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Graphics

Wearable 'Backpack PCs' Let You Experience High-End VR On The Go (mashable.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes: Powerful virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require powerful PCs with beefy graphics cards to operate. That means you'll usually be tethered to a PC tower in your home. Well, HP and MSI have announced portable 'backpack PCs' designed to be used with high-end virtual reality headsets. These PC internals are built in a backpack enclosure powered by a large battery pack. The HP Omen X weighs less than 10 pounds and has a battery that's big enough to last for up to one hour of gameplay, but you do have the option of swapping out the batteries for uninterrupted VR. Specs include either an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, up to 32GB of RAM, and at least an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 or higher. The MSI Backpack PC features an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 980 graphics, according to the company. The last of the backpack PC trio is the Zotac Mobile VR. The company hasn't released any specs of the product but the company did state in a blog post, "This mobile solution not only removes the bulk of connecting to the large traditional computer towers of old, but also allows the user to roam freely in VR with their undivided attention. This innovative solution includes a system powerful enough to drive VR, and a portable battery pack to keep you going." There is no pricing or availability information as of yet.
Education

American Schools Teaching Kids To Code All Wrong (qz.com) 347

theodp writes: Over at Quartz, Globaloria CEO Idit Harel argues that American schools are teaching our kids how to code all wrong. She writes, "The light and fluffy version of computer science -- which is proliferating as a superficial response to the increased need for coders in the workplace -- is a phenomenon I refer to as 'pop computing.' While calling all policy makers and education leaders to consider 'computer science education for all' is a good thing, the coding culture promoted by Code.org and its library of movie-branded coding apps provide quick experiences of drag-and-drop code entertainment. This accessible attraction can be catchy, it may not lead to harder projects that deepen understanding." You mean the "first President to write a line of computer code" may not have progressed much beyond moving Disney Princess Elsa forward? Harel says there must be a distinction drawn between "coding tutorials" and learning "computer science." Building an app, for example, can't be done in a couple of hours, it "requires multi-dimensional learning contexts, pathways and projects." "Just as would-be musicians become proficient by listening, improvising and composing, and not just by playing other people's compositions, so would-be programmers become proficient by designing prototypes and models that work for solving real problems, doing critical thinking and analysis, and creative collaboration -- none of which can be accomplished in one hour of coding," she writes.
XBox (Games)

Smaller Xbox One Coming This Year, More Powerful Xbox One In 2017, Says Report (kotaku.com) 82

Keza MacDonald and Jason Schreier, reporting for game blog Kotaku: Microsoft is preparing at least two new Xbox models for release in the next two years, sources tell Kotaku. Later this year we'll see a cheaper, smaller Xbox One, and next year Microsoft will release a more powerful version of their premiere console. The 2017 Xbox, which is codenamed Scorpio, will have a more powerful GPU. We hear that it will also be technically capable of supporting the Oculus Rift and that Microsoft is pursuing a partnership with Oculus. As for 2016, sources have told us there's at least a more compact version coming by year's end. One source believed it will include a larger 2TB hard drive, double the capacity of the most spacious current model. We're expecting Microsoft to announce the more compact machine at E3 next month.
Windows

Pac-Man 256 Coming To PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC With Multiplayer (venturebeat.com) 53

Pac-Man is coming to gaming consoles. Publisher Bandai Namco announced on Monday that Pac-Mac 256 will be launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on June 21. The VentureBeat reports: The console version of Pac-Man 256 will include a four-player local co-op game where you and your friends will have to collaborate to eat as many pellets as possible while collectively avoiding ghosts. This means that you can have up to four people sitting together on a couch and playing the game simultaneously. Each person controls a Pac-Man, and you will work together to avoid the ghosts. Because it is "local" co-op, this isn't an online mode, and you should instead think of it as something to do at a party... if you're cool like me and play video games at parties.
Movies

Rovio's Desperate Push For 'Angry Birds' Movie (venturebeat.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes:Last year Rovio "cut 213 jobs, affecting all departments except those working on the film and its related projects," remembers VentureBeat, describing their effort to make a movie about three outcast birds on an island of happier birds who all meet in an anger management class. But "Since Rovio funded the entire film, the directors didn't have to answer to an executive committee or a board of trustees..." reports VentureBeat, quoting director Clay Kaytis as saying "We had to make ourselves happy... We were making the films for [ourselves] instead of for a larger entity that expects something in return."

After working for four years from a script by Jon Vitti (a writer for both The Simpsons and The Office), and funding a marketing onslaught that lasted nine months, Rovio finally saw their Angry Birds movie open in this weekend's #1 spot, according to the New York Times. "Most of the 'Angry Birds' financial risk fell to Rovio, the Finnish video game company, which paid $173 million to make and market the movie. As such, Rovio will receive the bulk of any profit."

