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XBox (Games)

Anatomy of an Achievement 157

Whether they annoy you or fulfill your nerdy collection habit, achievements have spread across the gaming landscape and are here to stay. The Xbox Engineering blog recently posted a glimpse into the creation of the Xbox 360 achievement system, discussing how achievements work at a software level, and even showing a brief snippet of code. They also mention some of the decisions they struggled with while creating them: "We are proud of the consistency you find across all games. You have one friends list, every game supports voice chat, etc. But we also like to give game designers room to come up with new and interesting ways to entertain. That trade-off was at the heart of the original decision we made to not give any indication that a new achievement had been awarded. Some people argued that gamers wouldn't want toast popping up in the heat of battle and that game designers would want to use their own visual style to present achievements. Others argued for consistency and for reducing the work required of game developers. In the end we added the notification popup and its happy beep, which turned out to be the right decision, but for a long time it was anything but obvious."
Image

New Speed Cameras Catch You From Space 351

A new kind of speed camera that uses satellites to measure average speed over long distances is being tested in Britain. The "Speedspike" system combines plate reading technology with a global positioning satellite receiver to calculate average speed between any two points in the area being monitored. From the article: "Details of the trials are contained in a House of Commons report. The company said in its evidence that the cameras enabled 'number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day.' It also referred to the system's 'low cost' and ease of installation." I can't wait to see the episode of MythBusters where they try to avoid getting a speeding ticket from a satellite.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Crytek Plans Free Version of CryENGINE 3 75

Develop reports that Crytek, makers of the Far Cry series, the Crysis series, and the game engines behind them, have plans to release a free-to-use version of CryENGINE 3, the software's latest iteration. Quoting: "Unreal vendor Epic Games and Unity have both seen their user-bases mushroom overnight since launching versions of their own engines that, while tied to different royalty rates, are completely free to download and operate. Now the CryEngine 3 group has revealed it wants to tap into this thriving market. The firm's CEO Cevat Yerli told Develop that Crytek already gives away a CryEngine 2 editor to the mod community, but explained that Crytek's expansion strategy stretches beyond. 'We have a very vivid community of users and modders and content creators, and usually that's a great way of unlocking the engine,' he said. ... 'So far that's what we've been offering for free, and it's easy entry into the production environment. [But] we do want to make a standalone free platform that people can run independent of CryEngine that will also be up to speed with the latest engine.'"
Space

Dwarf Planets Accumulate In Outer Solar System 93

An anonymous reader tips a piece in Australian Geographic indicating that Pluto may be in for another demotion, as researchers work to define dwarf planets more exactly. "[Australian researchers] now argue that the radius which defines a dwarf planet should instead be from 200–300 km, depending on whether the object is made of ice or rock. They base their smaller radius on the limit at which objects naturally form a spherical rather than potato-like shape because of 'self-gravity.' Icy objects less than 200 km (or rocky objects less than 300 km) across are likely to be potato shapes, while objects larger than this are spherical. ... They call this limit the 'potato radius' ... [One researcher is quoted] 'I have no problem with there being hundreds of dwarf planets eventually.'"

Comment Re:A false choice, of course... (Score 1) 2044

I have no idea where this idea of "choice" comes from. My employer offers services from a single insurance company. One. I don't like this particular insurance company, but my "choice" is to either pay them $400 a month for middlin' coverage for my family or go without insurance altogether. I had a heart attack two years ago, so the individual market is out of the question. I was excited about the public option until I found out that employed people wouldn't have access to it. That's irrelevant now anyway.
Games

Can You Fight DRM With Patience? 309

As modern DRM schemes get more annoying and invasive, the common wisdom is to vote with your wallet and avoid supporting developers and publishers who include such schemes with their games. Or, if you simply must play it, wait a while until outcry and complaints have caused the DRM restrictions to be loosened. But will any of that make game creators rethink their stance? An article at CNet argues that gamers are, in general, an impatient bunch, and that trait combined with the nature of the games industry means that progress fighting DRM will be slow or nonexistent. Quoting: "Increasingly so, the joke seems to be on the customers who end up buying this software when it first comes out. A simple look back at some controversial titles has shown us that after the initial sales come, the publisher later removes the vast majority of the DRM, leaving gamers to enjoy the software with fewer restrictions. ... Still, [waiting until later to purchase the game] isn't a good long-term solution. Early sales are often one of the big quantifiers in whether a studio will start working on a sequel, and if everyone were to wait to buy games once they hit the bargain price, publishers would simply stop making PC versions. There's also no promise that the really heavy bits of DRM will be stripped out at a later date, except for the fact that most publishers are unlikely to want to maintain the cost of running the activation, and/or online verification servers for older software."
Businesses

Failed Games That Damaged Or Killed Their Companies 397

An anonymous reader writes "Develop has an excellent piece up profiling a bunch of average to awful titles that flopped so hard they harmed or sunk their studio or publisher. The list includes Haze, Enter The Matrix, Hellgate: London, Daikatana, Tabula Rasa, and — of course — Duke Nukem Forever. 'Daikatana was finally released in June 2000, over two and a half years late. Gamers weren't convinced the wait was worth it. A buggy game with sidekicks (touted as an innovation) who more often caused you hindrance than helped ... achieved an average rating of 53. By this time, Eidos is believed to have invested over $25 million in the studio. And they called it a day. Eidos closed the Dallas Ion Storm office in 2001.'"
Role Playing (Games)

Looking Back At Dungeons & Dragons 189

An anonymous reader sends in a nostalgic piece about Dungeons & Dragons and the influence it's had on games and gamers for the past 36 years. Quoting: "Maybe there was something in the air during the early '70s. Maybe it was historically inevitable. But it seems way more than convenient coincidence that Gygax and Arneson got their first packet of rules for D&D out the door in 1974, the same year Nolan Bushnell managed to cobble together a little arcade machine called Pong. We've never had fun quite the same way since. Looking back, these two events set today's world of gaming into motion — the Romulus and Remus of modern game civilization. For the rest of forever, we would sit around and argue whether games should let us do more or tell us better stories."

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