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Facebook lowers video quality in Latin America, following Europe – Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: A Facebook logo is displayed on a smartphone in this illustration taken January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc will lower video streaming quality on its platform and on Instagram in Latin America, replicating measures adopted in Europe, to ease network congestion in a region that is starting to feel the grip of the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the world’s largest social network followed the steps of Netflix, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Amazon and Walt Disney in response to a call by the European Union to stave off internet gridlock as thousands of people work from home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“To help alleviate any potential network congestion, we will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Latin America,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, adding the company is working with partners to manage bandwidth constraints amid heavier demand.

Brazilian streaming platform GloboPlay, owned by the country’s largest TV channel, announced that video streaming in 4K and Full High Definition would be temporarily suspended as of Monday to preserve Brazil’s internet infrastructure and allow more people to access its contents.

Asked about future plans to lower streaming quality in Brazil, like it did in Europe, Netflix said it “will continue to work with internet service providers and governments all over the world and will apply these changes in other places if necessary.”

Local telecoms regulator Anatel has signed a commitment pact with carriers and other providers to keep Brazilians connected during the coronavirus outbreak, creating a crisis committee to coordinate actions and monitor data traffic and the network capacity.

“Anatel, within the scope of the risk management and network performance monitoring group, will prioritize emergency solutions whose main goal is the continuity of the service and its access by the Brazilian population,” the regulator said.

Reporting by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Sealed Copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ Sells for $114,000 at Auction – Rolling Stone

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A sealed copy of the Super Mario Bros. became the highest-selling video game ever at auction Friday with a winning bid of $114,000.

The 1985 cartridge, still in its original plastic sealing, sold to an anonymous bidder at Heritage Auctions’ event. The $114,000 winning bid bested the previous auction record of $100,000 for a single video game; that mark, set in February 2019, was also established by a sealed copy of Super Mario Bros.

“The demand for this game was extremely high, and if any lot in the sale could hit a number like that, it was going to be this one,” Heritage Auctions Video Games Director Valarie McLeckie said in a statement. “We knew this would be a strong live session, but I don’t think anybody could have anticipated how much bidding action there was on Heritage Live! and the phones.”

Graded in A+ condition, this unopened version of Super Mario Bros. featured “hangtabs,” a rare and short-lived variant of the game’s original packaging.

“This unopened copy of this [Nintendo] launch title soared to record heights in part because it was part of one of the short production runs of the game packaged in boxes with a cardboard hangtab underneath the plastic, an indication that it was part of one of the first variants produced after Nintendo started using shrink-wrap to seal the games rather than stickers,” Heritage Auctions said of the packaging.

In total, Friday’s auction of sealed Nintendo games brought in over $699,000, well exceeding its $428,000 pre-estimate auction. Other notable items included a sealed copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out that sold for $50,000 and a first-pressing, ultra-rare copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 that had the “Bros.” placed on the left side of the front cover; that item, one of only 10 known to exist, sold for $38,000.

In 2015, an excavated batch of 900 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Atari games sold at auction for $108,000.

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Google teasing Nest product launch annoucement for July 13 – MobileSyrup

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Google’s Nest Twitter account is teasing “something special” is coming on July 13th, which could likely be about the company’s upcoming smart speaker.

There have been several reports about Google’s upcoming smart speaker codenamed ‘Prince,’ as it recently appeared on the FCC’s website. Google itself also released images of the device a few days ago, which indicated that a launch was imminent.

It’s possible that Google plans to reveal more details about the speaker, or maybe announce more Nest products. However, it’s important to note that there haven’t been any rumours or leaks about other Nest products.

The original Google Home smart speaker launched back in 2017 in Canada after the smart speaker released in the U.S. in 2016. It was recently marked as “no longer available” in the Google Store, which indicated that it has been discontinued.

Images suggest that the speaker takes on a similar aesthetic to the Nest Mini with an all-fabric design. It will reportedly also have larger drivers, which should contribute to improved audio quality.

The speaker also sports a physical mute switch like the Nest Mini instead of the button on the original Google Home. Google seems to have changed up the plug as well, getting rid of the nifty hidden plug seen on the original Google Home for something that just plugs into the back of the speaker.

We’ll likely hear more about the device and its availability quite soon.

Source: @GoogleNest Via: Android Police

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Nintendo's Brutal Mario Game. Shigeru Miyamoto and his team were… | by James Burns | SUPERJUMP | Jul, 2020 – Medium

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Shigeru Miyamoto and his team made a “kaizo” game long before fan hacks emerged

James Burns

Jul 12 · 7 min read

Have you ever heard of a kaizo game? The concept is pretty straightforward. Players take an existing game — including its assets, like character sprites — and “remix” them to build eye-wateringly difficult levels. There’s a whole culture around kaizo games. If you’re curious, I highly recommend checking out Josh Bycer’s fantastic piece on the topic.

One of the most fascinating elements of kaizo games is the concept of a kaizo trap. The idea is that the designer sets up a particularly nasty obstacle that the player will trigger with little to no forewarning. It’s often the case that these traps are aimed squarely at players who attempt to take the easiest path through a level. I think of it as a kind of contrapasso, which makes it all the more delightfully fiendish.

Most people would probably think of kaizo games as setting out to achieve the exact opposite of what games generally aim for. For the most part, video game designers try to carefully balance difficulty. Challenge is important, but overwhelmingly punishing difficulty (where, for instance, players routinely encounter unavoidable deaths) is usually a sign of poor game design. Kaizo games avoid the “poor game design” moniker because they are deliberately designed to inflict maximum pain, and players understand this when diving in.

