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PC Games (Games)

February 2009 Indie Game Round-Up 27

gametunnel1 brings us the February round-up of reviews for recent independent game releases. The top game this time around was Crayon Physics, which was also celebrated at the Independent Games Festival. Also scoring high were Ragdoll Cannon and adventure game Emerald City Confidential, about which they say, "The game is set in the mythical land of Oz, but not quite the same one as the movie/books. Rather than a cheery and fun-filled world, Oz is depicted like a 1940s film noir, so things are much bleaker. ... The highlight of the gameplay would have to be the gathering of information, via investigation of the environment or questioning characters in the game. Talking to characters for leads and clues is fun, especially since sometimes you'll have to figure out if what they're saying has any significance or not."
Image

Company Makes Paper Out Of Wombat Poo Screenshot-sm 71

Creative Paper attracted worldwide interest for its paper made of kangaroo droppings in 2005. Well it's been four years and the best and brightest at Creative Paper haven't been sitting on their laurels. What's their great new idea? They have now launched a kind of paper made from wombat poo. Scat-obsessed Darren Simpson from Creative Paper says the paper is green or gold depending on the time of year the droppings are harvested. The wombat paper will be unveiled at an international paper conference in Burnie, Australia later this month.
Games

Does a Game Have To Fail To Get a Real Ending? 178

After the closure of Tabula Rasa over the weekend, the Opposable Thumbs blog asks if that's what it takes for a game to have an actual ending these days. Quoting: "It's no surprise that most games hope for a sequel, as it's the easiest way to get some of that money back while taking advantage of the staff, engine, assets, and other advantages you've banked while creating the first title. The problem? This has lead to a generation of cliff-hangers at worst, and endings that hedge their bets at best. ... As all the game's characters die, as the servers are shut down, as the data is erased or backed up and then boxed or whatever happens to MMO data once the game is done, it's hard not to be a little sad. The sights and sounds of the world of Tabula Rasa are gone, forever. All the memories written into those ones and zeroes will quickly be forgotten, and no one will walk those grounds again." Massively put together a few screenshots and videos to commemorate the ending of the game.
Games

Simulating Emotions Within Games 47

Gamasutra is running an opinion piece about the way video games handle simulated emotions. Most often, an non-player character's emotional state is used to either tell a story or to drive gameplay. The author suggests that as both concepts become more complex in modern games, the simulation of emotions must also become more dynamic to remain interesting. Quoting: "Most of our emotional simulations use a simple sensation/calculation/behavior loop. Someone says or does something to a character; this influences his emotional state; he acts upon his feelings. His emotional state then reverts to a more neutral state over time (I was angry half an hour ago, but I've calmed down now), or changes again in response to another sensation. If these systems are really simple they produce absurd results: a character is furious one moment and cheerful a second later, like a Warner Brothers cartoon character. This is the kind of thing you get with finite state machines. This approach doesn't take into account the fact that behavior itself changes emotions. Behavior is not merely an output to be exhibited; it also affects how we feel. It feeds back into our emotional state."
Music

Will People Really Boycott Apple Over DRM? 664

Ian Lamont writes "DefectiveByDesign.org is waging a battle against DRM with a 35-day campaign targeting various hardware and software products from Microsoft, Nintendo, and others. On day 11 it blasted iTunes for continuing to use DRM-encumbered music, games, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, and apps with DRM, while competitors are selling music without restrictions. DefectiveByDesign calls on readers to include 'iTunes gift cards and purchases in your boycott of all Apple products' to 'help drive change.' However, there's a big problem with this call to arms: most people simply don't care about iTunes DRM. Quoting: 'The average user is more than willing to pay more money for hobbled music because of user interface, ease of use, and marketing. ... Apple regularly features exclusive live sets from popular artists, while Amazon treats its digital media sales as one more commodity being sold.' What's your take on the DRM schemes used by Apple and other companies? Is a boycott called for, and can it be effective?"
Games

Survival-Horror Genre Going Extinct? 166

Destructoid is running an opinion piece looking at the state of the survival-horror genre in games, suggesting that the way it has developed over the past several years has been detrimental to its own future. "During the nineties, horror games were all the rage, with Resident Evil and Silent Hill using the negative aspects of other games to an advantage. While fixed camera angles, dodgy controls and clunky combat were seen as problematic in most games, the traditional survival horror took them as a positive boon. A seemingly less demanding public ate up these games with a big spoon, overlooking glaring faults in favor of videogames that could be genuinely terrifying." The Guardian's Games Blog has posted a response downplaying the decline of the genre, looking forward to Ubisoft's upcoming I Am Alive and wondering if independent game developers will pick up where major publishers have left off.
Microsoft

New Xbox Experience Goes Live 332

Today, Microsoft launched the New Xbox Experience for Xbox Live. The list of new features includes the streaming of TV shows and movies through Netflix, the ability to install games to the HDD, an avatar system, and the Community Games platform. The launch itself was shaky at first, but most issues have been smoothed out. Sony-owned Columbia Pictures immediately pulled their movie selection, though it may return when a licensing deal gets worked out. Halo 3 developer Bungie pointed out that not all games will run faster when installed to a HDD because of the way the games already interact with the drive.
Math

