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Fortnite Teen Hackers 'Earning Thousands of Dollars a Week'December 21 @ 5 PM source

Children as young as 14 are making thousands of pounds a week as part of a global hacking network built around the popular video game Fortnite. From a report: About 20 hackers told the BBC they were stealing the private gaming accounts of players and reselling them online. Fortnite is free to play but is estimated to have made more than 1bn pound ($1.25) through the sale of "skins", which change the look of a character, and other add-ons. This fuels a growing black market. Hackers can sell player accounts for as little as 25p or hundreds of pounds, depending on what they contain. The items are collected as in-game purchases but are purely cosmetic and do not give gamers any extra abilities. Fortnite-maker Epic declined to comment on the investigation but said it was working to improve account security. The game has more than 200 million players.

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Nintendo Warns It Won't Make More Retro NES and SNES ConsolesDecember 15 @ 12 AM source

Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime warned that the NES Classic and SNES Classic will sell in the Americas through the holidays, but will be "gone" once they sell out. Engadget reports: If you want to walk down memory lane after that, you'll have to take advantage of the games that come with Switch Online. You might also want to tamp down your hopes for a Nintendo 64 Classic. Fils-Aime added that the existing systems are the "extent of our classic program." That wouldn't be completely surprising given that the N64 was considerably more complex than its predecessor. The executive likewise ruled out additional games for the mini NES and SNES models.

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Discord Store To Offer Developers 90 Percent of Game RevenuesDecember 14 @ 11 PM source

DarkRookie2 shares a report from Ars Technica: Discord has announced that it will start taking a reduced, 10-percent cut from game revenues generated on its online store starting next year, one-upping the Epic Games Store and its recently announced 12-percent cut on the Epic Games Store. The move comes alongside a coming expansion of the Discord Games Store, which launched earlier this year with a tightly curated selection of games that now includes roughly 100 titles. The coming "self-serve publishing platform" will allow developers "no matter what size, from AAA to single-person teams" to access the Discord Store and the new 90-percent revenue share. "We talked to a lot of developers, and many of them feel that current stores are not earning their 30% of the usual 70/30 revenue share," Discord writes in the announcement. "Because of this, we now see developers creating their own stores and launchers to distribute their games instead of focusing on what's really important --making great games and cultivating amazing communities." "Turns out, it does not cost 30% to distribute games in 2018," the announcement continues. "After doing some research, we discovered that we can build amazing developer tools, run them, and give developers the majority of the revenue share."

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Doom Turns 25: The FPS That Wowed Players, Gummed Up Servers, and Enraged AdminsDecember 11 @ 4 PM source

On December 10, 1993, after a marathon 30-hour coding session, the developers at id Software uploaded the first finished copy of Doom for download, the game that was to redefine first-person shooter (FPS) genre. Hours later IT admins wanted id's guts for garters. The Register: Doom wasn't the first FPS game, but it was the iPhone of the field -- it took parts from various other products and packaged them together in a fearsomely addictive package. Admins loathed it because it hogged bandwidth for downloading and was designed to allow network deathmatches, so millions of users immediately took up valuable network resources for what seemed a frivolous pursuit to some curmudgeonly BOFHs.

The game was an instant hit -- so much so that within hours of its release admins were banning it from servers to try and cope with the effects of thousands, and then millions of people playing online. It spawned remakes and follow-up games, its own movie (don't bother) and even a glowing endorsement from Bill Gates.

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China To Force Changes To 20 Popular Games, Ban 9 Including Fortnite and PUBGDecember 11 @ 2 PM source

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signaled it will be hard to please. State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale. The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove "controversial content." The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive. It was announced in August that a new body -- the State Administration of Press and Publications -- had taken over responsibility for approving games and that it would limit the number of online titles available. And although it has not been specified, some experts are assuming that the new panel will operate under its auspices. Xinhua said it is comprised of gaming experts, government-employed researchers, and representatives from the media and video games industry. But it provided no other information about who they were or the titles they had already examined. UPDATE: The list of games being examined by the ethics panel has been revealed by users on NGA, a Chinese gaming forum. A number of games, such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Diablo, and World of Warcraft, will need "corrective action," while others will be "banned/withdrawn" entirely. Some of the most popular prohibited titles include Fortnite and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG).

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Massive Collaborative Text Adventure 'Cragne Manor' ReleasedDecember 9 @ 12 AM source

Long-time Slashdot reader Feneric writes: Cragne Manor , a 20th anniversary tribute to the classic work of horror interactive fiction Anchorhead by Michael Gentry, is now available for free public download. It was written by a collaboration of over 80 authors and programmers organized by Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna. Each author worked on a room in isolation, not knowing the details of other authors' assignments. The result is a sprawling, puzzle-dense game that will at turns delight, confound, amuse, and horrify.

More announcements are available here and here, and an early review is also online.

"Each location is a different author's take on a tribute to Anchorhead," reports the official site, "or an original work of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, or a deconstruction of cosmic horror, or a gonzo parody of cosmic horror, or a parody of some other thing, or a portrait of life in Vermont, or a pure experiment in writing with Inform 7, or something else entirely.

"There are tons of puzzles. The puzzles get very weird."

