Classic Games (Games)

ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure (ibiblio.org) 104

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.)
AI

Human Go Champion 'Speechless' After 2nd Loss To Machine (phys.org) 338

Reader chasm22 points to a Phys.org report about the second straight loss of Lee Sedol to AlphaGo, the program developed by Google's DeepMind unit. The human Go champion, Sedol found himself "speechless" after the showdown on Thursday. The human versus machine face-off lasted more than four hours, which to Sedol's credit is a slight improvement over his previous match, which had ended with him resigning nearly half an hour remaining on the clock. "It was a clear loss on my part," Sedol said at a press conference on Thursday. "From the beginning there was no moment I thought I was leading." Demis Hassabis, who heads Google's DeepMind, said, "Because the number of possible Go board positions exceeds the number of atoms in the universe, top players rely heavily on their intuition." Sedol will battle Google's AlphaGo again on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.
AI

Google's AlphaGo Beats Lee Se-dol In the First Match (theverge.com) 119

New submitter Fref writes with news from The Verge that "A huge milestone has just been reached in the field of artificial intelligence: AlphaGo, the program developed by Google's DeepMind unit, has defeated legendary Go player Lee Se-dol in the first of five historic matches being held in Seoul, South Korea. Lee resigned after about three and a half hours, with 28 minutes and 28 seconds remaining on his clock. "
Lee will face off against AlphaGo again tomorrow and on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday.
Also at the New York Times. Science magazine says the loss may be less significant than it seems at first.
Classic Games (Games)

ScummVM, Update With a Bang (kingofgng.com) 37

KingofGnG writes: The developers of ScummVM have announced a new version for the virtual machine preferred by graphic adventure fans: also known as "Lost with Sherlock," ScummVM 1.8.0 is hailed as one of the heftiest releases ever prepared by the team, with the addition of many games and game engines, the substantial update of graphics and sound sub-systems and the availability of new conversions for minor platforms.
Classic Games (Games)

Fan-Made 'Metal Gear Solid' Remake Cancelled; Gamers Blame Konami (hothardware.com) 118

MojoKid writes: Fans of the popular Metal Gear Solid series are ticked off at Konami over the cancellation of an unofficial, fan-built remake of the very first title that shipped for the original PlayStation way back in 1998. The remake's cancellation was announced on the project's Facebook page, which immediately prompted backlash aimed at Konami for presumably having a hand in it. The project, dubbed Shadow Moses, was the brainchild of indie game designer Airam Hernandez. It appears he may have assembled a small team to remake the original Metal Gear Solid using Unreal Engine 4. While it hasn't been confirmed that Konami shut the project down, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that it did. This wouldn't be the first fan project to be cancelled, and it likely won't be the last— Metal Gear Solid is Konami's property, and even Hernandez acknowledged at one point that he would eventually need Konami's permission to publish it.
Databases

Crossword Database Analysis Spots What Looks Like Plagiarism 44

Seattle software developer Saul Pwanson has a hobby of developing crossword puzzles, but another related hobby, too: analyzing the way that existing puzzles have been constructed. He created a database that aggregates puzzles that have appeared in various publications, including, crucially, the New York Times and USA Today, and sorts them based on similarities. Puzzles that have a greater percentage of the same black squares, or the same letters in identical positions, are ranked as more similar. Crosswords often re-use answers; puzzle-solvers are used to encountering some of the usual glue words that connect parts of the grid. As 538 reports, though, Pwanson noticed something odd in the data: Many of the puzzles that appeared in USA Today and affiliated publications, listed under various creators' names but all published under Timothy Parker as editor, were highly similar to each other, differing in as little as four answer words. These Pwanson classifies as "shoddy" -- they seem to be about as different as test responses based on a passed-around answer sheet. These seem to shortchange readers expecting original works, but may represent no real copyright problem, since Universal Uclick holds the copyright to them all. Perhaps puzzle enthusiasts aren't surprised that a publishing syndicate economizes on crosswords with slight variations, or that horoscopes are sometimes recycled.

However, another tranche of puzzles Pwanson calls "shady": these are puzzles that bear such strong resemblance in their central clues and answers to puzzles that have appeared in the New York Times that it's very hard to accept Parker's claim that the overlap is coincidental. In one example given, for instance, the answers "Drive Up the Wall," "Get On One's Nerves," and "Rub the Wrong Way" appeared in the same order and the same position in a Parker-edited puzzle that appeared in USA Today in June 2010 as they had in a Will Shortz-edited puzzle published nine years before in the New York Times.

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