Games Archive

Google launches test for its game streaming service

Streaming media has transformed the way we consume music and video, making it easy to instantly access your favorite content. It's a technically complex process that has come a long way in a few short years, but the next technical frontier for streaming will be much more demanding than video.

We've been working on Project Stream, a technical test to solve some of the biggest challenges of streaming. For this test, we're going to push the limits with one of the most demanding applications for streaming - a blockbuster video game.

Google's trying their hands at game streaming - in the case of this test, Assassin's Creed Odyssey (which I happen to have just started on my PS4 Pro). If one company has the hardware to actually pull this off properly and consistently, it's Google.

The making of Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation came out when games, and RTS games in particular, were quickly evolving. By the mid-Nineties, PCs were capable of capturing the necessary scale of battles, and online gaming was about to become a phenomenon. And it was that world Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor was waiting for. We caught up with Chris and asked him about the game's origins.

Total Annihilation was such an amazing game that kind of seemed to have gotten lost between the much more popular Command & Conquer and Warcraft games of its time. Which is a shame, because it had quite a few revolutionary elements for its time.

Ars Technica’s Xbox Adaptive Controller review

Microsoft's newest game accessory, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, probably isn't for you. That's just an odds game, when counting the percentage of people who fall into the "limited mobility" camp that this strange, unique controller is aimed at.

But that's the incredible thing about the XAC: that it's targeting a particularly fractured audience. Limited mobility is a giant, vague category, after all, with so many physical ailments to account for (let alone psychological ones). And previous answers in the gaming sphere have typically been specialized, one-of-a-kind controllers for single hands, feet, heads, and more.

XAC wins out in an odd way: by leaving some major work in users' hands. This $99 lap-sized device is truly incomplete on its own, as it's designed from the ground up to require add-on joysticks, buttons, and more. As a result, there's no way to fully review the possibilities Microsoft's XAC opens up for disabled gamers. Still, we've put a retail unit through its paces to see what kind of accessibility canvas this revolutionary "controller" opens up - and exactly how it works - to help limited-mobility gamers and their caretakers decide if its functionality, ease-of-use, and practical cost is right for them.

This is one of the most amazing products Microsoft has ever created. This must've taken a considerable amount of research, development, time, and money - and all that for what is a relatively small group of underserved people in the videogame community. I love how every little detail about this product - from packaging to the final product - is designed solely for people with limited mobility.

PlayStation 2’s repair services end after almost 20 years

18 years ago, Sony launched what would become one of the biggest icons in the gaming industry, the PlayStation 2. The level of popularity of the console is still unmatched to this day, and it remains at the top spot as the best-selling gaming platform of all time.

Perhaps because of that tremendous popularity, Sony kept the PlayStation 2 around for a long time. It was only in 2013 - not long before the PlayStation 4 made its way to the market - that the company decided to stop manufacturing it. Now, it's time for the final nail in the coffin. After a whopping 18 years of providing support and repair services, Sony Japan will no longer service consoles that arrive at the PlayStation Clinic after September 7. Back in June, the company had warned customers that they would have to make any support requests before August 31, and it seems that this is the last week for consoles to be serviced.

I hope my bright pink PlayStation 2 Slimline doesn't break down any time soon.

wideNES: peeking past the edge of NES games

Well, it's been over 30 years since the NES was released, and while those classic games have aged well, the same can't be said for the hardware they ran on. With a screen-resolution of just 256x240, the NES didn't give games all that much screen real-estate to work with. Nevertheless, intrepid game developers squeezed amazing, iconic worlds into NES games: the maze-like dungeons of The Legend of Zelda, the sprawling planet of Metroid, or the colorful levels of Super Mario Bros.. And yet, due to the NES's hardware limitations, gamers only ever experienced these worlds a single 256x240 viewport at a time...

Until now.

Introducing: wideNES. A new way to experience NES classics.

What an awesome and innovative project to add an extra dimension of gameplay to old NES classics.

An oral history of ‘GoldenEye 007’ on the N64

The Nintendo 64's GoldenEye 007 - or GoldenEye 64, as it's often known - is seen as one of the system's all-time classics. Aug. 25, 2018, will be the game's 21st birthday (allowing Bond to finally taste one of his revered cocktails), so we reached out to the people who played, reviewed and created the game to see how it all came together, way back in 1997. From the multiplayer being added as an afterthought to the game almost having every Bond actor ever, the game you and your buddies logged hours on - paintballing in the Stack or shooting Boris in the balls - was almost something very, very different.

I, too, played this game a lot when it came out - specifically, the multiplayer. It's one of those games that defined a console generation.

Valve forks Wine to Proton

n 2010, we announced Steam Play: a way for Steam users to access Windows, Mac and Linux versions of Steam games with a single purchase. More than 3000 of the games that have been added to Steam after that point have included Linux support, with more titles being added every day. Since then, we've continued to look for ways to make more titles easily accessible to Linux users.

