sl4shd0rk writes "Valve has finally released Steam for Linux. Although some of the 57 games listed on the Linux Steam site are previously released from the Humble Bundles, there are others which should provide adequate entertainment for anyone bored with the HB games. Among the games listed, many at deep discounts of 50%-75% off, are HalfLife, CounterStrke Source and Serious Sam 3. Hopefully Valve will keep the ports coming as rumor has it that Left 4 Dead had been ported at least for developers."
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mikejuk writes "Programmers often say that regular expressions are fun ... but now they can be a whole lot of fun in a completely new way. Want to try your hand at a regular expression crossword? The idea is simple enough — create a crossword style puzzle with regular expressions are the 'clues.' In case you don't know what a regular expression is — it is a way of specifying what characters are allowed using wild-card characters and more. For example a dot matches any single character, an * any number of characters and so on. The regular expression crossword is more a sort of Sudoku puzzle than crossword however because the clues determine the pattern that the entries in a row have to satisfy. It also has to use a hexagonal grid to provide three regular expressions to control each entry. This particular regular expression crossword(pdf) was part of this year's MIT Mystery Hunt. This annual event is crammed with a collection of very difficult problems and the regular expression crossword, created by Dan Gulotta from an idea by Palmer Mebane, was just a small part of the whole — and yes there is a solution."
MojoKid writes "PunkBuster, the anti-cheating service implemented in hundreds of online games, is down. As of the time of writing, the official PunkBuster website is up and down, after having been completely down for the past couple of hours. On Twitter, there are numerous reports of gamers who've been unable to play online in the most popular PunkBuster-backed title of the moment, Battlefield 3. EA has gone as far as to post an interim fix. Applying the fix is a simple matter of extracting an archive and then overwriting a couple of files inside of your Battlefield 3 install folder. While EA has little power over PunkBuster's ability to get things 100% functional again, this issue does highlight the fact that third-party solutions are not always the way to go."
Freshly Exhumed writes "You can't begrudge Nat Brown for claiming some pride in the birth of Microsoft's game console: 'I was a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft and gave it its name. Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over), a product that consumers would want and love and demand, I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come...' But in his recent ILIKE.CODE blog post he is driven to lament that '...as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.' Nat goes on to detail a list of Microsoft's past and present strategic Xbox blunders, while tossing some barbs towards Nintendo's and Sony's game console strategies."
hypnosec writes "Mojang has officially released Minecraft: Pi Edition for the credit card sized Raspberry Pi. Back in November, Minecraft was ported to the Raspberry Pi, and it was revealed that Mojang would release a free version of the game. The game is completely free and is now available for download. Even though the game will carry only a limited set of features, the cost and complexity of building and hosting a Minecraft LAN-party has definitely dropped." From the looks of it, you should be able to run it on any ARM system that can run Debian Wheezy. More generally, the idea of a tiny box you can just turn on and have a server for a bzflag, Quake, etc. tournament is appealing.
Hesh writes "The space-pirates themed Project Holodeck game is a VR game that is initially targeted for the Oculus Rift and will marry VR with a world so interactive and immersive that it feels like you can reach out and touch it. Ben Lang over at RoadToVR recently got a chance to sit down with the team and try it out. He came out extremely impressed with how immersive the experience was: '...at one point I needed to set the Razer Hydra controllers down to adjust my helmet and I nearly tried to set them down on a virtual table next to me. There was no table in real life — had I not quickly realized what I was about to do, I would have dropped the controllers straight onto the floor below.'"
Jon Brodkin writes "I’ve been a longtime fan of Brain Age. Mixed in among the standard-issue kill-everything-you-see/race/sports types of games that dominate gaming, Brain Age on the Nintendo DS always provided something unique, fun, and mentally stimulating. Doing math problems, counting syllables, recognizing patterns, and memorizing stuff was far more enjoyable than anyone would have expected in Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day, the game that kicked off the series seven years ago. Based on the research of neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, the exercises are designed to improve brain function—or at least give players the illusion that they’re getting smarter. Nintendo developed several sequels and spinoffs for the DS after that first game, and now a Nintendo 3DS-exclusive entry is here with Brain Age: Concentration Training, released as a download and physical media this past weekend for $30. Some improvements in gameplay are readily apparent. Handwriting recognition is significantly better. You play the game by holding the 3DS upright, rather than sideways like a book, and it works so well I wonder why previous Brain Age games used the wacky book-like layout at all." Read below to see what Jon thinks of the 3DS-exclusive version.
