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the_newsbeagle writes "Currently, the best way to check if a person has a high likelihood of developing Alzheimer's is to perform a PET scan to measure the amount of amyloid plaque in his or her brain. That's an expensive procedure. But a startup called Akili Interactive says it has developed a mobile game that can identify likely Alzheimer's patients just by their gameplay and game results. The game is based on a neuroscience study which showed that multitasking is one of the first brain functions to take a hit in Alzheimer's patients. Therefore the game requires players to perform two tasks at the same time."
An anonymous reader writes "This article goes into the making of upcoming fantasy title The Witcher 3. The studio, CD Projekt Red, reveals that, unusually, it'll be releasing the game as a DRM-free download. 'We believe that DRM does more harm to legit gamers than good for the gaming industry, that's why the game will also be completely DRM-free,' says the game's level designer, Miles Tost. The game will build on the strengths of The Witcher 2 while attempting to broaden its scope. 'We want to combine the strong pull of closed-world RPGs story-wise, with a world where you can go anywhere and do anything you want.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Game design is one of those jobs everybody thinks they can do. After all, they've played a few games, and they know what they liked and disliked, right? How hard could it be? Well, professional game designer Liz England has summed up the difficulty of the job and the breadth of knowledge needed to do it in what she calls 'the door problem.' Quoting: 'Premise: You are making a game. Are there doors in your game? Can the player open them? Can the player open every door in the game? What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open? What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door? What if the level is REALLY BIG and can't all exist at the same time?' This is just a few of the questions that need answering. She then goes through how other employees in the company respond to the issue, often complicating it. 'Network Programmer: "Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?" Release Engineer: "You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk." Producer: "Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?"'"
An anonymous reader writes "Today BioWare announced a new game in its popular Dragon Age RPG series titled Inquisition. The game will follow the story of an Inquisitor trying to rally the world against the magic-laden forces spewing from rifts opening to another place. The game's creative director, Mike Laidlaw, says players will be able to watch the world descend into chaos, and then deal with the burdens of power as they rally forces in opposition. BioWare is also taking the opportunity to fix all of the things they broke in Dragon Age 2: 'Top-down tactical view is back. Playable races are back. The game seems to have more of an emphasis on challenge thanks to non-regenerative health.' The game will launch on October 7th for the PC, PS3/4, and Xbox 360/One."
An anonymous reader writes "Here's an interesting look at the battle for mobile video game money between Google and Apple. 'Last August, for the launch of "Plants Vs. Zombies 2," a highly anticipated sequel to a popular zombie-survival strategy game, publisher Electronic Arts Inc. struck a deal with Apple, which promoted the game prominently in its App Store, according to people familiar with the matter. In exchange, one of these people said, EA agreed to give Apple about a two-month window of exclusivity for the title, which wasn't released on Google's Android software until October.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The folks at Ars Technica scraped a ton of gameplay data from Steam's player profiles to provide statistics on how many people own each game, and how often it's played. For example: 37% of the ~781 million games owned by Steam users have never been played. Dota 2 has been played by almost 26 million people for a total of 3.8 billion hours. Players of CoD: Modern Warfare 2 spend six times as long in multiplayer as in single-player. This sampling gives much more precise data than we usually have about game sales rates. 'If there's one big takeaway from looking at the entirety of our Steam sales and player data, it's that a few huge ultra-hits are driving the majority of Steam usage. The vast majority of titles form a "long tail" of relative crumbs. Out of about 2,750 titles we've tracked using our sampling method, the top 110 sellers represent about half of the individual games registered to Steam accounts. That's about four percent of the distinct titles, each of which has sold 1.38 million copies or more. This represents about 50 percent of the registered sales on the service. ... about half of the estimated 18.5 billion man-hours that have been spent across all Steam games have gone toward just the six most popular titles.'"
