Microsoft

Microsoft Formally Bans Emulators On Xbox, Windows 10 Download Shops (arstechnica.com) 116

Microsoft is officially banning emulators from Windows Store. The company has updated the Windows Store policy to announce the changes. The new rules bar any applications that emulate pre-existing game systems, resulting in the removal of a popular program that supported games from Nintendo and Sega and other consoles. From a report on ArsTechnica: An affected developer was notified of the change on Tuesday when its product, Universal Emulator, was delisted from the Windows Store. While no proof of a letter or notice from Microsoft was published, the developers at NESBox linked to relevant changes in the Windows Store application rules, dated March 29, which now include this line: "Apps that emulate a game system are not allowed on any device family." This list of general Windows Store rules, written for developers, received a massive update to its "Gaming and Xbox" requirements; these used to contain only one sentence, and it referred hopeful Windows Store game developers to the ID@Xbox program. That existing program requires pre-approval by Microsoft, but developers will soon be able to publish their games directly to both Xbox and Windows 10 marketplaces by paying a one-time fee of $100 or less as part of the Xbox Live Creators Program.
Microsoft

Xbox Project Scorpio's Full Specs Revealed (eurogamer.net) 135

Microsoft unveiled last year that it will be launching a super-specced Xbox One variant -- codenamed Project Scorpio -- soon. Now the company has shared what those hardware modules look like. According to a report on Eurogamer, which visited Microsoft campus at the company's invitation, the specs of Project Scorpio are:

1. Project Scorpio has 12GB of DDR5 RAM, clocked at 6.8GHz with 326 GB/s bandwidth.
2. Scorpio will be powered by eight CPU cores. It's a custom design sporting 2.3GHz, with a 4MB L2 cache.
3. Project Scorpio will feature an internal PSU (245W) and a compact design, leveraging the advanced cooling techniques pioneered by Microsoft's leading industrial design team.
4. Project Scorpio will achieve six-teraflops of GPU power using a customized design, with 1.172 GHz, 40 compute units, leveraging features from AMD's Polaris architecture.
5. Scorpio will retain the Xbox One S 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
6. Scorpio will have both HDMI-in and out, 3x USB 3.0, a SPDIF digital audio port, an IR receiver/blaster, and will support Kinect with a USB adapter.

From the report: We saw a Forza Motorsport demo running on the machine at native 4K and Xbox One equivalent settings, and it hit 60 frames per second with a substantial performance overhead -- suggesting Scorpio will hit its native 4K target across a range of content, with power to spare to spend on other visual improvements. And while 4K is the target, Microsoft is paying attention to 1080p users, promising that all modes will be available to them.
Games

Two Studies Suggesting a Link Between Violent Video Games, Real-Life Behavior Have Been Retracted (qz.com) 174

Keith Collins reports via Quartz: In the first three months of 2017, academic journals retracted two papers that suggested a link between violent video games and real-life behavior. The first, entitled "Boom, Headshot!" was published in the Journal of Communication Research in 2012 and, after years of controversy, retracted last January. That study looked at the "effect of video game play and controller type on firing aim and accuracy," and found that playing first-person shooter games can train a player to become a better marksman in real life. Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, found some inconsistencies in the data published in the study. In January 2015, he and a colleague alerted Ohio State University, where the authors of the paper conducted the research. The lead author of the study, psychology professor Brad Bushman, emailed an official at OSU a month later, suggesting the allegations were part of a smear campaign against him and his co-author, according to Retraction Watch. Last January, the Journal of Communication Research retracted the paper. Bushman had agreed to the retraction, and began an attempt to re-do the original study with a larger sample size. A paper published in Gifted Child Quarterly in 2016, authored by Bushman and three others, caught the attention of Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. The paper had studied the "effects of violent media on verbal task performance in gifted and general cohort children," and found that when children watched a violent cartoon for 12 minutes, their verbal skills dropped substantially for a temporary period. What surprised Hilgard most, according to an interview with Retraction Watch, was the sheer size of the effect. Hilgard said that OSU, Bushman, and others he spoke with about the study were helpful and forthcoming, but could not provide information on the study's data collection process. The author who collected the data, it turned out, lived in Turkey and fell out of contact following the recent coup attempt. Last week, Gifted Child Quarterly retracted the paper.
Nintendo

