Rick Zeman writes "Those of us of a certain age recall The Oregon Trail with fondness as the pioneering educational game that had the audacity to make learning fun! This article takes a look at the history behind the game, even going back to its initial text-based offering, showing how some programming magic pulled a generation of kids together. Quoting: '[F]or two weeks, the roommates holed up in a former janitor’s closet at Bryant Junior High School, where the school’s teletype was stored, and spent their evenings programming. Using Rawitsch’s historical knowledge, Heinemann and Dillenberger developed a series of algorithms, punching hundreds of lines of code into the teletype. But just because they created the program didn’t mean they could breeze through it. When Heinemann tried The Oregon Trail for the first time, he died of pneumonia midway!'"
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jones_supa writes "QuakeCon 2013 is running full tilt. John Carmack kicked off his speech by addressing the 'elephant in the room,' discussing the arrival of a new console generation to a crowd of attendees at the largely PC-focused event. He's optimistic about the coming console cycle, commenting that it's 'obviously going to be a good thing for gamers, developers, and an excellent thing for AMD.' John said he hasn't run quite enough tests on the hardware for the two consoles, but said they're both 'very close, and very good.' In his traditional long talk (watch on YouTube), Carmack also commented on Microsoft's always-on Kinect, its recently reversed DRM policies for the upcoming Xbox One, the death of optical media, and the state of handheld gaming."
The EFF posted a biting response to yesterday's Ninth Circuit ruling that heavily weights celebrities' right to privacy, and construes that right very broadly. From the EFF summary of the case: "The plaintiff, Sam Keller, brought the case to challenge Electronic Art (EA)'s use of his likeness in its videogame NCAA Football. This game includes realistic digital avatars of thousands of college players. The game never used Keller’s name, but it included an avatar with his jersey number, basic biographical information, and statistics. Keller sued EA claiming that the game infringed his right of publicity — an offshoot of privacy law that gives a person the right to limit the public use of her name, likeness and/or identity for commercial purposes. ... Two judges on the panel found that EA’s depiction of Keller was not transformative. They reasoned that the 'use does not qualify for First Amendment protection as a matter of law because it literally recreates Keller in the very setting in which he has achieved renown.'" The piece later notes that this reasoning "could impact an extraordinary range of protected speech."
rescendent writes with news that the Wii U still isn't selling very well. From the article: "Nintendo's Wii U console sold only 160,000 units worldwide during the past three months, with the company blaming a lack of first-party releases for the poor performance. Software sales for the system were just 1.3 million units. During the period Nintendo sold 90,000 Wii U consoles in Japan, 60,000 in the US and only 10,000 in Europe and Australia." El Reg reports that the Wii sold 210,000 units in the same quarter. On the bright side, Nintendo is once again profitable.
An anonymous reader writes "Today, Nvidia officially releases the SHIELD. After an unexpected delay last month, the company dropped the price of its hotly-anticipated handheld gaming system from $350 to just $300. Sporting a 5-inch 720p touchscreen attached to an XBox-style controller, the SHIELD is the first serious Android-based handheld gaming device. The SHIELD is also the first major device top ship with Nvidia's new Tegra 4 SoC. But the potentially killer feature of the SHIELD is its ability to steam heavy-duty PC games from your desktop right into your hands. Right now the selection of PC games is pretty scarce, with just 21 titles to choose from so far, though Nvidia promises more to come. Tom's Hardware just posted an exhaustive review of the Nvidia SHIELD, which includes demos of both Android gaming and PC streaming, display and battery testing, plus the usual bevy of performance tests versus the Tegra 3-based Nexus 7 (2012), the new Nexus 7 carrying a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, the iPhone 5, and a Wintel tablet with the Atom Z2760. Tegra 4 presents nearly four times the performance of Tegra 3, and leaves most of its competition in the dust. However, it also means that Nvidia is now the only ARM competitor without an OpenGL ES 3.0 implementation on the horizon, making Nvidia's new position as top dog quite uncertain."
Nerval's Lobster writes "If struggling online-games developer Zynga thought things were bad before, they could be turning a whole lot worse: Facebook is rolling out a pilot program for small- and medium-sized game developers. 'Through the program, we will work with select game developers and provide promotional support for their games in placements across our mobile apps,' reads a note on the Facebook Developers Website. Facebook is promising those developers access to the social network's '800 million monthly mobile users,' a variety of analytics tools for measuring their games' impact, and a 'unique targeting ability' for finding the right audiences — all for a cut of the games' revenue. 'We will be collaborating deeply with developers in our program by helping them cultivate high-quality, long-term players for their games,' the note added. Zynga benefited mightily from its relationship with Facebook, but other developers have subsequently realized they can utilize many of Zynga's tricks — and the social network's enormous audience — for their own ends. King is now Facebook's top app developer, largely on the strength of its Candy Crush Saga game. If Facebook encourages more small- and medium-sized developers to jump into the social gaming, it could fill the arena with even more competitors, which could prove bad news for the already-reeling Zynga. But for Facebook, the benefits are obvious: if any of those tiny-for-the-moment developers create a hit game, the revenues will come flooding in. That would supplement the social network's ad revenue, all while ensuring it doesn't need to overly depend on a single large developer with a set portfolio of games. Zynga has already been suffering from gaming-studio closings, games being shut down, and a declining user-base."
