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How Nintendo's Mario Got His Name 103

harrymcc writes "In 1981, tiny Nintendo of America was getting ready to release Donkey Kong. When the company's landlord, Mario Segale, demanded back rent, Nintendo staffers named the game's barrel-jumping protagonist after him. Almost thirty years later, neither Nintendo — which continues to crank out Mario games — nor Segale — now a wealthy, secretive Washington State real estate developer — like to talk about how one of video games' iconic characters got his name and Italian heritage. Technologizer's Benj Edwards has researched the story for years and provides the most detailed account to date."

The Problems With Video Game Voice Acting 251

The Guardian's Games blog explores the tendency of modern video games to suffer from poor voice acting, a flaw made all the more glaring by increasingly precise and impressive graphics. Quoting: "Due to the interactive nature of games, actors can't be given a standard film script from which they're able to gauge the throughline of their character and a feel for the dramatic development of the narrative. Instead, lines of dialogue need to be isolated into chunks so they can be accessed and triggered within the game in line with the actions of each individual player. Consequently, the performer will usually be presented with a spreadsheet jammed with hundreds of single lines of dialogue, with little sense of context or interaction. ... But according to David Sobolov, one of the most experienced videogame voice actors in the world (just check out his website), the significant time pressures mean that close, in-depth direction is not always possible. 'Often, there's a need to record a great number of lines, so to keep the session moving, once we've established the tone of the character we're performing, the director will silently direct us using the spreadsheet on the screen by simply moving the cursor down the page to indicate if he/she liked what we did. Or they'll make up a code, like typing an 'x' to ask us to give them another take.' It sounds, in effect, like a sort of acting battery farm, a grinding, dehumanizing production line of disembodied phrases, delivered for hours on end. Hardly conducive to Oscar-winning performances."

Study Finds That Video Games Hinder Learning In Young Boys 278

dcollins writes "Researchers at Denison University in Ohio have shown that giving PlayStations to young boys leads to slower progress in reading and writing skills. Quoting: 'The study is the first controlled trial to look at the effects of playing video games on learning in young boys. That is to say, the findings aren't based on survey data of kids' game habits, but instead on a specific group of children that were randomly assigned to receive a PlayStation or not ... Those with PlayStations also spent less time engaged in educational activities after school and showed less advancement in their reading and writing skills over time than the control group, according to tests taken by the kids. While the game-system owners didn't show significant behavioral problems, their teachers did report delays in learning academic skills, including writing and spelling.'"
Classic Games (Games)

M.U.L.E. Is Back 110

jmp_nyc writes "The developers at Turborilla have remade the 1983 classic game M.U.L.E. The game is free, and has slightly updated graphics, but more or less the same gameplay as the original version. As with the original game, up to four players can play against each other (or fewer than four with AI players taking the other spots). Unlike the original version, the four players can play against each other online. For those of you not familiar with M.U.L.E., it was one of the earliest economic simulation games, revolving around the colonization of the fictitious planet Irata (Atari spelled backwards). I have fond memories of spending what seemed like days at a time playing the game, as it's quite addictive, with the gameplay seeming simpler than it turns out to be. I'm sure I'm not the only Slashdotter who had a nasty M.U.L.E. addiction back in the day and would like a dose of nostalgia every now and then."

Ocean-Crossing Dragonflies Discovered 95

grrlscientist writes "While living and working as a marine biologist in Maldives, Charles Anderson noticed sudden explosions of dragonflies at certain times of year. He explains how he carefully tracked the path of a plain, little dragonfly called the Globe Skimmer, Pantala flavescens, only to discover that it had the longest migratory journey of any insect in the world."

Duke Nukem 3D Ported To Nokia N900 95

andylim writes "It looks as if Duke Nukem isn't completely 'nuked' after all. Someone has ported the 90s classic on to a Nokia N900. As you'll see in the video, you control Duke using the Qwerty keypad and shoot using the touchscreen. I'm wondering how long it will take for this to get on other mobile platforms." In other Duke news, reader Jupix points out that 3D Realms' CEO Scott Miller recently said, "There are numerous other Duke games in various stages of development, several due out this year. We are definitely looking to bring Duke into casual gaming spaces, plus there are other major Duke games in production."

