Tag Archives: gaming

How musical game worlds are made | Wireframe #8

Post Syndicated from Ryan Lambie original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/how-musical-game-worlds-are-made-wireframe-8/

88 Heroes composer Mike Clark explains how music and sound intertwine to create atmospheric game worlds in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 8, available now.

Music for video games is often underappreciated. When I first started writing music in my bedroom, it took me a while to realise how much I was influenced by the worlds that came from my tiny CRT TV. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be approached by Bitmap Bureau, an indie startup who hired me to compose the music for their first game, 88 Heroes.

88 Heroes is a platformer styled like a Saturday morning cartoon. Interestingly, cartoon soundtracks have a lot in common with those for stage productions: short musical cues accompany the actions on screen, so if someone violently falls downstairs, you hear a piano rolling down the keys. This is called ‘mickey mousing’ in cartoons, but we hear similar things in film soundtracks.

Take Raiders of the Lost Ark, scored by John Williams: for every heroic rope swing, leap of faith, or close encounter with danger, the main theme can be heard powering through the dissonances and changing rhythms. It fills the audience with hope and becomes synonymous with the lead character – we want to see him succeed. Let’s not forget the title theme. Every time you see the Star Wars logo, does that grand title theme play in your head? It’s the same with video games. The challenge here, of course, is that players often leave the title screen after three seconds.

Three seconds is all you need though. Take Super Mario World’s soundtrack, composed by Koji Kondo. Many of its levels have the same leading melody, which changes subtly in tonality and rhythm to create the appropriate mood. The most repeating part of the melody is four bars long, but we hear it in so many forms that we only need the first two bars to know where it’s from. In classical music, this is called ‘variations on a theme’. In video games, we call it a ‘sonic identity’.

Action platformer 88 Heroes, featuring music by Mike Clark.

How a picture should ‘sound’

Sonic identity informed my approach to the 88 Heroes soundtrack. The title screen tells us that an unknown group is going to save the day. I first thought about unlikely heroes who end up on an adventure, and Back to the Future, scored by Alan Silvestri, sprang to mind. The second inspiration came from traditional superheroes, like Superman. I composed a melody which travels between the first and fifth notes in the scale (in this case C and G), with little flourishes of the notes in-between. It’s a triumphant, heroic melody.

This concept helps to connect these worlds beyond their visuals. It took a long time for games to evolve into the cohesive open-world sandboxes or MMOs we see today; the technology that masked loading screens to create a seamless experience was unheard of in the 1990s, so a melody that you hear in different ‘costumes’ gives these games a sense of cohesion.

Intelligent instruments

What if you have levels (or worlds) so big that some areas need to be loaded? That’s where non-linear composition comes in. Banjo-Kazooie, released for the N64 in 1998, was among the first 3D games to feature dynamic music. It used a technique called MIDI channel fading. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface; think of it as a universal language for music that is played back in real time by the hardware. As you walk into caves, fly in the sky, or move near certain characters, instruments fade in and out using the different MIDI channels to mimic the atmosphere, give the player an audio cue, and build and release tension.

Learning how to write music that changes as you play might seem impossible at first, but it becomes second nature once you understand the relationship between every instrument in your composition. Many digital audio workstations, like Logic and FL Studio, let you import MIDI data for a song (so you have all the notes in front of you) and set the instruments yourself. Try slowly fading out or muting certain tracks altogether, and listen to how the mood changes. What could this change represent in a video game? It’s like when you’re riding Yoshi in many of the Mario games; the fast bongos come in to represent the quick-footed dinosaur as he dashes at high speeds.

Undertale’s soundtrack blends analogue synth instruments with a plethora of real instruments to help create emotion.

Music is used to evoke emotions that wouldn’t be possible with visuals alone. Beep: A Documentary History of Game Sound shows a six-second video of a boat accompanied by two soundtracks; one is a light and happy guitar piece, the other a grating, scary, orchestral dissonance. Through these two extremes, the music creates the mood by itself. I remember playing Metroid Prime and finding the Chozo Ghost enemies rather scary, not because of their appearance, but because of the unnerving music that accompanies them. Music and sound design are one and the same. Think about what feelings you can create by taking music away entirely — it’s a great way to create tension before a boss battle or pivotal plot point, and it really works. In Undertale, scored by Toby Fox, there are times when the music stops so abruptly during NPC dialogue that you feel shivers down your spine.

So, what if you’re trying to come up with some game music, and you have writer’s block? Well, the next time you play a new game, turn the sound off. As you’re playing, focus on how the story, art, or characters make you feel, and focus on the emotions the game is trying to convey. Then, think of a time when a song made you feel happy, sad, joyful, anxious, or even frightened. Maybe you can use the music to create the mood you want for that game, as opposed to what the game makes you feel. By finding these emotions and understanding how they can change, you’ll be able to write a score that helps strengthen the immersion, escapism, and player investment in your game.

You can read the rest of the feature in Wireframe issue 8, available now in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us – worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

Markets, moggies, and making in Wireframe issue 8

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives, and for subcriptions, visit the Wireframe website to save 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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Inside the Dreamcast homebrew scene | Wireframe issue 7

Post Syndicated from Ryan Lambie original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/wireframe-7-inside-dreamcast-homebrew-scene/

Despite its apparent death 17 years ago, the Sega Dreamcast still has a hardcore group of developers behind it. We uncover their stories in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 7, available now.

In 1998, the release of the Dreamcast gave Sega an opportunity to turn around its fortunes in the home console market. The firm’s earlier system, the Saturn, though host to some beloved titles, was running a distant third in sales behind the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. The Dreamcast, by contrast, saw a successful launch and quickly became the go-to system for arcade-quality ports of fighting games, among other groundbreaking titles like Seaman and Crazy Taxi.

Unfortunately for fans, it wasn’t to last. The Dreamcast struggled to compete against the PlayStation 2, which launched in 2000, and at the end of March 2001, in the face of the imminent launch of the Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft’s new Xbox, Dreamcast left the stage, and Sega abandoned the console market altogether.

None of this stopped a vibrant homebrew development scene springing up around the console in Sega’s place, and even years later, the Dreamcast remains a thriving venue for indie developers. Roel van Mastbergen codes for Senile Team, the developers of Intrepid Izzy, a puzzle platformer coming soon to the PC, PS4, and Dreamcast.

Of the port to Sega’s ageing console, van Mastbergen tells us, “I started this project with only the PC in mind. I’m more used to developing for older hardware, though, so I tend to write code with low CPU and RAM requirements by force of habit. At some point I decided to see if I could get it running on the Dreamcast, and I was happy to find that it ran almost perfectly on the first try.”

It runs at a lower resolution than on PC, but Intrepid Izzy still maintains a smooth 60fps on Dreamcast.

One of the pluses of the Dreamcast, van Mastbergen points out, is how easy it is to develop for. “There are free tools and sufficient documentation available, and you can run your own code on a standard Dreamcast without any hardware modifications or hacks.”

Games burned to CD will play in most models of unmodified Dreamcast, usually with no extra software required. While this doesn’t result in a huge market — the customer base for new Dreamcast games is difficult to measure but certainly small — it makes development for original hardware far more viable than on other systems, which often need expensive and difficult-to-install modchips.

Many of the games now being developed for the system are available as digital downloads, but the state of Dreamcast emulation lags behind that of its competitors, with no equivalent to the popular Dolphin and PCSX2 emulators for GameCube and PS2. All this makes boxed games on discs more viable than on other systems — and, in many cases, physical games can also become prized collectors’ items.

Intrepid Izzy is developed with a custom code library that works across multiple systems; it’s simple to downscale PC assets and export a Dreamcast binary.

Kickstarting dreams

By now, you might be asking yourself what the point of developing for these old systems is — especially when creating games for PC is a much easier and potentially more profitable route to take. When it comes to crowdfunding, though, catering to a niche but dedicated audience can pay dividends.

Belgian developer Alice Team, creators of Alice Dreams Tournament, asked for €8000 in funding to complete its Dreamcast exclusive, which began development in 2006. It eventually raised €28,000 — more than treble its goal.

Intrepid Izzy didn’t quite reach such dizzying heights, only just meeting its €35,000 target, but van Mastbergen is clear it wouldn’t have been funded at all without the dedicated Dreamcast base. “The project has been under-funded since the beginning, which is slightly problematic,” van Mastbergen tells us. “Even so, it is true that the Dreamcast community is responsible for the lion’s share of the funding, which is a testament to how well-loved this system still is.”

You can read the rest of the feature in Wireframe issue 7, available in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us – worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

Face your fears in the indie horror, Someday You’ll Return.

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives, and for subscriptions, visit the Wireframe website to save 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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From Wireframe issue 5: Breakthrough Brits in conversation

Post Syndicated from Ryan Lambie original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/wireframe-issue-5/

BAFTA-recognised developers Adrienne Law and Harry Nesbitt share their thoughts on making games, work-life balance, and more in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 5, available from today.

It’s certainly ‘woollies and scarf’ weather now, but the low-hanging sun provides a beautiful backdrop as Adrienne and Harry make their daily short walk from home to the ustwo games office. In late 2018, Adrienne Law and Harry Nesbitt were both recognised by BAFTA as Breakthrough Brits: an award given by BAFTA to new and emerging talent across a variety of art and entertainment industries. But that’s not the only thing they have in common — Adrienne and Harry work in the same office and are even housemates.

Monument Valley 2 screenshot

Monument Valley 2

Adrienne is a producer at ustwo games, most recently on the acclaimed puzzler Monument Valley 2. Harry doesn’t work for ustwo, but he’s a regular fixture there, taking a spare desk to work as the lead developer and artist for Alto’s Adventure and its sequel, Alto’s Odyssey.

