Space

Take-Two Acquires Kerbal Space Program 85

Eloking quotes a report from Polygon: Take-Two Interactive has purchased physics-based space simulation Kerbal Space Program, according to announcements from publisher Take-Two and developer Squad. "We have been impressed with Kerbal Space Program since its launch, and we are committed to grow this unique experience while continuing to support its passionate community," said Michael Worosz, senior vice president, head of corporate development and independent publishing at Take-Two, in a release. "We view Kerbal Space Program as a new, long-term franchise that adds a well-respected and beloved IP to Take-Two's portfolio as we continue to explore opportunities across the independent development landscape." Kerbal Space Program officially launched on PC in 2015. The game had been available through Steam's Early Access program since 2013. It has since gone on to sell more than 2 million copies on console and PC. Developer Squad said in a statement that the acquisition won't alter its plan for continued development of Kerbal Space Program. The developer is currently working on the Making History Expansion for the game.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 189

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Operating Systems

Opinion: Even if You Hate the Idea, Windows Users Should Want Windows 10 S To Succeed (arstechnica.com) 259

Last week, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S, a new variant of its desktop operating system aimed largely at the education space. While time will tell how this new edition of Windows fares, if early reactions from enthusiasts are anything to go by, Windows 10 S is in for a tough ride ahead. For one, Windows 10 S only permits installation of applications from the Windows Store. If that wasn't a deal-breaker, several popular applications including Google's Chrome are missing from the Store. Amid all of this, reporter and columnist Peter Bright has an op-ed up on ArsTechnica in which he argues that despite the walled-garden offering, people should want Windows 10 S to succeed as it could make Windows better for everyone else. From his article: This [forbidding execution of any program that wasn't downloaded from the Windows Store] positions Microsoft as a gatekeeper -- although its criteria for entry within the store is for the most part not stringent, it does reserve the right to remove software that it deems undesirable -- and means that the vast majority of extant Windows software can't be used. This means that PC mainstays, from Adobe Photoshop to Valve's Steam, can't be used on Windows 10 S. [...] Some of the arguments against this are bizarre. Notably, the complaint that Microsoft has now erected a paywall -- "you have to pay $50 to run Steam!" -- is very peculiar when one considers that, in general, Windows licenses have never been free. [...] The Windows Store makes bad parts of Windows better: I'd argue, however, that Windows users should want Windows 10 S to succeed. Windows 10 S isn't for everybody, and Windows 10 S may not be for you, but if Windows 10 S succeeds, it will make Windows 10 better for everyone. The Store in Windows RT required developers to write their apps from scratch. With negligible numbers of users, developers were uninterested in doing this work. The Store in Windows 10 has Centennial. In principle, Centennial should make it easy to package existing Win32 apps and sell them through the Store, and if developers of Windows apps adopt Centennial en masse then the Store restriction shouldn't be particularly restrictive. Widespread adoption will be good for Windows users of all stripes.
PlayStation (Games)

Ask Slashdot: Best Virtual Reality Headsets? 141

Quantus347 writes: Straightforward question: I held off for a year to let the various manufacturers shake out the bugs, but now it's down to either a virtual-reality system or a new generation console. So I ask you, the Slashdot community, what are your personal experiences with any of the various VR systems out there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What little things annoy you the most? What features make a given product the best (or worst) option? "Sprinkle us with wisdom from your mighty brain!" For reference, the HTC Vive costs $799.00, while the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch motion controllers costs $598 (which is the price after the recent markdown from $799). These prices do not include the necessary hardware required to power each headset. The PlayStation VR ($399.99), Samsung Gear VR ($99.99), and Google Daydream View ($79.00) are also available for less moolah.
Graphics

Valve Releases SteamVR For Linux (gamingonlinux.com) 61

New submitter JustNiz quotes a report from GamingOnLinux: Valve has launched SteamVR for Linux officially in beta form and they are keen to stress that this is a development release. You will need to run the latest Steam Beta Client for it to work at all, so be sure to opt-in if you want to play around with it. VR on Linux will exclusively use Vulkan, so it's going to be a pretty good push for Vulkan if VR becomes more popular. Those who are interested can head over to GitHub for more information.
The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 151

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot (kotaku.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: "At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."
Hardware

