -- 40% slipper form-factor than the Xbox One -- and the 4K support has been widely praised as well. But perhaps, it's CNET's review that captures the sentiment of most people: "Xbox One S is the best Xbox you might not want to buy." From their review: THE GOOD The Xbox One S is a slick looking game console that's 40 percent smaller than the original and ditches the infamously gigantic power brick. It can display 4K video from streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-rays, and supports HDR contrast on video and games. The updated controller works with other Bluetooth devices, too.
THE BAD 4K, Ultra HD Blu-ray and HDR settings only work with newer TVs, and may require some trial and error. The updated controller feels cheaper than its predecessor. Project Scorpio, the more powerful Xbox One successor, arrives in late 2017.
THE BOTTOM LINE The Xbox One S is the console Microsoft should have delivered three years ago, but there's little reason to upgrade if you already own the original box.
It's worth noting that the Xbox One S doesn't support game titles in 4K -- a capability that has been scheduled for the Project Scorpio, another new gaming console from Microsoft. It's set to launch next year.
Microsoft

Xbox One Summer Update Adds Cortana, Music and More (mashable.com) 40

The Xbox One is finally getting the anticipated Summer update. The update brings Cortana voice assistant to all Xbox One systems in the United States and UK. "With Cortana, gamers can expect more from voice commands on Xbox," the company wrote in a blog post. In addition, the update is also adding the ability to play background music while you're playing a game. Also, users will be able to set whatever language they want, no matter what country they are in. Mashable reports: Other summer update changes tweak the usability of the console's dashboard and sharing features. There are also a number of invisible changes that prepare the console for the Windows 10 Anniversary update. Launching on Aug. 2, the Anniversary Update carries a number of benefits for gamers, chief among them the launch of Microsoft's Xbox Play Anywhere program. Play Anywhere is Microsoft's version of cross-play, allowing Xbox One users to download and play the PC version of supported games on Windows 10 machines. The list of initially supported games is rather small and it only works if you bought the game digitally, but it's a significant step toward Microsoft's goal of joining the Xbox and Windows platforms under one development umbrella.
United States

New York Governor Bars Sex Offenders From Playing Pokemon Go (theverge.com) 246

Adi Robertson, reporting for The Verge: At the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York's correctional department has made playing online games a violation of parole for sex offenders -- particularly Pokemon Go. In a statement, Cuomo said that people on the sex offender registry are now banned from "downloading, accessing, or otherwise engaging in any internet enabled gaming activities, including Pokemon Go." He also published a letter that he sent to game developer Niantic, asking for its cooperation in preventing registrants from signing up. The decision is based on a report from two New York state senators, released last week. Jeffrey Klein and Diane Savino visited the locations of 100 registered sex offenders in New York City and found 57 pokemon and 59 pokestops and gyms within half a city block. They were particularly worried about the "lures" that draw pokemon -- and thus players, including children -- to a location. While criminals have used pokestops and lures to attract and rob players, there are no known cases of sexual predators using them so far. Nonetheless, Klein and Savino have crafted bills that would ban sex offenders from playing the game and require Niantic to remove any Pokemon Go-related items or locations from near their homes.
Censorship

Chased Off of YouTube, Leaked 'No Man's Sky' Footage Runs to Pornhub (vice.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes Vice:I always feel a little dirty when I look at leaked footage of any kind, but rarely so much as when I brought up Pornhub yesterday to check out a video featuring the hyped space exploration game No Man's Sky... I had to go to Pornhub, as this corner of the web was the only place I'd been able to find the footage after it'd been yanked off of DailyMotion, YouTube, and almost every other video hosting site...

The PornHub video shows 21 minutes of footage with awful resolution, and none of it's particularly exciting to watch (which may say something about the game)...

On July 7, when the game was ready to ship, No Man's Sky creator Sean Murray posted on Twitter "I'm so incredibly proud of this tiny team. 4 years of emotions," then addressed the leaked footage on Friday, tweeting "We've spent years filling No Man's Sky with surprises. You've spent years waiting. Please don't spoil it for yourself..." A later Twitter post added "Take a break from reading about it, and picking vids apart. You can experience for yourself so soon."
United Kingdom

British Newspaper Fooled By Online Harry Potter/Pokemon Go Hoax (snopes.com) 36

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: "The creators behind Pokemon Go are developing a new Harry Potter version of the app, according to reports," claimed The Metro -- citing as their source the web site "Hello Giggles". But that site's source -- as well as the source for an inaccurate article in Yahoo! Style -- was the infamous JTXH, a parody news sites created three months ago, whose other false scoops have included "NASA to make announcement involving 'religious' implications" and "Denny's waitress assaulted by Muslims for serving bacon during Ramadan".
From Snopes.com: There is no real radio or television outlet with the call letters JTXH; that identifier is purely the province of a fake news web site masquerading as a legitimate news outlet. JTXH News has previously published fabricated clickbait stories such as "Bernie campaign caught distributing LSD to youth" and "Chick-Fil-A is considering banning anyone who 'can't figure out their gender.'"
Nintendo

Nintendo NX Is a Portable Console With Detachable Controllers, Says Report (eurogamer.net) 158