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DeepMind Produces a General-Purpose Game-Playing System, Capable of Mastering Games Like Chess and Go Without Human HelpDecember 7 @ 2 AM source

DeepMind has created a system that can quickly master any game in the class that includes chess, Go, and Shogi, and do so without human guidance. "The system, called AlphaZero, began its life last year by beating a DeepMind system that had been specialized just for Go," reports IEEE Spectrum. "That earlier system had itself made history by beating one of the world's best Go players, but it needed human help to get through a months-long course of improvement. AlphaZero trained itself -- in just 3 days." From the report: The research, published today in the journal Science, was performed by a team led by DeepMind's David Silver. The paper was accompanied by a commentary by Murray Campbell, an AI researcher at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. AlphaZero can crack any game that provides all the information that's relevant to decision-making; the new generation of games to which Campbell alludes do not. Poker furnishes a good example of such games of "imperfect" information: Players can hold their cards close to their chests. Other examples include many multiplayer games, such as StarCraft II, Dota, and Minecraft. But they may not pose a worthy challenge for long.

DeepMind developed the self-training method, called deep reinforcement learning, specifically to attack Go. Today's announcement that they've generalized it to other games means they were able to find tricks to preserve its playing strength after giving up certain advantages peculiar to playing Go. The biggest such advantage was the symmetry of the Go board, which allowed the specialized machine to calculate more possibilities by treating many of them as mirror images. The researchers have so far unleashed their creation only on Go, chess and Shogi, a Japanese form of chess. Go and Shogi are astronomically complex, and that's why both games long resisted the "brute-force" algorithms that the IBM team used against Kasparov two decades ago.

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Nvidia Uses AI To Render Virtual Worlds In Real TimeDecember 4 @ 6 AM source

Nvidia is using artificial intelligence to draw new worlds without using traditional modeling techniques or graphics rendering engines. "This new technology uses an AI deep neural network to analyze existing videos and then apply the visual elements to new 3D environments," reports Tom's Hardware. From the report: Nvidia claims this new technology could provide a revolutionary step forward in creating 3D worlds because the AI models are trained from video to automatically render buildings, trees, vehicles, and objects into new 3D worlds, instead of requiring the normal painstaking process of modeling the scene elements. But the project is still a work in progress. As we can see from [this image], which was generated in real time on a Nvidia Titan V graphics card using its Tensor cores, the rendered scene isn't as crisp as we would expect in real life, and it isn't as clear as we would expect with a normal modeled scene in a 3D environment. However, the result is much more impressive when we see the real-time output in [this YouTube video]. The key here is speed: The AI generates these scenes in real time.

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In the Age of the Internet, Why Has Interest in Chess Remained So Robust, and Even Risen Sharply?November 25 @ 3 AM source

How and why a 1,500-year-old game has conquered the internet. From a report: Two years ago, the world chess championship match drew about 10 million online viewers, while this year's competition between Magnus Carlsen and Fabio Caruana, currently underway in London, is expected to draw more attention yet. Worldwide, chess claims about 600 million fans, which makes it one of the most popular games or sports.

It is noteworthy that China, one of the two most important countries in the world, has decided to invest heavily in chess. This year Chinese teams won both the men's and women's divisions at the Chess Olympiad, a first. That would not have happened without the active support of the Chinese Communist Party. The U.S. is stepping up too, with the aid of chess patron Rex Sinquefield. In recent times America has placed three players in the world's top 10, including Caruana, currently No. 2.

It turns out that chess is oddly well-suited for a high-tech world. Chess does not make for gripping television, but the option of live viewing online, supplemented by computer analysis or personal commentary, has driven a renaissance of the game. For one thing, computer evaluations have made watching more intelligible. Even if you barely understand chess, you can quickly get a sense of the state of play with the frequently changing numerical evaluations ("+ 2.00," for instance, means white has a decisive advantage, whereas "0.00" signals an even position). You also can see, with each move, whether the player will choose what the computer finds best.

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Inside the Messy, Dark Side of Nintendo Switch PiracyNovember 13 @ 5 PM source

Doxing rivals, stealing each other's files, and poking around Nintendo's servers are all a normal part of the ballooning Nintendo Switch hacking and piracy scenes. Joseph Cox, reports for Motherboard: The Switch piracy community -- much of which operates on the gamer-focused chat app Discord -- is full of ingenuity, technical breakthroughs, and evolving cat-and-mouse games between the multi-billion dollar Nintendo and the passionate hackers who love the company but nonetheless illegally steal its games. Pirates deploy malware to steal each other's files so they can download more games themselves. Groups deliberately plant code into others' Switches so they no longer work. And some people in the scene have been doxed, meaning they've had their personal information published online.

Pirating games for the Switch is not technically straightforward. Instead, there's a complex supply chain constantly grinding away that helps people source and play unreleased games. There are reverse engineers who figure out how Nintendo's own tools work, so hackers can then use them for their own advantage. There are coders who make programs to streamline the process of downloading or running games. Reviewers, developers, or YouTubers with access to games before general Switch users often leak unlock codes or other information to small groups, which then may trickle out to the wider community.

[...] To release a game, pirates may dump a copy from the physical cartridge; they can do this before the game releases in the United States by sourcing the cartridge from an Australian store, which releases earlier because of the time difference. But this only gets a game out one or two days before official release. For the more sought-after and early dumps, pirates often manage to grab a copy from Nintendo's eShop, the company's digital download game store that is built into the Switch. Here, pirates will likely use a piece of hacker-made software on their computers to talk to Nintendo's servers, one pirate who uploads large archives of games explained to Motherboard in an online chat. The files can sometimes be downloaded early by anyone (by design), and are encrypted and need a so-called "titlekey" to unlock them and make the game playable. Further reading: Nintendo 'Wins' $12 Million From Pirate ROM Site Operators.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.