MojoKid writes "A few weeks back, we discussed whether a new GPU like the GeForce GTX 660 could breathe new life into an older quad-core gaming system built in mid 2008. The answer concluded was definitely yes — but many readers asked to reconsider the question, this time using a lower-end dual-core Core 2 Duo. The Core 2 Duo CPU chip used was a first-generation C2D part based on Intel's 65nm Conroe core. It's clocked at 3GHz with 4MB of L2 cache and has a 1333MHz FSB. The CPU was paired with 3GB of DDR2-1066 memory. The long and short of it is, you can upgrade the graphics card on a six year-old dual core machine and expect to see a noticeable improvement in game performance — significant gains in fact, up to 50 percent or more."
MojoKid writes "Sony's next-generation PS4 unveil is just two weeks away, which means leaks concerning both it and Microsoft's next-generation Xbox Durango (sometimes referred to as the Xbox 720), are at an all-time high as well. Rumors continue to swirl that the next iteration of Xbox will lock out used games entirely and require a constant Internet connection. New games would come with a one-time activation code to play. Use the code, and the game is locked to the particular console or Xbox Live account it's loaded on. Physical games will still be sold (the Durango reportedly supports 50GB Blu-ray Discs), but the used game market? Kiboshed. If this is true, it's an ugly move on Microsoft's part. Not only does it annihilate the right of first sale, it'll eviscerate any game store or business that depends on video game rentals for revenue."
An anonymous reader writes "Joachim Kempin, former vice president of Windows Sales, has explained how the original Xbox came to be. It turns out it was Sony's fault, simply because the Japanese company wasn't very friendly towards Microsoft, and Microsoft eventually decided they had to 'stop Sony.' Apparently, long before the Xbox was even an idea, Microsoft was trying to collaborate with Sony in a number of areas they thought there was overlap. That collaboration was sought before even Sony had a games console coming to market, and would have focused on products for the entertainment sector."
crookedvulture writes "Barebones mini PCs have been around for a while, and the latest one from Zotac is pretty unique. For $270, the Zbox ID42 offers a Sandy Bridge CPU, a discrete GeForce graphics processor, and all the integrated I/O and networking you'd expect from a modern PC. You have to add your own memory, hard drive, and operating system, but the latter shouldn't cost you a dime. The Zbox works well with not only Windows, but also Linux. Ubuntu even recognizes the included remote, which can be used to wake up the system, control XBMC, and navigate Steam's Big Picture interface. Team Fortress 2 for Linux is actually playable, albeit at a relatively low resolution and detail level. The hardware seems better suited to casual games. Zotac also makes a Plus version of the Zbox that comes bundled with RAM and a hard drive, but it costs an extra $130, and you can get much better components if you add them yourself. The user-friendly chassis makes filling out the system a trivial undertaking."
LordStormes writes "JJ Abrams, who apparently plans to direct every movie for the rest of time, is teaming with Gabe Newell and Valve to explore films for both the Half-Life and Portal franchises. 'Abrams and Newell made the surprise, succinct announcement at the end of their keynote speech, which took the form of a carefully rehearsed discussion between the two creatives about the strengths and weaknesses of games and movies as storytelling mediums. ... "Movies let you experience moments that you might not think are the point, but really are everything,” Abrams said, pointing to the early introduction of compressed air canisters in the opening scenes of the movie Jaws, which initially seem unimportant but prove consequential to the film’s ending. Newell pointed out that the “take your child to work” scene in Portal 2 accomplished the same thing, setting up important plot points in a way that made them initially seem like humorous throwaways.' No word on Half-Life 3, sadly..."
An anonymous reader writes "The lima driver project, the open source reverse engineered graphics driver for the ARM Mali, now has Quake 3 Arena timedemo running 2% faster than the ARM Binary driver." There's a video showing it off. Naturally, a few caveats apply; the major one is that they don't have a Free shader compiler and are forced to rely on the proprietary one from ARM, for now.