Nintendo Switch Consoles Are Reportedly Warping When Docked (independent.co.uk) 110

When the Nintendo Switch was launched in early March, some users complained about dead or stuck pixels, which Nintendo later dismissed as being "normal." We're now approaching the one-month mark and some users are reporting that the console can warp when it's been docked for an extended period of gaming. The Independent reports: [Reddit] User _NSR has posted a picture of a bent Switch online, alongside a message reading, "The Nintendo Switch is starting to warp while only being in dock mode." _NSR expanded on the issue in further comments, explaining, "It does get very hot, considering how small the system is and it is outputting Breath of the Wild for long periods of time on a big screen, it may be too much for it to handle. I'm wondering if it being docked is the problem though, most of my time has been on the dock, and it has to work harder to output to a larger screen. Luckily it hasn't affected the way that it plays, the lack of disc drive is definitely a good thing here." Fellow Reddit users have offered multiple possible explanations for the warp, with battery issues and thermal expansion being suggested. Another Switch user, Magnaha23, backed up _NSR's claim, commenting, "I actually checked my Switch after seeing this. It's starting to do the exact same thing just not as bad as yours yet. I called Nintendo and got a repair set up in like 10 minutes. "I got a prepaid label for overnight shipping. Once they get it it takes a few days to process and repair. If they can repair the unit, which if the whole thing is warped they probably can't, they will send back. Otherwise, they will transfer my data over to a new unit and send that back. They said 6-8 business days once they get my Switch. We shall see..." Other people on the thread, however, say they haven't noticed any warping despite using it for lengthy gaming sessions while docked.
Emulation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Can Linux Run a GPU-Computing Application Written For Windows? 117

dryriver writes: I have been told that Linux can run Windows software using Wine or perhaps a VM. What happens if that Windows software is a GPU-computing application -- accessing the GPU through HLSL/GLSL/CUDA/OpenCL or similar interfaces? Can Wine or other solutions run that software at a decent speed under Linux? Or is GPU-computing software written for the Windows platform unsuitable for use -- emulated or otherwise -- under Linux? This sounds like one of those cases where there's a theoretical answer and then your own real-world experiences. So leave your best answers in the comments. Can Linux run a GPU-computing application that's written for Windows?
Classic Games (Games)

Google Maps Adds 'Ms. Pac-Man' Feature (blog.google) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a blog post by Google Maps: Starting now until April 4, you can chomp fruit, avoid ghosts, and collect PAC-Dots along city streets in Google Maps worldwide -- all as Ms. PAC-Maps. Just tap on the Ms. PAC-Maps icon on iOS and Android, or click the Ms. PAC-Maps button at the bottom left on desktop, to enter the maze and start chompin'. Sign in to save your top score on the leaderboard and share with friends.
A playable Google doodle commemorated Pac-Man's 30th anniversary in 2010 -- and was estimated to have cost the IT sector (and other workplaces) 4.8 million hours in lost productivity.
AMD

AMD Ryzen Game Patch Optimizations Show Significant Gains On Zen Architecture (hothardware.com) 121