Aside from the specific mechanical traits that make a kaizo game, well…kaizo, there’s another important ingredient at play: it’s the fans taking an established game and “hacking” it in order to turn it into the equivalent of running uphill during a landslide.

But what happens when a prominent, family-friendly game company converts one of its most iconic, beloved titles into a heinous meat grinder?

That’s exactly what Nintendo did in 1986, when they released Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Famicom Disk System in Japan.

The story behind Super Mario Bros. 2 is fascinating and there are many wonderful documentaries on the internet that dive into quite some detail on the topic. For now, though, I’ll give you the crash course.

Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 and became a global phenomenon. Nintendo wanted to rapidly follow it up with a sequel, which was due to be released on the Famicom Disk System (an attachment for the Famicom console that played games on special re-writeable disks). There was a feeling that many Japanese players had already mastered Super Mario Bros., and therefore needed a more challenging sequel. Nintendo marketed Super Mario Bros. 2 as being “for super players”. Unfortunately, the game was so brutal that Nintendo of America didn’t want to publish it (leading to another title — Doki Doki Panic — being retrofitted to become Super Mario Bros. 2 in western markets). The “real” Super Mario Bros. 2 would eventually be released in western markets as part of the 1993 Super Mario All-Stars compilation for Super Nintendo. On the compilation, it would become known as Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels.

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Super Mario Bros. 2 (Famicom Disk System) box art. Source: inserteaquititulodeblog.wordpress.com.

Let me just say: I’m a huge Mario fan. And I’m pretty damn good at Mario games, if I do say so myself. But I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros. 2 — not until recently, that is. The ability to play this game as part of the Nintendo Switch Online NES catalogue (with those sweet, sweet save states) has been a literal game-changer for me.

I always knew Super Mario Bros. 2 was difficult. What I didn’t really appreciate until my latest play through is just how blatantly treacherous Nintendo’s designers could really be. This game is full of dark patterns that strike at the heart of Nintendo’s own Mario rulebook. This is, in part, what makes Super Mario Bros. 2 so much fun to play. It’s as though the Mario team got utterly ruined on sake after a haywire office party, said fuck it, and took a match to the million-seller they’d only just shipped.

Let’s start with the most well-known change: the poison mushroom. This little bastard appears right away in World 1–1. Sure, it looks like the recently-paroled cousin of the regular super mushroom upon close inspection. But if you’ve just arrived here from the first game, your instinct will be to pick up whatever looks like a “power up”. Doing so is the equivalent of absent-mindedly putting your hand on a hot stove: after recoiling from the sting, you’ll immediately be on a more careful and deliberate footing.

Don’t worry, though: the poison mushroom is just the beginning of the fuckery. How about World 3–1’s backwards warp pipe? Just like the original game, you will find warp pipes at various points and some of them will certainly propel you forward to later worlds. World 3–1 is a masterclass in psychological warfare. You find the springboard right before the flagpole. As you fly right over said flagpole, you just know you’re in for some Nintendo magic. How exciting! Sure enough, you’ll eventually stumble upon a warp pipe. Then you realise it’s a World 1 warp pipe and you have no way of avoiding it (other than falling into the pit and losing a life). It’s like someone asking you to taste some delicious cake batter from a wooden spoon…only to smack you in the teeth with the same spoon a moment later.

There’s a whole lot more to contend with in Super Mario Bros. 2. Some jumps are physically impossible unless you first find a hidden block in the environment to leap from. Even then, some of these blocks are high enough that you can’t easily jump on them from a standing start — it’s necessary to get a good run up, leap on the hidden block, and then leap across the impossible chasm.

Later in the game, you’ll encounter powerful gusts of wind that violently propel Mario across the screen while in mid-air. I found World 7–3 particularly challenging. In order to navigate through the level you need to use springboards while dealing with the wind gusts. Because the springboards propel Mario up “above” the visible are of the level, it’s incredibly difficult to know where he’ll land when he eventually comes back down.

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Source: Nintendo.

Although it’s filled with devious twists and turns, I am being slightly hyperbolic when I suggest that it’s a kaizo game. There’s nothing here that’s inherently unfair; nothing that leaves the player with no recourse. Rather, Super Mario Bros. 2 is a clear indication that Miyamoto and co. understand their own creation down to the pixel. They know exactly what skills you had to master in the original game, and the expectations you established based on that game’s rules. The deliberate violation of these rules in the sequel doesn’t imply that Nintendo abandoned all sense and structure. Rather, your muscle memory is used against you in an effort to shake you from complacency. It’s almost like being forced to write with your opposite hand — the basic rules of writing are the same, but you can’t entirely fall back on what you already know. You’re pushed back into a growth mindset, where knowledge is again replaced with curiosity. For this reason, I’d say Super Mario Bros. 2 is great to dive into right after you’ve finished Super Mario Bros. Playing both back-to-back will further sharpen your appreciation of the sequel.

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Source: Nintendo.

Remember, too: if you’ve never played Super Mario Bros. 2 then you will die and this will likely be a repeated occurrence. This is why playing the original version with limited lives is extremely tricky. But if you’re playing on Nintendo Switch, don’t be ashamed to take advantage of those save states. They make the game accessible enough to work your way through without entirely dulling the (good) pain.

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