In China, McDonald's released special Angry Birds burgers with red or green buns...which at least one patron complained made the buns look moldy.
China

Microsoft Finds Legal Path To Launch Minecraft In China (arstechnica.com) 91

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Minecraft's PC and smartphone versions are finally coming to China. On Friday, Microsoft and Mojang announced the beginning of a "five-year exclusive partnership" with Chinese software publisher NetEase, Inc to roll the game out onto Chinese computer and smartphone marketplaces. Microsoft was able to publish the game on Xbox One consoles late last year, but those consoles have yet to penetrate the Chinese market to the extent that PCs and smartphones have, and the fact that even Microsoft had to license the game to someone else as opposed to launching it from its own Shanghai campus is a stern reminder of what roadblocks stand in the way of Western software developers. "The most challenging aspect of doing business in China by far is dealing with the government," former PopCap executive James Gwertzman said at the 2010 Game Developers Conference. Game publishers must acquire a combined six permits to launch a game in China, and most of those permits cannot be acquired by foreign-operated companies. Microsoft is presumably in the exact same regulatory boat, and its choice of partner is telling; NetEase already has a major Western-gaming reputation thanks to its partnership with megawatt game makers Blizzard. Gwertzman guessed that Minecraft will probably avoid such undue attention with its upcoming launch. "Minecraft is on the good side as it encourages teamwork and learning," he said. "I see Minecraft as the perfect example of a game that will receive public support [in China]." Meanwhile, American technology companies like Apple and Microsoft are undergoing security reviews in the communist country.
Nintendo

Nintendo May Start Selling 'Computer Software' (arstechnica.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo's most recent fiscal-year disclosure made headlines for announcing a release window for the new "Nintendo NX" console and yet another Zelda game delay, but it also included news of serious corporate restructuring. The short version: Nintendo will soon involve a supervisory committee in making top-level executive decisions. A Tuesday announcement included the company's amended articles of incorporation, expected to be approved by shareholders this June, and it included three new entries in its "business engagement" list: restaurants, medical and health devices, and "computer software." The choice of adding "computer software" to that list, on the other hand, seems particularly curious -- especially since Nintendo's existing list of engaged businesses includes terms that sound very much like computer software, particularly the broad term of "contents such as games, images, and music." That list also revised an entry that used to say that the company would license the "use or reproduction of copyrighted works" and "trademarks." Now, Nintendo will license its "intellectual property rights." That shift to the term "intellectual property" includes copyrighted works and trademarks in an umbrella that also may include such Nintendo-owned concepts as patents.
Google

Google Announces New Virtual Reality Platform 'Daydream' (androidandme.com) 24

ErnieKey writes: At Google I/O today, the company announced what they are calling "Google Daydream." This is their upcoming virtual-reality platform that takes Google Cardboard several steps further. Daydream is a platform that will provide guidance for both hardware and software developers to create truly immersive Android N compatible VR hardware, games and experiences. The first hardware will be available this Fall. Companies such as HTC, Samsung, ASUS and others are working on smartphone handsets and VR headsets that are Daydream compatible. Game developers like EA and Ubisoft are already working on compatible games. Google is also releasing reference devices including a headset and controller to encourage developers and companies to develop content for Daydream. In addition to Daydream, Google announced Allo, Duo, Instant Apps, and a stable Android N developer preview.
Movies

Live-Action Tetris Movie Secures $80 Million Funding, Plans To Be Part Of A Trilogy (arstechnica.com) 122

An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, Threshold Entertainment announced it would be producing a live-action film based on the Russian stacking game Tetris. Today, Threshold Entertainment announced it had secured $80 million in funding for the project. Threshold's Larry Kasanoff has worked on the Mortal Kombat film in 1995, which grossed $70 million. Media mogul Bruno Wu, will serve as co-producer on the film ensuring that the movie will be able to sustain any unplanned budget overruns. According to Deadline, the film is planned for a 2017 release with Chinese locations and a Chinese case. However, Kasanoff notes "the goal is to make world movies for the world market." What's more is that the movie could be the basis of a trilogy, the producer says, with a plot that's "not at all what you think; it will be a cool surprise." Kasanoff told the Wall Street Journal that "this isn't a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We're not giving feet to the geometric shapes... What you [will] see in Tetris is the teeny tip of an iceberg that has intergalactic significance."
Microsoft

One Million Dormant Xbox Live Gamertags Can Be Yours Starting Wednesday (arstechnica.com) 22

