Software

Dutch Study Finds Some Video Game Loot Boxes Broke the Law (vice.com) 82

The Netherlands Gaming Authority has published a study it conducted of 10 video games that reward players with loot boxes, packages players can sometimes buy with real money that contain random-in game rewards, and found that 4 of the 10 games it studied violated the Dutch Gaming Act. "It determined that loot boxes are, in general, addictive and that four of the games allowed players to trade items they'd won outside of the game, which means they've got a market value," reports Motherboard. From the report: According to the study, the authorities picked games "based on their popularity on a leading Internet platform that streams videos of games and players." Motherboard has reached out to the Gaming Authority for clarification on both the games it picked (the study doesn't name them) and the method by which it picked them, but did not receive an immediate reply. However, Twitch is the most popular way gamers watch others play and it's a good bet that Twitch is how the Gaming Authority focused its attention. Six of the ten games the Gaming Authority studied aren't in violation of Dutch law. "With these games, there is no opportunity to sell the prizes won outside of the game," the press release said. "This means that the goods have no market value and these loot boxes do not satisfy the definition of a prize in Section 1 of the Betting and Gaming Act."

The four others though offer the opportunity for players to trade items outside of the game and therefore meet the the Netherlands definition of gambling. To come into compliance, those games need to make their loot boxes less interesting to open. The Gaming Authority wants the companies to "remove the addiction-sensitive elements ('almost winning' effects, visual effects, ability to keep opening loot boxes quickly one after the other and suchlike)...and to implement measures to exclude vulnerable groups or to demonstrate that the loot boxes on offer are harmless."

Security

PUBG Ransomware Decrypts Your Files If You Play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (bleepingcomputer.com) 51

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: In what could only be a joke, a new ransomware has been discovered called "PUBG Ransomware" that will decrypt your files if you play the game called PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds... When the PUBG Ransomware is launched it will encrypt a user's files and folders on the user's desktop and append the .PUBG extension to them. When it has finished encrypting the files, it will display a screen giving you two methods that you can use to decrypt the encrypted files.
Users can unlock it either by entering a secret unlock code displayed on the screen -- or by playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The ransomware checks to see if you played PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds by monitoring the running processes for one named "TslGame"... Once a user plays the game and the process is detected, the ransomware will automatically decrypt the victim's files. This ransomware is not too advanced as it only looks for the process name and does not check for other information to confirm that the game is actually being played. That means you can simply run any executable called TslGame.exe and it will decrypt the files.
Crime

Jailed Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator Sneaks Online, Threatens More 'Swats' (kansas.com) 285

An anonymous reader quotes the Wichita Eagle: Tyler Barriss -- the man charged in a swatting hoax that led to the death of an innocent Wichita man -- apparently got access to the internet from jail for at least 28 minutes [last] Friday and threatened to swat again. "How am I on the Internet if I'm in jail? Oh, because I'm an eGod, that's how," a tweet posted at 9:05 a.m. said.
Other developments in the case:
  • Another tweet from the Barriss account 19 minutes later asked who was "talking shit," warning "your ass is about to get swatted." And nine minutes later his final tweet from jail bragged, "Y'all should see how much swag I got in here." The county sheriff's office blamed an outside vendor's improper software upgrade to an inmate kiosk, arguing that 14 inmates potentially had full internet access "for less than a few hours."
  • 25-year-old Barris is still in jail facing an 11-year prison sentence, noted a Twitter user who responded to the tweets. "This will play well at sentencing when you're pretending to be remorseful and asking the judge for mercy."
  • Meanwhile, the Wichita police officer who mistakenly fired the fatal shot that killed a 28-year-old father of two will not face charges. The district attorney concluded that several of the officers closest to victim Andrew Finch thought he reached down to pull up his pants, leaving his right arm hidden from the officers, the Wichita Eagle reports. "The officer who fired the shot, along with some others, thought Finch was reaching for a gun."
  • "This shooting should not have happened," said the district attorney. "But this officer's decision was made in the context of the false call." Finch was shot 10 seconds after opening his front door, and his family's civil case against the police department is still going forward.
  • Two other gamers involved in the shooting -- including one who allegedly hired Barriss over a $1.50 bet in the game Call of Duty -- have not been charged with a crime.