So, two years ago, we started an effort to improve the quality and performance of Windows compatibility solutions for Steam games. A lot of our work has been in the form of supporting Wine and other existing compatibility projects. We have also been integrating these tools into the Steam client to provide the same simple plug-and-play experience offered by regular Linux games.

As a result of this work, today we are releasing the Beta of a new and improved version of Steam Play to all Linux users! It includes a modified distribution of Wine, called Proton, to provide compatibility with Windows game titles.

Proton is available as open source on GitHub.

Inside the culture of sexism at Riot Games

Riot Games, founded in 2006, has become one of the biggest companies in gaming on the back of its sole release, League of Legends, which had 100 million monthly players in 2016. With 2,500 employees across 20 offices, Riot is a powerhouse. In 2013, Riot was named one of Business Insider's 25 best tech companies to work for. Two years later, it made $1.6 billion in revenue. Its Los Angeles campus is cushy in the way you'd expect a money-bloated tech company's offices to be. It's got a gym, a coffee shop, a cafeteria with free food, a LAN cafe. Employees often stay late to grind out competitive skill points in League of Legends with their Riot family and are communicating on Slack well into the night. Women who don't fit in with Riot's "bro culture"- a term I heard from over a half dozen sources while reporting this story - say these amenities help make the job bearable for only so long.

Over the course of several months, Kotaku has spoken to 28 current and former Riot employees, many of whom came forward with stories that echo Lacy's. Some of those employees spoke on the record; most spoke anonymously because they feared for their future careers in the games industry or they were concerned that League of Legends' passionate fanbase would retaliate against them for speaking out. Many of those sources painted a picture of Riot as a place where women are treated unfairly, where the company's culture puts female employees at a disadvantage. Other current employees, speaking on the record, disputed that account, with some top female employees telling Kotaku they had not personally experienced gender discrimination at Riot.

A very detailed and well-researched article, with ample room for both sides of the story. It covers the experiences of both women and men with regards to harrassing behaviour, but also relays the experiences of people who never felt any sense of harrasment, while also allowing senior leadership and the company itself to properly respond to the claims made.

To go along with this story, there's the experiences written down by former Riot employee Meagen Marie, which are quite chilling. This retelling is obviously of a lot more personal nature, but it does seem to align with Riot having a deeply sexist culture.

The second coming of No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky is back in the number one position on Steam after yesterday's successful launch of No Man's Sky latest update, called "Next", and a 50 percent off sale on the PC version of the game. It has also launched, for the very first time, on Xbox One. Amazon has it listed as the number one best-seller on the Xbox platform as of this morning.

It feels like a corner has been turned in the game's story, both in terms of the game itself and the drama surrounding it.

I've been playing the new update, and it really does feel like a different, more complete game. Sad it had to take two years, but at the same time, props to the studio for sticking to it with regular substantial updates - instead of running away after the storm of incredibly nasty "criticism". Sure, some of the criticism was deserved, but obviously not the nasty, harassing comments (and more!) the developers received.

Xbox Adaptive Controller’s accessible packaging

Twist ties that bedevil. Thick plastic requiring scissors to break open. Tape that gets wrapped around fingers. Those cursed strips known as zip ties.

Packaging can be annoying for any consumer. But for people with disabilities, it often creates yet another challenge in a world riddled with them, an unnecessary obstacle that leads to frustration and a delay getting to the object inside.

Recognizing that reality, Microsoft's Packaging Design team faced a unique challenge in creating a box for the new Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed to accommodate gamers with limited mobility. The box for the device, which will be available for $99.99 in September through the Microsoft Store, needed to be as accessible as what was inside. It had to enable gamers with limited dexterity, who might be using just one hand or arm, to easily open the box and remove the controller. And it had to be as high-quality and aesthetically appealing as any other Xbox packaging.

This is an incredibly well thought-out product. Bravo to Microsoft for this product.

Riot’s approach to anti-cheat

Combating cheats is an ever-evolving arms race. The scope and complexity of cheat development grows every year along with the stakes in online gaming. The pressure is on for game studios to level up when it comes to detecting and preventing bad actors. I'm Michael "Perma" VanKuipers, and I used to be one of those bad actors; I spent over a decade developing cheats for various games and earned the ire of at least one large game studio in the process. These days I work on Riot's Anti-Cheat team, helping secure League of Legends from scripts, bots, and exploits. In this article, I'm going to show you some of the details and strategies behind our latest anti-cheat initiative, including a technical overview of the steps we took to mitigate certain types of cheating.

I've been playing League of Legends for six years, and I may (I wasn't sure) have seen cheating once or twice. Riot's work seems to be paying off.

The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one

Twitch, the leading live streaming platform where people play games, make crafts, and showcase their day-to-day lives, attracts over two million broadcasters every month. The number grows each year, thanks in part to how easy it has become to live stream, and platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube also increasingly encourage people to share and watch live stories. With the push of a button on your game console or phone, you can share whatever you’re doing at that exact moment with friends and strangers alike. The rise of popular (and profitable) influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has also made the idea of being an online influencer aspirational. Some parents note that their children pretend to unbox toys to a nonexistent audience, and teachers report that their students often say they want to pursue YouTubing as a career. But when seemingly everyone wants to record footage or live stream, who ends up watching the content?