An anonymous reader shares an Ars Technica report: Are you the type to dash madly toward any new online service's sign-up page even if you think you'll never touch it again, just to lock down your username of choice? As any good geek knows, handles are a precious commodity, especially for free services that don't have explicitly advertised nickname-recycling policies. One online ecosystem, Xbox Live, may have a respite in store for users who want to remove extraneous numbers or characters from their Gamertag of choice. A Monday announcement from Xbox Live PR chief Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb confirmed that a slew of "nearly one million" dormant Gamertags will be made available for qualified Xbox Live Gold members starting on Wednesday, May 18, at 2pm EDT.
First Person Shooters (Games)

History Buffs Discover Inaccuracies In Battlefield 1 Trailer (hothardware.com) 74

MojoKid shares an interesting article from Tom's Hardware. While the new Battlefield 1 trailer may be the most-liked trailer in the history of YouTube, it's also historically inaccurate, according to a popular YouTube channel about World War I. "Some of the scenes feature some unusual or experimental gear," reports Indy Neidell, the voice of the video series The Great War, "and some weapons are carried by soldiers from the other side."

Thousands of people joined the YouTube channel after the release of the game's new trailer, prompting this special video review of the historical accuracy of the Battlefield 1 trailer. "Some of the most spectacular moments in the trailer, such as the tanks bursting into trenches or giant, ominous zeppelins hovering, are actually historically accurate," reports Tom's Hardware, adding that the YouTube commentator "ultimately applauds Battlefield 1 for incorporating so many different elements of WWI. Many people often forget that much of WWI was fought through hand-to-hand combat or that battles took place throughout Eurasian landmass."
First Person Shooters (Games)

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Doom Story? 351

I remember loading Doom for the first time from a 3.5-inch disk back in 1994. In 1997 the source code for Doom's Linux version was released just before Christmas. A hidden Doom level appeared in Microsoft Excel, and a Doom video was also used to promote Windows 95. By 2004 a drummer from Nine Inch Nails was recording the theme song for Doom 3...

There was that weird movie with The Rock and Karl Urban. Last year Doom was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. This January John Romero created a new level, and this weekend's release of a new Doom also featured a mod with one of the the original Doom II levels from 1994.

After a storied history, millions of frags, and thousands of hours of in-world gameplay, Doom holds a unique place in both the history of gaming and geeks. So share your favorite stories in the comments. What's your personal best-loved story about Doom?
Microsoft

Microsoft Kills Its Game-Building Platform Spark (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader writes:"Starting 5/13/16, 'Project Spark' will no longer be available for download on the Xbox Marketplace or Windows Store," Microsoft wrote in a blog post, adding that it will go offline for good on August 12th. They thanked fans who have "gone above and beyond supporting 'Project Spark' by uploading hundreds of thousands of creations and dreaming up millions of objects, behaviors, and experiences..."

Ars Technica remembered Spark as the free multi-device, build-your-own game platform that you never knew existed. "Marketing teams never effectively sold the possibilities and power of Spark's make-your-own-game system," reports Ars Technica. "While short teaser videos hinted at the game enabling everything from kart racers to airborne battles, major demonstrations tended to revolve more around generic 3D platformers.

First Person Shooters (Games)

Original 'Doom' Level Remade in the New 'Doom' (vice.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes: After the new Doom was released yesterday, Vice discovered its SnapMap feature had already been used to recreate one of the levels from the original Doom. "The original Doom thrived on a strong modding community, and id is supporting that tradition here in a great way." Sharing videos for both the old and new versions of the E1 M2 nuclear plant map, Vice also applauded the interface for the new SnapMap tool, which lets users design their own levels, even on consoles. SnapMap includes tools for arranging objects, placing enemies, and even triggering events when a player reaches certain points in a level. "It's incredibly easy to use considering how much you can do, and so far I've had little trouble uploading, downloading, and browsing for user-made levels."
Newegg is also offering a $15 discount code for PC, Xbox One, or PS4 versions.
Education

Disney Research Leverages RFID Tech For Low Cost Interactive Games With Physical Objects (hothardware.com) 18

MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Researchers at Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University have been toying around with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are typically used for high-tech inventory management in a variety of industries, but researchers concocted a way to make RFID technology feasible for interactive games using physical objects. Using a framework the researchers developed called RapID, they showed how inexpensive RFID tags can sense when a physical object is moved or touched in near real-time. The research team demonstrated a handful of use case scenarios. One included a tic-tac-toe board that mirrors the physical game on a computer monitor with added sound effects, while another demonstration showed users playing a Pong clone using real wooden sliders to control the onscreen action. What the researchers have done is no small feat. RFID was never intended for interactive toys, and wasn't built for real-time or near real-time responsiveness. RapID interprets the signals by weighing possibilities instead of waiting on confirmation from RFID tags. Most importantly, it reduces typical lag times from 2 seconds all the way down to 200 milliseconds.

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