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Problem-Solving with Minecraft's Zombies

The New Yorker

Though not as venerable as novels based on movies, novelizations of video games have been a sturdy publishing genre for decades. Assassin's Creed, Halo, Donkey Kong Country--all have been rendered in what technically counts as prose. You wouldn't call these novels of ideas, probably, but that's what the Swedish gaming company Mojang got, in 2016, when it approved Max Brooks to write a book based on Minecraft, widely considered the best-selling video game of all time. In most iterations, Minecraft players enter a Lego-like universe where they must learn how to shelter and feed themselves, marshal resources, build stuff, and otherwise survive while coping with nightly mobs of zombies, skeletons, and other bad actors. There is an often ignored way to "win" Minecraft, but for most players the game is more a world to invent.


Bot Mafias Have Wreaked Havoc in 'World of Warcraft Classic'

WIRED

Bots are terrorizing World of Warcraft Classic servers, stealing precious resources, monopolizing rare monsters, and inflating the virtual economy with truckloads of illicitly earned gold. Today, WoW Classic developer Blizzard Entertainment announced it has suspended or closed over 74,000 WoW Classic accounts over the last month, many of which were automating gameplay with bots. For months, clusters of bot-driven accounts have trawled around high-level zones, attacking monsters with uncanny precision before rotating toward their next target in robotic 90-degree angles. These in-game characters are operated by scripts, programmed to optimally kill monsters and obtain rare, valuable items that drop from them. Lately, they've been targeting the sought-after Black Lotus, a necessary item for some competitive, high-level play.


Vampires, gangsters and Keanu Reeves: our games picks for 2020

The Guardian

From the developers of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, it sends the player out to face creatures drawn from the gnarliest Greek legends and rescue the gods. A platform game for anyone who thinks video games are too easy these days, Ori draws its play inspiration from classics such as Mario, Mega Man and Metroid, but its looks are bang up to date. Guiding a spirit through an intensely beautiful forest, you'll come up against puzzles and obstacles that challenge both your mind and your reflexes. Let's hope they're still sharp. Originally released in 1997, Final Fantasy VII is one of the most beloved and acclaimed role-playing titles of all time.


AI takes on popular Minecraft game in machine-learning contest

#artificialintelligence

Minecraft's open-ended play environment could be ideal for AI research, some researchers say.Credit: Microsoft To see the divide between the best artificial intelligence and the mental capabilities of a seven-year-old child, look no further than the popular video game Minecraft. A young human can learn how to find a rare diamond in the game after watching a 10-minute demonstration on YouTube. Artificial intelligence (AI) is nowhere close. But in a unique computing competition ending this month, researchers hope to shrink the gap between machine and child -- and in doing so, help to reduce the computing power needed to train AIs. Competitors may take up to four days and use no more than eight million steps to train their AIs to find a diamond.


Blizzard Entertainment Bans Professional Gamer for Supporting Hong Kong Protestors

TIME - Tech

Blizzard Entertainment has banned a professional Hearthstone player who expressed support for protestors in Hong Kong during a live broadcast following the recent Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament in which the top pro players from the region participate -- and rescinded the money he won in the competition. Blizzard Entertainment, a U.S.-based video game developer that's a part of the entertainment company Activision Blizzard, is the publisher behind the digital collectible card game Hearthstone. During a post-game interview Sunday on the official Hearthstone Taiwan livestream, the player, Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung, pulled down a pro-democracy Hong Kong-style mask and shouted, "Liberate Hong Kong. Inven Global, a website that covers esports and gaming news, reports that Blitzchung shouted the phrase in Chinese. Blitzchung is from Hong Kong, according to Inven Global. A clip of the interview can be seen here. In response, Blizzard, a U.S.-based video game developer, banned Blitzchung from competing in Hearthstone tournaments for a year, starting on Oct. 5. The company said Blitzchung has been removed from the Grandmasters roster, and will not receive any prize money he earned during the Grandmasters season 2 tournament. According to a statement from Blizzard, Blitzchung violated a competition rule that bars players from doing anything that "brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image." Blitzchung lost $10,000 in prize earnings, Bloomberg reports. In a statement to Inven Global, Blitzchung said he viewed his comments as a continuation of his participation in the protests. "As you know, there are serious protests in my country now.


