RollerCoaster Tycoon World Coming to Steam Early Access

For years strategy games have fallen into one of two categories, with some games requiring you to defeat your enemies and conquer planets or countries while the others saw you trying to run businesses and people’s lives, balancing the books against the choices you had. Of the latter category, one of the biggest series was the RollerCoaster series. Don’t worry if you’ve missed it, because RollerCoaster Tycoon World will be coming sooner than you think.

Chief Executive Officer at Atari, Fred Chesnais, is hopeful of the new games potential, saying that “after careful consideration, the decision to go through the Steam Early Access program was made”, the reason provided was that it would give fans access to the game to those “dedicated fans that have followed us throughout the development process”.

It doesn’t just stop there, if you were a fan of the games then the new features could see you picking this one up as soon as it releases. New features will include the ability to place your rides at any angles, doing away with the grid placed system that restricted so many parks in the past. If you ever felt like the games were missing content then RollerCoaster Tycoon World will be perfect for you as the new game will feature support for community content, meaning that people will be able to custom create and share rides, stalls and more.

Excited yet? If so then make sure to check back on Steam on March 30th to pick up the game!

Atari to Launch Classic Game Compilation on Steam

Atari is one of the most iconic names in video game history and popularized the concept of interchangeable cartridges on a home console. Way back in 1977, Atari launched the Atari VCS which eventually become known as the 2600 after 1982. The system featured 128 bytes of RAM, an 8-bit MOS 6507 CPU running at 1.19 MHz and had a huge range of controllers. While the games look extremely primitive by modern standards, they were revolutionary in the early 1980s and helped establish the video game industry as a credible form of entertainment. Unfortunately, Atari struggled in their later years and couldn’t compete with SEGA or Nintendo. For example, the Atari Jaguar’s bulky controller, and poor software library made it a disaster.

Atari is now owned by French company, Infogrames and hasn’t really published anything of note. The only real exception which comes to mind is Test Drive Unlimited. Nevertheless, a new compilation is coming to Steam entitled, Atari Vault which includes a number of legendary games! The press release reads:

“Including 100 iconic, fan-favorite games like Asteroids®, Centipede®, Missile Command®, Tempest®, Warlords®, and many more,Atari Vault enables fans to relive the classic gaming experience in the modern age, with an upgraded user interface, the addition of online and local multiplayer options, and Steam Controller support that provides significantly improved precision control. For the first time ever, fans from around the world can challenge other players on Steam Leaderboards and compete for arcade supremacy – all while rocking out to the games’ original 70’s and 80’s soundtracks. Atari Vault is under development by Code Mystics, and will launch in Spring 2016.”

Sadly, there’s no information regarding price, but I cannot imagine it will be too expensive given the library’s age and ability to emulate Atari games so easily. While I’m a huge fan of retro games, it can be quite difficult to look past the graphics on old school Atari classics, because they have aged quite poorly.

Image courtesy of 8-bitcentral

The Strong Museum Acquires Massive Atari Collection

It’s been about seven months since we last heard something from the Strong Museum and that was when they announced the first six titles to enter their World Video Game Hall of Fame, and now they are back with even better news for the game fanatics who love the origin of it all. The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York has announced the acquisition of over 2,000 documents, drawings, photographs, mockups, proofs, and other materials that chronicle the design and creation of Atari game packaging and user manuals in the ’70s and ’80’s. from a pair of California collectors.

The new collection comes from a pair of California collectors, but whether it was sold or donated wasn’t really revealed. That doesn’t really matter anyway as everyone will be able to enjoy this collection now. It will be made available for professionals to study and review as well as be part of future displays.

The Cort and Barbara Allen Atari Packaging Design Collection (1976–1984), as it is called, includes packaging and manual design materials for the Atari 2600 home console (1982 version). There’s also unreleased Kee Games ( a company created by Joe Keenan, a friend of Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell) version of the Atari 2600, the Touch Me (1977) handheld electronic game, as well as Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 personal computers. Included are also competitor’s consoles games, such as Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Dig Dug, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Donkey Kong Jr., Jungle Hunt, Robotron 2084, Surround, Asteroids, and Real Sports Football. Besides the NTSC versions, the collection also includes PAL region and French language materials and artist Cliff Spohn’s original package cover artwork for the 1977 Atari Video Computer System launch title Surround.

AI Pioneer Concerned About Direction of Intelligent Computers

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Intelligent Systems at the University of California and pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, drafted a letter to the AI community asking it to forget making intelligent computers more powerful at the expense of human values. Russell wrote, “We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial. Our AI systems must do what we want them to do.” The letter has thousands of signatories, amongst which are researchers from Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. The 37th signatory, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, later funded an initiative to “[keep] artificial intelligence beneficial”.

