Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

Move over AlphaGo: AlphaZero taught itself to play three different games

December 6th, 2018
Starting from random play and knowing just the game rules, AlphaZero defeated a world champion program in the games of Go, chess, and shoji (Japanese chess).

Enlarge / Starting from random play and knowing just the game rules, AlphaZero defeated a world champion program in the games of Go, chess, and shoji (Japanese chess). (credit: DeepMind Technologies, Ltd.)

Google's DeepMind—the group that brought you the champion game-playing AIs AlphaGo and AlphaGoZero—is back with a new, improved, and more-generalized version. Dubbed AlphaZero, this program taught itself to play three different board games (chess, Go, and shoji, a Japanese form of chess) in just three days, with no human intervention.

A paper describing the achievement was just published in Science. "Starting from totally random play, AlphaZero gradually learns what good play looks like and forms its own evaluations about the game," said Demis Hassabis, CEO and co-founder of DeepMind. "In that sense, it is free from the constraints of the way humans think about the game."

Chess has long been an ideal testing ground for game-playing computers and the development of AI. The very first chess computer program was written in the 1950s at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and in the late 1960s, Richard D. Greenblatt's Mac Hack IV program was the first to play in a human chess tournament—and to win against a human in tournament play. Many other computer chess programs followed, each a little better than the last, until IBM's Deep Blue computer defeated chess grand master Garry Kasparov in May 1997.

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Posted in AI, alphago, AlphaZero, Artificial intelligence, Computer science, deep learning, deepmind, game theory, gaming, Gaming & Culture, neural networks, reinforcement learning, science | Comments (0)

Study: Tetris is a great distraction for easing an anxious mind

November 2nd, 2018
A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods.

Enlarge / A giant Tetris board illuminating the windows of the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality in 2016. Playing Tetris provides a useful distraction during anxious waiting periods. (credit: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

There's nothing worse than waiting to hear potentially upsetting news, whether it's a bad medical diagnosis or learning if you got into your top college choice. These kinds of stressful periods can produce intense anxiety. Playing Tetris might be the perfect coping mechanism, according to a new study in the journal Emotion.

There have been a number of scientific studies involving Tetris, one of the most popular computer games in the world, in which players flip falling colored blocks every which way in order to neatly stack them into rows. For instance, a 2009 study found that one's brain activity becomes more efficient the longer one plays Tetris. The more proficient a player becomes, the less glucose the brain consumes for energy to fuel cognition.

That same year, a research group at Oxford University reported that playing Tetris could reduce the impact of viewing traumatic scenes, perhaps because the game disrupts retention of painful memories. That makes it a promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is such an effective distraction that it can help reduce cravings in dieters and addicts seeking to kick the habit. After prolonged play, images of the Tetris combinations will linger in the brain (the so-called "Tetris effect"), although this will happen with any repeated images or scenarios (solitaire, jigsaw puzzles, and so forth). It even inspired a new Playstation game, The Tetris Effect.

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Posted in cognition, Flow, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Psychology, science, Tetris | Comments (0)

Those painted sculptures in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are true to history

October 23rd, 2018
The view of the Athenian Acropolis in <em>Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey</em> shows ancient Greece in all its colorful glory.

Enlarge / The view of the Athenian Acropolis in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey shows ancient Greece in all its colorful glory. (credit: Screengrab courtesy of Dr. Kira Jones)

When Assassin's Creed: Odyssey debuted earlier this month, it received widespread praise for the quality of its world-building and narrative. Some historians say it also deserves high marks for its attention to historical detail in recreating ancient Greece. Notably, the game showcases colorfully painted statues, temples, and tombs dotted about the virtual city.

Yes, it's true: contrary to all those pristine, gleaming white marble sculptures we see all the time in museums—the ones we long thought defined the Western aesthetic of the Classical era—Greco-Roman art was awash in color. Art historians have known this for awhile, of course, but the knowledge hasn't really moved beyond the confines of that rarefied world. That might change, now that it's a feature in a hugely popular game.

The 11th major installment in the popular gaming franchise, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey takes place in in year 431 BCE, detailing a fictional history of the Peloponnesian War that pitted Athens against Sparta. Ubisoft's development team took their world-building so seriously, they brought on a historical advisor to help get the details just right.

