Modder Recreates Game Boy Advance Games Using the Audio From Crash Sounds

Kevin Purdy reports via Ars Technica: Sometimes, a great song can come from great pain. The Game Boy Advance (GBA), its software having crashed nearly two hours ago, will, for example, play a tune based on the game inside it. And if you listen closely enough — using specialty hardware and code — you can tell exactly what game it was singing about. And then theoretically play that same game. This was discovered recently by TheZZAZZGlitch, whose job is to “sadistically glitch and hack the crap out of Pokemon games. It’s “hardly a ready-to-use solution,” the modder notes, as it requires a lot of tuning specific to different source formats. So while there are certainly easier ways to get GBA data from a cartridge, none make you feel quite so much like an audio datamancer.

After crashing a GBA and recording it over four hours, the modder saw some telltale waveforms in a sound file at about the 1-hour, 50-minute mark. Later in the sound-out, you can hear the actual instrument sounds and audio samples the game contains, played in sequence. Otherwise, it’s 8-bit data at 13,100 Hz, and at times, it sounds absolutely deranged. “2 days of bugfixing later,” the modder had a Python script ready that could read the audio from a clean recording of the GBA’s crash dump. Did it work? Not without more troubleshooting. One issue with audio-casting ROM data is that there are large sections of 0-byte data in the ROM, which are hard to parse as mute sounds. After running another script that realigned sections based on their location in the original ROM, the modder’s ROM was 99.76 percent accurate but “still didn’t boot tho.” TheZZAZZGlitch later disclaimed that, yes, this is technically using known ROM data to surface unknown data, or “cheating,” but there are assumptions and guesses one could make if you were truly doing this blind.

The next fix was to refine the sound recording. By recording three times and merging them with a “majority vote” algorithm, their accuracy notched up to 99.979 percent. That output ROM booted — but with glitched text and a title screen crash. After seven different recordings are meshed and filtered for blank spaces, they achieve 100 percent parity. You can watch the video describing this feat here. Used source code is also available under the file name “gbacrashsound_dumper.zip.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Valve Takes Action Against Team Fortress 2, Portal Fan Projects After Years of Leniency

Dustin Bailey reports via GamesRadar: Valve has suddenly taken action against multiple fan games, stunning a fandom that had grown used to the company’s freewheeling stance on unofficial community projects. One of those projects was Team Fortress: Source 2, an effort to bring the beloved multiplayer game back to life in a more modern engine using the S&box project. The project had already run into development difficulties and had essentially been on hiatus since September 2023, but now Valve has issued a DMCA takedown against it, effectively serving as the “nail in the coffin” for the project, as the devs explain on X. […]

The other project is Portal 64, a demake of the 2009 puzzle game that ports it to run on an actual N64. Developer James Lambert had been working on the project for years, but it gained substantial notoriety this past December with the release of First Slice, a playable demo featuring the first 13 test chambers. It doesn’t appear that Valve issued a formal DMCA against Portal 64, but the end result is the same. In a Patreon post (which was eventually made public on X), Lambert said he had “been in communication with Valve about the future of the project. There is some news and it isn’t good. Because the project depends on Nintendo’s proprietary libraries, they have asked me to take the project down.”

I’m not fully clear on what “proprietary libraries” means here, but it seems likely that Portal 64 was developed using some variation of Nintendo’s official development tools for N64, which were never officially released to the public. Open-source alternatives to those tools do exist, but might not have been in use here. […] Given Valve’s historic acceptance of fan games, the moves have been pretty shocking to the community.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The 2023 Video Game Hall of Fame Inductees

Slashdot reader Dave Knott shares the four class of 2023 inductees into the Video Game Hall Of Fame. They were announced today at The Strong National Museum of Play. From the press release: Barbie Fashion Designer : “The 1996 hit Barbie Fashion Designer emerged at a time when many games were marketed to male players. Published by Digital Domain/Mattel Media, it proved that a computer game targeted to girls could succeed, selling more than 500,000 copies in two months. The game helped greatly expanded the market for video games and in the process opened important — and ongoing — discussions about gender and stereotypes in gaming. Barbie Fashion Designer was also innovative in bridging the gap between the digital and the physical, allowing players to design clothes for their Barbie dolls and print them on special fabric.”

Computer Space : “Nutting Associate’s Computer Space appeared in 1971 and was the first commercial video game. Inspired by the early minicomputer and previous World Video Game Hall of Fame inductee — Spacewar! (1962) — the coin-operated Computer Space proved that video games could reach an audience outside of computer labs. While not a best-seller, it was a trailblazer in the video game world and inspired its creators to go on to establish Atari Inc., a video game giant in the 1970s and 1980s.”

The Last of Us : “Released by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment in 2013, The Last of Us jumped into an oversaturated field of post-apocalyptic zombie games and quickly stood out among the rest with its in-depth storytelling, intimate exploration of humanity, thrilling game jumps and cutscenes, and its memorable characters. More than 200 publications named it the game of the year in 2013. Its story has since made the jump to Hollywood, inspiring an HBO adaptation in 2023 watched weekly by millions.”

