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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.
Open Source

FreeDOS 1.2 Is Finally Released (freedos.org) 146

Very long-time Slashdot reader Jim Hall -- part of GNOME's board of directors -- has a Christmas gift. Since 1994 he's been overseeing an open source project that maintains a replacement for the MS-DOS operating system, and has just announced the release of the "updated, more modern" FreeDOS 1.2! [Y]ou'll find a few nice surprises. FreeDOS 1.2 now makes it easier to connect to a network. And you can find more tools and games, and a few graphical desktop options including OpenGEM. But the first thing you'll probably notice is the all-new new installer that makes it much easier to install FreeDOS. And after you install FreeDOS, try the FDIMPLES program to install new programs or to remove any you don't want. Official announcement also available at the FreeDOS Project blog.
FreeDOS also lets you play classic DOS games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem, and Jill of the Jungle -- and today marks a very special occasion, since it's been almost five years since the release of FreeDos 1.1. "If you've followed FreeDOS, you know that we don't have a very fast release cycle," Jim writes on his blog. "We just don't need to; DOS isn't exactly a moving target anymore..."
United States

GamerGate Critic Brianna Wu To Run For Congress (cnn.com) 511

"If you look at what our Congress is doing for tech, it's failing. It's putting all of us in danger," game developer Brianna Wu told CNN, adding "It's so imperative that people of my generation, native to technology, that we step up and make our voices known." An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report: Wu says she is running for Congress in 2018. The co-founder and head of development at games firm Giant Spacekat hasn't announced which district she wants to represent in the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent alerting her potential opponent while she prepares. Wu, a Massachusetts Democrat, told CNNMoney she's building up a team of advisers and figuring out campaign logistics before announcing her candidacy next month... She said the election of President-elect Donald Trump spurred her to consider entering politics...
Wu "says her extensive technical knowledge and experience fighting the alt-right and harassment and will be advantageous for a Congressional representative."
Nintendo

Nintendo Plans To Release 2 or 3 Mobile Games a Year After Super Mario Run's Success (macworld.com) 46

In an interview with Japan-based Kyoto NP, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima revealed that Super Mario Run is just the start of a new strategy for mobile gaming. From an article on MacWorld: The company plans to release two or three new games next year, and continue that pattern beyond 2017, he said. Previously it was reported that popular titles Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing were on tap for a mobile release. Kimishima offered no information on whether future games will release simultaneously in the App Store and Play Store, but Nintendo has already said it is working on bringing Super Mario Run to Android phones. The iPhone-exclusive side-runner has amassed some 50 million downloads in its first week, making it the fastest-downloaded app in Apple's history. However, the game's $10 price tag and relatively simple formula has riled some users, and despite its popularity, it only has a 2-star rating in the App Store.
Games

Steam Is Down (steamstat.us) 183

An anonymous reader writes: The entire Steam domain seems to be down for everyone. The websites and Steam clients won't connect. No word from Steam on Twitter or Reddit about the outage. The status page of Steam as well as third-party monitoring sites have confirmed the outage. A tweet from an unofficial Steam Status page says, "100% of #Steam connection manager servers are still down."
Software

Steam Fined $3 Million For Refusing Refunds (smh.com.au) 160

Gaming company Valve Corporation has been hit with a $3 million fine after the Federal Court found its online games site Steam breached Australian Consumer Laws. From a report: The court imposed the maximum fine requested by Australia's competition regulator because of Valve's disregard for Australian law and lack of contrition. Valve's general counsel, Karl Quackenbush, told the court the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia, and did not check its obligations until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission got involved in April 2014. It only provided staff verbal instructions. This lack of interest in Australian laws and lack of cooperation encouraged Justice James Edelman to impose a pentaly 12 times more than Valve Corporation suggested it pay.
IOS

Pokemon Go Arrives On the Apple Watch (techcrunch.com) 35

Niantic, the developers behind Pokemon Go, have finally launched the Apple Watch version of the game. The new smartwatch app will let you play Pokemon Go without having to constantly pull out your smartphone. Instead, you can use the watch to tap to find nearby Pokemon, collect items from PokeStops, and log your gameplay as a "workout." TechCrunch reports: The AR and GPS-powered game, which has been downloaded 600 million times as of November, offers a unique combination of gameplay and physical activity that makes sense for a platform like the Apple Watch. The new app will take advantage of the watch's fitness-tracking capabilities, as gameplay counts toward your personal Activity rings. In addition, your Apple Watch sessions will count toward hatching your Pokemon Eggs, too, as well as receiving Candy with your Buddy Pokemon. In addition to fitness tracking, Pokemon Go will also tie into the Apple Watch's ability to push notifications to your wrist. The app will send alerts about a variety of important events, including when there are nearby Pokemon to catch, when you're near a PokeStop, when your Eggs hatch, and when medals are awarded, says Niantic. However, when it comes time to actually catch the Pokemon, you'll still need to break out your iPhone.
The Almighty Buck

