The Escapist's Shamus Young recently posted an article complaining about the proliferation of distribution platforms and social networks for video games. None of the companies who make these are "quite sure how games will be sold and played ten years from now," he writes, "but they all know they want to be the ones running the community or selling the titles." Young continues, "Remember how these systems usually work: The program sets itself up to run when Windows starts, and it must be running if you want to play the game. If you follow this scheme to its logical conclusion, you'll see that the system tray of every gaming PC would eventually end up clogged with loaders, patchers, helpers, and monitors. Every publisher would have a program for serving up content, connecting players, managing digital licenses, performing patches, and (most importantly) selling stuff. Some people don't mind having 'just one more' program running in the background. But what happens when you have programs from Valve, Stardock, Activision, 2k Games, Take-Two, Codemasters, Microsoft, Eidos, and Ubisoft? Sure, you could disable them. But then when you fire the thing up to play a game, it will want to spend fifteen minutes patching itself and the game before it will let you in. And imagine how fun it would be juggling accounts for all of them."
A feature at Gamasutra examines one of the foundations of many MMORPGs — the idea that class roles within such a game fall into three basic categories: tank, healer, and damage dealer. The article evaluates the pros and cons of such an arrangement and takes a look at some alternatives. "Eliminating specialized roles means that we do away with boxing a class into a single role. Without Tanks, each class would have features that would help them participate in and survive many different encounters like heavy armor, strong avoidance, or some class or magical abilities that allow them to disengage from direct combat. Without specialized DPS, all classes should be able to do damage in order to defeat enemies. Some classes might specialize in damage type, like area of effect (AoE) damage; others might be able to exploit enemy weaknesses, and some might just be good at swinging a sharpened bit of metal in the right direction at a rapid rate. This design isn't just about having each class able to fill any trinity role. MMO combat would feel more dynamic in this system. Every player would have to react to combat events and defend against attacks."
Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of California have shown that the more germs a child is exposed to, the better their immune system in later life. Their study found that keeping a child's skin too clean impaired the skin's ability to heal itself. From the article: "'These germs are actually good for us,' said Professor Richard Gallo, who led the research. Common bacterial species, known as staphylococci, which can cause inflammation when under the skin, are 'good bacteria' when on the surface, where they can reduce inflammation."
mindbrane writes "A scientist working as a subcontractor on a peripheral LHC project has been arrested as a terrorist. The CBC is running a story outlining the arrest of a man on Thursday in south-east France for suspected al-Qaeda links: 'CERN officials said the man, whose name has not been revealed, was working under contract with an outside institute and said he had no contact with anything that could have been used for terrorism. He had been at CERN since 2003, officials said. ... The news that someone with terrorist connections might have worked at the facility is likely to cause concern because of both the high profile of the giant physics experiment and also the technology in use, which has made some members of the public nervous.'"
theodp writes "Steve Jobs wasn't around to convince you that you should be impressed, but on Wednesday Apple unveiled a 4GB Shuffle that's half the size of its predecessor. Holding up to 1,000 songs, the pre-shrunk Shuffle sports a 10-hour battery life and also adds a new VoiceOver feature that can recite song titles, artists, and playlist names, as well as provide status information. Even without a show from Steve, the new player is generally leaving folks dazzled, although there are some complaints." Update: 3/14 at 14:10 by SS: Reader Mike points out some disturbing news that the new Shuffle contains DRM which, according to a review at iLounge, prevents it from fully working with any headphones that don't have an Apple "authentication chip."
togelius writes "What makes games fun? Some (e.g. Raph Koster) claim that fun is learning — fun games are those which are easy to learn, but hard to master, with a long and smooth learning curve. I think we can create fun game rules automatically through measuring their learnability. In a recent experiment, we do this using evolutionary computation, and create some simple Pacman-like new games completely without human intervention! Perhaps this has a future in game design? The academic paper (PDF) is available as well."