Twitch Terminates All Members of Its Safety Advisory Council

According to CNBC, Twitch is expected to terminate all members of its Safety Advisory Council on Friday. “The council is a resource of nine industry experts, streamers and moderators who consulted on trust and safety issues related to children on Twitch, nudity, banned users and more,” notes the report. From the report: The Amazon-owned game-streaming company formed its Safety Advisory Council in May 2020 to “enhance Twitch’s approach to issues of trust and safety” on the platform and guide decisions, according to a company webpage. The council advised Twitch on “drafting new policies and policy updates,” “developing products and features to improve safety and moderation” and “protecting the interests of marginalized groups,” per the webpage.

For four years, the group advised the company on “hate raids” on marginalized groups and nudity policies, among other things. But in the afternoon of May 6, council members were called into a meeting after receiving an email that all existing contracts would conclude on May 31, 2024, and that they would not receive payment for the second half of 2024. The council was not made up of Twitch employees, but rather advisors, including Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center; Emma LlansÃ, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Free Expression Project; and Dr. T.L. Taylor, co-founder and director of AnyKey, which advocates for diversity and inclusion in gaming.

“Looking ahead, the Safety Advisory Council will primarily be made up of individuals who serve as Twitch Ambassadors,” the email, viewed by CNBC, stated. In a formal notice in the same email, the company wrote, “Pursuant to section 5(a) of the SAC advisor Agreement, we are writing to provide you with notice of termination… This means that the second 2024 payment won’t be issued.” Twitch Ambassadors are users of the streaming platform “chosen specifically because of the positive impact they’ve contributed to the Twitch community,” according to the company’s website. Payment depended on the length of the contract, but council members were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 per 12-month period, according to a source familiar with the contracts.

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Pareto’s Economic Theories Used To Find the Best Mario Kart 8 Racer

Data scientist Antoine Mayerowitz, PhD, applied Vilfredo Pareto’s (the early 20th-century Italian economist) theories to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to determine the best racer combinations. “When you break down the build options (including driver stats and various vehicle details) in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, there are over 700,000 possible combinations,” notes Engadget. “But once you eliminate duplicates that differ only in appearance, you can narrow it down to ‘only’ 25,704 possibilities.” From the report: Pareto’s theories, most notably the Pareto front, help us navigate the complexities of choice. They can pinpoint the solutions with the most balanced strengths and the fewest trade-offs. Pareto’s work is about efficiency and effectiveness. […] Mayerowitz’s Pareto front analysis lets you narrow your possibilities down to the 14 most efficient. And it turns out the game’s top players were onto something: One of the combinations with the most ideal balance of speed, acceleration and mini-turbo is Cat Peach driving the Teddy Buggy, roller tires and cloud glider — one already favored among Mario Kart 8 competitors.

Of course, if that combination isn’t your cup of tea, there are others that allow you to stay within the Pareto front’s optimal range. As Eurogamer points out, Donkey Kong, Wario (my old standby, mostly because he makes me laugh) and Princess Peach are often highlighted as drivers, and you can use Mayerowitz’s data fields to find the best matching vehicles. Keep in mind that others have identical stats, so racers like Villager (female), Inkling Girl and Diddy Kong are separated only by appearances.

To find your ideal racer, you can head over to Mayerowitz’s website. There, you can enter your most prized stats and view the combos that give you the best balance (those highlighted in yellow), according to Pareto’s theories.

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Warner Bros. is Now Erasing Games As It Plans To Delist Adult Swim-Published Titles

Michael McWhertor reports via Polygon: Warner Bros. Discovery is telling developers it plans to start “retiring” games published by its Adult Swim Games label, game makers who worked with the publisher tell Polygon. At least three games are under threat of being removed from Steam and other digital stores, with the fate of other games published by Adult Swim unclear. The media conglomerate’s planned removal of those games echoes cuts from its film and television business; Warner Bros. Discovery infamously scrapped plans to release nearly complete movies Batgirl and Coyote vs. Acme, and removed multiple series from its streaming services. If Warner Bros. does go through with plans to delist Adult Swim’s games from Steam and digital console stores, 18 or more games could be affected.

News of the Warner Bros. plan to potentially pull Adult Swim’s games from Steam and the PlayStation Store was first reported by developer Owen Reedy, who released puzzle-adventure game Small Radios Big Televisions through the label in 2016. Reedy said on X Tuesday the game was being “retired” by Adult Swim Games’ owner. He responded to the company’s decision by making the Windows PC version of Small Radios Big Televisions available to download for free from his studio’s website. Polygon reached out to other developers who had worked with Adult Swim Games as a publisher. Two studios responded to say that they’d received a similar warning from Warner Bros. Discovery, but they are still in the dark about what it means for their games. […]

Polygon reached out to 10 studios and solo developers who had their games published by Adult Swim Games to see what they’ve heard. Some say they haven’t been contacted by WB Discovery, but they expect to. “From what I’ve heard from others, I will probably be hearing from them soon,” developer Andrew Morrish, who published Kingsway and Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe through Adult Swim, told Polygon. “It’s not looking good.” Molinari said that if and when his game Soundodger+ is pulled from Steam, he’ll republish it there “with as little downtime as possible between the two versions.” The game is also available from Molinari’s itch page.

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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 “”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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