Worldwide Gaming Market Hits $91 Billion In 2016, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 76

According to a new SuperData Research report, the worldwide gaming market was worth a whopping $91 billion this year, with mobile gaming leading the way with a total estimated market value of $41 billion. The PC gaming market did very well too, as it pulled in nearly $36 billion over the year. PC Gamer reports: The mobile game segment was the largest at $41 billion (up 18 percent), followed by $26 billion for retail games and $19 billion for free-to-play online games. New categories such as virtual reality, esports, and gaming video content were small in size, but they are growing fast and holding promise for 2017, SuperData said. Mobile gaming was driven by blockbuster hits like Pokemon Go and Clash Royale. The mobile games market has started to mature and now more closely resembles traditional games publishing, requiring ever higher production values and marketing spend. Monster Strike was the No. 1 mobile game, with $1.3 billion in revenue. VR grew to $2.7 billion in 2016. Gaming video reached $4.4 billion, up 34 percent. Consumers increasingly download games directly to their consoles, spending $6.6 billion on digital downloads in 2016. PC gaming continues to do well, earning $34 billion (up 6.7 percent) and driven largely by free-to-play online titles and downloadable games. Incumbents like League of Legends together with newcomers like Overwatch are driving the growth in PC games. PC gamers also saw a big improvement with the release of a new generation of graphics cards, offering a 40 percent increase in graphics power and a 20 percent reduction of power consumption.
Nintendo

Nintendo's Mobile Mario Game Sets Download Record But Pricing Proves Sticking Point (reuters.com) 92

Nintendo's first Mario smartphone game has set a download record but gamers baulked at the one-time cost of unlocking content, prompting investors to push the Japanese game makers' stock to a one-month low. From a report on Reuters: Super Mario Run hit 25 million downloads just four days after its Dec. 15 release in 151 countries on Apple's App Store, earning gross sales of about $21 million, showed data from app analyst Sensor Tower. But Nintendo shares have lost 11 percent since the launch as the latest game to feature Nintendo's princess-rescuing Italian plumber received negative reviews from users mainly complaining about its $9.99 one-time cost, rather than the usual model of paying small amounts for special features. "Mario is arguably the most popular gaming franchise in the world, yet we see only about 8 percent of those who try the game actually purchasing it," said Sensor Tower analyst Spencer Gabriel. Super Mario Run is free to download on the App Store where, in Japan, it is rated 2.5 stars out of 5 based on 1,095 reviews.
Businesses

Crytek Closing Five Studios, Will Refocus On 'Premium IPs' and CryEngine (polygon.com) 54

In a press release, Crytek, the developer behind hits such as the Crysis and Far Cry shooters, announced that it will be closing five of its studios in an effort to "refocus on its core strengths." The only studios remaining will be Crytek's Frankfurt, Germany and Kiev, Ukraine locations. Polygon reports: Other than Crytek's Frankfurt headquarters and Kiev studio, which develops free-to-play shooter Warface, the company held offices in Budapest, Hungary; Sofia, Bulgaria; Seoul, Korea; Shanghai, China; and Istanbul, Turkey. Crytek's co-founder and managing director, Avni Yerli, said in the release that the "changes are part of the essential steps we are taking to ensure Crytek is a healthy and sustainable business moving forward that can continue to attract and nurture our industry's top talent. The reasons for this have been communicated internally along the way. "Our focus now lies entirely on the core strengths that have always defined Crytek -- world-class developers, state-of-the-art technology and innovative game development, and we believe that going through this challenging process will make us a more agile, viable, and attractive studio, primed for future success," he added. The studio will now focus on its CryEngine technology, which is used by many other developers and licensors. Crytek said it will also continue to "develop and work on premium IPs."
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Uses Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC, Clock Speeds Outed (arstechnica.com) 105