Valve 'Comfortable' If Virtual Reality Headsets Fail (bbc.com) 88

VR headset developer Valve is "comfortable" with the idea that the technology could turn out to be a complete failure. Gabe Newell, head of the game studio, made the statement in an interview with news site Polygon. From a report: Valve is co-developer of the Vive VR headset with phone firm HTC. Mr Newell said, so far, interest in the technology was in line with its expectations and that some VR games had already sold well. In the rare and wide-ranging interview, Mr Newell said the advent of VR had much in common with the development of PCs in the 1980s. In both cases, he said, people bought technology without knowing why and discovered afterwards what they were good for. For the PC, he said, it was spreadsheets and businesses that drove the initial success. With VR, people were only starting to discover compelling uses as they experimented and took risks with the technology.Mr Newell said there were now about 1,300 VR-based applications on its Steam gaming service and about 30 of those had made more than $250,000 in revenue.
Software

Valve Is Shutting Down Steam's Greenlight Community Voting System (theverge.com) 99

Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.
Businesses

Valve and Game Publishers Face EU Probe For Geo-Blocking; ASUS Faces Probe For Online Price-Fixing (betanews.com) 74

Valve, the company behind games distribution platform Steam, is being investigated by EU antitrust regulators. Agreements in place between Valve and five game publishers that implement geo-blocking in titles could breach European competition rules. From a BetaNews report: Valve, alongside Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax, is under investigation to determine whether the practice of restricting access to games and prices based on location is legal. At the same time the European Commission is launching an investigation into ASUS, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer for price manipulation. The investigation into the four electronics manufacturers centers around the fact that the companies restricted the ability of online retailers to set their own pricing for goods.
Cloud

Tim Sweeney Dislikes Windows 10 Cloud Rumors, Calls OS 'Crush Steam Edition' (arstechnica.com) 183

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The rumor that Microsoft is building a version of Windows 10 that can only install apps from the Windows Store has drawn criticism before it's even official. Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney took to Twitter to attack the operating system. Although its real name is named Windows 10 Cloud, he's dubbing it "Windows 10 Crush Steam Edition." Sweeney is convinced that Microsoft wants to exercise total control over the Windows platform and destroy Valve's Steam. Last year, Sweeney attacked the Universal Windows Platform API. He claimed (incorrectly) that third-party stores such as Steam would be unable to sell and distribute UWP games, leaving them at a disadvantage relative to Microsoft's own store. He followed this statement with the claim that Microsoft would systematically modify Windows so as to make Steam work worse and worse, such that gamers grow tired of it and switch to the Windows Store. In his tweets, Sweeney recognizes that Microsoft wants to compete with Chrome OS. But he fails to understand what the company must do to actually offer that competition. He wrote that "it's great for Microsoft to compete with ChromeOS, but NOT BY LOCKING OUT COMPETING WINDOWS SOFTWARE STORES." This statement represents a failure to understand that "locking out competing Windows software stores" is, for this market, positively desirable. It's fundamental to preventing the hard-to-support free-for-all that a Windows system would otherwise represent. A later tweet does recognize the value of this lockdown, but Sweeney says that Windows 10's "great admin features to limit user software installs" should be used instead. This again suggests a misunderstanding of the target market: systems will be used with little to no supervision and with little to no administrative oversight. To compete against the Chromebook, Windows 10 Cloud needs to be locked down by default, and it must not offer any ready way to disable that lockdown. In his complaints, Sweeney also fails to consider what happens should the Chromebook threat go unaddressed: Chromebooks running Chrome OS will proliferate. These machines will not support third-party stores, they will not support Steam, and they will not support PC games at all. Sweeney may not want Microsoft to build this world, but even if Microsoft doesn't create it, Google already is doing so.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Valve Reveals Steam's 2016 Top Earners -- Including 'No Man's Sky' (pcgamer.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes PC Gamer: In a surprise announcement today to kick off 2017, Valve has revealed the 100 best-selling Steam games of 2016... Although the "Top Sellers" section of Steam gives a constant sense of what's selling now, Valve hasn't previously compiled an annual list of which Steam games earned the most money... Rather than ranked in order from 1-100, the list is separated into tiers, from Platinum to Bronze, based on revenue (as opposed to copies sold)... Doom didn't crack the top 12, but it may have gotten close: it's ranked somewhere between 13th and 24th
That second-place Gold tier included more modern throwbacks to classic games, including Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20-Year Celebration. Meanwhile, No Man's Sky, which got off to a rocky start this summer before its massive November update, still turned up in the top "Platinum" tier for revenue earned in 2016. (And it's now discounted 40%.)