Alto’s Odyssey screenshot

Alto’s Odyssey

As two professionals early in their careers in an ever-evolving industry, Adrienne and Harry find themselves with much in common, but the routes that led them to working and living together were very different. The pair agreed to take an hour out of their work schedules to speak to Wireframe, and to each other, about their personal experiences of game development, how it feels to release a game, work-life balance, and the potential of games to affect and enrich lives.

Adrienne Law: My route into the games industry was semi-accidental. I played games a lot when I was a kid but didn’t know there was an industry as such to go and work in. I did an English degree thinking that might possibly set me up for going into some kind of creative, story-driven field, which was what interested me. After that, I spent a few years working different jobs — I was a teaching assistant, I worked in finance, retail, marketing, and was circling around trying to get into film and TV industries.

Eventually, I got to the point where I went onto job sites and searched for “production assistant” and that’s where I found a production assistant role going at ustwo games. I thought, “Oh! Production is a thing in games! I didn’t know that.” I decided to just go for it. I ended up having a few interviews with ustwo — I think they were worried because I was quite quiet, and they weren’t sure how much I would step into the role — but they let me through the door and gave me a chance. I’ve been here ever since. I never set out to be in the games industry, but I think I’d been gaining a lot of skills and had an awareness of the medium, so those things combined into making me a good candidate for the role.

I went to an all girls’ school that specialised in maths and science, so there was no reason that I would have thought I couldn’t work in tech, but the school didn’t push the idea of working in tech and coding. I think if I had been aware of it from a younger age, I would have been a programmer.

Harry Nesbitt

Harry Nesbitt: I’ve always thought about working in games. From a young age, I had an interest in how games were made from an artistic standpoint. I would always look up who was responsible for the concept art. Concept art as a job was something I was aware of from a very young age.

Around 2006, when I started at university, indie games weren’t in the mainstream, and making games in your own bedroom wasn’t as popular an idea. When I discovered Unity, I thought “Oh, I can download this for free, and I can learn all the basics online.” I saw examples of illustrators who were downloading it and making cool, interesting little projects — almost like little art pieces — bringing their illustrations to life. It made me realise I could have a play with that. My knowledge of the basics of JavaScript and web development helped me pick up the coding side of things a little bit more easily.

When it came to making Alto’s Adventure, I knew a little bit of Unity and had been playing with it for about 12 months, so I realised I could at least be playing around with it, seeing what’s possible and using it as a way to demonstrate certain ideas.

Within a very short space of time, less than a week maybe, I’d been able to put together a basic prototype of the core systems, such as the terrain generation, basic player physics, even some effects such as particles and Alto’s scarf. It took another year and a half from there to get it finished, but online resources gave me what I needed to eventually get the game made. It’s not necessarily an experience I’d want to repeat though!

You can read the rest of this fantastic feature in Wireframe issue 5, out today, 17 January, in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

The cutest Wireframe cover to date!

Make sure to follow Wireframe on Twitter and Facebook for updates and exclusives, and for subscriptions, visit the Wireframe website to save 49% compared to newsstand pricing!

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From Wireframe issue 4: Recovering Destiny’s long-lost soundtrack

Post Syndicated from Ian Dransfield original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/wireframe-issue-4-destinys-long-lost-soundtrack/

Missing for five years, Destiny’s soundtrack album, Music of the Spheres, resurfaced in 2017. Composer Marty O’Donnell reflects on what happened, in this excerpt from Wireframe issue 4.

When Bungie unveiled its space-opera shooter Destiny in February 2013, it marked the end of two years of near silence from the creators of the Halo franchise. Fans celebrated at the prospect of an entirely new game from such well known talent. Behind closed doors, however, Destiny was in trouble.

Though the game was almost complete by mid-2013, plans to launch that September were put on hold when concerns over Destiny’s story forced its narrative structure to be rebuilt from scratch. It would be more than 18 months before Destiny was released: a fun but strange shooter that bore difficult-to-pin-down traces of its troubled gestation. But one element of Destiny – that had been a huge part of its development – was nowhere to be seen. It was an ambitious original soundtrack written and recorded with an impressive but unexpected collaborator: Paul McCartney.

Spherical music

Audio director and composer Marty O’Donnell had been with Bungie since the late 1990s, and for him, Destiny represented an opportunity to develop something new: a musical prequel to the video game. This would become Music of the Spheres – an eight-part musical suite that took nearly two years to complete. This was no mere soundtrack, however. Born out of discussions between O’Donnell and Bungie COO Pete Parsons early in the game’s production, it was to play an integral role in Destiny’s marketing campaign.

“I wasn’t writing this just to be marketing fodder,” O’Donnell laughs. “I was writing it as a standalone listening experience that would then eventually become marketing fodder – but I didn’t want the other to happen first.”

Between 2011 and 2012, Bungie and O’Donnell devised plans for the album.

“Every few weeks or so, I would be called to a meeting in one of their big conference rooms and there would be a whole bunch of new faces there, pitching some cool idea or other,” says O’Donnell. “[At one point] it was going to be a visualisation with your mobile device.”

Difference of opinion

But there were fundamental differences between what Bungie had planned and what Activision – Destiny’s publisher, and keeper of the purse strings – wanted.

“I think Activision was confused [about] why you would ever use music as marketing… And the other thing is, I honestly don’t think they understood why we were working with Paul McCartney. I think they didn’t think that that was the right person for the demographic.”

News of a collaboration with McCartney had raised eyebrows when he revealed his involvement on Twitter in July 2012. His interest had been piqued during his attendance at E3 2009 following the announcement of The Beatles: Rock Band, which was preceded by Bungie’s unveiling of Halo ODST.

Loop symphony

“I had a contact in Los Angeles who worked out deals with actors we used on Halo,” O’Donnell recalls. “He was able to make contact with Paul’s people and set up a meeting between the two of us in spring of 2011. My impression was that Paul saw a new crop of fans come from Beatles Rock Band and was interested in seeing what was involved with creating music for video games. He seemed convinced that Bungie was working on a project that he could get behind.”

Within a few weeks, O’Donnell and McCartney were exchanging ideas for Destiny.

“The first thing he sent me was what he called his ‘loop symphony’,” says O’Donnell. “He used the same looping tape recorder that he used on Sgt. Pepper’s and Revolver… He hauled this tape recorder out of his attic.”

Working with regular collaborator Michael Salvatori, O’Donnell and McCartney set about developing Music of the Spheres into a fully fledged album, comprising eight movements.

Priorities

“I have all of these wonderful things, which included interesting things he did on his guitar that sort of loop and sound otherworldly… I think there are a couple of times in The Path, which is the first piece, and then I think The Prison, which is the seventh piece, where we use a recording of Paul doing this loop with his voice. This little funny thing. That’s Paul’s voice, which is cool.”

The album was completed in December 2012 following recording sessions at Capitol Studios in California, Avatar Studios in New York, and Abbey Road in London. Musical elements from Music of the Spheres accompanied Bungie’s big reveal of Destiny at a PlayStation 4 event in New York in February 2013. But after that, things started to go south.

“After that PlayStation 4 announcement, I said, ‘Let’s figure out how to release this. I don’t care if we have Harmonix do an iPad version with a visualiser for it. I mean, if we can’t pull the trigger on something big and interesting like that, that’s fine with me. Let’s just release it online.’ It had nothing to do with making money… It was always fan service, in my mind at least.”

Activision, on the other hand, had other priorities. “Activision had a lot of say on the marketing. I think that’s where things started to go wrong, for me… things started being handled badly, or postponed, and then all of a sudden I was seeing bits of Music of the Spheres being cut up and presented in ways that I wasn’t happy with.”

You can read the rest of this fantastic feature in Wireframe issue four, out 20 December in Tesco, WHSmith, and all good independent UK newsagents.

Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you can also download a free PDF.

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We tried out Valve’s Steam Link on Raspberry Pi and…

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/steam-link-raspberry-pi/

… it worked well!

tl;dr: really, really well.

But if “it worked really well” isn’t enough of a reason for you to give Steam Link on Raspberry Pi a go, here’s the rest of today’s blog post…

Steam Link on Raspberry Pi

The internet (mainly Reddit) was all aflutter last week due to the release of the Steam Link app beta version for the Raspberry Pi.

Steam Link, for the uninitiated, is a service that allowed users of the digital distribution platform Steam to stream video games from their PC to a display of choice — without the need to weave a mile-long HDMI cable between rooms and furniture to connect computer and television.

The original Steam Link

Up until now, if Steam users wanted to stream games to other displays, they had to do so with Valve’s own Steam Link device — a small black box available for purchase on the Valve website — and the device did pretty well. But with the new Steam Link app for Raspberry Pi, any Pi owner can get up and running with Steam Link using one single line of code.

And that’s all sorts of convenient!

Trying out Steam Link for ourselves

We didn’t just want to put out a blog post to let you folks know that the app’s beta version is now live. Instead, we wanted to collar one of our own to try the new app out at home and let us know exactly what they think. And since we knew that Simon, our Asset Management Assistant Keeper of the Swag, Organiser of the Stuff, Lord Commander of the Things, had a Steam Link at home, it made sense to ask him nicely to give the app a try over the weekend.

And he did, because Simon = ❤

One line of code later…

It took Simon all of five minutes to get Steam Link up and running on his TV. He even went so far as to copy and paste the short line of code via a Chromium search for the announcement, instead of typing it in for himself.

And then Simon just had to sign into his Steam account and boom, Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt, the process was complete.

“Took less than five minutes before I was investigating strange cults from the comfort of my sofa,” explained Simon, as we all nodded, inwardly judging him a little for his game of choice. But in case you’re interested, Cultist Simulator is made by Factory Weather, and there are currently some photos of a tiny kitten on their homepage, so go check it out.

User experience

Let us know if you’ve tried the Steam Link app on Raspberry Pi, and what you think of it. Oh, and what games you’re playing on it, especially if they include Cultist Simulator.

