HughPickens.com writes: Michael Agger has an interesting article in the New Yorker about parenting in the internet era and why Minecraft is the one game parents want their kids to play. He says, "Screens are no longer simply bicycles for the mind; they are bicycles that children can ride anywhere, into the virtual schoolyard where they might encounter disturbing news photos, bullies, creeps, and worse. Setting a child free on the Internet is a failure to cordon off the world and its dangers. It's nuts. ... The comfort of games is that they are partially walled off from the larger Internet, with their own communities and leaderboards. But what unsettles parents about Internet gaming, despite fond memories of after-school Nintendo afternoons, is its interconnectivity. Minecraft is played by both boys and girls, unusually. ... At its best, the game is not unlike being in the woods with your best friends. Parents also join in."
According to Agger, the significance of Minecraft is how the game shows us that lively, pleasant virtual worlds can exist alongside our own, and that they are places where we want to spend time, where we learn and socialize. "To me what Minecraft represents is more than a hit game franchise," says new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "It's this open-world platform. If you think about it, it's the one game parents want their kids to play." We need to meet our kids halfway in these worlds, and try to guide them like we do in the real world, concludes Agger. "Who knows how Minecraft will change under Microsoft's ownership, but it's a historic game that has shown many of us a middle way to navigate the eternal screens debate."
New submitter ildon writes: Recently, the rights holder of former game publisher Softdisk's game library put the rights to some of their old titles up for sale, including Commander Keen: Keen Dreams, one of the few games in the series not to be published by Apogee. A group of fans created an Indiegogo campaign to purchase those rights. We are just now seeing the fruits of that effort with the full source code of the game being published to GitHub. About a year ago, Tom Hall found the sources to episodes 4-6, but it's not clear what, if any, progress has been made on getting Bethesda to allow that code to be released.
An anonymous reader writes: Multiplayer modes used to be an extra part of most games — an optional addition that the developers could build (or not) as they saw fit. These days, it's different: many games are marketed under the illusion of being single-player, when their focus has shifted to an almost mandatory multiplayer mode. (Think always-online DRM, and games as services.) It's not that this is necessarily bad for gameplay — it's that design patterns are shifting, and if you don't like multiplayer, you're going to have a harder time finding games you do like.
The article's author uses a couple recent major titles as backdrop for the discussion: "With both Diablo III and Destiny, I'm not sure where and how to attribute my enjoyment. Yes, the mechanics of both are sound, but given the resounding emptiness felt when played solo, perhaps the co-op element is compensating. I'd go so far as to argue games can be less mechanically compelling, so long as the multiplayer element is engaging. The thrill of barking orders at friends can, in a way, cover design flaws. I hem and haw on the quality of each game's mechanics because the co-op aspect literally distracted me from engaging with them to some degree."
wiredog writes Security researcher Michael Jordon has hacked a Canon's Pixma printer to run Doom. He did so by reverse engineering the firmware encryption and uploading via the update interface. From the BBC: "Like many modern printers, Canon's Pixma range can be accessed via the net, so owners can check the device's status. However, Mr Jordon, who works for Context Information Security, found Canon had done a poor job of securing this method of interrogating the device. 'The web interface has no user name or password on it,' he said. That meant anyone could look at the status of any device once they found it, he said. A check via the Shodan search engine suggests there are thousands of potentially vulnerable Pixma printers already discoverable online. There is no evidence that anyone is attacking printers via the route Mr Jordon found."
jawtheshark writes The rumors were true. Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, is being sold to Microsoft. Of course, the promise is to keep all products supported as they are. From the article: "Microsoft said it has agreed to buy Mojang AB, the Swedish video game company behind the hit Minecraft game, boosting its mobile efforts and cementing control of another hit title for its Xbox console. Minecraft, which has notched about 50 million copies sold, will be purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion, the company said in a statement. The move marks the tech giant's most ambitious video game purchase and the largest acquisition for Satya Nadella, its new chief executive. Minecraft is more than a great game franchise - it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft,' Nadella said in a statement."
An anonymous reader writes If you use Twitch don't click on any suspicious links in the video streaming platform's chat feature. Twitch Support's official Twitter account issued a security warning telling users not to click the "csgoprize" link in chat. According to f-secure, the link leads to a Java program that asks for your name and email. If you provide the info it will install a file on your computer that's able to take out any money you have in your Steam wallet, as well as sell or trade items in your inventory. "This malware, which we call Eskimo, is able to wipe your Steam wallet, armory, and inventory dry," says F-Secure. "It even dumps your items for a discount in the Steam Community Market. Previous variants were selling items with a 12 percent discount, but a recent sample showed that they changed it to 35 percent discount. Perhaps to be able to sell the items faster."
