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Kyle Orland

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Today's look at the emerging trend of games with minimal or nonexistent heads-up displays (HUDs) got us thinking about how games have traditionally laid out critical information about the player's status. We've come practically full circle from the days of the earliest video games, which were unable to display any status information or even keep track of basic statistics. In between, we've seen HUDs ranging from the realistic (Ace Combat 2) to the ridiculous (World of Warcraft) with everything in between. Recall for yourself by clicking through our gallery.

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Original author: 
Casey Johnston

Few Internet frustrations are so familiar as the password restriction. After creating a few (dozen) logins for all our Web presences, the use of symbols, mixed cases, and numbers seems less like a security measure and more like a torture device when it comes to remembering a complex password on a little-used site. But at least that variety of characters keeps you safe, right? As it turns out, there is some contrary research that supports both how frustrating these restrictions are and suggests it’s possible that the positive effect of complexity rules on security may not be as great as long length requirements.

Let's preface this with a reminder: the conventional wisdom is that complexity trumps length every time, and this notion is overwhelmingly true. Every security expert will tell you that “Supercalifragilistic” is less secure than “gj7B!!!bhrdc.” Few password creation schemes will render any password uncrackable, but in general, length does less to guard against crackability than complexity.

A password is not immune from cracking simply by virtue of being long—44,991 passwords recovered from a dump of LinkedIn hashes last year were 16 characters or more. The research we describe below refers specifically to the effects of restrictions placed by administrators on password construction on their crackability. By no means does it suggest that a long password is, by default, more secure than a complex one.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson / Jonathan Naumann / Joi Ito / Stanford CIS

Fifteen years ago, I was living outside Geneva, Switzerland, spending my lunch hours screwing around on the nascent Web a few dozen kilometers from where it was created. I popped into chat rooms, forums, and news sites, and I e-mailed family back home. I was learning French and getting my dose of tech news by reading the French-language edition of Macworld magazine. (Génial!)

I returned Stateside mere months after Ars began, reading more and more about the people behind many of the technologies that I was becoming increasingly fascinated with. I consumed just about every book I could find describing the history and personalities behind graphical user interfaces, networking, the Internet itself, and more.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all that, it’s that most people involved in technology continue the Newtonian tradition of humility. The most iconic innovators all seem to readily acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of giants. In fact, when I met Vint Cerf and thanked him for making the work I do possible, he was a predictable gentleman, saying, “There were many others involved in the creation of TCP/IP, not just me.”

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Original author: 
Kyle Orland

Sure, every game has an ending of sorts. For a certain class of classic game, though, that ending was always of the "You Are Dead Ha Ha Ha!" variety. From Robotron 2084's ever-increasing robot hordes to Missile Command's memorable "THE END" explosion, you went into these games knowing that failure was not just an option, but really the only option.

Then there are the games that seem like they should go on forever but, for one reason or another, just don't. Whether it's because of a coding error leading to an unintentional "kill screen" or a simple design choice stopping an otherwise never-ending series of loops, a lot of games that seem unbeatable at first glance can actually be conquered in one way or another.

To be clear, these aren't just games that are hard to beat (though most of them are incredibly difficult). These are games that, by all rights, shouldn't have a victory condition yet eventually reach a point where it's technically impossible to keep playing even if you don't fail in any way. Enjoy.

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Original author: 
Kyle Orland

(video link)

It's easy to write about games that can be compared to other games. "It's like Call of Duty, but in space," or "It's like Gran Turismo, but all the cars feel like they're made of styrofoam" or "It's like the tabletop game Labyrinth, but you're controlling a monkey in a plastic ball." The games that are the most fun to write about, though, are the ones where you struggle to come up with any suitable comparisons.

Sure, you can draw some links between Antichamber and games like Portal. Both games involve wandering through a sterile laboratory and trying to find your way out. Both involve using a gun that doesn't shoot bullets, but does help you find an exit indirectly. And both take place from a first-person perspective. But Antichamber's similarities to Portal—and to most other games—end there.

Understanding Antichamber means forgetting your understanding of pretty much everything you know about how the physical world works. First to go is the idea of object permanence that you developed as a baby. Turn around in Antichamber, and the hallway that was there a second ago can easily be a totally different room. Then the game starts to mess with your ideas of depth perception—you can fall for miles, only to end up just a few feet below where you started.

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Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveils the Nvidia Grid server at the company's CES presentation.

Andrew Cunningham

The most interesting news to come out of Nvidia's two-hour-plus press conference Sunday night was doubtlessly the Tegra 4 mobile processor, followed closely by its intriguing Project Shield tablet-turned-handheld game console. However, company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also revealed a small morsel of news about the cloud gaming initiative that Nvidia talked up back in May: the Nvidia Grid, the company's own server designed specifically to serve as the back-end for cloud gaming services.

