Nintendo announces Switch Lite, new handheld game console

The Switch Lite doesn't connect to a TV set, but it's otherwise a slim, pocketable version of Nintendo's popular portable game console.

The Switch Lite — the newly unveiled spinoff of the full-sized Switch console — doesn’t actually “switch.” Instead of the detachable controllers and TV dock that allows the standard Switch to shape-shift between a TV console, portable gamepad, and a mobile multiplayer machine, the Switch Lite has a much narrower focus on just one of those experiences — but that’s not a bad thing. Instead, it shows that the Switch’s audience and appeal extend to a different market than what the full-sized version currently serves.

It's a funny twist of brand-reality that the Switch Lite doesn't actually "switch". I feel that Nintendo has missed a fabulous opportunity to name its new hands-only console the Snatch.

Nintendo Switch Lite [Amazon] Read the rest

Random mansion generator

The Procgen Mansion Generator produces large three-dee dwellings to toy with your imagination, offering various architectural styles and other options. Each mansion even comes with floorplans:

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Nintendo Switch Lite finally unveiled

Nintendo finally unveiled the long-rumored Nintendo Switch Lite. Besides the compact size, the biggest difference is a classic D-pad control. Due out in September, it will retail for $200. From The Verge:

Nintendo says the Lite features “slightly” improved battery life — the company wouldn’t get any more specific than that — due to a more power-efficient chip layout, as well as the lack of additional batteries in the built-in controllers. The Switch Lite also does away with the device’s controversial kickstand...

The Lite comes in multiple colors at launch — yellow, grey, and turquoise — as well as a special light grey Pokémon Sword and Shield edition, and they all have a pleasant matte texture that feels great to hold....

The new device has a 5.5-inch touch display, compared to 6.2-inch for its predecessor. If you take a single Joy-Con off of an original Switch, you’ll have a good idea of the size of the new version.

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Pacman in 512 bytes

Pillman is Oscar "Nanochess" Toledo's reimplementation of Pacman ("a game about a yellow man eating pills") in 512 bytes -- small enough to fit in a boot sector -- written in 8088 assembler. (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

Game key-selling platform assailed over stolen keys

G2A is a website where people can list and sell the codes that activate software, effectively functioning as an online pawn shop for video games. It was accused lately of allowing itself to act as a clearing house for stolen codes. Many reviewers, streamers and other influencer types are given them, such is the competition among developers to market their titles, but most codes remain unused -- and therefore valuable.

Devs hate reselling platforms so much, PC Gamer reports, that they "tell people to pirate their games instead of using G2A."

Things came to a head when indie game developer Mike Rose started a petition to convince G2A to delist specific games upon publishers' request: "G2A: Stop selling indie titles on your platform."

G2A responded to denounce the campaign and Rose himself. It claimed ethical values of honesty and transparency, offered generous remuneration in cases of proven fraud, and insisted that stolen codes were both rare and quickly acted upon when reported. It also asserted its prerogative to drive down the price of games as far as possible:

We believe that games can be cheaper. It’s the rule of thumb: the more sellers sell a particular product, the more competitive the prices become. People come to G2A because they know they can expect deals better than anywhere else.

Today, journalist and translator Thomas Faust exposed G2A as having asked him to publish an editoral under his own byline under the condition that he disclose neither the true author or its implied offer of payment. Read the rest

PC BIOS simulator

Now you too can experience the joy and wonder of changing the BIOS configuration of a Lenovo-brand personal computer with the Lenovo BIOS Simulator Center. [via Hacker News] Read the rest

Consultant helps game developers not do stupid things such as decorate lava levels with Stars of David

Geographer Kate Edwards helps game developers avoid offensive and malignant stereotypes and tropes in their work. There are more than enough mistakes and blunders to keep her in business.

A common and “safe” way of avoiding problems [is] inventing a whole pseudo-country. It’s worth noting that Ubisoft have since announced that their next big Clancyromp, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, will airlift our angry shootyboys out of Bolivia and drop them in a fictional Pacific Island nation called Aurora. But I want to know if transplanting your story like this really helps. Or if it’s just an ill-fitting patch.

“I actually think that’s a very effective tool,” says Edwards. “Good science fiction and fantasy have been using allegory forever… [It’s] a very powerful way to make people think about the particular situation without just bluntly hitting them over the head with it. You can do that too if your narrative serves that purpose – and I don’t think we should instantly shy away from doing that. If you have a good reason to set your action and narrative in a certain locale that is real, then I would go ahead and explore that option.

“Ultimately, you have to ask yourself… how much of a difference does it make to the narrative purpose of your game whether it’s set in Bolivia or it’s set in some fictional South American country? Is it really going to change things significantly for the narrative of the game?”

