DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
XBox (Games)

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 13

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
Network

Gamers in Hawaii Can't Compete... Because of Latency (theoutline.com) 267

Sometimes it's very important to know that the servers of the web services you're using are situated somewhere in your neighbourhood. And it's not just because of privacy concerns. The Outline has a story this week in which it talks about gamers in Hawaii who're increasingly finding it difficult to compete in global tournaments because the games' servers are almost every time placed overseas. From the article: [...] The game's server is in Chicago. That means if you live in the Midwest, your computer can communicate with it almost instantaneously. If you're in L.A., it can take roughly 60 milliseconds. But if you're in Hawaii, it can take 120 milliseconds, with some players reporting as long as 200 milliseconds. And at the highest echelons of competitive video gaming, milliseconds matter. [...] In League and other eSports games, playing on a high ping is a big disadvantage. The goal of the game is to set up defenses to protect your base while pushing forward to capture the enemy's base, and there are typically lightning bolts and fireballs and slime-spitting dragons shooting across the screen. Playing on a high ping means players may not see all of the action that happens in a game. Latency can really screw things up for a young eSports scene, said Zack Johnson, who runs gg Circuit, a global tournament provider for gaming centers like PC Gamerz. Players on the mainland sometimes say they don't want to compete against Hawaii players, he said, because the high ping throws things off.
Transportation

Grand Theft Auto V Is Being Used To Help Teach Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team.

Nintendo

Nintendo To Launch SNES Mini This Year, Reports Eurogamer (eurogamer.net) 94

Nintendo plans to release another console this year aimed at nostalgia-seekers. The iconic game company is working on a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) classic version that would launch in time for the holidays, according to Eurogamer, which cites sources with knowledge of the plans. The device is already under development and -- like its predecessor the NES Classic Edition -- will give gamers access to some of the console's biggest hits. From the article: Nintendo's plans for SNES mini are also a major reason why last year's NES mini did not see a reprieve from discontinuation, Eurogamer understands, despite the latter's continued popularity and sell-out status.
Desktops (Apple)

StarCraft Is Now Free, Nearly 20 Years After Its Release (techcrunch.com) 237

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Nearly two decades after its 1998 release, StarCraft is now free. Legally! Blizzard has just released the original game -- plus the Brood War expansion -- for free for both PC and Mac. You can find it here. Up until a few weeks ago, getting the game with its expansion would've cost $10-15 bucks. The company says they've also used this opportunity to improve the game's anti-cheat system, add "improved compatibility" with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, and fix a few long lasting bugs. So why now? The company is about to release a remastered version of the game in just a few months, its graphics/audio overhauled for modern systems. Once that version hits, the original will probably look a bit ancient by comparison -- so they might as well use it to win over a few new fans, right?
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 130

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
Nintendo

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is Now the Fastest-Selling Nintendo Launch Title of All Time (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: It's no surprise that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, a console that just had its strongest U.S. opening ever for the company. But managing to sell more copies than consoles that can actually play it? That's what's happened in the U.S., amazingly -- Nintendo just announced that it sold 906,000 Switch consoles in March along with 925,000 copies of Breath of the Wild. The Wii U version moved almost 460,000 units on top of that, making for total sales of over 1.3 million. Breath of the Wild is now the fastest-selling Nintendo launch title of all time and the fastest-selling Legend of Zelda game ever. Nintendo says it thinks the Switch attach rate of more than 100 percent might be explained by people who bought a limited edition version to collect and a regular version to actually play, though another possibility is that some bought the game before they could find the console itself in stock.
Nintendo

Nintendo Discontinues the NES Classic Edition (polygon.com) 104

A Nintendo representative has confirmed today that the company will be discontinuing the NES Classic Edition, "a plug-and-play console that became popular with collectors as soon as it launched last fall," reports Polygon. The last shipments of the consoles will hit stores this month. From the report: [Nintendo said in a statement to IGN:] "Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product." "NES Classic Edition wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans," it told IGN.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Digital Refunds in Xbox and Windows Stores (polygon.com) 15

Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.
AI

AI Wins $290,000 in Chinese Poker Competition (bbc.com) 81

An AI program has beaten a team of six poker players at a series of exhibition matches in China. From a report on BBC: The AI system, called Lengpudashi, won a landslide victory and $290,000 in the five-day competition. It is the second time this year that an AI program has beaten competitive poker players. An earlier version of the program, known as Libratus, beat four of the world's best poker pros during a 20-day game in January.
Canada

Canada Hid the Konami Code In Its Commemorative $10 Bill Launch (engadget.com) 78

The Bank of Canada has hid a "Konami Code" Easter egg on its website celebrating their new $10 bank note. The Konami Code is a cheat code that appears in many Konami video games, allowing players to press a sequence of buttons on their game controller to enable the cheat. "The Bank of Canada's web team thought the Konami code [Easter egg] was a fun way to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation," Bank of Canada spokeswoman Josianne Menard told CTV news. Engadget reports: On top of being laden with anti-counterfeiting tech that makes it extremely difficult to copy (holograms, raised ink, color-changing images and polymer materials), the new ten is a who's who and what's what of Canadian history. It features Canada's founding Prime Minister John A. MacDonald, Agnes Macphail, first woman parliamentarian, and Indigenous peoples pioneer James Gladstone, known in his Blackfoot language as Akay-na-muka. It also shows Canada's prairies, the coastal mountains of British Columbia, the Canadian Shield, Atlantic coast, northern lights, Metis Assomption Sash, maple leaf and much more (no poutine, though). All of that is squeezed on the 152.4 x 69.85 mm note -- that's exactly 6 x 2.75 inches, because Canada uses the metric system but probably still buys its printing presses from the U.S. The Konami code is in keeping with Canada's tradition of doing cute, pop-culture things with its history.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Minecraft Set To Launch Its Own Currency (bloomberg.com) 67

