Classic Games (Games)

Text Adventure Competition Reports A 36% Spike In Entries (ifcomp.org) 21

There's just four days left to vote for the winner of the 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. An anonymous reader writes: This year's contest set a record, drawing 79 new text adventures -- 36% more entries than the previous year's 58. All of this year's games are available online, furthering the competition's goal of "making them freely available in order to encourage the creation, play, and discussion of interactive fiction." (And they're also available in a 236-megabyte .zip archive.)

Each game's developer is competing for $4,800 in cash prizes, to be shared among everyone who finishes in the top two-thirds (including a $247 prize to the first-place winner). Authors of the top-rated games will also get to choose from a 38-prize pool (which includes another $200 cash prize donated by Asymmetric Publications, as well as a "well-loved" used Wii console). But the most important thing is there's a bunch of fun new text adventures to play. Reviews are already appearing online, lovingly collected by the Interactive Fiction Wiki. And one game designer even livestreamed their text adventure-playing on Twitch.

AI

Humans Are Still Better Than AI at StarCraft (technologyreview.com) 142

29-year-old professional StarCraft player Song Byung-gu won 4-0 in the world's first contest between AI systems and professional human players, writes MIT Technology Review. An anonymous reader quotes their report: One of the bots, dubbed "CherryPi," was developed by Facebook's AI research lab. The other bots came from Australia, Norway, and Korea. The contest took place at Sejong University in Seoul, Korea, which has hosted annual StarCraft AI competitions since 2010. Those previous events matched AI systems against each other (rather than against humans) and were organized, in part, by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a U.S.-based engineering association.

Though it has not attracted as much global scrutiny as the March 2016 tournament between Alphabet's AlphaGo bot and a human Go champion, the recent Sejong competition is significant because the AI research community considers StarCraft a particularly difficult game for bots to master. Following AlphaGo's lopsided victory over Lee Sedol last year, and other AI achievements in chess and Atari video games, attention shifted to whether bots could also defeat humans in real-time games such as StarCraft... Executives at Alphabet's AI-focused division, DeepMind, have hinted that they are interested in organizing such a competition in the future.

The event wouldn't be much of a contest if it were held now. During the Sejong competition, Song, who ranks among the best StarCraft players globally, trounced all four bots involved in less than 27 minutes total. (The longest match lasted about 10 and a half minutes; the shortest, just four and a half.) That was true even though the bots were able to move much faster and control multiple tasks at the same time. At one point, the StarCraft bot developed in Norway was completing 19,000 actions per minute. Most professional StarCraft players can't make more than a few hundred moves a minute.

NES (Games)

Third 'Nintendo World Championship' Ends With Three Unreleased Switch Game Levels (kotaku.com) 14

An anonymous reader writes: The Nintendo World Championships wrapped up in Manhattan Saturday with two finalists competing on three as-yet-unreleased levels from the upcoming Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey. 16 contenders had been selected from Mario Kart 7 qualifying rounds at Best Buy stores in eight U.S. cities, and Thomas G. "surged up through the 'underground,' the loser's bracket," reports Kotaku, "after overcoming opponents in games like Mario Party 2 and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe."

Thomas G. found himself in the final round against defending champion John Number, and Kotaku has embedded video clips from Twitch of their climactic final showdown on the three unreleased levels. "The first level forced the two to do a little timing-based puzzle solving, hitting buttons with their caps to create platforms on walls, which they could then hop across to the moon. Level two was a vertical platforming stage using Mario's new cap abilities to fling and fly up the side of a tower. The final boss fight from above closed out the race, with Thomas G. landing the final punch to the boss' face and taking home the trophy."

Classic Games (Games)

Gaming Group Seeks Volunteers To Create Accessibility Guidelines For Tabletop Games (meeplelikeus.co.uk) 75

Meeple Like Us is a group of gaming academics, developers, hobbyists and enthusiasts with a keen interest in board games, tabletop games, video games, and all things in-between, co-founded by long-time Slashdot reader drakkos. Today he reminds us that accessibility "has become an increasingly visible part of video game development." It's even become something of a selling point for many games, with Naughty Dog's focus on the accessibility of Uncharted 4 gaining it pages and pages of enthusiastic support across the industry. Tabletop games, despite being much older an entertainment format, lag behind video games in many respects.

Meeple Like Us has for the last year been working hard to identify the accessibility issues in tabletop gaming, and is currently recruiting for volunteers for a working group aimed at developing v1.0 of the Tabletop Accessibility Guidellines.