Fewer Shuffles Suffice 101

An anonymous reader writes "You may have heard that it takes about seven shuffles to mix up a deck of cards to near randomness. Turns out, though, that most of the time, perfect randomness is more than you need. In blackjack, for example, you don't care about suits. The same mathematician who developed the original result now says that for many games, four shuffles is enough. And the result isn't only important for card sharks. It helps reveal the math underlying Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulations, telling applied mathematicians when they can stop their simulations."
Games

Professor, ECA Dispute Video Game Aggression Study 78

Earlier this week, we discussed research which linked aggression in children with video games. The Entertainment Consumer Association responded with a statement criticizing the research, as did Christopher Ferguson, a professor at Texas A&M. PCWorld sat down with Ferguson for a more in-depth discussion of the flaws with the study. In addition to bringing up the correlation vs. causation fallacy, he notes: "Even if you took it at face value, which I don't, video game violence overlaps somewhere between, based on their own statistics, a half a percent to two percent, with a variance in aggression. If you woke up tomorrow and you were half a percent more aggressive than you were today, would you notice that? It's just not much of an effect. If the author said look, there's a little effect here, maybe video games increase aggression a tiny bit, but it's not going to make anyone into a serial murderer, yeah, alright, we may argue a little bit over the methodology, though I'd still say they should've controlled for other stuff. "
Role Playing (Games)

Otherland MMO Announced 142

Eurogamer breaks news that German games publisher DTP Entertainment will be making an MMORPG based on Tad Williams' Otherland series of books. As anyone who has read the books will know, this could be an interesting new spin on virtual worlds. Quoting: "For want of a better soundbite, let's call it the first cyberpunk MMO: a virtual world about virtual worlds, in which your avatar is an avatar, the NPCs play NPCs, and you explore a multiverse in which you might be in realistic historical surroundings one minute, and cartoon fantasy ones the next. Everything changes, even your own appearance, and nothing is even pretending to be real. ... You start the game as one of those consciousnesses in a place called the Land of the Lost, a nightmare scenario which you're trying to escape. You'll run, be killed, and reborn in a 'baby' state as a simple, low-rent sim (though we suspect the game won't be using that term, for obvious reasons) - a blank, featureless avatar that can be male, female or even neither."
Software

Software Price Gap Between the US and Europe 1003

Kensai7 writes "A quick comparison between same versions of mainstream software sold in the USA and the EU markets show a big difference in the respective price tags. If you want to buy online, let's say, Adobe's Dreamweaver CS3, you'll have to pay $399 if you live in the States, but a whopping E570 (almost $900 in current exchange rates!) if you happen to buy it in Germany. Same story for Microsoft's newest products: Expression Web 2 in America costs only $299 new, but try that in Italy and they will probably ask you no less than E366 ($576!). How can such an abyssal difference be explained? I understand there are some added costs for the localized translated versions, but I also thought the Euro was supposed to be outbuying the dollar. Where's the catch?"
Real Time Strategy (Games)

The Physics of Football 163

Ponca City, We Love You writes "There will be a program on applied physics and real time strategy that you might want to watch on television today. Conservation of momentum during elastic and inelastic collisions is one aspect on which to focus as players tackle their opponents. It is of critical importance that the Patriots bring down New York's huge and powerful running back, 6-foot-4, 265-pound Brandon Jacobs. An average-size NFL defensive back's mass combined with his speed — on average, 4.56 seconds for the 40-yard dash — can produce up to 1600 pounds of tackling force. A tackle with half a ton of force may sound like a crippling blow, but the body can handle twice that amount because the player's equipment spreads out the incoming energy, lessening its severity." Nanotech specialists from Cornell have developed their own take on the "physics" of the Super Bowl by creating the world's smallest trophy, which will be awarded today to a contestant who best explains an aspect of football physics. Just some food for thought while you watch the game on your brand new HD television, though you'd better not be watching it in a church.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - UK government ministers hacked by impressionist

crush writes: From the social-engineering-101 department: The well-known British impressionist and comedian Rory Bremner pulled off an amazing coup when he managed to get British cabinet ministers Peter Hain and Margaret Beckett to talk to him about highly confidential Labour Party internal matters. Imitating the (inimitable!) gruff scots accent of Gordon Brown (who is the likely succesor to Tony Blair) he was quickly transferred by Downing St. switchboard operators to the private lines of senior cabinet members. Margaret Beckett appears to have divulged 10 minutes of sensitive information to Bremner's tape-recorder. "Security is all about people" is hopefully a message to which this identity-card pushing government will wise up as a result of this exposure. Bremner is going to publish the tapes on the net.

Big Challenges for Vista Bug Hunters 213

The New York Times is reporting on the final rush to bug fix Windows Vista. Even with massive numbers of testers and five years of work behind them, the folks in Redmond are pushing it to the wire in order to make sure it releases soon. From the article: "Vista has also been tested extensively. More than half a million computer users have installed Vista test software, and 450,000 of the systems have sent crash data back to Microsoft. Such data supplements the company's own testing in a center for Office referred to as the Big Button Room, for the array of switches, lights and other apparatus that fill the space. (A similar Vista room has a less interesting name -- Windows Test Technologies.) This is where special software automatically exercises programs rapidly while looking for errors."

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