Authors of a new study claim that playing complex scenarios in StarCraft, a popular real-time strategy (RTS) game, can enhance cognitive flexibility. The reason the study focused on StarCraft specifically is because to be successful, the player must cope with simultaneous and rapidly evolving game situations and sub-situations occurring in real-time while managing funds, resources, and information about the opponent. It's a lot to juggle and requires fast thinking.
Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft, Starcraft II…are you interested yet? With their consistent string of blockbuster titles and enduring hits, Blizzard is one of the biggest names in computer gaming. As one of the first social gaming platforms, Battle.net was ahead of its time, and helped turn Blizzard into the monster it is now. But with all of the time and money you put into your Battle.net account there’s nothing worse than finding out your account got hacked or your roommate sold that item you spent the last three weeks acquiring. Enter the Battle.net Authenticator for Windows Phone 7.
I’m amazed you’re even reading this. Not because the quality of the prose is lacking in this week’s roundup of open-source and freeware applications, mind you. Rather, if you haven’t noticed by the coverage (and advertising) permeating just about every known tech site in the universe right now, Starcraft 2 just came out. It’s a miracle I’ve been able to tear myself away from defending humanity to write this but, well, my heart for free software is just too strong.
While it would be awesome to give you some kind of “Top 5 ways to get Starcraft 2 for free” article or something like that, it’s just not happening. And no, before you ask, there really aren’t any launchers or applications specifically designed for the game that can give you some kind of competitive edge or awesome third-party tie-in just yet. Wishful, if not silly thinking, no?
However, that’s not to say that applications don’t exist that could otherwise enhance your Starcraft 2 gaming experience in some capacity. Like I said, nothing’s been written specifically for the title, but there are a number of useful, free apps that you can use to otherwise bolster your gaming-life-that-just-so-happens-to-be-Blizzard’s-latest-title. I apologize for the tongue-twistedness of it all; simply put, you can use the following 5 apps to make Starcraft 2—or any game—rock just a little bit more.
It's here! It's here! We've been spending a lot of time with the StarCraft II beta and are already very pleased with what we've seen so far, but we'd be lying to say that we weren't a little ecstatic when the Collectors Edition arrived today. This edition, which comes eloquently packed away in a huge, sturdy box, includes a bad-ass USB dog tag, soundtrack, art book, comic book, behind-the-scenes DVD, and of course, the one, the only, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.
So, to wet your pallette, we decided to shoot the unboxing. Stay tuned though, we'll be running SCII through various benchmarks on different PCs, and will have the official review up ASAP. Until then, enjoy the unboxing, and try not to drool all over your keyboard (we recommend lots of chewing gum for absorption if you simply can't help yourself). Hit the jump for more fully expandable StarCraft goodness!
Starcraft is arguably the most popular game of all time, and certainly one of the most enduring. Will the sequel live up to the original? Blizzard certainly thinks so, which would explain why the developer has spent over $100 million on the project thus far, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
"There is no shortage of consumers for Starcraft," Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick said in an interview last month. "For a game that is more than 10 years old, there's millions of people still playing it.
Despite the big budget, Activision-Blizzard fully expects the Starcraft franchise to rake in up to ten times as much in profits. Kotick described Starcraft as one of the company's seven "pillars of opportunity" during an analyst meeting last month, and said that each pillar could deliver between $500 million and $1 billion of operating profit over its lifespan.
Interestingly, Starcraft II won't use a subscription model in the U.S., though the game will carry a monthly fee in other markets, such as Korea, WSJ reports.
If you can’t beat ‘em, make a bot that can. That seems to be the mantra that two UC Santa Cruz students -- Ben Weber and Peter Mawhorter – are following in their attempt to design a StarCraft A.I. capable of going toe-to-toe with even the best of the pros.
“Our goal is to create compelling new forms of interactive art and entertainment that provide more deeply autonomous, generative and dynamic responses to interaction. A major thrust of this work is advanced A.I. for video games, including autonomous characters and interactive storytelling,” they told GamePro.
Currently, the crafty automaton’s already enjoying a 20 percent win rate against humans. It also plays exclusively as the Protoss, meaning that even if Weber and Mawhorter’s experiment fails, they’ve got an easy cop-out. “We were trying to make it play like a Pro all right. A Pro-toss!”
Er, anyway, the two hope their tiny tot of a bot will eventually reach “human-level behavior” – not just in individual games, but in the way it adapts to different situations.
"New strategies are constantly being uncovered by players and playing competitively requires learning how to counter newly discovered strategies," Mawhorter explained. "Our approach to this problem is to build a bot that learns new strategies from replays. Therefore, by giving it more replays, you can expand the strategic possibilities that it considers."
