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An anonymous reader writes in with news that some NSA agents were trying to dig up info by joining the horde. "To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs. That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ to infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.....The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which has more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Will Xbox One and PS4 emulators hit your favorite download Websites within the next few years? Emulators have long been popular among gamers looking to relive the classic titles they enjoyed in their youth. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console, one can go through the legally questionable yet widespread route of downloading a copy of the game and loading it with PC software that emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is typically limited to older games, as developing an emulator is hard work and must usually be run on hardware that's more powerful than the original console. Consoles from the NES and Super NES era have working emulators, as do newer systems such as Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, and the first two PlayStations. While emulator development hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which developers are already exploring as fertile ground for emulation. The Xbox 360 and PS4 feature x86 chips, for starters, and hardware-assisted virtualization can help solve some acceleration issues. But several significant obstacles stand in the way of developers already taking a crack at it, including console builders' absolute refusal to see emulation as even remotely legal."
alphadogg writes "The U.S. Department of Defense may have found a new way to scan millions of lines of software code for vulnerabilities: by turning the practice into a set of video games and puzzles and having volunteers do the work. Having gamers identify potentially problematic chunks of code could help lower the work load of trained vulnerability analysts by 'an order of magnitude or more,' said John Murray, a program director in SRI International's computer science laboratory who helped create one of the games, called Xylem. DARPA has set up a site, called Verigames, that offers five free games that can be played online or, in Xylem's case, on an Apple iPad."
sfcrazy writes "Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox browser and operating system, is organizing a contest for creating games. They have teamed up with Goo Technologies for Mozilla and Goo's Game Creator Challenge to engage 'budding' game creators. The game contest is aimed at showcasing powerful open source technologies developed with the help of Mozilla at the same time building a loyal gaming community around these technologies."
Freshly Exhumed writes "Looking a lot like the venerable Wolfenstein 3D or similar Id action games of the DOS days, the new online game Waiting in Line 3D was released Monday by developer Rajeev Basu, and was played 50,000 times in its first 24 hours of activity... er... inactivity. Is the complete lack of any action a brilliant satire of computer gaming? Is it software-based performance art? Is it silly? Judge for yourself, if you can meet the challenge!" Now's a good time to confess if you spent a major portion of your post-Thanksgiving dinner recovery time camped out in line for some of those Black Friday come-ons.
First time accepted submitter jonyami writes "It's been a slow start for Sony's latest handheld console, despite the console-like quality games that were shown off at launch, and its excellent screen and tactile controls you could take on the go, but you only have to look at the upcoming Christmas line-up to see where it's lagging behind. That said, a new article points out there's still life in the relatively-fresh handheld yet. With the arrival of the PlayStation 4 and a whole new wave of indie games and HD remakes heading to the handheld, it looks like Sony's plucky portable console is still going — but is that enough to save the Vita?"
jones_supa writes "John Carmack has left id Software completely. 'John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio,' id's studio director Tim Willits told IGN, and continues: 'John's work on id Tech 5 and the technology for the current development work at id is complete, and his departure will not affect any current projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on id's tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well.' Carmack, a co-founder of id, recently joined Oculus VR as Chief Technology Officer, and at the time remained at id Software in some capacity. Earlier this year, id president Todd Hollenshead departed id as well."
An anonymous reader writes "Lord of the Rings: Online's latest expansion, Helm's Deep, involved cutting many skills for all classes, with a only a handful reclaimable through the new, 1-dimensional trait trees. If you're not an end-game raider, you're out of luck. And if you are, you can now play your character perfectly with only one or two buttons. Like many who preordered the expansion, I feel robbed and I'm joining the mass exodus. What do you folks suggest? How do Guild Wars 2, RIFT, World of Warcraft and all the other MMORPGs stack up these days? What else would you recommend looking at?"
ardmhacha writes "Magnus Carlsen was able to force a draw in the 10th game of the World Chess Championship to claim the title with a 6.5 — 3.5 score (3 wins, 0 losses, 7 draws) over Viswanathan Anand. Carlsen became the youngest ever World No. 1 in 2010, but withdrew from the 2012 championship cycle and so has only now been able to add the World Champion title to his No. 1 ranking. He won three games and lost none. His first two victories came when he was able to convert small advantages in the endgame into wins. The third (in game 9) came after a blunder from Anand."
Microsoft released the Xbox One today, putting the next-gen console war into full swing. A common theme throughout most of the reviews is that properly evaluating the system is going to take time. Not only are updates for the console continuing to roll out, but the usefulness of some of its technology will depend on what game-makers and other content producers can do with it. Digital Foundry says, "It is willing to make the trades on gaming power in order to potentially revolutionize the way we interact with entertainment in the living room." The Penny Arcade Report calls the hardware and UI a "confusing mess" — until you learn to use it, at which point the hands-free navigation is fast and convenient. Polygon's review is once again visually-oriented, providing a good look at the UI, comparing the controller with the Xbox 360's controller, and giving a demonstration of how Kinect recognizes users. Their conclusion is that while "Kinect isn't a fully realized product yet," "the Xbox One feels like it's from the future." iFixit has a full teardown of the Xbox One, giving it a repairability score of 8/10 (the Kinect sensor gets 6/10). HotHardware has more details about the console's internals, including power consumption and temperature readings. Eurogamer has a compilation of launch coverage, including launch title reviews.
