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An anonymous reader writes "The Pentagon plans to fork over $32 million to develop 'fun to play' computer games that can refine the way weapons systems are tested to ensure they are free from software errors and security bugs, according to a Defense Department solicitation. The goal is to create puzzles that are "intuitively understandable by ordinary people" and could be solved on laptops, smartphones, tablets and consoles. The games' solutions will be collected into a database and used to improve methods for analyzing software, according to the draft request for proposals put out by the military's venture capital and research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency."
donniebaseball23 writes "As a follow-up to his piece on Xbox 720, veteran games journalist Chris Morris has put together some thoughtful advice on what Sony needs to do (and needs to avoid) to ensure that the next generation PlayStation is a success. In particular, Morris notes that Sony must 'look beyond games' to create a fully fledged entertainment hub: 'Nintendo has been pretty adamant that it has little interest in content beyond games. Microsoft seems to be rushing to embrace the set top box world. Sony, though, seems a bit confused about what it wants.'"
New submitter Man Eating Duck writes "Guru3D describes how the activation system in Ubisoft's RTS game Anno 2070 also tracks hardware changes: 'So yesterday I started working on a performance review. We know (well, at least we figured we knew), that the game key can be used on three systems. That's fair; the first activation is used on my personal game rig. The second we installed on the AMD Radeon graphics test PC and the 3rd on our NVIDIA graphics test PC. ... For the NVIDIA setup I take out the GTX 580, and insert a GTX 590. When I now startup the game, 'BAM', again an activation is required. Once again I fill out the key, and now Ubisoft is thanking me with the message that I ran out of activations.' Guru3D subsequently discovered that Ubisoft was less than helpful: 'Sorry to disappoint you — the game is indeed restricted to 3 hardware changes and there simply is no way to bypass that.' I, and many with me, will never buy games with such a draconian DRM scheme, as it's very likely that I'll swap out enough components to run into this issue. Even the Steam version includes this nice 'feature.' It's probably a good idea to let Ubisoft know why we'll pass on this title."
RobinEggs writes "After long speculation and a few affirmative hints, Blizzard has confirmed that Diablo 3 will have a console version. Responding to a fan who asked him to 'confirm or deny' a console version of D3, Blizzard community manager Bashiok said, 'Yup. Josh Mosqueira is lead designer for the Diablo console project.' Here's hoping Blizzard remains one of the few companies to fully develop both the console and PC version of their titles, rather than simply porting the Xbox version to PC. I think we've all had enough of bizarre scrolling, menus that can't be used with a mouse, and 'Controls' menus that don't even bother replacing the 360 controller image with an actual keyboard layout."
SharkLaser writes "A video game developer working for Kuma Reality Games has admitted that the company has been receiving money from the CIA to design and freely distribute special movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East. Amir Mizra Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine, moved to work for Kuma after working for DARPA and has said the goal of the company was to convince people that whatever the U.S. does in other countries is a good measure. Kuma officials have declined to comment, while Hekmati himself is locked in Iran. The United States government has demanded the release of Hekmati, but Iran has sentenced him to death for spying, which he confessed to."
New submitter lrsach01 writes "Wizards of the Coast has announced a 'new iteration' of their Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. Early information says the game will be more inclusive, with a basic rule set that 'builds out.' This Spring, WotC will be 'conducting ongoing open playtests with the gaming community to gather feedback on the new iteration of the game as we develop it.'"
hypnosec writes "Microsoft's Flight Simulator series, which was in dormant state until now, will see a re-launch this spring and that too for free. The name of this series will be simply Flight, and players will have free access to the digital sky with this simulator. In other words, it will be available as a free download; however, the user would need to buy additional content to enhance their experience. The content that can be purchased includes aircraft as well as new environments. Microsoft states that the most amazing part of this game is the user can experience some real life locations like Big Island of Hawaii along with 'region-specific weather patterns, foliage, terrain and landmarks.'" [Video demo here.] I'd like to know where the ESRB finds "crude humor" or "mild violence" in there.
MrSeb writes "Taylor Valtrop, an enterprising roboticist with a penchant for kitties, has crafted the mother of all Kinect (and Wiimote!) hacks: The teleoperation of a robot to groom a cat. Using a Nao, a $15,000 robot; a treadmill (for moving the robot forward); a head-mounted display (to see what the robot sees); Kinect (for tracking his movements); and two Wiimotes (to move the robot's hands), Valtrop is able to pat a cat with surprising accuracy and gentleness (except for where he accidentally hits the cat in the face)."
MojoKid writes "When an advance copy of Crysis 2 leaked to the Internet a full month before the game's scheduled release, Crytek and Electronic Arts (EA) were understandably miffed and, as it turns out, justified in their fears of mass piracy. Crysis 2 was illegally download on the PC platform 3,920,000 times, 'beating out' Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with 3,650,000 illegal downloads. Numbers like these don't bode well for PC gamers and will only serve to encourage even more draconian DRM measures than we've seen in the past."
An anonymous reader writes to point out this interesting outgrowth of Google's Native Client: a Google engineer has ported MAME 0.143 to the browser-based platform, and written about the process in detail, outlining the overall strategy employed as well as specific problems that MAME presented. An impressive postscript from the conclusion: "The port of MAME was relatively challenging; combined with figuring out how to port SDL-based games and load resources in Native Client, the overall effort took us about 4 days to complete."
hypnosec writes "The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) has begun updating its Battlespace2 and other simulations to bring them in line with commercial wargames like Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3. Andrew Poulter heads up the technical team behind the war-game and said that while back in the '80s and '90s, military simulations were state of the art, today they have fallen far behind commercial alternatives in terms of graphics and plot. With that in mind, the MoD has been investing heavily in what's known as 'Project Kite' (knowledge information test environment), designed to bring the training software to the forefront of military shooters. Some of this is down to the current generation of new recruits having been raised on shooter titles from both the Call of Duty and Battlefield series. This means they've gotten used to high-quality first-person shooter games. Taking a step down in graphics and immersion is hardly a way to train a soldier how to react in certain situations."
First time accepted submitter nzyank writes "The other day I bravely (foolishly?) volunteered to conduct a video game development workshop at my boys' HS. This in Smallsville, Vermont with an average graduating class size of about 20. The idea is to meet once a week and actually create a game, start to finish. It will be open to would-be programmers, designers, artists, etc. I worked on a bunch of AAA titles back in the '90s, but I'm pretty much out of touch nowadays and I'm trying to figure out the best approach. The requirements are that it has to be one of either Windows/XBox or Android, since those are the platforms that I am current on. It has to be relatively simple for the kids to get up and running quickly, and it needs to be as close to free as possible. Teaching them to use stuff like Blender, C#, C++, Java, XNA, OpenGL and the Android SDK is probably a bit much. I was thinking of something like the Torque Engine, but they want $1000 for an academic license, which is never going to happen. I simply don't know what's out there nowadays and could really use some suggestions."
theodp writes "In the world of virtual goods, reports GeekWire's Todd Bishop, it looks like there's no such thing as a Second Amendment. According to a forum post by an Epic Games community manager, a new policy will remove 'gun-like' items from Microsoft's Xbox Live Avatar Marketplace on January 1. The policy reportedly applies to accessories for the avatars that represent Xbox Live users, not to games themselves, and owners of virtual weaponry like the Gears of War 3 Avatar Lancer purchased before the policy goes into effect will be permitted to continue to wield them."