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Social Networks

The Ethics of Social Games 75

Gamespot is running a story about the ethics and morality of the social games market, which in recent years has exploded to involve hundreds of millions of players. Between micro-transactions, getting players to recruit friends, and the thin line between compelling games and addictive games, there are plenty of opportunities for developers to stray into shady practices. Quoting: "The most successful social games to date have used very simple gameplay mechanics, encouraging neither strategy nor dexterity but regular interaction with the game ... Although undeniably successful, the existing social game framework has been the subject of much debate among game developers from every corner of the game industry, from the mainstream to the indie community. Some, like Super Meat Boy creator Edmund McMillen, are particularly strident in their assessment. 'Social games tend to have a really seedy and abusive means of manipulation that they use to rope people in and keep them in,' McMillen said. 'People are so tricked into that that they'll actually spend real money on something that does absolutely nothing, nothing at all.'

Students Banned From Bringing Pencils To School 426

mernilio writes "According to UPI: 'A Massachusetts school district superintendent said a memo banning sixth graders from carrying pencils was written without district approval. North Brookfield School District interim Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy said Wendy Scott, one of two sixth-grade teachers at North Brookfield Elementary School, did not get approval from administrators before sending the memo to all sixth-grade parents, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported Thursday. The memo said students would no longer be allowed to bring writing implements to school. It said pencils would be provided for students in class and any students caught with pencils or pens after Nov. 15 would face disciplinary action for having materials 'to build weapons.'"

Comment Re:Here's a list (Score 1) 1343

I was of the opinion that charges were not necessary, because this has its own punishment, so thank you for pointing out point number 1. No matter what, this guy has to have some legal consequences to ensure he's lost all privileges to own a gun. That's an absolute must in my mind.

I'm not sure I agree with the rest, at least without knowing more facts about the case. He certainly appears to be too stupid to raise children, but I'd have to be certain of a lot more before I would try to make that happen legally and I certainly wouldn't bring charges to increase media coverage alone. Still, if this man doesn't lose all gun ownership privileges because of this then something is very wrong. I agree that any punishment can't come close to what this family has already had to bear, but they do need to be protected from themselves for the future as well.

New Call of Duty Titles Announced, Fired Devs Sue For Name 134

eldavojohn writes "Activision has announced new Call of Duty titles while fired Infinity Ward Developer leads Jason West and Vince Zampella sue them for the rights to the name. According to Activision, 'The company intends to expand the Call of Duty brand with the same focus seen in its Blizzard Entertainment business unit. This will include a focus on high-margin digital online content and further[ing] the brand as the leading action entertainment franchise in new geographies, new genres and with new digital business models.' Ars opines that Activision is set to over-saturate the market with tons of CoD titles similar to how it expertly brought down Guitar Hero."

Scientists Discover Booze That Won't Give You a Hangover 334

Kwang-il Kwon and Hye Gwang Jeong of Chungnam National University have discovered that drinking alcohol with oxygen bubbles added leads to fewer hangovers and a shorter sobering up time. People drinking the bubbly booze sobered up 20-30 minutes faster and had less severe and fewer hangovers than people who drank the non-fizzy stuff. Kwon said: "The oxygen-enriched alcohol beverage reduces plasma alcohol concentrations faster than a normal dissolved-oxygen alcohol beverage does. This could provide both clinical and real-life significance. The oxygen-enriched alcohol beverage would allow individuals to become sober faster, and reduce the side effects of acetaldehyde without a significant difference in alcohol's effects. Furthermore, the reduced time to a lower BAC may reduce alcohol-related accidents."

Examining Virtual Crimes 85

GamePolitics has an article about a research paper issued by the AU government's Institute of Criminology titled "Crime Risks of Three-Dimensional Virtual Environments." The paper discusses the legal questions raised by game worlds and avatars, ranging from regulation of in-game currency to a report of virtual rape. "A person controlling an avatar that is unexpectedly raped or assaulted might experience the physical reaction of 'freezing,' or the associated shock, distrust and loss of confidence in using [3D virtual environments]. While civil redress for psychological harm is conceivable, the 'disembodied' character of such an incident would invariably bar liability for any crime against the person. However, Australian federal criminal law imposes a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment for using an internet carriage service to 'menace, harass or cause offence' to another user. Further, US and Australian laws ban simulated or actual depictions of child abuse and pornography. Therefore, any representations of child avatars involved in virtual sexual activity, torture or physical abuse are prohibited, regardless of whether the real-world user is an adult or child."

