Stats

Video Gamers From the '90s Have Turned Out Mostly OK (arstechnica.com) 223

A study reported on by Ars Technica indicates that video games, much ballyhooed (alleged) source of mental, physical and psycho-social ills for the kids who spent a lot of time playing them, don't seem to have had quite as big a negative effect on those kids as the moral panic of the past few decades would have you believe. Instead, There didn't seem to be an association between the number of games the children reported owning and an increase in risk for conduct disorder. When examining depression among shoot-em-up players, there was evidence for increased risk before the researchers controlled for all the confounding factors, but not afterwards. Of course, there's a lot of data to go around in the several studies referred to here, and the upshot seems to both less exciting and less simple than "Video games are good, not bad!"
Android

Report: Google Will Go In Big For VR Hardware This Year 50

The Financial Times reports that Google isn't going to let the VR hardware wars fall to the likes of Samsung and Oculus; instead, it's working on a (cardboard-free) VR headset of its own, to be released in conjunction with Android VR software intended not only to make Android more VR friendly in general but specifically to help developers reduce nausea-inducing lag. The report doesn't quite come out of the blue, considering that Google has shipped more than 5 million of its own Cardboard viewer already, and has several projects dealing with VR infrastructure, either directly (like Jump) or indrectly (like Project Tango). Google (or Alphabet) has proven itself a hardware behemoth, not just the "search giant" it's so often called in news stories, and of late seems to be more interested in making its footprint in hardware a bit firmer.
Displays

Unreal Engine Will Soon Allow Developers To Build Games Inside of VR (roadtovr.com) 36

An anonymous reader writes: Epic Games, the creators of Unreal Engine, has been a longstanding supporter of VR. They were on board way back when Oculus sparked the VR industry in 2012 with a Kickstarter that would snowball into a rekindling of consumer virtual reality. Having been one of the first major game engines to support VR headsets like the Rift, the company has been aggressively positioning Unreal Engine as the go-to tool for VR developers. Now they're taking a massive next step, showing the first look at bringing developers themselves inside of virtual reality to craft games with the full set of UE4 tools at their fingertips. That means that developers can place and manipulate objects from right within a world in progress; the video demo in the linked story is impressive.
Classic Games (Games)

Bethesda To Unleash the Hounds of Hell On May 13th: Doom Release Date Confirmed (hothardware.com) 80

MojoKid writes: Bethesda and id Software are in the process rebooting the Doom franchise and it seems like it's been in development for ages. When we last visited the upcoming Doom remake, Bethesda had posted a giblet-filled trailer which showed some pretty impressive gameplay visuals, killer hand-to-hand combat and plenty of head stomping. However, Bethesda just clued gamers in on something that Doom fans have been anticipating for years, an actual release date. Mark your calendars for May 13th, because that's when Doom will be available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and of course, the PC platform. Bethesda also dropped a new campaign trailer for you to ogle.
Nintendo

Nintendo Hits Snooze On Sleep-Tracking Device (techcrunch.com) 39

In October 2014, Nintendo announced a plan to develop a sleep-tracking app and device. This device would use microwave sensors to monitor important sleep data throughout the night, to optimize users' slumber time and encourage a healthier rest cycle. Now, Nintendo has announced that the sleep app has been put to sleep indefinitely; the company is instead focusing on its new mobile games and next-generation console.
Games

Video Game Cheaters Outed By Logic Bombs 222

Lirodon writes: A Reddit user decided to tackle the issue of cheaters within Valve's multiplayer shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive in their own unique way: by luring them towards fake "multihacks" that promised a motherlode of cheating tools, but in reality, were actually traps designed to cause the users who installed them to eventually receive bans. The first two were designed as time bombs, which activated functions designed to trigger bans after a specific time of day. The third, which was downloaded over 3,500 times, caused instantaneous bans.
Classic Games (Games)

Computer Beats Go Champion 149

Koreantoast writes: Go (weiqi), the ancient Chinese board game, has long been held up as one of the more difficult, unconquered challenges facing AI scientists... until now. Google DeepMind researchers, led by David Silver and Demis Hassabis, developed a new algorithm called AlphaGo, enabling the computer to soundly defeat European Go champion Fan Hui in back-to-back games, five to zero. Played on a 19x19 board, Go players have more than 300 possible moves per turn to consider, creating a huge number of potential scenarios and a tremendous computational challenge. All is not lost for humanity yet: DeepMind is scheduled to face off in March with Lee Sedol, considered one of the best Go players in recent history, in a match compared to the Kasparov-Deep Blue duels of previous decades.
Toys

To Solve a Rubik's Cube In 1 Second, It Takes a Robot 100

The Next Web features a quick look at an eyebrow-raisingly fast Rubik's Cube-solving robot, created by developers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose. How fast? The robot can solve a scrambled cube in one second (as long as you're willing to round down consistent solutions in "less than 1.2 seconds") which makes for some fun repeat views on YouTube. One speed-shaving element of the design: Rather than grip the cube with a robot hand, Flatland and Rose essentially made the cube an integral part of the system, by drilling holes in the cube's center faces, and attaching stepper motors directly. (Also at Motherboard).
Math