An anonymous reader writes "StarCraft II is popular among competitive gamers for having the depth necessary to reward differences in skill. A new study has found that your ability keep up with the game's frantic pace starts to decline at age 24. This is relevant to more than just StarCraft II players: 'While many high-performance athletes start to show age-related declines at a young age, those are often attributed to physical as opposed to brain aging. ... While previous lab tests have shown faster reaction times for simple individual tasks, it was never clear how much relevance those had to complex, real-world tasks such as driving. Thompson noted that Starcraft is complex and quite similar to real-life tasks such as managing 911 calls at an emergency dispatch centre, so the findings may be directly relevant. However, game performance was much easier to analyze than many real-life situations because the game generates detailed logs of every move. In a way, Thompson said, the study is a good demonstration of what kinds of insights can be gleaned from the "cool data sets" generated by our digital lives.'"
An anonymous reader writes "With Watch Dogs launching next month, Ubisoft is ramping up the promotion. That includes holding press events to show off the game to journalists, many of whom will end up reviewing Watch Dogs. One such event was held last week in Paris, and it has been revealed by attendees that Ubisoft decided to give everyone who turned up a Nexus 7 tablet. Why? That hasn't been explained yet, but in a statement on Twitter, Ubisoft said such gifts were 'not in line with their PR policies.' You can see how it would be viewed with skepticism; after all, these are the individuals who will give Watch Dogs a review score, which many gamers rely on to help them make a purchasing decision."
MojoKid writes: "One of the hot topics in the wake of Titanfall's launch has been whether or not DirectX 12 would make a difference to the game's sometimes jerky framerate and lower-than-expected 792p resolution. According to Titanfall developer Jon Shirling, the new Microsoft API isn't needed to improve the game's performance, and updates coming down the pipe should improve Xbox One play in the near future. This confirms what many expected since DX12 was announced — the API may offer performance improvements in certain scenarios, but DX12 isn't a panacea for the Xbox One's lackluster performance compared to the PS4. It's an API that appears to mostly address scenarios where the CPU isn't able to keep the GPU fed due to draw call bottlenecks."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars reports on a panel at PAX East which delved into the strength of the PC as a platform for games, and what its future looks like. The outlook is positive: 'Even as major computer OEMs produce numbers showing falling sales, the PC as a platform (and especially a gaming platform) actually shows strong aggregate growth.' The panelists said that while consoles get a lot of the headlines, the PC platform remains the only and/or best option for a lot of developers and gamers. They briefly addressed piracy, as well: 'Piracy, [Matt Higby] said, is an availability and distribution problem. The more games are crowdfunded and digitally delivered and the less a "store" figures into buying games, the less of a problem piracy becomes. [Chris Roberts] was quick to agree, and he noted that the shift to digital distribution also helps the developers make more money — they ostensibly don't have everyone along the way from retailers to publishers to distributors taking their cut from the sale.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Today at PAX East, Firaxis announced Civilization: Beyond Earth. It's a new Civ game inspired by their sci-fi strategy classic Alpha Centauri. Beyond Earth is currently planned to launch this year on the PC. According to Game Informer: 'Beyond Earth presents an opportunity for Firaxis to throw off the shackles of human history and give players the chance to sculpt their own destinies. Civilization games typically have a set endpoint at humanities modern age, but Beyond Earth has given Firaxis the opportunity and the challenge of creating a greater sense of freedom. ... The five different victory conditions that represent that next major event in human history are tied to the new technology web. At the start of the game, players will choose leaders and factions (no longer bundled with one another) and choose colonists and equipment to settle the land. Once descending from orbit, the technology web allows players to move in a number of directions.'"
vrml (3027321) writes "They revealed the existence of their project only to aviation safety specialists at the recent FAA Conference on Cabin Safety in Philadelphia (PDF). Now a team of Italian researchers from the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has publicly released the first in a set of aviation safety apps on which they are working. Their mission is to propose novel, first-of-their-kind solutions to a well-known problem in aviation safety: passengers lack preparedness about what to do in aircraft emergencies, and do not pay attention or do not clearly comprehend the pre-flight briefings and safety cards used by airlines to instruct them about safety. So the project is re-inventing safety cards and briefings with new media, turning them into games and apps. The first game they decided to release focuses specifically on the 'Brace for impact' position: players can pose the body of their avatar in the 3D airplane cabin and get a personalized simulation of a crash landing . To win the game, you must save your avatar (and yourself)."