Thus far, virtualized and streaming game services have not set the world on fire. OnLive probably had the highest profile of any such service, and though it continues to live on, it has been defined more by its troubled financial history than its success.

We stopped by Nvidia's CES booth to get some additional insight into just how the Grid servers do their thing and how Nvidia is looking to overcome the technical drawbacks inherent to cloud gaming services.

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The debate about whether games are a legitimate art form is a never-ending back-and-forth that's actually getting a bit tiresome at this point. At the very least, though, outside bodies are beginning to recognize that games at least contain artistic elements that are worthy of consideration in their own right. Thus, we have thatgamecompany's hauntingly beautiful, cello-heavy Journey soundtrack being nominated for a Grammy this year in the Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media category.

The Austin Wintory-composed soundtrack (which you can listen to in its entirety here) will compete directly with works by well-known film composers such as John Williams (The Adventure of Tintin), Howard Shore (Hugo), and Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Rises). Wintory tweeted his speechless reaction to the nomination announcement and the outpouring of support he received following it. "I don't think I've ever felt genuinely overwhelmed before until last night, reading everyone's messages," he wrote. "You are all SO wonderful."

The soundtrack debuted at No. 8 on Billboard's "Soundtrack" charts (and No. 114 on the overall chart) by selling 4,000 copies in a week, putting it behind Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as the second-best-selling video game soundtrack ever. The game itself became the fastest-selling downloadable game ever on the PlayStation Network after its release earlier this year.

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Tommo Inc.

When Tommo Inc. first announced a new portable version of the classic Neo Geo hardware last month, we balked a bit at the $200 asking price for what is a more than two-decades-old system. Now, the company has announced a bare-bones version of the portable for the somewhat more reasonable price of $130 when it is released December 6.

The cheaper edition of the system, as described on the official website, doesn't include the cool docking station and replica arcade-style joystick of the $200 bundle (now being called the "Neo Geo X Gold"), but does come loaded with the same 20 classic Neo Geo games that were previously announced. It appears that the docking station will be necessary to play games on your TV through an HDMI output, though. It will also be required to play two-player games using a joystick that can be purchased separately (Tommo has yet to announce a price for additional joysticks).

We also have some more details on the upcoming portable's hardware specs, thanks to a report from Japanese site Inside Games. The report suggests the system is running a Linux OS and sports a 3.7V/2200mAh battery that is capable of playing games for about six hours after charging for three hours. The system's 4.3", 16:9 display runs at 480x272 resolution, the same size and resolution as the original Playstation Portable.

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Just another day in the pixel mines.

Queasy Games

Music games can generally be divided into two broad categories: games that ask you to take part in making the music, and games where the music drives the gameplay. Sound Shapes straddles the line between those two types of games while layering an incredibly satisfying, abstract take on 2D platform games on top as well.

As you know if you've read our previous coverage, Sound Shapes turns you into nothing more than a small, sticky circle, caught in a world full of simple, abstract shapes rendered primarily in stark, solid colors. The goal is to roll and hop around to collect floating coins dotted around the game's rooms while avoiding enemies and their attacks, which are helpfully highlighted in a deadly red.

It sounds simple, and it is, as far as the gameplay is concerned (though the designers do a good job of stretching the simple concept as far as it can go, with levels that force you to make smart use of the jumping and sticking mechanics). But what makes the game really stand out is the way that each coin you collect activates a note that gets layered into a constantly evolving, mesmerizing backbeat that follows you from room to room.

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Beautiful? Yes. Playable? Somewhat...

Sony

I've never taken hallucinogenic drugs. I've always kind of wanted to experience the type of transcendent, out-of-body experience I've heard other people describe when on them, but I've always been a little too concerned with the potential long-term effects on my brain chemistry. But now I've played Dyad, so I'm no longer so concerned about what I'm missing out on.

Playing Dyad is like diving to an interactive version of the Star Gate sequence from near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. An ethereal avatar sits at the bottom of a long tunnel of neon-colored enemies that are constantly flying out toward the screen. The avatar can rotate around the edges of the tunnel to avoid those colored enemies, or "hook" herself onto them to pull herself down the tunnel more quickly. While the first few levels are sparsely populated with just a few well-spaced colored dots, the tunnels quickly fill up with new, more threatening enemies and features like speed-boosting zip lines and invincibility spheres.

The levels each have varied goals—racing through a tunnel as quickly as possible, staying alive as long as possible, killing as many enemies as possible while invincible—but they all rely on carefully riding a razor's edge line between risk and reward. Crashing into enemies will cause a momentum-killing collision, but sliding by just to the side can give you energy for a dashing lance attack. Riding a speed-boosting zipline will get you to the next checkpoint faster, but limit your movement and make it that much harder to interpret what's coming quickly.

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