Classic Games (Games)

Original Colossal Cave Adventure Now Playable On Alexa (amazon.com) 36

Last month Eric Raymond announced the open sourcing of the world's very first text adventure. Now Slashdot reader teri1337 brings news about their own special project: A few old-timers here may recall with fond memories the phrase "Somewhere nearby is Colossal Cave..." Well, a voice-playable version of Colossal Cave "Adventure" is now available on Amazon Echo devices as a [free] Alexa Skill. This is a port of the original 1976 text adventure game written by Willie Crowther and Don Woods, which started the interactive fiction genre and led to later games like Infocom's Zork. This version was written from scratch as an AWS Lamda function incorporating the original 350-point game database, and made available with permission from Don Woods.
Classic Games (Games)

ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure (ibiblio.org) 118

An anonymous reader writes: Open source guru Eric S. Raymond added something special to his GitHub page: an open source version of the world's first text adventure. "Colossal Cave Adventure" was first written in 1977, and Raymond remembers it as "the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation...because PDP-10 filenames were limited to six characters of uppercase)...

"Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now, that is. With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure."

Calling it one of the great artifacts of hacker history, ESR writes about "what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software," ultimately concluding version control lets you preserve the original and continue improving it "as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

"Despite all the energy Crowther and Woods had to spend fighting ancient constraints, ADVENT was a tremendous imaginative leap; there had been nothing like it before, and no text adventure that followed it would be innovative to quite the same degree."
NES (Games)

Geek Builds His Own NES Classic With A Raspberry Pi (arstechnica.com) 132

"It turns out that the NES Classic Edition is just a little Linux-powered board inside a cute case," writes Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica, "and it's totally possible to build your own tiny Linux-powered computer inside a cute case without spending much more than $60." An anonymous reader writes: Andrew used a $42 Raspberry Pi 3 Model B -- "it's relatively cheap and relatively powerful, and it can easily handle anything from the original PlayStation on down" -- plus an $8 case, and a microSD card. He also purchased a pair of gamepads -- there's several options -- and reports that "Putting our little box together is ridiculously easy, and you ought to have no problem with it even if you've never opened up a PC tower in your life."

"Making retro game consoles is a fairly common use case for the Pi, so there are a few different operating system choices out there," Andrew reports, and he ultimately chose the Linux-based RetroPie OS, which includes a number of emulators. Basically the process boils down to dropping a RetroPie boot image onto the SD card, putting it into the Pi, and then plugging it into your display and connecting your controllers -- plus configuring some menus. "The default quality of the emulation looks just as good as it does on the NES Classic Edition," and "the emulators for these older systems are all advanced enough that things should mostly run just like they did on the original hardware... I've been having a ton of fun with mine now that it's all set up, and its flexibility (plus the quality of those USB gamepads) has made it my favorite way to play old games, outpacing my Apple TV, the pretty but not-living-room-friendly OpenEmu, and the old hacked Wii I still have sitting around."

The hardest part may just be finding a PC with an SD card slot -- and of course, the resulting system gives you lots of flexibility. "By using the Raspberry Pi and freely available software, you can build something capable of doing a whole heck of a lot more than playing the same 30 NES games over and over again."
Classic Games (Games)

Celebrating '21 Things We Miss About Old Computers' (denofgeek.com) 467

"Today, we look back at the classic era of home computing that existed alongside the dreariness of business computing and the heart-pounding noise and colour of the arcades," writes the site Den of Geek. An anonymous reader reports: The article remembers the days of dial-up modems, obscure computer magazines, and the forgotten phenomenon of computer clubs. ("There was a time when if you wanted to ask a question about something computer related, or see something in action, you'd have to venture outside and into another building to go and see it.") Gamers grappled with old school controllers, games distributed on cassette tapes, low-resolution graphics and the "playground piracy" of warez boards -- when they weren't playing the original side-scrolling platformers like Mario Bros and Donkey Kong at video arcades.

In a world where people published fanzines on 16-bit computers, shared demo programs, and even played text adventures, primitive hardware may have inspired future coders, since "Old computers typically presented you with a command prompt as soon as you switched them on, meaning that they were practically begging to be programmed on." Home computers "mesmerised us, educated us, and in many cases, bankrupted us," the article remembers -- until they were replaced by more powerful hardware. "You move on, but you never fully get over your first love," it concludes -- while also adding that "what came next was pretty amazing."

