Japan

Konami Reportedly Blacklisting Ex-Employees Across Japanese Video Game Industry (arstechnica.com) 120

The Nikkei Asian Review newspaper is reporting that the Japanese entertainment company Konami is blacklisting former employees in the Japanese video game industry. "The company is particularly targeting those who work for Kojima Productions, which was founded in 2016 by Hideo Kojima, who used to be a top designer at Konami," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Furthermore, according to the article, Konami is pressuring other companies not to hire its former employees. As the Nikkei Asian Review wrote: "One ex-Kon described his surprise at learning that Konami had instructed an employee at a television company not to deal with its former employees. In another case, a former Konami executive was forced to close his business due to pressure from the gaming giant. Ex-Kons are not allowed to put their Konami experience on their public resumes. 'If you leave the company, you cannot rely on Konami's name to land a job,' explained a former employee. If an ex-Kon is interviewed by the media, the company will send that person a letter through a legal representative, in some cases indicating that Konami is willing to take them to court."
AI

Robots Are Coming For Our Ms. Pac-Man High Scores (fastcompany.com) 74

A Microsoft-made AI system has achieved a perfect score of 999,990 points on the Atari 2600 version of the classic 'Ms. Pac-Man.' From a report: Researchers at the Microsoft-owned deep learning company Maluuba have used an AI system to break the all-time Ms. Pac-Man record. In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that, "using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities," Maluuba's AI was able to record a perfect Ms. Pac-Man score of 999,990 on the Atari 2600 version of the game, breaking the all-time record of 933,580.
IOS

Chess.com Has Stopped Working On 32bit iPads After the Site Hit 2^31 Game Sessions (chess.com) 271

Apple's decision to go all in on 64bit-capable devices, OS and apps has caused some trouble for Chess.com, a popular online website where people go to play chess. Users with a 32bit iPad are unable to play games on the website, according to numerous complaints posted over the weekend and on Monday. Erik, the CEO of Chess.com said in a statement, "Thanks for noticing. Obviously this is embarrassing and I'm sorry about it. As a non-developer I can't really explain how or why this happened, but I can say that we do our best and are sorry when that falls short." Hours later, he had an explanation: The reason that some iOS devices are unable to connect to live chess games is because of a limit in 32bit devices which cannot handle gameIDs above 2,147,483,647. So, literally, once we hit more than 2 billion games, older iOS devices fail to interpret that number! This was obviously an unforeseen bug that was nearly impossible to anticipate and we apologize for the frustration. We are currently working on a fix and should have it resolved within 48 hours.
The Courts

Microsoft Wins Xbox Class-Action Fight at US Supreme Court (reuters.com) 26

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Microsoft in its bid to fend off class action claims by Xbox 360 owners who said the popular videogame console gouges discs because of a design defect. From a report: The court, in a 8-0 ruling, overturned a 2015 decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed console owners to appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit by a federal judge in Seattle in 2012. Typically parties cannot appeal a class certification ruling until the entire case has reached a conclusion. But the 9th Circuit allowed the console owners to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit so they could immediately appeal the denial of a class certification. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing on behalf of the court, said such a move was not permitted because a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit is not a final decision and thus cannot be appealed. The approach sought by the plaintiffs would undermine litigation rules "designed to guard against piecemeal appeals," Ginsburg wrote.
AI

Microsoft's AI Is the First to Reach a Perfect Ms. Pac-Man Score (theverge.com) 59