An anonymous reader writes "The WSJ reports that OUYA, the $100 Android-based gaming console, will reach retail availability in June. The makers have partnered with Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, and Target for distributing the devices. The console will come with a controller (which has the traditional thumbsticks, D-pad, buttons, and triggers as well as a built-in touchpad), and additional controllers will be sold for $50. OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman said, 'For the last year or two years all we've been hearing is that the consoles are dead. The reason is there isn't new, innovative intellectual property. It's expensive to develop on it. You're seeing a major shift of games being developed on the television. Our viewpoint has always been that console gaming isn't dead, the way we think about it hasn't changed. We're bringing the best screen and the best device to interact with that by creating a platform that is open.' There was a recent 'Game Jam' to create game prototypes for the console; you can browse the 166 entries."
An anonymous reader writes "OnLive's had a tough twelve months any way you look at it, but as a new profile of the cloud game streaming service points out, throughout it all, service never dropped, and the number of platforms it's on keeps growing. Up next is the tiny Ouya console, but in a wide-ranging interview, OnLive's general manager talks up plans to bring MMOs to the service, and even a whole new type of video game, one that will run on many servers, not just one PC: 'Look at how CGI has changed cinema over the last few years — you can do CGI essentially realtime. It could completely change what a video game looks like. That leads us to new technologies. Then game designers say, "What could I really do with a computing platform that is so powerful but also available across so many devices?" You're no longer constrained by computing power — that has tremendous opportunity.'"
FatLittleMonkey writes "Researchers in Germany have developed a device that allows users of portable devices, such as smartphones, experience force-feedback from games using just their own muscles... and a small EMS device. When stimulated by a painless electric pulse, the player's arm moves the device in whichever direction the game commands. The player then fights the movement with their other muscles, creating a strong sensation that the device itself is bucking in their hands. According to the developers, users found the sensation much more realistic than traditional vibrotactile feedback. (Should make PvP more interesting too.)"
When the Wii U was released at the end of last year, Nintendo got a head-start on the long-awaited new generation of video game consoles. Now, Sony has announced a press conference for February 20th that is expected to unveil the PlayStation 4, codenamed 'Orbis.' This will precede the announcement of the Xbox 360's successor, codenamed 'Durango,' but that too will likely be announced by E3 in June. Specs for development kits of both systems have leaked widely. The two systems both use 8-core AMD chips clocked around 1.6 GHz. Durango has 8GB of DDR3 RAM, while Orbis has 4GB of GDDR5 RAM, though Sony is trying to push that up to 8GB for the console's final spec. Reports also suggest Sony is tinkering with its controller design, going so far as to add a "Share" button to let people exchange screenshots and recordings. Developers indicate the systems are very close in power, though Sony's system currently has an edge. With the upcoming announcement of the PS4, the big-three console makers will kick off a new round of direct competition. They'll maneuver to one-up each other with the most powerful hardware and the slickest software. However, they'll also hope the release of three major consoles in rapid succession will help to anchor a part of the games industry that no longer enjoys the dominance it once did, thanks to threats from mobile.
silentbrad sends word of a recent lecture given by Valve's Gabe Newell to a college class. He had some interesting remarks about the future of games in the living room: "The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room? ... We're happy to do it if nobody else will do it, mainly because everybody else will pile on, and people will have a lot of choices, but they'll have those characteristics. They'll say, 'Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.' ... I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together." There's another hour-long lecture from Newell posted on YouTube talking about productivity, economics, and the future of corporations. Speaking of Steam, reader skade88 points out an article at Linux.com about the current state of the Steam for Linux beta.
An anonymous reader writes "The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZVB) has sued computer game distributor Valve because it prohibits Steam-gamers from reselling their games. Steam users own the games they purchase and should be able to resell them when they want to, just like owners of traditional card or board games can, said Carola Elbrecht, project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZVB, on Thursday. But while those traditional game owners can resell their games whenever they like, Steam users often cannot, she said."
mikejuk writes "It is reported that Microsoft has sent an email to DirectX/XNA MVPs which informs them that they are no longer needed because XNA and DirectX are no longer evolving. What does this mean? If you don't need MVPs then presumably you anticipate nothing to support in the future."