Russell worries that AI research has become too focused on power and speed, while neglecting its true intention: to serve humanity. He cites the DQN system, an intelligent computer that, with no external input, became better at playing Atari games than humans within a matter of hours. “If your newborn baby did that you would think it was possessed,” Russell said.

Russell argues that, instead of asking AIs to break high scores and perform tasks quicker, better, it should be focused on learning human behaviour and how it can complement it. For example, your domestic robot sees you crawl out of bed in the morning and grind up some brown round things in a very noisy machine and do some complicated thing with steam and hot water and milk and so on, and then you seem to be happy,” he said. “It should learn that part of the human value function in the morning is having some coffee.”

The solution, Russell feels, is to switch from teaching artificial intelligence simple rationality to “hierarchical decision making,” or “abstract representations of actions” in order to prepare it in advance for potential human needs. “There are some games where DQN just doesn’t get it, and the games that are difficult are the ones that require thinking many, many steps ahead in the primitive representations of actions,” Russell argues. “Ones where a person would think, “Oh, what I need to do now is unlock the door,” and unlocking the door involves fetching the key, etcetera. If the machine doesn’t have the representation “unlock the door” then it can’t really ever make progress on that task.”

Ultimately, Russell wants to give AI a purpose – one that aligns with human values. “You build a system that’s extremely good at optimizing some utility function, but the utility function isn’t quite right,” he says. “In [Oxford philosopher] Nick Bostrom’s book [Superintelligence], he has this example of paperclips. You say, “Make some paperclips.” And it turns the entire planet into a vast junkyard of paperclips. You build a super-optimizer; what utility function do you give it? Because it’s going to do it.”

Thank you Quanta Magazine for providing us with this information.

Atari Rushes to Fix Horrible Graphics in Upcoming RollerCoaster Tycoon

The latest trailer release for RolleCoaster Tycoon World displayed some unimpressive graphics, which is a worrying indicator to the effort went into making the game. This is why Atari plans on fixing its mistake with a new graphical overhaul.

“We have heard you and we concur; the trailer did not show the final game and the game everyone should expect from the RCT franchise,” reads the Atari blog post from late last week.

The title is still in pre-alpha stages and Atari states that the features and graphical fidelity will improve before the game is released. The company states that developer Area 52 will be updating the version of Unity, the engine in which the game is built on, from version four to five.

Atari also states that RCTW will benefit from more “realistic” art style, that will make the rides “feel like they can be found in real life. This means that there are more than just a few tweaks and improvements being made to the title.

However, the improvements may also cause a push-back on the release date for the game, having Atari stating that it will release RCTW when it knows that it’s ready.

Thank you KitGuru for providing us with this information

First Gameplay Footage of RollerCoaster Tycoon World Revealed

Atari and Area 52 Games have unveiled a tantalising glimpse of gameplay footage from the first RollerCoaster Tycoon game in 11 years.

RollerCoaster Tycoon World, the fourth game in the series, does not look drastically different from RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, released 2004, but if the sequel plays as well as its predecessor, that might not be a bad thing. However, that does make the demanding CPU recommended specifications a tad confusing.

http://youtu.be/9bXBWNrIt1Y

RollerCoaster Tycoon World is due out for PC mid-2015.

Source: Game Debate

Legend Of Buried Atari E.T. Cartridges Confirmed!

There are many legends in the video game industry,but none of them are as grand as Atari E.T. legend. The game was terrible, but ATARI was so confident of themselves that they over paid for the licence to create it and produced vast quantities of the cartridges. So bad was the fallout from this game when it launched, that it was blamed for the console gaming markets collapse which follow less than a year after the games release. Which makes me wonder why the music industry isn’t in ruin after Justin Beiber released his first album… strange.

ATARI was losing vast amounts of money when the game failed to sell and the rumour, turned legend, turned myth, was that ATARI secretly buried tens of thousands of copies of the game in a Mexican landfill. A year or so ago, a team went to Kickstarter and had hopes of setting out on an epic expedition to uncover the truth of ATARI’s hidden shame, and today they turned up quite a surprise. The contents of the dig site have been lost to history for over 30 years, but as you can see from the picture above, the team have uncovered evidence of the buried content, which appears to contain Centipede, not just E.T.

Atari paid millions to get the rights to the movie for their game, and ended up creating one of the (if not THE) worst video game ever to grace our screens! So bad that some have suggested the games should be left buried. However, what was once a myth is now confirmed as a true piece of video game history and you’ll be able to find out even more in the coming months as the team releases their official documentary of the trip.