Does this bring back any memories for anybody -- or provoke any wistful nostalgic for a bygone era? Either way, I really liked the way that the article ended. "The most exciting chapter of all, my geeky friends? The future!"
Classic Games (Games)

Google Maps Adds 'Ms. Pac-Man' Feature (blog.google) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a blog post by Google Maps: Starting now until April 4, you can chomp fruit, avoid ghosts, and collect PAC-Dots along city streets in Google Maps worldwide -- all as Ms. PAC-Maps. Just tap on the Ms. PAC-Maps icon on iOS and Android, or click the Ms. PAC-Maps button at the bottom left on desktop, to enter the maze and start chompin'. Sign in to save your top score on the leaderboard and share with friends.
A playable Google doodle commemorated Pac-Man's 30th anniversary in 2010 -- and was estimated to have cost the IT sector (and other workplaces) 4.8 million hours in lost productivity.
Classic Games (Games)

New Release Of StarCraft In 4K Ultra High Definition Announced (theverge.com) 161

The classic 90s-era videogames StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War will be re-released this summer -- remastered in 4K Ultra High Definition. An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: It will also include a number of updates, such as remastered sound, new additional illustrations for the campaign missions, new matchmaking capabilities, the ability to connect to Blizzard App, the ability to save to the cloud, and more... Blizzard also announced that it was issuing a new update to StarCraft: Brood War this week, which will include some bug fixes and anti-cheat measures, but will also make StarCraft Anthology (which includes StarCraft and Brood War) available to download for free.
Kotaku reports that the news was announced at this weekend's I <3 StarCraft event in South Korea, "a mini-tournament between some of the game's best players being held to honor the game's legacy."
Nintendo

$10K Package Of Super Nintendo Games Finally Found By Post Office (eurogamer.net) 155

A project to preserve (and validate) every Super Nintendo game ROM had been derailed when the post office lost a package containing 100 games from the PAL region. But now Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, reports that the package has been found. An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Byuu finally posted photos of the unboxing for the package that was shipped to him January 5th. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent." At the same time, Byuu writes that "My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March."

Byuu is now refunding donations he'd received to replace the missing games, and says he can now also resume work on the SNES Preservation Project. And going forward, according to Eurogamer, "Byuu has said he will be more cautious with shipping games in the future -- only using smaller shipments, or buying individual games to scan and archive then selling them on to get some money back."

NES (Games)

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games (eurogamer.net) 172

A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."
Classic Games (Games)

MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (mame.net) 47

After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari's unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history. Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net: Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he'd built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program.

But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.

A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME's 1,600 contributors -- more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary -- and also thanks MAME's uncredited contributors. "if you've filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it." I've seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?
Classic Games (Games)

Pong's Inventor Unveils Three New VR Arcade Games - Including Pong (technologyreview.com) 27

Pong's creator is now "a grizzled guy in his mid-70s" who believes there's a market for people who'd prefer to try out virtual reality headsets at videogame arcades. An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: In 1972, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell invented Pong, a version of table tennis that, in many ways, launched the video-game industry. Forty-five years later, Bushnell is using that same simple game to test the waters for virtual-reality arcade gaming. Bushnell's latest venture is a company called Modal VR, which is building its own wireless virtual-reality headsets and games that it plans to roll out in places like arcades, malls, and movie theaters in the coming months.
Bushnell's company has built three games -- a fighting game called Mythic Combat and Project Zenith a first-person shooter set in outer space. (More than 16 players can gather in the same virtual space.) Their third game, a VR adaptation of Pong "was originally put together as a joke, in homage to Bushnell's past -- but the company decided to use the simple two-player game anyway to demonstrate what it's working on at the World's Fair Nano technology fair in San Francisco in late January."