And to make your Steam Link setup process easier, type rpf.io/steamlinkblog into your Chromium browser on your Raspberry Pi to open this blog post, and then copy and paste the following into a terminal window to run install the app:

curl -#Of http://media.steampowered.com/steamlink/rpi/steamlink_1.0.7_armhf.deb
sudo dpkg -i steamlink_1.0.7_armhf.deb

The post We tried out Valve’s Steam Link on Raspberry Pi and… appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Wireframe 3: Phoenix Point, modders going pro, and more

Post Syndicated from Ian Dransfield original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/wireframe-issue-3/

We said we’d be back with more, so here we are back with more: issue 3 of Wireframe, the magazine that lifts the lid on video games.

From the ashes

Our third issue sees the now-established mix of great features, guides, reviews, and plenty more beyond that. Headlining it all is our sit-down chat with Julian Gollop about his upcoming strategy title Phoenix Point, with the X-Com creator waxing lyrical about Rebelstar, Chaos, and the secret of great AI.

We also take a look at the careers of amateurs-turned-pros, checking out the modders who went legit and getting input from those who’ve made the jump from doing it for fun, to doing it for fun and money.

And it doesn’t stop there

We’re investigating Thrunt XL, the indie game made without typing a single line of code; Terry Cavanaugh tells us about his unconventional new rogue-like Dicey Dungeons; and veteran game developer Howard Scott Warshaw looks back on the making of his Atari 2600 classic, Yars’ Revenge.

Plus:

  • Make your own first-person shooter in Unity with our step-by-step guide
  • The fur flies in the forthcoming multiplayer shooter, Super Animal Royale
  • How parallax scrolling gives 2D games the illusion of depth
  • The platformer from El Salvador that survived an attack of the clones

All this, and a variety of news, previews, and reviews covering everything from triple-A releases to dinky, loveable indie games.

Buy Wireframe issue 3

Print copies of Wireframe are available now in WHSmith, Tesco, and all good independent UK newsagents. Or you can buy Wireframe directly from us — worldwide delivery is available. And if you’d like to own a handy digital version of the magazine, you have the option to also download a free PDF.

Subscription options!

Whether you want to sample six print issues for a bargain price, subscribe for a full year, or get a regular digital edition sent directly to your device, we have some superb deals for you to choose from! To find out how you can save up to 49% on Wireframe, head to wfmag.cc/subscribe.

Or you can get the digital edition directly to your smart device via our Android and iOS apps.

See you in a fortnight!

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Wireframe 2: The Blackout Club, Battlefield V anxiety, and more

Post Syndicated from Ryan Lambie original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/wireframe-2/

Momentum firmly established, we’re back with our brilliant second issue of Wireframe — the magazine that lifts the lid on video games.

And yes, we are continuing to write ‘video games’ as two words.

Blacking out

In our sophomore edition, you’ll discover all manner of great features, guides, reviews, and everything else you could wish for. In an exclusive interview, BioShock 2 director Jordan Thomas talks about The Blackout Club, his new co-operative horror game – which also features on our fantastic front cover! With inspiration coming from the likes of Stranger Things, you just know The Blackout Club is going to be something special.

We also hear from Battlefield V’s Creative Director Lars Gustavsson in a candid discussion about his own personal excitement — and apprehension — surrounding the launch of DICE’s latest in its nearly 20-year-old series.

And a lot more

Is that all? Of course not. Thomas Was Alone and Subsurface Circular creator Mike Bithell shares his personal perspective on the ever-changing shape of video games.

Issue 2 also takes an extended look at an RPG’s journey from tabletop to screen: it’s not easy to bring the likes of Cyberpunk 2020 to the world of video games, and CD Projekt Red, Chris Avellone, and others tell us just why that is.

We’re just spoiling you now, but there’s plenty more besides, such as:

  • The maths behind matchmaking and video game economics
  • The changing face of Mega Man, an enduring 8-bit icon
  • An indie game’s path from Japanese restaurant to Nintendo eShop
  • The simple yet effective AI behind Galaxian’s angry aliens

All of this is joined by news, previews, and reviews of everything gaming has to offer.

Buy Wireframe issue 2

Physical copies of Wireframe are available now in WHSmith, Tesco, and all good independent UK newsagents. Of course, we don’t like to limit your choices, so you’re able to buy direct from us, with worldwide delivery available.

There’s also the option to download issue 2 a free PDF if you’d like a handy digital version.

Subscription options!

Fancy putting your feet up and letting Wireframe come directly to you? In that case, you should take a look at our subscription options: pick up a sample six issues for a bargain price, subscribe for a full year, or get the digital edition directly to your smart device via our Android and iOS apps. To find out how to save up to 49% on Wireframe’s print edition, head to wfmag.cc/subscribe.

wireframe magazine

See you again in two weeks!

A wild HackSpace magazine appeared

HackSpace magazine issue 13 is also out today, and it’s pretty sweet. Check it out here!

HackSpace issue 13 front cover

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Can’t Drive This, the 4D arcade machine

Post Syndicated from Rob Zwetsloot original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/4d-arcade-machine/

A Raspberry Pi–powered arcade display with hidden interactive controls won over the crowds at Gamescom. Rosie Hattersley and Rob Zwetsloot got the inside scoop.

Pixel Maniacs is a Nuremberg-based games maker that started out making mobile apps. These days it specialises in games for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. You Can’t Drive is its first foray into gaming with a Raspberry Pi.

If you’re going to add a little something extra to wow the crowd at the Gamescom video games trade fair, a Raspberry Pi is a surefire way of getting you noticed. And that’s the way Pixel Maniacs went about it.

The Nuremberg-based games developer retrofitted an arcade machine with a Raspberry Pi to showcase its intentionally silly Can’t Drive This precarious driving game at Gamescom.

This two-player co-operative game involves one player building the track while the other drives along it.

Complete with wrecking balls, explosions, an inconvenient number of walls, and the jeopardy of having to construct your road as you negotiate your way, at speed, across an ocean to the relative safety of the next lump of land, Can’t Drive This is a fast‑paced racing game.

Splash action

Pixel Maniacs then took things up a notch by providing interactive elements, building a mock 4D arcade game (so-named because they feature interactive elements such as motion cabinets). The fourth dimension, in this case, saw the inclusion of a water spray, fan, and console lights. For its Gamescom debut, Pixel Maniacs presented Can’t Drive This in a retro arcade cabinet, where hordes of gaming fans gathered round its four-way split screen to enjoy the action.

Getting to the heart of the matter and replacing the original 1980s kit with modern-day processors and Pi-powered additions

Adding Raspberry Pi gaming to the mix was about aiding the game development process as much as anything. Andy Holtz, Pixel Maniacs’ software engineer, told The MagPi that the team wanted an LED matrix with 256 RGB LEDs to render sprite-sheet animations. “We knew we needed a powerful machine with enough RAM, and a huge community, to get the scripts running.”

Pixel Maniacs’ offices have several Raspberry Pi–controlled monitors and a soundboard, so the team knew the Pi’s potential.

The schematic for the 4D arcade machine, showing the importance of the Raspberry Pi as a controller.

The arcade version of the game runs off a gaming laptop cunningly hidden within the walls of the cabinet, while the Raspberry Pi delivers the game’s surprise elements such as an unexpected blast from a water spray. A fan can be triggered to simulate stormy weather, and lights start flashing crazily when the cars crash. Holtz explains that the laptop “constantly sends information about the game’s state to the Raspberry Pi, via a USB UART controller. The Pi reads these state messages, converts them, and sends according commands to the fans, water nozzle, camera, and the LED light matrix. So when players drive through water, the PC sends the info to the Pi, and [the latter] turns on the nozzle, spraying them.”

Having played your heart out, you get a photo-booth-style shot of you in full-on gaming action.

The arcade idea came about when Pixel Maniacs visited the offices of German gaming magazine M! Games and spied an abandoned, out-of-order 1980s arcade machine lurking unloved in a corner. Pixel Maniacs set about rejuvenating it, Da Doo Ron Ron soundtrack and all.

Sustained action

Ideas are one thing; standing up to the rigours of a full weekend’s uninterrupted gameplay at the world’s biggest games meet is something else. Holtz tells us, “The Raspberry Pi performed like a beast throughout the entire time. Gamescom was open from 9am till 8pm, so it had to run for eleven hours straight, without overheating or crashing. Fortunately, it did. None of the peripherals connected to the Pi had any problems, and we did not have a single crash.”

A Raspberry Pi 3B+ was used to trigger the water spray, lights, and fans, bringing an extra element to the gameplay, as well as rendering the arcade machine’s graphics.

Fans were enthusiastic too, with uniformly positive feedback, and one Gamescom attendee attempting to buy the arcade version there and then. As Andy Holtz says, though, you don’t sell your baby. Instead, Pixel Maniacs is demoing it at games conventions in Germany this autumn, before launching Can’t Drive This across gaming platforms at the end of the year.

This article was printed in The MagPi issue 75. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

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EC2 Instance Update – C5 Instances with Local NVMe Storage (C5d)

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/ec2-instance-update-c5-instances-with-local-nvme-storage-c5d/

As you can see from my EC2 Instance History post, we add new instance types on a regular and frequent basis. Driven by increasingly powerful processors and designed to address an ever-widening set of use cases, the size and diversity of this list reflects the equally diverse group of EC2 customers!

Near the bottom of that list you will find the new compute-intensive C5 instances. With a 25% to 50% improvement in price-performance over the C4 instances, the C5 instances are designed for applications like batch and log processing, distributed and or real-time analytics, high-performance computing (HPC), ad serving, highly scalable multiplayer gaming, and video encoding. Some of these applications can benefit from access to high-speed, ultra-low latency local storage. For example, video encoding, image manipulation, and other forms of media processing often necessitates large amounts of I/O to temporary storage. While the input and output files are valuable assets and are typically stored as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) objects, the intermediate files are expendable. Similarly, batch and log processing runs in a race-to-idle model, flushing volatile data to disk as fast as possible in order to make full use of compute resources.

