Math

Using Math To Tune a Video Game's Economy 45

An anonymous reader writes: When the shipping deadline was approaching for The Witcher 3, designer Matthew Steinke knew there was a big part of the game still missing: its economy. A game's economy is one of the things that can make or break immersion — you want collection and rewards to feel progressive and meaningful. Making items to expensive gives the game a grindy feel, while making them too cheap makes progression trivial. At the Game Developers Conference underway in Germany, Steinke explained his solution.

"Steinke created a formula that calculated attributes like how much damage, defense, or healing that each item provided, and he placed them into an overall combat rating could be used to rank other items in the system. ... Steinke set about blending the sub-categories into nine generalized categories, allowing him to determine the final weighting for damage and the range of prices for each item. To test if it all worked, he used polynomial least squares (a form of mathematical statistics) to chart each category's price progression. The resultant curve (pictured below) showed the rate at which spending was increasing as the quality of each item approached the category's ceiling value."
Microsoft

Microsoft Makes Push To Get Back Into E-Sports 82

An anonymous reader writes: In October, Microsoft will publish Halo 5: Guardians, the first game in the series to be developed exclusively for the Xbox One. Microsoft is taking the opportunity to make a big play to become part of the e-sports market. They've announced a Halo competition with $1 million in prizes. As e-sports become more mainstream, and as game streaming has turned into a billion-dollar business, more and more development studios are seeing it as part of their marketing strategy. "When Halo fell out of favor among e-sports players, other games began to take off, often ones that were created with high-level competition in mind and that came from developers that invested heavily in events for professionals. Riot Games has turned League of Legends, its multiplayer online battle arena, into the most watched e-sport in the world, with 40,000 attendees at its finals in Korea last year." Microsoft wants back into that segment, and they're willing to spend big to do so.
Games

Modding Community Putting HD Textures Into Resident Evil 4 57

jones_supa writes: The Ultimate HD Edition of Resident Evil 4 does not fully adhere to its name, as terrain textures are actually not in high definition. A couple of fans called Cris and Albert are chipping in to help fix this deficiency. The pair is working for free to create the RE4 HD Project, a mod which is cleaning up the game's chunky textures and producing some nice and sharp screenshots. At present, it looks like the project is already about half complete, and an HD texture pack for the Village section of the game is available at the project website.
Windows

In Windows 10, Ad-Free Solitaire Will Cost You $10 -- Every Year 295

Wired UK reports that the pre-installed Solitaire on Windows 10 capitalizes on the long-cultivated addiction that some users have to the game with an interesting bargain: rather than being an ordinary included application like it used to be, what may be the world's most pervasive on-screen office time-sink of a game now comes with ads, unless a user wants to pay (by the month, or by the year) to remove those ads. Notes the linked piece: "To be entirely fair, this is the same as on the Windows 8 version, which wasn't installed by default but could be downloaded from the Windows Store."

At $1.49/month or $10/year, this might be enough to drive some people who otherwise would not to check out some of the free, open-source games out there; PySolitaire is one of many in this incomplete list.
Microsoft

Windows 10 App For Xbox One Could Render Steam Machines Useless 170

SlappingOysters writes: The release of Windows 10 has brought with it the Xbox app -- a portal through which you can stream anything happening on your Xbox One to your Surface or desktop. Finder is reporting that the love will go the other way, too, with a PC app coming to the Xbox One allowing you to stream your desktop to your console. But where does this leave the coming Steam Machines? This analysis shows how such an app could undermine the Steam Machines' market position.
PC Games (Games)

Sprked Tries To Solve Valve's Paid Mods Scandal 40

SlappingOysters writes: This article takes a closer look at the emerging crowdfunding platform Sprked, which aims to follow the Patreon support model, but exclusively for video game modders. The service is currently in its early stages, but by crafting a system of appreciation and support that acknowledges the loyalty of the modding community, Sprked has the potential to promote and foster the creativity that is so integral to modding, instead of hampering it with the murky baggage of a mandatory economy. Valve's attempt to let modders make some money for their efforts backfired within the community — there are four demons the paid mods plan must slay to actually work.
Android

Razer Acquires Ouya's Storefront and Technical Team 91

An anonymous reader writes: The Ouya Android-based gaming console was one of Kickstarter's biggest successes — and one of the biggest letdowns for all the backers. The console never really took off, and the company behind it has limped along over the past couple years. Until today. Razer has now acquired the Ouya technical team, as well as their online storefront — but not the console hardware itself. Razer intends to dump of all these new resources into its Forge TV product, also an Android game console. "Razer went so far as to kick a little sand in the face of the little-console-that-couldn't—by advertising its own Forge microconsole as a 'more advanced' system and telling Ouya owners that they will receive 'a clear path of migration' to buy the company's current $100, AndroidTV-compatible box." The fate of Ouya's hardware is not explicitly mentioned, but the news article suggests it is simply "discontinued."
Nintendo