An anonymous reader writes "This article makes the case that most gamers treat 'free-to-play' games with derision and scorn when they really shouldn't. The author refers to it as 'snobbery.' We've all either encountered or heard about a game company using shady business practices to squeeze every cent from their users through in-app purchases (a.k.a. microtransations, a.k.a. cash shops), or a simple pay-to-win format. But these stories don't represent all games — by a long shot. It's something endemic to shady developers and publishers, not the business model. Think about traditionally-sold games, and how often you've seen a trailer that horribly misrepresents gameplay. Or a $60 game that was an unfinished, buggy mess. Or a Kickstarted project that didn't deliver on its promises. The author says, 'When something is new, when it isn't aimed at you, when it is created by strange people in strange places, when it breaks established norms and when it is becoming hugely popular... it's scary for the establishment. The ethical critique is an easy way to fight these changes, a call to protect the children or protect the irrational people who obviously can't like these games on their own merits. We begin to sound as reactionary as the ban on pinball or the fears over jazz music corrupting the minds of our youth.'"
An anonymous reader writes "There's an interesting interview up today with Jeffrey Lin, lead designer of social systems for Riot, the game studio behind League of Legends. Lin has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. His recognition that most trolls are only trolls because they're having an off day has changed the way that Riot punishes players. 'In other words, you need a carrot and not a stick. Where a punishment would come across as harsh and out-of context, pointing out to players that they're letting their usually-high standards of conduct slide usually results in a change of attitude. Incentivising the good behaviour with an Honour stat which could be affected by conduct in any match also serves to reinforce that good behaviour.' As a result, Lin's seen a noticeable spike in the number of people saying 'GG' (good game) at the end of a match. It leaves you wondering: what if Activision approached Call of Duty griefers on Xbox Live the same way?"
We recently had the chance to talk with internet rock star and former code monkey Jonathan Coulton. We asked him a number of your questions and a few of our own about music, technology, and copyright issues. Read below to see what he had to say.
An anonymous reader writes "A new study published in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that a gamer's experience of a video game and not the content of the game itself can give rise to violent behavior. In other words, 'researchers found it was not the narrative or imagery, but the lack of mastery of the game's controls and the degree of difficulty players had completing the game that led to frustration.' Based on their findings, researchers note that even games like Tetris and Candy Crush can inspire violent behavior more so than games like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto if they are poorly designed and difficult to play."
New submitter oldmildog writes: "GameFace Labs may very well be the furthest along in the quest to create a mobile VR headset. It's based on Android, and their latest prototype is the first VR headset (mobile or tethered) to include a 2560x1440 display, with 78% more pixels than 1080p based VR headsets like the Oculus Rift DK2. CEO Ed Mason said, 'The upgrade to 1280 x 1440 per eye is monumental. Individual pixels are hard to detect at first glance, making it a more immersive and comfortable experience in every single game and experience that we've tried. A lot of the ‘presence’ described by devs at the Valve [prototype VR headset] demonstration can be attributed to their use of higher resolution (and lower persistence) panels, which has a noticeable impact in suspending disbelief and tricking the brain."
cartechboy writes: "Racing games on consoles are fun, but, ultimately, they aren't real. The difference between racing around a track on a TV screen and being behind the wheel of a real car on the asphalt is substantial — there's no reset button in real life. But Sony and Toyota have teamed up to blur that line with a new Sports Drive Logger device. It's a USB data logger that maps your real-world lines around a local racing circuit using the car's data systems and GPS coordinates. Using satellite positioning, pedal depression, steering angle, gear selection, engine revs, and vehicle speed, the Sports Drive Logger replicates this data in Gran Turismo 6. You use this data in the game's telemetry screen, or watch a virtual representation of the laps you've just driven, and even compare that data against your friend's data. If you're brave enough, you can compare your data to that of a professional driver's. Unfortunately this system is only available on the Japanese-spec Toyota GT 86 (a near-twin to the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in the U.S.) — for now."
wesbascas (2475022) writes "This morning, AMD unveiled its latest flagship graphics board: the $1,500, liquid-cooled, dual-GPU Radeon R9 295X2. With a pair of Hawaii GPUs that power the company's top-end single-GPU Radeon R9 290X, the new board is sure to make waves at price points that Nvidia currently dominates. In gaming benchmarks, the R9 295X2 performs pretty much in line with a pair of R9 290X cards in CrossFire. However, the R9 295X2 uses specially-binned GPUs which enable the card to run with less power than a duo of the single-GPU cards. Plus, thanks to the closed-loop liquid cooler, the R9 295X doesn't succumb to the nasty throttling issues present on the R9 290X, nor its noisy solution."