New C5d Instances with Local Storage
In order to meet this need, we are introducing C5 instances equipped with local NVMe storage. Available for immediate use in 5 regions, these instances are a great fit for the applications that I described above, as well as others that you will undoubtedly dream up! Here are the specs:

Instance NamevCPUsRAMLocal StorageEBS BandwidthNetwork Bandwidth
c5d.large24 GiB1 x 50 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.xlarge48 GiB1 x 100 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.2xlarge816 GiB1 x 225 GB NVMe SSDUp to 2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.4xlarge1632 GiB1 x 450 GB NVMe SSD2.25 GbpsUp to 10 Gbps
c5d.9xlarge3672 GiB1 x 900 GB NVMe SSD4.5 Gbps10 Gbps
c5d.18xlarge72144 GiB2 x 900 GB NVMe SSD9 Gbps25 Gbps

Other than the addition of local storage, the C5 and C5d share the same specs. Both are powered by 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon Platinum 8000-series processors, optimized for EC2 and with full control over C-states on the two largest sizes, giving you the ability to run two cores at up to 3.5 GHz using Intel Turbo Boost Technology.

You can use any AMI that includes drivers for the Elastic Network Adapter (ENA) and NVMe; this includes the latest Amazon Linux, Microsoft Windows (Server 2008 R2, Server 2012, Server 2012 R2 and Server 2016), Ubuntu, RHEL, SUSE, and CentOS AMIs.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind about the local NVMe storage:

Naming – You don’t have to specify a block device mapping in your AMI or during the instance launch; the local storage will show up as one or more devices (/dev/nvme*1 on Linux) after the guest operating system has booted.

Encryption – Each local NVMe device is hardware encrypted using the XTS-AES-256 block cipher and a unique key. Each key is destroyed when the instance is stopped or terminated.

Lifetime – Local NVMe devices have the same lifetime as the instance they are attached to, and do not stick around after the instance has been stopped or terminated.

Available Now
C5d instances are available in On-Demand, Reserved Instance, and Spot form in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), US East (Ohio), and Canada (Central) Regions. Prices vary by Region, and are just a bit higher than for the equivalent C5 instances.

Jeff;

PS – We will be adding local NVMe storage to other EC2 instance types in the months to come, so stay tuned!

Brutus 2: the gaming PC case of your dreams

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/brutus-2-gaming-pc-case/

Attention, case modders: take a look at the Brutus 2, an extremely snazzy computer case with a partly transparent, animated side panel that’s powered by a Pi. Daniel Otto and Carsten Lehman have a current crowdfunder for the case; their video is in German, but the looks of the build speak for themselves. There are some truly gorgeous effects here.

der BRUTUS 2 by 3nb Gaming

Vorbestellungen ab sofort auf https://www.startnext.com/brutus2 Weitere Infos zu uns auf: https://3nb.de https://www.facebook.com/3nb.de https://www.instagram.com/3nb.de Über 3nb: – GbR aus Leipzig, gegründet 2017 – wir kommen aus den Bereichen Elektronik und Informatik – erstes Produkt: der Brutus One ein Gaming PC mit transparentem Display in der Seite Kurzinfo Brutus 2: – Markencomputergehäuse für Gaming- /Casemoddingszene – Besonderheit: animiertes Seitenfenster angesteuert mit einem Raspberry Pi – Vorteile von unserem Case: o Case ist einzeln lieferbar und nicht nur als komplett-PC o kein Leistungsverbrauch der Grafikkarte dank integriertem Raspberry Pi o bessere Darstellung von Texten und Grafiken durch unscharfen Hintergrund

What’s case modding?

Case modding just means modifying your computer or gaming console’s case, and it’s very popular in the gaming community. Some mods are functional, while others improve the way the case looks. Lots of dedicated gamers don’t only want a powerful computer, they also want it to look amazing — at home, or at LAN parties and games tournaments.

The Brutus 2 case

The Brutus 2 case is made by Daniel and Carsten’s startup, 3nb electronics, and it’s a product that is officially Powered by Raspberry Pi. Its standout feature is the semi-transparent TFT screen, which lets you play any video clip you choose while keeping your gaming hardware on display. It looks incredibly cool. All the graphics for the case’s screen are handled by a Raspberry Pi, so it doesn’t use any of your main PC’s GPU power and your gaming won’t suffer.

Brutus 2 PC case powered by Raspberry Pi

The software

To use Brutus 2, you just need to run a small desktop application on your PC to choose what you want to display on the case. A number of neat animations are included, and you can upload your own if you want.

So far, the app only runs on Windows, but 3nb electronics are planning to make the code open-source, so you can modify it for other operating systems, or to display other file types. This is true to the spirit of the case modding and Raspberry Pi communities, who love adapting, retrofitting, and overhauling projects and code to fit their needs.

Brutus 2 PC case powered by Raspberry Pi

Daniel and Carsten say that one of their campaign’s stretch goals is to implement more functionality in the Brutus 2 app. So in the future, the case could also show things like CPU temperature, gaming stats, and in-game messages. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from integrating features like that yourself.

If you have any questions about the case, you can post them directly to Daniel and Carsten here.

The crowdfunding campaign

The Brutus 2 campaign on Startnext is currently halfway to its first funding goal of €10000, with over three weeks to go until it closes. If you’re quick, you still be may be able to snatch one of the early-bird offers. And if your whole guild NEEDS this, that’s OK — there are discounts for bulk orders.

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Stream to Twitch with the push of a button

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/tinkernut-twitch-streaming/

Stream your video gaming exploits to the internet at the touch of a button with the Twitch-O-Matic. Everyone else is doing it, so you should too.

Twitch-O-Matic: Raspberry Pi Twitch Streaming Device – Weekend Hacker #1804

Some gaming consoles make it easy to stream to Twitch, some gaming consoles don’t (come on, Nintendo). So for those that don’t, I’ve made this beta version of the “Twitch-O-Matic”. No it doesn’t chop onions or fold your laundry, but what it DOES do is stream anything with HDMI output to your Twitch channel with the simple push of a button!

eSports and online game streaming

Interest in eSports has skyrocketed over the last few years, with viewership numbers in the hundreds of millions, sponsorship deals increasing in value and prestige, and tournament prize funds reaching millions of dollars. So it’s no wonder that more and more gamers are starting to stream live to online platforms in order to boost their fanbase and try to cash in on this growing industry.

Streaming to Twitch

Launched in 2011, Twitch.tv is an online live-streaming platform with a primary focus on video gaming. Users can create accounts to contribute their comments and content to the site, as well as watching live-streamed gaming competitions and broadcasts. With a staggering fifteen million daily users, Twitch is accessible via smartphone and gaming console apps, smart TVs, computers, and tablets. But if you want to stream to Twitch, you may find yourself using third-party software in order to do so. And with more buttons to click and more wires to plug in for older, app-less consoles, streaming can get confusing.

Enter Tinkernut.

Side note: we ❤ Tinkernut

We’ve featured Tinkernut a few times on the Raspberry Pi blog – his tutorials are clear, his projects are interesting and useful, and his live-streamed comment videos for every build are a nice touch to sharing homebrew builds on the internet.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

So, yes, we love him. [This is true. Alex never shuts up about him. – Ed.] And since he has over 500K subscribers on YouTube, we’re obviously not the only ones. We wave our Tinkernut flags with pride.

Twitch-O-Matic

With a Raspberry Pi Zero W, an HDMI to CSI adapter, and a case to fit it all in, Tinkernut’s Twitch-O-Matic allows easy connection to the Twitch streaming service. You’ll also need a button – the bigger, the better in our opinion, though Tinkernut has opted for the Adafruit 16mm Illuminated Pushbutton for his build, and not the 100mm Massive Arcade Button that, sadly, we still haven’t found a reason to use yet.

Adafruit massive button

“I’m sorry, Dave…”

For added frills and pizzazz, Tinketnut has also incorporated Adafruit’s White LED Backlight Module into the case, though you don’t have to do so unless you’re feeling super fancy.

The setup

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is connected to the HDMI to CSI adapter via the camera connector, in the same way you’d attach the camera ribbon. Tinkernut uses a standard Raspbian image on an 8GB SD card, with SSH enabled for remote access from his laptop. He uses the simple command Raspivid to test the HDMI connection by recording ten seconds of video footage from his console.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

One lead is all you need

Once you have the Pi receiving video from your console, you can connect to Twitch using your Twitch stream key, which you can find by logging in to your account at Twitch.tv. Tinkernut’s tutorial gives you all the commands you need to stream from your Pi.

The frills

To up the aesthetic impact of your project, adding buttons and backlights is fairly straightforward.

Tinkernut Raspberry Pi Zero W Twitch-O-Matic

Pretty LED frills

To run the stream command, Tinketnut uses a button: press once to start the stream, press again to stop. Pressing the button also turns on the LED backlight, so it’s obvious when streaming is in progress.

The tutorial

For the full code and 3D-printable case STL file, head to Tinketnut’s hackster.io project page. And if you’re already using a Raspberry Pi for Twitch streaming, share your build setup with us. Cheers!

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Welcome Jacob – Data Center Technician

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/welcome-jacob-data-center-technician/

With over 500 Petabytes of data under management we need more people keeping the drives spinning in our data center. We’re constantly hiring Systems Administrators and Data Center Technicians, and here’s our latest one! Lets learn a bit more about Jacob, shall we?

What is your Backblaze Title?
Data center Technician

Where are you originally from?
Ojai, CA

What attracted you to Backblaze?
It’s a technical job that believes in training it’s employees and treating them well.

What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
As much as I can.

Where else have you worked?
I was a Team Lead at Target, I did some volunteer work with the Ventura County Medical Center, and I also worked at a motocross track.

Where did you go to school?
Ventura Community College, then 1 semester at Sac State

What’s your dream job?
Don’t really have one. Whatever can support my family and that I enjoy.