Minecraft's popularity shows no signs of slowing down. Microsoft, which acquired the game's maker, Mojang, in 2014, has recently launched the game in China and continues to market it well in the U.S. The next big step for the game is the introduction of a new marketplace and brand new currency -- within the game itself. What this does is it "[opens] up the opportunity for businesses to sell their original content and creations to tens of millions of the game's players for the first time," writes Nate Lanxon via Bloomberg. From the report: Set to go live in the spring, nine businesses will be selling feature packs within Minecraft -- such as new storylines, in-game activities or landscapes to explore -- with prices ranging between about $1 and $10 per creation. Other companies can apply to be allowed into the marketplace over subsequent months. Users wishing to purchase content will need to buy a form of new currency -- Minecraft Coins. A store within the game does already exist but is limited to only items created by the Minecraft development team. The change to allow third-party developers to sell their wares within the same ecosystem opens up an entirely new business model for independent creatives.
Classic Games (Games)

Celebrating '21 Things We Miss About Old Computers' (denofgeek.com) 467

"Today, we look back at the classic era of home computing that existed alongside the dreariness of business computing and the heart-pounding noise and colour of the arcades," writes the site Den of Geek. An anonymous reader reports: The article remembers the days of dial-up modems, obscure computer magazines, and the forgotten phenomenon of computer clubs. ("There was a time when if you wanted to ask a question about something computer related, or see something in action, you'd have to venture outside and into another building to go and see it.") Gamers grappled with old school controllers, games distributed on cassette tapes, low-resolution graphics and the "playground piracy" of warez boards -- when they weren't playing the original side-scrolling platformers like Mario Bros and Donkey Kong at video arcades.

In a world where people published fanzines on 16-bit computers, shared demo programs, and even played text adventures, primitive hardware may have inspired future coders, since "Old computers typically presented you with a command prompt as soon as you switched them on, meaning that they were practically begging to be programmed on." Home computers "mesmerised us, educated us, and in many cases, bankrupted us," the article remembers -- until they were replaced by more powerful hardware. "You move on, but you never fully get over your first love," it concludes -- while also adding that "what came next was pretty amazing."

Does this bring back any memories for anybody -- or provoke any wistful nostalgic for a bygone era? Either way, I really liked the way that the article ended. "The most exciting chapter of all, my geeky friends? The future!"
The Internet

Die-Hard Sysops Are Resurrecting BBS's From The 1980s (arstechnica.com) 245

Ars Technica reports on vintage computing hobbyists "resurrecting digital communities that were once thought lost to time...some still running on original 8-bit hardware." Sometimes using modern technology like Raspberry Pi and TCPser (which emulates a Hayes modem for Telnet connections), they're reviving decades-old dial-up bulletin board systems (or BBSes) as portals "to places that have been long forgotten." An anonymous reader writes: One runs the original software on a decades-old Commodore 128DCR. Another routes telnet connections across a real telephone circuit that connects to a Hayes modem. And after 23 years, the Dura-Europos BBS is back in business, using an Apple IIe running its original GBBS Pro software -- augmented with a modern CFFA3000 compact flash drive, and a Raspberry Pi running TCPser. [It's at dura-bbs.net, using port 6359.] Ars Technica blames "the meteoric rise of the World Wide Web and the demise of protocols that came before it" for the death of BBSes. "Owners of older 8-bit machines had little reason to maintain their hardware as their userbase migrated to the open pastures of the Web, and the number of bulletin board systems plummeted accordingly...

"Despite the threat of extinction, however, it turns out that some sysops never quite gave up on the BBS," and for many modern-day users, "it's simply a matter of 'dialing' the BBS using a domain name and port number instead of a phone number in their preferred terminal software." There they'll find primitive BBS games like STARTREK, Chess, and Blackjack, but also "old conversation threads dating back decades were available verbatim... It's like a buried digital time capsule."

One user says visiting a web site today "has a very public feel to it, whereas a BBS feels very much like being invited into someone's living room." The article also remembers "the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky)," adding that "to see what was accomplished with so little was simply humbling."
Encryption

Ransomware Asks For High Score Instead of Money (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Rensenware" forces players to get a high score in a difficult PC shoot-em-up to decrypt their files. As Malware Hunter Team noted yesterday, users on systems infected with Rensenware are faced with the usual ransomware-style warning that "your precious data like documents, musics, pictures, and some kinda project files" have been "encrypted with highly strong encryption algorithm." The only way to break the encryption lock, according to the warning, is to "score 0.2 billion in LUNATIC level" on TH12 ~ Undefined Fantastic Object. That's easier said than done, as this gameplay video of the "bullet hell" style Japanese shooter shows. As you may have guessed from the specifics here, the Rensenware bug was created more in the spirit of fun than maliciousness. After Rensenware was publicized on Twitter, its creator, who goes by Tvple Eraser on Twitter and often posts in Korean, released an apology for releasing what he admitted was "a kind of highly-fatal malware." The apology is embedded in a Rensenware "forcer" tool that Tvple Eraser has released to manipulate the game's memory directly, getting around the malware's encryption without the need to play the game (assuming you have a copy installed, that is). While the original Rensenware source code has been taken down from the creator's Github page, a new "cut" version has taken its place, showing off the original joke without any actually malicious forced encryption.

Slashdot Top Deals