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Posted in ancient greece, art history, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, gaming, Gaming & Culture, History, science | Comments (0)

What kind of gaming rig can run at 16K resolution?

August 3rd, 2017

The consumer gaming world might be in a tizzy about 4K consoles and displays of late, but that resolution standard wasn’t nearly enough for one team of PC tinkerers. The folks over at Linus Tech Tips have posted a very entertaining video showing off a desktop PC build capable of running (some) games at an astounding 16K resolution. That’s a 15260×8640, for those counting the over 132 million pixels being pushed every frame—64 times the raw pixel count of a standard 1080p display and 16 times that of a 4K display.

The key to the build is four Quadro P5000 video cards provided by Nvidia. While each card performs similarly to a consumer-level GTX1080 (8.9 teraflops, 2560 parallel cores), these are pro-tier cards designed for animators and other high-end graphic work, often used for massive jumbotrons and other multi-display or multi-projector installations.

The primary difference between Quadro and consumer cards is that these come with 16GB of video RAM. Unfortunately, the multi-display Mosaic technology syncing the images together means that mirrored memory doesn’t stack, leading to the rig’s most significant bottleneck. All told, the graphics cards alone would cost over $10,000, including a “quadrosync” card that ties them all together to run a single image across 16 displays.

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Posted in 16K, gaming, Gaming & Culture, NVIDIA, Resolution | Comments (0)

How online gamers use malware to cheat

March 10th, 2017

As the sophistication of attacks to allow cheating have grown, so too have the defenses of the games industry

Posted in cheating, gaming, SophosLabs | Comments (0)

Decrypted: I think we’ve got Westworld all figured out now

November 22nd, 2016

Enlarge / How does it feel to have written the programs that cause you to experience emotional pain? Not that great, actually. (credit: HBO)

This week’s Westworld, “Trace Decay,” finally made me a believer in all the fan theories. (Spoilers ahead.)

Yes, there are multiple timelines. Yes, at this point, anyone could be a robot. The only thing left to do is play this show like a game and test every theory until it’s proven wrong. My guest this week, game developer Jane McGonigal, agrees. McGonigal is the author of two books, Reality Is Broken and SuperBetter, which are about how gaming can improve our real lives. And she has a lot of thoughts about the gameworld of Westworld, plus a theory you’ve probably never heard before.

Topics discussed: why the MIB is really looking for the maze (he wants a game with consequences), what makes the gameplay in Westworld so unsatisfying (there’s no Minecraft element to it), Jane’s so-crazy-it-just-might-work theory about who the MIB really is (and what the maze really is, too!), how many timelines are floating around inside Dolores’ head (yes, we are finally coming around to the multiple timeline idea), whether it’s cheating on your partner if you have sex with a robot (it’s more complicated than you might think), how many people are actually robots (it could be everybody), Maeve’s incredible new story-changing abilities (she’s the ultimate gamer now), the tragedy of loops (and the horror of memory), how Westworld invites viewers to interact with the series like it’s a game (and stay up late reading theories on Reddit), and whether there’s something inherently limiting about the Western story (maybe we’re about to see Futureworld soon?).

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Posted in gaming, jane mcgonigal, metafiction, Podcasts, The Multiverse, westworld | Comments (0)

Game hacker stripped, shamed and given in-game death sentence

May 11th, 2015

Guild Wars 2 user DarkSide, who had spent weeks committing hacking workarounds such as teleporting and dominating player-on-player combat, was forced to leap to his virtual death from a high bridge.

Posted in Darkside, Featured, gaming, Guild Wars 2 | Comments (0)

Gamer swatted while live-streaming on Twitch.TV

February 10th, 2015

A gamer has been targeted by anonymous trolls in the middle of a Twitch stream of RuneScape.

Posted in Featured, gamergate, gaming, Joshua Peters, Law & order, Runes of Magic, SWATting, trolling, trolls, Twitch.TV | Comments (0)

Ubisoft yanks keys for online games purchased via unauthorised parties

January 28th, 2015

Far Cry 4 and other games disappeared over the weekend, leaving a trail of ex-Ubisoft fans in their wake, stripped of games Ubisoft thinks were “fraudulently” bought on third-party sites.

Posted in digital rights, DRM, Far Cry, Featured, gaming, Ubisoft | Comments (0)