Game Difficulty As a Virtue 204

The Wii and various mobile gaming platforms have done wonders for the trend toward casual or "easy" games. But the success of a few recent titles, despite their difficulty, has caused some to wonder whether the pendulum has swung too far; whether a little frustration can be seen as a good thing. Quoting: "The evidence is subtle but compelling. For one example, look to major consumer website GameSpot's Game of the Year for 2009: Atlus' PS3 RPG Demon's Souls, which received widespread critical acclaim – none of which failed to include a mention of the game's steep challenge. GameSpot called it 'ruthlessly, unforgivingly difficult.' Demon's Souls was a sleeper hit, an anomaly in the era of accessibility. One would think the deck was stacked against a game that demanded such vicious persistence, such precise attention – and yet a surge of praise from critics and developers alike praised the game for reintroducing the experience of meaningful challenge, of a game that demanded something from its players rather than looked for ways to hand them things. It wasn't just Demon's Souls that recently flipped the proverbial bird to the 'gaming for everyone' trend. In many ways, the independent development scene can be viewed on the macro level as a harbinger of trends to come, and over the past year and into 2010, many indies have decided to be brutal to their players."
The Almighty Buck

Average Budget For Major, Multi-Platform Games Is $18-28 Million 157

An anonymous reader passes along this excerpt from Develop: "The average development budget for a multiplatform next-gen game is $18-$28 million, according to new data. A study by entertainment analyst group M2 Research also puts development costs for single-platform projects at an average of $10 million. The figures themselves may not be too surprising, with high-profile games often breaking the $40 million barrier. Polyphony's Gran Turismo 5 budget is said to be hovering around the $60 million mark, while Modern Warfare 2's budget was said to be as high as $50 million."

Pirates as a Marketplace 214

John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, made some revealing comments in an interview with Kotaku about how the company's attitudes are shifting with regard to software piracy. Quoting: "Some of the people buying this DLC are not people who bought the game in a new shrink-wrapped box. That could be seen as a dark cloud, a mass of gamers who play a game without contributing a penny to EA. But around that cloud Riccitiello identified a silver lining: 'There's a sizable pirate market and a sizable second sale market and we want to try to generate revenue in that marketplace,' he said, pointing to DLC as a way to do it. The EA boss would prefer people bought their games, of course. 'I don't think anybody should pirate anything,' he said. 'I believe in the artistry of the people who build [the games industry.] I profoundly believe that. And when you steal from us, you steal from them. Having said that, there's a lot of people who do.' So encourage those pirates to pay for something, he figures. Riccitiello explained that EA's download services aren't perfect at distinguishing between used copies of games and pirated copies. As a result, he suggested, EA sells DLC to both communities of gamers. And that's how a pirate can turn into a paying customer."

Saboteur Launch Plagued By Problems With ATI Cards 230

An anonymous reader writes "So far, there are over 35 pages of people posting about why EA released Pandemic Studios' final game, Saboteur, to first the EU on December 4th and then, after knowing full well it did not work properly, to the Americas on December 8th. They have been promising to work on a patch that is apparently now in the QA stage of testing. It is not a small bug; rather, if you have an ATI video card and either Windows 7 or Windows Vista, the majority (90%) of users have the game crash after the title screen. Since the marketshare for ATI is nearly equal to that of Nvidia, and the ATI logo is adorning the front page of the Saboteur website, it seems like quite a large mistake to release the game in its current state."

DX11 Tested Against DX9 With Dirt 2 Demo 201

MojoKid writes "The PC demo for Codemasters' upcoming DirectX 11 racing title, Dirt 2, has just hit the web and is available for download. Dirt 2 is a highly-anticipated racing sim that also happens to feature leading-edge graphic effects. In addition to a DirectX 9 code path, Dirt 2 also utilizes a number of DirectX 11 features, like hardware-tessellated dynamic water, an animated crowd and dynamic cloth effects, in addition to DirectCompute 11-accelerated high-definition ambient occlusion (HADO), full floating-point high dynamic range (HDR) lighting, and full-screen resolution post processing. Performance-wise, DX11 didn't take its toll as much as you'd expect this early on in its adoption cycle." Bit-tech also took a look at the graphical differences, arriving at this conclusion: "You'd need a seriously keen eye and brown paper envelope full of cash from one of the creators of Dirt 2 to notice any real difference between textures in the two versions of DirectX."

