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Games

WHO Classifies 'Gaming Disorder' as Mental Health Condition (cnn.com) 151

The World Health Organization has announced "gaming disorder" as a new mental health condition included in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, released Monday. From a report: "I'm not creating a precedent," said Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, which proposed the new diagnosis to WHO's decision-making body, the World Health Assembly. Instead, he said, WHO has followed "the trends, the developments, which have taken place in populations and in the professional field." However, not all psychologists agree that gaming disorder is worthy of inclusion in the International Classification of Diseases, known as the ICD.

A diagnosis standard, the ICD defines the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions. Researchers use it to count deaths, diseases, injuries and symptoms, and doctors and other medical practitioners use it to diagnose disease and other conditions. In many cases, health care companies and insurers use the ICD as a basis for reimbursement. Poznyak said the expectation is that the classification of gaming disorder means health professionals and systems will be more "alerted to the existence of this condition" while boosting the possibility that "people who suffer from these conditions can get appropriate help."

Amiga

New Commercial Amiga 500 Game Released 111

Mike Bouma writes: Pixelglass, known for their "Giana Sisters SE" game, has released a worthy new game for the Amiga 500, called "Worthy." Here's a description of this cute action puzzler: "Assume the role of a fearless boy and collect the required number of diamonds in each stage in order to win the girl's heart! Travel from maze to maze, kill the baddies, avoid the traps, collect beers (your necessary 'fuel' to keep you going), find the diamonds, prove to her you're WORTHY!" Time to dust off that classic Amiga or alternatively download a digital copy and use an UAE emulator for your platform of choice. Have a look at the release trailer.
Stats

Gaming Companies Remove Analytics App After Massive User Outcry (bleepingcomputer.com) 198

An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers."

The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell.]

Earth

Fake Earthquake Detected In Mexico City After Player's Goal In World Cup Match (abc7.com) 210

According to officials in Mexico, an artificial earthquake was reported in Mexico City that was possibly caused by "massive jumps during the goal from the Mexico national soccer team" on Sunday. KABC reports: Hirving Lozano scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, picking up Javier Hernandez's pass inside the penalty area and beating Mesut Ozil before shooting past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 10 yards. The goal decided the match -- a match Germany didn't expect to lose. Mexico upset Germany, the defending champion, 1-0. The loss meant Germany became the third defending champion in the last 16 years to lose its opening match at the World Cup. "Two monitoring stations in Mexico City picked up the temblor the same time Lozano scored, 35 minutes into the match," reports USA Today. "Seismologists in Chile also said that their instruments detected an artificial temblor at the same time."
PlayStation (Games)

Sony's PlayStation 5 Will Launch In 2020 Powered By An AMD Navi GPU, Says Report (theinquirer.net) 92

According to a new report from WCCFtech, citing "sources familiar with the entire situation," Sony's PlayStation 5 (PS5 for short) will launch in 2020 and be powered by AMD's Navi GPU chip. "While it was previously reported that the much-anticipated console will be using AMD's Ryzen CPU tech, it looks like the chip maker will have some involvement in the PS5's graphics chip, too," reports The Inquirer. From the report: The report also suggests this is the reason behind AMD not announcing a new GPU at Computex this year, because it has found custom-applications for consoles a much more financially attractive space. "Here is a fun fact: Vega was designed primarily for Apple and Navi is being designed for Sony - the PS5 to be precise," the report states, right before going on to explain AMD's roadmap for Navi and how it's dependent on Sony.

"This meant that the graphics department had to be tied directly to the roadmap that these semi-custom applications followed. Since Sony needed the Navi GPU to be ready by the time the PS5 would launch (expectedly around 2020) that is the deadline they needed to work on."
It's anyone's guess as to when the successor to the PlayStation 4 will be launched. While the source for this report is seen as reputable in the games industry, last month the head of PlayStation business said the next console is three years off.
Crime

Two Teenaged Gamers Plead 'Not Guilty' For Fatal Kansas Swatting Death (reuters.com) 148

Two more men entered pleas in federal court for their roles in a SWAT call that led to a fatal police shooting in Kansas: not guilty. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called "swatting" incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known "swatter"...and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said.