Destiny is a first-person shooter set in a persistent, online world. It was released on Tuesday by Bungie, the development studio behind Halo, and billed as a blending of console shooters and progression-based MMOs. Reviews for the game are finally trickling out, and most publications say it's merely average. (Though it's worth noting that the social and multiplayer portions of the game are difficult to evaluate in such a short timeframe, and like many MMOs, Destiny will continue to see active development.) Polygon's Arthur Gies reports, "Destiny doesn't look real, but rather, it looks like painted concept art, meticulously assembled and presented to you at all times. Instead, it's the suggestion, through Destiny's concept, its soundtrack and its visual presentation, that Destiny is big. That there's a whole universe out there to explore, a reality worth discovering. There isn't, though."
Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb had a similar reaction: "There are cool little flashes of brilliance in Destiny, but a lot of it feels like a game designed by people who weren't sure what sort of game they were designing. Is it a loot shooter? Sort of, but the loot isn't very good. Is it an MMO? No, but you'll occasionally encounter other players out in the field. A story-driven shooter like the Halo franchise? Sure, if you don't mind digging through the developer's website to find those little bits of lore." The Escapist's Jim Sterling concludes, "Destiny exists in the shadow of multiple games, taking a little from each, and doing nothing truly remarkable with any of it. It's a prime example of how the nebulous concept of 'content' can be used to puff up a game without adding anything to it."
An anonymous reader writes with this piece about Digital Knights, the studio behind the Kickstarter campaign project Sienna Storm, which was cancelled this week after the team raised only 10% of their $180,000 target, despite a compelling concept (a card based espionage game) and a reputable team including the writer of the original Deus Ex, Sheldon Pacotti.
The team is now seeking alternative funding before reaching out to publishers, but in an interview given this week, Knights CEO Sergei Filipov highlights what he sees as a recent and growing problem with crowdfunding games: an expectation to see a working prototype. "It seems at least 50 or 60 percent of the game needs to be completed before one launches a campaign on Kickstarter," he says. It's a chicken and egg cycle some indie developers will struggle to break out of, and shows just how far we've come since Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter burst the doors open two years ago.
dotarray (1747900) writes "A surprising story has emerged today that suggests Microsoft is looking to buy Minecraft developer Mojang. The reported price tag is "more than US$2 billion."
The original report is at the WSJ (possibly behind a paywall). Quoting: "For Microsoft, "Minecraft" could reinvigorate the company's 13-year-old Xbox videogame business by giving it a cult hit with a legion of young fans. Mojang has sold more than 50 million copies of "Minecraft" since it was initially released in 2009 and earned more than $100 million in profits last year from the game and merchandise. "Minecraft" is already available on the Xbox, as well as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, PCs and smartphones."
An anonymous reader writes: John Romero helped bring us Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein, but he's also known for Daikatana — an immensely-hyped followup that flopped hard. After remaining on the periphery of game development since then, Romero announced last month that he's coming back to the FPS genre with a new game in development. Today, he spoke with Develop Magazine about his thoughts on the future of shooters. Many players worry that the genre is stagnant, but Romero disagrees that this has to be the case. "Shooters have so many places to go, but people just copy the same thing over and over because they're afraid to try something new. We've barely scratched the surface."
He also thinks the technology underpinning games matters less than ever. Romero says high poly counts and new shaders are a distraction from what's important: good game design. "Look at Minecraft – it's unbelievable that it was made by one person, right? And it shows there's plenty of room for something that will innovate and change the whole industry. If some brilliant designers take the lessons of Minecraft, take the idea of creation and playing with an environment, and try to work out what the next version of that is, and then if other people start refining that, it'll take Minecraft to an area where it will become a real genre, the creation game genre."
An anonymous reader writes Through a Google Summer of Code project this year was work to emulate systemd on OpenBSD. Upstream systemd remains uninterested in supporting non-Linux platforms so a student developer has taken to implementing the APIs of important systemd components so that they translate into native systemd calls. The work achieved this summer was developing replacements for the systemd-hostnamed, systemd-localed, systemd-timedated, and systemd-logind utilities. The hope is to allow for systemd-dependent components like more recent versions of GNOME to now run on OpenBSD.
New submitter Maxo-Texas writes One of the primary programmers, Wesley Wolfe (Wolvereness), who contributed over 23,000 lines of code to the Bukkit project (which enhances Minecraft server performance and allows others to write mods and plugins) submitted a DMCA request September 5th, preventing use of his code in the popular Bukkit or Spigot (and numerous other Minecraft plugins, mods, and other open source enhancements that depend on them). This has the effect of freezing all further development for multi-player server Minecraft based on these add-ons until the issue is resolved.
The programmer says that Mojang must release the Minecraft server code to the public domain since decompiled, deobfuscated versions of the Java code are included in the Bukkit project before he will withdraw the DMCA. Mojang has never released the real source code and has stated they will not open source the server code to meet the GPL and LGPL licensing requirements. This approach might be a risk for other GPL and LGPL projects out there which are derivative of or enhance non GPL programs or products. Mojang COO Vu Bui writes in a post at the Bukkit forums The official Minecraft Server software that we have made available is not included in CraftBukkit. Therefore there is no obligation for us to provide the original code or any source code to the Minecraft Server, nor any obligation to authorize its use. Our refusal to make available or authorize the use of the original / source code of the Minecraft Server software cannot therefore be considered to give rise to an infringement of any copyright of Wesley, nor any other person. Wesley’s allegations are therefore wholly unfounded.