FhnuZoag writes "Eurogamer has an expose of the shady world of games developers licensing guns. From the article: '"We must be paid a royalty fee — either a one-time payment or a percentage of sales, all negotiable. Typically, a licensee pays between 5 per cent to 10 per cent retail price for the agreement. [...] We want to know explicitly how the rifle is to be used, ensuring that we are shown in a positive light... Such as the 'good guys' using the rifle," says [Barett Rifles'] Vaughn.'"
First time accepted submitter DiscountBorg(TM) writes "An employee of the Canada Revenue Agency lost his job after releasing a humorous game in which the player answers customer service calls for the Agency, usually leading to his termination. In an email National Revenue Minister Gail Shea said: 'The Minister considers this type of conduct offensive and completely unacceptable. The Minister has asked the Commissioner (of Revenue, Andrew Treusch) to investigate and take any and all necessary corrective action. The Minister has asked the CRA to investigate urgently to ensure no confidential taxpayer information was compromised.'"
Space MMORPG EVE Online is best known for its amazing stories, and on Sunday it added a new epic tale. The leader of a huge coalition, preparing for a moderately sized assault, mis-clicked and accidentally warped himself into enemy territory without his support fleet, endangering his massive ship worth an estimated $3,500. Realizing the danger, he called upon every ally he could, and the enemy fleet rallied in turn, leading to an incredible 3,000-player battle. What's also impressive is that the EVE servers stayed up for the whole fight, when most MMOs struggle with even a few hundred players at the same time. The Penny Arcade report spoke with CCP Games for some information on how they managed that: "It’s hard to wrap your head around, but they sometimes move the in-game space itself. 'We move other solar systems on the node away from the fight. This disconnects anyone in those systems temporarily, but spares them from the ongoing symptoms of being on an overloaded server,' Veritas explained. 'It helps the fight system a little bit as well, especially if a reinforcement fleet is traveling through those other systems. This was done for the fight over the weekend, but is rare.' ... They do have a built-in mechanism for dealing with massive battles, however: They slow down time itself. ... Once server load reaches a certain point, the game automatically slows down time by certain increments to deal with the strain. Time was running at 10% speed during this 3,000-person battle, which is the maximum amount of time dilation possible."
An anonymous reader writes "EA's latest SimCity game requires users to log on online even for single player. After being unable to log on for three hours, one of its users chimed in with his very polite $0.02 opinion, only to get himself banned by EA admins. Another great victory for DRM." Update: 01/29 18:00 GMT by S : The player's ban has been lifted, and it seems to have happened for an unrelated issue anyway.
jones_supa writes "The Chinese government is discussing whether to lift its 12-year ban on game consoles which was established due to fear of harming the physical and mental development of the young. Even during this period consoles have been sold illegally and things like Kinect can be sold for other purposes such as medical treatment and education. Major game console vendors across the world made several attempts but failed to find a way to enter the Chinese mainland market officially, even though they have solid manufacturing bases there. 'We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market,' a source from the Ministry of Culture, who asked not to be named, said."
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released OpenArena – a multiplayer first person shooter game based on Quake III — for the Raspberry Pi. Available as a free download, the game has been rated 'Adults Only' because of the blood and guns. The open-source game is powered by the 'ioquake3' fork of the engine that Quake III runs on id's Tech 3 engine. Modifications have been made to the gameplay by removing the copyrighted material and adding new free content."
MojoKid writes "New video card launches from AMD and NVIDIA are almost always reviewed on hardware less than 12 months old. That's not an arbitrary decision — it helps reviewers make certain that GPU performance isn't held back by older CPUs and can be particularly important when evaluating the impact of new interfaces or bus designs. That said, an equally interesting perspective might be to compare the performance impact of upgrading a graphics card in an older system that doesn't have access to the substantial performance gains of integrated memory controllers, high speed DDR3 memory, deep multithreading or internal serial links. As it turns out, even using a midrange graphics card like a GeForce GTX 660, substantial gains up to 150 percent can be achieved without the need for a complete system overhaul."