After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged [swatter Tyler] Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment... Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice.

In a jailhouse interview in January, Barriss told a local news team that "Whether you hang me from a tree, or you give me 5, 10, 15 years... I don't think it will ever justify what happened... I hope no one ever does it, ever again. I hope it's something that ceases to exist."

In April, while still in jail, Barriss gained access to the internet then posted "All right, now who was talking shit? >:) Your ass is about to get swatted."
Nintendo

'Waluigi Was Robbed and Humiliated by Nintendo' (washingtonpost.com) 88

Gene Park, writing for The Washington Post (shared by numerous readers): In the Nintendo universe, Waluigi is supposed to be as villainous as his cartoonish mustache and perpetual frown would suggest. But what made him that way? Perhaps it is Nintendo's insistence on humiliating the character in front of his friends and the general public. On Tuesday for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Nintendo announced new details on the much-anticipated Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for its Switch console. The 25-minute presentation was long on details. For one thing, the latest game includes every single playable character in the fighting-game franchise's 19-year history. It seemed to exceed fan expectations, except for fans of the meme-ready Waluigi. Waluigi, again, was snubbed by Nintendo. He will not be a playable character in the new game.

Waluigi has traveled a long road. Once he was hated by Nintendo fans, who listed him highly among gaming's most annoying characters. His origin story is unimpressive. Waluigi is simply a bizarro version of Mario's less famous but more charming brother Luigi. In his 18-year existence as a minor character, he's had virtually no back story. But that blank canvas ended up becoming Waluigi's greatest gift. Since he stood for nothing, supporters could project their wildest hopes unto him, like Barack Obama in 2008 but actually good at golf. He can be described in a single website as anyone from a "true nowhere man" to "the logical end point of capitalism" and the "triumph of capital over creativity." In other words, Waluigi became the perfect meme fodder.

Nintendo

Sony Is Blocking Fortnite Cross-Play Between PS4, Nintendo Switch Players (theverge.com) 90

Earlier today, Nintendo announced during its E3 press conference that Epic Games' Fortnite would be coming to the Switch console. Unfortunately, when Epic Games PR representative Nick Chester confirmed cross-play compatibility, the PS4 wasn't on the list. The Switch version of Fortnite will only support cross-play with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile. The Verge reports: That aligns with past cross-play implementations between Xbox One, PS4, PC, and mobile, with Sony blocking other console platforms from playing with its own. You can cross-play between PS4, mobile, and PC. Unfortunately, this also suggests that PS4 players of Fortnite won't be able to log in to their Epic accounts on the Switch, meaning you won't be able to have any weekly progress carry over or gain access to any of your skins or emotes. This is because your Epic account is tied up with your PSN username in most cases. For instance, you can't log in to an Epic account tied to PSN on the Xbox One version of Fortnite, and it sounds like the same will be true for the Switch.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Next-Gen Xbox Will Arrive in 2020: Report (thurrott.com) 69

Brad Sams, writing for Thurrott blog: This past week, I was tipped off that the next generation Xbox was codenamed Scarlett and in an effort to track down if this information was accurate, I was able to view content that highlighted several unannounced Microsoft products that are coming in the next two years. Microsoft is planning for the next Xbox console release to arrive in 2020. But what is more interesting, is that Microsoft describes 'Scarlett' as a family of devices; meaning we may see multiple pieces of hardware released that year.
E3

Microsoft is Working on its Own Game Streaming, Netflix-Like Service (theverge.com) 73

Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, revealed the company is building a streaming game service for any device. Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console gaming on any device, he said, adding this service will offer "console quality gaming on any device." From a report: "Gaming is now at its most vibrant," he said. "In this significant moment we are constantly challenging ourselves about where we can take gaming next." He said that Microsoft is recommitting and harnessing the full breath of the company to deliver on the future of play. That includes experts in Microsoft research working on developing the future of gaming AI and the company's cloud engineers building a game streaming network. He added that the company is also in the midst of developing the architecture for the next Xbox consoles. Further reading: Microsoft Acquires Four Gaming Studios, Including Ninja Theory, As It Looks To Bolster First-Party Catalog.
E3