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Eurogamer.net: We now have a good idea as to what the Nintendo NX will consist of thanks to a new report from Eurogamer. According to a number of sources, Nintendo's upcoming NX will be a portable, handheld console with detachable controllers. Eurogamer.net reports: "On the move, NX will function as a high-powered handheld console with its own display. So far so normal -- but here's the twist: we've heard the screen is bookended by two controller sections on either side, which can be attached or detached as required. Then, when you get home, the system can connect to your TV for gaming on the big screen. A base unit, or dock station, is used to connect the brain of the NX -- within the controller -- to display on your TV. NX will use game cartridges as its choice of physical media, multiple sources have also told [Eurogamer]. Another source said the system would run on a new operating system from Nintendo. It won't, contrary to some earlier rumors, simply run on Android. [...] The system will harness Nvidia's powerful mobile processor Tegra. Graphical comparisons with current consoles are difficult due to the vastly different nature of the device -- but once again we've heard Nintendo is not chasing graphical parity. Quite the opposite, it is sacrificing power to ensure it can squeeze all of this technology into a handheld, something which also tallies with earlier reports. Finally, we've heard from one source that NX planning has recently moved up a gear within Nintendo ahead of the console's unveiling, which is currently slated for September. After the confused PR fiasco of the Wii U launch, the company is already settling on a simple marketing message for NX -- of being able to take your games with you on the go."
Microsoft

Steam On Windows 10 Will Get 'Progressively Worse': Gears of War Developer (ndtv.com) 412

Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform, or UWP, approach isn't sitting well with many game developers. Four months after criticising UWP ecosystem for being a walled-garden, curtailing "users' freedom to install full-featured PC software, and subverting the rights of developers and publishers to maintain a direct relationship with their customers," Tim Sweeney, co-founder of Epic Games, the studio behind the Gears of War and Unreal franchises has once again lashed out at the Redmond-based company. He alleges that Microsoft plans to make Steam -- the world's largest PC gaming platform, "progressively worse and more broken." in a move to bolster people's reliance on the Windows Store. From a Gadgets 360 report: "Slowly, over the next five years, they will force-patch Windows 10 to make Steam progressively worse and more broken. They'll never completely break it, but will continue to break it until, in five years, people are so fed up that Steam is buggy that the Windows Store seem like an ideal alternative. That's exactly what they did to their previous competitors in other areas. Now they're doing it to Steam. It's only just starting to become visible. Microsoft might not be competent enough to succeed with their plan but they are certainly trying," Sweeney said. He adds the outcome of this would be forcing every app and game to be sold through the Windows Store alone. "If they can succeed in doing that then it's a small leap to forcing all apps and games to be distributed through the Windows store. Once we reach that point, the PC has become a closed platform. It won't be that one day they flip a switch that will break your Steam library -- what they're trying to do is a series of sneaky manoeuvres. They make it more and more inconvenient to use the old apps, and, simultaneously, they try to become the only source for the new ones," he claims.
Nintendo

Nintendo Shares Plummet After Investors Realize It Doesn't Actually Make Pokemon Go (theverge.com) 192

Sam Byford, reporting for The Verge: Nintendo shares have skyrocketed since Pokemon Go's release and instant transformation into global cultural phenomenon, but they fell dramatically today after investors realized that Nintendo doesn't actually make the game. Nintendo put out a statement after the close of trading on Friday pointing out that the bottom-line impact will be "limited" as it only owns 32 percent of The Pokemon Company, and that revenue from the game and its Pokemon Go Plus smartwatch peripheral have been accounted for in the company's current forecasts. Pokemon Go is a collaboration between The Pokemon Company and Niantic Labs, the developer who previously created the similar AR game Ingress as part of Google. This apparent revelation caused shares to plummet in Monday trading, with the stock dropping 17 percent at one point, representing about $6.4 billion in value; as Bloomberg notes, Tokyo stock exchange rules prevent share prices from moving more than 18 percent in a single day.
Microsoft

Microsoft Cuts Xbox One Price To $249 - Would You Buy or Recommend One? (theverge.com) 140

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Microsoft is cutting the price of its Xbox One console to $249. The new price marks the third price cut in less than two months, ahead of the new Xbox One S launch on August 2nd. 500GB versions of the Xbox One are now $249, and this includes bundles with games like Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Quantum Break, Forza Motorsport 6, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Rare Replay. Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon will be selling Microsoft's Xbox One console at the new $249 price point immediately, and the software giant says the consoles will be available at $249 "while supplies last." Microsoft's aggressive Xbox One pricing follows a sales gap between its console and Sony's PlayStation 4. Sony has sold more than 40 million PS4s, but it's not clear exactly how many Xbox Ones have been sold as Microsoft hasn't provided sales figures for quite some time. EA previously revealed Microsoft had sold 19 million Xbox One consoles back in January.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Valve Threatens Counter Strike Gambling Sites (hngn.com) 37

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from HNGN: Game maker Valve is threatening to shut down sites dedicated to gambling with add-ons to its popular Counter Strike game. On Thursday the company sent cease and desist letters to 23 sites, demanding that gambling operations be stopped, and that the sites had 10 days to comply. The row revolves around the software overlays that change the appearance of the characters people play in Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) and the weapons and other virtual items. Last week the company reiterated that its user agreements ban external sites from asking users to connect their Steam accounts in order to trade items for real money. The company added that it would use "all available remedies" against sites that did not stop players using virtual goods to gamble.
Bloomberg reports that in June a class action lawsuit was filed against Valve "for its role in the multibillion-dollar gambling economy that has fueled the game's popularity" -- by a man who had been gambling on the site since 2014. This was followed in July by a second class action lawsuit by a mother on behalf of her son, reports ESPN. "The case alleges that the Valve knowingly allows and profits from teenagers participating in illegal, unregulated and underage gambling of in-game cosmetic weapon skins through third-party sites."

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