Classic Games (Games)

Guinness Strips Billy 'King of Kong' Mitchell's World Records (engadget.com) 58

In February, legendary arcade gamer Billy Mitchell was accused of cheating his way into the record books for high scores in Donkey Kong. As a result, he was stripped of his 1.062 million score on the Donkey Kong Forums. Today, Kotaku reports that "Guinness World Records will remove Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong scores, as well as his records for Pac-Man, from their database following Mitchell's disqualification from the Twin Galaxies leaderboards yesterday." From the report: Mitchell is one of the world's most famous arcade game players, at one time holding world records in Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, and Pac-Man. Yesterday, all of Mitchell's records were removed from the leaderboards at Twin Galaxies, an organization that tracks video game records and high scores. The decision came after a lengthy arbitration process determined that Mitchell used the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) to achieve some record scores that had been said to be performed on arcade machines, a violation of Twin Galaxies' rules. In light of this, Guinness World Records will also remove his records.

"The Guinness World Records titles relating to Mr. Mitchell's highest scores on Donkey Kong have all been disqualified due to Twin Galaxies being our source of verification for these achievements," a representative of Guinness told Kotaku via email. Mitchell did not return request for comment. Guinness continued, "We also recognize records for First perfect score on Pac-Man and Highest score on Pac-Man. Twin Galaxies was the original source of verification for these record titles and in line with their decision to remove all of Mr. Mitchell's records from their system, we have disqualified Mr. Mitchell as the holder of these two records. Guinness World Records will look to update and find the appropriate holder of these records in the next few days."

Graphics

Intel Reportedly Designing Arctic Sound Discrete GPU For Gaming, Pro Graphics (hothardware.com) 68

MojoKid shares a report from HotHardware: When AMD's former graphics boss Raja Koduri landed at Intel after taking a much-earned hiatus from the company, it was seen as a major coup for the Santa Clara chip outfit, one that seemed to signal that Intel might be targeting to compete in the discrete graphics card market. While nothing has been announced in that regard, some analysts are claiming that there will indeed be a gaming variant of Intel's upcoming discrete "Arctic Sound" GPU. According to reports, Intel originally planned to build Arctic Sound graphics chips mainly for video streaming chores and data center activities. However, claims are surfacing that the company has since decided to build out a gaming variant at the behest of Koduri, who wants to "enter the market with a bang." Certainly a gaming GPU that could compete with AMD and NVIDIA would accomplish that goal. Reportedly, Intel could pull together two different version of Arctic Sound. One would be an integrated chip package, like the Core i7-8809G (Kaby Lake-G) but with Intel's own discrete graphics, as well as a standalone chip that will end up in a traditional graphics cards. Likely both of those will have variants designed for gaming, just as AMD and NVIDIA build GPUs for professional use and gaming as well.
Privacy

Steam Spy Announces It's Shutting Down, Blames Valve's New Privacy Settings 97

Steam Spy, the world's most comprehensive game ownership and play estimator available to the public, announced that it "won't be able to operate anymore" thanks to recent changes to Valve's privacy policy. "Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default," the site's operators announced on its official Twitter account. "Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default." The creator of the website, Sergey Galyonkin, suggested that the site will only remain as an "archive" from here on out. Ars Technica reports: Indeed, Steam's new private-by-default setting is the kind of proactive, data-protective move that sites like Facebook have faced repeated scrutiny about over the past decade. However, as of press time, we could not confirm exactly how these updated settings will work, thanks to the service's "edit privacy settings" page currently appearing blank. (This can be found in the Steam interface by selecting the word "profile" under the menu that appears when mousing over your username.)

Valve pointed out that Steam will also receive a long, long, long-awaited "invisible" function for Steam's online-status toggle, which will allow players to actively communicate with Steam friends while hiding from the general public, and that it will also specifically let players hide both game ownership and gameplay time counts from friends. The company explained that Tuesday's changes came "directly from user feedback," which Steam Spy founder Sergey Galyonkin questioned via his site's Twitter feed: "They said it was by users feedback which makes me as a person born in the Soviet Union very suspicious :)" After Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney applauded Valve's privacy-minded policy change, Galyonkin responded with his own opinion on why so much data was open on Steam in the first place: "This was always a compromise between being able to play with other people and privacy," he wrote in response. "It seems they moved towards privacy now."
Sony

Sony PlayStation 5 Unlikely To Arrive Until 2020: Gizmodo (kotaku.com) 46

A recent online rumor got people buzzing about a possible 2018 release of PlayStation 5, but that's probably not going to happen, Gizmodo reports. Citing a source, the outlet says it believes the next PlayStation may not arrive until 2020. From the report: It's been nearly five years since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched, which has triggered bouts of nervousness and excitement among video game fans who want to know when they'll have to start hoarding pennies for a new generation of consoles. The PS4 launched seven years after the PS3, the Xbox One eight years after the Xbox 360. It's not unreasonable to be thinking about the next generation. We don't have a concrete answer just yet, but we have been asking around, and what we've heard is a whole lot of uncertainty.
Classic Games (Games)