Microsoft Acquires Four Gaming Studios, Including Ninja Theory, As It Looks To Bolster First-Party Catalog (venturebeat.com) 44

Microsoft has never had as many internal studios as Sony or Nintendo, and that has prevented it from having many first-party exclusives this generation. That changes today. From a report: At E3 trade show in Los Angeles on Sunday, the company's gaming chief Phil Spencer announced the creation of a new studio called The Initiative led by industry veteran Daryl Gallagher. He then followed up with revealing the Microsoft acquisitions of Ninja theory, Playground Games, Compulsion Games, and Undead Labs. This bolsters the company's first-party efforts, and Spencer said it is evidence of his dedication to Xbox and its fans. Ninja Theory is best known for producing 2017's break out indie hit Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Playground has long overseen the Forza Horizon series for Microsoft. Compulsion is responsible for We Happy Few. Undead Labs created State of Decay. Also at E3, Microsoft teased Halo Infinite, and announced Forza Horizon 4. It also announced the availability of Automata, and unveiled FromSoft's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a new Battletoads game, new downloadable content for its exclusive platforming shooter Cuphead, a crossover game that features some of the biggest anime franchises, including Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto, Devil May Cry 5 , a skating game called Session, Tom Clancy's The Division 2 is hitting PC and consoles, Bethesda's Fallout 76, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and improvements to Xbox Game Pass.
Cloud

EA, Touting 'Profound Impact' of Streaming and Subscription, Announces Origin Access Premier (gamesindustry.biz) 73

EA CEO Andrew Wilson announced that the game publisher is making a big move into cloud gaming. The company is also planning to launch a new version of its Origin Access subscription service on PC called Origin Access Premiere that will introduce games like Madden, FIFA, and more the same day they launch at retail. From a report: During the publisher's E3 2018 press conference, CEO Andrew Wilson descried the combination of streaming and subscription as "the greatest disruption" to the world of entertainment of the past five years. He pointed to how this business model for movies, TV and books has changed those markets, and believes this combination will have "a profound impact" on the games industry in the years to come. Wilson's comments echoed those of his CFO Blake Jorgensen, who said back in November that a combination of live services, such as FIFA Ultimate Team, and subscriptions will lead to "uncapped" monetisation of its players over the longest possible period of time.

In its latest financials, EA revealed that 40% of its revenue last year came from live services, while full game downloads and physical game sales are dropping. Wilson reminded conference attendees of the publisher's recent acquisition of GameFly's Israel-based cloud gaming team, predicting a future where players can enjoy high-end games on any device anywhere with an internet connection. While there are tech demos for EA's streaming service out there, Wilson stressed that it's "not quite ready for full market primetime," but pitched it as a "promise of what we hope to bring you in the future." In the meantime, Electronic Arts took the opportunity to announce a new subscription system that shows the publisher continuing to push towards a service-based economy for video games. Origin Access Premier is a new addition to the firm's PC-based games service: a premium subscription that gives players access to even more titles.

Cloud

Ubisoft CEO: Cloud Gaming Will Replace Consoles After the Next Generation (arstechnica.com) 144

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Better start saving up for that PlayStation 5, Xbox Two, or Nintendo Swatch (that last follow-up name idea is a freebie, by the way). That generation of consoles might be the last one ever, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. After that, he predicts cheap local boxes could provide easier access to ever-evolving high-end gaming streamed to the masses from cloud-based servers. "I think we will see another generation, but there is a good chance that step-by-step we will see less and less hardware," Guillemot said in a recent interview with Variety. "With time, I think streaming will become more accessible to many players and make it not necessary to have big hardware at home. There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us."
Games

Valve Will Stop Removing Controversial Games on Steam Unless They Are 'Illegal or Straight up Trolling' (geekwire.com) 368

