Games Archive

“Google is planning a game platform” to rival Playstation, Xbox

Over the past few months, the wildest rumors in video game industry circles haven't involved the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Two. The most interesting chatter has centered on a tech company that's been quietly making moves to tackle video games in a big way: Google, the conglomerate that operates our email, our internet browsers, and much more.

We haven't heard many specifics about Google's video game plans, but what we have heard is that it's a three-pronged approach: 1) Some sort of streaming platform, 2) some sort of hardware, and 3) an attempt to bring game developers under the Google umbrella, whether through aggressive recruiting or even major acquisitions. That's the word from five people who have either been briefed on Google's plans or heard about them secondhand.

Cracking the gaming market is hard. Over the past few decades, only two companies succeeded in entering the gaming market: first Sony, then Microsoft. Virtually all other attempts either flopped hard, or started lukewarm only to quickly peter out. Hence, I have a lot of reservations about Google's supposed plans here, especially since they seem to involve streaming. Even streaming on my local LAN using PS4 Remote Play, while passable, is clearly not even remotely as good as the "real thing".

We definitely need more concrete information.

A small look into the GameCube’s copy filter

A while back I was going through Dolphin's issues page out of sheer boredom.

I don’t know anything about coding to fix any of this stuff, but I do like to test really old issues sometimes to see if the hundreds of changes made over the years has produced any change or potentially even fixed some of the issues. After a few pages, I eventually came across issue 726 - Gamma setting has no effect. Out of curiosity, I clicked.

This is a great story about a very obscure and technical bug in the Dolphin GameCube emulator.

Ubisoft CEO: cloud will replace consoles after next generation

Better start saving up for that PlayStation 5, Xbox Two, or Nintendo Swatch (that last follow-up name idea is a freebie, by the way). That generation of consoles might be the last one ever, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. After that, he predicts cheap local boxes could provide easier access to ever-evolving high-end gaming streamed to the masses from cloud-based servers.

I think that's a little optimistic, but the trend is clear.

Steam’s unclear pornography rules hurt small game developers

"The issue is, isn't going to remove The Witcher or Grand Theft Auto or anything like that from Steam ," says Rasmussen. "We're the smallest kind of demographic without any kind of lobbying power. We can't influence Valve to leave us alone." While we still don't (and may never) know exactly why Steam sent and then retracted those takedown notices, it has left many visual novel creators even less confident about what sexual content is acceptable on the platform, and more concerned that their work will unexpectedly be categorized as pornography. That's going to hurt visual novel developers the most, but it's going to make things worse for the vitality and diversity of gaming at large, too.

Being Dutch, America's obsession with trying to curtail nudity, sex, and pornography, all the while allowing the most grotesque forms of brutal violence without so much as batting an eye, will never cease to amaze me. Steam is filled to the brim with overly violent video games with the most realistic rendering of gore, yet it's the cartoon-style content with boobs everybody seems to stumble over.

It's just sex. Nobody's going to get scarred for life from seeing naked women and men, so stop obsessing over it, slap an 18+ label on it, and be done with it.

Atari launches Indiegogo campaign for VCS, reveals its specs

The Atari VCS, the new gaming console from Atari, has been launched as an Indiegogo campaign with preorders available today, with a shipping date set for early 2019.

Along with the launch, the company has also revealed the technical specs of the console, which include 32GB of internal storage, 4GB of RAM, and AMD's Bristol Ridge A1 CPU and Radeon R7 GPU.

That's certainly not a bad set of specifications, but one has to wonder just how much third party interest there is to go around. Still, even without a ton of original games, this machine is basically a very nicely designed Linux machine, which in an of itself makes it a really tempting product. That being said - it's a crowdfunding project, so take all the warnings that comes with that into account.

Game companies need to cut the crap: loot boxes are gambling

Game companies now lean heavily on loot boxes to monetize their products. Legislators around the world are threatening to impose regulations on the boxes, claiming that they're gambling. Industry groups, however, insist that the boxes are not.

I play games that are funded with loot boxes. My favorite game of all time, Dota 2, is funded almost exclusively through loot boxes. Regulations that tightly restrict or absolutely prohibit loot boxes will definitely hurt the gaming industry and will hurt, perhaps even fatally, games I love. There will definitely be economic harm, and games companies will have to figure something out to fill the monetary gap. It's no surprise that game companies are defending the practice.

But here's the thing: loot boxes are gambling. The essential features of the transaction match those of gambling, the reward pathways and addiction mechanisms are those of gambling, and playing dumb about it, as the industry is currently doing, is a bad look.