Sockatume writes "The UK's information protection authority, the ICO, has fined Sony for failing to adequately secure the information of PlayStation Network users. The investigation was triggered by a 2011 security breach, during which personally identifying information (including password hashes) was recovered from a Sony database where it had been stored without encryption. In the ICO's view Sony's security measures were inadequate, and the attack could have been prevented. The £250,000 (ca. $400,000) fine, the largest the ICO has ever imposed, is equivalent to a few pennies per affected user. Sony disagrees with the ICO's decision and intends to appeal."
netbuzz writes "Spurred by the mark holder's cease and desist letter to Reddit's subreddit r/gaymer, the Electronic Frontier Foundation today officially petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind its grant of a trademark registration on the word "gaymer". 'This registration should never have been granted,' said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. 'Gaymer is a common term that refers to members of this vibrant gaming community, and we are happy to help them fight back and make sure the term goes back to the public domain where it belongs.'"
An anonymous reader writes "As first-person shooters have evolved, they've transitioned from using Nazis as the bad guys to more modern organizations, such as the Taliban. Two recent games, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Medal of Honor: Warfighter, have both shown the country of Pakistan in a very negative light, and now shopkeepers in the country are beginning to boycott the games. 'Saleem Memon, president of the All Pakistan CD, DVD, Audio Casette Traders and Manufacturers Association, said he had written to members ordering them not to stock the controversial games after receiving dozens of complaints. ... The latest installment of the Medal of Honor series opens with American Navy Seals coming ashore in Karachi docks on a mission to destroy a black market arms shipment. But when their detonation sets off a second, bigger explosion they realize they have stumbled on a much bigger terrorist plot, sparking a global manhunt. A chaotic car chase through the city follows amid warnings that the ISI — Pakistan's intelligence agency — is on the way. Mr. Memon added there was a danger children would be brainwashed into thinking foreign agents were at war inside Karachi, possibly leading them into the arms of militants. "These games show a misleading idea of what is happening in the city. You don't get the CIA all the way through Grand Theft Auto," he said.'"
jjohn writes "Wizards of the Coasts, holders of the TSR catalog, have released rulebooks and modules for most editions of Dungeons and Dragons through a partnership with DriveThruRPG.com. The web site, dndclassics.com, may be a little overloaded right now. Most module PDFs are $4.99 USD." The article points out that these are all fresh scans of the old books. It's also worth noting that the decision to make these PDFs available reverses WotC's 2009 decision to stop all PDF sales because of piracy fears. The only reference to this in the article is a quote from the D&D publishing and licensing director: "We don't want them to go to torrent sites. Why not give them a legal route?"
An anonymous reader writes "Steam is now being used by thousands of gamers running a Linux OS, and Valve has got to the point where they are happy to start urging Windows users to make the switch. Proof of that comes from a 'Join the Beta' promotion on the homepage of Steam suggesting you try Steam for Linux. There's even a download link to get Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, which removes yet another barrier to entry. With Gabe Newell's clear hatred of Windows 8, this shouldn't be a surprising move. We aren't going to see another version of Windows appear for a few years, so in Valve's eyes pushing Linux to gamers makes a lot of sense."
An anonymous reader writes "Forbes analyst Adam Hartung has predicted that Microsoft will sell off its entertainment division, which includes Xbox, in the coming years. He even goes so far as to list Sony or Barnes & Noble as potential buyers. Lets forget how crazy this sounds for a moment and focus on the reasons why Hartung believes such a sale will happen. It basically comes down to Windows 8, and how poorly it is selling. Combine that with falling sales of PCs, the Surface RT tablet not doing so great, the era of more than one PC in the home disappearing, and Microsoft has a big problem. The problem not only stems from the PC market not growing, but because Microsoft relies so heavily on Windows and Office for revenue. With that in mind, Hartung believes Steve Ballmer will do anything and everything to save Windows, including ditching entertainment and therefore Xbox."