Finally Calculated: All the Legal Positions In a 19x19 Game of Go (github.io) 117

Reader John Tromp points to an explanation posted at GitHub of a computational challenge Tromp coordinated that makes a nice companion to the recent discovery of a 22 million-digit Mersenne prime. A distributed effort using pooled computers from two centers at Princeton, and more contributed from the HP Helion cloud, after "many hiccups and a few catastrophes" calculated the number of legal positions in a 19x19 game of Go. Simple as Go board layout is, the permutations allowed by the rules are anything but simple to calculate: "For running an L19 job, a beefy server with 15TB of fast scratch diskspace, 8 to 16 cores, and 192GB of RAM, is recommended. Expect a few months of running time." More: Large numbers have a way of popping up in the game of Go. Few people believe that a tiny 2x2 Go board allows for more than a few hundred games. Yet 2x2 games number not in the hundreds, nor in the thousands, nor even in the millions. They number in the hundreds of billions! 386356909593 to be precise. Things only get crazier as you go up in boardsize. A lower bound of 10^{10^48} on the number of 19x19 games, as proved in our paper, was recently improved to a googolplex. (For anyone who wants to double check his work, Tromp has posted as open source the software used.)
Classic Games (Games)

Game Historian: Gygax Swiped Fantasy Rules From a Forgotten 1970 Wargame (blogspot.com) 139

An anonymous reader writes: According to game historian Jon Peterson, Gary Gygax's Chainmail fantasy wargame (which became the basis for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor and later Dungeons & Dragons) borrowed heavily from an earlier set of rules published by Leonard Patt, a long-forgotten member of the New England Wargamers Association. Among the appropriations were rules for heroes and wizards including the iconic fireball spell, which ended up in everything from Magic: the Gathering to World of Warcraft, as well as monster rules for dragons, orcs, ents, and other Tolkien creations. Gygax had something of a reputation for borrowing things without giving proper credit, and this latest revelation shows how the open and collaborative environment of early gaming was quickly exploited for commercial purposes.
Graphics

How OpenGL Graphics Card Performance Has Evolved Over 10 Years (phoronix.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: A new report at Phoronix looks at the OpenGL performance of 27 graphics cards from the GeForce 8 through GeForce 900 series. Various Ubuntu OpenGL games were tested on these graphics cards dating back to 2006, focusing on raw performance and power efficiency. From oldest to newest, there was a 72x increase in performance-per-Watt, and a 100x increase in raw performance. The NVIDIA Linux results arrive after doing a similar AMD comparison from R600 graphics cards through the R9 Fury. However, that analysis found that for many of the older graphics cards, their open-source driver support regressed into an unworkable state. For the cards that did work, the performance gains were not nearly as significant over time.
Education

Microsoft To Release Educational Version of Minecraft (thestack.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft has announced that it will release an educational version of the Minecraft video game after acquiring the minecraft.edu domain and IP. The classroom version of Minecraft will be offered to schools and educators at a discount, and among other innovations will include the facility to create maps which the students can navigate throughout a lesson while recording their in-game activities. Microsoft has emphasized that it does not intend to change Minecraft into a strictly educational program.
Games

John Romero Creates New Doom Level (gamasutra.com) 104

jones_supa writes: Legendary game developer John Romero took to Twitter to spread the word that he has made a comeback to the world of Doom by designing an all new level. Romero's return to the game that jumpstarted his career in game development is a fun little Friday surprise for developers, especially Doom enthusiasts, some of whom are thanked in the readme file accompanying the level. The new level, E1M8B (ZIP), is described simply as "My Boss level replacement for e1m8...22 years later." E1M8 is, incidentally, the final level of Doom's first episode, Knee-Deep in the Dead.
Chrome

Nvidia GPUs Can Leak Data From Google Chrome's Incognito Mode (softpedia.com) 148

An anonymous reader writes: Nvidia GPUs don't clear out memory that was previously allocated, and neither does Chrome before releasing memory back to the shared memory pool. When a user recently fired up Diablo 3 several hours after closing an Incognito Mode window that contained pornography, the game launched with snapshots of the last "private" browsing session appearing on the screen — revealing his prior activities. He says, "It's a fairly easy bug to fix. A patch to the GPU drivers could ensure that buffers are always erased before giving them to the application. It's what an operating system does with the CPU RAM, and it makes sense to use the same rules with a GPU. Additionally, Google Chrome could erase their GPU resources before quitting."
DRM