Favorite place you’ve traveled?
Yosemite National Park for the touristy stuff, Bend Oregon for a good getaway place.

Favorite hobby?
Gaming and music. It’s a tie.

Of what achievement are you most proud?
Marring my wife Masha.

Star Trek or Star Wars?
Wars. 100%. I’m a major Star Wars geek.

Coke or Pepsi?
Monster.

Favorite food?
French fries.

Why do you like certain things?
Because my brain tells me I like them.

Thank you for helping care for all of our customer’s data. Welcome to the data center team Jacob!

The post Welcome Jacob – Data Center Technician appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Voksi ‘Pirates’ New Serious Sam Game With Permission From Developers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/voksi-pirates-new-serious-sam-game-with-permission-from-developers-180312/

Bulgarian cracker Voksi is unlike many others in his line of work. He makes himself relatively available online, interacting with fans and revealing surprising things about his past.

Only last month he told TF that he is entirely self-taught and had been cracking games since he was 15-years-old, just six years ago.

Voksi is probably best known for his hatred of anti-piracy technology Denuvo and to this day is still one of just four groups/people who have managed to crack v4 of the anti-tamper technology. As such, he and his kind are often painted as enemies of the gaming industry but that doesn’t represent the full picture.

In discussion with TF over the weekend, Voksi told us that he’s a huge fan of the Serious Sam franchise so when he found out about the latest title — Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour (SSBD) — he wanted to play it — badly. That led to a remarkable series of events.

“One month before the game’s official release I got into the closed beta, thanks to a friend of mine, who invited me in. I introduced myself to the developers [Crackshell]. I told them what I do for a living, but also assured them that I didn’t have any malicious intents towards the game. They were very cool about it, even surprisingly cool,” Voksi informs TF.

The game eventually hit the market (without Voksi targeting it, of course) with some interesting additions. As shown in the screenshot taken from the game and embedded below, Voksi was listed as a tester for the game.

An unusual addition to the game credits….

Perhaps even more impressively, official Stream screenshots here show Voksi as a player in the game. It’s not exactly what one might expect for someone in his position but from there, the excitement began to fade. Despite a 9/10 rating on Steam, the books didn’t balance.

“The game was released officially on 20 of June, 2017. Months passed. We all hoped it’d be a success, but sadly that was not the case,” Voksi explains.

“Even with all the official marketing done by Devolver Digital, no one batted an eye and really gave it a chance. In December 2017, I found out how bad the sales really were, which even didn’t cover the expenses for the making game, let alone profit.”

Voksi was really disappointed that things hadn’t gone to plan so he contacted the developers with an idea — why didn’t he get involved to try and drum up some support from an entirely unconventional angle? How about giving a special edition of the game away for free while calling on ‘pirates’ to chip in with whatever they could afford?

“Last week I contacted the main dev of SSBD over Steam and proposed what I can do to help boost the game. He immediately agreed,” Voksi says.

“The plan was to release a build of the game that was playable from start to finish, playable in co-op with up to 4 players, not to miss anything important gameplay wise and add a little message in the bottom corner, which is visible at all times, telling you: “We are small indie studio. If you liked the game, please consider buying it. Thank you and enjoy the game!”

Message at the bottom of the screen

But Voksi’s marketing plan didn’t stop there. This special build of the game is also tied to a unique giveaway challenge with several prizes. It’s underway on Voksi’s REVOLT forum and is intended to encourage more people to play the game and share the word among family, friends and whoever else can support the developers.

Importantly, Voski isn’t getting paid to do any of this, he just wants to help the developers and support a game he feels deserves a lot more attention. For those interested in taking it for a spin, the download links are available here in the official thread.

The ‘pirate’ build — Serious.Sam.Bogus.Detour.B126.RIP-Voksi — is slightly less polished than those available officially but it’s hoped that people will offer their support on Steam and GOG if they like the game.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Australian Government Launches Pirate Site-Blocking Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-launches-pirate-site-blocking-review-180214/

Following intense pressure from entertainment industry groups, in 2014 Australia began developing legislation which would allow ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.

In March 2015 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf) was introduced to parliament and after just three months of consideration, the Australian Senate passed the legislation into law.

Soon after, copyright holders began preparing their first cases and in December 2016, the Australian Federal Court ordered dozens of local Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, plus many proxy and mirror services.

Since then, more processes have been launched establishing site-blocking as a permanent fixture on the Aussie anti-piracy agenda. But with yet more applications for injunction looming on the horizon, how is the mechanism performing and does anything else need to be done to improve or amend it?

Those are the questions now being asked by the responsible department of the Australian Government via a consultation titled Review of Copyright Online Infringement Amendment. The review should’ve been carried out 18 months after the law’s introduction in 2015 but the department says that it delayed the consultation to let more evidence emerge.

“The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking views from stakeholders on the questions put forward in this paper. The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment),” the consultation paper begins.

The three key questions for response are as follows:

– How effective and efficient is the mechanism introduced by the Online Infringement Amendment?

– Is the application process working well for parties and are injunctions operating well, once granted?

– Are any amendments required to improve the operation of the Online Infringement Amendment?

Given the tendency for copyright holders to continuously demand more bang for their buck, it will perhaps come as a surprise that at least for now there is a level of consensus that the system is working as planned.

“Case law and survey data suggests the Online Infringement Amendment has enabled copyright owners to work with [Internet service providers] to reduce large-scale online copyright infringement. So far, it appears that copyright owners and [ISPs] find the current arrangement acceptable, clear and effective,” the paper reads.

Thus far under the legislation there have been four applications for injunctions through the Federal Court, notably against leading torrent indexes and browser-based streaming sites, which were both granted.

The other two processes, which began separately but will be heard together, at least in part, involve the recent trend of set-top box based streaming.

Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount are currently presenting their case to the Federal Court. Along with Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which has a separate application, the companies have been told to put together quality evidence for an April 2018 hearing.

With these applications already in the pipeline, yet more are on the horizon. The paper notes that more applications are expected to reach the Federal Court shortly, with the Department of Communications monitoring to assess whether current arrangements are refined as additional applications are filed.

Thus far, however, steady progress appears to have been made. The paper cites various precedents established as a result of the blocking process including the use of landing pages to inform Internet users why sites are blocked and who is paying.

“Either a copyright owner or [ISP] can establish a landing page. If an [ISP] wishes to avoid the cost of its own landing page, it can redirect customers to one that the copyright owner would provide. Another precedent allocates responsibility for compliance costs. Cases to date have required copyright owners to pay all or a significant proportion of compliance costs,” the paper notes.

But perhaps the issue of most importance is whether site-blocking as a whole has had any effect on the levels of copyright infringement in Australia.

The Government says that research carried out by Kantar shows that downloading “fell slightly from 2015 to 2017” with a 5-10% decrease in individuals consuming unlicensed content across movies, music and television. It’s worth noting, however, that Netflix didn’t arrive on Australian shores until May 2015, just a month before the new legislation was passed.

Research commissioned by the Department of Communications and published a year later in 2016 (pdf) found that improved availability of legal streaming alternatives was the main contributor to falling infringement rates. In a juicy twist, the report also revealed that Aussie pirates were the entertainment industries’ best customers.

“The Department is aware that other factors — such as the increasing availability of television, music and film streaming services and of subscription gaming services — may also contribute to falling levels of copyright infringement,” the paper notes.

Submissions to the consultation (pdf) are invited by 5.00 pm AEST on Friday 16 March 2018 via the government’s website.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/early-challenges-making-critical-hires/

row of potential employee hires sitting waiting for an interview

In 2009, Google disclosed that they had 400 recruiters on staff working to hire nearly 10,000 people. Someday, that might be your challenge, but most companies in their early days are looking to hire a handful of people — the right people — each year. Assuming you are closer to startup stage than Google stage, let’s look at who you need to hire, when to hire them, where to find them (and how to help them find you), and how to get them to join your company.

Who Should Be Your First Hires

In later stage companies, the roles in the company have been well fleshed out, don’t change often, and each role can be segmented to focus on a specific area. A large company may have an entire department focused on just cubicle layout; at a smaller company you may not have a single person whose actual job encompasses all of facilities. At Backblaze, our CTO has a passion and knack for facilities and mostly led that charge. Also, the needs of a smaller company are quick to change. One of our first hires was a QA person, Sean, who ended up being 100% focused on data center infrastructure. In the early stage, things can shift quite a bit and you need people that are broadly capable, flexible, and most of all willing to pitch in where needed.

That said, there are times you may need an expert. At a previous company we hired Jon, a PhD in Bayesian statistics, because we needed algorithmic analysis for spam fighting. However, even that person was not only able and willing to do the math, but also code, and to not only focus on Bayesian statistics but explore a plethora of spam fighting options.

When To Hire

If you’ve raised a lot of cash and are willing to burn it with mistakes, you can guess at all the roles you might need and start hiring for them. No judgement: that’s a reasonable strategy if you’re cash-rich and time-poor.

If your cash is limited, try to see what you and your team are already doing and then hire people to take those jobs. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re already doing it presumably it needs to be done, you have a good sense of the type of skills required to do it, and you can bring someone on-board and get them up to speed quickly. That then frees you up to focus on tasks that can’t be done by someone else. At Backblaze, I ran marketing internally for years before hiring a VP of Marketing, making it easier for me to know what we needed. Once I was hiring, my primary goal was to find someone I could trust to take that role completely off of me so I could focus solely on my CEO duties

Where To Find the Right People

Finding great people is always difficult, particularly when the skillsets you’re looking for are highly in-demand by larger companies with lots of cash and cachet. You, however, have one massive advantage: you need to hire 5 people, not 5,000.

People You Worked With

The absolutely best people to hire are ones you’ve worked with before that you already know are good in a work situation. Consider your last job, the one before, and the one before that. A significant number of the people we recruited at Backblaze came from our previous startup MailFrontier. We knew what they could do and how they would fit into the culture, and they knew us and thus could quickly meld into the environment. If you didn’t have a previous job, consider people you went to school with or perhaps individuals with whom you’ve done projects previously.