The plan, then, is for the bot to eventually learn strategies on its own, though implementing that kind of sponge-like soaking ability on anything more complex than build orders has proven to be quite the headache. We wish Weber and Mawhorter the best of luck. A word of advice, though: Make sure your bot stays far away from those illegal betting rings.
We’re not above cracking a joke or two about Korea’s near-fanatical obsession with Blizzard’s RTS opus StarCraft, but over there, the game’s no laughing matter. It is, for all intents and purposes, a sport. And where there’s sport, there’s money to be made. And where there’s money and sports, you can bet that there’s illegal betting. Turns out, though, that even Korea’s biggest StarCraft pros are in on it. That’s right: the whole thing’s rigged.
Among other things, various pros have been purposefully losing matches and leaking their teams’ replay files to illegal gambling groups. Think that’s bad? The rabbit hole runs deeper.
“Apparently, retired pro gamers, a former pro gamer coach, a former match announcer and a pro gaming scene reporter brought out their address books and contact lists to play a large part in the deals being made. Coaching staff and camp directors are also implicated, allegedly taking money for charging player entry fees,” gaming site GamePron explained.
Worse still, even E-Sports organizers have been tempted by the unscrupulous, though assuredly lucrative pie on the windowsill – going so far as to call a conference that considered coexistence with illegal betting sites.
Despite Korea’s human rights law – which forbids the release of criminals’ names – a list of suspected cheaters has found its way onto the Internet. Among others, the list includes “sAviOr” and “EffOrt” – both of whom were BlizzCon StarCraft champions in the past.
It’s a shame, too. Blizzard’s patched StarCraft again and again over the years, always aiming to perfect its incredibly tricky three-way balancing act. You can’t patch out illegal betting rings, though. Shame, that.
Massively multiplayer online everythingamajig Second Life’s total player numbers may be debatable at best, but the dedication of said, er, eclectic legion sure isn’t. According to a study conducted by Nielsen Media Research, Second Life gets more average playtime per week than games like StarCraft, Warhammer Online, and even World of Warcraft!
Lest you cry foul of Nielsen’s study, however, know this: World of Warcraft players still far outnumber those of Second Life, racking up 46.710% of total PC gaming time, while Second Life picks up a silver medal with 3.206%. Second Life’s significantly smaller group of players, then, just loves its game of choice a bit more than players powering Blizzard’s piggybanks.
Even so, however, Second Life still far outstrips most every other MMO on the market -- in terms of average playtime and total percentage of the pie -- including Warhammer Online and Eve Online, both of which didn’t even make the top ten.
Just for clarification’s sake, the study was conducted among a sample of almost 200,000 people –- not just hardcore gamers. It was, apparently, a random sample.
The only thing that makes us question this study? That’d be Dark Horse of Might & Magic in third place. Um, really? Not to question the alchemy behind Nielsen’s algorithms, but do you know anyone who actually plays that game anymore -– on a regular basis, no less?
The apparent state of <insert WoW class that’s constantly nerfed and obviously in need of buffing here> may have led you to believe that Blizzard’s exceedingly affluent staff doesn’t want to hear from you. Well, given the nature of the mega-publisher’s current contest, it’s pretty obvious that you were wrong. See, Blizzard only wants to hear from one of you.
The contest, which is open to aspiring word jockeys all around the world – from London to the Bay – invites Blizzard’s biggest fans to prove their mettle not with sticks or stones, but with words, the most powerful force in the entire universe. In order to qualify, your piece must be 3,000-10,000 words long and – as expected – set in one of Blizzard’s three fictional worlds.
Should your modern classic catch the eyes of Blizzard’s finest Lorecrafters (note: not a real job title), you’ll be flown out to Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, California where – and this is just a pet theory of ours – you’ll be surreptitiously assassinated by the same people who judged you worthy of setting foot on Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft’s holy birthing grounds.
Why? Simple. According to the contest rules, upon arriving at Blizzard’s pad, you’ll be given a replica Frostmourne sword (to defend yourself, obviously – you know, honor and all that) and a sumptuous meal (presumably a last meal, but also a possible attempt to weigh you down during the inevitable conflict). But wait – you’re probably wondering why Blizzard would go through all of this trouble to help you, a simple fan, meet the real Diablo? Well, after little to no research, we’ve surmised that – like a paranoid dictator – Blizzard’s current writing staff is afraid of competition, and would like to hold onto the swankest gig on earth for as long as possible.
So yeah, don’t enter the contest. We’ll, uh, just go ahead and take the fall for you. Without other entrants, we’re sure to “win” – if you could even call it that – and then we’ll put a pointy, meticulously sculpted end to all of this nonsense once and for all. Wish us luck.