Minecraft competition will challenge AIs to become expert engineers

New Scientist

Can you work out how to mine a diamond in just 4 days? That is the task artificial intelligence will be set in a new competition. The MineRL competition will kick off on 1 June and will take place inside the video game Minecraft. Entrants will have to build an AI that can successfully navigate and survive in the online game and ultimately learn the complex task of how to mine a diamond.


New 'Minecraft Earth' to offer AR experience like 'Pokemon Go'

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Microsoft and Mojang have announced a new Minecraft game, 'Minecraft Earth,' for mobile devices, which uses augmented reality to place objects from the game in your real world. Minecraft is expanding its reach – into your real world. A new game, "Minecraft Earth," coming this summer for mobile devices (Android and iOS), uses augmented reality – à la "Pokémon Go" – to let you find objects in real-world locations and place objects from the game there, too. "The game's mechanics are simple: explore your neighborhood to find blocks and unique mobs for your builds. Once you have them, any flat surface is an opportunity to build," said Minecraft creative director Saxs Persson in a post on Xbox.com.


Spending Christmas in the World of Warcraft

BBC News

World of Warcraft allows players to dive into a vast fantasy realm populated with players from around the world. Together they battle to survive alongside dragons, trolls and warlocks - even on Christmas Day. Video games have long proved a formidable force in capturing the hearts, imaginations and wallets of people all over the world. The most immersive gaming experience, according to its fans, is World of Warcraft and in Azeroth, where the game is set, even Christmas Day is celebrated with turkey feasts, snowball fights and presents under a tree. In a time where many of us spend more time online, what does it mean to celebrate 25 December in a virtual world?


Fortnite Is a Huge Success -- And a Sign of What's to Come in Gaming

TIME - Tech

This year that game is undeniably Fortnite Battle Royale, an online free-for-all that every teen in America suddenly seems to be playing. It's not just kids, though–everyone from rapper Drake to Los Angeles Laker Josh Hart is a fan. That groundswell of support has propelled Fortnite from a simple video game into a cultural sensation, with hundreds of millions of fans worldwide who play the game, wear the gear and even learn the characters' victory dances. "Fortnite is another in a long line of games like World of Warcraft or Guitar Hero or Minecraft that is changing everything underfoot," says Mat Piscatella, a video-game industry analyst with research firm NPD Group. Fortnite's big draw is a madcap multiplayer mode that drops up to 100 players on an island in a last-person-standing showdown.


How Minecraft is helping kids fall in love with books

The Guardian

Robert Louis Stevenson's 1881 classic Treasure Island tells of Jim Hawkins's adventures on board the Hispaniola, as he and his crew – along with double-crossing pirate Long John Silver – set out to find Captain Flint's missing treasure on Skeleton Island. Now, more than a century later, children can try and find it themselves, with the bays and mountains of Stevenson's fictional island given a blocky remodelling in Minecraft, as part of a new project aimed at bringing reluctant readers to literary classics. From Spyglass Hill to Ben Gunn's cave, children can explore every nook and cranny of Skeleton Island as part of Litcraft, a new partnership between Lancaster University and Microsoft, which bought the game for $2.5bn (£1.9bn) in 2015 and which is now played by 74 million people each month. The Litcraft platform uses Minecraft to create accurate scale models of fictional islands: Treasure Island is the first, with Michael Morpurgo's Kensuke's Kingdom just completed and many others planned. While regular Minecraft is rife with literary creations – the whole of George RR Martin's sprawling setting for Game of Thrones, Westeros, has been created in its entirety, as have several different Hogwarts – Litcraft is not all fun and games, being peppered with educational tasks that aim to re-engage reluctant readers with the book it is based on.