Comment Re:PC, huh? (Score 1) 262

There are larger uses of the term that do end up with the limitations you're talking about and I'm all for calling that out, but I do think there is a place in culture to choose to use new definitions for groups/ideas/whatever that try to peel away hurtful histories that make free and open discussion more difficult, specifically for the historically denigrated groups/ideas.

Having an unpopular opinion is not un-PC, even when it's crazy racist or bigotted. We have words that define those things already. PC is simply about acknowledging that language has history and there are times, if for nothing else than for expediency, when certain terms have to be collectively chosen which allow people to reference things without immediate negative connotations. Now, my PC definition may not be what you were talking about at all, but I wanted to point out there is a concept of PC that does not limit what you can talk about it. Its intention is merely to create a framework whereby everyone feels comfortable participating. I would call this Democratically Correct rather than political, as its intention is to give access to every individual to a larger discourse, but Political is fine. This too can be taken too far and I'm the first one to point that out 'cause my language choices are not always unoffensive to everyone (I'll say fuck as much as I like god damn it!). Stll, where there is an extremely sensitive subject, I am more than willing to at least attempt to find the terms that no group involved will be instantly put-off by so that everyone can access the ideas.

Now this has nothing to do with college kids or any kids making fun of each other, so I'll shut up now.

Comment Re:green tech (Score 1) 54

It seems to me that apart from the headline the only objectionable sentence is this:

The key to this new battery turned out to be an often bothersome green algae known as Cladophora.

The rest of TFA is speculative and, to my mind anyway, worth the 30 seconds it took to read. Without this one definitive sentence claiming this as more than a new thread to follow, it's just a piece about a potential new avenue into cellulose batteries.

While I definitely agree that bold claims do hurt their industries with unreal expectations, I know I usually am more forgiving than I would be to large industries like pharma or oil. It's not a fair or educated position, but I often attribute that kind of overzealousness in these articles to optimism and enthusiasm, whereas if it's a press release from a huge corp. I see it as manipulative and marketed. That's probably an unfair ideological position and I try to stay aware that I have that bias, but I don't feel I'm totally out to lunch feeling that way in general.

I always appreciate it when people point out these discrepancies, but I think there is a legitimate reason why it occurs. We should make note where it happens, but I don't feel like getting angry at the people who may have overstated how far along they are in achieving some of these goals. If it takes an outlook that makes them feel they're closer than they are to keep plugging away so they, or the scientists after them finally do make a breakthrough, I'm more than willing to tolerate the fact they tend to minimize the difficulties between where they currently are and where they claim they are heading.


Submission + - Algae Could Be the Key to Ultra-Thin Batteries (inhabitat.com)

MikeChino writes: Algae is often touted as the next big thing in biofuels, but the slimy stuff could also be the key to paper-thin biodegradable batteries according to researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden. Uppsala researcher Maria Stromme and her team has found that the smelly algae species that clumps on beaches, known as Cladophora, can also be used to make a type of cellulose that has 100 times the surface area of cellulose found in paper. That means it can hold enough conducting polymers to effectively recharge and hold electricity for long amounts of time. Eventually, the bio batteries could compete with commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Comment Re:Does anyone really believe the scores ? (Score 2, Interesting) 169

My answer to this is it's time to re-think your scale. Absolutely everything that goes sub 6 on your current scale should get an automatic 0. 0 means too far below industry standards to be considered a viable option. After that re-orient your 6-10 on a 1-10 scale. Nobody reading reviews gives a crap about the differences between a current 1 and a current 4. they are both equally unbuyable products and I see no reason for a reviewer to differentiate between them. However, there are lots of reasons to make small distinctions between a 6, a 6.5, and a 7 and I'd much rather have those difference given more weight so they exist on a 3-6 or 3-7 plane. It's all the little things reviewers know about that would help people make decisions. Are there other similar titles that do it better? Graphics subtleties, small control issues, bugs etc...

Now it's frustrating because if you're the only one using a scale like this your reviews sound incredibly harsh, but to me there's no reason to give a spectrum at the bottom of the scale where the threshold for even considering buying it is way more like 4-5 at the lowest. To me a 1 should be the generic genre game that super fanboys will play and enjoy, but if you don't play like 20 games of the same style every year, then buy a different one. Then work your way up from there. There's no reason anything lower on the scale deserves it's own spot. It shouldn't be paid for under any circumstances and the fact that people can make games even worse than it doesn't mean the've accomplished anything either.

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