People You Know

Hiring friends, family, and others can be risky, but should be considered. Sometimes a friend can be a “great buddy,” but is not able to do the job or isn’t a good fit for the organization. Having to let go of someone who is a friend or family member can be rough. Have the conversation up front with them about that possibility, so you have the ability to stay friends if the position doesn’t work out. Having said that, if you get along with someone as a friend, that’s one critical component of succeeding together at work. At Backblaze we’ve hired a number of people successfully that were friends of someone in the organization.

Friends Of People You Know

Your network is likely larger than you imagine. Your employees, investors, advisors, spouses, friends, and other folks all know people who might be a great fit for you. Make sure they know the roles you’re hiring for and ask them if they know anyone that would fit. Search LinkedIn for the titles you’re looking for and see who comes up; if they’re a 2nd degree connection, ask your connection for an introduction.

People You Know About

Sometimes the person you want isn’t someone anyone knows, but you may have read something they wrote, used a product they’ve built, or seen a video of a presentation they gave. Reach out. You may get a great hire: worst case, you’ll let them know they were appreciated, and make them aware of your organization.

Other Places to Find People

There are a million other places to find people, including job sites, community groups, Facebook/Twitter, GitHub, and more. Consider where the people you’re looking for are likely to congregate online and in person.

A Comment on Diversity

Hiring “People You Know” can often result in “Hiring People Like You” with the same workplace experiences, culture, background, and perceptions. Some studies have shown [1, 2, 3, 4] that homogeneous groups deliver faster, while heterogeneous groups are more creative. Also, “Hiring People Like You” often propagates the lack of women and minorities in tech and leadership positions in general. When looking for people you know, keep an eye to not discount people you know who don’t have the same cultural background as you.

Helping People To Find You

Reaching out proactively to people is the most direct way to find someone, but you want potential hires coming to you as well. To do this, they have to a) be aware of you, b) know you have a role they’re interested in, and c) think they would want to work there. Let’s tackle a) and b) first below.

Your Blog

I started writing our blog before we launched the product and talked about anything I found interesting related to our space. For several years now our team has owned the content on the blog and in 2017 over 1.5 million people read it. Each time we have a position open it’s published to the blog. If someone finds reading about backup and storage interesting, perhaps they’d want to dig in deeper from the inside. Many of the people we’ve recruited have mentioned reading the blog as either how they found us or as a factor in why they wanted to work here.
[BTW, this is Gleb’s 200th post on Backblaze’s blog. The first was in 2008. — Editor]

Your Email List

In addition to the emails our blog subscribers receive, we send regular emails to our customers, partners, and prospects. These are largely focused on content we think is directly useful or interesting for them. However, once every few months we include a small mention that we’re hiring, and the positions we’re looking for. Often a small blurb is all you need to capture people’s imaginations whether they might find the jobs interesting or can think of someone that might fit the bill.

Your Social Involvement

Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, Hacker News or Slashdot, your potential hires are engaging in various communities. Being socially involved helps make people aware of you, reminds them of you when they’re considering a job, and paints a picture of what working with you and your company would be like. Adam was in a Reddit thread where we were discussing our Storage Pods, and that interaction was ultimately part of the reason he left Apple to come to Backblaze.

Convincing People To Join

Once you’ve found someone or they’ve found you, how do you convince them to join? They may be currently employed, have other offers, or have to relocate. Again, while the biggest companies have a number of advantages, you might have more unique advantages than you realize.

Why Should They Join You

Here are a set of items that you may be able to offer which larger organizations might not:

Role: Consider the strengths of the role. Perhaps it will have broader scope? More visibility at the executive level? No micromanagement? Ability to take risks? Option to create their own role?

Compensation: In addition to salary, will their options potentially be worth more since they’re getting in early? Can they trade-off salary for more options? Do they get option refreshes?

Benefits: In addition to healthcare, food, and 401(k) plans, are there unique benefits of your company? One company I knew took the entire team for a one-month working retreat abroad each year.

Location: Most people prefer to work close to home. If you’re located outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be at a disadvantage for not being in the heart of tech. But if you find employees close to you you’ve got a huge advantage. Sometimes it’s micro; even in the Bay Area the difference of 5 miles can save 20 minutes each way every day. We located the Backblaze headquarters in San Mateo, a middle-ground that made it accessible to those coming from San Jose and San Francisco. We also chose a downtown location near a train, restaurants, and cafes: all to make it easier and more pleasant. Also, are you flexible in letting your employees work remotely? Our systems administrator Elliott is about to embark on a long-term cross-country journey working from an RV.

Environment: Open office, cubicle, cafe, work-from-home? Loud/quiet? Social or focused? 24×7 or work-life balance? Different environments appeal to different people.

Team: Who will they be working with? A company with 100,000 people might have 100 brilliant ones you’d want to work with, but ultimately we work with our core team. Who will your prospective hires be working with?

Market: Some people are passionate about gaming, others biotech, still others food. The market you’re targeting will get different people excited.

Product: Have an amazing product people love? Highlight that. If you’re lucky, your potential hire is already a fan.

Mission: Curing cancer, making people happy, and other company missions inspire people to strive to be part of the journey. Our mission is to make storing data astonishingly easy and low-cost. If you care about data, information, knowledge, and progress, our mission helps drive all of them.

Culture: I left this for last, but believe it’s the most important. What is the culture of your company? Finding people who want to work in the culture of your organization is critical. If they like the culture, they’ll fit and continue it. We’ve worked hard to build a culture that’s collaborative, friendly, supportive, and open; one in which people like coming to work. For example, the five founders started with (and still have) the same compensation and equity. That started a culture of “we’re all in this together.” Build a culture that will attract the people you want, and convey what the culture is.

Writing The Job Description

Most job descriptions focus on the all the requirements the candidate must meet. While important to communicate, the job description should first sell the job. Why would the appropriate candidate want the job? Then share some of the requirements you think are critical. Remember that people read not just what you say but how you say it. Try to write in a way that conveys what it is like to actually be at the company. Ahin, our VP of Marketing, said the job description itself was one of the things that attracted him to the company.

Orchestrating Interviews

Much can be said about interviewing well. I’m just going to say this: make sure that everyone who is interviewing knows that their job is not only to evaluate the candidate, but give them a sense of the culture, and sell them on the company. At Backblaze, we often have one person interview core prospects solely for company/culture fit.

Onboarding

Hiring success shouldn’t be defined by finding and hiring the right person, but instead by the right person being successful and happy within the organization. Ensure someone (usually their manager) provides them guidance on what they should be concentrating on doing during their first day, first week, and thereafter. Giving new employees opportunities and guidance so that they can achieve early wins and feel socially integrated into the company does wonders for bringing people on board smoothly

In Closing

Our Director of Production Systems, Chris, said to me the other day that he looks for companies where he can work on “interesting problems with nice people.” I’m hoping you’ll find your own version of that and find this post useful in looking for your early and critical hires.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, if you know of anyone looking for a place with “interesting problems with nice people,” Backblaze is hiring. 😉

The post Early Challenges: Making Critical Hires appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How I built a data warehouse using Amazon Redshift and AWS services in record time

Post Syndicated from Stephen Borg original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/how-i-built-a-data-warehouse-using-amazon-redshift-and-aws-services-in-record-time/

This is a customer post by Stephen Borg, the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies.

Cerberus Technologies, in their own words: Cerberus is a company founded in 2017 by a team of visionary iGaming veterans. Our mission is simple – to offer the best tech solutions through a data-driven and a customer-first approach, delivering innovative solutions that go against traditional forms of working and process. This mission is based on the solid foundations of reliability, flexibility and security, and we intend to fundamentally change the way iGaming and other industries interact with technology.

Over the years, I have developed and created a number of data warehouses from scratch. Recently, I built a data warehouse for the iGaming industry single-handedly. To do it, I used the power and flexibility of Amazon Redshift and the wider AWS data management ecosystem. In this post, I explain how I was able to build a robust and scalable data warehouse without the large team of experts typically needed.

In two of my recent projects, I ran into challenges when scaling our data warehouse using on-premises infrastructure. Data was growing at many tens of gigabytes per day, and query performance was suffering. Scaling required major capital investment for hardware and software licenses, and also significant operational costs for maintenance and technical staff to keep it running and performing well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the resources needed to scale the infrastructure with data growth, and these projects were abandoned. Thanks to cloud data warehousing, the bottleneck of infrastructure resources, capital expense, and operational costs have been significantly reduced or have totally gone away. There is no more excuse for allowing obstacles of the past to delay delivering timely insights to decision makers, no matter how much data you have.

With Amazon Redshift and AWS, I delivered a cloud data warehouse to the business very quickly, and with a small team: me. I didn’t have to order hardware or software, and I no longer needed to install, configure, tune, or keep up with patches and version updates. Instead, I easily set up a robust data processing pipeline and we were quickly ingesting and analyzing data. Now, my data warehouse team can be extremely lean, and focus more time on bringing in new data and delivering insights. In this post, I show you the AWS services and the architecture that I used.

Handling data feeds

I have several different data sources that provide everything needed to run the business. The data includes activity from our iGaming platform, social media posts, clickstream data, marketing and campaign performance, and customer support engagements.

To handle the diversity of data feeds, I developed abstract integration applications using Docker that run on Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS) and feed data to Amazon Kinesis Data Streams. These data streams can be used for real time analytics. In my system, each record in Kinesis is preprocessed by an AWS Lambda function to cleanse and aggregate information. My system then routes it to be stored where I need on Amazon S3 by Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose. Suppose that you used an on-premises architecture to accomplish the same task. A team of data engineers would be required to maintain and monitor a Kafka cluster, develop applications to stream data, and maintain a Hadoop cluster and the infrastructure underneath it for data storage. With my stream processing architecture, there are no servers to manage, no disk drives to replace, and no service monitoring to write.