New submitter Smiffa2001 writes: "The BBC reports that five-year-old Kristoffer Von Hassel from San Diego has uncovered a (frankly embarrassing) security flaw within the Xbox One login screen. Apparently by entering an incorrect password in the first prompt and then filling the second field with spaces, a user can log in without knowing a password to an account. Young Kristoffer's dad submitted the flaw to Microsoft — who have patched the flaw — and have generously provided four free games, $50, a year-long subscription to Xbox Live and an entry on their list of Security Researcher Acknowledgments."
An anonymous reader writes "For over a decade, GameSpy has provided and hosted multiplayer services for a variety of video games. GameSpy was purchased in 2012, and there were some worrying shutdowns of older servers, which disabled multiplayer capabilities for a number of games. Now, the whole service is going offline on May 31. Some publishers are scrambling to move to other platforms, while others are simply giving up on those games. Nintendo's recent abandonment of Wi-Fi games was a result of their reliance on GameSpy's servers. Bohemia Interactive, developers of the Arma series, said the GameSpy closure will affect matchmaking and CD-key authentication."
An anonymous reader writes "Are pro gamers good because they're good, or just because their usernames make you think they are? New scientific research suggests it may actually be a little bit of both. What's most interesting about this isn't what it says about current players, but how up and coming gamers will choose their own handles in future, both to intimidate opponents — and pull in the audiences that help subsidize their budding careers."
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Amazon is serious about conquering the living room: the online retailer has launched Fire TV, a set-top box that not only allows viewers to stream content, but also play games. That streaming-and-gaming capability makes Amazon a threat to Apple, which rumors suggest is hard at work on an Apple TV capable of doing the same things. In addition, Fire TV puts the screws to other streaming hardware, including Roku and Google's Chromecast, as well as smaller game consoles such as Ouya (a $99, Android-based device). Much of Amazon's competitive muscle comes from its willingness to sell hardware for cheap (the Fire TV retails for $99) on the expectation that owners will use it to stream and download digital content from Amazon, including television shows and apps. Those developers who've developed Android games have an advantage when it comes to migrating software to Amazon's new platform. "Porting You Don't Know Jack was really like developing for Android, with the exception of the store and the new controller library," Jackbox Games Designer/Director Steve Heinrich told Gamasutra after the Fire TV announcement. "The store itself is the same as the Kindle version, which we've used many times now, and the way the controller works is very close to what we did for Ouya." While Fire TV could represent yet another opportunity for game developers looking to make a buck, it also raises a pressing question: with so many platforms out there (iOS, PC, etc.), how's an indie developer or smaller firm supposed to allocate time and resources to best advantage?"
Today Amazon launched 'Fire TV,' a new video streaming box designed to compete with devices like the Roku and Apple TV. The Fire TV runs Android on a quad-core Qualcomm 1.7 GHz processor with 8GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM. It supports 1080p video output at 60fps and measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7". The Fire TV is also explicitly designed to support gaming, and Amazon has concurrently launched their own game controller. The Fire TV's remote control includes a microphone and a button that lets you search TV show and movies by voice.
Sockatume (732728) writes "Would you like to see a half-million-dollar TV show in which four teams of indie developers and Youtube personalities compete to create amazing videogames? Tough luck, because GAME_JAM from Maker Studios has spectacularly imploded. Although a lot could go wrong with this kind of show, the blame isn't being levelled at game developer egos or project mismanagement but the heroic efforts of one Matti Leshem, a branding consultant brought in for Pepsi. After imposing Mountain Dew branding rules that even banned coffee from the set, his efforts to build a gender divide amongst the teams culminated in the competitors downing their tools and the production collapsing. Accounts from Adriel Wallick, Zoe Quinn, and Robin Arnott are also available."