Original 'System Shock' Code Open Sourced, More Updates Promised (kickstarter.com) 39

"The folks at Nightdive Studios this week released the source code for a Mac version of Looking Glass Studios' 1994 classic System Shock," reports Gamasutra. Friday the game's new owners unveiled on GitHub "the original, unaltered source code that was discovered by OtherSide Entertainment and graciously shared with us a few months ago... We have been hard at work updating this code and plan to release a new version of System Shock: Enhanced Edition as well as the code in the near future." We've gone back to the original vision we shared with you at the start of our Kickstarter campaign -- this time with more reliable performance and higher fidelity visuals thanks to the Unreal Engine... We have been able to re-use the majority of work we've done over the past year and we're making significant progress in a very short amount of time. With that said we'll be inviting our highest tier backers to privately test the game beginning in September at which point we estimate that the game will be fully playable, from start to finish. The majority of the art won't be finished, but we'll be ready to start high-level testing.
Going forward there's even a Twitch component. "In an effort to remain transparent throughout development we're going to begin streaming on a regular basis and inviting the backers to join us." And the audio department has also revealed some of the music from the medical deck.

After their Kickstarter was funded, Nightdive had explored making a "bigger, better game" after receiving a verbal commitment from a game publisher, but then "were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope... We still have the funds necessary to complete the game, but the timeline will inevitably move back with our shift in direction..."

"This will be closer to a 1:1 remake with updates to the weapon/character designs but without altering the core gameplay of the original."
Security

McAfee Finds That Gamers Are Strong Candidates for Cybersecurity Jobs (venturebeat.com) 62

To beat cybercriminals, McAfee suggests in a new report that gamers may be the key candidates for cybersecurity jobs. From a report: The Santa Clara, California-based cybersecurity company said it did a survey of 300 senior security managers and 650 security professionals at major corporations. And 78 percent of respondents said that the current generation entering the work force -- those that grew up playing video games -- are stronger candidates for cybersecurity roles. The report suggests that gamers, those engaged and immersed in online competitions, may be the logical next step to plugging the skills gap.

92 percent of respondents believe that gaming affords players experience and skills critical to cybersecurity threat hunting: logic, perseverance, an understanding of how to approach adversaries and a fresh outlook compared to traditional cybersecurity hires. Three-quarters of senior managers say they would consider hiring a gamer even if that person had no specific cybersecurity training or experience. 72 percent of respondents say hiring experienced video gamers into the IT department seems like a good way to plug the cybersecurity skills gap.

Software

Valve Removes Steam Machines From Its Home Page (extremetech.com) 164

Steam Machines were supposed to take PC gaming mainstream by simplifying setup and moving the games in your living room, but they never took off. Today, ExtremeTech reports that Valve has removed Steam Machine listings from the Steam front page due to poor sales. From the report: You can still access what remains of the Steam Machine landing site via a direct link -- not that you'll see much when you get there. It lists only five devices, one of which is no longer available on the manufacturer's site. Several of the remaining systems are arguably not even Steam Machines as Valve envisioned -- they run Windows 10 instead of SteamOS. The final nail in the coffin for Steam Machines may have come from Valve itself. In late 2015, it released the Steam Link. It's a small box that you plug into a TV, allowing you to stream a game from your PC in real time. The original price was just $50, and Valve is basically giving them away right now. Valve is still developing SteamOS, but I don't expect that to go on much longer.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Ban 'Offensive Language' From Skype, Xbox, Office and Other Services (csoonline.com) 317

According to Microsoft's new Terms of Services agreement, you could get banned for "offensive language," resulting in the termination of your Gold Membership and/or any Microsoft account balances. The changes go into effect on May 1. CSO Online reports: [I]f you and a significant other are getting hot and heavy via Skype, you better watch your language and any nudity because that, too, can get you banned. The ban hammer could also fall if Cortana is listening at the wrong moment or if documents and files hosted on Microsoft services violate Microsoft's amended terms. But how would Microsoft even know if you had truly been "offensive?" Well, that part falls under Code of Conduct Enforcement, which states, "When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue." Microsoft did add, "However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so." I'm not sure that will make you feel better, as another portion states that Microsoft "may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason."
Graphics

Ask Slashdot: How Did Real-Time Ray Tracing Become Possible With Today's Technology? 145

dryriver writes: There are occasions where multiple big tech manufacturers all announce the exact same innovation at the same time -- e.g. 4K UHD TVs. Everybody in broadcasting and audiovisual content creation knew that 4K/8K UHD and high dynamic range (HDR) were coming years in advance, and that all the big TV and screen manufacturers were preparing 4K UHD HDR product lines because FHD was beginning to bore consumers. It came as no surprise when everybody had a 4K UHD product announcement and demo ready at the same time. Something very unusual happened this year at GDC 2018 however. Multiple graphics and GPU companies, like Microsoft, Nvidia, and AMD, as well as other game developers and game engine makers, all announced that real-time ray tracing is coming to their mass-market products, and by extension, to computer games, VR content and other realtime 3D applications.

