War Stories: How Forza learned to love neural nets to train AI drivers

Produced by Justin Wolfson, edited by Shandor Garrison. Click here for transcript.
Once an upstart, the Forza franchise is now firmly established within the pantheon of great racing games. The first installment was created as the Xbox’s answer to Gran Turismo, but with a healthy helping of online multiplayer racing, too. Since then, it has grown with Microsoft’s Xbox consoles, with more realistic graphics and ever-more accurate physics in the track-focused Forza Motorsport series as well as evolving into open-world adventuring (and even a trip to the Lego dimension) for the Forza Horizon games.
If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve played a Forza racing game, you’re probably aware of the games’ AI opponents, called “Drivatars.” When the first Drivatars debuted in Forza Motorsport in 2005, they were a substantial improvement over the NPCs we raced in other driving games, which often just followed the same preprogrammed route around the


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1705877

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Star Trek: Discovery S3 goes back to the future in first trailer

Star Trek: Discovery returns to CBS All Access for a third season on October 15, 2020.
It’s Star Trek Day today, marking the 54th anniversary of the TV debut of Star Trek: The Original Series. CBS All Access celebrated by streaming an entire day of programming related to the franchise, including several panels for its ongoing and forthcoming series. Among other tidbits, CBS dropped the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery’s third season.
(Spoilers for first two seasons below.)
Discovery is a prequel to the original Star Trek, set roughly 10 years before Captain Kirk and his crew took over the USS Enterprise and boldly went where no man had gone before. It stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, an orphaned human raised on the planet Vulcan by none other than Sarek (James Frain) and his human wife, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner)—aka, Spock’s parents, which makes her Spock’s adoptive sister. Read 8 remaining paragraphs


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1704577

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Xbox Series S confirmed by Microsoft after next-gen Xbox price leak [Updated]

The official Microsoft reveal of Xbox Series S, posted in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after a Monday evening leak. [credit:
Xbox
]

On Monday evening, a floodgate opened about Microsoft’s next-gen console launch plans. Multiple reports, along with a telling video snippet, put an exclamation point on the company’s leaked aspirations to launch the “Xbox Series X” console (announced in late 2019) next to a cheaper, smaller “Xbox Series S” model by year’s end.
Hours after the reports went live, Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Series S indeed exists. Described by Microsoft as “the smallest Xbox ever,” this new console will launch at a $299 price point.
Longtime Microsoft-tracking reporter Brad Sams kicked off the flurry of Monday news with a screenshot showing an apparent Xbox Series S design, colored white and roughly half the size of an Xbox Series X, next to a


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1704312

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Wasteland 3 impressions: Post-apocalyptic tactics, ethics, and economics

Enlarge / You might not like it, but this—along with a giant sack of burritos just off-camera to the left—is what peak cRPG gaming looks like. (credit: Jim Salter)

When I got the chance to play a pre-release copy of inXile’s post-apocalyptic RPG Wasteland 3, I jumped at it. As a huge fan of RPGs in general and a backer of Wasteland 2, getting to play the next game in the series for my job was an obvious no-brainer. For those who aren’t already familiar with the series, it’s a darkly humorous tactical battler, set in an alternate-universe post-apocalyptic America divided into widely separated fiefdoms and sprawling chaos.
If you’re thinking “like Fallout, but turn-based?” you’re not too far off—there are a lot of similarities between Wasteland’s and Fallout’s versions of post-WWIII America, including some hilariously retrofuturistic touches. But where Fallout’s world seems to have sprung from the late ’50s, Wasteland’s setting branches out from somewhere in


