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Video: Total War: Rome II devs built all of Europe—and the AI ignored most of it

Ars Technica - December 18, 2018 - 5:15pm

Shot and edited by Justin Wolfson. Motion graphics by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

Creative Assembly's Total War franchise has been around for so long that it's old enough to drive, vote, and even drink in most countries. For the three people reading this who haven't played at least one title in the series, the games provide a blend of real-time strategy and turn-based resource management that manages to scratch a number of itches simultaneously. You can direct the conquest of large regions from a god's-eye overhead view and then step down to the battlefield and move units around like Command and Conquer.

As technology and the 2000s progressed, new entries in the series became more sophisticated; by the time 2013 rolled around and Creative Assembly was working its magic on Total War: Rome II, the design goals were ambitious indeed. Designers wanted to give players total freedom to move around all of classical-era Europe, from Caledonia to Arachosia and all points in between. Building a canvas this broad to play on meant the small team of designers had to rely on some clever procedural tools, and although you might expect those tools to be the point of this particular War Story, that's not actually what the problem turned out to be.

What if we threw a war and nobody came?

In order to properly test a game with thousands of square miles of playable space, the designers employed automated tools running on their office PCs. In the evenings when it was time to go home, Creative Assembly would set as many PCs as they could to playing the game in AI-only mode, iterating through battles and scenarios in order to help see which units needed balancing and which scenarios needed tweaking. Along the way, they would also find areas where their procedural terrain generation hadn't gotten things quite right (like requiring a campaign battle to awkwardly play out on a near-vertical slope).

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Fresh Prince star Alfonso Ribeiro sues Fortnite over Carlton dance

BBC Technology News - December 18, 2018 - 5:10pm
Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, says the game copied his moves.

Charter users who didn’t get promised speeds will get $75 or $150 refunds

Ars Technica - December 18, 2018 - 5:08pm

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | tazytaz)

Charter has agreed to pay $62.5 million in refunds to more than 700,000 customers to settle a lawsuit filed by the New York state attorney general's office, which alleged that Charter defrauded customers by promising Internet speeds that it knew it could not deliver.

The 700,000 New York-based customers will receive between $75 and $150 each, NY AG Barbara Underwood announced today. Charter will also provide access to "streaming services and premium channels, with a retail value of over $100 million, at no charge for approximately 2.2 million active subscribers." The settlement's total value is $174.2 million, the AG's office said.

"The $62.5 million in direct refunds to consumers alone are believed to represent the largest-ever payout to consumers by an Internet service provider (ISP) in US history," the AG's announcement said. "The landmark agreement settles a consumer fraud action alleging that the state's largest ISP, which operated initially as Time Warner Cable (TWC) and later under Charter's Spectrum brand name, denied customers the reliable and fast Internet service it had promised."

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GMC Sierra AT4 Off-Road Performance Package beefs up for the dirt - Roadshow - News - December 18, 2018 - 5:08pm
A little extra power never hurts.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate becomes Nintendo Switch's fastest-selling game - CNET - News - December 18, 2018 - 5:06pm
It sold 3 million copies in 11 days in the US.

BT: Soz about that £1.3m CEO bonus vote, shareholders. Friends?

The Register - December 18, 2018 - 4:58pm
We're listening, insists company right before new chief exec takes post

BT has belatedly given its shareholders a public pat on the head for not voting down departing chief exec Gavin Patterson's £1.3m bonus.…

Continuous Lifecycle London's 2019 speakers revealed, blind bird tickets about to disappear

The Register - December 18, 2018 - 4:29pm
Learn about DevOps, Containers, CD/CI and save £100s

Events We're announcing the first tranche of speakers for Continuous Lifecycle London 2019 today, meaning you've got just a few hours left to grab our super bargain blind bird tickets.…

LG's rollable OLED TV could ship in 2019 - CNET - News - December 18, 2018 - 4:28pm
The retractable TV may be on the horizon.

These noise-canceling over-the-ear wireless headphones are a steal at $36 - CNET - News - December 18, 2018 - 4:28pm
It's the return of the amazing Srhythm NC25.

Weather and technical issues forced multiple launch scrubs Tuesday, but…

Ars Technica - December 18, 2018 - 4:14pm

Enlarge / SpaceX held its Falcon 9 launch with 7 minutes, 1 second left in the countdown. (credit: SpaceX webcast)

Tuesday had the potential to be a pretty amazing day of rocket launches, with SpaceX, Arianespace, and United Launch Alliance all on the pad for their final orbital missions of 2019. Blue Origin, too, said it intended to fly the tenth mission of its New Shepard Launch system from West Texas.

But by early Tuesday, Mother Nature and the intricacies of rocketry had other ideas.

By around 8am ET, Arianespace said it was scrubbing the launch of a Russian-made Soyuz launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center in South America due to "high-altitude wind conditions." Launch has been pushed back a day in hopes of better weather.

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Best dating apps of 2018 - CNET - News - December 18, 2018 - 4:00pm
Ready to jump into the world of online dating apps? Here's the best place to start.

Bonne année, Google, Facebook! France to tax tech giants from 1 Jan

The Register - December 18, 2018 - 4:00pm
Nation becomes the latest to go it alone as EU talks stall

France will start levying charges on tech giants from 1 January 2019, making it the latest nation to go it alone on a digital sales tax.…

2018 Gift Guide: Weird but really useful gadgets

ZDnet Blogs - December 18, 2018 - 3:44pm
This is a listing of some of the weird, odd gadgets that I've picked up over the years -- but I have found them to be super useful and use them pretty much daily. They have practically become worth their weight in gold.
Categories: Opinion

2018 Gift Guide: Weird but really useful gadgets

ZDnet News - December 18, 2018 - 3:44pm
This is a listing of some of the weird, odd gadgets that I've picked up over the years -- but I have found them to be super useful and use them pretty much daily. They have practically become worth their weight in gold.

You'd never guess this sweet home theater came from mostly recycled parts - CNET - News - December 18, 2018 - 3:20pm
Show Us Yours: A Missouri family built a basement theater out of cast-off furniture, Cragslist finds and a salvaged drop ceiling, and the result is impressive.

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