Path of Exile, an ARPG that would update and refine all of the characteristics that made the genre great. On 23 October, after a lengthy open beta period, they launched the game, opting for a free-to-play business model supported by ethical microtransactions. It's dark, freewheeling, unashamedly complex — and a lot of fun. In this video review (with transcript), we take a look at what Path of Exile has to offer.
mrspoonsi writes "The Xbox One controller went through many radical designs, including a built-in pico projector and a cartridge designed to release smell. Apparently, 'the core base didn't appreciate them,' so these wacky features were dropped in favor of a standard controller. According to VentureBeat, over $100 million worth of research went into the design they ended up using. 'Microsoft’s first tweaks for a new controller focused on the overall size and how it’d fit into hands, golden or otherwise. Using the Xbox 360 controller as a starting point, the engineers would make plastic-molded or 3D-printed prototypes that were each 1 millimeter wider or narrower than the last, testing a full range of up to plus or minus 8 millimeters. “That gave us the ability to test, with actual users including women and children, which width feels best,” said Morris. “We tested with more than 500 people throughout the course of the project. All ages, all abilities.” ... Morris and his team then looked at different thicknesses and shapes of the grips (or “lobes,” as he calls them), plus the angle of the triggers, different styles of analog sticks, and more.'"
c0d3g33k writes "Glitch, a collaborative, web-based, massively multiplayer game developed by Tiny Speck, Inc. (tinyspeck.com) has been released under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal License. I'm not at all familiar with this game, but it is rare that both source code and all game assets are released into the public domain, which makes this announcement noteworthy. An excerpt from the announcement: 'The entire library of art assets from the game has been made freely available, dedicated to the public domain. Code from the game client is included to help developers work with the assets. All of it can be downloaded and used by anyone, for any purpose. (But: use it for good.)'"
SmartAboutThings writes "Chip maker AMD has announced that it's won 2 CES Innovation Awards for a gaming tablet the company plans to show off at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The device is called "Project Discovery" and will come with AMD's Mullins chip that is a 64-bit, x86-based chip, perfectly suitable for Windows 8.1. The low-power Mullins APU (accelerated processing unit) is AMD's answer to Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm, aimed at fanless tablets, ultrathin notebooks, and 2-in-1 devices. The 28nm processor is expected to consume as little as 2 watts of energy while in use. The obtained images show that the upcoming AMD tablet is quite similar to Razer Edge."
An anonymous reader writes "The itinerary for Steam Dev Days 2014 lists two talks by Valve's internal virtual and augmented reality researchers, Michael Abrash and Joe Ludwig. Abrash's talk, titled 'What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years' will feature a demonstration of Valve's secret prototype VR headset that is 'capable of stunning experiences.' Ludwig's talk 'Virtual Reality and Steam' will discuss how Valve will be adapting Steam to VR to 'support and promote Virtual Reality games.' Rift inventor and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will also be taking to the stage at Steam Dev Days to speak on best-practice for VR development." There's a hint that they might be showing off a head mounted display featuring a low persistence display, which would be great news for those of us that get the urge to hurl when playing Doom on a conventional display. If you missed it you might want to check out the slides and notes (PDF) from Michael Abrash's GDC2013 talk on VR.
jones_supa writes "A classic game console freezing problem seems to affect the newest generation too. It has been found out that a bunch of Sony PlayStation 4s suffer of a problem which has been christened 'Blue Light of Death'. When a PS4 is turned on with a press of the power button, the light that runs along the side of the console should first pulse blue and then switch to white. At this point the console turns on the picture signal to the display device. Those who have a unit with the glitch are instead finding that their PS4 pulses blue, never goes to white and never outputs an image. We do not have accurate statistics of how widespread the issue is, but reports are popping up in Amazon reviews, Twitter, YouTube and other websites. PlayStation support is still in midst of investigating the issue, but has already posted a bunch of magic tricks you can try to get the console past the initial startup stage."
Today marks the launch of the latest entrant to the next-gen console race: Sony's PlayStation 4. A number of reviews for the system have already gone up, but many outlets are waiting for next Friday's Xbox One launch before passing final judgment. With regard to the PS4's hardware and UI, Digital Foundry praises the DualShock 4 controller design and the improvements to background downloading, while worrying about fan noise in warmer environments. iFixit provides a step-by-step teardown of the device, giving it an 8/10 repairability score. Ars has many good things to say, but many bad things as well: "The PlayStation 4 has an excellent controller, decently powerful hardware, some intriguing, well-executed new features, and an interface that shows belated acknowledgment of some of Sony's most user-unfriendly past designs. It also has a lot of features that are half-assed, missing, or downright bewildering at this point." Polygon's review is more visually oriented, filled with pictures, videos, and drawings. They conclude, "[T]he PlayStation 4's focus on gaming — and only gaming — is undermined by a distinct lack of compelling software. That failing is sure to improve — better games and more of them will appear on the PlayStation 4 — but right now, this is a game console without a game to recommend it." Eurogamer's coverage includes has a round-up of launch title reviews and gameplay videos. IGN has coverage of the roughly 0.4% of PS4s that arrive broken out of the box, and Kotaku explains how they fixed theirs.
sfcrazy writes "Humble Bundle has opened an online store called Humble Store, an extension of the sales system developed for managing the Humble Bundles. That puts Humble Bundle in the same league of Valve's Steam which sells works online via Steam Store. Humble Store, will continue the organization’s legacy of supporting causes. 'The Humble Store is a permanent addition to our Humble site that will allow our customers to buy great games at great prices 24/7 and support charity with every purchase. Ten percent of all purchases will go to vital causes like American Red Cross, Child’s Play, Electronic Frontier Foundation, World Land Trust and charity:water.'"