Valve will no longer remove games from its Steam game marketplace unless they are "illegal, or straight up trolling," according to a statement from the Bellevue, Wash.-based gaming company posted today. From a report: The announcement comes a week after Valve removed a controversial game that simulated school shootings, following a nationwide outcry to ban the title. Last month it also issued warnings to developers about adult content in games. In its blog post, Valve executive Erik Johnson writes that "Valve shouldn't be the ones deciding this." "If you're a player, we shouldn't be choosing for you what content you can or can't buy," it reads. "If you're a developer, we shouldn't be choosing what content you're allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable."
The Internet

70 Long-Lost Japanese Video Games Discovered In a 67GB Folder of ROMs On a Private Forum (vice.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Until yesterday, rare Japanese PC game Labyrinthe, developed by Caravan Interactive, was long thought to be lost forever. That is until the almost mythical third game in the already obscure Horror Tour series was found on a 67GB folder of ROMs on a private forum. Other rare games from the folder are expected to become public soon. According to a YouTuber called Saint, who posted a video of him playing the game and a link to download it on Mega, Labyrinthe and as many as 70 other rare or never-before-released Japanese titles have been circulating in a file sharing directory on a private torrent site.

Labyrinthe, alongside other rare titles including Cookie's Bustle, Yellow Brick Road and Link Devicer 2074 were in a folder called "DO NOT UPLOAD." Members of the private forum hesitated to upload Labyrinthe in the fear that the private collector would take down the folder and leave the collection out of reach once again. This hesitation demonstrates the often tense relationship between game preservationists and private collectors. According to a screenshot uploaded by Saint, the private collector threatened to pull the entire folder of content from the directory and stop uploading games altogether if anyone leaked Labyrinthe. In uploading the game to Mega, it's possible the folder will be pulled from the internet. But in doing so, the person advanced the interests of game preservationists worldwide by leaking the this game and others.

XBox (Games)

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Are Coming To Xbox One (windowscentral.com) 29

According to Windows Central, the Xbox One will soon support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, which should provide a decent alternative to Kinect for controlling your console via voice commands. Microsoft stopped manufacturing the Kinect in October of last year. From the report: This picture comes to us from a reliable source who is familiar with Amazon and Microsoft's efforts to link Alexa and Cortana. In upcoming Xbox One builds, the Kinect & Devices menu should have a new "Digital Assistants" section, which lets you enable Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana, for use on your Xbox One. It then directs you to install the Xbox skills app for those respective platforms to get connected. The full range of features for those assistants remains unknown, but it could bring back many of the voice-assisted features abandoned Kinect users are yearning for.
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Descent' Creators Reunite For a New Game Called 'Overload' (steampowered.com) 138

Long-time Slashdot reader t0qer writes: In the early days of PC gaming, there was 3 major titles. Doom, Duke Nukem, and Descent. Descent was the first game to have true 3D environments and enemies, whereas Doom/Duke was considered "2.5D." Even though Descent never gained the popularity of Quake or Doom, it's had a dedicated fanbase that has continued playing and updating the game over the last 20 years.

The original programmers got together, and created a "Spiritual Successor" called Overload. Already garnering mostly postive reviews on Steam, the game features the same controls and overall feel of the original Descent, but without the frustration of having to set IRQ, DMA, and port jumpers for your sound blaster.

Engadget reports that the Overload devs "made sure to replicate what defined Descent and its two sequels, and what is still unique today: packing players in tight corridors to constrict their free-flying movement and transforming battles into maddening close-quarters space combat."

The game's lead designer tells them that first-person-shooter games "have evolved a lot, but that evolution has left some gaping holes in its wake."
Classic Games (Games)

Atari Launches Linux Gaming Box Starting at $199 (linux.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com: Attempts to establish Linux as a gaming platform have failed time and time again, with Valve's SteamOS being the latest high-profile casualty. Yet, Linux has emerged as a significant platform in the much smaller niche of retro gaming, especially on the Raspberry Pi. Atari has now re-emerged from the fog of gaming history with an Ubuntu-based Atari VCS gaming and media streaming console aimed at retro gamers. In addition to games, the Atari VCS will also offer Internet access and optional voice control. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the system can be used as a standard Linux computer.

