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Classic Games (Games)

Mattel Sells Out Of 'Game Developer Barbie' (cnet.com) 223

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: The Mattel people have released a new Barbie doll figurine touted as Game Developer Barbie. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she was apparently designed by a game developer.
It's already sold out on Mattel's web site, with CNET saying it provides a better role model than a 2014 book In which "computer engineer" Barbie designed a cute game about puppies, then admitted "I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game," before her laptop crashed with a virus. Mattel says that with this new doll, "young techies can play out the creative fun of this exciting profession," and the doll even comes with a laptop showing an IDE on the screen. Sandbagger's original submission ended with a question. Do Slashdot readers think this will inspire a new generation of programmers to stay up late writing code?
Classic Games (Games)

Real-World Pong Created by Amateur Builders (geeky-gadgets.com) 39

sproketboy shares this article about a computer graphic designer who spent two years building a real-world version of the classic videogame Pong, played on a full-sized coffee table using only mechanical parts. The project's team apparently used a hard drive platter for the real-world scroll wheels controlling the paddles, aided by some large Arduinos and other homemade electronics (along with rainbow LED lights to create the pixels for the score).

"We don't have any electronics, product design, or manufacturing background," Daniel Perdomo told one technology site. "All we knew for this was thanks to the Internet (Google, YouTube, forums). Today you can grab all the knowledge you want just a few clicks away!" He's now looking for a hardware incubator to transform his "Atari Pong Project" into a real consumer product. (Interestingly, another group of hobbyists built a similar electromechanical version of Pong back In 2004.)
AI

Human Go Champion 'Speechless' After 2nd Loss To Machine (phys.org) 338

Reader chasm22 points to a Phys.org report about the second straight loss of Lee Sedol to AlphaGo, the program developed by Google's DeepMind unit. The human Go champion, Sedol found himself "speechless" after the showdown on Thursday. The human versus machine face-off lasted more than four hours, which to Sedol's credit is a slight improvement over his previous match, which had ended with him resigning nearly half an hour remaining on the clock. "It was a clear loss on my part," Sedol said at a press conference on Thursday. "From the beginning there was no moment I thought I was leading." Demis Hassabis, who heads Google's DeepMind, said, "Because the number of possible Go board positions exceeds the number of atoms in the universe, top players rely heavily on their intuition." Sedol will battle Google's AlphaGo again on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.
AI

Google's AlphaGo Beats Lee Se-dol In the First Match (theverge.com) 119

New submitter Fref writes with news from The Verge that "A huge milestone has just been reached in the field of artificial intelligence: AlphaGo, the program developed by Google's DeepMind unit, has defeated legendary Go player Lee Se-dol in the first of five historic matches being held in Seoul, South Korea. Lee resigned after about three and a half hours, with 28 minutes and 28 seconds remaining on his clock. "
Lee will face off against AlphaGo again tomorrow and on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.
Also at the New York Times. Science magazine says the loss may be less significant than it seems at first.
Classic Games (Games)

ScummVM, Update With a Bang (kingofgng.com) 37

KingofGnG writes: The developers of ScummVM have announced a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as "Lost with Sherlock," ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the heftiest releases ever prepared by the team, with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.
Classic Games (Games)

Fan-Made 'Metal Gear Solid' Remake Cancelled; Gamers Blame Konami (hothardware.com) 118

MojoKid writes: Fans of the popular Metal Gear Solid series are ticked off at Konami over the cancellation of an unofficial, fan-built remake of the very first title that shipped for the original PlayStation way back in 1998. The remake's cancellation was announced on the project's Facebook page, which immediately prompted backlash aimed at Konami for presumably having a hand in it. The project, dubbed Shadow Moses, was the brainchild of indie game designer Airam Hernandez. It appears he may have assembled a small team to remake the original Metal Gear Solid using Unreal Engine 4. While it hasn't been confirmed that Konami shut the project down, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that it did. This wouldn't be the first fan project to be cancelled, and it likely won't be the last— Metal Gear Solid is Konami's property, and even Hernandez acknowledged at one point that he would eventually need Konami's permission to publish it.
Databases

Crossword Database Analysis Spots What Looks Like Plagiarism 44

Seattle software developer Saul Pwanson has a hobby of developing crossword puzzles, but another related hobby, too: analyzing the way that existing puzzles have been constructed. He created a database that aggregates puzzles that have appeared in various publications, including, crucially, the New York Times and USA Today, and sorts them based on similarities. Puzzles that have a greater percentage of the same black squares, or the same letters in identical positions, are ranked as more similar. Crosswords often re-use answers; puzzle-solvers are used to encountering some of the usual glue words that connect parts of the grid. As 538 reports, though, Pwanson noticed something odd in the data: Many of the puzzles that appeared in USA Today and affiliated publications, listed under various creators' names but all published under Timothy Parker as editor, were highly similar to each other, differing in as little as four answer words. These Pwanson classifies as "shoddy" -- they seem to be about as different as test responses based on a passed-around answer sheet. These seem to shortchange readers expecting original works, but may represent no real copyright problem, since Universal Uclick holds the copyright to them all. Perhaps puzzle enthusiasts aren't surprised that a publishing syndicate economizes on crosswords with slight variations, or that horoscopes are sometimes recycled.

However, another tranche of puzzles Pwanson calls "shady": these are puzzles that bear such strong resemblance in their central clues and answers to puzzles that have appeared in the New York Times that it's very hard to accept Parker's claim that the overlap is coincidental. In one example given, for instance, the answers "Drive Up the Wall," "Get On One's Nerves," and "Rub the Wrong Way" appeared in the same order and the same position in a Parker-edited puzzle that appeared in USA Today in June 2010 as they had in a Will Shortz-edited puzzle published nine years before in the New York Times.
Classic Games (Games)

Bethesda To Unleash the Hounds of Hell On May 13th: Doom Release Date Confirmed (hothardware.com) 86

MojoKid writes: Bethesda and id Software are in the process rebooting the Doom franchise and it seems like it's been in development for ages. When we last visited the upcoming Doom remake, Bethesda had posted a giblet-filled trailer which showed some pretty impressive gameplay visuals, killer hand-to-hand combat and plenty of head stomping. However, Bethesda just clued gamers in on something that Doom fans have been anticipating for years, an actual release date. Mark your calendars for May 13th, because that's when Doom will be available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and of course, the PC platform. Bethesda also dropped a new campaign trailer for you to ogle.
Classic Games (Games)

Computer Beats Go Champion 149

Koreantoast writes: Go (weiqi), the ancient Chinese board game, has long been held up as one of the more difficult, unconquered challenges facing AI scientists... until now. Google DeepMind researchers, led by David Silver and Demis Hassabis, developed a new algorithm called AlphaGo, enabling the computer to soundly defeat European Go champion Fan Hui in back-to-back games, five to zero. Played on a 19x19 board, Go players have more than 300 possible moves per turn to consider, creating a huge number of potential scenarios and a tremendous computational challenge. All is not lost for humanity yet: DeepMind is scheduled to face off in March with Lee Sedol, considered one of the best Go players in recent history, in a match compared to the Kasparov-Deep Blue duels of previous decades.
Toys

To Solve a Rubik's Cube In 1 Second, It Takes a Robot 100

The Next Web features a quick look at an eyebrow-raisingly fast Rubik's Cube-solving robot, created by developers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose. How fast? The robot can solve a scrambled cube in one second (as long as you're willing to round down consistent solutions in "less than 1.2 seconds") which makes for some fun repeat views on YouTube. One speed-shaving element of the design: Rather than grip the cube with a robot hand, Flatland and Rose essentially made the cube an integral part of the system, by drilling holes in the cube's center faces, and attaching stepper motors directly. (Also at Motherboard).
Math

Finally Calculated: All the Legal Positions In a 19x19 Game of Go (github.io) 117

Reader John Tromp points to an explanation posted at GitHub of a computational challenge Tromp coordinated that makes a nice companion to the recent discovery of a 22 million-digit Mersenne prime. A distributed effort using pooled computers from two centers at Princeton, and more contributed from the HP Helion cloud, after "many hiccups and a few catastrophes" calculated the number of legal positions in a 19x19 game of Go. Simple as Go board layout is, the permutations allowed by the rules are anything but simple to calculate: "For running an L19 job, a beefy server with 15TB of fast scratch diskspace, 8 to 16 cores, and 192GB of RAM, is recommended. Expect a few months of running time." More: Large numbers have a way of popping up in the game of Go. Few people believe that a tiny 2x2 Go board allows for more than a few hundred games. Yet 2x2 games number not in the hundreds, nor in the thousands, nor even in the millions. They number in the hundreds of billions! 386356909593 to be precise. Things only get crazier as you go up in boardsize. A lower bound of 10^{10^48} on the number of 19x19 games, as proved in our paper, was recently improved to a googolplex. (For anyone who wants to double check his work, Tromp has posted as open source the software used.)
Classic Games (Games)

Game Historian: Gygax Swiped Fantasy Rules From a Forgotten 1970 Wargame (blogspot.com) 139

An anonymous reader writes: According to game historian Jon Peterson, Gary Gygax's Chainmail fantasy wargame (which became the basis for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor and later Dungeons & Dragons) borrowed heavily from an earlier set of rules published by Leonard Patt, a long-forgotten member of the New England Wargamers Association. Among the appropriations were rules for heroes and wizards including the iconic fireball spell, which ended up in everything from Magic: the Gathering to World of Warcraft, as well as monster rules for dragons, orcs, ents, and other Tolkien creations. Gygax had something of a reputation for borrowing things without giving proper credit, and this latest revelation shows how the open and collaborative environment of early gaming was quickly exploited for commercial purposes.
Classic Games (Games)

NetHack 3.6.0 Released After a 12-Year Wait (nethack.org) 76

An anonymous reader writes: For the past 12 years, NetHack 3.4.3 has been the most recent version of the classic roguelike dungeon exploration game. On 7 December 2015, the official NetHack DevTeam announced the release of NetHack 3.6.0. While the release contains some new features, the most exciting part of the announcement is perhaps the DevTeam's move toward a more open development model: "We've migrated our internal source repository to Git, with plans of providing a publicly available 'current maintenance version' in the future." Bugzilla will be used for defect tracking.