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The question of what makes puzzles hard for humans is deceptively tricky. One possibility is that puzzles that are hard for computers must also be hard for people. That's undoubtedly true and in recent years computational complexity theorists have spent some time trying to classify the games people play in this way (Pac Man is NP hard, by the way). But humans don't always solve problems in the same way as computers because they don't necessarily pick the best method or even a good way to do it. And that makes it hard to predict the difficulty of a puzzle in advance. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to tease this apart by measuring how long it takes people to solve puzzles and then creating a model of the problem solving process that explains the data.
But the datasets gathered in this way have been tiny — typically 20 people playing a handful of puzzles. Now one researcher has taken a different approach by mining the data from websites in which people can play games such as Sudoku. That's given him data on the way hundreds of players solve over 2000 puzzles, a vast increase over previous datasets and this has allowed him to plot the average time it takes to finish different puzzles. One way to assess the difficulty of Sudoku puzzle is in the complexity of each step required to solve it. But the new work suggests that another factor is important too — whether the steps are independent and so can be attempted in parallel or whether the steps are dependent and so must be tried in sequence, one after the other. A new model of this puzzle-solving process accurately reproduces the time it takes real humans to finish the problems and that makes it possible to accurately predict the difficulty of a puzzle in advance for the first time. It also opens the way for other studies of human problem solving using the vast datasets that have been collected over the web. Indeed work has already begun on the Sudoku-like puzzle game, Nurikabe."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Nate Swammer writes at Slashgear that with Facebook's purchase of Oculus for a cool $2 billion, the fervor surrounding virtual reality headwear quickly turned to disdain. Betrayal, confusion, and anger became the order of the day for contributors who gave Oculus $2.4 million through its Kickstarter campaign. But now that passions have cooled and looking at the issues dispassionately, the Facebook acquisition may turn out much better than anticipated for users. While many may have a fervent distrust for Facebook, this deal bodes well for Oculus, and by virtue, us.
First Oculus wasn't flush, and although Oculus may have had some hustle behind it, it may not have been enough. John Carmack, Oculus CTO, said via Twitter, 'I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR.' The headwear already famously suffered from a supply chain issue not long ago, which actually stopped it dead in its tracks. Next, in their official announcement of the Facebook deal, gaming was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn't until the very end that gaming was even mentioned, with the bulk of the post discussing 'culture' and driving virtual reality forward. There was little to indicate any big titles were coming for Oculus.
The fact is, Oculus needed help. Not technical assistance, but someone who could be their Sony, more or less. John Carmack says he has 'a deep respect for the technical scale that FB operates at. The cyberspace we want for VR will be at this scale.' Perhaps Facebook isn't the most popular choice, but they are the partner Oculus chose for their future says Swammer. 'Like Google purchasing Android in 2005, it all seems so strange right now [remember this story we discussed in 2009] — but we see how that turned out. If VR really is the next frontier, Facebook just staked their claim to a big slab of land in the heart of some virtual country they'll likely let us see someday — via Oculus.""
An anonymous reader writes: "A group of former developers for Ultima Online has created a game company called Citadel Studios, and they're working on a new MMORPG called Shards Online. '[CEO Derek] Brinkmann described the game as a player-run MMO, which means at the highest level they can run their own servers and change the settings of that world, altering how long nighttime lasts or how quickly players can gain skills. On the next level down, server administrators can take the form of god characters, who can spawn monsters in the world, create items and launch live events. And in the level below that, players can modify the gameplay code. ... The game is set in a multiverse, where players can travel through different worlds. While all the worlds are unified by the same rule-set, Cotten told Polygon that they are each themed differently, and these themes will offer players a different experience. There's a world inspired by high fantasy. There's a world that is coming out of a steampunk industrial revolution. There's a world that consists of a coliseum in which players can fight each other in player-versus-player battles.'"
trawg writes: "Programming legend Michael Abrash has announced that he has joined the Oculus team to work on the Rift VR headset as Chief Scientist, and will be once again working with John Carmack to bring VR to life. His post covers a lot of ground, including the history of his quest for VR, and ends with his explanation of why he thinks the Facebook acquisition is ultimately a good thing — they have the engineering, resources and long-term commitment 'to solve the hard problems of VR.'" Abrash has long maintained a blog about VR tech — it's worth reading if the subject matter interests you.
lars_doucet (2853771) writes "The latest Humble Weekly Bundle is titled 'Celebrating Open Source,' and features eight indie games, with charity going to the open source tools used to develop them. The open-source programming language Haxe is strongly represented: three of the charities include the Haxe Foundation, itself OpenFL (recently featured on Slashdot), and FlashDevelop, the most popular open-source Haxe/ActionScript IDE. The fourth is Ren'Py, the Python-based visual novel engine used in award-winning games like Long Live the Queen and Analogue: A Hate Story.