First time accepted submitter halls-of-valhalla writes "Atari was one of the very first video game companies, starting way back in 1972. However, this long-running name that brought us titles like Pong and Asteroids is having major financial issues. Atari's United States branches have filed for bankruptcy on Sunday. This bankruptcy is an attempt to separate themselves from their French parent which has quite a bit of debt. The plan is to split from the French parent and find a buyer to form a private company."
x_IamSpartacus_x writes "I've been a gamer for a long time (started on Nibbles in MS-DOS) and enjoy pretty much any good game. I can enjoy side-scrolling relics (original Prince of Persia, Win 95), to modern MMORPGs (stopped playing my 85 lvl Mage on WoW just recently, read on to see why), to a good sports game (Madden series are a blast) and many more. I've been married for 4 years now and have hardly touched my games since being married and starting having kids. My wife and I are Americans but live overseas and have little access to new movies/entertainment and, from experience, I know that a good game can provide much more entertainment than a good movie. My question is, what are good ways/good games that I can use to get my wife into computer gaming? We both have good laptops that I'd love to get her interested in using to do co-op or combative games with me. Because of my long experience, gaming comes naturally to me and so even on a game I haven't played I would probably be much better than she. Is there a game or idea that would take away the embarrassing factor for her of being much worse than I am while still being enjoyable and worth spending a lot of time on with me? Do any other Slashdotters struggle getting their spouse to game with them?"
Incarnate-VO writes "Long running space-MMO Vendetta Online, which debuted with Linux support back in 2002, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to support a major gameplay expansion, including player-owned stations, capships, and territorial conquest. If the Kickstarter succeeds, an upcoming iPad version could also gain some added polish, joining the existing mobile support for Android. (The Kickstarter video is also available on YouTube in HD)."
crookedvulture writes "AMD has begun addressing the Radeon frame latency spikes covered previously on Slashdot. A new beta driver is due out next week, and it dramatically smooths the uneven frame times exhibited by certain Radeon graphics processors. The driver only tackles performance issues in a few games, but more fixes are on the way. In the games that have been addressed, the new driver delivers more consistent frame times and smoother gameplay without having much of an impact on the minimum or average FPS numbers. Those traditional FPS metrics clearly do a poor job of quantifying the fluidity of in-game action. Surprisingly, it seems AMD was largely relying on those metrics when testing drivers internally. The company has now pledged to pay more attention to frame latencies to ensure that these kinds of issues don't crop up again."
YokimaSun writes to point out a Kickstarter project that may warm the cockles of your heart: "Fans of emulation and homebrew have not had much to cheer about over the years; the recent generation of consoles has pretty much killed off any hacking by constant firmware updates. The days of PSP homebrew have died a death and consoles like the Caanoo, GP2x and even the mighty Openpandora never really lived up to the massive expectation. There is a glimmer of hope from a team of homebrew developers who have developed a new console called the GCW-Zero, a new open source handheld system which uses the OpenDingux Linux OS. The specs are impressive, with a Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor, Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio, 512 MB DDR2 and 16GB of internal memory which can via external memory card be extended by another 32GB. N64 and PS1 emulation and everything below should be at full speed in time."
CVG is reporting that Microsoft is working on "consolidating all their communications technology" around Skype, which they acquired in 2011 for $8.5 billion. Citing a source within the company, they say Skype will "become the default chat service on the next generation Xbox console as well as on PC and tablets." This would fit in with Microsoft's recent announcement that it is closing Messenger in March and replacing it with Skype. The article also cites a Microsoft job posting from last August which sought a UI designer for "Skype in the living room," with a focus on the next-gen Xbox system.
innocent_white_lamb writes "A researcher says that some letters are over valued and some are under-valued in Scrabble, due to recent changes to the lists of allowable words. Z and X are now much easier to play and should be worth less, while U, M and G should be worth more than they are now. Joshua Lewis wrote a program to re-calculate the value of each letter to better reflect the current usage. The co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association says that he often hears criticism of Scrabble's scoring system, but any change would bring about 'catastrophic outrage'. A spokesman for Mattel says that they have no plans to change the game."