I wholeheartedly agree. Loot boxes in gaming lead to real addictions and all its associated problems, and while I'm never a fan of outright bans - I'm Dutch, after all - I do think we need to have an honest and open discussion about protecting especially younger and more vulnerable people from the effects of gambling.

Apple rejects Valve’s Steam Link game streaming app

Valve's game streaming service Steam Link won't be coming to iOS today, despite a successful Android beta launch earlier this month. According to the official Steam Database Twitter account, Apple rejected the Steam Link app over apparent "business conflicts with app guidelines". Steam Link was first announced for mobile back in March, and the app functions as a remote desktop so users can access their Steam library of PC games from a mobile device and stream them directly for touchscreen play or for use with a Bluetooth controller.

It's not exactly clear at the moment what the "business conflict" here is, and whether it has anything to do with Apple's somewhat contentious 30 percent App Store fee for all purchases, in-app or otherwise. It may perhaps be due to the fact that Steam Link allows an iOS user to access another app store, namely Steam, within Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem. Apple was not immediately available for comment.

If that really is the reason Apple banned the application, they should ban every single remote desktop application.

The history of the Philips CD-i, failed PlayStation ancestor

Behold the Philips CD-i! It’s got Mario! Zelda! Movies on CD! Uh… interactive encyclopedias! What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.

Born out of the same aborted efforts to create a CD-based console for Nintendo that would eventually produce the Sony Playstation, the CD-i was an ambitious attempt to create a multi-purpose home entertainment console. However, instead of kickstarting the trend of CD-based gaming, the CD-i turned into one of the great failures of the video game industry, reportedly costing Philips near a billion dollars by the time it was discontinued.

Nonetheless, it did end up fostering some amazingly idiosyncratic (and widely reviled) pieces of video game history.

Since I'm Dutch and have lived in The Netherlands my whole life, I feel like the CD-i is a much greater part of my memory than of people in other countries. Philips is a Dutch company, after all, and I vaguely recall the CD-i being hyped into the stratosphere over here. I wanted one when the hype started, but I never did even see one in real life.

PlayStation CEO: PS4 entering final phase of life cycle

PlayStation 4 is entering the final phase of its life cycle, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO John (Tsuyoshi) Kodera said at Sony Investor Relations Day 2018 in Tokyo today.

The platform first launched in North America and Europe in November 2013, followed by Japan in February 2014. It has shipped 79 million units as of March 31, 2018.

Didn't I just buy a PS4 Pro? Am I the only one to whom this seems... A little premature?

The Xbox Adaptive Controller may change gaming forever

The operative word is "adaptive". XAC's potential truly begins with its back-side strip. There, you'll find a whopping 19 ports, all 3.5mm jacks. No, this isn't a giant middle finger to the headphone-jack haters at Apple and Google. Rather, these ports see Microsoft connecting with, and loudly celebrating, what has long been an open secret in the world of gaming peripherals: the community of add-on devices designed for limited-mobility gamers.

Oversized buttons, finger switches, blowing tubes, foot pedals, and other specialized inputs have long been built for gamers who can't hold onto or efficiently use average controllers (gamepads, keyboards, mice). Recent speeches from company heads like CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer have paid lip service to "inclusivity" in computing and gaming, but this device, the XAC, aims to do the trick by connecting niche add-ons to standard Microsoft hardware.

This is a hugely important device for gamers with limited mobility. Nothing but praise for Microsoft for developing a device like this.

DOSBox-CRT

This is just a slightly modified version of the standard DOSBOX emulator. I have just hacked in my own shader which emulates some aspects of old CRT monitors, as I prefer to play emulated games with such a filter, and the built-in dosbox filters are not to my taste. I made this because I wanted it myself, but since I have it I thought I'd share it. There's probably lots of things which could be done better, but it's good enough for my needs right now, so leaving it like this for now.

Not a major news item, obviously, and just one among countless contributions to open source that pass by unnoticed every day, but every now and then, it seems only prudent to highlight one.

How the Nintendo Switch prevents downgrades

Downgrade prevention has been a cat-and-mouse game between consumers and companies since the inception of remote updates. The Nintendo Switch adopts a worrisome-strategy of preventing firmware downgrades by permanently modifying your device every time it updates. While this isn’t a new concept (the Xbox 360 was doing it back in 2007), it is part of a greater effort to prevent end users from modifying their devices to their liking.

The Nintendo Switch use an Nvidia Tegra X1 SoC, which comes with a fuse driver. This allows it to programmatically blow fuses - permanently modifying the device, making it impossible to revert to a previous state.