The games themselves are Magical Diary, NEO Scavenger, Offspring Fling!, Planet Stronghold, and for those who pay $6 or more, Anodyne, Defender's Quest, Evoland, and Incredipede, as well as 6 soundtracks. 7 of the 8 games are cross-platform across Mac/Win/Linux, and all are DRM-free."
New submitter DroidJason1 writes: "Microsoft has added new 'player reputation scores' to each Xbox Live member's Gamercard. The scores are represented by icons consisting of the colors green, yellow, and red. The more hours you play fairly online without being reported as abusive by other players, the better your reputation will be. Good players are given a green color, while those that 'need work' are yellow and those that need to be avoided are red. Microsoft says, 'If players do not heed warnings and continue to have a negative impact on other players and the Xbox Live community, they will begin to experience penalties. For example, people with an “Avoid Me” rating will have reduced matchmaking pairings and may be unable to use certain privileges such as Twitch broadcasting.' They add that the system will adjust for false reports."
Several readers sent word that California State Senator Leland Yee was arrested today. He's accused of conspiring to traffic guns and commit wire fraud, to defraud citizens of honest services, and bribery. The complant (PDF) also names 25 other defendants. Yee is known for pushing legislation that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors. "Federal prosecutors also allege Yee agreed to perform official acts in exchange for the money, including one instance in which he introduced a businessman to state legislators who had significant influence over pending medical marijuana legislation. In exchange, the businessman -- who was actually an undercover FBI agent -- agreed to donate thousands to Yee's campaign fund, according to the indictment. The indictment also describes an August 2013 exchange in which [former school board president Keith Jackson] told an undercover officer that Yee had an arms trafficking contact. Jackson allegedly said Yee could facilitate a meeting for a donation."
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "Peter Molyneux is one of the most famous personalities in the history of gaming, especially recognized for having created God games Dungeon Keeper, Populous, Black & White, but also the Fable series. After creating the Fable series, Molyneux announced in March 2012 that he will be leaving Lionhead and Microsoft to start another company – 22Cans. During a recent interview, the former Microsoft employee has shared some interesting details regarding the time when he was working over at Redmond. Here's the excerpt from his interview: 'I left Microsoft because I think when you have the ability to be a creative person, you have to take that seriously, and you have to push yourself. And pushing yourself is a lot easier to do if you're in a life raft that has a big hole in the side, and that's what I think indie development is. You're paddling desperately to get where you want to go to, but you're also bailing out. Whereas if you're in a big supertanker of safety, which Microsoft was, then that safety is like an anesthetic. It's like taking antidepressants. The world just feels too comfortable.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Not one hour after the announcement of the the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook yesterday, Markus 'Notch' Persson has announced that he has ceased all discussions about bringing it to Oculus Rift. 'I don't want to work with social, I want to work with games. ... Facebook is not a company of grass-roots tech enthusiasts. Facebook is not a game tech company. Facebook has a history of caring about building user numbers, and nothing but building user numbers. People have made games for Facebook platforms before, and while it worked great for a while, they were stuck in a very unfortunate position when Facebook eventually changed the platform to better fit the social experience they were trying to build.' Persson has stated that he made this decision despite initially investing $10,000 in Oculus' Kickstarter."
Several readers sent word that Facebook will acquire Oculus VR for $2 billion. Mark Zuckerberg says the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is the beginning of something big: "This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures." The obvious question is: why Facebook would buy a company focused on VR gaming? The Oculus team says, "But when you consider it more carefully, we're culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step. ... It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, allows us to publish more made-for-VR content, and lets us focus on what we do best: solving hard engineering challenges and delivering the future of VR." Put more simply: money and connections.
