Minecraft is one of the most successful games of all time and continues to be a fun and exciting space for gamers of all ages all around the world. It's home to thousands of creators who work together to build massive structures and landscapes or just chill out and focus on building their own wee home away from home. But what if instead of humans coming together to build these structures both big and small, we challenged AI systems to do it themselves? This is the focus of the GDMC -- the Generative Design in Minecraft Competition -- where academic researchers are building AI systems that build entire Minecraft villages by themselves. So before we start exploring the AI systems in earnest, let's cover the basics of the competition itself.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent the last few hours of my Sunday watching embattled games publisher Ubisoft tease its latest games, including Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin's Creed Valhalla, while sidestepping controversy regarding allegations of misconduct, ingrained sexism and sexual harassment. Hours before the showcase, several more senior executives left the company. Given the whole 45-minute stream was recorded in advance, it's disappointing, but not shocking, that the issues weren't mentioned, let alone addressed. The stream didn't reveal any major gaming news we didn't already know about.
Ahead of Ubisoft's Forward gaming event, the company offered us some remote demos of two of its AAA releases this year. While my colleague had no issues playing Watch Dogs Legion, my substandard internet connection meant my session with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was taxing. After losing its way with back-to-back-to-back releases in the early-to-mid ‘10s, 2017’s Egypt-based Origins was a return to form for the Assassin’s Creed series, followed a year later by the similarly good Odyssey, which mapped mainland Greece and its many Aegean islands.
We are now more than a month past the point when E3 2020 would've ended. It lives in your heart, in your soul, and on your television. Today we finally reached the "1PM Monday Afternoon" slot, a.k.a. Much of what Ubisoft showed at its faux-press conference, we already knew about--Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and the recently leaked Far Cry 6. But hey, they managed to keep Tom Clancy's Elite Squad under wraps (for what that's worth), and the Assassin's Creed footage looked pretty neat.
Eight abilities can be equipped at once. I recognized some from Odyssey and Origins, like drenching my blade in poison to continuously damage an enemy for a period of time or raining down a volley of arrows. I enjoyed some new additions, like an arrow with a Svefnthorn symbol on it (from Norse mythology) which magically puts an enemy to sleep, as well as an ability that launches axes at a handful of enemies and knocks them back, acting as a great method of crowd control. Enemies may stagger to the ground after a well-placed hit; once grounded, you can finish them off with a brutal final move called a stomp, crushing their head to pieces in the soil.
East Anglia is a world of mud and collapse, of bleak forests and treacherous fens. Quiet except for the sound of iron against iron, the splintering of wooden gates giving way, and everywhere the screams and the yelling. A raid, Vikings stealing ashore to ransack a village and kill everyone that gets in their way. And when all the screaming and yelling is over? The ravens are the only real winners in East Anglia.
World of Warcraft's eighth expansion, Shadowlands, sits on the edge of reality, throwing high-level players into the realm of the dead after one of the game's most iconic characters, Sylvanas, tore open the fabric that separated the land of the living and the Shadowlands. A live-streamed developer update on Wednesday detailed some of the experiences players will see in Shadowlands. There are the four Covenants that rule over the disparate realms of the Shadowlands that players will ultimately have to pick between, the deadly Maw zone where players can test their skills against deadly creatures to rescue lost souls, and a newly revealed end-game dungeon called the Theater of Pain that looks metal as hell. Experienced players will jump right into that content with its new zones in the afterlife, new dungeons, new raids, and new stories to level up through. But outside of that core content, Shadowlands is an opportunity for the developers behind this 16-year-old game to look back and create a more welcoming experience to new players and returning players alike.
When World of Warcraft: Shadowlands comes out later this year, Blizzard plans to stop charging players a $15 fee to change the gender of one of their characters. Much like how you can tweak your character's appearance at an in-game barbershop, you'll be able to do the same with their gender once the expansion comes out. In an interview with Eurogamer, Shadowlands executive producer John Hight said Blizzard felt the fee was "not the right message." He went to add the company can't implement the change through a hotfix, which is why it's not dropping the fee earlier. Hight shared the tidbit after Blizzard put out a statement about a new character named Pelagos that will appear in Shadowlands. It's believed he is the first transgender character in WoW.
Managed services giant KPMG said last year blockchain had moved beyond the "hype phase", shifting the focus of the technology far from often notably zany proof-of-concepts to actual utility within the world of business. Huawei, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, predicts that the digital economy will represent 24.3% of worldwide gross domestic product by 2025, totalling up to a valuation of about US$23 trillion. Among the emerging technologies driving that growth will be blockchain. While some of the competent applications of blockchain include its used in finance and provide chain traceability, such as that of the recent tie-up between IBM and Atia to ensure "safer, better seafood" in Norway, or the success of TradeLens by shipping giant Maersk, below are a few less-considered areas where blockchain is making its mark. Blockchain is increasingly infiltrating the gaming industry and is set to pioneer a new dimension of gaming by starting new and open economies within the virtual landscape.
Nintendo has added another batch of retro games to its Switch Online service, and one of them may have been a childhood favorite. Donkey Kong Country, the 1994 Super NES reboot of the Donkey Kong franchise, will be available to play for subscribers starting on July 15th. The side-scroller features Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong as they explore jungles and snowcapped mountains to retrieve their stolen bananas from King K. Rool and his crocodilian minions call the Kremlings. Aside from Donkey Kong Country, Switch Online is also adding Japanese game Natsume Championship Wrestling and NES action RPG The Immortal on July 15th. The wrestling game has 12 wrestlers to choose from and lets you play against an AI or a friend.