Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

Staffsource: Ars staffers reminisce on the games that made them gamers

August 22nd, 2019
Staffsource: Ars staffers reminisce on the games that made them gamers

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Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

While it's exciting (and a bit overwhelming) to think about all the new games we want to play, it's fun to occasionally walk down memory lane and remember the first games we ever played. For the Ars staff, our lists of nostalgic games are exhaustive, but a few titles still stand out as the true gateways to the years of gaming that followed.

These might not be the very first games we played, or even the games we played the most during our youth, but they do hold a special place in our hearts for sparking something inside of us that made us continue to seek out games to feed our needs for action, adventure, strategy, escape, and more.

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Posted in Ars Gaming Week 2019, Games, gaming, Gaming & Culture, gateway games, Staff, staffsource | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: Navigating the hazy world of gaming laptops in 2019

August 19th, 2019
Amid the chaos of the Ars Gaming Week testing lab, we took a moment to snap a photo of <em>some</em> of our preferred gaming laptops. But are they right for you? Not necessarily! Hence, here's our careful guide on the topic.

Enlarge / Amid the chaos of the Ars Gaming Week testing lab, we took a moment to snap a photo of some of our preferred gaming laptops. But are they right for you? Not necessarily! Hence, here's our careful guide on the topic. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff full of gamers and game-lovers, we'll be serving up extra reviews, guides, interviews, and other stories all about gaming from August 19 to August 23.

Putting together an ideal gaming desktop computer isn't always the easiest task, but at least it's a controlled kind of chaos. When building a PC, we can individually rank each component type—from CPUs to GPUs, from speakers to monitors—and aspiring builders can feel out their options for each within hearty system-builder guides. Barebones budgets, small form factors, pricey beasts: we can offer tips for each, then let shoppers mix and match those recommendations as they see fit.

The same cannot be said for gaming laptops. There's no simple way to break out and individually test laptops' big-ticket components, and singling out one gaming laptop is tough in a sector that has often suffered from bulk, heft, expense, and ugly designs. When you buy into one good thing in a gaming laptop, you're buying into its every other element, good and bad, with no ability to swap. How much worse does that get when you're stuck with a firm budget?

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Posted in Ars Gaming Week 2019, Features, gaming, Gaming & Culture, gaming laptops, guidemaster, Tech | Comments (0)

Journey creator’s Sky debuts on iPhone and iPad

July 19th, 2019

This week marks the launch of Sky: Children of Light, a game from famed designed Jenova Chen and beloved studio thatgamecompany, on iOS devices. Intended as an entry point to gaming that upends conventions and seeks new ranges of emotional expression, Sky was revealed during Apple's iPhone keynote in 2017 as a mobile-first game and an iOS exclusive at launch.

The game is expected to arrive on Android, Mac, Apple TV, Windows PC, and consoles sometime in the future, though. Its initial wide launch this week follows a long soft-launch period and a launch-date delay as the game went through some big changes in testing to get its social aspects—a key part of the experience—just right.

In Sky, you play as a nondescript, child-like being who walks and flies through varied 3D environments collecting light, helping beings, solving puzzles, and working with friends to bring light back to your world.

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Posted in apple, Apple App Store, gaming, Gaming & Culture, iOS, ipad, iphone, iPod touch, Jenova Chen, mobile games, Sky, thatgamecompany, USC | Comments (0)

Losing yourself in virtual worlds can have good as well a negative effects

July 17th, 2019
A visitor holds a hand control unit to play Minecraft during the EGX gaming conference in London, September 2014.

Enlarge / A visitor holds a hand control unit to play Minecraft during the EGX gaming conference in London, September 2014. (credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Pete Etchells lost his father to motor neuron disease as a teenager, and often, when the anniversary of his death rolled around, he found solace in playing video games, like hunting for the elusive Time Lost Proto-Drake in World of Warcraft. Gaming started as an escape, but over time, he found those virtual worlds helped him grapple with the difficult questions of human mortality and death. He even recreated a log cabin in Minecraft, drawing on memories of where he'd stayed at Yosemite on vacation with his father.

