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Waiting for the live broadcasting of the first astronauts that will land, a few years from now, on the Red Planet, we poor mortals loving space and wallpapers have to be satisfied with the stuff coming from NASA’s robotic rovers wandering on Mars. Curiosity aka Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the latest and greatest automotive research lab sent up there by the USA space agency is, in that regard, a treasure trove of new photo shots from the Martian desert immensities.
The technology industry is full of idiots which are persistently babbling about the death of PCs, about the PC as an inferior gaming platform and bullshit like this. Well, let’s put some numbers up then: Jon Peddie Research states that the computer games market is worth twice as the console one (21.5 billion dollars), Intel continues to pump up tens of billions in revenues every quarter with its x86 processors and the sales of PCs are growing again. Sure, there is the thorny issue of piracy, technology evolution doesn’t let the wallet rest and publishers are treating the PC gamers master race like shit as always, yet all things considered who talks about the death of PCs is just a brainless idiot. Really, go bet on horse racing or something.
The month of June means E3, the gaming fair that this year focused on proper games after the fireworks of the new console war between Sony and Microsoft in 2013. Actually, other than for the E3, June was noteworthy because of the welcomed return of a LucasArts classic like Grim Fandango, the horrible return of movie tie-ins based on video games characters with a film on Sonic and because of Capcom’s surrender to the harsh laws of the market. If I had the money, I would buy the Japanese corporation by myself and then I would prevent any other worthless exploit of the classic series from the past (see GnG on the iPhone, the horror made of bits).
Good news are coming for ResidualVM and PCSX2, two virtual machines that in the near future should improve considerably (in the PCSX2 case) and add support for new games beyond the software’s original mission (ResidualVM). Both cases are a useful reminder for the fact that, unlike someone’s opinion, emulation is a world that doesn’t stop moving forward and it’s far from having reached saturation as for ideas, techniques and new old things to replicate on modern PCs.
Things I hate about the video game industry, part II: the fucking “HD remakes” of everything, even of games that are perfectly fine being dead and that shouldn’t have been made in the first place; stores of virtual contents pretending to be free games, which are just a bit less revolting than the ones soiled by the toxic disease of microtransactions; games tied to remote servers that don’t work on day-one and then die forever when the aforementioned servers are closed down, except for when they start working again thanks to the developers’ good will in making update patches again and again and again. The hope to avoid the total conversion of a hobby into a commercial pile of shit comes for indie games, and that’s why they make a good part of the following highlights.
Every transition period brings both risks and opportunities, and the constantly-evolving videogaming world is especially prone to this dual nature: the platforms that were open and free from remote control until now, like Windows (pre-8), are risking to turn into closed ecosystems, even though technology evolution isn’t stopping not even for a second; the historical on-line services are shutting down glaringly showing the risks coming with reliance on an Internet connection, but software optimization is getting new speed from the old bones in the old-gen graphic cards. The endless promise of virtual reality is attracting millions-worth funding, while the PC as a gaming platform is as dead as ever.
What is the best way to promote gaming development, a streaming service like OnLive which is trying to revive from its own ashes or a de facto monopolist like Intel dictating ludicrous progress rhythms (with an extra 100 MHz for every new generation) to x86 CPUs? A virtual reality helmet like Oculus Rift (DK2) selling itself to Facebook’s social advertising business or a dedicated GPU that’s incredibly expensive and basically useless like NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX TITAN Z? Foolishness aside, what really matters is that PC technology will continue to evolve forever. Or at least that’s what I hope for.
Right now the video game industry is infected by a cancer called free-to-play, ie that business where publishers exploit the popularity of well known gaming brands like Dungeon Keeper to make a scam in “app” format for mobile toys out of it or forgettable multiplayer degenerations of a story-based series like Legacy of Kain. To survive the potentially fatal disease of F2P, the industry can however rely on powerful antibodies like 30+ million units-worth blockbusters (Grand Theft Auto V) and the PC market which died aeons ago yet still amounts to tens of billions of dollars in revenues per year.
Before growing into a worldwide phenomenon run by the worst cyber-criminals gangs out there, spam was an annoyance limited to the few intimate users of the ARPANET network. It was there, before the technology at the foundation of ARPANET gave life to the modern Internet, that 36 years ago the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) marketing manager Gary Thuerk sent what is officially acknowledged as the first mass marketing e-mail in history.