Comment Re:php is bad for the environment (Score 1) 752

But it's not really that relevant, because even if the execution speed is 10:1 in favor of one language, language execution speed is only one of the bottlenecks. They'll be spending a fair amount of time outside of the language, executing the same APIs. There's network speed, disk access, shared libraries... a 10:1 difference might not be that significant when only 10% of the time is spent actually executing the program.

The point here is not to run the code faster. It is to use 10% of the original CPU power to run the code in the same time. Which leads to savings in hardware costs, electricity, air conditioning, even floor space. Of course, this is only the PHP frontend part and does not affect the database backend, but still I hear that the PHP frontend takes some significant processing power.

The Almighty Buck

America's Army Games Cost $33 Million Over 10 Years 192

Responding to a Freedom Of Information Act request, the US government has revealed the operating costs of the America's Army game series over the past decade. The total bill comes to $32.8 million, with yearly costs varying from $1.3 million to $5.6 million. "While operating America's Army 3 does involve ongoing expenses, paying the game's original development team isn't one of them. Days after the game launched in June, representatives with the Army confirmed that ties were severed with the Emeryville, California-based team behind the project, and future development efforts were being consolidated at the America's Army program office at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. A decade after its initial foray into the world of gaming, the Army doesn't appear to be withdrawing from the industry anytime soon. In denying other aspects of the FOIA request, the Army stated 'disclosure of this information is likely to cause substantial harm to the Department of the Army's competitive position in the gaming industry.'"

Comment Re:Package Runners vs Programmers (Score 1) 496

Hmmm... I get the sinking feeling I work for that vendor. :-) Which family DSPs?

TI C55x and C64x. The IDE - or our build process for that matter - didn't really support multiple targets. I guess multiplatform DSP code isn't that common out there.

FWIW, I don't use our GUI either except for loading stuff on silicon. Most of the time though, I'm working with the processor about a year or more before there's silicon, so that means I'm doing everything under Linux with make and the command-line compiler anyway.

Lucky you. The Linux tools were nice and blazingly fast compared to Windows ones.

Comment Re:Package Runners vs Programmers (Score 1) 496

Only one of these guys said anything about not liking to use an IDE. I use IDEs to write assembler language for microcontrollers at work every day. Sure I could do it in an editor as well but I much prefer the graphical debugger and simulator of my IDEs as being able to see all the dozens control registers' and fuses' bits graphically during the execution of each instruction is easier for my mind to wrap itself around than my screen littered in hex or ones and zeros, at least sometimes.

I used to write very low level C and assembly for two different DSP processors for a living, too. We used the vendor's joke of an IDE for debugging and only debugging. Everything else was better* with external editor (Emacs or UltraEdit depending on developer's taste, I don't think anyone used vi) and command line. I hear that the vendor has since then abandoned their home-brew IDE and maintains a fork of Eclipse instead.

* When I say "everything was better" I mean that everything still sucked pretty badly. Could have been improved, though, if anyone would have cared and had some time to redo the build process.

Comment Re:Clearcase. (Score 1) 268

By the way: One of the nice things about Clearcase is that, if you do make that error and get bit, you can fix your view AFTERWARD by editing one line in the view spec to back up the trunk view to a moment BEFORE the other guy checked in A and B.

A Clearcase-specific way to fix a problem that exists only in Clearcase. A sane system would allow checking out the previous revision, which has been checked in as one changeset.

As I recall the Clearcase make understands that the actual source changed even if its time went BACKWARD and gets the dependencies right. (Try THAT with other version control systems.)

Moving file dates backwards is a bug, not a feature. As is getting married to a slightly nonstandard version of a primitive build tool. Anyway, at least SCons manages to compile things right, as it uses MD5 sums to detect changes and cache objects.

Comment Re:Clearcase. (Score 1) 268

Part of the POINT of diverge-converge is that you see NOBODY'S CHANGES BUT YOUR OWN until you have your part working and are ready to merge or you find you MUST incorporate somebody else's fix to get your stuff working.

Wow, that was complex and error-prone. It is also exactly what distributed systems do easily. Heck, SVN can do that if you accept a worse merge support. For comparison, in any sane VCS you
  - create a branch
  - do your stuff
  - pull changes from trunk
  - push

Everything that you do with view specs happens automatically. No tricks with tags or dates (not that they work in CC, which still lacks atomic operations).

If you really want an expensive enterprise VCS that does what you describe, you should have a look at Synergy.

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