Tasmania, there is a Secret Lab. More accurately, it is a business called Secret Lab, run by co-founders Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning. On their website they say, “Secret Lab is an indie game developer and mobile app training studio based in Hobart, Australia. We're responsible for some of the world's most popular mobile apps -- recently, we've worked on Meebo for iPhone, ABC Play School Art Maker for iPad, ABC Good Game for iPhone and ABC Foodi for iPad. Secret Lab also offers intensive training workshops on iOS and Android development.” They recently presented at OSCON in Portland, OR, where Timothy Lord and his camcorder caught up with them there (as did Rachel Roumeliotis of O'Reilly Media with her camcorder). At just over 30 minutes, this is the longest Slashdot video interview we've ever run. It's worth the time, despite some rough sound patches, if you are interested in mobile game development -- or even if you are just interested in seeing what kind of colorful people do this sort of thing.
New submitter nusscom writes "On July 28th, as has been reported by BBC, a record number of EVE Online players participated in a record-breaking online battle between two alliances. This battle, which was essentially a turf-war was comprised of over 4,000 online players at one time. The load was so large that Crowd Control Productions (CCP) slowed down the game time to 10% of normal to accommodate the massive amount of activity." This is the largest battle to ever occur on EVE Online.
MojoKid writes "The CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, announced this morning that he would lead an investor buyout of the company worth approximately $8.2 billion dollars. The move would free Blactivision (how has this moniker never caught on?) to become an independent publisher and free it from the clutches of Vivendi, the evil French entertainment conglomerate. Vivendi has reportedly been attempting to sell Activision Blizzard for years, due to an apparent hatred of actually turning a profit, given than the game developer owns some of the most popular franchises on Earth. Kotick has previously been known for his comments regarding exploiting game franchises and for gems like this: 'We have a real culture of thrift. The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games.'"
steveb3210 writes "EQ2Wire.com is a fan site for the MMO Everquest 2. One feature of their site is a searchable portal for all game-related stats such as characters, equipment, items, and mobs which they generate from an XML feed provided by the game's publisher. Recently, the owner of a trademark has been threatening them over the name of a character and in the face of possible legal bills, they were forced to remove the character's profile from their site. Adding further insult to injury, the character seems to have been created prior to the trademark in question."
tlhIngan writes "Microsoft was the last platform manufacturer to require that all games go through publishers, a much hated policy. Indeed, their approval process was one of the harshest around. But now Microsoft will allow indie developers to self publish, and allow retail Xbox One units to serve as developer consoles. Previously, self-publishing developers were relegated to the 'Xbox Live Indie Arcade' section, as well as developer consoles often costing upwards of $10,000 with special requirements and NDAs. This puts Microsoft's Xbox One more in line with Apple's App Store, including Microsoft's new promise of a 14-day turnaround for approvals. Microsoft's retail debug console system is to work similarly to Apple's — that is, to run pre-release code, the individual consoles used have to be registered with Microsoft."
Incarnate-VO writes "Many-platform space MMORPG Vendetta Online has added another first, with the official launch of support for the Oculus Rift family of head-mounted VR displays. The VR adds another level of immersion to the twitch-combat space title." A few limitations: Windows only (because the Rift only supports Windows), some effects are disabled, and the developers still want to tweak things like the HUD. But it's a good first step, and supports both the low-res and high definition revisions of the Occulus Rift.
An anonymous reader writes "Atari declared bankruptcy earlier this year, and part of that process involves selling off its property in order to pay as many entities holding its debt as possible. The latest round includes a $30 million claim from Atari's parent company in France, and a $261 million claim from another subsidiary of that parent company. The $30 million debt is secured (in other words, they get priority on whatever's left in the U.S. Atari's coffers), but the $261 million debt is not, so they'll have to wait in line with everybody else." The article also lists some interesting sell-offs. The old Accolade brand got sold for $50,000, the Battlezone Franchise was sold to Rebellion Interactive for $566,500, and Wargaming World Limited purchased the Total Annihilation and Masters of Orion franchises. Stardock Systems, creators of Sins of a Solar Empire, picked up the rights to the Star Control franchise, which they intend to reboot. (Those who played it will recall that StarCon2 was the Best Game Ever. And it's been remade after the creators released the source code.)