Pirates Finding It Harder To Crack New PC Games (engadget.com) 364

schnell writes: Engadget reports that a few recent top-tier video game releases using updated DRM technology have gone uncracked for more than a month and left DRM hackers stymied thus far. The games FIFA 16 and Just Cause 3, using an updated DRM system called Denuvo, have thus far frustrated experienced Chinese crackers' best efforts far longer than the usual 1-2 weeks it takes for most games to be cracked. Although the article is light on technical details about what makes the new DRM system harder to defeat, it does note that "Based on the current pace of encryption tech, 'in two years time I'm afraid there will be no free games to play in the world,' said one forlorn pirate."
Displays

Oculus Rift Pre-orders Begin At $600 (oculus.com) 278

New submitter jerome writes: Pre-orders have just started for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The $600 price tag is higher than most people were expecting — and that doesn't even account for the required upgrade needed to fully enjoy VR apps. "In September of 2014, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said to expect a $200 to $400 range for the Rift." The device will first begin shipping on March 28th, though the store is already showing an estimate of April for Rifts beyond the initial stock. "The Rift package also doesn't include the relatively powerful Windows PC that will be required to use the device. Oculus recommends a rig with an Nvidia GTX 970 (or equivalent), an Intel i5 processor, and at least 8GB of RAM." In February, they'll start taking pre-orders for a package that does include a full, "Oculus-ready" system for $1500.
Government

Brain Game Maker Lumosity Fined $2 Million For False Advertising (sciencemag.org) 70

sciencehabit writes: Lumos Labs, the company that produces the popular 'brain-training' program Lumosity, yesterday agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for running deceptive advertisements. Lumos had claimed that its online games can help users perform better at work and in school, and stave off cognitive deficits associated with serious diseases such as Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress.

The $2 million settlement will be used to compensate Lumosity consumers who were misled by false advertising, says Michelle Rusk, a spokesperson with the FTC in Washington, D.C. The company will also be required to provide an easy way to cancel auto-renewal billing for the service, which includes online and mobile app subscriptions, with payments ranging from $14.95 monthly to lifetime memberships for $299.95. Before consumers can access the games, a pop-up screen will alert them to the FTC's order and allow them to avoid future billing, Rusk says.

The Almighty Buck

Kid Racks Up $5,900 Bill Playing Jurassic World On Dad's iPad (pcmag.com) 540

theodp writes: For Mohamed Shugaa, the scariest Jurassic World creature is perhaps Apple CEO Tim Cook, not the Indominus Rex. That's because Shugaa discovered his 7-year-old son had managed to rack up a $5,900 bill playing the Jurassic World game on his iPad in six days. "Why would Apple think I would be spending thousands of pounds on buying dinosaurs and upgrading a game," Shugaa told The Metro. "Why didn't they email me to check I knew these payments were being made? I got nothing from them. How much longer would it have gone on for?" Shugaa discovered his son's 65 in-app purchases when a payment he tried to make to a business supplier was declined. His son had upgraded dinosaurs using the game currency 'Dino Bucks' without realizing it was charging his Dad in real money. The good news is that Apple has decided to refund the money, so the kid doesn't have to worry about Apple making him work 8,500 hours for $5,980 to settle the debt. Btw, before you developers get too excited about the possibility of using In-App Purchase to take kids to the cleaners at $6,000-a-pop, remember that Apple call dibs on the first $1,800!
Games

Report: Activision Buys E-Sports League's Assets (esportsobserver.com) 45

An anonymous reader writes: Major League Gaming (MLG) is one of the biggest e-sports operations out there. Or it was, until Activision Blizzard purchased most of its assets for $46 million. MLG's CEO has been removed, and nobody's quite sure what will become of the league once Activision is done with it. MLG has been struggling for some time, and it's expected that most of the sale's proceeds will go toward paying off debts. Shareholders are not pleased. Analysis at Forbes notes that "MLG has been most closely tied with Call of Duty for a long while now (though recently Activision partnered with MLG rival ESL for a new COD league), and has a history with Starcraft 2, both Activision Blizzard titles. It could make sense that in order to bolster their eSports division, Activision would assimilate MLG, though parts of this sound more like a liquidation of assets rather than MLG continuing to operate under its own banner, just with a new owner." Others note with skepticism the idea of a game publisher buying an e-sports league, which could lead to concerns about how games from other publishers are treated.
Operating Systems

Hackers Get Linux Running On a PlayStation 4 (engadget.com) 108

An anonymous reader writes: Two years after the PlayStation 4 was released, and two weeks after it was jailbroken, a group of hackers has now successfully installed Linux on it. "...it appears that the fail0verflow team utilized a WebKit bug similar to the one recently documented by GitHub user CTurt and then took things up a notch. CTurt's workaround focuses on the PlayStation 4's Webkit browser, which is tricked into freeing processes from the core of the console's operating system by an improvised webpage. The PS4 is powered by Sony's Orbis OS, which is based on a Unix-like software called FreeBSD. With a route into the console's system, fail0verflow then identified weaknesses in the PlayStation 4's GPU. It specifically called out engineers from semiconductor company Marvell, accusing them of 'smoking some real good stuff' when they designed the PlayStation 4's southbridge chip."

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