Computer Games


Artificial intelligence is helping old video games look like new

#artificialintelligence

The recent AI boom has had all sorts of weird and wonderful side effects as amateur tinkerers find ways to repurpose research from universities and tech companies. But one of the more unexpected applications has been in the world of video game mods. Fans have discovered that machine learning is the perfect tool to improve the graphics of classic games. The technique being used is known as "AI upscaling." In essence, you feed an algorithm a low-resolution image, and, based on training data it's seen, it spits out a version that looks the same but has more pixels in it.


Look beyond 'Fortnite' and 'Apex Legends,' to these six free video games for PCs

USATODAY

In'Dauntless,' team up with other online Slayers to hunt massive beasts known as Behemoths, before they consume what's left of the world. Dig deep in your pockets and be honest – if you have more loose change and lint than bills and credit cards, keep on reading. There are some seriously good computer games that are free to download and play – if you know where to look, that is. You probably know about high-profile freebies like "Apex Legends," "Fortnite Battle Royale," and "League of Legends," but there are many others to choose from, representing every genre. Some of these titles are older, mind you, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing given they'll require more modest computer specs to play – and hey, chances are if you don't want to pay for a $59 computer game, you might not be so eager to upgrade your hardware either.


This week in games: Lego Star Wars returns, Ubisoft gives away Assassin's Creed: Unity after Notre Dame fire

PCWorld

I've said for years that Assassin's Creed is more impressive for its art nowadays than the games themselves, but still, who would've guessed that one day Assassin's Creed would be used to restore a priceless piece of architectural history? That news, plus a new Lego Star Wars, an Old Republic expansion and potential film adaptation, details for Netflix's Witcher series, a remake of cult classic shooter XIII, and more. This is gaming news for April 15 to 19. This week's first freebie is a big one, relatively speaking. You probably heard that Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris caught on fire this week.


Facebook's AI extracts playable characters from real-world videos

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Using these and combined pose data, Pose2Frame separates between character-dependent changes in the scene like shadows, held items, and reflections and those that are character-independent, and returns a pair of outputs that are linearly blended with any desired background. To train the AI system, the researchers sourced three videos, each between five and eight minutes long, of a tennis player outdoors, a person swinging a sword indoors, and a person walking. Compared with a neural network model fed three-minute video of a dancer, they report that their approach managed to successfully field dynamic elements, such as other people and differences in camera angle, in addition to variations in character clothing and camera angle. "Each network addresses a computational problem not previously fully met, together paving the way for the generation of video games with realistic graphics," they wrote. "In addition, controllable characters extracted from YouTube-like videos can find their place in the virtual worlds and augmented realities." Facebook isn't the only company investigating AI systems that might aid in game design. Startup Promethean AI employs machine learning to help human artists create art for video games, and Nvidia researchers recently demonstrated a generative model that can create virtual environments using video snippets. Machine learning has also been used to rescue old game textures in retro titles like Final Fantasy VII and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and to generate thousands of levels in games like Doom from scratch.


Introduction to Deep Q-Learning for Reinforcement Learning (in Python)

#artificialintelligence

I have always been fascinated with games. The seemingly infinite options available to perform an action under a tight timeline – it's a thrilling experience. So when I read about the incredible algorithms DeepMind was coming up with (like AlphaGo and AlphaStar), I was hooked. I wanted to learn how to make these systems on my own machine. And that led me into the world of deep reinforcement learning (Deep RL).


Assassin's Creed creators pledge €500,000 to Notre Dame

The Guardian

Video game creators at Ubisoft Montréal – the development studio that rebuilt 18th-century Paris in its 2014 historical action game Assassin's Creed Unity – have joined the global outpouring of grief in the wake of Monday's devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. Ubisoft will be donating €500,000 to help with restoration efforts, and is also making Assassin's Creed Unity available free on PC for the next week, "giving everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre Dame the best way we know how", said a studio spokesperson. "We hope, with this small gesture, we can provide everyone an opportunity to appreciate our virtual homage to this monumental piece of architecture." Caroline Miousse, a level artist on the game, spent 14 months working almost exclusively on the cathedral, inside and out. It is furnished and decorated as it would have been in 1790, down to the paintings hanging on the walls.


Ubisoft pledges monetary, tech assistance for Notre Dame Cathedral restoration

USATODAY

Drone footage captured Notre Dame cathedral's beauty just five months before Monday's fire. Video game publisher Ubisoft, which recreated the Notre Dame Cathedral in its 2014 game "Assassin's Creed Unity," is willing to help in restoration efforts. The company announced Wednesday it is making a contribution of 500,000 Euros (about $565,000) to the rebuilding of the cathedral. And the Paris-headquartered game maker said Wednesday it will make its virtual rendition of the cathedral available to those involved in the rebuilding of the church. Ubisoft is also making "Assassin's Creed Unity" available free to players on PC for the next week.


Xbox One S All-Digital Edition: Microsoft reveals new, disc-less version of console

The Independent

Microsoft has revealed a new version of the Xbox – missing what until now was one of its central features. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition comes without a disc drive, meaning that people are only able to play games or films that they have downloaded over the internet, and are unable to use discs. In exchange for that missing feature, Microsoft says the new Xbox will always be at least $50 cheaper than the normal version of the Xbox One S. The All-Digital edition will cost $250 initially, but will receive price cuts whenever the traditional version does, the company indicated. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.


The delayed 'Minecraft' movie is now set for March 2022

Engadget

The long-delayed live-action Minecraft movie has a new release date, so fans might want to make a note in their calendars for March 4th, 2022. With so many delays, it was clear it'd still be a while yet before the film hits theatres, but the 2022 news might come as a disappointment to those who were at one point expecting to see Minecraft next month. Warner Bros. and Microsoft have also revealed some story details. The movie will focus on "a teenage girl and her unlikely group of adventurers. After the malevolent Ender Dragon sets out on a path of destruction, they must save their beautiful, blocky Overworld."


Logitech Harmony Express universal remote control review: Practical, but not perfect

PCWorld

Logitech's Harmony division makes better universal remote controls than just about anybody. Its latest model, the $250 Harmony Express, might be its most practical, even if it's not the company's most powerful. The Harmony Express doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the company's top-of-the-line Harmony Elite ($350 MSRP), which Logitech will continue to sell. The Express doesn't have a touch-sensitive display, it doesn't have as many programmable buttons, and it can't execute complex macros that incorporate both home entertainment gear and smart home devices. But don't mistake its apparent simplicity for a lack of horsepower.