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China Plans To Restrict New Games Coming Into the Country and Limit the Time Kids Spend OnlineAugust 31 @ 9 PM source

China's regulators plan to curtail the number of online games and discourage play-time, part of a broader effort to tackle device addiction and other ills that sent shares reeling from the U.S. to Japan. From a report: The curbs were just one aspect of a swathe of edicts intended to address the health and growing incidence of myopia among children. But they come on top of a months-long freeze in game approvals, further muddying the waters for an industry that labors under one of the world's most opaque regulatory regimes. While the new regulations encompassed everything from encouraging outdoor activities to usage of electronics, investors zeroed in on the game curbs during a highly sensitive time for the industry. The government hasn't given any explanation for a freeze on title approvals since March, prompting debate over whether it's a temporary halt due to regulatory reshuffling or whether Beijing is planning a crackdown in a wider campaign against online content. Tencent's inability to monetize its hottest games also cast doubt over the relationship between the world's largest gaming company and the government.

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How 'Grand Theft Auto' Is Changing the Way the World Experiences MusicAugust 28 @ 3 PM source

An anonymous reader shares a report: GTA V and its multiplayer GTA Online mode has already proven itself a thriving game and money maker for both developer Rockstar and publisher Take-Two -- with sales approaching 100 million copies and bringing in more than $6 billion, now one of the most successful video games in history is also becoming something else, perhaps not too unexpectedly: A powerful tool for music discovery. Use of music has always been something video game makers Rockstar prides itself on. From the Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington songs found in L.A. Noire, a detective action-adventure game, to the mix of 1970s rock in The Warriors game, music is one of the more important elements of pop culture that the developers use to help create memorable times and places for its titles. Nowhere is that more evident than in the long-running Grand Theft Auto series. While the franchise has always featured some sort of working, in-game radio stations, each new iteration expanded on the concept. By 2013 and the release of GTA V, the game's 15 unique radio stations, packed with 240 fully licensed songs and pre-recorded on-air talent, had become nearly as important as the game itself. [...] In the five years since launch, GTA V and GTA Online gamers have listened to more than an estimated 75 billion minutes of music from the game's 18 radio stations, according to Rockstar's own analysis provided to Rolling Stone.

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Videogame Developers Are Making It Harder To Stop PlayingAugust 28 @ 5 AM source

Videogames have gotten harder to turn off, mental-health experts and parents say, raising concerns about the impact of seemingly endless gaming sessions on players' lives. From a report: Game developers for years have tweaked the dials not only on how games look and sound but how they operate under the hood, and such changes have made videogames more pervasive and enthralling, industry observers say. The World Health Organization in June added "gaming disorder" to an updated version of its International Classification of Diseases, warning about a condition in which people give up interests and activities to overly indulge in gaming despite negative consequences. It is expected to be formally classified in January 2022. Many games today are free, available on multiple devices, and double as social networks. Where once games were played and put away for a while, now game companies are routinely delivering new content aimed at keeping players constantly engaged. Some new content is available only for a limited time, a maneuver that tugs at people's fears of missing out, psychologists say. "Videogames are engineered specifically to keep people playing," said Douglas A. Gentile, a research scientist focused on the impact of media on children and adults. "They're designed to hit the pleasure centers of the brain in some of the same ways that gambling can."

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Microsoft Announces Xbox All AccessAugust 28 @ 5 AM source

Microsoft today confirmed the rumors: Xbox All Access is a new subscription offering that ties a console to Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass for two years. From a report: "For no upfront cost and one low monthly price for 24 months, Xbox All Access gets you a new Xbox One S or Xbox One X, access to more than 100 great games through Xbox Game Pass, and online multiplayer with Xbox Live Gold," Microsoft's Bogdan Bilan explains. "That's more than 100 all-you-can-play games -- including highly-anticipated new Xbox One exclusives the day they're released, plus more games added all the time on the fastest, most reliable gaming network and an Xbox One console." As previously reported, Xbox All Access is available only in the United States and will cost $22 or $35 per month, depending on whether you choose an Xbox One S or Xbox One X console.

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OpenAI Is Beating Humans At 'Dota 2' Because It's Basically CheatingAugust 18 @ 1 AM source

Motherboard's Matthew Gault provides another possibility for how OpenAI's bots managed to beat professional human players in two consecutive games of Data 2. Gault argues that "it was only possible thanks to significant guardrails and an inhuman advantage" -- not necessarily because the AI was more clever than the humans. From the report: The OpenAI Five bots consisted of algorithms known as neural networks, which loosely mimic the brain and "learn" to complete tasks after a process of training and feedback. The research company put its Dota 2-playing AI through 180 days worth of virtual training to prepare it for the match, and it showed. However, the bots had to play within some highly specific limitations. Dota 2 is a complicated game with more than 100 heroes. Some of them use quirky and game-changing abilities. For this exhibition, the hero pool was limited to just 18. That's an incredible handicap because so much of Dota 2 involves a team picking the proper group composition and reacting to what its opponents pick. Reducing the number of champions from more than 100 to 18 made things much simpler for the AI.

The OpenAI Five bots also played Dota 2 by reading the game's information directly from its application programming interface (API), which allows other programs to easily interface with Dota 2. This gives the AI instant knowledge about the game, whereas human players have to visually interpret a screen. If a human was able to do this in a competitive match against other humans, we'd probably call it cheating. Even with this AI advantage, Walsh and his team beat the bots in the third game, when the match organizers turned hero selection over to the crowd, which gave the AI a weak hero composition. Walsh thinks he and his team could eventually beat the AI in a fair right, even given the limited hero pool and other restrictions.