MojoKid writes: AMD got the attention of PC performance enthusiasts everywhere with the recent launch of its Ryzen 7 series processors. The trio of 8-core chips competitively take on Intel's Core i7 series at the high-end of its product stack. However, with the extra attention AMD garnered, came significant scrutiny as well. With any entirely new platform architecture, there are bound to be a few performance anomalies -- as was the case with the now infamous lower performance "1080p gaming" situation with Ryzen. In a recent status update, AMD noted they were already working with developers to help implement "simple changes" that can help a game engine's understanding of the AMD Zen core topology that would likely provide an additional performance uplift with Ryzen. Today, we have some early proof-positive of that, as Oxide Games, in concert with AMD, released a patch for its game title Ashes Of The Singularity. Ashes has been a "poster child" game engine of sorts for AMD Radeon graphics over the years (especially with respect to DX12) and it was one that ironically showed some of the worst variations in Ryzen CPU performance versus Intel. With this new patch that is now public for the game, however, AMD claims to have regained significant ground in benchmark results at all resolutions. In the 1080p benchmarks with powerful GPUs, a Ryzen 7 1800X shows an approximate 20% performance improvement with the latest version of the Ashes, closing the gap significantly versus Intel. This appears to be at least an early sign that AMD can indeed work with game and other app developers to tune for the Ryzen architecture and wring out additional performance.
Nintendo

Your Save Data Is Not Safe On the Nintendo Switch (arstechnica.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a post-launch update to our initial Nintendo Switch review, we noted that there is no way to externally back up game save data stored on the system. A recent horror story from a fellow writer who lost dozens of hours of game progress thanks to a broken system highlights just how troublesome this missing feature can be. Over at GamesRadar, Anthony John Agnello recounts his experience with Nintendo support after his Switch turned into a useless brick for no discernible reason last week (full disclosure: I know Agnello personally and have served with him on some convention panels). After sending his (under warranty) system to Nintendo for repair, Agnello received a fixed system and the following distressing message from the company two days later: "We have inspected the Nintendo Switch system that was sent to us for repair and found that the issue has made some of the information on this system unreadable. As a result, the save data, settings, and links with any Nintendo Accounts on your system were unable to be preserved." Agnello says he lost 55 hours of progress on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as more progress on a few other downloadable games. While he was able to redownload the games that were deleted, he'd have to start from scratch on each one (if only all that progress was easily, instantly unlockable in some way...)
Nintendo

Hobbyist Turns Nintendo 64 Console Into Nintendo Switch Dock (polygon.com) 20

adosch writes: Polygon reports that a Reddit user "modified a broken Nintendo 64 and transformed it into a functioning Switch dock." The modder, who goes by the handle "Tettzan Zone," has "been keeping fellow Switch fans updated on his adventures in console customization on Reddit, sharing the steps he took to making the entire Nintendo 64 workable as a dock." The original post about full mod details can be found here.
Microsoft

Xbox One's Faster, Simpler Interface is Now Available To Everyone (engadget.com) 15

Microsoft today announced it is releasing a major update to the Xbox One gaming console. The much-awaited update comes with a few new features and improvements such as Beam, the company's livestreaming client that does similar things as Twitch; and a faster and simpler interface. From a report on Engadget: The March update centers around a redesigned interface that's designed for speed above all else. It's quicker to perform more than a few tasks, such as finding a group to join. The revamped Guide should be much quicker, too -- it promises faster access to recent apps, background music controls and game recording. A few tweaks are designed with multitasking in mind, such as a brand new achievement tracker and a Cortana rework that puts the voice assistant into an overlay that won't disrupt what you're doing.
Science

Playing Tetris Can Reduce Onset of PTSD After Trauma, Study Finds (cnn.com) 71

Reader dryriver writes (slightly edited and condensed): CNN, citing a new study, reports that playing Tetris within hours of a traumatic event can reduce the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: After experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a car accident, people are likely to develop anxiety or distress in relation to that event soon after the experience, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But a new study has shown that playing the computer game Tetris within hours of experiencing trauma can prevent those feelings from taking over your mind.
PTSD occurs when intrusive memories linked to fear from a traumatic event become consolidated in a person's mind by them visualizing the event in a loop until it becomes locked in their brain. Competing with the visualization, such as with a game like Tetris, can block that consolidation form happening. "An intrusive memory is a visual memory of a traumatic event," said Emily Holmes, Professor of Psychology at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, whose team led the study. "Tetris also requires imagination and vision. Your brain can't do two things at once, so this interrupts," she added.