An anonymous reader writes: After surprising everyone by demonstrating Samsung's new VR headset at IFA yesterday, John Carmack spoke with Gamasutra about the difficulties of developing virtual reality in a mobile environment. He also had some interesting comments on developing for Android: 'Okay, there's the normal hell of moving to a new platform — and I gotta say, Android was more hell to move to than most consoles I've adopted. Just because of the way Google has to position things across a diverse hardware spectrum, and because Google still doesn't really endorse native code development — they'd still rather everyone worked in Java. And that's a defensible position, but it's certainly not what you want to be doing on a resource-constrained VR system. So brace yourself: Android setup and development really does suck. It's no fun at all.' He also had insights on building compute-intensive software — if you go to full speed on all CPU and GPU cores, you can expect overheating and thermal throttling in less than a minute.
skade88 notes an interesting new piece of tactile feedback technology unveiled in Japan. Officials of Miraisens, a high-tech firm based outside Tokyo, said the technology, which can be used to improve the gaming experience or allow someone to physically shape objects that exist only on a computer, will soon be available for purchase. "Touching is an important part of human communication, but until now virtual reality has lacked it," Chief Executive Natsuo Koda said. "This technology will give you a sense that you can touch objects in the 3-D world," said Koda, a former virtual reality researcher for Sony Corp. It works by fooling the brain, blending what the eye sees with different patterns of vibration created by a small fingertip device, said Norio Nakamura, the inventor of so-called 3D-Haptics Technology and chief technical officer at the firm. In one demonstration of a prototype head-mounted display, the company showed how the wearer can feel resistance by pushing virtual buttons.
Randy Davis sends analysis of Amazon's acquisition of Twitch.tv, a move that indicates higher ambitions than simply another avenue for putting products in front of consumers. The Daily Herald think this is a sign Amazon is bulking up for a fight with cable companies, strengthening is bargaining position for getting (and maintaining) access to subscribers. "There are very few places in the U.S. where these four giant carriers allow independent networks carrying traffic from the data centers run by Amazon (and future Twitch.tv successors) to put that data on the carriers' controlled networks."
A related article at the NY Times argues Amazon is "betting on content," not wanting to fall behind the surge of new media productions from companies like Netflix. "There is a huge land grab for nontraditional models of programming. DreamWorks Animation bought AwesomenessTV, a popular YouTube channel, last year, and in March, Disney snatched up Maker Studios, a video supplier for YouTube, while Peter Chernin, formerly president of News Corporation, has invested in Crunchyroll, a streaming hub of anime. All of these deals are about content, but they are also a hedge, a way of exploring other production protocols that don’t involve prominent stars, agents and expensive producers." A different piece at The Motley Fool takes the acquisition as confirmation Amazon is developing its own ad network.
An anonymous reader writes: As id Software aims for a larger, more mainstream audience for its free-to-play shooter Quake Live (based on 1998's Quake III Arena) on Steam, big changes are afoot. A new update was pushed out last week which adds some new, more beginner-friendly features to the game. These include weapon loadouts, which grant players a weapon of their choice when they spawn, timer icons, which indicate when the all-important powerup items will spawn, and an automatic bunny-hop to gain extra speed. The changes have been met with hostility from longtime players who prefer the "purist" rules of old and the duel format. As the writer points out, however, if the update helps attract more elite players to the gamer, it could breathe new life into a very old game.
MojoKid writes Dell's enthusiast Alienware brand has always stood out for its unique, other-worldly looks (sometimes good, sometimes, not so good) and there's such a thing as taking things to the next level, this might be it. However, there's more to this refresh than just shock value. It's actually a futuristic aesthetic with a rather purposeful design behind it. Today Alienware gave a sneak peek at their completely redesigned Alienware Area 51 desktop system. This refreshed system is unlike any previous Alienware rig you've seen. With a trapezoidal shape to its chassis, Dell-Alienware says you can place the Area-51 against a wall and not have to worry about thermals getting out of the control. That's because there's a controlled gap and a sharp angle to the chassis that ensures only a small part of the system actually rests near the wall, leaving extra room for hot air to escape up and away. This design also offers users easy access to rear IO ports. Despite the unique design, there's plenty of room for high end components inside. The retooled chassis can swallow up to three 300W double-wide full-length graphics cards. It also brings to the table Intel's latest and greatest Haswell-E in six-core or eight-core options, liquid cooled and nestled into Intel's X99 chipset. No word from Dell on the price but the new Area-51 is slated to start shipping in October.