Setting up a Kinesis stream can be done with a few clicks, and the same for Kinesis Firehose. Firehose can be configured to automatically consume data from a Kinesis Data Stream, and then write compressed data every N minutes to Amazon S3. When I want to process a Kinesis data stream, it’s very easy to set up a Lambda function to be executed on each message received. I can just set a trigger from the AWS Lambda Management Console, as shown following.

I also monitor the duration of function execution using Amazon CloudWatch and AWS X-Ray.

Regardless of the format I receive the data from our partners, I can send it to Kinesis as JSON data using my own formatters. After Firehose writes this to Amazon S3, I have everything in nearly the same structure I received but compressed, encrypted, and optimized for reading.

This data is automatically crawled by AWS Glue and placed into the AWS Glue Data Catalog. This means that I can immediately query the data directly on S3 using Amazon Athena or through Amazon Redshift Spectrum. Previously, I used Amazon EMR and an Amazon RDS–based metastore in Apache Hive for catalog management. Now I can avoid the complexity of maintaining Hive Metastore catalogs. Glue takes care of high availability and the operations side so that I know that end users can always be productive.

Working with Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift for analysis

I found Amazon Athena extremely useful out of the box for ad hoc analysis. Our engineers (me) use Athena to understand new datasets that we receive and to understand what transformations will be needed for long-term query efficiency.

For our data analysts and data scientists, we’ve selected Amazon Redshift. Amazon Redshift has proven to be the right tool for us over and over again. It easily processes 20+ million transactions per day, regardless of the footprint of the tables and the type of analytics required by the business. Latency is low and query performance expectations have been more than met. We use Redshift Spectrum for long-term data retention, which enables me to extend the analytic power of Amazon Redshift beyond local data to anything stored in S3, and without requiring me to load any data. Redshift Spectrum gives me the freedom to store data where I want, in the format I want, and have it available for processing when I need it.

To load data directly into Amazon Redshift, I use AWS Data Pipeline to orchestrate data workflows. I create Amazon EMR clusters on an intra-day basis, which I can easily adjust to run more or less frequently as needed throughout the day. EMR clusters are used together with Amazon RDS, Apache Spark 2.0, and S3 storage. The data pipeline application loads ETL configurations from Spring RESTful services hosted on AWS Elastic Beanstalk. The application then loads data from S3 into memory, aggregates and cleans the data, and then writes the final version of the data to Amazon Redshift. This data is then ready to use for analysis. Spark on EMR also helps with recommendations and personalization use cases for various business users, and I find this easy to set up and deliver what users want. Finally, business users use Amazon QuickSight for self-service BI to slice, dice, and visualize the data depending on their requirements.

Each AWS service in this architecture plays its part in saving precious time that’s crucial for delivery and getting different departments in the business on board. I found the services easy to set up and use, and all have proven to be highly reliable for our use as our production environments. When the architecture was in place, scaling out was either completely handled by the service, or a matter of a simple API call, and crucially doesn’t require me to change one line of code. Increasing shards for Kinesis can be done in a minute by editing a stream. Increasing capacity for Lambda functions can be accomplished by editing the megabytes allocated for processing, and concurrency is handled automatically. EMR cluster capacity can easily be increased by changing the master and slave node types in Data Pipeline, or by using Auto Scaling. Lastly, RDS and Amazon Redshift can be easily upgraded without any major tasks to be performed by our team (again, me).

In the end, using AWS services including Kinesis, Lambda, Data Pipeline, and Amazon Redshift allows me to keep my team lean and highly productive. I eliminated the cost and delays of capital infrastructure, as well as the late night and weekend calls for support. I can now give maximum value to the business while keeping operational costs down. My team pushed out an agile and highly responsive data warehouse solution in record time and we can handle changing business requirements rapidly, and quickly adapt to new data and new user requests.


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Deploy a Data Warehouse Quickly with Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL and Tableau Server and Top 8 Best Practices for High-Performance ETL Processing Using Amazon Redshift.


About the Author

Stephen Borg is the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies. He has a background in platform software engineering, and first became involved in data warehousing using the typical RDBMS, SQL, ETL, and BI tools. He quickly became passionate about providing insight to help others optimize the business and add personalization to products. He is now the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies.

 

 

 

Voksi Releases Detailed Denuvo-Cracking Video Tutorial

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/voksi-releases-detailed-denuvo-cracking-video-tutorial-180210/

Earlier this week, version 4.9 of the Denuvo anti-tamper system, which had protected Assassins Creed Origin for the past several months, was defeated by Italian cracking group CPY.

While Denuvo would probably paint four months of protection as a success, the company would certainly have preferred for things to have gone on a bit longer, not least following publisher Ubisoft’s decision to use VMProtect technology on top.

But while CPY do their thing in Italy there’s another rival whittling away at whatever the giants at Denuvo (and new owner Irdeto) can come up with. The cracker — known only as Voksi — hails from Bulgaria and this week he took the unusual step of releasing a 90-minute video (embedded below) in which he details how to defeat Denuvo’s V4 anti-tamper technology.

The video is not for the faint-hearted so those with an aversion to issues of a highly technical nature might feel the urge to look away. However, it may surprise readers to learn that not so long ago, Voksi knew absolutely nothing about coding.

“You will find this very funny and unbelievable,” Voksi says, recalling the events of 2012.

“There was one game called Sanctum and on one free [play] weekend [on Steam], I and my best friend played through it and saw how great the cooperative action was. When the free weekend was over, we wanted to keep playing, but we didn’t have any money to buy the game.

“So, I started to look for alternative ways, LAN emulators, anything! Then I decided I need to crack it. That’s how I got into reverse engineering. I started watching some shitty YouTube videos with bad quality and doing some tutorials. Then I found about Steam exploits and that’s how I got into making Steamworks fixes, allowing cracked multiplayer between players.”

Voksi says his entire cracking career began with this one indie game and his desire to play it with his best friend. Prior to that, he had absolutely no experience at all. He says he’s taken no university courses or any course at all for that matter. Everything he knows has come from material he’s found online. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there.

“I don’t even know how to code properly in high-level language like C#, C++, etc. But I understand assembly [language] perfectly fine,” he explains.

For those who code, that’s generally a little bit back to front, with low-level languages usually posing the most difficulties. But Voksi says that with assembly, everything “just clicked.”

Of course, it’s been six years since the 21-year-old was first motivated to crack a game due to lack of funds. In the more than half decade since, have his motivations changed at all? Is it the thrill of solving the puzzle or are there other factors at play?

“I just developed an urge to provide paid stuff for free for people who can’t afford it and specifically, co-op and multiplayer cracks. Of course, i’m not saying don’t support the developers if you have the money and like the game. You should do that,” he says.

“The challenge of cracking also motivates me, especially with an abomination like Denuvo. It is pure cancer for the gaming industry, it doesn’t help and it only causes issues for the paying customers.”

Those who follow Voksi online will know that as well as being known in his own right, he’s part of the REVOLT group, a collective that has Voksi’s core interests and goals as their own.

“REVOLT started as a group with one and only goal — to provide multiplayer support for cracked games. No other group was doing it until that day. It was founded by several members, from which I’m currently the only one active, still releasing cracks.

“Our great achievements are in first place, of course, cracking Denuvo V4, making us one of the four groups/people who were able to break the protection. In second place are our online fixes for several AAA games, allowing you to play on legit servers with legit players. In third place, our ordinary Steamworks fixes allowing you to play multiplayer between cracked users.”

In communities like /r/crackwatch on Reddit and those less accessible, Voksi and others doing similar work are often held up as Internet heroes, cracking games in order to give the masses access to something that might’ve been otherwise inaccessible. But how does this fame sit with him?

“Well, I don’t see myself as a hero, just another ordinary person doing what he loves. I love seeing people happy because of my work, that’s also a big motivation, but nothing more than that,” he says.

Finally, what’s up next for Voksi and what are his hopes for the rest of the year?

“In an ideal world, Denuvo would die. As for me, I don’t know, time will tell,” he concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Denuvo Has Been Sold to Global Anti-Piracy Outfit Irdeto

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/denuvo-has-been-sold-to-global-anti-piracy-outfit-irdeto-180123/

It’s fair to say that of all video games anti-piracy technologies, Denuvo is perhaps the most hated of recent times. That hatred unsurprisingly stems from both its success and complexity.

Those with knowledge of the system say it’s fiendishly difficult to defeat but in recent times, cracks have been showing. In 2017, various iterations of the anti-tamper system were defeated by several cracking groups, much to the delight of the pirate masses.

Now, however, a new development has the potential to herald a new lease of life for the Austria-based anti-piracy company. A few moments ago it was revealed that the company has been bought by Irdeto, a global anti-piracy company with considerable heritage and resources.

“Irdeto has acquired Denuvo, the world leader in gaming security, to provide anti-piracy and anti-cheat solutions for games on desktop, mobile, console and VR devices,” Irdeto said in a statement.

“Denuvo provides technology and services for game publishers and platforms, independent software vendors, e-publishers and video publishers across the globe. Current Denuvo customers include Electronic Arts, UbiSoft, Warner Bros and Lionsgate Entertainment, with protection provided for games such as Star Wars Battlefront II, Football Manager, Injustice 2 and others.”

Irdeto says that Denuvo will “continue to operate as usual” with all of its staff retained – a total of 45 across Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and the US. Denuvo headquarters in Salzburg, Austria, will also remain intact along with its sales operations.

“The success of any game title is dependent upon the ability of the title to operate as the publisher intended,” says Irdeto CEO Doug Lowther.

“As a result, protection of both the game itself and the gaming experience for end users is critical. Our partnership brings together decades of security expertise under one roof to better address new and evolving security threats. We are looking forward to collaborating as a team on a number of initiatives to improve our core technology and services to better serve our customers.”