An anonymous reader writes "Picking up the code from a failed Direct3D 10/11 implementation for Linux, a working Direct3D 9 state tracker has been implemented for Linux. The Direct3D 9 support works with open-source Linux GPU hardware drivers via Mesa's Gallium3D and can run games for the open-source Radeon and Nouveau drivers without simply converting the Direct3D commands into OpenGL. Unlike the experimental D3D10/11 code from the past, this D3D9 state tracker is already running games like Skyrim, Civilization 5, Anno 1404, and StarCraft 2. With Linux games not natively targeting D3D, Wine was modified for using this native Direct3D implementation."
An anonymous reader writes "I've a cheap but low latency mouse (A4Tech) and I noticed my trusty old wired Logitech PS/2 keyboard seems at least 50ms slower (if not more) than the mouse when I test with those reaction time sites. I even increased finger travel distance over my mouse button to make it fairer and the difference still remains. So either the tests are slower with keyboards or my keyboard is high latency. Assuming the latter any suggestions for a good reasonably priced gaming keyboard? Extra function keys might be nice but since my hands aren't big what would be better is being able to output a custom key/combo if you hold down (special?) keys while pressing another key. For example I could configure it so if I hold down "Special Key 1" with pinkie or thumb and press 4 it actually outputs 9, and if I hold down shift as well it outputs shift+9 (and not just 9). Being able to replace the capslock key function and have it behave as another key (or a special modifier) would be a bonus — I've never needed capslock and have probably used it more by mistake than for its normal function, or to test how badly a PC has hung."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In the fall of 2014, 20 promising video game developers will begin a yearlong (and free) program at the University of Texas at Austin, where they will study under some of the gaming industry's most successful executives. 'The idea is to get the best of the best of the best, run them through a Navy Seals boot camp of sorts and not force them to worry about "how do I pay the rent and buy groceries,"' said program leader Warren Spector, who is responsible for creating well-known games such as Deus Ex. 'Fingers crossed, when we start delivering graduates who can contribute in major ways to the development of future games, that philanthropy will continue.' In a wide-ranging interview, Spector also talked about how his future students will be graduating into an industry in which 'every business model is broken, which is either terrifying or an opportunity depending on how you look at it.' Focus groups, analysis of historical trends, and aggregated game review scores may be comforting to number crunchers, but the majority of game projects still end up as commercial failures. Spector ultimately believes the people who actually make the games are going to make better decisions than the number crunchers. 'We've got to be looking forward and any time you start bringing data into it, you're not," Spector said. "I pitched a Lego construction game in 1989, and guess what: Minecraft is basically a Lego construction game. But at the time I was told "no, that won't work." I pitched a western game and the response was "westerns don't sell." And then Red Dead Redemption came out. Stuff doesn't sell until someone makes one that sells, and no amount of data can reveal what new thing is going to sell. The metrics and data guys, and the publishing guys will never come up with the next big thing.'""
DavidGilbert99 writes "Jeri Ellsworth has opened up about her time at games developer Valve and has hit out strongly at the so-called flatpack management structure. She says that despite Valve's claims of a democratic structure, there is a layer of powerful management in place and when she was fired she felt like she had been stabbed in the back. 'If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I am really, really bitter. They promised me the world and then stabbed me in the back.'" Develop Online has a good transcript. In the end, Gabe Newell at least let her team keep the rights to their augmented reality hardware. She also notes that she still loves Valve, but the management and bonus structure resulted in communication breakdowns at Valve's size. It does seem that a flat structure can work: Andy Wingo has been weblogging about working at Igalia and seems pretty positive about the experience.
jfruh writes "In March of 2012 legendary game designers Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert ran a Kickstarter to design a new adventure game, asked for $400,000, and came away with more than $3.3 million. Their promised delivery date was October 2012. Now it's July 2013, and the project still needs cash, which they plan to raise by selling an 'early release' version on Steam in January 2014. One possible lesson: radically overshooting your crowdfunding goal can cause you to wildly expand your ambitions, leading to a project that can't be tamed."
hypnosec writes "Nintendo has revealed that it has detected illicit logins in nearly 24,000 accounts on one of the main fan sites in Japan 'Club Nintendo' and account details such as real names, addresses, emails and phone numbers may have been accessed. According to Nintendo the mass login attempts have been made using a list of login credentials containing usernames and password obtained from some service other than Nintendo. The company revealed that it detected over 15 million login attempts out of which 23,926 were successful."