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1701206

Original article

High Score review: Netflix’s story of gaming’s “golden age” is honestly solid

Enlarge / The series’ title is silly, but it’s actually such a good series that we found ourselves nitpicking its faults instead of feeling entirely embarrassed by it. In the gaming-media world, we’ll call that progress. (credit: Netflix)
We at Ars Technica’s gaming section are flattered by High Score, the newest docu-series launching August 19 on Netflix. The easiest way to describe this gaming-centric interview series, split into six 40-minute episodes, is to give a shoutout our own War Stories video series.
For a few years, War Stories has been asking developers of beloved game series to explain how they overcame problems and got their eventual classics to your favorite PCs and consoles. Netflix’s new series does something very similar: it asks members of the game industry to stitch together a narrative of gaming’s so-called “golden era,” which, in their eyes, begins with Space Invaders in arcades and ends with Doom


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1697326

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An Ars roundup of the many trailers unveiled this weekend during Comic-Con@Home

Enlarge / Several studios unveiled new teasers and trailers for their 2020 fall series during Comic-Con@Home (credit: Sean Carroll (AMC/Hulu/HBO/Fox/Amazon))
People might not be able to flock to San Diego Comic Con this year in person, but the virtual convention, Comic-Con@Home, has been running all weekend, with countless panels, sneak peeks, and teasers and trailers for upcoming TV shows—but not many films, because let’s be honest: it’s not looking so good for major theatrical film releases in the fall. On Thursday alone, we got the full trailer for Bill and Ted Face the Music, a teaser for the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost horror comedy Truth Seekers, and the first trailer for S2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials. Rather than continue to cover each individually, we decided to compile the remaining trailers of interest into a single roundup post.
HBO dropped the final trailer for Lovecraft Country, debuting August 16.
Lovecraft Country (HBO)
HBO


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1694267

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Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gets free xCloud game streaming in September

Remember the old Xbox “Jump In” ad campaign? Apparently it’s back. [credit:
Microsoft
]

Last November, Microsoft announced that its Project xCloud game-streaming service (which is currently in open beta) would eventually be integrated with its Xbox Game Pass subscription service in some form. This morning, Microsoft added a bit more clarity to that integration, announcing in a blog post that xCloud streaming will be available “at no additional cost for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members” starting in September.
Microsoft promises that “over 100 Xbox Game Pass titles” will be available for xCloud streaming “on your phone or tablet” as part of a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. That’s a much smaller selection than the 234 Xbox 360 and Xbox One games that are currently available to download as part of the subscription, not to mention the 140 or so PC-exclusive downloads that are


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1692027

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One tricky racing sim: Assetto Corsa Competizione is now on consoles

Day or night, rain or shine, we race on. [credit:
505 Games
]

On Tuesday, sim-racing options for the Xbox One and Playstation 4 just got a little more diverse with the release of Assetto Corsa Competizione. The game is a companion of sorts to the well-established PC racing sim Assetto Corsa, developed by Italian studio Kunos Simulazioni. First released on the PC in 2019, ACC is a much more narrowly targeted game than its older sibling—this game is focused on a single category of racing, called GT3, which uses modified versions of exotica you might see on the road (or reviewed here at Ars) like Lamborghini Huracáns and Acura NSXs.
ACC is also the official game of GT World Challenge, a collection of race series held around the world by an organization called SRO. That kind of hyperspecific demographic makes sense in


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1686626

Original article

The “Snyder cut” exists: Justice League re-shoot coming to HBO Max in 2021

Enlarge / From hashtag to reality: the “Snyder cut” is coming. (credit: WarnerMedia)
After years of fan demands—and then months of rumors and teases—the news is official: the 2017 DC Comics film Justice League is returning as a “director’s cut” in 2021, and the whole campaign will revolve around its original director, Zack Snyder, overhauling and stretching the story and runtime to a whopping four-hour version.
HBO Max, the streaming platform slated to launch next week, confirmed the news by shamelessly employing the oft-used #releasethesnydercut hashtag that DC Comics fans have used for years. The original film hit theaters in November 2017 after its production was halted and overhauled by interim director Joss Whedon, who took over when Snyder left the production due to a family tragedy. Since then, fans have wondered what shape the film might have taken if it were completed by its original director.
A massive Hollywood Reporter article


Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1677555

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