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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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LambdaMOO, MUDs, and 'When the Internet Was Young'July 21 @ 7 PM source

Slashdot reader travers_r shares "a peek into the early days of internet culture and multiplayer gaming." (Apparently this MOO has been running continuously for 28 years.) "From the looks of it, squatters run it now..."

LambdaMOO was different from the earliest MUDs, which were Tolkienesque fantasies -- hack-and-slash games for Dungeons & Dragons types with computer access, mostly college students. LambdaMOO was one of the first social MUDs, where people convened largely to play-act society, and what might have been "one of the first MUDs to be run by an adult," [co-creator Pavel] Curtis believes... Everybody comes through the Coat Closet the first time they visit LambdaMOO, entering the Living Room through a curtain of clothes, like children into Narnia. In between the textual rooms and objects they explore, there's a faster-moving flow of words, the coursing real-time chatter of LambdaMOO's other users. This is a Multi-User Domain: a chatroom and a world at once, a place where telling takes the place of being...
[I]t's nearly impossible to describe to a modern computer user what that means, because although MUDs once made up 10 percent of internet traffic, their dominance was obliterated by the arrival of the visual, hyperlinked, page-based Web. To anyone weaned on images and clicked connections, every explanation sounds batty: A MUD is a text-based virtual reality. A MUD is a chatroom built by talking. A MUD is Dungeons & Dragons all around the world. A MUD is a map made of words. The science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once defined reality as "that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away," and in that sense a MUD is a real place. But a MUD is also nothing more than a window of text, scrolling along as users describe and inhabit a place from words.

Undark titled their piece "a mansion filled with hidden worlds: when the internet was young," describing the mansion's halls as "really just a string of code, where people once lived, and still do, in some way or another, as someone must, until the server winks out." I logged in a few times in 1997, so I'm probably in there too...
The article describes reading a Usenet newsgroup about MUDs back in 1990. "Approximately half of the contributors thought it was a game; the other half vehemently and heatedly disagreed."

Does all this bring back memories for any Slashdot readers?

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Saudi Arabia Bans 47 Games In Response To Two Child SuicidesJuly 18 @ 12 AM source

An anonymous reader quotes a report from IGN: Saudi Arabia is apparently banning 47 games in response to a pair of children committing suicide after allegedly being encouraged to do so while playing an online game. Per the Associated Press, the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said yesterday that a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy have taken their own lives after playing a social media game known as Blue Whale. Also called the Blue Whale Challenge, the disturbing social media phenomenon is a form of extreme cyberbullying. It's not clear how the Saudi government believes this connects to more mainstream video games, but it nonetheless appears to have banned 47 popular indie and AAA games in response.The Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media's website actually says the list of banned games was last updated on July 2, but the Associated Press' report claims the bans were just announced Monday.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.