Denuvo was founded relatively recently in 2013 and employs less than 50 people. In contrast, Irdeto’s roots go all the way back to 1969 and currently has almost 1,000 staff. It’s a subsidiary of South Africa-based Internet and media group Naspers, a corporate giant with dozens of notable companies under its control.

While Denuvo is perhaps best known for its anti-piracy technology, Irdeto is also placing emphasis on the company’s ability to hinder cheating in online multi-player gaming environments. This has become a hot topic recently, with several lawsuits filed in the US by companies including Blizzard and Epic.

Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch

“Hackers and cybercriminals in the gaming space are savvy, and always have been. It is critical to implement robust security strategies to combat the latest gaming threats and protect the investment in games. Much like the movie industry, it’s the only way to ensure that great games continue to get made,” says Denuvo CEO Reinhard Blaukovitsch.

“In joining with Irdeto, we are bringing together a unique combination of security expertise, technology and enhanced piracy services to aggressively address security challenges that customers and gamers face from hackers.”

While it seems likely that the companies have been in negotiations for some, the timing of this announcement also coincides with negative news for Denuvo.

Yesterday it was revealed that the latest variant of its anti-tamper technology – Denuvo v4.8 – had been defeated by online cracking group CPY (Conspiracy). Version 4.8 had been protecting Sonic Forces since its release early November 2017 but the game was leaked out onto the Internet late Sunday with all protection neutralized.

Sonic Forces cracked by CPY

Irdeto has a long history of acquiring anti-piracy companies and technologies. They include Lockstream (DRM for content on mobile phones), Philips Cryptoworks (DVB conditional access system), Cloakware (various security), Entriq (media protection), BD+ (Blu-ray protection), and BayTSP (anti-piracy monitoring).

It’s also noteworthy that Irdeto supplied behind-the-scenes support in two of the largest IPTV provider raids of recent times, one focused on Spain in 2017 and more recently in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and the Netherlands (1,2,3).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

US Govt Brands Torrent, Streaming & Cyberlocker Sites As Notorious Markets

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-govt-brands-torrent-streaming-cyberlocker-sites-as-notorious-markets-180115/

In its annual “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed a long list of websites said to be involved in online piracy.

The list is compiled with high-level input from various trade groups, including the MPAA and RIAA who both submitted their recommendations (1,2) during early October last year.

With the word “allegedly” used more than two dozen times in the report, the US government notes that its report does not constitute cast-iron proof of illegal activity. However, it urges the countries from where the so-called “notorious markets” operate to take action where they can, while putting owners and facilitators on notice that their activities are under the spotlight.

“A goal of the List is to motivate appropriate action by owners, operators, and service providers in the private sector of these and similar markets, as well as governments, to reduce piracy and counterfeiting,” the report reads.

“USTR highlights the following marketplaces because they exemplify global counterfeiting and piracy concerns and because the scale of infringing activity in these marketplaces can cause significant harm to U.S. intellectual property (IP) owners, consumers, legitimate online platforms, and the economy.”

The report begins with a page titled “Issue Focus: Illicit Streaming Devices”. Unsurprisingly, particularly given their place in dozens of headlines last year, the segment focus on the set-top box phenomenon. The piece doesn’t list any apps or software tools as such but highlights the general position, claiming a cost to the US entertainment industry of $4-5 billion a year.

Torrent Sites

In common with previous years, the USTR goes on to list several of the world’s top torrent sites but due to changes in circumstances, others have been delisted. ExtraTorrent, which shut down May 2017, is one such example.

As the world’s most famous torrent site, The Pirate Bay gets a prominent mention, with the USTR noting that the site is of “symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites. The USTR underlines the site’s resilience by noting its hydra-like form while revealing an apparent secret concerning its hosting arrangements.

“The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action,” the USTR notes.

Other torrent sites singled out for criticism include RARBG, which was nominated for the listing by the movie industry. According to the USTR, the site is hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has changed hosting services to prevent shutdowns in recent years.

1337x.to and the meta-search engine Torrentz2 are also given a prime mention, with the USTR noting that they are “two of the most popular torrent sites that allegedly infringe U.S. content industry’s copyrights.” Russia’s RuTracker is also targeted for criticism, with the government noting that it’s now one of the most popular torrent sites in the world.

Streaming & Cyberlockers

While torrent sites are still important, the USTR reserves considerable space in its report for streaming portals and cyberlocker-type services.

4Shared.com, a file-hosting site that has been targeted by dozens of millions of copyright notices, is reportedly no longer able to use major US payment providers. Nevertheless, the British Virgin Islands company still collects significant sums from premium accounts, advertising, and offshore payment processors, USTR notes.

Cyberlocker Rapidgator gets another prominent mention in 2017, with the USTR noting that the Russian-hosted platform generates millions of dollars every year through premium memberships while employing rewards and affiliate schemes.

Due to its increasing popularity as a hosting and streaming operation, Openload.co (Romania) is now a big target for the USTR. “The site is used frequently in combination with add-ons in illicit streaming devices. In November 2017, users visited Openload.co a staggering 270 million times,” the USTR writes.

Owned by a Swiss company and hosted in the Netherlands, the popular site Uploaded is also criticized by the US alongside France’s 1Fichier.com, which allegedly hosts pirate games while being largely unresponsive to takedown notices. Dopefile.pk, a Pakistan-based storage outfit, is also highlighted.

On the video streaming front, it’s perhaps no surprise that the USTR focuses on sites like FMovies (Sweden), GoStream (Vietnam), Movie4K.tv (Russia) and PrimeWire. An organization collectively known as the MovShare group which encompasses Nowvideo.sx, WholeCloud.net, NowDownload.cd, MeWatchSeries.to and WatchSeries.ac, among others, is also listed.

Unauthorized music / research papers

While most of the above are either focused on video or feature it as part of their repertoire, other sites are listed for their attention to music. Convert2MP3.net is named as one of the most popular stream-ripping sites in the world and is highlighted due to the prevalence of YouTube-downloader sites and the 2017 demise of YouTube-MP3.

“Convert2MP3.net does not appear to have permission from YouTube or other sites and does not have permission from right holders for a wide variety of music represented by major U.S. labels,” the USTR notes.

Given the amount of attention the site has received in 2017 as ‘The Pirate Bay of Research’, Libgen.io and Sci-Hub.io (not to mention the endless proxy and mirror sites that facilitate access) are given a detailed mention in this year’s report.

“Together these sites make it possible to download — all without permission and without remunerating authors, publishers or researchers — millions of copyrighted books by commercial publishers and university presses; scientific, technical and medical journal articles; and publications of technological standards,” the USTR writes.

Service providers

But it’s not only sites that are being put under pressure. Following a growing list of nominations in previous years, Swiss service provider Private Layer is again singled out as a rogue player in the market for hosting 1337x.to and Torrentz2.eu, among others.

“While the exact configuration of websites changes from year to year, this is the fourth consecutive year that the List has stressed the significant international trade impact of Private Layer’s hosting services and the allegedly infringing sites it hosts,” the USTR notes.

“Other listed and nominated sites may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using
reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.”

The USTR notes Switzerland’s efforts to close a legal loophole that restricts enforcement and looks forward to a positive outcome when the draft amendment is considered by parliament.

Perhaps a little surprisingly given its recent anti-piracy efforts and overtures to the US, Russia’s leading social network VK.com again gets a place on the new list. The USTR recognizes VK’s efforts but insists that more needs to be done.

Social networking and e-commerce

“In 2016, VK reached licensing agreements with major record companies, took steps to limit third-party applications dedicated to downloading infringing content from the site, and experimented with content recognition technologies,” the USTR writes.

“Despite these positive signals, VK reportedly continues to be a hub of infringing activity and the U.S. motion picture industry reports that they find thousands of infringing files on the site each month.”

Finally, in addition to traditional pirate sites, the US also lists online marketplaces that allegedly fail to meet appropriate standards. Re-added to the list in 2016 after a brief hiatus in 2015, China’s Alibaba is listed again in 2017. The development provoked an angry response from the company.

Describing his company as a “scapegoat”, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said that his platform had achieved a 25% drop in takedown requests and has even been removing infringing listings before they make it online.

“In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Evans said in a statement.

The full list of sites in the Notorious Markets Report 2017 (pdf) can be found below.

– 1fichier.com – (cyberlocker)
– 4shared.com – (cyberlocker)
– convert2mp3.net – (stream-ripper)
– Dhgate.com (e-commerce)
– Dopefile.pl – (cyberlocker)
– Firestorm-servers.com (pirate gaming service)
– Fmovies.is, Fmovies.se, Fmovies.to – (streaming)
– Gostream.is, Gomovies.to, 123movieshd.to (streaming)
– Indiamart.com (e-commerce)
– Kinogo.club, kinogo.co (streaming host, platform)
– Libgen.io, sci-hub.io, libgen.pw, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.bz, libgen.info, lib.rus.ec, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, booker.org, booksc.org, book4you.org, bookos-z1.org, booksee.org, b-ok.org (research downloads)
– Movshare Group – Nowvideo.sx, wholecloud.net, auroravid.to, bitvid.sx, nowdownload.ch, cloudtime.to, mewatchseries.to, watchseries.ac (streaming)
– Movie4k.tv (streaming)
– MP3VA.com (music)
– Openload.co (cyberlocker / streaming)
– 1337x.to (torrent site)
– Primewire.ag (streaming)
– Torrentz2, Torrentz2.me, Torrentz2.is (torrent site)
– Rarbg.to (torrent site)
– Rebel (domain company)
– Repelis.tv (movie and TV linking)
– RuTracker.org (torrent site)
– Rapidgator.net (cyberlocker)
– Taobao.com (e-commerce)
– The Pirate Bay (torrent site)
– TVPlus, TVBrowser, Kuaikan (streaming apps and addons, China)
– Uploaded.net (cyberlocker)
– VK.com (social networking)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons