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This AI Resurrects Ancient Board Games—and Lets You Play Them – WIRED

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In 1901, on an excavation trip to Crete, British archaeologist Arthur Evans unearthed items he believed belonged to a royal game dating back millennia: a board fashioned out of ivory, gold, silver, and rock crystals, and four conical pieces nearby, assumed to be the tokens. Playing it, however, stumped Evans, and many others after him who took a stab at it. There was no rulebook, no hints, and no other copies have ever been found. Games need instructions for players to follow. Without any, the Greek board’s function remained unresolved—that is, until recently.
Enter artificial intelligence and a group of researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Thanks to an algorithm the team used to analyze the playability of one suggested ruleset, the century-old guesswork could soon be taken out of the Knossos game. Today, not only can its recognition as a game be further assessed, with hopes of a clearer answer in future, a version of it is also playable online.  And for the first time, so are hundreds of other games thought to have been lost to history.
Board games go back a long way. Centuries ago, before the chess we know today, there was Chaturanga in India, Shogi in Japan, and Xiangqi in China. And long before them was Senet, one of the earliest known games, which, along with others played in ancient Egypt, may have ultimately inspired backgammon. “Games are social lubricants,” explains Cameron Browne, a computer scientist at the university who received his PhD in AI and game design. “Even if two cultures don’t speak the same language, they can exchange play. This happened throughout history. Wherever people spread to, wherever soldiers were stationed, wherever merchants were trading. Anyone who had time to kill would often teach those around them the games they knew.”
Whether discovered buried in rubble, stashed away in tombs, or inscribed on tablets, the archaeological evidence left behind reveals that nearly all cultures created and played games. But like many odds and ends excavated, our knowledge of ancient games is fragmented. We know their origins, but the gameplay has long been a stumbling block, since the rules were typically passed on by word of mouth instead of being written down. The little that is known is left open to modern interpretation.
It’s these lapses in board game history that gave legs to the five-year Digital Ludeme Project, which Browne leads. “Games are a great cultural resource that’s been largely underutilized. We don’t even know how so many of them were played, especially when you go farther back in time,” he says. “So the question for me was, can we use modern AI techniques to shed insight into how these ancient games were played and, together with the evidence available, help reconstruct them?”
As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. It’s been three years since Browne and his colleagues set to work, and already they have brought nearly a thousand board games online, ranging from across three time periods and nine regions. Thanks to them, games once popular in the second and first millennia BC, like 58 holes, are now just a few clicks away for anyone on the internet.
Interestingly enough, this reconstruction process begins with the opposite. Games are first broken down into fundamental units of information called ludemes, which refers to elements of play such as the number of players, movement of pieces, or criteria to win. Once a game is codified in this manner, the team then fills in the missing pages of its rulebook with the help of relevant historical information, like when it or another game with similar ludemes was played and by whom.
The riddle however is only partly solved at this stage. Others who do similar work–manually–usually hit a dead end here. It’s because what looks good on paper might not translate as well in reality, Browne explains. “The rules might make sense when you read them, but you don’t know how well they actually work unless you play the game. Quite often, rules that make perfect sense play terribly as games.”
And so modern AI can get the project over the hump. Every hypothesis the team has about a game they’re studying is then fed through the Ludii software, where, after thousands of rounds of play-testing, its playability is assessed in just a matter of hours. The algorithm is a constant “work in progress,” though. A next step is tweaking it so that it also determines a game’s quality: whether or not an iteration would be fun to play, interesting enough to pass on, and easy to learn. Multiple yeses would mean it is likely to survive the tides of time, and therefore its most reasonable set of rules can be concluded.
But computers can have blind spots too, in that they only measure what’s measurable. Here’s where Walter Crist comes in. Crist, an anthropologist on the team, brings a human touch to the very computational project. He accounts for the intangibles the algorithm cannot calculate, like the social aspect of games. While rules may be integral, they don’t account for every possible scenario, whereas decorum might. A player for example could make the same move over and over again and prevent the game from ending. But people generally don’t do that because of social pressure and the desire to build relationships, according to Crist. “Not every situation has a rule for it; sometimes it’s one that’s worked out between the two players.”
Reconstructions aside, the researchers are also making exciting rediscoveries. It doesn’t matter if an artifact looks, swims, and quacks like a duck, it could still be anything but. Patterns found on surfaces at ancient sites that appear to be part of a game could also just be decoration. To differentiate, Crist looks at the social and spatial context. Was the graffito located in a public place, away from traffic, where games would traditionally be enjoyed? Was there evidence of socializing, like eating and drinking, which people commonly did while merrymaking?
Technology again is a huge help in piecing together the puzzle. Take one ancient Roman board for example. Although it was unlike anything that Browne and his team had seen before, 3D scans and x-ray fluorescence “revealed grooves consistent with those made when game pieces are repeatedly dragged along a stone board.” Whether it's a game is still not conclusive, but running it through the Ludii software next could make it so, and that would mean the board currently on display at the ThermenMuseum in the Netherlands may soon have a playable version online. It’s a promising preview of what’s to come in the next two years, and beyond.
Ultimately, the Maastricht researchers want to draw a fuller picture of how games evolved over time. The aim is for all this work to culminate in a family tree “going back as far as recorded history itself,” in addition to a growing world map. Board games didn’t just start at one point but rather in many places at different times, Browne says, and both genealogical efforts may help trace the paths they traveled and the ways they developed from one another. At the same time, the project is part of a larger cultural effort. Tracking how they dispersed throughout history can reveal how humans and cultures did the same. For example, seeing similar games played across vastly different geographic areas could point to how cultures interacted. As Crist puts it: “You have to have a movement of people to have a movement of games.”
Meanwhile, the Digital Ludeme Project is laying the foundation for bigger and better things. For one, the Ludii software, free for all to use and modify, has the potential to help game publishers and independent developers play-test and refine their games. Equally important is that it’s spearheading a new field of study: digital archaeoludology.
“We’re still in the experimental phase, but this project has taken on problems that had yet to be solved or even tackled before,” Browne says. “Now we’ve got the tools developed, we’ve got the evidence, and we’ll have even more results in the coming years. This could advance progress toward true artificial intelligence.”