Why is this odd? Because for many years any mention of 30+ FPS real-time ray tracing was thought to be utterly impossible with today's hardware technology. It was deemed far too computationally intensive for today's GPU technology and far too expensive for anything mass market. Gamers weren't screaming for the technology. Technologists didn't think it was doable at this point in time. Raster 3D graphics -- what we have in DirectX, OpenGL and game consoles today -- was very, very profitable and could easily have evolved further the way it has for another 7 to 8 years. And suddenly there it was: everybody announced at the same time that real-time ray tracing is not only technically possible, but also coming to your home gaming PC much sooner than anybody thought. Working tech demos were shown. What happened? How did real-time ray tracing, which only a few 3D graphics nerds and researchers in the field talked about until recently, suddenly become so technically possible, economically feasible, and so guaranteed-to-be-profitable that everybody announced this year that they are doing it?
AI

EA Created An AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield (kotaku.com) 59

Electronic Arts' Search for Extraordinary Experiences (SEED) Division has created a "self-learning AI-agent" that has managed to teach itself how to play Battlefield 1 multiplayer. From a report: In this blog post, Magnus Nordin from SEED details how his team, inspired by Google's work with old Atari games, wondered "how much effort it would take to have a self-learning agent learn to play a modern and more complex first person AAA game like Battlefield." So they tried to find out. The results are an "agent" that, while inferior to human players, "is pretty proficient at the basic Battlefield gameplay." The agent changes behaviour if it's low on health or ammo, and while more complex behaviours like knowing the details of each map are beyond it (at the moment), EA has found that "while the human players outperformed the agents, it wasn't a complete blowout by any stretch."
Graphics

NVIDIA RTX Technology To Usher In Real-Time Ray Tracing Holy Grail of Gaming Graphics (hothardware.com) 159

HotHardware writes: NVIDIA has been dabbling in real-time ray tracing for over a decade. However, the company just introduced NVIDIA RTX, which is its latest effort to deliver real-time ray tracing to game developers and content creators for implementation in actual game engines. Historically, the computational horsepower to perform real-time ray tracing has been too great to be practical in actual games, but NVIDIA hopes to change that with its new Volta GPU architecture and the help of Microsoft's new DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API enhancements. Ray tracing is a method by which images are enhanced by tracing rays or paths of light as they bounce in and around an object (or objects) in a scene. Under optimum conditions, ray tracing delivers photorealistic imagery with shadows that are correctly cast; water effects that show proper reflections and coloring; and scenes that are cast with realistic lighting effects. NVIDIA RTX is a combination of software (the company's Gameworks SDK, now with ray tracing support), and next generation GPU hardware. NVIDIA notes its Volta architecture has specific hardware support for real-time ray tracing, including offload via its Tensor core engines. To show what's possible with the technology, developers including Epic, 4A Games and Remedy Entertainment will be showcasing their own game engine demonstrations this week at the Game Developers Conference. NVIDIA expects the ramp to be slow at first, but believes eventually most game developers will adopt real-time ray tracing in the future.
Games

New Study Which Made 90 Adults Play 'GTA' or 'The Sims 3' For At least 30 Mins Every Day For 2 Months Finds 'No Significant Changes' in Their Behavior (arstechnica.com) 193

A new, longer-term study of video game play from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Germany's University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf recently published in Molecular Psychiatry found that adults showed "no significant changes" on a wide variety of behavioral measures after two straight months of daily violent game play. From a report: To correct for the "priming" effects inherent in these other studies, researchers had 90 adult participants play either Grand Theft Auto V or The Sims 3 for at least 30 minutes every day over eight weeks (a control group played no games during the testing period). The adults chosen, who ranged from 18 to 45 years old, reported little to no video game play in the previous six months and were screened for pre-existing psychological problems before the tests. The participants were subjected to a wide battery of 52 established questionnaires intended to measure "aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy, and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs (such as sensation seeking, boredom proneness, risk taking, delay discounting), mental health (depressivity, anxiety) as well as executive control functions." The tests were administered immediately before and immediately after the two-month gameplay period and also two months afterward, in order to measure potential continuing effects. Over 208 separate comparisons (52 tests; violent vs. non-violent and control groups; pre- vs. post- and two-months-later tests), only three subjects showed a statistically significant effect of the violent gameplay at a 95 percent confidence level.

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