But even Edwards admits that allegory can sometimes go wrong

Example: they put an evil alien in Halo 2 and named it "The Dervish" until someone noticed and fixed it. Read the rest

Diablo reverse-engineered in four months, without source code

It's hard to believe that the source code of successful games is lost, but often proven true when it comes time to re-release or "remaster" classics. A recent example is Final Fantasy VIII, vanished by Square-Enix's fire-and-forget philosophy of version control and remade from scratch. Even more amazing, a single programmer, GalaXyHaXz, spent four months reverse-engineering classic 1996 action RPG Diablo, recreating it from the ground up without the original code at hand. This video explains how he did it--and what it means for game preservation. Read the rest

Let's Play Permadeath Speedrun

Pippin Barr writes, "This is Season 2 of my video series Let's Play Permadeath Speedrun. In these videos I play various games trying to die (permadeath) as quickly as possible (speedrun). Beyond their entertainment value, I feel like they offer an interesting perspective on what playing videogames feels like, perhaps especially for people who aren't necessarily a part of the culture. For more experienced players, these runs can also help to raise question or suggest observations about how games are designed. (Mostly I just think they're kind of hilarious though.)" Read the rest

Nintendo voice actor preparing for a session

You can see the punchline coming a mile off, but it's a good one. Read the rest

A "Fake News Game" that "vaccinates" players against disinformation

Bad News is a free webgame created by two Cambridge psych researchers; in a 15-minute session, it challenges players to learn about and deploy six tactics used in disinformation campaigns ("polarisation, invoking emotions, spreading conspiracy theories, trolling people online, deflecting blame, and impersonating fake accounts"). Read the rest

You can make a Turing machine inside a game of Magic: The Gathering

Magic: The Gathering is Turing complete. In a new scientific paper, researchers "present a methodology for embedding an arbitrary Turing machine into a game of Magic such that the first player is guaranteed to win the game if and only if the Turing machine halts." From Ars Technica:

Furthermore, (software engineer Alex Churchill) and his co-authors -- Stella Biderman of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Austin Herrick of the University of Pennsylvania -- have concluded that Magic might be as computationally complex as it's possible for any tabletop game to be. In other words, "This is the first result showing that there exists a real-world game [of Magic] for which determining the winning strategy is non-computable," the authors write...

A universal Turing machine is one capable of running any algorithm, while "Turing completeness" is a term "used to indicate that a system has a particular degree of complexity," said Churchill. "Any Turing-complete system is theoretically able to emulate any other." Being able to determine whether a given problem can be solved in principle is a key task in computer science. If Magic is Turing complete, then there should exist within the game a scenario where it's impossible to determine a winning strategy—equivalent to the famous "halting problem" in computer science.

One way to demonstrate that a system is Turing complete is to create a Turing machine within it, and that's just what Churchill et al. have done with their work

"It’s possible to build a Turing machine within Magic: The Gathering" (Ars Technica)

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Man-Eaters Volume Two: Fleshing out the world where girls turn into lethal werepanthers when they get their periods

Volume One of Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk's scathing, hilarious, brilliant comic about girls who turn into man-eating werepanthers when they get their periods, is the best comic I read in 2019, and Volume Two, just published by Image comics, continues the brilliance with a set of design-fiction-y fake ads and other collateral that straddle the line between a serious piece of science fictional world-building and Switfian satire. Read the rest

History of cart racing games

Simplified racing with weapons: it's not all about Super Mario Kart. the genre is surprisingly diverse and persistent, all the way back to the mid-70s.

The genre got very crowded, very fast at the turn of the century. Roughly two dozen kart racers came out across all platforms from 1999 to 2001. Every man and his dog who had a decent character license decided simultaneously that a generic kart racer was the best video game investment. As a result, we had kart games for Woody Woodpecker, Mickey Mouse, Looney Tunes, South Park, The Muppets, LEGO, Nickelodeon, Star Wars, The Smurfs, Crash Bandicoot, Konami, and more.

Most of these were either irredeemably terrible

It got to the point where cart racers were as abundant and formulaic as MUGEN fighting games. But people were paying money for them! Until they weren't, that is. Read the rest

Wonderful profile of Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist games critic who made an army of shitty manbabies very, very upset

Anita Sarkeesian (previously) is a brilliant media theorist and critic whose Feminist Frequency/Tropes vs. Women in Video Games projects revolutionized the way we talk about gender and games -- and also made her a target for a virulent misogynist hate-machine of harassing manbabies who threatened her life, doxed her, and did everything they could to intimidate her into silence. Read the rest

A "brief history" of cheating at video games

Back in the day, I had a Datel Action Replay wedged into my Commodore Amiga. More than just a cheat device, it let you peek into all the internal goings-on of a game, manipulating content as well as a few select variables, scrambling the reality so carefully devised by the developers and artists. But, let's face it, more life, father, was where it was at. Engadget's Andrew Tarantola offers a brief history of video game cheating.

As far back as the Commodore 64 era, players themselves used POKES to access the contents of a game's specific memory cell before loading the program. The Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC all allowed POKES. Doing so allowed players to edit various values and, if done properly, boost their stats, impart damage immunity or otherwise modify how the game played. For example, using "POKE 755, 4" on an Atari 8-bit system instructs the graphics card to invert all on-screen text. Of course, finding the right memory cell was a hit-or-miss endeavor. Just as often as you'd find a POKE that boosts your characters powers, you'd find one that imparts the same stat boost to your enemies.

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Microsoft releasing new edition of Flight Simulator

After five years without an update, MS Flight Simulator is getting refreshed. The XBox exclusive was demoed at the E3 trade show Sunday. Some of the scenes are spectacularly realistic. I would have been unable to tell it was video of a simulation when I was a kid, playing stuff like F-18 Interceptor and Falcon. This makes it both more intense (because I can experience a more perfect replacement for reality) and less impressive (because I'm no longer afflicted with the xennial awe derived from comparing the quality of a simulation to the simulator's known technical limitations). Read the rest

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