NetHack 3.6.0 is dedicated to the memory of the author Terry Pratchett. Besides the Tourist character class inspired by his stories, NetHack now contains "a huge number of quotes from many of the Discworld novels."

Emulation (Games)

Sony Quietly Adds PS2 Emulation To the PS4 (eurogamer.net) 151

An anonymous reader writes: The Digital Foundry blog reports that Sony has added functionality to the PlayStation 4 that allows it to act as an emulator for some PlayStation 2 games. Surprisingly, the company did not mention that this functionality is live; a new Star Wars game bundle just happened to include three titles that were released on the PS2. From the article: "How can we tell? First of all, a system prompt appears telling you that select and start buttons are mapped to the left and right sides of the Dual Shock 4's trackpad. Third party game developers cannot access the system OS in this manner. Secondly, just like the PS2 emulator on PlayStation 3, there's an emulation system in place for handling PS2 memory cards. Thirdly, the classic PlayStation 2 logo appears in all of its poorly upscaled glory when you boot each title." Sony has confirmed the games are being emulated, but declined to provide any further details.
Classic Games (Games)

Unearthed E.T. Atari Game Cartridges Score $108K At Auction 62

MojoKid writes: Hundreds of Atari 2600 cartridges of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial that were excavated last year from a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico collectively raked in nearly $108,000 through eBay auctions. Some $65,000 of that will go to the city of Alamogordo, while the Tularosa Basin Historical Society will receive over $16,000. Over $26,600 went to shipping fees and other expenses. A team of excavators led by operational consultant Joe Lewandowski unearthed the E.T. cartridges in front of a film crew. The high profile (among gaming historians) dig was the basis a documentary called Atari: Game Over, which is available for free through the Microsoft Store.
Classic Games (Games)

18 Years On, Ultima Online Is Still Going 75

An anonymous reader writes: Ultima Online was released in September, 1997. It was the game that popularized graphical MMOs, and somehow, it's still running. Rock, Paper, Shotgun took a dive into the game to see how much it's changed, and who still plays it. As the community has shrunk, it's become increasingly tight-knit, and giving up the game now means giving up a social circle for many players. Even though newer MMOs have eclipsed the game's functionality, UO has a dedication to the full adventuring experience that later games haven't replicated. From the article: "While initially I couldn't understand the appeal of Ultima, when I decided to shake off the limitations of an early level character and simply explore for myself, I found a game world with a lot to offer. Player created civilizations, unique monsters, and the sheer mystery of the world combine to keep this ancient MMO compelling. For all the ways in which the genre has improved, Ultima Online remains one of just a few MMOs that let you live an alternative life. That feeling of ownership ... combined with the diversity on offer, keeps players coming back day after day."
Classic Games (Games)

Interviews: Ask Steve Jackson About Designing Games 111

Since starting his own company in 1980, Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, has created a number of hits, starting with Car Wars . . . followed shortly by Illuminati, and later by GURPS, the "Generic Universal Roleplaying System." In 1983, he was elected to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame - the youngest person ever so honored. He has personally won 11 Origins Awards. In the early 90's, Steve got international press due to the Secret Service's invasion of his office. The EFF helped make it possible for SJ Games to bring suit against the Secret Service and the U.S. government and win more than $50,000 in damages. His Ogre kickstarter a couple of years ago brought in close to a million dollars. His current hits are Munchkin, a very silly card game about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and Zombie Dice, in which you eat brains and try not to get shotgunned. His current projects include a variety of Munchkin follow-ups, and the continuing quest to get his games translated into digital form. Steve has agreed to put down the dice and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
AI

GA Tech Researchers Train Computer To Create New "Mario Brothers" Levels 27

An anonymous reader writes with a Georgia Institute of Technology report that researchers there have created a computing system that views gameplay video from streaming services like YouTube or Twitch, analyzes the footage and then is able to create original new sections of a game. The team tested their discovery, the first of its kind, with the original Super Mario Brothers, a well-known two-dimensional platformer game that will allow the new automatic-level designer to replicate results across similar games. Rather than the playable character himself, the Georgia Tech system focuses instead on the in-game terrain. "For example, pipes in the Mario games tend to stick out of the ground, so the system learns this and prevents any pipes from being flush with grassy surfaces. It also prevents "breaks" by using spatial analysis – e.g. no impossibly long jumps for the hero."
Classic Games (Games)

The Rebirth of Arcade Racers -- On Kickstarter 79

An anonymous reader writes: While big budget racers like The Crew and Forza chase realism, in recent years we've also seen a return to the racers of old with checkpoints, a ticking countdown, little in the way of AI and banging chiptune soundtracks. As a new article points out though, they're not in the arcades any more though — they're on Kickstarter. The author tracks down the creators of three indie games that look to Daytona rather than Gran Turismo for inspiration, and find out why we're seeing a resurgence in power sliding.

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