Thank you Polygon for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Polygon.

Microsoft Documentary Series To Excavate Site Of Rumoured Buried E.T. Atari Games

I’m wondering how many of our readers still remember this legend? For those of you who don’t, it’s long been rumoured in the games industry that a landfill in New Mexico contains many thousands of copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Atari game. It’s worth pointing out that it is there for a damn good reason, the game was all manor of awful, long regarded as one of the worst games ever created. However, it was created at a time when the industry was in a state of flux and its safe to say, they made too many copies and didn’t sell enough. There was immense shame to be hidden and in the middle of the night, 30 years ago, the game was buried in the hope no one would find out what they had done. It was too little too late.

Microsoft have now secured the exclusive rights for a documentary series and episode 1 is said to get right to the heart of this mystery as film maker Zak Penn will start digging up the landfill in New Mexico to see if there is any truth to the mass grave of video games. Since Microsoft are distributing the series, it will be available on Xbox 360 and Xbox One first, no word on other formats has been announced so far.

Filming for the new series begins in January and according to Nancy Tellem, Xbox Entertainment Studios President “expose how the digital revolution created a global democracy of information, entertainment and commerce”, what ever that means.

Thank you Gigaom for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gigaom.

1992 Classic “Flashback” Reimagined For Xbox & PS3

If you asked me to create a list of my top ten all time favourite games in the world, ever, then you can bet you backside that the original Flashback would be on that list. While I fell in love with the game on the SEGA Megadrive, it found it’s self homes on many platforms such as the Amiga when it was released back in 1992.

The game isn’t just any old side scroller either as it is still in my opinion a great story, an exciting action puzzler and one of the best sci-fi games around, thankfully many people in this world agree with me and it looks like they’ve given the game an impressive make over for a brand new generation and given us older gamers a chance to revisit a fond favourite.

Set to be released on the PS3 and the Xbox 360 the new game i reimagined with 3D and HD graphics, although it still keeps its original side scrolling gameplay. The story is intact, the map layout should still feel familiar, but many other things have been tweaked and improved to fit modern-day consoles and gamers, such as an XP progression system.

In an official QA provided by Ubisoft, developer Vectorcell says that the updated game was inspired by the 20th anniversary of the original. “We thought we could both honor our fans who have been asking us for the return of Conrad for a long time and also allow a younger audience to discover the universe of Flashback.”

Stay tuned for more updates on what could be the best downloadable title this year.

Thank you Shacknews for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Shacknews.

 

Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell Says Xbox 720 To Be Stronger Than The PS4

Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell, has stated he believes Microsoft’s Xbox 720 will emerge stronger than Sony’s PlayStation 4 when the next generation of consoles arrive. He claims Sony’s PS4 will be held back by lame and difficult to understand software tools.

“I personally believe Microsoft is in a superior position, and the reason is Sony, whenever they change consoles, the software tools that they have are lame,” Bushnell said. “A lot of times in the past they were in Japanese; not well documented and getting the software development community up to speed…they may have been able to do it in Japan, but the American software community just says ‘Oh boy, what a pain.’ And a lot of people don’t realize how strong the software community is at making the hardware platform sing and dance.”

Bushnell’s comments come after a number of high profile developers, such as Gearbox Software’s CEO Randy Pitchford, praised Sony’s PlayStation 4 for its exciting potential. Linus Blombery, Avalanche Studios Co-Founder, even went as far to say that the Sony PS4 would out-power most gaming PCs for years to come.

However, Bushnell’s argument is that the software drives the hardware sales and he believes Microsoft have a better software environment to allow game developers to produce better games and produce them faster.

“Microsoft, because of their strong software tools, will end up with much better products sooner [and] easier, in my estimation,” Bushnell said. “And with that, I think will be an advantage. And also don’t forget, Microsoft actually has so much money to defend this. Plus, they have a good infrastructure with the [Xbox Live Arcade], with their online world.”

Even though he makes a strong point, I am still skeptical. Most game developers would want to synchronize their PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 releases at the same time so I am not sure his vision will ever come into force.

Bushnell’s final dig at Sony was a criticism of what he calls their “God awful” online infrastructure and that he thinks they really need to get their act together.

Microsoft’s Xbox 720 is expected to be announce in May and arrive this holiday season. Sony’s PlayStation 4 has already been announced and is also expected to arrive this holiday season.

What do you think of Bushnell’s comments? Does he have a point or is he acting like a fanboy?

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