In fact, "As an extension of the Winter Sale, all but six of these games are on sale," reports PC Gamer. The other top-earning Steam games were Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Grand Theft Auto V, Civilization VI, and DOTA 2 (which is free to play), as well as Rocket League, XCOM 2, Dark Souls III, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 4, Total War: Warhammer, and Tom Clancy's The Division.
Games

Steam Is Down (steamstat.us) 183

An anonymous reader writes: The entire Steam domain seems to be down for everyone. The websites and Steam clients won't connect. No word from Steam on Twitter or Reddit about the outage. The status page of Steam as well as third-party monitoring sites have confirmed the outage. A tweet from an unofficial Steam Status page says, "100% of #Steam connection manager servers are still down."
Software

Steam Fined $3 Million For Refusing Refunds (smh.com.au) 160

Gaming company Valve Corporation has been hit with a $3 million fine after the Federal Court found its online games site Steam breached Australian Consumer Laws. From a report: The court imposed the maximum fine requested by Australia's competition regulator because of Valve's disregard for Australian law and lack of contrition. Valve's general counsel, Karl Quackenbush, told the court the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia, and did not check its obligations until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission got involved in April 2014. It only provided staff verbal instructions. This lack of interest in Australian laws and lack of cooperation encouraged Justice James Edelman to impose a pentaly 12 times more than Valve Corporation suggested it pay.
AI

Londoners Tests A Self-Driving Beer Tap And An AI-Assisted Brewery (gizmodo.co.uk) 90

At a bar in London, they're now testing the prototype for a self-driving beer tap, according to drunkdrone. Gizmodo UK reports: All you need to do is select your pint of choice on the touchscreen, pay with a tap of your contactless card and stick your pint glass at its base. The pump contains an electronic valve, which opens to allow beer to flow through. A liquid flow meter ensures the right amount of good stuff comes out.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is also reporting on a London startup that's brewing beer with a special algorithm that constantly modifies the percentage of each ingredient -- hops, water, yeast and grain -- based on ongoing customer feedback. Levels of carbonation, bitterness and alcohol content all change based on how people are responding... The algorithm produces new recipes every month incorporating the feedback. "There are too many brands out there that just have one recipe for a beer, and they've had it for 60 years," said Hew Leith, co-founder of IntelligentX, the maker of the beer appropriately named AI. "We're not about that. We're about using data to listen to our customers, get all that feedback, and then brew something that's more attuned to what they actually want and need."
He believes the same process could also be used to design perfume, chocolate, and coffee.
Businesses

Google, HTC, Oculus, Samsung, Sony Join Forces To Create Global VR Association (techcrunch.com) 59

Google, HTC, Oculus, Samsung, Sony and Acer have teamed up to form the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA) in an effort to reduce fragmentation and failure in the industry. GVRA aims to "unlock and maximize VR's potential," but there are little details as to what this may mean for consumers. TechCrunch reports: What many in the VR community have been thirsting for is some unification of standards in terms of software and hardware. Games bought in the Oculus store don't play on the Vive or PS VR. Sensors for the Vive don't work on Oculus. Sony doesn't play nice with anyone else's standards etc. etc. Valve, which makes the Steam store and SteamVR platform for the HTC Vive and others, is notably not a member of this collective so any hopes of a unified standard (like its OpenVR platform) emerging from this collective is likely not in the cards. From the GVRA press release: "The goal of the Global Virtual Reality Association is to promote responsible development and adoption of VR globally. The association's members will develop and share best practices, conduct research, and bring the international VR community together as the technology progresses. The group will also serve a resource for consumers, policymakers, and industry interested in VR."
Advertising

No Man's Sky's Steam Page Didn't Mislead Gamers, Rules UK Ad Watchdog (arstechnica.com) 76

