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Science

Thousands of Blackbirds Fall From Sky Dead 577

Posted by samzenpus
from the silent-spring dept.
Dan East writes "In a fashion worthy of a King or Hitchcock novel, blackbirds began to fall from the sky dead in Arkansas yesterday. Somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 birds rained down on the small town of Beeb, Arkansas, with no visible trauma. Officials are making wild guesses as to what happened — lightning strike, high-altitude hail, or perhaps trauma from the sound of New Year's fireworks killed them."
Apple

Old Apple 1 Up For Auction, Expected To Go For $160,000+ 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the doesn't-run-flash dept.
vanstinator was one of several readers to point out that Christie's is holding an auction for one of the original Apple 1 machines, complete with a manual, the original shipping box, and the letter from Steve Jobs to the owner. The invoice says the computer was purchased on December 7th, 1976, with an Apple cassette interface card, for a total price of $741.66. The auction house expects it to sell for over $160,000.
Bug

Bethesda Criticized Over Buggy Releases 397

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-don't-kill-off-patrick-stewart-at-the-beginning dept.
SSDNINJA writes "This editorial discusses the habit of Bethesda Softworks to release broken and buggy games with plans to just fix the problems later. Following a trend of similar issues coming up in their games, the author begs gamers to stop supporting buggy games and to spread the idea that games should be finished and quality controlled before release – not weeks after."
Games

Infinite Mario With Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the there's-always-another-castle dept.
bgweber writes "There's been a lot of discussion about whether games should adapt to the skills of players. However, most current techniques limit adaptation to parameter adjustment. But if the parameter adaptation is applied to procedural content generation, then new levels can be generated on-line in response to a player's skill. In this adaptation of Infinite Mario (with source [.JAR]), new levels are generated based on the performance of the player. What other gameplay mechanics are open for adaptation when games adapt to the skills of specific players?"
Networking

OnLive Latency Tested 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-the-case-of-ping-v.-pong dept.
The Digital Foundry blog has done an analysis of recently launched cloud gaming service OnLive, measuring latency across several different games. Quoting: "In a best-case scenario, we counted 10 frames delay between button and response on-screen, giving a 150ms latency once the display's contribution to the measurement was removed. Unreal Tournament III worked pretty well in sustaining that response during gameplay. However, other tests were not so consistent, with DiRT 2 weighing in at 167ms-200ms while Assassin's Creed II operated at a wide range of between 150ms-216ms. ... OnLive says that the system works within 1000 miles of its datacenters on any broadband connection and recommends 5mbps or better. We gave OnLive the best possible ISP service we could find: Verizon FiOS, offering a direct fiber optic connection to the home. Latency was also reduced still further simply due to the masses of bandwidth FiOS offers compared to bog standard ADSL: in our case, 25mbps."
Image

Verizon Charged Marine's Widow an Early Termination Fee 489

Posted by samzenpus
from the literal-charges dept.
In a decision that was reversed as soon as someone with half a brain in their PR department learned about it, Verizon charged a widow a $350 early termination fee. After the death of her marine husband, Michaela Brummund decided to move back to her home town to be with her family. Verizon doesn't offer any coverage in the small town so Michaela tried to cancel her contract, only to be hit with an early termination fee. From the article: "'I called them to cancel. I told them the situation with my husband. I even said I would provide a death certificate,' Michaela said."
PC Games (Games)

Civ 5 Will Let You Import and Convert Civ 4 Maps 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the backward-compatibility dept.
bbretterson writes "From an interview Bitmob conducted with Civilization 5 Lead Designer Jon Shafer: 'You can import Civ 4 maps into the world builder and convert them into Civ 5 maps, including all the units and cities and stuff on it — the conversion process will just do that for you automatically. We're hoping that the first week Civ 5 is out, people will use that function and port all of the Civ 4 stuff over to Civ 5, so everything will be out there already.'"
Role Playing (Games)

Aion Servers To Merge, XP Grind Softened 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-only-takes-one-and-a-half-eternal-souls dept.
Massively reports that NCSoft's fantasy MMO Aion will soon be getting a round of server mergers to balance player populations and shore up in-game economies. A newsletter from Aion producer Chris Hager also brought word that character transfers will be an option starting in June, and NCSoft will be "offering them to all of our players for free for a limited time." This is happening in the lead-up to the game's 1.9 patch, due on June 2, which contains a number of measures to make the XP grind a bit less harsh (among other things; patch notes). They're creating more quests, increasing XP rewards from existing quests, and implementing a system that "grants you experience bonuses as you continue to play."
Censorship