Nintendo TVii Service Will Go Dark August 11th 34

Kotaku reports that Nintendo has announced it will shutter its Wii U TVii in just a few weeks; after August 11th, the service will be no more. The description that Kotaku offers gives some idea of why: Nintendo TVii promised to turn television watching into a robust social experience, tracking users' favorite shows, making suggestions based on familial preferences, integrating with all of the major streaming video services, programming DVR recordings and acting as a second screen experience on the Wii U game pad. It sounded pretty amazing. It wasn’t really. It was awkward and fumbling and a year later the Xbox One came along with its HDMI pass-through and voice-controlled TV watching and made Nintendo TVii look silly."
China

Chinese Consumers Can Now Buy Formerly Banned Consoles, Nationwide 39

PC Magazine reports that China has entered a new phase in its liberalization of game console sales. Restrictions amounting to a nationwide ban were loosened recently, so that manufacturers which produced (and sold) consoles in Shanghai's free trade zone were allowed to also sell their wares elsewhere in China. The newest change is to remove that geographic requirement, so Chinese buyers are expected to be able to buy whatever consoles they'd like. Games to play on those consoles, though, are a different story.
Open Source

Battle For Wesnoth Seeks New Developers 58

jones_supa writes: Twelve years ago, David White sat down over a weekend and created the small pet project that we know today as the open source strategy game The Battle For Wesnoth. At the time, Dave was the sole programmer, working alongside Francisco Muñoz, who produced the first graphics. As more and more people contributed, the game grew from a tiny personal project into an extensive one, encompassing hundreds of contributors. Today however, the ship is sinking. The project is asking for help to keep things rolling. Especially requested are C++, Python, and gameplay (WML) programmers. Any willing volunteers should have good communication skills and preferably be experienced with working alongside fellow members of a large project. More details can be found at the project website.
Games

Pro Gamers To Be Tested For Doping 155

An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Sports League is the biggest organization for running video game competitions. The league has now announced that they will begin testing professional video gamers for performance-enhancing drugs. The league is getting help in making policies from anti-doping agencies that help regulate athletes in traditional sports. They say, "[W]e will be administering the first PED skin tests at ESL One Cologne this August, with a view to performing these tests at every Intel Extreme Masters, ESL One and ESL ESEA Pro League event thereafter as soon as the official PED policy is established and tournament rules updated accordingly." This announcement comes after a high-profile Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player admitted last week that he and many other players used Adderall to gain an advantage in tournaments.
Games

The French Scrabble Champ Does Not Speak French 113

HughPickens.com writes: On July 20, Nigel Richards won the French-language world Scrabble championship. Richards does not speak a word of French. "He doesn't speak French at all, he just learnt the words," says Liz Fagerlund. "He won't know what they mean, wouldn't be able to carry out a conversation in French I wouldn't think." Richards reportedly memorized an entire French dictionary in the two months leading up to the competition. For living-room players, Scrabble is a test of vocabularies but for world-class players, it's about cold memorization and mathematical probabilities which is why top player are often computer programmers or mathematicians, not poets or novelists. Think of the dictionary as a giant rulebook of valid text strings not as a compendium of the beauty and complexity of the English language. A good competitive player will have memorized a sizeable chunk of the 83,667 words that are two letters to eight letters long. Great players will know a lot of the 29,150 nine-letter words as well.

To the uninitiated, a scrabble game played by top players looks like they had played in Martian. Here's a taste: In a single game in last year's Nationals, Richards played the following words: zarf (a metal holder for a coffee cup), waddy (to strike with a thick club), hulloed (to hallo, to shout), sajous (a capuchin, a monkey), qi (the vital force in Chinese thought), flyboats (a small, fast boat), trigo (wheat) and threaper (one that threaps, disputes). Richards has a photographic memory and is known for his uncanny gift for constructing impossible words by stringing his letters through tiles already on the board. "He is probably the best Scrabble player in the world at this point," says John D. Williams, Jr.. "He's got the entire dictionary memorized. He's pretty much a Scrabble machine, if such a thing exists." So, really, how does he do it? As Richards said in an interview posted on YouTube, "I'm not sure there is a secret. It's just a matter of learning the words." All 178,691 of them.
Microsoft

