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Computer Games

Pokémon Goes In A New Direction With Open-World Video Game

NPR Technology

For years, open-world video games, where players can explore all around the map rather than following a set path, have been hugely popular. The Pokémon franchise is finally catching up.

From Star Wars to Marvel, licensed video games are becoming more ambitious. Here's why.

Washington Post - Technology News

Rather than forcing a game development team to use certain assets from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or from the original looks of the comics, for example, those have now become open discussions for what fits best for each game. This gave Insomniac Games, the developer behind "Marvel's Spider-Man" and "Miles Morales," the freedom to design their own Spider-Man suits, and Crystal Dynamics, who made "Marvel's Avengers," the choice to place Ms. Marvel (also known as Kamala Khan) front-and-center in the story. But Marvel is more strict about principles relating to their worlds and characters. Among the most important for Spider-Man is that he does not kill.

A Deep Dive into Artificial Intelligence and How It's Applied in the Modern World


There haven't been many technological breakthroughs in recent history that are as significant and as impactful as artificial intelligence. Gone are the days wherein robots and machine learning were only ideas to be found in science fiction novels. Not only has artificial intelligence made some really great strides as a discipline, but more and more members of the masses have adopted artificial intelligence into their everyday life. In the past, everyone would think of movies like the Terminator or iRobot when it came to talks of artificial intelligence. But now, sophisticated AI software can be found in the everyday devices that we use. Now, you might be curious how AI is applied in the modern world these days.

An Amazon Alexa app is headed for the Xbox


Amazon and Microsoft are adding a new Amazon Alexa app to the Xbox with a number of capabilities, including the ability to remotely browse your home's camera system via Microsoft's game console. The new Alexa app for Xbox isn't quite live, though; it's listed as "Coming Soon" on the Microsoft Store. Controlling your Xbox via an Alexa-powered speaker isn't new--Microsoft launched the capability to Windows Insider beta testers in 2018 via what it called a "skill"--but it's the first time we've seen such tight Alexa integration on the Xbox itself. Microsoft says the app will run on both the Xbox One (presumably including the Xbox One X) as well as the latest Xbox Series X and S consoles. You'll need an Amazon Echo or other Alexa-powered device too, of course.

Reinforcement learning and reasoning


Reinforcement learning has seen a lot of progress in recent years. From DeepMind success with teaching machines how to play Atari games, then AlphaGo beating world champions in Go to recent OpenAI's progress on Dota 2, a multiplayer game where players divided into two teams compete with each other. The common thread is an artificial agent operating in a virtual world, where the prize is clear (e.g. On the other hand people are experimenting with AI agents operating in real-world. Each clip of Boston Dynamics gets a lot of press, showing robots performing amazing stunts, as you can see yourself here or here.

The Rise of Unapologetically Erotic LGBTQ Games


Video game characters do not have great sex lives. The sex in Cyberpunk 2077, one of the biggest releases of the decade, was lambasted by PC Gamer as "horrifying" and "truly awful" for its weak writing and general clunkiness; character models designed to run and shoot just look strange when made to contort in moments of intimacy. But while Cyberpunk was criticized for its bad sex--and for flubbing LGBTQ representation--the erotic indie title Hardcoded was gathering praise for its explicit, queer-friendly sexuality set against a dystopian cyberpunk backdrop. Sex has been part of gaming from the beginning--Atari 2600 owners could buy Custer's Revenge, a heavily criticized rape fantasy that sold 80,000 copies--but for most of the medium's history, any sexuality was aimed at straight white men with all the subtlety of a horny sledgehammer. It was seen as a mark of maturity for the God of War franchise when its 2018 installment abandoned the subject entirely rather than return to the cringeworthy "Here are some tits, you rube" minigames of previous entries.

This AI Thrashes the Hardest Atari Games by Memorizing Its Best Moves


Learning from rewards seems like the simplest thing. I make coffee, I sip coffee, I'm happy. My brain registers "brewing coffee" as an action that leads to a reward. That's the guiding insight behind deep reinforcement learning, a family of algorithms that famously smashed most of Atari's gaming catalog and triumphed over humans in strategy games like Go. Here, an AI "agent" explores the game, trying out different actions and registering ones that let it win.

Amazon's new Alexa app runs directly on your Xbox


Microsoft has slowly opened the Xbox platform to non-Cortana home automation voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but now Amazon is going one step further. Now an Alexa app for Xbox is poised to roll out "in the coming days" -- you can see it in the Microsoft Store here but it's not available for download yet. While you've already been able to use Alexa to control certain Xbox features, installing the app will apparently enable visual features that pop up on your TV and add a few more interactions. Once it's available, the app should work on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S consoles. There is one caveat -- in this Kinect-less future we live in, you'll need an Amazon Echo or other compatible Alexa device nearby to actually receive the commands and relay them to your linked Xbox.

Artificial intelligence tries QWOP


QWOP, arguably the most difficult video game ever, was created by Bennett Foddy in 2008. The point is to control a sprinter with four keys that move his thighs and calf muscles. A few seconds in, and you're reduced to just trying to control your laughter. Most of us gave up pretty early, but some took QWOP as a challenge and got the runner through a 100-meter dash. The QWOP record, as of now, is 48 seconds!

AMD's $479 Radeon RX 6700 XT targets silky-smooth 1440p gaming


AMD's new $479 Radeon RX 6700 XT graphics card will target gamers who want to play at 1440p with max settings but its best feature may be that it'll be available in "significantly" higher volumes than Radeon RX 6800 GPUs were at launch, the company said Wednesday morning. AMD also announced that its performance-boosting Smart Access Memory technology will be coming to Ryzen 3000 processors. But the star of the show was the Radeon RX 6700 XT, which features 40 compute units, a game clock of 2,424MHz, 96MB of AMD's radical Infinity Cache, a 230 watt power rating, and an ample 12GB of GDDR6 memory. AMD is especially touting that massive memory buffer to differentiate the Radeon RX 5700 XT from its rivals when they go on sale on March 18. At 1440p resolution, AMD said Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War uses about 11GB of RAM, Horizon Zero Dawn uses just over 10GB, and both Dirt 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 push between 9GB and 10GB of memory use. AMD said these situations can give the larger 12GB frame buffer in the Radeon RX 6700 XT an advantage--but it will largely depend on the game.