Games

One in Five Mobile Phones Shipped Abroad Are Phoney (theregister.co.uk) 60

Nearly one-fifth of mobile phones and one-quarter of video game consoles shipped abroad are fake, according to a report by the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Register adds: The Trade in Counterfeit ICT Goods report, published ahead of the 2017 OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum this month, identified a growing trend in fake goods. Smartphone batteries, chargers, memory cards, magnetic stripe cards, solid state drives and music players are also increasingly falling prey to counterfeiters. On average, 6.5 per cent of global trade in ICT goods is in counterfeit products, according to analysis of 2013 customs data, that is up from 2.5 per cent of overall traded goods found to be fake in a 2016 report. China is the primary source of fake ICT goods, and US manufacturers are the worst affected by lost revenue and erosion of brand value, the report said. Almost 43 per cent of seized fake ICT goods infringe the IP rights of US firms, followed by 25 per cent for Finnish firms and 12 per cent for Japanese firms.
Businesses

GameStop To Close At Least 150 Stores Due To Poor Q4 Sales (nintendowire.com) 119

GameStop announced last week that it will be closing more than 150 of its stores globally due to "weak sales of certain AAA titles and aggressive console promotions by other retailers." The chain also mentioned it "anticipates that it will close between two percent to three percent of its global store footprint" in 2017. Nintendo Wire reports: The Q4 window is often the high point of video game sales, yet despite the launch of new hardware in the PlayStation 4 Pro and a few major releases, it wasn't enough in the company's eyes. Despite this, GameStop still plans on opening 100 stores in 2017 which will likely focus more on non-gaming business, such as the Spring Mobile brand and vinyl collectibles. GameStop CEO Paul Raines said in a statement: "The video game category was weak, particularly in the back half of 2016, as the console cycle ages. Looking at 2017, Technology Brands and Collectibles are expected to generate another year of strong growth, and new hardware innovation in the video game category looks promising." You can view GameStop's 2016 earnings report here.
XBox (Games)

Four Years Later, Xbox Exec Admits How Microsoft Screwed Up Disc Resale Plan (arstechnica.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We're now approaching the four-year anniversary of Microsoft's rollout (and subsequent reversal) of a controversial plan to let game publishers limit resale of used, disc-based games. Looking back on that time recently, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices Yusuf Mehdi acknowledged how that rollout fell flat and discussed how hard it was for the firm to change course even in light of fan complaints at the time. In a blog post on LinkedIn posted last weekend, Mehdi writes: "With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn't land well with fans. While the intent was good -- we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games, we didn't deliver what our fans wanted. We heard their feedback, and while it required great technical work, we changed Xbox One to work the same way as Xbox 360 for how our customers could play, share, lend, and resell games. This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we've made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we've never looked back." It's an interesting reflection in light of an interview Mehdi gave to Ars Technica at E3 2013, when the executive defended Microsoft's announced plans for Xbox One game licensing. Mehdi, then serving as Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer, stressed at the time that "this is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand... We're trying to do something pretty big in terms of moving the industry forward for console gaming into the digital world. We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better."
Classic Games (Games)

New Release Of StarCraft In 4K Ultra High Definition Announced (theverge.com) 161

The classic 90s-era videogames StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War will be re-released this summer -- remastered in 4K Ultra High Definition. An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: It will also include a number of updates, such as remastered sound, new additional illustrations for the campaign missions, new matchmaking capabilities, the ability to connect to Blizzard App, the ability to save to the cloud, and more... Blizzard also announced that it was issuing a new update to StarCraft: Brood War this week, which will include some bug fixes and anti-cheat measures, but will also make StarCraft Anthology (which includes StarCraft and Brood War) available to download for free.
Kotaku reports that the news was announced at this weekend's I <3 StarCraft event in South Korea, "a mini-tournament between some of the game's best players being held to honor the game's legacy."

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