The article describes players who "donned a prototype bulky black headset and played Pong in virtual reality, running from side to side to control the game's simple white paddles -- which a smiling Bushnell said was fitting because "we're at the Pong stage of VR."
AI

An AI Is Finally Trouncing The World's Best Poker Players (cmu.edu) 164

Halfway through the "Brains vs. AI" poker competition, an AI named Libratus is trouncing its human opponents, who are four of the world's top professional players. One of the pros, Jimmy Chou, said he and his colleagues initially underestimated Libratus, but have come to regard it as one tough player. "The bot gets better and better every day," Chou said. "It's like a tougher version of us"... Chou said he and the other pros have shared notes and tips each day, looking for weaknesses they can each exploit. "The first couple of days, we had high hopes," Chou said. "But every time we find a weakness, it learns from us and the weakness disappears the next day."
By Saturday, the AI had amassed a lead of $693,531 after 56,732 hands in the 120,000-hand match (which is being livestreamed by the Rivers Casino on Twitch). "I'm feeling good," said Tuomas Sandholm, the computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon who co-created the AI. "The algorithms are performing great. They're better at solving strategy ahead of time, better at driving strategy during play and better at improving strategy on the fly."
Classic Games (Games)

2016 Winners Announced For Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org) 24

An anonymous reader writes: This week IFComp 2016 announced the winners in their 22nd annual interactive fiction competition. After a seven-week play period, the entry with the highest average rating was "the noir standout 'Detectiveland' by Robin Johnson," according to contest organizers (while the game earning the lowest score was "Toiletworld.") A special prize is also awarded each year -- the Golden Banana of Discord -- for the game which provoked the most wildly different ratings. This year that award went to "A Time of Tungsten" by Devin Raposo. ("The walls are high, the hole is deep. She is trapped, on a distant planet. Watched. She may not survive...")
The games will soon be released on the official IF Archive site, but in the meantime you can download a 222-megabyte archive of all 58 games.
Classic Games (Games)

New Text Adventures Compete In 22nd 'Interactive Fiction Competition' (ifcomp.org) 25

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: 58 brand-new text adventures are now available free online for the 22nd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition. The public is encouraged to play the games, and on November 16th the contest's organizers will announce which ones received the highest average ratings. After 22 years, the contest is now under "the auspices of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation, a new, charitable non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting the technologies and services that enable IF creation and play..." according to the contest's organizers. "[T]he competition now runs on servers paid for by the IF-loving public, and for this I feel sincere gratitude."
Classic Games (Games)

Super Mario 'Speed Runners' Are Setting New World Records (fivethirtyeight.com) 62

Virginia software engineer Brad Myers has played Super Mario 22,000 times, and just set a new speed record earlier this month -- 4 minutes and 56.878 seconds. An anonymous Slashdot reader summarizes a new article at FiveThirtyEight: "In this 31-year-old video game, there is a full-on, high-speed assault on Bowser's castle under way right now..." writes Oliver Roeder, describing a collaborative community of both theorists and experimentalists "who test the theories in game after callus-creating game... 'Everything in my run, so many people contributed so much knowledge at various points in the game's history,' Myers told me. 'Now someone can come along and use that as their starting point.'"

Online broadcasts form a kind of peer-review system, with an ever-expanding canon of tricks -- for example, intentionally bumping into objects for a slight increase in speed. But the success rate for the maneuver is estimated at 3%, meaning speed runners spend most of their time stating over. "On average, about 1 out of 1,000 times does a record-setting campaign continue beyond its halfway point..."

Classic Games (Games)

Mattel Sells Out Of 'Game Developer Barbie' (cnet.com) 224

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger writes: The Mattel people have released a new Barbie doll figurine touted as Game Developer Barbie. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she was apparently designed by a game developer.
It's already sold out on Mattel's web site, with CNET saying it provides a better role model than a 2014 book In which "computer engineer" Barbie designed a cute game about puppies, then admitted "I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game," before her laptop crashed with a virus. Mattel says that with this new doll, "young techies can play out the creative fun of this exciting profession," and the doll even comes with a laptop showing an IDE on the screen. Sandbagger's original submission ended with a question. Do Slashdot readers think this will inspire a new generation of programmers to stay up late writing code?
Classic Games (Games)

Real-World Pong Created by Amateur Builders (geeky-gadgets.com) 39

sproketboy shares this article about a computer graphic designer who spent two years building a real-world version of the classic videogame Pong, played on a full-sized coffee table using only mechanical parts. The project's team apparently used a hard drive platter for the real-world scroll wheels controlling the paddles, aided by some large Arduinos and other homemade electronics (along with rainbow LED lights to create the pixels for the score).

"We don't have any electronics, product design, or manufacturing background," Daniel Perdomo told one technology site. "All we knew for this was thanks to the Internet (Google, YouTube, forums). Today you can grab all the knowledge you want just a few clicks away!" He's now looking for a hardware incubator to transform his "Atari Pong Project" into a real consumer product. (Interestingly, another group of hobbyists built a similar electromechanical version of Pong back In 2004.)

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