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US Judge Blocks Programs Letting 'Grand Theft Auto' Players 'Cheat'August 17 @ 7 PM source

A federal judge has awarded Take-Two Interactive Software, the maker of the "Grand Theft Auto" series, a preliminary injunction to stop a Georgia man from selling programs that it said helps players cheat at the best-selling video game. From a report: Take-Two had accused David Zipperer of selling computer programs called Menyoo and Absolute that let users of the "Grand Theft Auto V" multiplayer feature Grand Theft Auto Online cheat by altering the game for their own benefit, or "griefing" other players by altering their game play without permission. U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said Take-Two was likely to show that Zipperer infringed its "Grand Theft Auto V" copyright, and that his programs would cause irreparable harm to its sales and reputation by discouraging users from buying its video games.

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Google Play Shows Warning To Anyone Searching For Fortnite APKsAugust 13 @ 12 PM source

Mark Wilson quotes a report from BetaNews: The arrival of Fortnite on Android has not only been eagerly awaited, but also steeped in controversy. In addition to making the game a Samsung exclusive (for a few days, anyway), Epic Games decided to bypass Google Play and host APK downloads on its own servers. But this isn't going to stop people looking for Fortnite in the Play Store. Google is well aware of this, and that there is the potential for fake, scam apps to appear, tricking users into downloading something malicious. As such, the company is taking action, and is showing a warning to anyone who searches for Fortnite in Google Play. Conduct a search for Fortnite in Google's app store and you'll be greeted by a message that reads "Fortnite Battle Royale by Epic Games, Inc is not available on Google Play." Searchers are also advised that Fortnite rival PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is available to download.

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Lawsuit Threat Shuts Down ROM Downloads On Major Emulation Site 'EmuParadise'August 10 @ 2 AM source

Following Nintendo's recent lawsuits against ROM sites LoveROMs and LoveRetro, a major ROM repository called EmuParadise announced it will preemptively cease providing downloadable versions of copyrighted classic games. While no lawsuits have been filed yet, the site's founder, MasJ, writes in an announcement post: "It's not worth it for us to risk potentially disastrous consequences. I cannot in good conscience risk the futures of our team members who have contributed to the site through the years. We run EmuParadise for the love of retro games and for you to be able to revisit those good times. Unfortunately, it's not possible right now to do so in a way that makes everyone happy and keeps us out of trouble." Ars Technica reports: EmuParadise will continue to operate as a repository for legal downloads of classic console emulators, as well as a database of information on thousands of classic games. "But you won't be able to get your games from here for now," as MasJ writes. Since founding EmuParadise in 2000, MasJ says EmuParadise has faced threatening letters, server shutdowns, and numerous DMCA takedown requests for individual games. Through it all, he says he was encouraged by "thousands of emails from people telling us how happy they've been to rediscover and even share their childhood with the next generations in their families."

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NEC Unveils Facial Recognition System For 2020 Tokyo OlympicsAugust 7 @ 11 PM source

NEC, a Japanese IT and networking company, announced plans to provide a large-scale facial recognition system for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. "The system will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the games, including athletes, volunteers, media, and other staff," reports The Verge. From the report: NEC's system is built around an AI engine called NeoFace, which is part of the company's overarching Bio-IDiom line of biometric authentication technology. The Tokyo 2020 implementation will involve linking photo data with an IC card to be carried by accredited people. NEC says that it has the world's leading face recognition tech based on benchmark tests from the US's National Institute of Standards and Technology. NEC demonstrated the technology in Tokyo today, showing how athletes and other staff wouldn't be able to enter venues if they were holding someone else's IC card. The company even brought out a six-foot-eight former Olympic volleyball player to demonstrate that the system would work with people of all heights, though he certainly had to stoop a bit. It worked smoothly with multiple people moving through it quickly; the screen displayed the IC card holder's photo almost immediately after.

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Microsoft's Next-Gen Xbox Will Focus On 'XCloud' Game StreamingJuly 25 @ 1 AM source

One big area that Microsoft is focusing on with its next-generation Xbox is game streaming. According to a report from Thurrott.com, Microsoft is working on two new Xbox consoles. The "Xbox Two" will be a console similar to that of the Xbox One and Xbox 360, with updated hardware and specs. The other Xbox console in development will be limited to streaming games. The Verge reports: The streaming-only console will reportedly include a low amount of local compute for handling tasks like controller input, image processing, and collision detection. These tasks are essential to reducing latency in game streaming, and Microsoft is said to be planning to slice up processing between the game running locally and in the cloud in order to reduce input lag and other image processing delays. Microsoft is currently developing its next-generation Xbox console under the Scarlett codename. The software giant recently revealed it's also working on a game streaming service for Xbox that will work across any device. This is a key part of Microsoft's future plans with Xbox, and part of the company's vision for developing its "Netflix for video games" service, Xbox Game Pass.

Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans tell The Verge that Microsoft is currently "all hands" on creating datacenters capable of powering the company's game streaming service. Referred to as codename "XCloud" internally, Microsoft has been experimenting with combining four lots of custom Xbox consoles into a single server blade for its datacenters. These servers will launch initially with developers in mind to build and develop games in the cloud instead of local debug machines, and then to stream games to consumers.

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