The catch is that the already delayed systems won't ship until July 2019... By the launch date, Atari plans to have "new and exclusive" games for download or streaming, including "reimagined classic titles from Atari and other top developers," as well as multi-player games. The Atari VCS Store will also offer video, music and other content... The hardware is not open source, and the games will be protected with HDCP. However, the Ubuntu Linux stack based on Linux kernel 4.10 is open source, and includes a "customizable Linux UX." A Linux "sandbox" will be available for developing or porting games and apps. Developers can build games using any Linux compatible gaming engine, including Unity, Unreal Engine, and Gamemaker. Atari also says that "Linux-based games from Steam and other platforms that meet Atari VCS hardware specifications should work."

Atari boasts this will be their first device offering online multi-player experiences, and the device will also come pre-loaded with over 100 classic Atari games.

An Indiegogo campaign this week seeking $100,000 in pre-orders has already raised over $2.2 million from 8808 backers.
AI

DeepMind Used YouTube Videos To Train Game-Beating Atari Bot (theregister.co.uk) 61

Artem Tashkinov shares a report from The Register: DeepMind has taught artificially intelligent programs to play classic Atari computer games by making them watch YouTube videos. Exploration games like 1984's Montezuma's Revenge are particularly difficult for AI to crack, because it's not obvious where you should go, which items you need and in which order, and where you should use them. That makes defining rewards difficult without spelling out exactly how to play the thing, and thus defeating the point of the exercise. For example, Montezuma's Revenge requires the agent to direct a cowboy-hat-wearing character, known as Panama Joe, through a series of rooms and scenarios to reach a treasure chamber in a temple, where all the goodies are hidden. Pocketing a golden key, your first crucial item, takes about 100 steps, and is equivalent to 100^18 possible action sequences.

To educate their code, the researchers chose three YouTube gameplay videos for each of the three titles: Montezuma's Revenge, Pitfall, and Private Eye. Each game had its own agent, which had to map the actions and features of the title into a form it could understand. The team used two methods: temporal distance classification (TDC), and cross-modal temporal distance classification (CDC). The DeepMind code still relies on lots of small rewards, of a kind, although they are referred to as checkpoints. While playing the game, every sixteenth video frame of the agent's session is taken as a snapshot and compared to a frame in a fourth video of a human playing the same game. If the agent's game frame is close or matches the one in the human's video, it is rewarded. Over time, it imitates the way the game is played in the videos by carrying out a similar sequence of moves to match the checkpoint frame.
In the end, the agent was able to exceed average human players and other RL algorithms: Rainbow, ApeX, and DQfD. The researchers documented their method in a paper this week. You can view the agent in action here.
NES (Games)

Hacker Gets Super NES Games Running On Unmodified NES (arstechnica.com) 43

The latest project from Tom "Tom7" Murphy is an unmodified NES running Super NES games. "Murphy breaks down this wizardry in a pair of detailed videos laying out his tinkering process," reports Ars Technica. "Though the NES hardware itself is untouched, the cartridge running this reverse emulation is a heavily customized circuit board (ordered from China for about $10), with a compact, multi-core Raspberry Pi 3 attached to handle the actual Super NES emulation." From the report: The Pi essentially replaces the PPU portion of the cartridge, connecting to the NES via a custom-coded EEPROM chip that tells the system how to process and display what would normally be an overwhelming stream of graphical data coming from the miniature computer. Only the CIC "copyright" chip from the original cartridge remains unmodified to get around the hardware's lockout chip. Murphy -- you may remember him from previous efforts to teach an AI how to play NES games -- says that the Raspberry Pi actually has too much latency to effectively "stream" tile-by-tile graphical instructions to the NES' cartridge CPU. By the time the Pi manages to "discharge" a set of instruction bits (only 180ns after they were generated), the NES itself has already moved on to the next part of its read-write cycle.

Murphy used a one-cycle delay to compensate for this latency, essentially guessing where the fairly predictable PPU would be writing to next and just sending data to that location ahead of time. That process works pretty well but results in the persistent flickering and graphical noise you see throughout his video demonstrations.

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