The Nintendo Switch -- the hybrid portable games console/tablet due for release in March 2017 -- will be powered by Nvidia's older Tegra X1 SoC and not its upcoming Tegra X2 "Parker" SoC as initially rumored. From a report on ArsTechnica: The use of Tegra X1, which also powers the Nvidia Shield Android TV, means the graphics hardware inside the Switch is based on Nvidia's older second-generation Maxwell architecture, rather than the latest Pascal architecture. While the two architectures share a very similar design, the Switch will miss out on some of the smaller performance improvements made in Pascal. When docked, the Switch's GPU runs at a 768MHz, already lower than the 1GHz of the Shield Android TV. When used as a portable, the Switch downclocks the GPU to 307.2MHz -- just 40 percent of the clock speed when docked. Given the Switch is highly likely to use a 720p screen rather than 1080p -- this is currently assumed to be a 6.2-inch IPS LCD with 10-point multi-touch support -- there is some overhead to run games at 1080p when docked. However, it's questionable how many developers will go to the effort of creating games that make use of the extra horsepower when docked, rather than simply opting to program for the slower overall GPU clock speed. While GPU performance is variable, the rest of the Switch's specs remain static. Its four ARM A57 CPU cores are purported to run at 1020MHz regardless of whether the console is docked or undocked, while the memory controller can run at either 1600MHz or 1331MHz in either mode.
Nintendo

Bad Reviews For Super Mario Run Are Sending Nintendo's Stock Tumbling (fortune.com) 221

People aren't loving Nintendo's newly released Super Mario Run. Nintendo's stock plunged 7.1% Monday, bringing its total drop since the game's release last week to more than 11%, Bloomberg reports. The game's mediocre reviews had a similar impact on DeNA, the Nintendo partner that helped with the game's development: Since the game's introduction, its stock has fallen 14%. From a report: Reviews in Apple's App Store (so far, the game is only available on iPhone) show an average rating of two and half stars out of five. Overall, there have been nearly 50,000 reviews. Its reviews make it among the lowest rated app among those at the top of the download rankings, according to Bloomberg.
Open Source

3D Freeciv-Web (Beta) Released (freeciv.org) 68

It's the open source web version of the classic Linux strategy game, and now Slashdot reader Andreas(R) -- one of its developers -- has an announcement. Now the developers are working on bringing the game to the modern era with 3D WebGL graphics [and] a beta of the 3D WebGL version of Freeciv has been released today. The game will work on any device with a browser with HTML5 and WebGL support, and three gigabytes of RAM... It's a volunteer community development project and anyone is welcome to contribute to the project. Have fun and remember to sleep!
The developers of Freeciv-web are now also working on a VR version using Google Cardboard, according to the site, while the original Freeciv itself has still been maintained for over 20 years -- and apparently even has its own dedicated port number.
Nintendo

Nintendo Sells Nearly 200,000 Units Of Its Mini Retro Console (cnbc.com) 78

Strong sales for Nintendo's NES Classic Edition, a miniature version of its video game console from the 80s, could point to a new revenue stream for the Japanese games maker. From a report on CNBC: The NES Classic Edition sold 196,000 units in November in the U.S. since its launch on November 11, according to industry tracker NPD Group. Demand for the console far outstripped supply, with many retailers selling out of the product. The NES Classic Edition is a miniature version of the original console, which was released in North America in 1985 and has sold 61 million units worldwide. The Classic Edition is a "plug-and-play" device, meaning it just needs to be plugged into a television and comes bundled with 30 retro games. In Japan, a similar product called the Nintendo Classic Famicom sold 261,381 units in its first week of sales, according to data from Media Create.
Nintendo

Super Mario Run Is Now Available (independent.co.uk) 70

Nintendo's first smartphone game "Super Mario Run" is now available in the App Store across the world. The game follows the success of Pokemon Go, which launched earlier this year. Nintendo owns a third of the Pokemon Company, but the game itself was developed by Niantic. The Independent reports: But just like Pokemon Go, the game requires that anyone playing it has a connection to the internet. That's intended as a way of stopping pirates getting around the game's relatively expensive $10 price -- not required to download the game, but to unlock it -- but has already drawn some complaints. In the case of Pokemon Go, which also required that people were online, the huge popularity of the game meant that its servers regularly crashed and were sometimes intentionally taken offline. That in turn meant that the game was impossible to play for large amounts of time, since it required that same connection, as Super Mario Run will. The restriction will also mean that fans won't be able to play the game underground or on flights, or anywhere else with restricted Wi-Fi. But for the most part, the game has been hailed as a signal that Nintendo are finally bringing their nostalgia-inducing characters to a broader range of platforms and consoles. The company unveiled the game at the launch event for the iPhone 7, drawing praise for having liberated Mario and his friends and enemies from Nintendo's own consoles for the first time. You can download Super Mario Run here.

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