New submitter sHr0oMaN writes with news that Diane Franklin, a Republican member of Missouri's state House of Representatives, has proposed a sales tax on violent video games. The proposal, HB0157I, is one of many responses to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The proceeds from the tax would go toward mental health programs and law enforcement in the hopes that future shootings can be prevented. The total amount taxed would be small — 1% — and would be applied to video games rated Teen, Mature, or Adult-only by the ESRB. Of course, many games earn the "Teen" rating without having violence in them, like Guitar Hero. The Entertainment Software Association responded to Rep. Franklin's bill with a statement: "Taxing First Amendment protected speech based on its content is not only wrong, but will end up costing Missouri taxpayers."
jones_supa writes "Shawn McGrath, the creator of the PS3 psychedelic puzzle-racing game Dyad, takes another look at Doom 3 source code. Instead of the technical reviews of Fabien Sanglard, Shawn zooms in with emphasis purely on coding style. He gives his insights in lexical analysis, const and rigid parameters, amount of comments, spacing, templates and method names. There is also some thoughts about coming to C++ with C background and without it. Even John Carmack himself popped in to give a comment."
First time accepted submitter Shaterri writes "Which is more likely: that a low-ranked player could play through a high-level tournament at grandmaster level, or that they were getting undetected assistance from a computer? How about when that player is nearly strip-searched with no devices found? How about when their moves correlate too well with independent computer calculations? Ken Regan has a fascinating article on one of the most complex (potential) cheating cases to come along in recent memory."
SchrodingerZ writes "The Viktor Rydberg school in Stockholm, Sweden, has announced that they have included Minecraft into the curriculum for their 13-year-old students. The program is not meant to teach children about math or language, but rather as a tool to inspire creativity in the classroom. 'They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,' Viktor Rydberg teacher Monica Ekman told English-language newspaper The Local. 'It's not any different from arts or woodcraft,' she added."
First time accepted submitter JacobAlexander writes "Writing in PNAS, a University of Manchester physicist has discovered that some games are simply impossible to fully learn, or too complex for the human mind to understand. Dr Tobias Galla from The University of Manchester and Professor Doyne Farmer from Oxford University and the Santa Fe Institute, ran thousands of simulations of two-player games to see how human behavior affects their decision-making. From the article: 'In simple games with a small number of moves, such as Noughts and Crosses the optimal strategy is easy to guess, and the game quickly becomes uninteresting. However, when games became more complex and when there are a lot of moves, such as in chess, the board game Go or complex card games, the academics argue that players' actions become less rational and that it is hard to find optimal strategies.'"
DavidGilbert99 writes "Labelled as an 'oddly regressive move,' developers of Star Wars: the Old Republic have decided that all gay characters will be stuck on a single planet called Makeb. The move comes with the release of the Rise of the Hutt Cartel pack and the Makeb planet will be the only place in the game where players can select 'flirtatious' dialogue options with characters of the same gender. From the article: 'BioWare executive producer Jeff Hickman apologised for same sex relationships taking so long to be added to the game, referring to the company's most famous title Mass Effect, where homosexual relationships are available by default: "First of all, I want to apologize that this is taking so long to get in the game," wrote Hickman in a blog post. "I realise that we promised SGR (same gender relationships) to you guys and that many of you believed that this would be with a companion character. Unfortunately, this will take a lot more work than we realised at the time and it (like some other pieces of content we talked about earlier in the year) has been delayed as we focused on the changes required to take the game Free-to-Play. '"
An anonymous reader writes "Game designer Tadhg Kelly writes at TechCrunch about a trend many gamers have noticed over the past decade: designers increasingly relying on statistics — and only statistics — to inform their design decisions. You know the type; the ones who'll change the background color if they think it'll eke out a few more players, or the ones who'll scrap interesting game mechanics in favor of making the game more easily understandable to a broader market. Naturally, this leads to homogenization and boring games. Kelly says, 'Obsessed with measuring everything and therefore defining all of their problems in numerical terms, social game makers have come to believe that those numbers are all there is, and this is why they cannot permit themselves to invent. Like TV people, they are effectively in search of that one number that will explain fun to them. There must, they reason, be some combination of LTV and ARPU and DAU and so on that captures fun, like hunting for the Higgs boson. It must be out there somewhere. ... Unlike every other major game revolution (arcade, console, PC, casual, MMO, etc.), social game developers have proved consistently unable to understand that fun is dynamic in this way. ... They are hunting for the fun boson, but it does not exist.'"