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EA Guzman and Shaira Diaz are already celebrating their anniv and Valentines Day – GMA News Online

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EA Guzman and Shaira Diaz are celebrating Valentines Day and their 9th anniversary early — as in January early.
On his Instagram Stories, EA posted a couple photo of the two of them inside a parked car and greeted his girlfriend a Happy Valentines Day as well as an advanced happy 9th anniversary because "same kami ng schedule ng lock-in taping," EA said.
"Happy Valentine's Day! Happy 9th anniversary! Advance ko na Baba," he continued.
"Mami-miss kita. See you in 2 months," EA said as he tagged Shaira.
Shaira, who has gone into quarantine for "Lolong" taping, reposted EA's IG Stories and said she was also "gonna miss you baba."
"See you soon!" Shaira wrote after three crying face emojis.
"Advance HVD and happy anniv, too!" She greeted EA.
The two are each working on a project that will have both of them in locked-in taping through February. — LA, GMA News  

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Argentina: Codere Introduces Zitro’s LOTBA-Approved Online Games – GamblingNews.com

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Global gaming industry provider, Zitro, announced on Thursday that its online subsidiary Zitro Digital expanded its presence in the Latin American region.
Zitro Digital revealed that its portfolio of digital games is available for the first time within the jurisdiction of the City of Buenos Aires, thanks to a deal with Codere Group. As a result, players can enjoy the highly-popular Video Bingo games, as well as the famous progressive multigame Pick & Win.
To complete the deal, Zitro received approval from the gaming regulator of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires called Loteria de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Sociedad del Estado (LOTBA). As a result, the company’s digital games were approved for casinos licensed within the jurisdiction. The company’s games have been highly successful for years throughout land-based casinos. However, now, players in the autonomous city of Buenos Aires can enjoy those games via desktop PC, tablet, or mobile devices.
The latest move complements Zitro’s ongoing expansion in Argentina. Besides the autonomous city of Buenos Aires, back in December, the company increased its presence in the country by completing three casino installations. As a result, Zitro’s highly popular games and cabinets were introduced to three venues in the Mendoza region.
Besides Latin America, Zitro’s games are also popular in Europe. In fact, last month, Zitro’s most popular games were introduced to more Barrière Group venues in France. Consequently, the top-performing Link Me and Link King games were introduced to more Barrière Group venues.
Zitro’s Regional Director for Latin America, Alejandra Burato, deemed the company’s steady growth as an outstanding achievement. Moreover, she acknowledged that the growth helps pave the way for Zitro to enter new jurisdictions in Argentina and around the globe. Burato revealed that creating a “product that is as successful and profitable to operators as our land-based games” is the main goal for Zitro. She explained that after the team’s hard work the company is proud to see this goal become reality.
It is an outstanding achievement to watch Zitro Digital growing steadily and opening the way to new online casino markets not only in Argentina but across all continents.
Moreover, Burato said that receiving approval by the LOTBA is an important step for the expansion of Zitro Digital. She added that Zitro is grateful for Codere Group’s trust. In conclusion, Burato said that the company is “excited about adding new game titles soon.”
We are convinced that players will enjoy the same success in the online channel and that it will support our omnichannel growth strategy.