Wii Sports : “Wii Sports launched with the Nintendo Wii home video game system in 2006 and introduced motion-based technology to living rooms across the world. With a simple swipe of the controller, players could serve a tennis ball, hurl a bowling bowl, throw a left hook, or drive a golf ball. The simple mechanics made the game accessible to almost anyone — allowing it to be played by young children and seniors alike — and helped to redefine the idea of who is a “gamer.” Ultimately, the game helped Nintendo to sell more than 100 million Wii consoles worldwide.” These titles managed to beat out several other incredibly popular titles, including Angry Birds, Age of Empires, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, GoldenEye 007, NBA 2K, FIFA International Soccer, Quake, and Wizardry.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why There’s No Room For Suburbs In Open-World Games

VICE’s Ade Adeniji booted up The Crew 2, GTA V, GTA San Andreas, Saints Row, and Watch Dogs 2, and noticed a interesting pattern: there are no suburbs to be seen. “We are transported to major cities and vast countrysides, but nothing that really speaks to the in between — to the suburbs,” writes Adeniji. “[H]ow can open world games leave out a space that we fundamentally see as Americana? Is this about design choices and constraints, or does it speak to something deeper about how we really view American suburbs — and how desperately we want to escape them?” Here’s an excerpt from the report: I figured I would first take my suburbia question to someone who has been creating games since the early 1970s. Don Daglow, pioneer of the MMORPG genre with Neverwinter Nights, broke down his answer into three parts: scale, visual interest, and stereotypes. In terms of scale, suburbs typically have lots of smaller, more repetitive environmental elements when compared to cities. Think strip malls and identical homes versus the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. “Big objects in the environment create vertical movement opportunities as well as horizontal movement in 3D spaces. You can support superhero skills, think Spider Man, and jumping, think early Assassins Creed.” Daglow said. “Godzilla never attacked a small suburb on the rail line north of Tokyo. Why would he waste his time there when there’s so much more to chomp downtown?”

Lazlow Jones, voice of GTA III’s Chatterbox FM and a longtime director, writer, and producer at Rockstar Games, agreed. But Rockstar itself made a gradual progression from the chaotic cities of GTA to the open natural worlds of Red Dead. Then the company brought the two together in GTA V. “When I was at Rockstar, we started off focusing on open world games set in urban areas because it gave us great density,” Lazlow began. “But over the years we expanded to rural environments while keeping them interesting and engaging.” […] Carly Kocurek, who teaches in the Game Design and Experiential Media program at Illinois Tech, says suburbs operate in the realm of “perceived beigeness” making it hard to imagine them as settings for the kinds of stories and worlds we see most often in open world games. To the extent that suburbia does show up strongly, these spaces often serve as a starting or transition point for a character, akin to maybe the first 10 minutes of a film, or the movie’s midpoint.

There are other design reasons why suburbs don’t feature prominently in video games and why sparse areas away from intriguing points of interest are often the first to get cut. “You’re really trying to compress a massive space in real life, into a virtual space which is actually really small. It’s like taking something and cutting it down by 10x,” explained Will Harris, who led the open world design team at Light Speed LA. Harris says that in world building, one of the first steps is thinking about defining features. What makes Chicago, for instance, feel different than Washington D.C.? Huge landmarks immediately orient us in a specific space and differentiate it from others. And woe unto you if you do try to architect suburbs in large numbers. Developers could try to build out distinct houses, began Erik Villarreal, an environmental artist at Visual Concepts/2K. “But this requires a developer to create homes that stand out from each other, which can be time consuming and tie up a lot of resources,” he said. Harris adds that there are only so many mechanics in sandbox gameplay and design. He calls the suburbs “interstitial spaces.” But the larger these spaces become, the more unwieldy, and the more quickly the player realizes that these spaces are superficial. We’ve all had the frustrating experience in gaming where we reach a certain part of a map, but then discover there’s nothing actually to do there. “So the Staten Island kit gets vaporized. We trim the fat.” Harris says.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Razer Made a Soundbar That Tracks Your Head To Optimize Sound

The popular gaming tech company just announced the Leviathan V2 Pro at CES 2023, the latest addition to its existing range of soundbars designed to provide compact, low-profile audio for PC gamers. The Verge reports: Created in partnership with THX and Audioscenic, Razer claims that the Leviathan V2 Pro can envelop a user with “3D audio” by combining beamforming surround sound with head-tracking AI technology. A built-in IR camera can detect the user’s position, allowing the soundbar to optimize sound by adapting the audio beams to the listener’s position in real time. There are two modes available for the 3D audio feature: THX Spatial Audio Virtual Headset for stereo content that allegedly mimics positional audio typically found in headsets and THX Spatial Audio Virtual Speakers for multi-channel audio that fills a room like a home theatre system. Given this is a Razer product, it also comes with customizable Chroma RGB lighting effects across 30 different lighting zones — dwarfing the 18 zones you get on the standard Leviathan V2 soundbar.

The Razer Leviathan V2 Pro also comes with a subwoofer to enhance bass. A dedicated 3.5mm input for the subwoofer is included on the rear of the soundbar, alongside a second 3.5mm port for headphones, a power adapter port, and a single USB-C port to connect to your PC. The Leviathan V2 Pro also supports Bluetooth 5.0 if you want to wirelessly connect it to your computer or mobile device. Interesting features and funky lighting aside, pricing is going to be the hardest sell for the Leviathan V2 Pro. Starting at $399.99, it’s considerably more expensive than both the standard Leviathan V2 ($249.99) and Leviathan V2 X ($99.99), but you do at least get more ports with this latest model. The Leviathan V2 Pro will be available to buy from February 2023 (if you have deep enough pockets for the purchase).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.