Game About Killing Poachers Vies For Top Prize In Microsoft Student Tech Contest 176

theodp writes: GeekWire reports on a group of students from Nepal who will be competing for the $50K top prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup student tech contest with a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers. "Until and unless the player kills all the poachers," reads the description for Defend Your Territory, "he/she cannot progress to next level. To make the game more interesting, there will be lots of weapons and vehicles unlock." So, is this the inspiration Google needs to take their anti-poaching drone program to the next level?
Graphics

AMD Catalyst Linux Driver Performs Wildly Different Based On Program's Name 114

An anonymous reader writes: In past years the AMD Catalyst Linux driver has yielded better performance if naming the executable "doom3.x86" or "compiz" (among other choices), but these days this application profile concept is made more absurd with more games coming to Linux but AMD not maintaining well their Linux application profile database. The latest example is by getting ~40% better performance by renaming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on Linux. If renaming the "csgo_linux" binary to "hl2_linux" for Half-Life 2 within Steam, the frame-rates suddenly increase across the board, this is with the latest Catalyst 15.7 Linux driver while CS:GO has been on Linux for nearly one year. Should driver developers re-evaluate their optimization practices for Linux?
Windows

Windows 10 Will Have Screen Recording Tool 203

Mark Wilson writes: Windows 10 has not even been released yet, but that's a perfect reason to start unearthing a few secrets. Over the coming weeks and months there will undoubtedly be an endless stream of tips, tricks, and tweaks to try out, but how's this for starters? Windows 10 has a secret screen recording tool that can be used to capture on-screen activity as a video file. Taking a static screenshot is very simple. You can either hit the Print Screen key, use the Snipping Tool, or turn to one of the countless screen capture tools out there — many of which are free. When it comes to capturing video, however, it's something of a different story. Before you splash out on a dedicated tool such as Camtasia, you might want to try out Windows 10's hidden tool. It's designed for gamers really, but anyone can use it. The Game bar is a toolbar which Microsoft meant for gamers to use to capture screenshots of their high scores, as well as video footage of their gaming skills. Despite the name, it is not limited to use within games
Android

Commodore PET Smartphone Comes Loaded With C64 and Amiga Emulators 62

Mickeycaskill writes: Commodore is launching an Android-powered smartphone that lets 1980s gaming fans play their favourite retro titles. It runs a custom version of Android 5.0 Lollipop and lets you play both old Commodore 64 and Amiga games with its preinstalled VICE C64 and Uae4All2-SDL Amiga emulators. Configurations vary between 2GB and 3GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of storage, with a 5.5 inch display and 1.7GHz processor included in all versions. The Catch? It's only available in France, Germany, Italy and Poland to begin with, but other markets are set to follow.
Games

Interviews: Ask Brianna Wu a Question 727

Brianna Wu is the head of development at Giant Spacekat, a company specializing in cinematic experiences using the Unreal engine. She’s also a frequent speaker on women-in-tech issues and was one of several women subjected to a campaign of attacks in Gamergate. Wu has worked as a journalist and politico. She currently has a patreon campaign which helps to offset the costs of doing speaking engagements and work to further the goals of feminism and women in tech. Brianna has agreed to give us some of her time and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Businesses

Satoru Iwata, Head of Nintendo, Has Died At 55 56

An anonymous reader with the news, announced with a statement released by Nintendo on their homepage, that Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata died of a bile duct growth on the 11th of July, 2015. The news is noted by Kotaku and by Engadget. Wikipedia notes that Iwata was the first of the company's presidents to be unrelated to the Yamauchi family through blood or marriage.
AMD

Air-Cooled AMD Radeon R9 Fury Arrives For $100 Less With Fury X-Like Performance 77

MojoKid writes: When AMD launched the liquid-cooled Radeon Fury X, it was obvious the was company willing to commit to new architecture and bleeding edge technologies (Fiji and High-Bandwidth Memory, respectively). However, it fell shy of the mark that enthusiasts hoped it would achieve, unable to quite deliver a definitive victory against NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 980 Ti. However, AMD just launched their Radeon R9 Fury (no "X" and sometimes referred to as "Fury Air"), a graphics card that brings a more compelling value proposition to the table. It's the Fury release that should give AMD a competitive edge against NVIDIA in the $500+ graphics card bracket. AMD's Radeon R9 Fury's basic specs are mostly identical to the liquid-cooled flagship Fury X, except for two important distinctions. There's a 50MHz reduction in GPU clock speed to 1000MHz, and 512 fewer stream processors for a total of 3584, versus what Fury X has on board. Here's the interesting news which the benchmark results demonstrate: In price the Fury veers closer to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, but in performance it sneaks in awfully close to the GTX 980 Ti.