Now a psychologist at Bath Spa University in England but still an avid gamer, Etchells specializes in understanding the behavioral effects—both positive and negative—of video games. He chose that focus after going on an alcohol-fueled pub rant as a graduate student, annoyed by a fear-mongering newspaper headline claiming that computer games cause dementia in children. He knew from personal experience how gaming had helped him process his grief, and his research has helped bring concrete evidence to bear on the lingering debate about whether video games are bad for you.

Etchells explores all this and more in his first book, Lost in a Good Game—part personal memoir, part cultural history, part popular science. Ars sat down with Etchells to learn more about how gaming can be a force for good, instead of rotting our collective brains.

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Posted in books, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Lost in a Good Game, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Facebook AI Pluribus defeats top poker professionals in 6-player Texas Hold ‘em

July 11th, 2019

This video shows sample hands from Pluribus' experiment against professional poker players. Cards are turned face up to make it easier to see Pluribus' strategy. Courtesy of Carnegie-Mellon University.

Poker-playing AIs typically perform well against human opponents when the play is limited to just two players. Now Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook AI research scientists have raised the bar even further with an AI dubbed Pluribus, which took on 15 professional human players in six-player no-limit Texas Hold 'em and won. The researchers describe how they achieved this feat in a new paper in Science.

Playing more than 5,000 hands each time, five copies of the AI took on two top professional players: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, six-time winner of World Series of Poker events, and Darren Elias, who currently holds the record for most World Poker Tour titles. Pluribus defeated them both. It did the same in a second experiment, in which Pluribus played five pros at a time, from a pool of 13 human players, for 10,000 hands.

Co-author Tuomas Sandholm of Carnegie Mellon University has been grappling with the unique challenges poker poses for AI for the last 16 years. No-Limit Texas Hold 'em is a so-called "imperfect information" game, since there are hidden cards (held by one's opponents in the hand) and no restrictions on the size of the bet one can make. By contrast, with chess and Go, the status of the playing board and all the pieces are known by all the players. Poker players can (and do) bluff on occasion, so it's also a game of misleading information.

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Posted in AI, Facebook AI, Facebook Research, gaming, Gaming & Culture, Pluribus, poker, science, Texas Hold 'Em | Comments (0)

Apple expands tvOS gaming with PS4, Xbox One S controller support

June 3rd, 2019
Controller not shown to scale.

Enlarge / Controller not shown to scale.

At the 2019 WWDC keynote today, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company is expanding Apple TV controller support to include "two of the best and most popular game controllers available, Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4" with the next tvOS update. Note that this expansion does not include original Xbox One control pads that shipped with the 2013 version of the system—only the Bluetooth-equipped controller update that premiered alongside Microsoft's One S update in 2016 will work with Apple TV.

The announcement, which drew large and sustained applause in the presentation hall, comes nearly four years after Apple's second-generation Apple TV became the company's first foray into TV-based gaming since the ill-fated Pippin. At launch, Apple TV games were required to support the hardware's touchpad-focused, tilt-sensitive remote, and those games could optionally support any number of MFi controllers already designed for mobile iOS hardware. While Apple reversed that decision in mid-2016 to allow-for MFi-exclusive games, Apple TV game developers continue to complain about the fragmented control landscape on Apple's set-top box.

Apple TV currently plays host to thousands of games, including many noteworthy "Universal" ports of titles originally designed for mobile iOS platforms. But some big-budget attempts to bring console-style gaming to the hardware have failed—Guitar Hero Live, Disney Infinity, and Minecraft are just a few of the franchises that have aborted attempts at Apple TV support in the last few years.

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Posted in apple, Apple TV, gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Sony, Tech | Comments (0)

Google’s AI group moves on from Go, tackles Quake III Arena

May 30th, 2019
Representations of bots on a Quake map.

Enlarge / Representation of some of the behaviors developed by the FTW algorithm. (credit: Deep Mind)

Google's AI subsidiary Deep Mind has built its reputation by building systems that learn to play games by playing each other, starting with little more than the rules and what constitutes a win. That Darwinian approach of improvement through competition has allowed Deep Mind to tackle complex games like chess and Go, where there are vast numbers of potential moves to consider.

But at least for board games like those, the potential moves are discrete and don't require real-time decisionmaking. It wasn't unreasonable to question whether the same approach would work for completely different classes of games. Such questions, however, seem to be answered by a report in today's issue of Science, where Deep Mind reveals the development of an AI system that has taught itself to play Quake III Arena and can consistently beat human opponents in capture-the-flag games.