Shortly after it officially launched in August on PlayStation and Windows, No Man's Sky -- the game that sees the protagonist explore space and experience uncertain places -- was accused of false advertising. Players felt that the pictures and videos used to promote the game on its Steam page didn't represent the sort of things players might expect to encounter in the game. Today, a UK advertising regulator has ruled the opposite -- the game didn't mislead gamers. Ars Technica reports: The complainants -- who had been part of a semi-organized campaign upset with the state of the game at release -- insisted that the screenshots on the storefront had seemed to promise various features that turned out to be absent from the final game. These included things like the appearance and behavior of animals, large in-game buildings, large-scale space combat, loading screens, a promised system wherein the different factions contested galactic territory, and general graphical polish. Hello Games' defense rested on the fact that No Man's Sky is procedurally generated, and that while players would not enjoy the exact experience shown in promotional images, they could reasonably expect to see similar things. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed, saying: "The summary description of the game made clear that it was procedurally generated, that the game universe was essentially infinite, and that the core premise was exploration. As such, we considered consumers would understand the images and videos to be representative of the type of content they would encounter during gameplay, but would not generally expect to see those specific creatures, landscapes, battles, and structures." It also ruled that the developers hadn't misled customers over graphics: "We understood the graphical output of the game would be affected by the specifications of each player's computer, and considered that consumers would generally be aware of this limitation."
Earth

Google Launches Earth VR For Free On HTC Vive (roadtovr.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes: Google today revealed Earth VR, a virtual-reality version of the company's famous Google Earth program that's built for the HTC Vive. The application packs the rich Google Earth dataset -- which includes high resolution satellite imagery, elevation data, and detailed 3D modeled cities and landscapes -- into a single model of the planet which users can view all the way from space down to the ground, walking among cities like a giant. The company tells Road to VR that "Earth VR is a product, not a demo," and that it's designed to benefit from improvements in the Earth dataset over time automatically, and it will see regular updates post launch. You can download Google Earth VR for the HTC Vive via Steam.
Windows

SteamVR To Get Linux and Mac OSX Support Within 'a Few Months' (roadtovr.com) 64

Valve is planning to introduce beta versions of its SteamVR platform for Mac OSX and Linux users within a few months, RoadToVr reports citing an executive. From the report:One thing's for sure, if you're a PC user wanting to indulge in a spot of immersive entertainment right now, the choice of operating systems on which you can do so are mostly limited to just one. Windows dominates the VR PC landscape right now and that looks set to continue for a while longer. However, Valve will soon move to encourage a diminishing of that monopoly, as it plans to bring SteamVR -- the company's Steam-integrated VR platform -- to both Linux and Mac OSX platforms within the next few months. The initiative was revealed by Valve's Joe Ludwig during a talk at this year's developer-focused Steam Dev Days event in Seattle last month. During the talk, Ludwig outlined the company's view that VR should be as open to innovation as possible, touting the benefits for the long term evolution of virtual reality and how Valve, with OpenVR, are trying to keep what Ludwig calls platform "gatekeepers" from (as they see it) stifling progression in the VR space. Additionally, Ludwig stated that it's been listening to developer and user feedback during SteamVR's first year in consumer hands, and says that they've heard clearly that a version of SteamVR is wanted on other operating systems.
Wireless Networking

HTC Vive Goes Wireless (uploadvr.com) 29

One of the biggest cons with premium virtual-reality headsets is the fact that they need to be tethered to a powerful gaming PC or game console via annoying wires. In early September, HTC announced it was working on a method to remove the wires, and now their solution is officially available via a $220 add-on kit. UploadVR reports: HTC today announced a tether-less VR upgrade kit for its SteamVR device, made by TPCAST, one of the first of 33 companies to join the Vive X Accelerator. Speaking to UploadVR in a phone interview, [China Regional President of Vive at HTC Alvin W. Graylin] said that the experience would "greatly improve" the overall Vive experience, with no "noticeable difference" for factors like latency. The product will be available to pre-order with a standard battery, though Graylin said that a bigger battery will be sold eventually. We're told the standard battery can deliver around one and a half hours of power. The bigger battery would rest in a user's pocket. HTC expects the device to be adopted by "avid" Vive users, though it could also be useful for businesses. The upgrade kit will be available to pre-order on Vive's Chinese website "in limited quantity" for 1,499 RMB ($220.33). The kit is said to ship starting in Q1 2017. According to HTC, pre-orders go live at 7 a.m. Pacific on Friday. Graylin said anyone could order the unit from there and pay for shipping. According to HTC, in a press release, "Order fulfillment will be prioritized to existing customers who can provide a valid Vive serial number." You can watch some wireless HTC Vive test footage here.

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