Today Blizzard released the first expansion to Diablo 3, titled Reaper of Souls. The expansion continues the story with Act 5, which includes trips to Westmarch and Pandemonium. The level cap goes up to 70, there's a new class: the Crusader, and a new crafting NPC: the Mystic. The Mystic lets players reroll specific stats on their gear and change how the gear looks. The loot system has seen a drastic revamp, and Blizzard recently shut down the game's controversial auction house so they could have players find better and more interesting gear by fighting monsters. There's a new type of gameplay called Adventure Mode, which unlocks all waypoints and lets players go wherever they want, unrestricted by the campaign progression. This includes completely randomized dungeons, which can pull art and monsters from almost anywhere in the game. They've combined Adventure Mode with the Bounty system, which opens up randomized objectives scattered throughout the world. Blizzard has confirmed that the first major content patch after the expansion will bring ladders and leaderboards.
itwbennett writes: "One of the Ouya micro-consoles's selling points has been that you can sample every game for free. That requirement is going away soon. In a recent blog post, Ouya's Bob Mills said, 'In the coming weeks, we're going to let devs choose if they want to charge up front for their games. Now they'll be able to choose between a free-to-try or paid model.' Good news for developers, perhaps not as good for customers. 'Maybe this new policy will attract new developers that can offer something compelling enough to be a system seller,' writes blogger Peter Smith."
_xeno_ (155264) writes "You might not remember Final Fantasy XIV, the Square Enix MMORPG that flopped so badly that Square Enix fired the original developers. But Square Enix certainly does, and at a recent GDC panel, producer Naoki Yoshida explained his views on what caused its failure. One reason? The focus on graphical quality over game play, leading to flower pots that required the same rendering power as player characters, but without the same focus on making the game fun to play. Along with severe server instability and a world made up of maze-like maps, he also cited the game being stuck in past, trying to stick with a formula that worked with Square Enix's first MMO, Final Fantasy XI, without looking at newer MMOs to see what had worked there."
An anonymous reader writes "A central theme for several talks at this week's Game Developers Conference has been how to deal with the abuse generated by a small segment of gamers. BioWare's Manveer Heir says he wants the industry to stop being scared of challenging the most outspoken and vituperative members of the gaming community. His GDC talk focused on 'misogyny, sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia and other types of social injustice.' He said, 'We should use the ability of our medium to show players the issues first-hand, or give them a unique understanding of the issues and complexities by crafting game mechanics along with narrative components that result in dynamics of play that create meaning for the player in ways that other media isn't capable of.' Meanwhile, Adam Orth, who became the center of an internet hatestorm last year after an offhand comment about always-online DRM, said game developers should make an effort to encourage their playerbase to behave in a more civilized manner."
An anonymous reader writes "A new history of splitscreen multiplayer looks at how the phenomenon went from arcade necessity to console selling point, and eventually evolved into today's online multiplayer networks like Xbox Live. The article digs up some surprising anecdotes along the way — like the fact that the seminal Goldeneye N64 deathmatch mode was very much an afterthought, given to a trainee who needed something to do. It's also interesting to think about where it's going in the future, with 4k displays on the horizon and handheld screens making inroads to living room gaming. 'I think you’ll see innovations this year that let people use their TV and mobile device in very interesting ways,' says Wipeout creator Nick Burcombe. 'It doesn't even need to be complex to recapture that social aspect – it just needs to involve more than one person in the same room. ‘Second Screen’ gaming could be multiplayer-based for sure, but it can also be used for new gameplay mechanics in single player too.'"