Despite being used in an anti-consumer manner, the technology is fascinating.

Switch hacked through unpatchable exploit

Nintendo Switch has been hacked, with two similar exploits released in the last 24 hours following a complete dump of the console's boot ROM. The hacks are hardware-based in nature and cannot be patched by Nintendo. The only way forward for the platform holder in fully securing the console will be to revise the Nvidia Tegra X1 processor itself, patching out the boot ROM bug. In the short term, homebrew code execution is possible and a full, touch-enabled version of Linux with 3D acceleration support is now available.

I'm a little hesitant to try this out on my own Switch out of fear of messing it up and leaving me with a bricked console, but this is great news for the homebrew community.

NES homebrew: not just nostalgia

Growing up in the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System, I always wanted to create my own NES game. I scribbled ideas in notebooks, mapped out levels on graph paper and spent countless hours composing my own MIDI-based soundtracks to games that didn't exist. These ideas were lost to time until 2018, until I watched Joe Granato's documentary, The New 8-bit Heroes, about his quest to create the game of his childhood dreams. Now, with the successfully funded Kickstarter for his NESMaker software, the project may help to simplify the creation of homebrew NES games. Joe isn't the first one to do this, however, as homebrew has a long and storied history. Today's Tedium seeks to explore this corner of NES history and the creation of NES games over 20 years after the end of the system's commercial life.

SteamOS, Linux, and Steam Machines

While it's true Steam Machines aren't exactly flying off the shelves, our reasons for striving towards a competitive and open gaming platform haven't significantly changed. We're still working hard on making Linux operating systems a great place for gaming and applications. We think it will ultimately result in a better experience for developers and customers alike, including those not on Steam.

Through the Steam Machine initiative, we've learned quite a bit about the state of the Linux ecosystem for real-world game developers out there. We've taken a lot of feedback and have been heads-down on addressing the shortcomings we observed. We think an important part of that effort is our ongoing investment in making Vulkan a competitive and well-supported graphics API, as well as making sure it has first-class support on Linux platforms.

Valve has done a lot for Linux gaming, and it's good to hear they pledge to continue doing so.

Unlocked PS4 consoles can now run copies of PS2 games

After years of work, hackers have finally managed to unlock the PS4 hardware with an exploit that lets the system run homebrew and pirated PS4 software. In a somewhat more surprising discovery, those hackers have also unlocked the ability to run many PS2 games directly on the console, using the same system-level emulation that powers legitimate PlayStation Classics downloads.

That's actually quite useful. Too bad this requires hacking and cracking, instead of it simply being a legitimate option. I have quite a few PS2 games I'd love to play directly on my PS4, instead of having to buy remasters.

Nintendo reveals Labo, a DIY experience for Switch

Nintendo unveiled what it calls a "new interactive experience" for Nintendo Switch today that’s unlike anything else on the console. Called Nintendo Labo, it’s a "new line of interactive build-and-play experiences that combine DIY creations with the magic of Nintendo Switch," according to Nintendo.

Labo will let Nintendo Switch owners build cardboard versions of real-world items like a 13-key piano, fishing rod or motorbike. Nintendo calls those cardboard creations Toy-Cons. And, by inserting Joy-Con controllers into those Toy-Cons, players will be able to play games themed to the cardboard creations.

This is a great idea, and such a novel thing to do with a games console.

See the long-lost NES prototype of SimCity

Gamers of a certain age probably remember that Nintendo worked with Maxis to port a version of the seminal SimCity to the brand-new SNES in 1991. What most gamers probably don't realize is that an NES version of the game was developed at the same time and cancelled just before its planned release.

That version of the game was considered lost for decades until two prototype cartridges surfaced in the collecting community last year. One of those prototypes has now been obtained and preserved by the Video Game History Foundation's (VGHF's) Frank Cifaldi, who demonstrated the emulated ROM publicly for the first time at MAGFest last weekend.

I'm a SimCity 2000 person myself, but the original SimCity is a classic, and I love that they finally managed to preserve it.

Finding a CPU design bug in the Xbox 360

The recent reveal of Meltdown and Spectre reminded me of the time I found a related design bug in the Xbox 360 CPU - a newly added instruction whose mere existence was dangerous.

Back in 2005 I was the Xbox 360 CPU guy. I lived and breathed that chip. I still have a 30-cm CPU wafer on my wall, and a four-foot poster of the CPU’s layout. I spent so much time understanding how that CPU's pipelines worked that when I was asked to investigate some impossible crashes I was able to intuit how a design bug must be their cause. But first, some background...