Google Stops Ads For "Cougar" Sites 319

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-to-you-mrs-robinson dept.
teh31337one writes "Google is refusing to advertise CougarLife, a dating site for mature women looking for younger men. However, they continue to accept sites for mature men seeking young women. According to the New York Times, CougarLife.com had been paying Google $100,000 a month since October. The Mountain View company has now cancelled the contract, saying that the dating site is 'nonfamily safe.'"
First Person Shooters (Games)

Halo 2 Online Preservation Effort Ends 201

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-show dept.
A couple weeks ago, we discussed news that some dedicated Halo 2 fans were keeping the game's multiplayer alive after support for online play was dropped. Now, a few days shy of a month after support ended, the last users have been knocked off the server. "[A user named] Apache N4SIR outlasted everyone. 'May 11th @ 0158hrs I was FORCEFULLY REMOVED!!' he wrote on the forums at Bungie.net. 'I thought I'd be the one turning off the lights but that was done for me. Good night everyone, my Elite needs a rest.' His last comrade in arms, Agent Windex, was still signed on, as spotted by Kotaku at 4 p.m. US Pacific Time on May 10, but their adventure, which began on April 15, ended after Windex announced 21 minutes later that he had been removed from play and Apache N4SIR suffered a similar fate hours later, as he described in his post."
PC Games (Games)

Civilization V To Use Steamworks 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-it-doesn't-get-you-in-hot-water dept.
sopssa writes "2K Games today announced that Civilization V will be using Steamworks for online matchmaking, automated updates, downloadable content and DRM for the game. Steam's Civ V store page is also available now, revealing some new information about the game. There will be an 'In-Game Community Hub' for online matchmaking, communication, and for sharing scenarios between players. While including Steamworks might put some people off, it might also indicate better online gameplay than in the previous Civilization games, where it was almost impossible to have a good game without playing with just friends."
Input Devices

Microsoft Docs Indicate Future Xbox 360 Support For USB Storage 130

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-thing-you-didn't-shell-for-the-big-hdd dept.
Internal Microsoft documents obtained by Joystiq indicate that its Xbox 360 console will gain support for USB storage devices some time this Spring. "According to the document, the USB mass storage device must be at least 1GB and the system will do a compatibility check. 'The system partition occupies 512 MB of space, and by default the consumer partition occupies the remainder of the device capacity, or 16 GB, whichever is smaller.' Upon inserting a blank USB storage device, 'consumers are offered two choices: "Configure now" or "Customize."' The 'Configure now' option will use 'the entire device capacity, up to the maximum of 512 MB plus 16 GB,' meaning, regardless of the overall size of the device you're using, the Xbox will only enable 16 GB of usable, non-system storage. The 'Customize' option will allow you to 'preserve some pre-existing, non-console data on the device' such as music." There have also been rumors of a new, smaller form factor for the 360, and hacker Ben Heck has given his thoughts on some leaked motherboard pictures.
Games

Why Are There No Popular Ultima Online-Like MMOs? 480

Posted by Soulskill
from the risk-is-not-our-business dept.
eldavojohn writes "I have a slightly older friend who played through the glory days of Ultima Online. Yes, their servers are still up and running, but he often waxes nostalgic about certain gameplay functions of UO that he misses. I must say that these aspects make me smile and wonder what it would be like to play in such a world — things like housing, thieving and looting that you don't see in the most popular massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. So, I've followed him through a few games, including Darkfall and now Mortal Online. And these (seemingly European developed) games are constantly fading into obscurity and never catching hold. We constantly move from one to the next. Does anyone know of a popular three-dimensional game that has UO-like rules and gameplay? Perhaps one that UO players gravitated to after leaving UO? If you think that the very things that have been removed (housing and thieving would be two good topics) caused WoW to become the most popular MMO, why is that? Do UO rules not translate well to a true 3D environment? Are people incapable of planning for corpse looting? Are players really that inept that developers don't want to leave us in control of risk analysis? I'm familiar with the Bartle Test but if anyone could point me to more resources as to why Killer-oriented games have faded out of popularity, I'd be interested."

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr

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