Codere online’s regional director, Salo Leder, added that bringing world-class entertainment for its clients in Argentina is a key priority for the company. He acknowledged that this partnership brings a “broad portfolio of online video bingo and Zitro video slots games,” which have already proved to be successful at brick-and-mortar casinos. In conclusion, Leder predicted that the same success will be observed within the online channel, which will further help Codere grow.
Jerome is a welcome new addition to the Gambling News team, bringing years of journalistic experience within the iGaming sector. His interest in the industry begun after he graduated from college where he played in regular local poker tournaments which eventually lead to exposure towards the growing popularity of online poker and casino rooms. Jerome now puts all the knowledge he’s accrued to fuel his passion for journalism, providing our team with the latest scoops online.
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Maker of PS5 And Xbox Scalper Subscription Claims To Be A Jobs Creator – Kotaku

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PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are still notoriously difficult to acquire. This is partially because of the chip shortage that affects the availability of the components inside the machines, but also because of scalpers who can buy consoles and sell them for a much higher price. One guy named Jack Bayliss is really sticking up for the little guys in that equation: the scalpers.
As originally reported by VGC, Jack Bayliss runs Aftermarket Arbitrage, a paid subscription service that notifies scalpers when a next-generation console is about to become available at an online retailer, so they have a steady supply of hardware to sell. A monthly membership costs £30 a month, and a yearly subscription costs £300. While he claims that 95% of his subscribers don’t use bots, that’s cold comfort to anyone who’s hoping to get a PS5 or a Series X this year. Bayliss claims that subscribers who successfully score merchandise are making a month’s worth of salary in “a couple of days” via his supply tip-off service. Some have reportedly even quit their jobs to scalp full-time, he says.
So how does he justify a practice that’s widely reviled by the gaming community? In addition to noting that video game consoles are a luxury that nobody actually needs, he explains: “What they’re doing is they’re being entrepreneurs, they’re going out, creating a side income, and they’re doing something that 90% of the population can’t be bothered to do.” Gee, I wonder why most people aren’t going out of their way to increase the average cost of a next-generation console on the marketplace.
According to Bayliss: “Look at every single step in the supply chain. Someone is adding value somewhere. It’s not being sold at cost price. It’s capitalism.” While it’s true that we all live in a capitalist hellscape, labor-added value is usually supposed to add value for… you know, the consumer. Scalpers are making it harder for you to buy consoles, and you get zero added benefit out of it. In the case of console scalping, only one side is benefitting from this lopsided transaction: the scalper.
When asked about whether or not he was concerned about how he was affecting console availability for other people, Bayliss told Kotaku: “It does not concern me because we aren’t decreasing the overall supply. Every console is still in circulation. The exact same number of people can play next generation games. Our subscribers are able to sell these rapidly so they filter back into circulation quickly for gamers to use, the fact that average marketplace cost of consoles is increasing doesn’t stop people purchasing.” So there you have it: console prices will likely remain high because people can’t stop buying from scalpers.”
Take control of your entertainment
The PDP gaming remote is officially licensed by Xbox and will just work with no need to sync devices, making it the easiest way to navigate your Xbox.
But hey, things aren’t all bleak in the console market. The next time you fail to secure a next-generation console, you can comfort yourself with the thought that a scalper can consider themselves a successful entrepreneur.

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