Not a lot of rules

Chess' complexity is built from an apparently simple set of rules: an 8 x 8 grid of squares and pieces that can only move in very specific ways. Quake III Arena, to an extent, gets rid of the grid. In capture-the-flag mode, both sides start in a spawn area and have a flag to defend. You score points by capturing the opponent's flag. You can also gain tactical advantage by "tagging" (read "shooting") your opponents, which, after a delay, sends them back to their spawn.

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Posted in AI, Computer science, Deep Mind, gaming, quake III, science | Comments (0)

Xbox Game Pass is coming to Windows 10, but many questions remain

May 30th, 2019
Well, there you have it.

Enlarge / Well, there you have it.

In one of the less-detailed announcements of the pre-E3 season, Microsoft this morning officially confirmed it is bringing its "all-you-can-play" Game Pass subscription service to the PC. The new expansion of the Xbox Game Pass (which launched just over two years ago) "will give players unlimited access to a curated library of over 100 high-quality PC games on Windows 10, from well-known PC game developers and publishers such as Bethesda, Deep Silver, Devolver Digital, Paradox Interactive, SEGA and more," according to an announcement from Microsoft.

Games from Microsoft's own studios, including recent acquisitions Obsidian and inXile, will be available on Xbox Game Pass for PC on the day they're released, just as they are on Xbox One. Game Pass members will also receive discounts of up to 20% on Windows Store games and up to 10% off of DLC and add-on purchases.

Aside from that, though, Microsoft's announcement leaves a lot of major holes. While the "Xbox Game Pass for PC" shares a name with the company's "original" gaming subscription plan, it's not clear if PC subscriptions will be considered separate, or available as a bundle with the console plan, or included in Microsoft's upcoming "Game Pass Ultimate," or some combination of all of the above. Microsoft also didn't discuss any pricing details, launch timing for the service, any specific included games, or whether or not Game Pass on PC downloads would be limited to Microsoft's own Windows Store. Microsoft has promised to reveal more at its June 9 E3 press conference.

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Posted in gaming, Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Windows, xbox game pass | Comments (0)

Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds

May 6th, 2019

The first Pokémon game was released in 1996 for the Nintendo Game Boy.

Detective Pikachu, the first live-action film inspired by the classic Nintendo game Pokémon, hits theaters on May 10. So it's timely that a new paper has just appeared in Nature Human Behavior, concluding that people who avidly played the game as children have developed a unique cluster of brain cells devoted to recognizing the hundreds of different Pokémon species.

It's well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There's even a so-called "Jennifer Aniston neuron," (aka the "grandmother cell") discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

"This is quite remarkable, and it's still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain," said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

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Posted in gaming, Neuroscience, Nintendo, pokemon, science | Comments (0)

Google Stadia will support “a variety of business models”

April 25th, 2019

Last month, when Google revealed its upcoming Stadia streaming gaming platform, it left open the major question of precisely how Google and game developers would make money from these games running on remote servers. In an on-stage discussion at LA's GamesBeat Summit this week, though, Google's Phil Harrison mentioned that "our platform at a fundamental level has been architected to support a very wide variety of what people call 'monetization options.' Everything from purchase to transaction to subscription."

That's not quite a direct confirmation that all those different options will be available to developers on Stadia. All Harrison would reveal is that "there is no technical limitation on how we have architected the platform to support a variety of business models." (Emphasis ours.). But that architecture would be a very odd thing for Harrison to bring up if, say, Google was planning to impose a one-size-fits-all subscription on Stadia users.

In discussing Stadia, Harrison has put a lot of focus on how the platform makes it easy for players to share a game through a link in a text message, for instance, or by letting people instantly jump in to an instance of a game they're watching on YouTube at a specific point on the video. This form of game discovery could "change the way game value is perceived by players," Harrison said, by removing the "retail store pressure" and limited "outward facing" selection of brick-and-mortar and digital storefronts. "When a game is a link, the Internet is your store," he said. "That means we can change the perceived value of games."

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Posted in Business, gaming, Gaming & Culture, google, stadia, streaming | Comments (0)