The industry is at war against “piracy”, unauthorized releasing and on-line sharing of digital contents, a war fought by using every possible mean and relentlessly abusing propaganda, censorship and political lobbying. But it’s a war worth nothing, and when the majors succeed in restraining access to particularly popular “pirate” sites like The Pirate Bay the net result is that absolutely nothing changes.
After the last November’s lively beginning, the commercial race of the eighth generation home consoles is still nurturing the perpetual machine of controversy over each machine performances, the plans of the three big corporations in the industry (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) for the future and everything. Unlike the recent past, however, controversy and rumors are just the garnish coming with the main dish - ie how many units the new consoles can sell to the customers still willing to invest their money on the gaming business.
One March many years ago, when the IT industry was rather different compared to the modern one, two computer viruses brought panic because of an out-of-scale media attention. Born out of a time when the “malware” (an unknown term then) creators were largely interested in fame more than money, the viruses ended up making substantial damages valued (in one of the two cases) more than 1 billion dollars.
The month of March 2014 marks the (possibly) definitive stop for LLOOGG, a service for real-time Web traffic analysis that was appreciated quite a lot by Sir Arthur for its simplicity and for giving an extremely clear picture of the site’s visitors activity. The service has been closed, the developers say, the lloogg.com domain name is on sale and the source code for the server-side application has been released on GitHub for everyone to download and review.
The companies involved in that downright organized fraud called cloud computing have always advertised the idea that data, “apps” and services entirely relying on an Internet connection are destined to last indefinitely. It’s the first lie and the original sin of cloud computing, something that simply isn’t true and that every month, every week and every day must face a reality going in the opposite way: the “cloud” servers are dying over and over again like flies bringing down with them data, apps and services of their naive users.
2013 in gaming is finished and the new year promises to be as much full of ideas, decent games and maybe some unforgettable gem here and there. 2014 will surely bring a great number of titles worthy of being taken into consideration, indie games capable of selling millions of copies or collecting millions of dollars in funds, mega hits of tens of millions of copies sold and extremely interesting graphic technologies (AMD’s Mantle). The list of what I personally would like to see never again includes the silliness of “cloud” games that must be reprogrammed to work off-line afterward, the rubbish (or the downright frauds) on the Kickstarter slot machine and the fucking remakes of everything.
DICE is a small emulator dedicated to recreating on a modern computer the arcade games based on discrete circuits, ancient and bizarre entertainment machines where the electronic components required for the game experience were soldered individually on the circuit board and where there was no trace of a CPU. It’s an obscure and fascinating kind of emulation, the one served by DICE, and the offering of emulated games grows richer and richer with every new version of the software.
Sir Arthur has always played on PC, and he will continue to do so until he will collapse in front of the screen. Hence I always feel annoyed when I read the “apocalyptic” news about the collapse in PC sales, a market that even when it’s depressed is capable of shipping something like 300 million new machines in a year. These are numbers that actually say little about the real market of hardcore players (who build their own PCs, as it’s the right thing to do), and that must be coupled with meaningful statistics like the 7 million concurrent users logged on December by Steam and the billions of dollars earned by historical MMOs like the Lineage series. But you know, MMOs are full of spies and Steam is the evil that wants to conquer the world, so I side with the competition and always buy my games on DVD. Ave atque vale.
The month of February 2014 marks the 32nd anniversary of the debut of the Intel 80286 CPU, a historical processor of changing fortunes which helped to build what would have later become the market domination of the x86 instruction set. As Computer Hope reminds, the 286 processor (also known as “iAPX 286″) was introduced on February 1st in 1982 bringing important technology innovations a bit too ahead of the times.
A year and half after its first major release, in the last days PCSX2 got updates again with the release of two new versions in a short timeframe: the only existing (open source) emulator capable of replicating in software the complex hardware of Sony’s PlayStation 2 console reached release 1.2.0 at the beginning of February, followed the day after by release 1.2.1 aimed at correcting some last-hour bugs. PCSX2 is now able to run 2130 games in playable state, a remarkable result considering the about 3900 games making up the total PS2 titles library.
On the long, long road that leads to its final target, ReactOS continues to grow and evolve thanks to the hard work made by developers contributing to the project. The latest, important changes help the system to actually advance toward the aforementioned final target, ie to reach full compatibility with software and drivers made for Windows operating systems based on the NT architecture.