crookedvulture writes "Microsoft formally introduced its DirectX 12 API at the Game Developers Conference yesterday. This next-gen programming interface will extend across multiple platforms, from PCs to consoles to mobile devices. Like AMD's Mantle API, it promises reduced CPU overhead and lower-level access to graphics hardware. But DirectX 12 won't be limited to one vendor's hardware. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm have all pledged to support the API, which will apparently work on a lot of existing systems. Intel's Haswell CPUs are compatible with DirectX 12, as are multiple generations of existing AMD and Nvidia GPUs. A DirectX 12 update is also coming to the Xbox One. The first games to support the API won't arrive until the holiday season of 2015, though. A preview release is scheduled for this year." Reader edxwelch adds that OpenGL 4.4 already has functionality similar to the improvements brought by DirectX 12 and Mantle: "The announcement of DirectX 12 was a big focus of attention at GDC yesterday. The new API will bring Mantle-like low level access to the hardware, reducing the CPU overhead. The OpenGL talk 'Approaching Zero Driver Overhead in OpenGL,' on the other hand, received considerably less media attention. The OpenGL camp maintains that the features to reduce CPU overhead are already present in the current version. They suggest using the extensions such as, multidraw indirect combined with bindless graphics and sparse textures, OpenGL can get the similar 'close to the metal' performance as Mantle and DirectX 12."
jones_supa writes "Today Epic launched Unreal Engine 4 for game developers. Supported platforms are Windows, OS X, iOS and Android, with desktop Linux coming later. The monetization scheme is unique: anyone can get access to literally everything for a $19/month fee. Epic wants to build a business model that succeeds when UE4 developers succeed. Therefore, part of the deal is that anyone can ship a commercial product with UE4 by paying 5% of their gross revenue resulting from sales to users. This gets them the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine's complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub for collaborative development."
SternisheFan sends this news from CTV: "The Cubestormer 3 took 18 months to build but only needed 3.253 seconds to solve [a Rubik's cube], breaking the existing record. Unveiled at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, U.K., the Cubestormer 3 is constructed from the modular children's building-block toy but uses a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with a special ARM chip addition as its brain. It analyzes the muddled-up Rubik's Cube and powers each of the robot's four 'hands,' which spin the cube until all sides are in order. Created by ARM engineer David Gilday and Securi-Plex security systems engineer Mike Dobson, Cubestormer 3's new record shaves just over two seconds off the existing record, set by Cubestormer 2, which the pair also built."
An anonymous reader writes "Sony has announced 'Project Morpheus,' their project to develop a virtual reality headset for use with the PlayStation 4. 'Using a combination of Sony's own hardware, combining personal video viewers with PlayStation Move controllers, PlayStation engineers experimented with multiple prototypes.' They've been working on it for over three years — here's a picture of the current incarnation. The headset will use 3D audio tech that changes as players move their heads. One of their big goals is to make it extremely simple to use. They intend the display to be 1080p with a 90-degree field of view."
jones_supa writes "More great news for Linux gamers: following the footsteps of Steam, GOG.com is preparing delivery of Linux games. They expect to start doing so this autumn. The officially supported distributions will be Ubuntu and Mint. Right now, they are performing testing on various configurations, training up their teams on Linux-speak, and generally preparing for the rollout of at least 100 titles — DRM-free, as usual. This will update some of the catalog's existing games with a Linux port and bring new ones to the collection. Further information on specific games is yet not known, but GOG invites fans and customers to their community wishlist for discussion."
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."
An anonymous reader writes "Last year Valve announced a new game controller that was trying to innovate on the designs that have been with us for over a decade now. The biggest changes were replacing analog sticks with circular touchpads and plopping a small touchscreen into the middle of the controller. Valve has now revamped their prototype hardware, and the touchscreen is nowhere to be seen. In its place are stop/play buttons (which appear similar to start/select buttons) and a bigger Steam logo button. They've also moved around the directional and ABXY buttons, reverting to a more traditional layout (picture). They'll be demonstrating the latest prototype next week at GDC."
An anonymous reader writes "Carbine Studios, a game company founded by former Blizzard developers, has been working on a new sci-fi MMORPG called Wildstar. The game has now gotten a release date: June 3rd. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's preview described the game thus: 'it's trying to out-MMO every other MMO. Not with big talk of moving narratives or ever-changing worlds, but by ramping up the unreal theme pack nature of its peers and predecessors. This is a game where you're constantly presented with a legion of things to do, numbers to increase, boxes to tick, things to collect, factions to impress, points to earn, monsters air-dropped in to battle without warning and/or preferably all of the above simultaneously. It might even be too much, too overwhelming in its parade of sideshows.'"