Maluuba, a deep-learning team acquired by Microsoft in January, has created an AI system that has achieved the perfect score for Ms. Pac-Man. According to The Verge, the AI system "learned how to reach the game's maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method." From the report: Though AI has conquered a wealth of retro games, Ms. Pac-Man has remained elusive for years, due to the game's intentional lack of predictability. Turns out it's a toughie for humans as well. Many have tried to reach Ms. Pac-Man's top score, only coming as close as 266,330 on the Atari 2600 version. The game's elusive 999,900 number though, has so far only been achieved by mortals via cheats. Maluuba was able to use AI to beat the game by tasking out responsibilities, breaking it up into bite-sized jobs assigned to over 150 agents. The team then taught the AI using what they call Hybrid Reward Architecture -- a combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method. Individual agents were assigned piecemeal tasks -- like finding a specific pellet -- which worked in tandem with other agents to achieve greater goals. Maluuba then designated a top agent (Microsoft likens this to a senior manager at a company) that took suggestions from all the agents in order to inform decisions on where to move Ms. Pac-Man. The best results came when individual agents "acted very egotistically" and the top agent focused on what was best for the overall team, taking into account not only how many agents wanted to go in a particular direction, but the importance of that direction.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils The Smallest Xbox Ever -- The Xbox One X (theverge.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: After months of speculation, Microsoft is unveiling its "Project Scorpio" games console today, and it's officially named Xbox One X. Microsoft's Xbox One X naming comes just days after the company trademarked a mysterious S logo, and started dropping Scorpio hints in its E3 teaser videos. Microsoft is planning to launch the Xbox One X on November 7th worldwide. All existing Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is even planning to use "super sampling" on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs. [YouTube] The new console will ship with 6 teraflops of graphical power, more than its main competitor, the PS4 Pro, with 4.2 teraflops. Microsoft is using a custom GPU engine on Scorpio that runs at 1172MHz, a big increase over the Xbox One's 853MHz and even Sony's 911MHz found on the PS4 Pro.
Microsoft says the new Xbox One X is the "smallest Xbox ever."
Television

That Time Adam West, TV's 'Batman', Also Advocated For Videogames (twitter.com) 38

Adam West, star of the 1960s TV series Batman, has died at age 88. An anonymous reader shares a memory of that time the 53-year-old actor wrote an op-ed for a 1982 issue of Videogame and Computer Gaming Illustrated. "I've been playing with computers longer than most," West wrote on page 6. [PDF] "I had onboard computers in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, having learned in an episode of TV's The Outer Limits that you can't survive on the Red Planet without them. Then, of course, I was up to my cowl in computers as television's Batman... In 1966, when the series began its three season run, all of that was science fiction. Computers were playthings of the researchers at MIT... Today, a lot of the apparatus we had in Batman -- dressed, of course, in less imposing names -- is fact. And we're lucky this is so."

West called videogames "an ideal means to broaden the imaginations of young people," saying the medium "can expand our awareness of the world as it is, was, or might be. The medium is still in its infancy, but read this again in a few years and see if this prediction hasn't come true: as videogaming grows, we will grow."

My favorite story is how West was cast as Batman after the show's producer spotted his performance as super-spy Agent Q in a commercial for Nestle Quik. And CNN also remembers that "later in life, West made appearances on the animated series 'Family Guy' as Mayor Adam West, the oddball leader of Quahog, Rhode Island."
Entertainment

For the First Time, a Video Game Trailer Is Eligible To Be Nominated For an Academy Award (eurogamer.net) 71

For the first time in 90-year Oscar history, a video game is eligible for an Academy Award, specifically the recently-released game Everything. From a report: The 11-minute trailer for philosophical pontificating simulator Everything is eligible for an Academy Award -- a first for a video game promotion, boasted game developer David OReilly. The marketing material in question is included under the Academy's category "[best] animated short film," which it became eligible for after winning the Jury Prize for animation at the VIS Vienna Shorts film festival. Everything's lengthy trailer focuses on the correlation between the universe's smallest, biggest, and most remote entities, all while being narrated by the late British philosopher Alan Watts.
Emulation (Games)

Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation (hothardware.com) 197

MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Qualcomm and Microsoft are on the verge of ushering in a new class of always-connected mobile devices that run full-blown Windows 10. The two are enabling ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processors to run Windows 10 with full x86 emulation, meaning that devices will be capable of not only running Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store, but legacy win32 apps as well. There is little question, Intel is likely none too pleased with it and PC OEM heavyweights Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and ASUS have also signed-on to deliver Windows 10 notebooks and 2-in-1 convertibles powered by Qualcomm. Until now, Intel sat by quietly while all of this unfolded, but the company today took the opportunity to get a bit passive-aggressive while announcing the fast-approaching 40th anniversary of the world's first x86 microprocessor. The majority of the press release reads like a trip down memory lane. However, Intel shifts into serious mama bear mode, with significant legal posturing, touting its willingness to protect its "x86 innovations." Intel goes on to say that Transmeta tried and ultimately failed in the marketplace, and has been dead and buried for a decade. The company then pivots, almost daring Microsoft and Qualcomm to challenge it by making Windows on ARM devices commercially available. "Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition... However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights."
Stats

New Threat To Traditional Sports Leagues: Millennials Prefer Watching eSports (venturebeat.com) 189

Professional sports leagues "officially have a millennial problem," writes VentureBeat, citing some interesting findings from L.E.K. Consulting.
  • 40% of millennials prefer watching esports to traditional sports
  • 26% of millennial eSports enthusiasts reported a significant uptick in eSports viewing over the past year
  • 61% of esports followers said they spent less time watching TV over the past 12 months, and 45% said they had cut back on traditional sports viewing
  • Together millennials -- ages 17-34 -- and Generation Z peers -- age 16 and under -- comprise 45% of America's consumer base

"At a certain point, this comes down to a new form of media better serving an upcoming generation of consumers," concludes VentureBeat. "Esports leagues are all online. Most matches stream for free on sites like Twitch. They are available on the web or through smartphone apps. Competitive gaming is easily accessible, and it lives where Millennials are already spending their time."

Maybe that's why Major League Baseball's video streaming company recently paid $300 million for the right to stream League of Legends through 2023.


DRM

'Rime' Developer Keeps Promise, Removes Denuvo DRM After Game Gets Cracked (cinemablend.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes CinemaBlend: Tequila Works and Grey Box had previously announced that the DRM for the PC version of Rime would be removed if it were cracked. Well, in just five days the DRM was cracked and a cracked version of the game was made available online. So, now the DRM will be removed...

Five days after the PC launch of Rime, the cracking scene managed to get into the executable and spill all of its guts, removing the DRM and putting the exe back together so it could be distributed across the usual sites. One of the things noted by the cracker was that he found Denuvo executing hundreds of triggers a second, which caused major slowdown in the performance of Rime on PC. This form of digital rights management resulted in every legitimate customer having to deal with a lot of slowdown and performance hiccups... The sad reality was that those who pirated Rime and used the cracked file essentially gained access to a game that had improved performance and frame-rates over those who actually paid for the game.

Space

Take-Two Acquires Kerbal Space Program 85

Eloking quotes a report from Polygon: Take-Two Interactive has purchased physics-based space simulation Kerbal Space Program, according to announcements from publisher Take-Two and developer Squad. "We have been impressed with Kerbal Space Program since its launch, and we are committed to grow this unique experience while continuing to support its passionate community," said Michael Worosz, senior vice president, head of corporate development and independent publishing at Take-Two, in a release. "We view Kerbal Space Program as a new, long-term franchise that adds a well-respected and beloved IP to Take-Two's portfolio as we continue to explore opportunities across the independent development landscape." Kerbal Space Program officially launched on PC in 2015. The game had been available through Steam's Early Access program since 2013. It has since gone on to sell more than 2 million copies on console and PC. Developer Squad said in a statement that the acquisition won't alter its plan for continued development of Kerbal Space Program. The developer is currently working on the Making History Expansion for the game.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Ships Its Last Ever PlayStation 3 In Japan (engadget.com) 64

After 11 years, Sony has stopped shipping the PlayStation 3 to retailers in Japan. The country stopped production on the 500GB model in December last year, but now a recent update on PlayStation Japan's website suggests that the other lingering units have all been shipped as well. It's only a matter of time before the console stops being produced altogether in other parts of the world. Engadget reports: Selling over 70 million units in just seven years, the PlayStation 3 was certainly a console to be reckoned with. Yet, for all its achievements, the long-surviving gaming machine initially made a name for itself for all the wrong reasons. With Sony riding high on the PlayStation 2's market-leading sales numbers, its successor launched at the eye-watering price of $499 -- and consumers weren't too happy about it. Luckily for Sony, publishers stuck with the pricey console, and exclusive games like Uncharted, Heavy Rain, The Last Of Us and Metal Gear Solid 4 helped to right the course of Sony's initially water-riddled ship. With the sun-setting on the aging console in the East, the news doesn't bode well for the future of the PlayStation 3 across the rest of the world. Sony has previously announced that PS Now will soon move exclusively to PS4 and PC. While few players will be mourning the loss of the pricey service, there are many PS3 owners still benefitting from free games on PlayStation Plus and downloading new content from the PS Store. As Sony slowly begins to start winding the console down, it's unlikely that gamers will be able to continue to use these services for much longer on the aging gaming system.
Classic Games (Games)

ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure (ibiblio.org) 118

An anonymous reader writes: Open source guru Eric S. Raymond added something special to his GitHub page: an open source version of the world's first text adventure. "Colossal Cave Adventure" was first written in 1977, and Raymond remembers it as "the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation...because PDP-10 filenames were limited to six characters of uppercase)...

"Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now, that is. With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure."

Calling it one of the great artifacts of hacker history, ESR writes about "what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software," ultimately concluding version control lets you preserve the original and continue improving it "as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

"Despite all the energy Crowther and Woods had to spend fighting ancient constraints, ADVENT was a tremendous imaginative leap; there had been nothing like it before, and no text adventure that followed it would be innovative to quite the same degree."
AI

Google AI AlphaGo Wins Again, Leaves Humans In the Dust (cnet.com) 136

Google's AlphaGo has defeated the world's best Go player in the second out of three games, scoring an overall win for the artificial intelligence algorithm in the fiendishly complex board game. CNET adds: The human gave it his all. "Incredible," wrote DeepMind founder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter while the match was underway. "According to AlphaGo evaluations Ke Jie is playing perfectly at the moment." The match took place over a year after AlphaGo bested Lee Sedol, one of the world's top Go players, in four out of five matches in March 2016. It also beat European champion Fan Hui 5-0 in October 2015. The match was being played in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. The government, however, isn't a big fan of letting its citizens know about the battle and has censored all the livestreams in the country.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Launch Its Netflix-Style Game Pass On June 1; Live Gold Subscribers Get Early Access (polygon.com) 36

Microsoft announced today that Xbox Game Pass, a new subscription service that would allow Xbox One owners to download and play a selection of games for a flat monthly fee, will launch on June 1. From a report: Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, can access the service starting today, May 24. Microsoft is offering a 14-day free trial of Xbox Game Pass, giving Gold subscribers a chance to preview the service at no cost prior to launch. Xbox Game Pass offers "unlimited access to over one hundred great Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles" for $9.99 per month.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Google

Google's AlphaGo AI Defeats the World's Best Human Go Player (engadget.com) 186

It isn't looking good for humanity. Google's AI AlphaGo on Tuesday defeated Ke Jie, the world's number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. The new win comes a year after AlphaGo beat Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of AI to date. Adding insult to the injury, AlphaGo scored the victory over humanity's best candidate in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. Engadget adds: After the match, Google's DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis explained that this was how AlphaGo was programmed: to maximise its winning chances, rather than the winning margin. This latest iteration of the AI player, nicknamed Master, apparently uses 10 times less computational power than its predecessor that beat Lee Sedol, working from a single PC connected to Google's cloud server. [...] The AI player picked up a 10-15 point lead early on, which limited the possibilities for Jie to respond. Jie was occasionally winning during the flow of the match, but AlphaGo would soon reclaim the lead, ensuring that his human opponent had limited options to win as the game progressed.
Movies

Resident Evil Getting Rebooted Into a Six-Film Franchise (variety.com) 202

Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says a Chinese 'Gaming Service' Company Is Hacking Xbox Accounts (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader shares a report: Since 2015, a Chinese gaming website has been hacking Xbox accounts and selling the proceeds on the open market, according to a complaint filed by Microsoft in federal court on Friday. On its website, iGSKY presents itself as a gaming service company, offering players a way to pay for in-game credits and rare items -- but according to Microsoft, many of those credits were coming from someone else's wallet. The complaint alleges that the company made nearly $2 million in purchases through hacked accounts and their associated credit cards, using purchases as a way to launder the resulting cash. On the site, cheap in-game points are also available for the FIFA games, Forza Horizon 3, Grand Theft Auto V, and Pokemon Go, among others.

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