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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.
In an age where malicious code has turned into cyber-crime and ransomware is asking for lot of money to unlock the access to user’s files, a particular class of malware with ancient origins is still able to survive - even though it’s forced to serve the needs of the aforementioned crime. The class I am talking about is the virus or file virus one, a type of digital pathogen that raged in the MS-DOS times and then began to slowly wane when Windows appeared and Internet worms brought their worldwide epidemics.
The increasing fight against “illegal” downloads on file sharing networks I was talking about the last time is speeding up to a feverish rate, and the new lords of digital steam go to any lengths to prove than on-line copyright is worth more than everything - even more than open Internet access. The industry’s most used tool against unauthorized P2P continues to be censorship, and if that wasn’t enough the MAFIAA (MPAA+RIAA) collective and similar organizations are quick to switch to threats and power abuse.
It’s 2014 and we are still here enduring a debate on DRM technologies. It’s mortally tiresome to have to listen to developers complaining about the money lost because of cracks and piracy (and yet not everyone is complaining), about the small indie studios with no future (yet not everyone is complaining), about the publishers that don’t make money anymore (except the ones collecting billions of dollars, of course), about the old glories without a market (except who collects millions or tens of millions with crowdfunding, of course). And it’s not like users want games without DRM, to be clear. Or maybe it’s the other way around, who knows.
The new year started with the release of updated versions for two “small” 3D emulators, projects essentially managed in a personal way by developers used to take all the time that’s needed - and often more so - to cook the code and publish the resulting executable builds. And as for procrastination no one is better than ElSemi, a long-time mamedev that doesn’t fear reverse engineering on complex platforms the likes of Capcom’s CPS3 and Sega’s Model 2.
The gaming industry is that strange place where the bloody DRM servers prevent you to play or go off-line forcing developers to work on the code again to cut the bonds with a service that was essential until a day before, where a game like Grand Theft Auto V can break several Guinness world records overtaking Hollywood’s greatest film hits and selling more than 29 million copies, and where Blizzard continues to fuck around with us with that Internet-depending crust that is Diablo III. Luckily there are companies like CD Projekt that have the success they deserve, and PC gaming is a dead platform as usual.
Five years after the last post about the topic, the state of the everlasting commercial and technological war between gaming consoles couldn’t be more different: the machine which seemed to be done (PS3) recovered brilliantly, the Nintendo battleship is living a new difficult moment in its troubled history and the eighth generation of home console has been finally deployed in full with the PS4 and Xbox One debut. But the market is pretty different compared to the past as well, while everyone’s expectations - for publishers, analysts and players - have grown a ton.
The CryptoLocker ransomware is still raging on-line and on users and companies computers, while new details about the source of this dangerous file-abducting trojan propagation come out and willing developers are trying to hinder the infection spreading. The criminal gang which created the malware even comes up with new ways to take money from users affected by the threat, even though in doing so it is forced to contradict itself.
Cloud computing is a digital hell that burns data, security, reliability and privacy for users and companies, a technology cancer that within the short turn of a summer brought new evidence of the fact that the worst, for the fools willing to completely tie themselves to the feudal power system of the new digital Lords, is yet to come. It’s therefore important to keep a constant track of the incidents, the unfulfilled promises, the countless privacy violations and the pure and simple lies the unscrupulous corporations persistently try to sell as the future of everything. The future, on-line, has an expiration date and is intermittent.
Target reached (and exceeded) for the Set Chopin Free crowdfunding campaign, a new initiative by the Musopen non-profit organization aiming at preserving the music of Frédéric Chopin with high-quality recordings available to the public without copyright-enforced limits: the funds collected on the Kickstarter platform have reached the final sum of $92,452, namely 123% of the 75,000 dollars requested by founder Aaron Dunn and the other Musopen volunteers.
A new ransomware for Windows PCs is roaming on-line, it’s called CryptoLocker and brings a very dangerous destructive potential. Security enterprise Sophos warns - via Naked Security - users and system admins about the new threat, its features and the fact that the “prevention is better than a cure” rule is true now more than ever. Curing the damages of a CryptoLocker infection, Sophos warns, is impossible for the time being.
The last months of 2013 look to be especially important as for the video game market evolution. The entire industry is in turmoil and not just for the upcoming debut of the new-generation home consoles, considering that “small” digital-only games sell 1 million copies while triple-A projects are split between the ones that (very relatively) flop or those breaking unprecedented sales records. Suddenly on-line services like the Diablo III Auction House aren’t the future of the universe anymore (to some degree), the PC gaming hardware is at the center of anyone’s interests and Half-Life 3 returns to be a game in development rather than a myth of the ancient Greek. Nay, Half-Life 3 is a lie (like the cake) and Valve is more interested in making hardware, software and controllers for the universe’s most stupid task: playing PC games on the couch. I’m crying.
More than four years have passed since the last time Sir Arthur’s Den dealt with the war against digital “piracy” on P2P networks, and in these few years the clash between the contents industry, users and promoters of the aforementioned contents free sharing became worse and worse. The united lobby of MAFIAA (and ideal yet scary fusion of RIAA and MPAA) did its worst by asking for monstrous monetary compensations, by throwing the releasers in jail and by trying to affirm the idea that “crime” against copyright doesn’t pay anymore.
Recently I received a mail by Ben G., a volunteer of the Musopen.org project, which reminded me their new initiative: after having freed the great classical symphonies from copyright, this time the non-profit organization is turning to the complete works of Frédéric Chopin. The target is always the same - to record high-quality versions of the works by the renowned Polish composer for everyone to listen - just as the tool chosen to reach it, ie a crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter platform.
Virtual reality helmets are quickly replacing stereoscopic 3D as the new trendy craze of gaming publishers and developers, so much that John Carmack decided to take the chief technology officer position at the start-up Oculus Rift. The well-known creator of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake graphic engines has been always interested in the potential of the VR experience coupled with video games, and it seems that Carmack will continue to work at id Software despite his new obligation. Maybe gaming technology has become too complex to be still of interest for the talented American coder? Capcom, Epic and Crytek - among the others - disagree on that.