Starting a career on platforms like Twitch often means spending some time broadcasting to absolutely no one. Discoverability is an issue: when you log into Twitch, the most visible people are those who already have a large following. While there are tools to find lesser-known streamers, most people starting out without built-in audiences from other platforms or supportive friends and family end up staring at a big, fat zero on their viewership counter. This lonely live stream purgatory can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, months, sometimes even years, depending on your luck. According to people who have gone through it, lacking an audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online.

This story feels so sad. Building and maintaining an audience is really hard, especially when you're dependent on platforms like YouTube and Twitch who can pull the rug out from underneath you at any time.

A single typo wrecked Aliens: Colonial Marines

In what feels like The Games Story Of The Year, during the Steam summer sale the much reviled Gearbox title Aliens: Colonial Marines was marked down to a stupidly low three dollars. A modder happened to notice that in the INI file for the game, there is a single typo that is - get this - responsible for many of the awful AI choices that the xenomorphs make in the game... Like running directly at you on their hind legs instead of crawling on the walls and using ducts to surprise you. A once horribly broken game is now... Functioning? Thanks to a single letter? Sure. That's about at 2018 as a games industry story can get.

This is amazing.

Nintendo hid a NES emulator inside GameCube’s Animal Crossing

Fans of the early-2000s era GameCube version of the original Animal Crossing likely remember the game including a handful of emulated NES titles that could be played by obtaining in-game items for your house. What players back then didn't know is that the NES emulator in Animal Crossing can also be used to play any generic NES ROM stored on a GameCube memory card.

One has to wonder if there's any code from open source emulators in there.

Nintendo’s weirdest, and maybe rarest, classic console yet

The collectability of Nintendo's "classic mini" consoles cannot be overstated. Even after restocking the NES Classic Edition's original limited supply this year, the company has barely been able to keep up with demand for both its NES- and SNES-flavored dips back into the nostalgia pool, in the West or elsewhere.

But if you thought those systems were limited and coveted enough, you ain't seen nothing. This week, Nintendo went one further by releasing a special-colored, new-games version of one of these systems, designed and marketed specifically for fans of Japanese Shonen Jump manga series like Dragon Ball, Captain Tsubasa, and Fist of the North Star.

Shortly before Amazon Japan sold out of its allocation on Sunday morning, we slammed down $87 USD and placed an order to see what the Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Famicom Classic Mini was all about. We quickly learned that this official Nintendo product is far from a slapdash release with a logo painted on.

Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.

Writing a Game Boy emulator

Eventually, I decided to write a minimalist Game Boy interpreting emulator, without support for custom mappers or sound, (and probably many inaccuracies). I called the project Cinoop.

Cinoop is written in C and is open source. It can be run on Windows, DS, GameCube, 3DS, Linux based OSes, PSP, and PS4.

The best, craziest speedruns from this year’s SGDQ

The week-long Summer Games Done Quick gaming marathon concluded on Saturday after raising $2.1 million for charity. That may very well lead outsiders to ask: What kind of gaming event can raise so much money for a global nonprofit like Doctors Without Borders?

Fans of the Games Done Quick organization, which runs two charity marathons a year, might answer that question by pointing to a slew of "speedruns" - attempts to beat a video game as quickly as possible - for classic and modern titles alike. Or they might start shouting a bunch of inside jokes and catch phrases, which are abundant at such a tight-knit, community-driven gathering of some of gaming's biggest nerds.

Either way, while the event has since concluded, its most impressive and silliest moments live on thanks to a complete YouTube video dump. Hours upon hours of speedruns, both quick and lengthy, live on at the Games Done Quick channel. So we thought we'd take this American holiday opportunity to help outsiders catch up on the craziness with a few of our favorite full-game clips.

I always look forward to the two GDQ events every year, and I usually plan my weeks off in such a way that I don't have to work during them. This year's SGDQ was another great experience, and thanks to the wonders of VOD dumps, I can now go back and watch all the runs I missed.

The original Xbox prototype is alive and kicking

When Microsoft took to the Game Developers Conference in 2000 to drum up interest in the original Xbox, it used a prototype console that was, basically, a giant X.

This prototype was used for the hardware reveal at GDC by ex-Microsoft boss Bill Gates and head of the Xbox project Seamus Blackley. Microsoft took this unit to trade shows and events such as GDC to help give developers an idea of what they've be working with and present demonstrations to press, despite it not offering the power the retail unit would.

According to Dean Takahashi's book Opening the Xbox, each prototype unit cost $18,000 to manufacture because they were milled out of a solid block of aluminium. In a recent tweet, Seamus Blackley, one of the key players in Microsoft's Xbox, said the prototype was a working unit.

Interesting little bit of Xbox history.